Perspective and Paradigm

Perspective and Paradigm

Recently I was talking with a hospital executive about the current state of healthcare administration when the discussion veered, quite unexpectedly, into the importance of perspective. He recounted the story below to me, excerpted from Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. This paradigm is a cautionary tale for directors and managers who jump to assumptions.  

 “I remember a mini-paradigm shift I experienced one morning on a subway in New York. People were sitting quietly – some reading newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed. It was a calm, peaceful scene. Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway.  The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed.

The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people’s papers. It was very disturbing. And yet, the man sitting next to me did nothing. It was difficult not to feel irritated. I could not believe that he could be so insensitive as to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all. It was easy to see that everyone else on the subway felt irritated, too. So finally, with what I felt was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said, “Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?”

The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, “Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.”

The bottom line in healthcare administration, or any form of management, don’t assume you know the why behind an employee’s action. If there is something you do not understand, ask employees what or why to gain a higher perspective. Uncover why, if you can.

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