Tag Archives: miscellaneous articles

Shift from Transactions to Amazing First Experiences



Richard D. Stier, MBA

The consumer has spoken. Patient experience is now healthcare’s core differentiator. In a recent study of 2,000 participants across five countries in four continents, six out of ten consumers identified patient experience as extremely important to them as they defined it. [Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D. Patient Experience Journal, Volume 5, issue 1, 2018]

Extraordinary first experiences delivered through your organization’s contact center and across initial touchpoints can strengthen relationships and build trust. First patient experiences influence hospital preference [SHSMD, 2012], and impact subsequent patient volume and corresponding revenue.

A strategic opportunity is to navigate the shift from transactions to deliver amazing, differentiating first patient experiences. Four insights can enable that shift.

1. Discover Your First Experience Differentiator

Exactly what is it that makes your organization’s brand of first experiences truly distinctive from the perspective of those you serve? That is, what separates you from all others in your market?

Consider these related questions:

  • Do your team members or associates feel personally supported and cared for? Are they eager to support and care for those they serve?
  • What level of trust have you earned with providers? Are they strong advocates for your organization with their patients?
  • Are callers to your contact center enjoying remarkable first connections? Are they so delighted that they become personal champions for your hospital or health network?
  • What do patients say about their experiences at your organization when they’re talking with friends across social media?
  • What is different about the first experiences you deliver? What’s better? What’s not so great?
  • Are the first experiences you deliver consistent at all first touchpoints across your enterprise? Where are they best? Where do they need help?

Stakeholders move through an integration or an assimilation process as they experience healthcare organizations. For many, hospitals are scary places. People die in hospitals. Initial emotions can easily include fear and distrust.Put Patient Experience First

Intention and focused effort are required to move many stakeholders beyond negative emotions and over the tipping point into positive responses such as safety, trust, and finally, to advocacy.

A foundation of trust with team members or associates, enables them, in turn, to express confidence in the organization when they interact with providers, callers, and patients. Each individual stakeholder is at a differing level of negative or positive response based on their own personal experiences.

Identify a baseline measurement of how each key stakeholder group perceives your organization. Understand which behaviors move that group from negative to positive responses. Listen deeply and in-person to the concerns of members of each stakeholder group to clarify how to differentiate your organization for them.

2. Audit First Experiences Across Initial Touchpoints

Once each stakeholder group’s requirements to earn trust are understood (vertical alignment), it is time to achieve consistent first patient experiences across initial touchpoints (horizontal alignment).

Perhaps your organization provides the initial touchpoints. Audit first patient experiences from the perspective of stakeholders who utilize each of these first touchpoints.Patient experience beats transactions

Partner with the team members or associates in each of these patient experience one (PX1) touchpoint areas to eliminate barriers to extraordinary first experiences. Outline desired themes for first conversations, not word-for-word scripts, which become mechanical, but conversation guides that are responsive to each individual and relevant to their needs.

Role-play initial conversations. Each team member should experience the role of the “patient.” Then they can share how the experience felt and suggest ways to enhance it. Include these role-plays as a permanent and recurring component of team member education.

3. Earn High Trust

Trust must be earned. It is evidenced by deep, focused listening, which seeks to serve each unique stakeholder. Every interaction is an opportunity for a memorable decisive moment.

Once established, elevate trust—even catapult it—by delivering unexpected “wows.” A wow is a surprising, proactive response to a stakeholder’s need.

Here are several examples of first experience wows suggested by Inspire Digital Solutions’ National Advisory Council:

  • Deep, active listening to providers, callers, and patients by team associates
  • First experience ambassadors who make personal visits to hospitalized frequent callers
  • Personalized greeting and wayfinding by first experience ambassadors
  • First experience ambassadors in the ER to align ER patients with in-network PCPs
  • First experience ambassadors in the contact center calling an elderly patient’s caregiver, who might be a friend, neighbor, or relative to arrange transportation to follow-up appointments
  • A dedicated triage phone line for team members and associates

4. Multiply Extreme Service to Accelerate Results

Addition is one associate earning trust with one stakeholder at a time. Multiplication is a team of equipped first experience leaders who train and empower their first experience ambassadors at each initial touchpoint across the enterprise.Patient experienceContact Center: The first contact with your hospital or health network is usually with the contact center. That first connection may be on the phone or online.

Establish behavior standards for that initial contact. As discussed above, outline key themes to guide the ideal first interaction. Listen deeply to acknowledge and validate both needs and feelings and to understand what the individual desires most—regardless if that desire is verbalized. Ask clarifying questions. Listen deeply.

Reduce or eliminate transferred calls. Make the contact center a single-stop solution. Once the initial request is addressed—whether online or on the phone—ask, “What can I do now to elevate your experience?”

First Touch Points: Establish behavior standards for delivering unexpected value. Work with first experience ambassadors to develop a unique list of wows at each initial touchpoint.

For example, first experience ambassadors for concierge, info desk, or wayfinding might include volunteer parking lot greeters who welcome patients with a smile, provide free parking vouchers, and escort them to their destination.

First experience ambassadors in the emergency department might carry a tablet loaded with contact center software, greet patients with kindness, and offer those without a primary care physician an immediate referral to an in-network provider for follow-on care.

First experience ambassadors in the contact center can reach out to a discharged elderly patient’s caregiver—such as a friend, relative, or neighbor—to arrange transportation to follow-up primary provider visits. This unexpected value reduces stress for the patient, increases kept appointment rates, and reduces avoidable readmissions.

A dedicated triage line in the contact center with a specific phone number expressly for team members or associates can speak volumes about the organization’s priority for caring for its own caregivers.

Hospital and Enterprise Integration: Preparation for service recovery should enable team members to seek first to understand, identify problem causes, discuss possible solutions, and suggest problem resolution.

First patient experience follow-up and follow-through should identify delays or roadblocks to appointments for needed services. Document complaints and compliments to enable both process improvement and recognition for excellence.

As extraordinary first experiences ripple across the enterprise, performance appraisals of all first experience ambassadors should include a review of their fluency with extreme service standards and provide financial incentives to recognize stellar performers. If your commitment is to set a standard of excellence in quality care, then more is required. Click To Tweet

Conclusion for Patient Experience

What is the monetary value of consistently delivered first patient experiences that positively distinguish your organization? Consider delighted patients who share their enthusiasm with friends across social platforms, higher satisfaction scores, and fewer avoidable readmissions. Also look at increased revenue and expanded market share. Is it one million dollars a year, ten million dollars a year, or more?

What is that value multiplied across your network? What is that value multiplied over five or ten years?

More fundamentally, what is the non-monetary value of an extraordinary first patient experience? This question goes to your reason for being, to your ethos, and your mission.

If your mission is satisfied by maximizing the bottom line over the immediate fiscal period, let’s be candid. In the near term, accomplishing transactions may be adequate.

However, if your commitment is to set a standard of excellence in quality care, then more is required. If your DNA is to transform the health of those you serve, more is needed.

We must navigate from success to significance. We must shift from processing transactions to deliver consistent, compassionate first experiences that earn trust. This is a hallmark of quality. This is access to optimal health.

Richard D. Stier, MBA is president of Inspire Digital Solutions. He brings three decades of results, improving first experiences as a senior executive, consultant, speaker, and author. He is honored to have led engagements resulting in more than 100 million dollars for clients. Inspire Digital Solutions partners with healthcare leaders to navigate the shift from transactions to deliver amazing first patient experiences.

Is BPO a Key Enabler in the Push for Better Patient Outcomes?



By Anand Natampalli

In the emerging value-based world, healthcare providers and payers increasingly align incentives to drive improved patient health outcomes, more patient-centric services, and reduced medical cost for individuals. BPO (business processing outsourcer) service providers can bring a neutral consultative perspective, with design thinking and innovation, to meet the provider’s complex challenges.

To solve individual provider’s specific needs, BPO organizations bring customized solutions using a service incubation approach. It incorporates the following:

  • A new breed of patient engagement and experience solutions, with a consolidated, targeted strategy
  • Data management and integration, sharing intelligence from different segments of the collective healthcare ecosystem, including payers, providers, pharmaceutical companies, and durable medical equipment (DME) providers
  • Process optimization through automation and analytics, with a population health management (PHM) focus

A New Breed of Patient Engagement and Experience

Often, consumers of healthcare services encounter confusing phone directories, difficult-to-navigate-websites, and representatives who may not have the training or resources to make a patient encounter meaningful and productive. One of the most critical areas where BPOs can contribute is by helping provider organizations improve the patient experience and drive better health outcomes.

With the added patient choice in today’s marketplace, patient engagement, and experience—an area traditionally of lesser importance to health systems—is now critically paramount to attracting and retaining patients, driving healthier outcomes, and achieving higher ratings.

Patient engagement and experience is often a critical missed opportunity for provider organizations of all sizes. Patient access centers are legitimate business departments and have an important role to play in the transition to value-based, patient-centric care. They have the potential to create new streams of revenue. They engender patient brand loyalty. Most importantly, access centers are a critical first impression that ultimately determines whether a patient chooses to purchase healthcare services.

In a patient-centric healthcare economy, BPOs offer the right balance of technology and talent for seamless, patient-experience delivery. BPOs play an effective front-line role to drive revenue and patient satisfaction, reduce no-shows, and eliminate the need for patients to fish around for answers to their questions. These partners can more effectively employ their analytics and automation expertise to make the patient experience as easy as possible through both personalization and self-service—striving for that perfect balance between automated bots and live, human-touch interaction.

Data Management and Integration

In the new healthcare landscape, PHM is a key area of focus for providers. According to a May 2017 Deloitte Center for Health Solutions survey of hospital CEOs, population health analytics investment is the highest-rated analytics priority for healthcare organizations.

The amount of data attached to every patient has grown exponentially. This must be gathered, integrated, and interpreted according to compliance guidelines and processes that can vary widely between payers and providers. Additionally, the datasets held by payers and providers can be different. For example, payers possess data on claims, financial analytics, and risk models. Providers have administrative and clinical data that includes case histories and outcomes.

BPOs with both payer and provider expertise can best assist, by bridging the data gap between these two organizations. For example, BPOs not only have claims data from provider groups but also from payers. By leveraging this comprehensive information, providers have a better, more holistic view of patient health. Armed with this intelligence, providers can positively affect a patient’s health outcomes, through PHM processes that also bend the cost curve.

Further to this point, each data set is valuable, but in isolation it doesn’t provide a holistic and contextual perspective of the patient. Providers need to leverage health plan data to move from episodic care to delivering outcomes-based care across the care continuum. Payers need access to patient information to work with providers to establish appropriate care plans for their members. Again, this is where BPOs bridge the gap for providers, as well as payers.BPOs offer the right balance of technology and talent for seamless, patient-experience delivery. Click To Tweet

Automation and Analytics with a PHM Focus

With better patient engagement and data integration to leverage PHM, there is an ideal scenario for best use of automation and analytics. BPO partners can bring the requisite advanced automation and analytics, as key drivers of business improvements or process changes. With more understanding and awareness of the data coming downstream, BPOs know how to analyze these data points and decouple nonessential activities with automation for a positive impact on health outcomes and to drive costs down.

They also can offer “automation and analytics as a service,” relieving organizations of the capital and time investment of developing these abilities in house. Today’s cognitive computing capabilities will affect more complex, judgement-based activities (like origination and underwriting) with compliance objectives, too. Agility, speed, and accuracy are all positive customer satisfaction results derived from these transformations. Most impactful may be the automation data and applied analytics that will dramatically improve outcomes, for more forward-thinking strategies.

Conclusion

Today, BPO partners take an active role in helping provider organizations manage change, internally and externally. This puts them in a better position to take advantage of the opportunities found by optimizing patient experience journeys. By selecting the right partner, hospitals and health systems can position themselves to gain a competitive advantage in the present, while setting themselves up for an even brighter future.

Anand Natampalli is a senior vice president, global business development, for HGS, a provider of end-to-end business process services for numerous Fortune 100 health insurance companies and large provider organizations.

Why, after 30 Years, I Still Look Forward to Going to Work


LVM Systems


By Mark Dwyer

With the holidays upon us, and the New Year fast approaching, now seems the perfect time to reflect on why we do what we do. I have been in the healthcare call center industry for over thirty years, nearly half my life. I did not start out expecting to work with call centers, or even in healthcare, for that matter. Back in 1986, I had never even heard of a healthcare call center—probably because, back then, they hardly existed.

The how of my entering the healthcare call center world, although interesting, is not nearly as important as why I have remained it in for most of my adult life. Anyone who works in a healthcare call center or for a healthcare call center software vendor will likely relate to what ultimately keeps me excited about my job, even years later. Although the money I have earned during my career has certainly played a motivating role, when asked why, my answer always takes a broader perspective.

Reflecting on the past thirty plus years, I remain motivated knowing my efforts have positively affected millions of peoples’ lives worldwide. This is also true of many of you. Let me explain by sharing my personal experience.

In 1986, I joined National Health Enhancement Systems (NHES), a fledgling start-up associated with the Arizona Heart Institute. During my thirteen years at NHES (later to be acquired by HBOC and then McKesson), I helped grow the company from six employees when I joined, to over 300 (with their own call center) before they sold. I then joined three former colleagues in supporting healthcare call centers through business strategy and call center process efficiency consulting services.Remember just how significant what you do each day is to the lives of the people you touch. Click To Tweet

I returned to the software vendor side in 2003 when I joined LVM Systems. At that time, LVM was still a small, sixteen-employee organization. Over the past fifteen years, I have had the pleasure of assisting in LVM’s growth to over seventy employees and to a position of prominence among healthcare call center software vendors.

This brings us to today and the reason I remain excited about my job. It is the influence afforded me to positively affect the lives of millions of people around the world. Let me explain. I have had the pleasure of helping grow two healthcare call center software companies into positions of leadership in the industry.

During that time, the numerous families of the employees at these companies have had the resources to put food on their tables, a roof over their heads, and clothes on their backs, not to mention money for little league and club sports, braces, music lessons, private schools, college tuition, and many Happy Christmases with presents under the tree.

It does not stop with just these 370 plus employees and their families. That is just the beginning. Each healthcare call center nurse, resource representative, and manager working in a healthcare call center using the products developed by NHES, McKesson, and LVM have jobs due in part to the efforts of these companies. These individuals again benefit from the wages they earn allowing them to provide for their family’s needs.

If we expand this even further, the real impact of the work I do, the work we all do, is significantly more far-reaching. Our efforts affect the lives of millions of callers helped by the healthcare call center software we use. Knowing that I have played even the smallest part in helping call center representatives in marketing call centers that facilitate enrolling callers in appropriate programs or referring them to needed physicians or services feels good.

And when I think about how nurses, in triage call centers across the country, daily avert deadly heart attacks or assist new moms in caring for their inconsolably crying infants, I know what I do is important. This is what keeps me coming to work each day, knowing that my efforts to grow and maintain viable software providers and products enables you to successfully help people.

It is this greater world-view that keeps me gladly doing my job. So, if you ever wake up and question why you go to work each day, look at the big picture and remember just how significant what you do each day is to the lives of the people you touch. Even if it is just one.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

LVM SystemsMark Dwyer is the chief operations officer of LVM Systems.

Call Center Sales Pro Specializes in the Healthcare Niche


Call Center Sales Pro, providing proven healthcare call center solutions


Call center experts help achieve results-driven outcomes for medical call centers

It’s no secret that the healthcare industry is being pushed. They must accomplish more, do it better, and do it for less. This means more work, increased pressure, and lower reimbursement rates. And the call center sits at the center of this. They are in the ideal position to cost-effectively address these pain points. While doing so they can improve the level of care and enhance patient access.

Often the telephone serves as a patient’s entry-point into a health system, preparing them to receive a lifetime of healthcare services. And Call Center Sales Pro is ready to help healthcare providers navigate this ever-evolving reality for their call center.

Visionary Leadership: Call Center Sales Pro was launched in 2014 by call center industry veteran, Janet Livingston. Her initial mission was to help outsource call centers and answering services take the pain out of growing their business. Since then Call Center Sales Pro has developed into a full-service contact center consultancy. They pride themselves in addressing big picture issues for their clients. This includes operations, accounting, technology, customer service, and administration, in addition to sales and marketing.

They also expanded into the healthcare niche. The collective expertise of their team is an ideal match for the needs and opportunities afforded by the healthcare industry. “We didn’t start out focusing on healthcare,” Livingston said, “but that’s certainly where were headed. Our team of call center professionals fits great with the healthcare industry. We know how to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of the call center to achieve profitable outcomes—and healthy results.” Helping patients better manage their healthcare, increasing per-patient revenue, and maximizing their lifetime value. Click To Tweet

HIPAA Compliance Training: Toward this end, Call Center Sales Pro has developed a HIPAA compliance training program. It’s designed to accomplish three things. The first is to educate healthcare call center employees about HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996). Next, the course covers why this is important. Last, they stress how to follow its guidelines. This includes learning about PHI (protected health information), how to recognize it, and the essential steps to take to protect it. Critical to this is understanding how PHI is transmitted between covered entities (CE) and business associates (BA).

Livingston notes that HIPAA training is required for anyone with access to PHI. Additionally, all healthcare organizations must provide HIPAA instruction for all staff, with periodic refresher training. Call Center Sales Pro’s HIPAA compliance training program addresses these needs. It’s an online video course with a live instructor and takes about 45 to 60 minutes.

Healthcare Call Center Consulting: While their HIPAA compliance training program is a critical tool for every healthcare call center, the cornerstone of Call Center Sales Pro’s work revolves around healthcare call center consulting. They offer a full-service consultancy that specializes in addressing the needs of healthcare contact centers in today’s ever-changing environment.

Their team of consultants can assist healthcare organizations with their call center operation, customer service, and agent training. They can also address staffing, disaster recovery planning, and call center technology.

By customizing their consulting program, they can meet the specific needs of each client, which can include:

  • Add expertise to supplement the call center’s management team.
  • Optimize systems, protocols, and processes for optimal results.
  • Pursue new initiatives.
  • Solve problems that restrict the ability to capitalize on evolving opportunities.
  • Refocus call center direction and priorities.

System Optimization: A third component Call Center Sales Pro addresses for healthcare call centers focuses on call center system optimization. This specifically addresses the 1Call platform from Amtelco. Call Center Sales Pro is an expert resource in mastering this powerful technology and harnessing it to achieve maximum results.

The key outcomes that healthcare call centers can accomplish with Call Center Sales Pro as their partner include helping patients better manage their healthcare, increasing per-patient revenue, and maximizing their lifetime value. Critical to this is helping shift call centers from being a cost center to a revenue center.

In addition, Call Center Sales Pro can handle strategic planning and logistics, offer technical support and system engineering, and provide agent training and coaching. They can also address system setup, configuration, and optimization, as well as enhance medical answering service functions.

Conclusion: Call Center Sales Pro is a one-stop solutions provider for healthcare call centers.

Call Center Sales Pro, a full-service healthcare call center consultancyJanet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider for the call center industry, that offers healthcare call center consulting, system optimization, and HIPAA compliance training. Contact Janet at contactus@ccsp.us or call 800-901-7706.

How Contact Centers Impact Patient Experience



By Donna Martin

Hospitals and healthcare organizations are competing more fiercely to gain and retain patients’ business. And first impressions are critical. That’s why a modernized patient contact center is critical both for differentiating your organization from the competition and for preventing revenue leakage.

How is your organization leveraging this critical contact point? What success are you having getting patients through your front door and retaining them as loyal consumers?

Assessing Your Patients’ Needs: Just like you, your health system’s patients are consumers who shop at Amazon, purchase airline tickets, and stay at hotels. They’ve grown accustomed to a concierge-level of customer service, and this has altered their perceptions of what a high-quality healthcare experience should look like.

The retail world has decades of experience providing this level of service and has leveraged modern technology to make constant improvements to help differentiate their brand, as well as retain and grow their customer base. The healthcare industry is just starting to catch on—not just because it makes good business sense, but also because they are now being incentivized to implement value-based care throughout the patient experience and and penalized if they fall short.

Let’s explore how to measurably improve patient experiences and engagement in ways that are realistic and based on the unique requirements of healthcare delivery.The goal of contact centers should be to make the patient experience as easy as possible. Click To Tweet

Phase 1: Establish the Foundation: From your patients’ perspective, even small hospitals can be difficult to navigate via telephone. Partial or full automation of inbound phone calls from patients allow providers to create a “single front door” for patients. This creates a unified patient experience and reduces needless call transfers. Adding automated patient identification and authentication not only personalizes the interaction and ascertains the primary reason for the patient’s call, but it also leads to complete resolution for a host of common inquiries such as appointment confirmations, directions, hours, and payments without ever needing to engage an agent.

With this streamlined foundation in place, providers can begin to continuously and consistently track patient interactions to build intelligence for future interactions as well as gather communication preferences where possible. Every new element of data collected builds on previous elements, fostering a holistic portrait of patients. This creates the foundation for predictive intent and provides a better patient experience. In addition, as you develop a performance baseline, you can leverage patient experience surveys to use actionable data to make targeted improvements.

Phase 2: Build on Your Success: One goal of value-based care is keeping patients in your health system but out of the hospital. Why not pursue a similar goal with patient engagement? By applying dynamic decision-making to the data collection efforts established in phase 1, you can begin to develop proactive patient engagement strategies to reduce the need for patients to call you.

For example, with the right automated inbound solution, you identify patients calling from a mobile device and then take that opportunity to drive them to alternative, lower cost channels, such as text communications and patient portals. These elements will further the productivity of your access center, drive cost from your business, and maximize the patient experience. This will also provide you with a steady stream of valuable patient data to continue to enhance and optimize your solution.

Phase 3: Patient Preferences: This segment includes all components of phases 1 and 2, layering in patient communication preferences and cross-channel patient interaction data. In this scenario, you could see that a patient accessed the patient portal to find a specialist and is now calling into the access center for help. An intelligent self-service solution recognizes the patient, confirms they are looking for a specialist, and sends the patient directly to the appropriate scheduling agent. This happens without the patient having to make a single menu selection. Again, this provides an effortless and loyalty-building patient experience.

Finally, with all three phases offered in a cloud-based, self-service environment, you will achieve maximum scalability, reliability, and flexibility for agents who work in either a brick-and-mortar setting or through a business process outsourcing partner. This ensures your access center will always be available to support patients and providers.

The goal of contact centers should be to make the patient experience as easy as possible through both personalization and self-service. The intent is to strive for that perfect balance between automation and live, human-touch interaction.

Your health system has invested considerable time, energy, and money to provide value across the continuum of care. Why squander it over a bad first impression? By taking practical steps toward patient-centric engagement, providers can create a high-quality, intuitive, and effortless consumer experience that has elements of a world-class retail service, while meeting the unique needs of the healthcare setting.

Donna Martin is senior vice president, Global Health Services, at Hinduja Global Solutions (HGS).

Are You a Reluctant Leader?

By Walt Grassl

Do you know someone who is very comfortable doing a job that has no leadership dimension, even though you just know they could thrive as a leader? Many of these individuals have a condition sometimes referred to as altitude sickness. This is not the medical condition that occurs when you are at high altitudes and cannot get enough oxygen. This kind of altitude sickness refers to the fear of success, the fear of reaching great heights.

Jesika leads a department of engineers at a design and manufacturing company. Two years ago, she realized her organization was growing too large for its current structure. To keep a workable supervisor-to-employee ratio, she needed to split the biggest section into two. This left her with a supervisor position to fill. She preferred to fill the position from within the existing organization, thus providing career growth paths for her existing employees. She sat back in her chair and thought about which of her employees might be candidates for the new position.

The water-cooler favorite was Donald, who had been lobbying for a move into management for years. But Donald was not well liked by his coworkers. He was not good at collaborating with his team. On more than one occasion, he mentioned that, if he were supervisor, people would do what he said. When rumors of an organization change started circulating, the thought of Donald being in a supervisory role negatively affected morale.

No other employees had expressed interest in moving into supervision. Jesika remembered that, when she first became a supervisor, she did not want the job. She eventually took the job after her boss convinced her that reluctant leaders are often the best leaders. They lead from a desire to serve, not a desire for power.

The following are five ways to identify reluctant leaders:

1) Peers Seek Their Counsel: Most organizations have two kinds of leaders: people with leader in their title and people who are sought out for advice by their peers. When looking for reluctant leaders, observe your teams. Who do the team members respect? Who do they go to before bringing problems to the attention of management?

2) They Are Focused on Team Success, Not Individual Glory: Some employees are too busy focusing on their tasks to help others with theirs. Other employees realize that if one employee is stuck, it hurts the team, and they are willing to either help the others or direct them to someone who can. These are potential leaders. Some employees take as much individual credit for the work of the team as they can. Other employees are selfless and focus on the achievements of the group. These are potential leaders.

And when thing go wrong, as they sometimes do, some employees are quick to blame others. Other employees focus on fixing the problem and correcting the root cause. These are potential leaders.

3) They Are Passionate About the Work: Which employees have a passion for the work? They should take pride in a job well done and see their work as a reflection of their character. They sometimes stay late when in the middle of a key project – not to impress the boss but because they are caught up in the moment and lose track of time. That passion and dedication inspires others. If they constantly have their eye on the clock, they are not leaders.

4) They Exercise Good Judgment: One of the key characteristics of a great leader is judgment. A sign of good judgment is when employees seek help. When they are stuck, do they immediately get help? Do they spend a little time and effort on the problem but then reach out for assistance when they realize it will affect the schedule? Or do they not ask for help and then, when the task is overdue, blame the late delivery on the problem they couldn’t solve? The first and last examples are not yet ready for leadership.

5) They Are Lifelong Learners: Employees who are lifelong learners are potentially good leaders. They realize that they don’t know it all. They are more likely to listen and fairly evaluate the input of others – in particular, their subordinates. This promotes innovation and encourages employees to speak up if they feel something is heading in the wrong direction, leading to happier teams and better quality decisions. Employees who feel they do not have anything new to learn and don’t fairly assess contrary inputs are at risk for stagnation and ignoring the warning signs of trouble.

In thinking of all the people in her department, Matt stood out. Matt was quiet, very technically competent, and respected by his peers. On more than one occasion, Matt said he was happy doing design work and had no desire to become part of management. Jesika ran Matt through the criteria for reluctant leaders, and he met them all; she felt he was just suffering from a touch of altitude sickness.

Jesika met with Matt and had a heart-to-heart discussion. She gave him specific examples of how he had all the characteristics of a reluctant leader. She also shared that she also had suffered from altitude sickness and understood his reluctance. She asked him to take a day and consider accepting this challenge.

Matt slept on it, and the next day he agreed to become a supervisor. Jesika promised to mentor him and provide him with the training and resources he needed to be successful. Fast-forward to today: Matt is a well-respected leader and has not let the power go to his head.

Sometimes the best leaders are the reluctant leaders. When assessing your teams, look for quiet, unassuming employees who demonstrate the qualities of reluctant leaders and help cure them of their altitude sickness.

Walt Grassl is a speaker, the author of Stand Up and Speak Up, and the host of the Internet radio show of the same name. Walt’s accomplishments include success in Toastmasters International speech contests and performing standup comedy at the Hollywood Improv and the Flamingo in Las Vegas. For more information on bringing Walt Grassl to your next event, visit waltgrassl.com.

[From the October/November 2013 issue of AnswerStat magazine]

Five Qualities of a Lasting Leader

By Barry Banther

Acting as a leader in a call center isn’t just something you do; it’s someone you become. But, that requires a personal transformation, not just a personal agenda. Roger hadn’t learned that lesson. During an interview for a new leadership position, the hiring manager asked why he switched jobs, and sometimes companies, every few years.

Roger blamed the employees who stopped growing and doubted the organization’s commitment to the goal they asked him to reach. In other words, it had to be the environment because Roger was a good manager. Roger was half right; it was the environment. But, he failed to recognize that he was responsible for creating that situation.

Lasting leaders, those who can weather economic downturns, and even seismic market shifts in their employees or customers, are the ones who know how to assemble a diverse team and bring out their best. As a leader, if you’re not building relationships with your associates that will last, your success will be short-lived.

If we want to understand what really defines leaders, then we have to start by looking at their followers. The old motivational tricks no longer work. Employees become jaded from broken promises and failed dreams. Today, followers are drawn to leaders who show openness, invest time, listen, encourage, and show appreciation for the strengths their employees bring to work. These qualities are developed intentionally over time, but they pay dividends in both financial and personal performance for a lifetime.

Leaders who are held in the highest esteem for their success on both the bottom line and with the people they lead epitomize five key qualities. From their followers, you will hear phrases like these: “He was always there for me,” “I felt like she really listened,” and “He valued my opinion.” The result is employee engagement at the highest level. These qualities are gifts that a lasting leader is willing to give freely to the people they lead.

1) The Gift of Being Open to Others: Every leader claims to have an open door policy. But, it’s not a leader’s door that needs to be open; it’s an open mind that matters. Openness encourages employee engagement, and that is fundamental to business success. The Gallup Organization’s study of employee engagement in 7,939 business units in thirty-six different companies found that “employee engagement was positively associated with performance.”

2) The Gift of Investing Time in Others: Leaders are usually not solo inventors or lonely creative thinkers. They are called to assemble a team of people and enable them to be more productive together than any of them could be alone. Leaders can’t create time, but when they invest their time to build profitable relationships with their employees, they are multiplying the results they can achieve. Choosing to spend time with employees daily is a leader’s best return on time.

3) The Gift of Listening to Others: Trust between leaders and their associates is built upon a transparency that reflects a freedom to speak and be heard. Bad culture, where listening isn’t valued, impacts organizations every day across America. An estimated 55% of a leader’s work time is spent listening, but most leaders don’t know how to do that. They confuse listening with hearing. When we are open to an employee’s ideas and we invest the time to hear them, then we are more apt to understand what they are saying and, sometimes more importantly, what they are not saying.

4) The Gift of Offering Encouragement to Others: Employees can work for hours without food or water. However, they can’t do quality work for more than a few minutes without hope: the hope that their work matters, the hope that they can get the job done, and the hope that their effort will be appreciated by their boss. You have few chances as a leader to show respect for employees that is more potent than surprising them with words that show you believe they have what it takes to get the job done despite their current challenges.

5) The Gift of Expressing Appreciation for Others’ Abilities: When a leader gives away genuine appreciation, it is mirrored back in improved attitudes, stronger commitment, and better performance. Study after study documents that employees do not feel appreciated. The gift of appreciation is not about altering your associates’ opinion of the leader; it’s about changing their opinion of themselves. When a leader helps employees believe in their unique strengths, they build a work environment that works. Lasting leaders know how to bring out the best in others.

You can be appointed someone’s boss but not their leader. Your followers ultimately determine your leadership. Had Roger developed these five skills, he might have still moved jobs every few years, but it wouldn’t have been because he could no longer get results. It would be because he had developed a reputation for building a high performance team who followed his leadership, even under tough conditions. That kind of leader is always in high demand.

Barry Banther is the founder and CEO of Banther Consulting. With decades of experience as a business leader and corporate executive, he has become a trusted advisor, leadership speaker, and trainer for Fortune 100 companies, as well as midsize to large family-owned businesses across America. Barry’s new book, A Leader’s Gift: How to Earn the Right to Be Followed, will be released in April 2014. For more information, visit www.barrybanther.com.

[From the February/March 2014 issue of AnswerStat magazine]

Battle Burnout: Address the Six Motivators for Enjoying Work

By Erick Lauber

Call center work is hard, and Gloria wasn’t happy. It wasn’t that she hated her job or anything like that. Her co-workers were fine, and she didn’t mind the type of work she did. In fact, she thought she did it pretty well. Of course, she wanted more money, but who doesn’t? No, something else was bothering her. At some basic level, she simply didn’t enjoy coming to work anymore. Whatever excitement or sense of accomplishment she used to get had been replaced by a lack of motivation.

Gloria’s issue is a common one. Employees around the world sometimes lose sight of what makes their work worthwhile. They get run down, burnt out, and de-motivated. At times like these, it can be difficult for anyone to enjoy work and find the old levels of motivation and energy.

To help Gloria and others like her, it is necessary to look at the underlying causes. Why do any of us enjoy work? Can we reignite those causes in our own work environment? The answer is yes. There are six reasons why we enjoy work, ignoring money, of course.

1) Inner Accomplishment: The remarkable time and energy some people put in to their work can only be understood as an inner drive; they simply want to achieve that goal. Seeking a personal sense of accomplishment is natural and can be harnessed every day. It can be described as “taking pride in one’s work” or a sense that “this is what I was meant to do.” Whether the objectives are short-term or long-term, making progress toward a goal makes all of us feel good.

What steps can Gloria take to regain that sense of accomplishment?

2) The Greater Good: Many of us are also motivated by a sense of community, the feeling we are part of something larger, and life isn’t just about our own individual needs and wants. Many experience this particular joy and peace as they volunteer for church or service groups, but it can also be encouraged in the workplace. Although more common in other cultures, many Americans are also motivated by community considerations.

Perhaps Gloria could reframe her circumstances and see how she is contributing to the greater good.

3) Personal Relationships: Many employees get enjoyment from the individual relationships they experience at work. It helps them look forward to each day. The laughter, the camaraderie, the forgiveness, and even the occasional stresses are all something they enjoy and know they wouldn’t want to live without. But not everyone is the same, and certainly, we’re not all our best self every single day. Enlightened managers respect this basic human need to connect with others and allow it, if not encourage it, in their workplace.

How can Gloria connect with others at work? Does her boss know this is important?

4) Sense of Team: Similarly, some people enjoy a special sense of completeness and wholeness by experiencing team spirit. In the workplace, many employers work hard to encourage this shared identity by conducting internal PR and messaging campaigns. For quieter teammates, a sense of camaraderie might provide an extremely important opportunity to connect and feel like they belong.

Does Gloria feel she is part of a team? How much team spirit has her boss created?

5) Physical Exertion: Though not directly applicable to call center work, for some workers, a sense of satisfaction comes from physical exertion, and the absence of it makes the job less appealing. It doesn’t feel like work if they aren’t breaking a sweat or doing battle with the weather. This is partly a product of socialization and might be tied up with what work means to them. Modern day psychology reaffirms the benefits of physical labor. We all know how endorphins can give us a slight high, and everyone knows about the stress management benefits gained from working out.

Is a lack of physical activity at work contributing to Gloria’s lack of motivation? Since her job is sedentary, can her employer even offer an exercise program or gym membership?

6) Mental Challenges: Finally, a great many of us enjoy the special mental feeling that comes from exercising our creativity or satisfying our curiosity. For some, the small euphoria that comes from developing something new or conquering a complex problem greatly contributes to an individual’s sense of professional enjoyment.

Gloria’s work involves mental challenges on most every call, but does she feel invigorated by them or bored? How can her perspective be turned around?

“Why” is the Answer to “How?” So, what can management do to help employees enjoy their work? Or, what can Gloria or others do themselves? The answer is simple: treat the cause, not the symptoms.

Instead of worrying about symptoms like aggressive behavior or poor attitude, employees and employers can create a more enjoyable work environment by directly addressing one or more of these common denominators. Why not casually interview Gloria about whether she feels connected to her fellow co-workers? Does she have any friends at work? Why not ask, “Is this job challenging enough?” or “Would you like the opportunity to be more creative?”

Stepping back and reflecting on each of these six motivators can guide any manager or employee toward a more enjoyable workplace. There is hope for Gloria and her job by applying a little modern day psychology to her work.

Erick Lauber, Ph.D., is an applied psychologist and faculty member at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He speaks and consults on leadership, personal growth and development, and taking charge of our own life stories. He has won nineteen educational TV and film awards and has been published in numerous psychology journals and book chapters. His video log is located at lifeframingintl.com  For more information, visit www.ericklauber.com or call 724-464-7460.

[From the February/March 2014 issue of AnswerStat magazine]

Keys for Adapting to Any Career Change

By Dr. Marty Martin

Regardless of your employment situation, one thing is certain; at some point, your career will change. This is especially true right now in healthcare. It could be a gradual change, such as a job slowly evolving or phasing out, or it could be a sudden change, such as the board of directors mandating a reduction in staff immediately. Regardless of the exact scenario, the key trait that will enable you to reposition yourself and thrive after a career setback is your ability to embrace adaption.

Unfortunately, many people lack a belief in their ability to adapt. As such, they become immobilized by fear when change is apparent. So, rather than adapt their mindset, approach, and even skills, they choose to stay stuck in their comfort zone, even though it’s no longer comfortable at all.

Realize, though, that adaption is natural. For example, when you travel to a location that has a different climate than what you’re used to (such as going from Miami, Florida, to Chicago, Illinois, in the winter), the new weather feels harsh for the first day. But after a few days in the new climate, your body adjusts, and the colder temperatures don’t feel as frigid. Your body and mind acclimate, and you get used to the new environment.

This natural ability to adapt at a physiological level also applies to dealing with changes in your career. You simply need to tap into your natural ability to adapt and apply it to your professional life. The following suggestions will help you achieve that.

Reflect on Your Past: When change is upon you, reflect back on a few times in the past when you overcame adversity. Identify what you had to do to get through those difficult times. Ideally, choose examples from your past work. If you can’t think of any, then go back to your school days and your personal life. If you really have led a challenge-free life thus far, then think about books or movies where you’ve learned about others overcoming adversity.

Once you choose a few situations to reflect upon, determine the actions and attributes that helped you or others in the past. There’s a high probability if you repeat the mindsets and actions that worked in the past, they’ll work for you now as well. This exercise helps you shift your energy from victim to victor. You prove to yourself that success is possible.

Choose to Associate with Like-Minded People: To keep your mindset strong, surround yourself with individuals and groups who support you in doing something different, rather than those who try to keep you chained to the status quo. Of course, this step is always easier to say than to do, especially when your family or closest colleagues are the ones holding you back.

First, assess your transferable skills. For example, if you were a manager whose department closed, your skills likely include hiring and staffing. Look at what other promising or growing positions use those skills, and network with people in those jobs. This enables you to actively make connections with new people in an area that has more opportunity than your current work.

If your loved ones are contributing to your negative mindset, sit down with them and have an honest conversation about the current situation and your options for change. For example, if you realize you need to relocate and your spouse does not want to move, show the reality of the situation. You might say, “If we remain here, we can’t maintain our lifestyle. We’ll have to downsize to a one-bedroom apartment or move in with family. If we relocate, we can maintain our lifestyle, just in a different zip code. What makes the most sense to you?” Be calm and use specifics when you talk. Chances are the loved one will see the necessity for whatever change is needed.

Do Scenario Planning: Write out detailed scenarios about what can happen if you adapt, if you fail to adapt, and if you somewhat adapt. You need to sketch out all three rather than single point planning, because single point planning can set you up for frustration if the plan doesn’t go exactly as outlined.

This sort of triple scenario planning is based on stress inoculation training, which encourages people to anticipate a negative event and explore how they might deal with it in various ways. Should the negative event actually occur, the person has an idea of what to do to overcome it, which makes the negative event less stressful. The scenario planning works a lot like stress inoculation training.

For example, if you’ve been laid off and can’t find a new job in your area, you may decide that your best case scenario, if you adapt, is to find a job you love – one that pays great and offers high satisfaction – albeit in a different part of the country. If you fail to adapt, that scenario may include you moving back in with your parents and working at a low paying job that you hate. And, if you somewhat adapt, perhaps you find a good paying job in your town, but you’re doing work that doesn’t give you much joy or satisfaction.

With these three scenarios detailed on paper, you have the option of choice. Which scenario do you want to pursue? Now, instead of becoming paralyzed with thoughts like, “I don’t know what to do next,” or “Until I figure out what is the right decision, I’m not going to do anything,” you can make an informed choice of the best way to overcome your current situation. If you are involved in joint decision-making with family, share what you wrote with them so they can be part of the process.

Embrace the New Reality: Make no mistake, everyone’s career is going to be affected at some point in his or her life. This isn’t an “if” scenario; it’s a “when.” So, even if your work life seems to be going well, start developing your capacity to adapt so that when change occurs, you know what to do.

If you’re in the midst of a change and need to adapt quickly, remember that learning is inherently difficult because you often feel awkward, incompetent, and insecure for a while. Eventually, though, you become so fluent in the new knowledge or routine that you can’t imagine your life any other way. Therefore, the sooner you start cultivating and embracing your ability to adapt, the sooner you can thrive in your new situation.

Dr. Marty Martin is the director of the health sector management MBA concentration and associate professor in the College of Commerce at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. His second book, Taming Disruptive Behavior, will be published this year by The American College of Physician Executives (ACPE). He is currently working on his third book, Do You Have Career Insurance? For more information visit www.drmartymartin.com.

[From the April/May 2013 issue of AnswerStat magazine]

Conquering a Sick Day

By Dr. Farzanna Haffizulla

It’s a crisp Monday morning. Your agenda is interwoven with meetings, projects, and the usual “catch-up” from the week past. You awake with shaking chills and muscle pains and feel like you’re being pulsed by a million tiny lasers. Every time you swallow, your saliva feels like gasoline fueling an already rip-roaring fire in your throat. You have too much to complete at your office; staying home is just not an option – or is it? How do you know whether to stay or go? Though some employees often feel that they should fight through and go to work, there are many signs that indicate that you could be contagious, which is definitely a good reason to stay home.

It is imperative to avoid spreading your infection and be evaluated for treatment to accelerate your recovery. Signs that you are contagious, which should simplify your decision to not only stay home but to seek medical care to accelerate your recovery process, are as follows:

  • Fever
  • Persistent productive cough with fever
  • Outbreak of rash with or without fever
  • Red eyes with mucus discharge that seal your eyes shut in the morning
  • Severe sore throat
  • Muscle pains and achy joints with any of the above symptoms
  • Vomiting with, or without, diarrhea
  • High fever, stiff neck, and headache

The spread of either a viral or a bacterial infection can cause a negative trickle-down effect on the entire workplace. Realize that not only are your co-workers at risk from contracting your infection, but so are their families and loved ones. This may include family members who may have fragile immune systems, including the elderly and newborns. Plus, it is unlikely that your co-workers will thank you when they contract the same cold or flu! When your co-workers develop your illness, resulting in many other sick days across a department or office, productivity inevitably declines. Many sick days could have been prevented by you taking one or two days out of the office. There are many ways you can manage your workload while sick, especially if your co-workers or boss are willing to lend a hand and be flexible.

Some strategies that will allow for productivity during this “down” time include:

Work via remote computer: There are many projects in day-to-day office life that could be completed from your home computer while you are in your pajamas in bed. If you can link your office computer to your home desktop or laptop, you can tackle any computer-based projects you have lined up. Another option is to have work scanned and sent to you for your home viewing and completion, allowing you to stay on top of your workload and recover at the same time.

Convert physical meetings to telephone or Skype: Utilize technology to your advantage. Most cell phones have the ability to add in multiple callers, allowing you to set up conference calls. If you are supposed to call in to a conference line, have one of your co-workers send you the number and instructions. Ask a co-worker to set up an automatic, outgoing message with your “number for the day” and your Skype information. Not only will you impress your colleagues and clients with your innovation and dedication, but you also show your consideration for not spreading your infection.

Take work home: This scenario works well if your symptoms start the day before. Bring home that proposal that must be finished before the end of the week and work on it in between naps. Always prepare for the worst.

Pre-arrange for back-up coverage: Along with letting your boss and other co-workers know that you will be at home, arrange for a specific co-worker to cover what they can of your workload. Let them know of any pressing work or engagements, potential problems, or expected calls. This will allow a “physical” presence if one is needed in your line of work.

Do your “back-up work:” This can be anything that needs to be done but often falls by the wayside: expense reports, industry research, or other tasks that you have pre-assigned yourself and are readily available. If you manage a department or group, this is a good day to review your budget, employee productivity, and financial trends.

Although we cannot predict when an illness will impact our lives, we can certainly try to prevent associated annoyances. The old adage, “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure,” rings true here. There are many ways to protect your immune system and body against such infections, including diets high in vitamin C, minerals, and antioxidants that boost your immune system; avoiding sleep deprivation, smoking, and alcohol; washing your hands regularly; encouraging your workplace to have hand sanitizers strategically placed for staff use; and taking time to de-stress.

You should also have regular medical checkups to screen for any underlying diseases that can compromise your immune system. If you do find yourself sick and your primary care physician is not available to evaluate you, you have other options. You can either go to an urgent care center or have a telemedicine consult with a physician via Web or phone. There are also many walk-in clinics at various pharmacies that can evaluate and treat you efficiently.

Many of us have experienced how a sick day can set us back. As professionals, parents, and productive citizens, it works in our best interest to not only plan for these unforeseen sick days but also incorporate prevention and maintenance of our wellness into our daily lifestyle. A healthy attitude and a positive spirit are the foundation to achieving the art of health balance. We are the architects of how we choose to deal with obstacles, such as sick days, that sometimes unpredictably insert themselves into our busy lives. Conquer them; don’t let them conquer you!

Dr. Farzanna Haffizulla is a speaker and expert in work/life balance. Her book, Harmony of the Spheres, offers methods to streamline workloads, solve interpersonal workplace issues, and offers practical advice on integrating work and home life.

[From the April/May 2012 issue of AnswerStat magazine]