Tag Archives: Management

Delivering happiness in health care

7 Aug

“Envision, create and believe in your own universe.”

I received an advance blogger copy of Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose in June. Hsieh is best known as CEO of Zappos.com, the online shoe source he grew from nothing to more than $1 billion in gross sales, now owned by Amazon. Originally, I planned to review as a general business book. Now that I’ve repurposed and refocused, I’m re-reviewing in light of the lessons it holds for health care marketers.

book cover image

Delivering Happiness is perhaps the most charming business book ever – at least of those I’ve read. Hsieh’s strength as an author is his storytelling, beginning with the worm-farm yarn in Chapter 1. Unlike most business writers, by the end of the book we know about Hsieh’s childhood entrepreneurial ventures (and failures), how he took advantage of crowdsourcing as a Harvard student to get good grades with little effort on his part and his one-time love of serious poker. It’s probably the only book that’s turned the PLUR principle Hsieh learned at raves – Peace, Love, Unity, Respect – into a business mantra.

[tweetmeme source=”KateEGrey” only_single=false http://www.URL.com]And the stories he tells in the first portion of the book make the final third sing. Quite frankly, if Hsieh had just regurgitated his business vision, and thoughts on culture and customer service, in book form there would be no reason to listen. I mean, come on, who would pay just to read about another company’s vision? But because the reader knows Zappos’, and Hsieh’s, story by the time we get to that part of the book, his talk about the importance of brand and culture hits some high notes.

Hsieh’s biggest point isn’t about business, but life: There has to be meaning behind what you do.  Money alone isn’t enough – as he discovered after he walked away with $30 million in his pocket at age 24 after selling a company he co-founded, LinkExchange, to Microsoft. Without passion, there’s no satisfaction. Hsieh’s underlying message: What companies should be doing is implementing core values, focusing more on customer service, company culture and employee happiness. Those companies that do, according to Hsieh, actually improve their financial performance as well.

Health care is perfectly enabled to deliver the kind of passion Hsieh refers to. Like Hsieh, I’m also a sometime student of the burgeoning science of happiness. According to Hsieh, research from the field is confirming that the combination of physical synchrony with other humans and being part of something bigger than oneself leads to a greater sense of happiness. Isn’t that what health care is all about?

In the final chapter of the book, Hsieh turns his efforts personally to the reader and outlines what is known about the science of happiness. Happiness is really about four things: perceived control, perceived progress, connectedness and being part of something bigger than yourself. One of health care’s weaknesses, at least in the acute care environment, is perceived control. I think that’s behind a lot of nurse, allied health professional and caregiver burnout.

One could say Delivering Happiness is completely choppy – the first third is really Hseih’s story, from Harvard to LinkExchange to venture capitalist and Zappos. The middle third, which is mostly about Zappos, is not really written by Hsieh – he includes segments from at least 12 guest contributors. And the very last chapter is about positive psychology and how to apply it to your life. However, given what we learn about Hsieh starting on page 1, it holds together. It makes sense. That’s who he is, what he stands for and what he believes in – the underlying message of the book. It’s the universe he wanted to create.

First learnings in a learning journey

21 Jan

I’m a fan of the New York Times’ Sunday Corner Office column, a conversation on leadership and management with leading CEOs. I found Cristóbal Conde’s interview Jan. 17 more enlightening and invigorating than usual. I was thrilled to hear he looks for staff who are thinking critically, people who are challenging standard ideas and notions. Whenever I’ve taken The Leadership Practices Inventory, (based on the book The Leadership Challenge), one of my top practices has been “Challenge the Process.” I felt re-inspired about the value of this talent in organizational life, that there ARE organizations which value questioning the status quo.

I also appreciated his praise of writing skills. I was a print journalism major as an undergrad, and I used to consider writing ability my No.-1 strength in the workplace. I often told students and new grads that writing skills were something they should hone in on, no matter what their major, no matter what their chosen career path. However, in the past few years I’ve sort of devolved away from an emphasis on writing, almost to the point of devaluing it in this Twitter-happy, 140-character society. I’m reminded afresh that it’s still a top-tier strength, and we should all recommit to its value.

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Another Conde point: He strongly recommends spending time in sales at some point in your career. About seven years ago, I consciously chose a sales job because I knew that at some level, a marketer with no sales experience lacks a certain credibility. I felt it was essential to my future advancement. While sales didn’t feel like a permanent career shift for me, and I don’t think I will seek out a purely sales job again, it was one of the most valuable and instructive roles in my career so far. And as a measures-oriented marketer, I loved the objectivity of sales. You either make your numbers or you don’t!

There’s much, much more of value in Conde’s interview — every answer is significant. His comments about the unsustainability of micromanagement are spot-on. Check it out for yourself.

Confidential P.S. to the New York Times: It will be a sad day when you make us pay for your content. Sigh.