Five Truths for Your Success

Written by on May 1, 2014 in Insight - No comments

HandshakeWEBThe recovery room was cold and stark. I sat on the gurney shivering slightly as I waited. These thin hospital gowns were not nearly warm enough. Still a little drowsy from the anesthesia my eyes adjusted to the bright lights. I wondered how much longer.

Two weeks ago I never imagined I would be sitting here. Two weeks ago I was in the midst of preparing for a large project at work. Two weeks ago I put my 6 year-old on the kindergarten bus for the first time and smiled at the image of him waving from the bus window. Two weeks ago I sat in my 2-year olds play circle at daycare singing with her class. Life was a constant juggle it seemed. Oh yes, and tomorrow would be my 33rd birthday.

As I sat and waited for the doctor to share the results of the biopsy of the lump he had just removed, I shuffled through my mind like an iPod playlist the schedule and what needed to be done. I remember thinking, “I don’t have time for this!” There is work to be done, children to pick up from school, family activities to plan and participate in…this was not a time to be taken out of the loop with a medical issue.

Finally, just as I was looking around for something else warm to wrap up in, the surgeon walked through the door at the opposite end of the recovery room. As he walked down the long corridor to my gurney, our eyes locked and I knew. I knew what he would have to say was not good news. With great compassion the doctor quickly informed me I had an advanced stage of an aggressive form of breast cancer. The recommendation for an immediate double mastectomy, chemotherapy, reconstruction and a complete hysterectomy followed. I sat, listened, and tried to process. Somewhere along the way as I listened to his words, the playlist of my ‘to-do list’ stopped.

Through the fog of hearing the diagnosis and initial treatment plan I recalled wondering how the doctor is able to deliver this kind of information every day… scared women and families….over and over again. I also realized I was grateful for the quick, direct, authentic communication of the news. It was evident that it was as difficult for him to tell me the news as it was for me to hear it. He cared.

That fateful day was almost 13 years ago. I’m one of the lucky ones. I was able to get through the surgeries and treatments and continue with my life. Many are not as fortunate and for each day I’ve been given I am grateful.

They say a cancer diagnosis changes you. Indeed it does. It changed my personal beliefs as to what is truly important in life. Spending an extra 10 minutes reading a story to my child was more important than washing the dirty dishes in the sink….those could wait….the time with my child could not. I realized in an instant what truly mattered in my life and it wasn’t the ‘things’ that I had acquired or the ‘title’ of my job at work.

While my personal perspective changed, my professional attitude about the critical nature of communication also became much more focused and value driven.  I discovered that the key elements that allowed me to get through the medical crisis in my life are the same elements that have allowed me to succeed in business. Whether you are a medical practitioner, a patient, or a business person the elements for your success are the same.

The 5 Truths

I believe there are 5 Truths that allow us to succeed in every aspect of our lives. They are not complicated or confusing. They do not need to be put into a spreadsheet and analyzed. The 5 Truths simply need to be followed every day, in every situation, with every person you encounter.

  1. Be authentic. The appreciation I felt for the way my diagnosis was delivered to me was due to the surgeon’s authenticity and genuine care for my well-being. An old friend of mine used to say, “You can smell fake a mile away!” How right she was! Over the years I’ve worked diligently to remain authentic in my professional and personal relationships. As they say, ‘People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.’
  2. Be clear. Every listener is different. Every patient has different needs. Every customer participates in communication differently. Take the time to understand how best to be clear with your listener. Avoid confusing jargon. Consider a visual diagram of what you are describing. A moment of clear communication prevents hours of confusion. Speak at a pace that the listener can follow. If you are giving the information, ask if the listener would like to take notes. Ask if they understand before moving onto the next thing. If you’re receiving the information, be prepared to write down what you hear! Nothing wastes more time than leaving an appointment or meeting or finishing a phone call and not having all of the information you need. The result is misinformation, additional time spent to clarify, or the wrong action being taken. Get it right the first time. Make it clear. Ask for clarification. Move forward knowing everyone is on the SAME PAGE, not in different chapters of the book!
  3. Don’t put off to tomorrow what can be done today. You shouldn’t need a cancer diagnosis in your life to understand how precious every day becomes. As a practitioner, if you have news to share with your patient call them……today! What may take 30 seconds of your time will prevent endless hours of heart wrenching worry for your patient. I recall waiting for days for a scan result and when I finally received the call I asked why it took so long for the results. The practitioner actually said to me, “As the report was negative I didn’t think it was a big deal.” Really?  Who are we to say what someone else’s ‘big deal’ is in their life? It’s very simple, if something needs to be done, do it.  In business, call on that prospect so you’ll be one step closer to that sale. Follow up on information or finish that proposal today, not tomorrow. Don’t fall into the trap of pushing things off as you’ll end up with not accomplishing anything. No matter what we intend to accomplish the next day, it can all change in an instant. Finish what needs to be finished today.
  4. Relationship is EVERYTHING! Every person we meet has something to share. Every patient has a story. “Relationship” does not mean we become best friends with everyone. It means we take the time to know something about the other person. It means we take the time with social graces to connect with the other person. We are not robots…we are PEOPLE! People have a “desire, need, and want” to feel connected. I have learned more from other people than from any text book, webinar or class. People are interesting. People have interesting experiences. People appreciate and will respond when they know you genuinely are interested in them! It does not take any extra effort to look someone in the eye when you’re speaking with them. Use their name. Invite them to participate in a conversation that means something and is not just a ‘data dump’ of information to get to the next task on your list. Build relationship and you will build trust.
  5. Be present. This is sometimes more difficult then it seems. In our world of schedules and day-planners it’s easy to always be looking for the ‘next thing’ that has to be done. Yet if we focus too far on the future, we often miss the moment of ‘here and now’. Keep your eye on the end goal, yet remember to participate in the present. I discovered this truth during what seemed like the endless rounds of chemotherapy treatments. The purpose of the chemotherapy treatments truly was to save my life….the big goal. Yet the meaningful moments were all along the way, with the other patients I sat next to in the treatment room, with the quiet moments with my children when I could do more than barely lift my head and they would snuggle up next to me, and with the friends and neighbors who brought endless meals and cheer to our home. The same ‘be present’ attitude applies to wherever we are and whoever we are with at any given moment. We can be driving a business deal toward a long-range goal and be present in the moment of recognizing our teammates in the process, connecting with them so that we’re driving toward the goal together. It will be so much more meaningful once you get there!

While I’m not sure I can go so far as to say I am grateful I received the diagnosis of cancer all those years ago, I will say that I’m grateful for what I learned. I learned that life is indeed short……life is about making choices.  I learned that each and every one of us makes choices every day on how we want to interact with others, how we want to impact the world around us, how we want to live our lives, and how we want to operate personally and professionally.

What choice are YOU making with your patients and customers? What choices are YOU making with yourself and your family? CHOOSE to be authentic!  CHOOSE to be clear when you communicate! Don’t delay what you can do today!  CHOOSE to build relationships and to be present in the moment!

By Glenna M. Griffin
COO, Speak America

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