“Excellence Wins” in Healthcare – Bridging the Gulf Between Management and Labor

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We’ve been reviewing the book titled, “Excellence Wins”, by Horst Schulze, founding president and COO of Ritz-Carlton for ten weeks. While having a copy of the book is certainly not needed to enjoy the next several BLOG posts, if you’d like to grab a copy to follow along, feel free to pick it up at Amazon here, or of course at your favorite book store.

Over the last several weeks many of you have responded that you really enjoy Thinking Thursdays TIPs. For those that have dropped me a quick email, thank YOU! It’s my pleasure, and knowing these BLOG posts are of value to you and your team means a lot to me and the MedicalGPS team.

Before we get into this week’s BLOG I wanted to invite you to send me YOUR patient experience success stories. If your practice, (or a practice that you’re affiliated with), has had success improving the patient’s experience, just hit ‘reply’ and let me know. The ‘reply’ will come directly to me and I will not share it unless you give me permission to do so.

We’d love to hear about your successes — large, medium, small — it doesn’t matter, ALL successes are worth celebrating.

So, go ahead, comment and just say something like; “our team improved our patients’ experience by _________ (fill in the blank). One short sentence, nice and easy.

Once I receive your reply, I’ll reach out to you. With your approval and blessing, and only with your approval, we’d love to share your success story with the recipients of Thinking Thursdays TIPs.

This week we continue to explore part two of “Excellence Wins”, ENGAGING YOUR EMPLOYEES, as we review chapter ten:


A Place to Belong

Mr. Schulze talks about his decades of experience and how he has had plenty of time to ponder why labor unions thrive. Mr. Schulze’s conclusion; “because they give workers a community of common interest — when the employer is failing to do so.” (1)

According to Mr. Schulze, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company took over a hotel, which was not a great facility, in New York City, a heavily unionized town at the time. An employee survey indicated that employees were 50% satisfied and customer satisfaction was 60% at the newly acquired hotel.

After hiring a new general manager, the Ritz-Carlton culture gradually replaced the toxic culture that Mr. Schulze and team had inherited. Within two years the work environment was completely different. The transformation happened largely by simply inviting employees to imagine what the hotel could become and consistently keeping that vision forefront before the employees. (Remember, Why Repetition IS a Good Thing).

The new general manager was successful in sharing the organization’s dream, and creating an environment where employees could rise to a level of excellence that they had never before experienced.

Employee satisfaction scores improved to 90 percent and the customer satisfaction went to 92 percent, in just two years!

“The rise of labor unions in the twentieth century (and some even earlier) is evidence of … hostility. But even in nonunion situations, a thin layer of politeness can cover a deep reservoir of animosity.” (2)

“…people want to feel a part of something. If they don’t feel part of the organization’s dream, they will gravitate toward the union’s dream, which is to stand up for workers’ rights and benefits.” (3)

Learning to “Play Ball”

The absolutely worse greeting that Mr. Schulze said he ever received was when the Hyatt Hotel company sent him to Pittsburgh to check out and take over a rundown Howard Johnson hotel that Hyatt had just acquired. On Mr. Schulze’s first walk through the hotel, the doorman greeted Mr. Schulze as follows:

Doorman: “Hey, come over here! You know what I do here?”
Mr. Schulze: “Yes, you’re a doorman to greet the guests.”
The doorman opened up his right hand to reveal a roll of pennies, something that Mr. Schulze said he would have never expected.
Doorman: “I keep this here inside my hand, so that if I have to crack somebody in the face, I’ll break their jaw.”
Mr. Schulze: “That’s interesting, I guess I didn’t know it would have that effect.”
Doorman: “Look, if you play ball with us, you’ll be okay.”
Mr. Schulze: “Well, I’m here for no other reason than you are — to do a good job. So yes, let’s play ball together by doing a good job for the owners, the guests, and you the employees.” (4)

Before entering healthcare in 1994 I too worked in an industry where many of the employee groups were represented by organized unions — the airline industry. I must admit, some of the most stressful days in my management career were spent trying to deal with union/management clashes. Clashes that were usually rooted in distrust. I learned that when both parties work, in good faith, for the common good of the customers, employees, and stakeholders, it is possible to have good relationships. Look to the mission of the company and the organization’s core values, which are well documented, to find the foundation of the common good. Earn trust and be relentless toward building meaningful, healthy relationships with your employees.

Hot Coffee on a Cold Day

As a union strike was taking place on a blistering cold winter day, Mr. Schulze instructed his kitchen personnel to make hot cider, brew several pots of coffee, and pull together sweet rolls and other treats. When asked what he was up to, Mr. Schulze replied, “We’re taking them out to the strikers.” (5)

Just about the time Mr. Schulze and his team of managers were delivering the hot cider, coffee, and tasty treats to the strikers, wouldn’t you know it, the news crews arrived. A news crew member asked, “What are you doing?” It seems the news crew member was somewhat confused — confused that the hotel’s management team would be serving the strikers refreshments during the striker’s picketing.

Mr. Schulze replied, “These are still our employees. The fact that there’s been a misunderstanding so that they’re missing a little bit of work has nothing to do with the fact that they’re a vital part of this hotel, and I love them. It’s cold out here. I just thought they should have something hot to drink and sweet to eat.” (6)

When I read this account and heard Mr. Schulze refer to how much he loved his employees, it reminded me of a saying that I have heard throughout my life, ‘love conquers all’. So was the case, it seems, during this particular hotel strike.

Next week we finish the last section of Excellence Wins, part three; BUILDING TRUE RELATIONSHIPS, chapter 11: LEADING IS AN ACQUIRED SKILL

Don’t forget to comment with your success story.

Please let us know if you have comments or questions, and subscribe to our Email Updates , so that you can be assured to receive Thinking Thursdays TIPs.
Thank you!

Jerry L. Stone
MedicalGPS, LLC.

Names: SCHULZE, HORST, 1939 author. | MERRILL, DEAN
Title: Excellence Wins: a no-nonsense guide to becoming the best in the world of compromise / Horst Schulze, with Dean Merrill
Description: Grand Rapids, MI : Zondervan, [2019]


(1) Page 152
(2) Page 152
(3) Page 154
(4) Pages 155, 156
(5) Page 158
(6) Page 159

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