I have been working with leaders in a private healthcare organisation which has been successfully applying the Legitimate Leadership principles for the past four years. I recently had an opportunity to interact with a group of four of its employees during one of our online programmes, Giving And Taking At Work. The group was made up of staff from the reception area, the debtor’s department, and clinical staff.
The topic of conversation was, ‘When you are giving in your job, what are you actually doing?’ Legitimate Leadership asks this question as part of an exercise to help employees engage with the value-add in their jobs, as opposed to the activity.
The four employees answered the question variously:
In every answer, people responded to the question not in terms of the activity in their job, but in terms of the value-add to the customer. And every one of these employees was wholeheartedly committed to going the extra mile to serve the needs of their customers. You could literally see the commitment and passion for the work on their faces, even behind their masks!
This level of consistency in employee engagement and willingness across different jobs and roles has not happened by accident.
Legitimate Leadership argues that people will typically go above and beyond for a combination of three reasons:
This organisation has consistently worked to get these three things right in the following ways:
PERSON – SHIFTING THE INTENT OF THOSE IN LEADERSHIP POSITIONS
Legitimate Leadership was engaged to enable a small group of leaders in a growing business (which was still largely operated by the owners) to build leadership depth and to align leaders in practice behind the notion that trust in leadership comes from being in the relationship to give. Those in leadership positions shifted from concerning themselves with what they needed to get out of people in terms of results, to concerning themselves with what they needed to give people in terms of care and growth to enable them to evidence excellence – that is, to be the best version of themselves. The consequence of this over time has been a group of employees who trust their leaders and are therefore willing and motivated to go the extra mile for those leaders.
PURPOSE – INSTILLING A SENSE OF PURPOSE THAT IS ABOUT THE ‘GIVE’ IN THE WORK, AND NOT THE ‘GET’
Leaders have worked to instil in their people a sense of purpose in the work that has to do with giving, and not getting. In other words, shifting people’s mindset from ‘I am here to do a job to get paid’ to ‘I am here to make a value-adding contribution to the purpose for which we are in business, and that is healthy patients’. The organisation invests significant time and effort in continually reflecting on, discussing and communicating the importance of its purpose with employees both in one-on-one and team engagements.
PASSION – ENABLING PEOPLE TO LOVE WHAT THEY DO FOR THE CUSTOMER
Leaders deliberately take time out to connect their people and their passion and love for the work that they do – particularly in terms of the ‘give’ for the customer. The work is not just a job, it is something they do because they love to help people. This is as much an employee issue as it is a leadership issue, and leaders continually challenge people in the business to think about how what they do helps and improves the patient’s experience.
Getting the above things right is not easy, does not happen as a once-off, and requires constant nurturing to sustain. It has been brought about by a sustained effort over several years to cement a culture of excellence through being here to give. Despite the extremely busy nature of a private healthcare business, this organisation invests significant time and effort outside of just doing the job to create and sustain this culture.