Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Skater Comes First

PS Magazine, March/April 2011 Recently, I went through the Mayo Clinic Executive Health Program. From head to toe, it was three days of constant probing, groping, and pricking …no love handle left unturned. I saw 16 doctors and countless nurses, technicians, dietitians and trainers. After it was all said and done I received a 38 page report! I was so impressed with the quality of care and the efficiency of the complex scheduling that I purchased the book “Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic”. Published by McGraw-Hill (2008) the book outlines the core values that make Mayo one of the top brands in the world. While I was familiar with mottos, credo’s and mission statements, the books thesis revolves around their “value” statement - “the needs of the patient comes first.” The simple concept derived from a speech that Dr. William J. Mayo delivered to Rush Medical School in 1910. “The best interest of the patient is the only interest to be considered, and in order that the sick may have the benefit of advancing knowledge, union of forces is necessary ... It has become necessary to develop medicine as a cooperative science; the clinician, the specialist, and the laboratory workers uniting for the good of the patient, each assisting in elucidation of the problem at hand, and each dependent upon the other for support." The clinic value statement that Mayo delivers on a daily basis is “woven into the fabric – the culture” of the clinic. The systems and procedures, architecture of the campus, the doctors and medical team – all reflect and reinforce the value. All while moving tens of thousands of patients each day around their campus. While reading the book, I kept seeing similarities between the clinics’ patient comes first attitude and what should be obvious to those that serve figure skating, the needs of the skater comes first. How many times have you called a rink to find out when there’s ice time and the person who answers the phone, (that is if someone actually answers the phone) puts you on hold, only to have to listen to twenty minutes of Yannie and his magical pan flute playing “Hooked on Classics”! Finally, some disgruntled rink rat with a voice that sounds like two cats fighting in an alley picks up the phone, “what do ya want?” Why is it that the people answering the phone always make you feel like you’re interrupting something more important than anything you might possibly need? As coaches, do we do this to our clients? When the lessons are over, do you sneak out the side door? Do you not answer your home phone when the caller ID indentifies a skating parent? I know I’ve done it! All joking aside, we are not doing ourselves or our clients any favors. The sad truth is that this is a way too common occurrence and I’m sure that at some point, even the PSA has failed to live up to our own expectations. There should be no excuse for that… Another management lesson I learned from the book is the “authority to serve” or “value’s-based authority”. Value’s Based Authority gives the employee the “power and authority to act in unique situations.” The authority to make decisions based on their own core beliefs and the value belief that “the patient comes first” allows employees to act in the best interest of the patient. This is another concept that I believe relates to the coaching – skater relationship. Coaches should be making decisions that reflect what is best for their skater. Here’s an example: A coach wants to take an advanced level skater to an out of state competition but traveling with only one skater is cost prohibitive. A parent of a new – low level skater who hasn’t competed before thinks that traveling out of state would be fun. The problem is that this non qualifying competition is known for the excellent level of competition. Many coaches would take the low level skater along to help subsidize the expenses for the advanced skater. But is that the best “first competition” for the other? If you relied on you own core values and believe in the “skater comes first” mentality, you would look for a better solution. I often write about the challenges we face every day and on occasion I come across an idea that will make our sport better. I believe adopting the skater comes first and the value’s based authority philosophies can improve our sport and your image. In fact, I believe that here at PSA, if we can implement a “coaches come first” attitude and “value’s based authority” procedures for the PSA employee’s, your experience with the organization will be better. Borrowing from Dr. Mayo, the best interest for our clients is the only interest to be considered.