As I observe my Dad’s colleagues adapt to life after retirement, I am amazed with his energy, fervor, dedication, and energy continuing to hone his skills while helping people in the community. With more than 40 years of experience, Dad continues to see patients and perform surgeries as a prominent eye doctor in Ohio.
Growing up, it was normal to open the refrigerator to a container of cow eyes, so Dad could practice on them with new procedures. While other fathers lounged on Sundays watching football games on TV, my Dad was watching surgery videos learning from various cases. While it’s difficult for us to make connections in our different vocations, he shared a profound truth that took him years to discover and applies across all venues today.
As a young physician, Dad explained that many times he was able to determine the eye trauma and diagnose a treatment plan just by looking at the eye. For the sake of efficiency, for him and the patient, he was able to begin charting the course of action based on a quick look at a patient’s eye or description from the intake nurse on what the eye looked like and a summary of symptoms!
Yet, he would find himself perplexed when a patient called a week later complaining of pain still occurring in the eye. He knew he diagnosed the problem correctly along with the proper course of action. After time, he realized an important truth –
Although he knew the problem and how to correct it, he didn’t allow the person to share his/her story on how the problem occurred and how the person was feeling.
As part of the healing process, the patient needed to share his story about how he splashed chemicals in his eye and couldn’t sleep all night. Or, the patient who was playing with her granddaughter who she hadn’t seen all summer accidentally poked her eye with a pen. The patient who was an avid reader and now having trouble reading his favorite books. Or, the patient who gradually lost her eyesight and waited weeks because she didn’t have insurance.
In taking the time to hear their story, Dad was able to empathize with the patients before setting out to fix their problems. Not only did patients get better, but they got better faster and with less pain.
What’s this mean for leaders?
There’s power in taking the time to hear the story from others. We can get caught up in trying to be efficient that we don’t take the time to listen. Often times, we liken new situations to similar ones we’ve experienced in the past. So, we immediately begin to make false assumptions or attend to it not realizing it’s nothing like we’ve ever experienced before. We forget that no two situations are the exact same.
Be careful in mistaking efficiency over effectiveness for success.
Regardless of vocation, we are all in human-centered positions. How we talk to others on the phone matters. How we write an email reply matters. How we greet people and introduce ourselves matters.
Take the time to pause and listen. Really listen. Resist the urge to fix something immediately without truly understanding the problem. And, be careful in making comparisons that may not exist. When you take the time to put others first, you will see more clearly every time.