Leading With Passion: Hope Is Not A Strategy

The word hope is defined as a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. Hope is a good thing to have and we all need to feel hope for the future. In this issue of Leading With Passion, I want to take a deeper look at how we use the word hope when we are trying to achieve and communicate an expected result or outcome.

I’d like to illustrate my point with a couple of stories. I spend a lot of time observing the interactions that take place between caregivers and patients and their families. During one observation, I witnessed a nurse talking with an elderly patient who had presented with dizziness–a complaint with a root cause that is often difficult to determine. The nurse was having a very nice conversation with the patient who was visibly worried about her condition. She asked the nurse what the plan was to figure out her problem and treat it. The nurse replied, “Well, we are going to give it the good old college try while you are here and hope for some answers.” Of course, the nurse wanted nothing but the best for the patient but this explanation did not inspire much confidence in the care and treatment she was seeking.

As leaders we often use the word hope when we talk about the results we are trying so hard to accomplish. Recently, I was talking with a leader who was really struggling with patient perception of care scores. I asked what the plan was to improve on this very important outcome. The leader stated, “I have told all of our staff how poorly we are doing and I really hope things will turn around next month.”

Sometimes, we even struggle with personal accomplishments using the word hope in place of a real plan with a strategy and actionable tactics. I can recall having a terrible upper respiratory illness not long ago that lasted for weeks. I thought, “Boy, I sure hope this gets better soon.” It finally did but a trip to my physician (actionable tactic) would have cut my illness time in half!

My challenge to each of you is twofold. First, take a hard look at what you are trying to accomplish. Does each outcome you are seeking have tangible, actionable tactics you have in place to drive the results? Does everyone know what they are? Actionable tactics that impact your desired outcome are an absolute must if you are looking to change or improve.

Second, take a look at the language you use. I challenge you to censor words like hope when they are taking the place of actionable tactics. Instead of saying “I really hope our perception of care scores improve” say something like, “Our perception of care scores will improve because we are ensuring our patients are greeted warmly and kept informed.” Instead of telling patients “I really hope we can figure out what is going on with you” say, “You are in the best hands here. We are going to run some tests and watch you very closely so that we can understand what is causing your symptoms and help you feel better.” When looking at these examples, which statements inspire more confidence?

Your action from this issue: listen to your language as it relates to the results you are trying to achieve. Are you using hope in place of a true strategy? If you are, how will you change what you are saying so that you convey confidence to your audience? Until next time, go lead with passion!

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About the Author

Janie Schumaker

Janie Schumaker drives the development of T-System solutions that improve clinical quality and patient outcomes. Janie uses her expertise to recommend clinical and industry best practices that help clinicians deliver better, more efficient care in the busy and evolving unscheduled care continuum. She is a prolific speaker, writer and advocate for nurse leadership, patient care, regulatory guidelines and clinical quality.

One Comment

  1. Jane-

    This is outstanding yet getting back to basics and just plain common sense for working with patients. I would have freaked had the onocologist I had said I hope we get this cancer out of you. Great blog keep it coming.

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