During the recent Catalyst Leadership Award Celebration, I was reminded that authentic leadership and culture sometimes shine brightest when we make mistakes. I want to share a story that Linda Aldred told the audience at the celebration luncheon.
She explained how, about a week before the celebration luncheon, two employees emailed me after we announced Texas Children’s was selected by Houston Business Journal for the 11th year in a row as one of Houston’s Best Places to Work. These two employees had second thoughts about this recognition because, as expressed in their emails to me, they were deeply disappointed with our organization for discontinuing a particular program, and they outlined reasons the program should continue. They also shared that, in the past, they have been supportive of our decisions, but they could not support this one because it seemed to go against our values and our culture. I took those words to heart.
I decided I would go home and think about these powerful emails I had received, and the next morning, I called the members of my executive team to discuss the issue. As I spoke with them, I did not ask how this had happened. Instead I simply said, “We missed it. How do we make it right?” The team agreed – we had missed it, and we moved quickly to correct it. I am happy to say the program was back on line within a few hours.
When Linda spoke about this during her opening remarks at the Catalyst Leadership Award Celebration, she did not applaud us for acting quickly or bringing the program back. Rather she spoke about leadership and her pride in being a part of a leadership team that admits when we get it wrong and moves quickly to get it right.
As leaders, we should of course be proud of our valuable contributions, but we also need to know when to step back and reassess a situation and change course if necessary. Sometimes our most profound leadership moments are when things do not go as expected. Our culture is defined by moments like this. When compassionate employees find their courageous voices and weigh in on an issue or a decision, we need to listen.
Once the program was reinstated, I received another email from one of the employees:
Mark, I cannot even begin to tell you how much this means to me, as well as my fellow employees. We were in shock yesterday at how quickly things were escalated and the speed of making the change. To be quite honest, I am still a little in shock at the impact of our words. Thank you for your immediate response, and empathy. It certainly showed me that employees are truly valued here, and I am forever grateful for the seriousness taken regarding our concerns.
As I said to the executive leaders, leadership is about listening to your team. I am glad that Texas Children’s is an organization where staff and employees know they have a voice and where leaders stand ready to listen and respond.
Congratulations to just a few of our many leaders who demonstrate that daily – they are truly Catalyst Leaders who courageously lead their teams and help enrich the culture that makes Texas Children’s the special place that it is.