Saturday, March 7, 2009

What if, in tough times, leaders could treat workers as responsible adults, and workers proved them right?

This warms my heart: management frankly discussing hard economic times with workers, eye to eye, adult to adult. From Paul Levy's blog, Friday, about the situation at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center:

Update on the economy and its effect on BIDMC

He suggests sharing pay cuts, and other sacrifices, to avoid as many layoffs as possible. (He's not the first leader to do this; it just warms my heart.)

Equally heartwarming is how the people have responded.

Town meetings @ BIDMC

As I read that second one, emotion swept over me, and I realized: this flies in the face of all the people who've told me over the years, "People will let you down. Watch."

I prefer to see the human spirit in its fullest, best expression. We can make it through hard times. It'll be hard and resolving the economic dilemma won't be quick. But I am so moved at good people's willingness to stick together and help each other - especially the strong favorable response to Paul's suggestion that they all take a bit greater cut to minimize the impact on the lowest-paid workers.

p.s. Please see the added comment below from the head of the Albert Schweitzer Institute, who works at BIDMC.

1 comment:

  1. This just in - a comment on Paul's blog by BIDMC's Dr. Lachlan Forrow, whom I met last month:

    Lachlan Forrow, MD, FACP has left a new comment on the post "Town meetings @ BIDMC":

    No one will be surprised that as I often do I'll quote Albert Schweitzer here:

    "Our humanity is by no means so materialistic as foolish talk is continually asserting it to be. Judging by what I have learned about men and women, I am convinced that there is far more in them of idealist will power than ever comes to the surface of the world. Just as the water of streams we see is small in amount, compared to that which flows underground, so the idealism which becomes visible is small in amount, compared with what men and women bear locked in their hearts, unreleased or scarcely released. To unbind what is bound, to bring the underground waters to the surface: mankind is waiting and longing for such as can do that."(Out of My Life and Thought, pp. 113 f.)

    We're seeing now just what runs in the deep ocean currents of BIDMC.

    And thinking about that last sentence of Schweitzer's, all it sometimes takes to reveal what's in the deep waters is giving people a chance to express what they themselves think is the right thing to do. If more people were given that chance more often, I don't think responses like BIDMC staff are showing would be as surprising as they might be to some people.

    This is, of course, one of the most important tasks of leadership, maybe the single most important.

    And on the subject of leadership, what's going on in BIDMC right now makes me think about one of Schweitzer's favorite books, the Tao te Ching (yes, Schweitzer was a leading German scholar of Chinese philosophy, too):

    "When the Master governs, the people
    are hardly aware that he exists.

    Next best is a leader who is loved.
    Next, one who is feared.
    The worst is one who is despised.

    If you don't trust the people,
    you make them untrustworthy.

    The Master doesn't talk, he acts.
    When his work is done,
    the people say, "Amazing:
    we did it, all by ourselves!"

    --Lachlan Forrow, MD
    Director, Ethics, Palliative Care, and Community Service Programs
    Department of Medicine


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