The patient was furious.

So was Stephanie. 

She stormed into her supervisor’s office and slammed the door, Cy Wakeman writes in her book No Ego: How Leaders Can Cut the Cost of Workplace Drama, End Entitlement, and Drive Big Results.

A nurse at a major Midwest medical center, Stephanie had just started her shift.  After entering the patient’s room, she consulted the digital medical record and then began explaining the surgical procedure the patient was about to undergo.

The next thing Stephanie knew the patient became borderline hysterical.

The medical record was incorrect.  Stephanie was explaining a procedure the patient was not scheduled to have.

Already nervous about the upcoming surgery,  the patient loudly questioned Stephanie’s competency as well that of the hospital.

“I want out of here!” she screamed.  

Stephanie’s heart was racing.  “This is not acceptable!” she exclaimed.  “Excuse me.  I’ll be right back,” she said abruptly and rushed out to find her supervisor.

“How could admissions be so incompetent?” she shouted, now inside her supervisor’s office.  “Errors like this cause serious harm.  Even death.  Someone should be fired!

“And, why should I be the one to clean up this mess?  What the [expletive] am I supposed to say to this patient?”

The supervisor paused for a moment.  She acknowledged the difficult situation. There was no time for coaching or problem solving.  The distraught patient was waiting.

“What would great look like right now?” the supervisor asked.

Stephanie was taken aback.  She paused for a moment to consider the question. She felt her body calming down a bit.    

“Great would be acknowledging that an error had happened,” Stephanie said.  “I could do my best to calm and comfort the fearful patient.”

The supervisor nodded. 

“Great would mean tracking down the orders with the doctor’s signature,” Stephanie continued.  “Then, finding the doctor and reassuring the patient this situation isn’t indicative of the quality of care she could expect from our hospital.”

“Anything else?” her supervisor asked. 

“Great would mean being helpful to other members of the medical team instead of criticizing and demanding someone lose their job.”

Stephanie paused. “Great would be doing everything in my power to serve the patient and to ensure the best possible outcome.”

“Good” said the supervisor. “Then, go be great.”

This real-life story Cy shares in her book speaks to the power of asking a purposeful question at the right moment.

Six words: What. Would. Great. Look. Like. Right. Now.

This question stopped the drama and the emotional waste and re-directed Stephanie’s energy from merely venting to taking purposeful action. 

As leaders, when we ask the right question, we send a message that others are smart and capable. 

The right question becomes a call to greatness.

More tomorrow.

Reflection:  When in the past have I vented to a colleague when a problem occurred? Contrast this situation with another when I practiced self-reflection and took action to address an issue.  What was the outcome in both cases?

Action:  Be on the lookout for workplace drama today.  Encourage self-reflection.

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