103. Optimism = Early Release.

A brief hospital stay a few weeks ago brought home to me the importance of making The Habit of the Glass Being Half Full an essential part of our lives.

During my stay I spent as much time as I could walking the hallways of the ward I was in. There were no restrictions placed on my activities other than I was required to wear a mask whenever I left my isolation room and so, if for no other reason than to alleviate terminal boredom, I walked and I walked and I walked.

I soon found I was not alone. Walking is highly encouraged and many of my co-walkers had undergone major surgery one or two days prior to our meeting and they were up and walking as much and as frequently as they could.

So naturally I began talking with some of these folks.

I met two ladies who, on the same day, had undergone major surgery each to have a cancerous lung removed.

Having had lung surgery 19 years ago I have some sense of what they were going through however I am still the proud owner of two lungs and cannot imagine undergoing the type of surgery required to remove one of them.

The only thing these two ladies had in common was that they had each had a lung removed on the same day. Everything else was as different as one could possibly imagine.

One of the ladies spent minimal time walking the floor and when she did she would tell anyone who cared to listen how uncomfortable and difficult it was to do so while pushing a pole with an IV attached and other devices connected to things that appeared to be inserted all over her body.

She clearly was in pain and was loudly complaining of her pain and her expectation that it was going to last for several more days before it got better.

The other lady spent every possible moment walking the ward.

She had a permanent smile etched on her face and told everyone who would listen how excited she was at being able to begin a new life – for the first time in many years – with breathing no longer a problem. She glowed as she described her renewed energy just 24 hours after surgery.

When someone asked her whether she was in pain she smiled even more deeply and said “I am so thankful for this pain because the more it hurts the more it reminds me of what a great gift I have been given.”

Throughout my 6 day stay I frequently ran into these two ladies and, interestingly, they never deviated from their first day’s perspective. The first lady, speculated that she had developed an infection that was slowing her recovery while the second lady was counting the days telling everyone “Day three of my new life”, day four of my new life”.

Naturally I don’t know the circumstances of their surgeries nor can I speculate that because each of them had had a lung removed they were both going through identical experiences but it was just so interesting to observe how different they were.

I had the opportunity to spend a few moments in the patient’s lounge with each of them and they told me a little of their lives before surgery.

The first lady described how her illness had devastated her life and that even now she was unsure whether she could ever get back to her pre-illness life.

The second lady commented that the only drawback to her illness had been the loss of energy over time that had prevented her from doing so much of what she enjoyed and that she was absolutely confident, beyond any doubt, that within just a few short weeks she would resume her pre-sickness life as if nothing had ever happened.

The first lady on several occasions commented critically on the state of attention and the poor quality of care she was receiving while the second lady could not stop gushing about how wonderful and angel-like the staff were and how magnificently her every need was being attended to.

Yes, The Habit of the Glass Being Half Full really makes a difference in the quality of our lives and I was not surprised to learn that the second lady was scheduled to be discharged a mere six days after her surgery while the first lady didn’t think she would be leaving for quite a while.

Life often deals us cards we don’t like. We may not want to play the hand we are dealt but we have to and if we wish to have any chance of winning the game we need The Habit of the Glass Being Half Full to shape how we will deal with circumstances beyond our control.

We frequently cannot control the situations in our lives but we always can control their impact on us and The Habit of the Glass Being Half Full is simply a way of saying that regardless of what happens to me I will make the best of it and I will keep a strong, healthy, positive and optimistic attitude no matter what.

Many years ago a man named Norman Cousins – the author of a marvellous book called “Anatomy of an Illness” gave a talk called “Belief Becomes Biology.” At that time he was involved in research examining a patient’s attitude and beliefs pre surgery and its impact on their recovery.

In his talk he explained the research was painting a crystal clear picture that stated the attitude of patients about to undergo surgery determined unequivocally their level of comfort or discomfort post-surgery and how long they would remain as patients in the hospital.

My ‘research’ with these two ladies is not nearly as extensive but it sure brought home to me what a difference attitude makes.

The Habit of the Glass Being Half Full.

It costs us absolutely nothing.

It gives us absolutely everything.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.
P.S.My book Life Sinks or Soars – the Choice is Yours continues to sell really well. Please visit us at http://www.lifesinksorsoars.com and let me know what you think.

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102. I didn’t expect this.

Last week, to my absolute surprise, I found myself at an all-inclusive resort called Foothills Hospital where I remained as a guest for some six days.

This was certainly not a planned vacation but it did serve as a useful observation post from which I could watch The Habit of Setting Clear Expectations at work.

Hospitals are extremely busy places and the staff, from the cleaners to the doctors are kept busy every minute of every day. They do a marvellous job of taking care of their patients and we are all blessed to live in a country where, when we need medical help, it is provided at the highest possible level regardless of our socioeconomic status.

I was placed in an isolation ward which meant that anyone entering my room had to wear a mask while in the room and I was required to wear one whenever I left the room.

When I first entered the room I was told clearly what to expect in terms of visits from doctors, daily tests and the frequency of visits from the nursing staff in order to do things like checking on vitals.

I was also told what was expected of me in terms of what I could and couldn’t do.

The nurse explained that the reason for establishing clear expectations with each patient as soon as they enter the ward is to eliminate surprises. Experience has taught them that surprises – doctors telling a patient they will see them tomorrow and then not showing up till the next day, or food trays arriving at unpredictable times – had been the biggest cause of upset patients and the more upset a patient becomes the harder the nurses have to work.

I also witnessed an interesting display of what happens when expectations – reasonable or not – are not met.

On my last day in the hospital while waiting for my eviction notice to come through I was sitting in the patient’s lounge when a man came in and sat down.

His wife had undergone major lung surgery and the nurses had sent him out of her room while they were doing some work with her.

He immediately began complaining to me about the “outrageous” cost of parking at the hospital.

He felt it to be ludicrous that people visiting sick friends or relatives should have to pay for parking and that it was one more example of how messed up our healthcare system is.

I listened for a few moments but as I am the beneficiary of amazing and remarkable healthcare over the years and as a person who is deeply grateful for living in a country and a province where such high quality health care is available to all, my patience was thin and did not last very long.

I mentioned to him that the hospital administrator is a close personal friend (I lied) and that I was reasonably sure that I could call him and arrange for this person to receive a refund for the money he had paid for parking but that I was equally sure that my friend would agree to do so only on condition that he could forward a bill to this man for $120,000 to cover the cost of his wife’s surgery and care.

It took him a moment to grasp what I was saying at which point he called me a body part and stormed out of the lounge.

One of the biggest causes of conflict is the simple act of expectations not being met and clearly this man, regardless of how unreasonable his expectations were, was infuriated by his expectations of entitlement being ignored by the hospital’s parking policy.

Last Wednesday, for the first time since I began this blog, I did not post a new piece – I just did not have the energy. I guess I have set expectations among a few readers as I received 27 emails from folks telling me they had not received a blog and was I ok?

I do apologize.

No one wants to be in a hospital but my stay was made all the more pleasant by simply knowing what to expect and by having those expectations met.

The Habit of Setting Clear Expectations is such a simple way of preventing conflict or angst that I believe all our lives would be enriched if we adopted this habit in all that we do.

I am not get out of the woods. I am on powerful antibiotics for the next six weeks and if these drugs do not produce the expected results I may have to undergo lung surgery.

Not for one nano second to I believe this will happen as I have set a clear expectation that these drugs will do their job and my further expectation is that I will be stronger and healthier than before.

Having set this as a clear expectation I see no reason for it not to happen.

And therefore it will happen.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

P.S. My book Life Sinks or Soars – the Choice is Yours is continuing to sell well over this Christmas season. Please visit us at  www.lifesinksorsoars.com  and let me know what you think.

101. Clear expectations versus not-so-clear expectations.

On Saturday I witnessed two examples of the power of The Habit of Setting Clear Expectations.

One resulted in an extremely pleasant experience while the other resulted in anger and frustration.

The pleasant experience involved my wife Gimalle and me. Gimalle had decide several months ago that the time had come to replace the carpet in our two bedrooms with hardwood flooring.

We had done the rest of the condo some five years ago and after several month spent visiting flooring stores, we finally found a product that was a close match to what we have.

A friend recommended an installer and he came over and took precise measurement.

All arrangements were made, expectations set and agreed to and the process began on Thursday evening when the flooring was dropped off by the installer to our condo.

They had said they would begin at 9 AM on Saturday and at 9 AM they were standing in the doorway. It is always a pleasure to watch true professionals at work and the installer and his nephew – obviously a team well accustomed to working together – went straight to work. They had said the job would be between 10 and 10 ½ hours and once they left we would not know they had been here.

That is exactly what happened. Apart from a short break at noon when Gimalle walked over to a local restaurant to pick up a couple of pizzas they worked nonstop until the job was done to everyone’s satisfaction. The last function was to clean up the mess, remove the old carpet from the hallway where they placed it and they were on their way by around 7:30 PM leaving us with beautiful new flooring in both bedrooms and with every piece of furniture restored to exactly where they’ve been prior to their arrival.

Now let’s contrast this with another experience that happened to a young couple moving in to their first home in our building on Saturday.

We all too familiar with horror stories from moving companies which is not to suggest that all moving companies are corrupt, derelict in their duty, or just plain incompetetent.

I had occasion to go down to the lobby several times during the day and at one time I saw the husband talking to our concierge about some damage to the hallway that had been incurred by their movers. Our concierge explained that that damage was the responsibility of the owner’s and that while we, the building management, take care of the repairs, the cost would be charged back to the two of them.

It seems that the damage to the hallway was not the only damage caused by these two movers. They complained of extensive damage inside the sweet – of gouges in the walls and even of a broken chandelier that had been attacked by a mattress wending its way into the suite.

Naturally curious I asked them how they had come across these movers and they commented that I had they had found them online.

They had not taken the time to do any background checks, ask for references, and talk to satisfied customers they had simply assumed that these folks knew what they were doing.

At no point did they establish clearly laid out expectations of a damage free move and that in the event that damage was incurred by the movers they would be responsible for the cost of repairs.

Listening to the explanation made me realize how important it is to never assume anything and to always set clearly defined expectations.

When it came time to pay the bill they said they would be holding back several hundred dollars to cover the damage which caused one of the movers to produce a signed contract and point to a clause that said under no circumstances will there be any holdbacks. They later admitted that had signed the contract without taking the time to read through it.

As the movers were exiting the building loading their truck up with their blankets our concierge pointed out that we would be contacting them regarding the damage that incurred in the hallway. The only response he received was “good luck with that.”

Clearly they have no intention of paying for any damage they caused and just wanted to leave with cash in hand and go on to the next poorly executed job.

The next day I ran into the young couple as they were taking their dog out for a walk and they sheepishly acknowledged that they just assumed the obvious – that these folks knew what they were doing and would be careful and not damage any property

And old saying reminds us that “nothing is obvious to the uninformed” and that taking the time to incorporate The Habit of Setting Clear Expectations goes a long way to resolving issues when they occur.

For this young couple it’s been a relatively inexpensive lesson – perhaps a few hundred dollars – but it’s one I’m sure they have learned and learned well.

It just makes so much sense to always be clear in any relationship; business, personal, family and neighbours. That does not mean that you march into a neighbour’s house sit them down in the living room and lay out your expectations of how they conduct themselves.

What it does mean is that when something occurs that you don’t agree with that is the time to have a conversation for not doing so gives them permission to repeat the behaviour and while doing so – setting the expectation – may not prevent the repeat of the behaviour, doing nothing is not only not setting expectations it makes you complicit in the problem.

The Habit of Setting Clear Expectations.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.
My book Life Sinks or Soars – the Choice is Yours now has its very own website. Please visit us at http://www.lifesinksorsoars.com and let me know what you think.

100. Tough but fair begins with this.

“The reason adopting The Habit of Setting Clear Expectations is so vitally important in today’s world, and particularly in managing people in the workplace, is because if you, as a manager, do not unwaveringly practice The Habit of Setting Clear Expectations with each and every one of your direct reports, then you cannot be upset, disappointed or angry by anything they do.”

With these words my friend Anthony began his story of explaining to a group of us how he had removed the single biggest contributor to stress in his workplace from his life.

I’d spent all day in a training session with the five members of the executive leadership team of a local company and the six of us were enjoying a leisurely dinner at a local restaurant.

Anthony is one of four Senior Vice Presidents and is responsible for ensuring the successful distribution of the company’s many products to customers throughout North America.

Logistics is his strength and he has proven his ability by the way in which he has improved the quality, timeliness and accuracy of the distribution system from one which was, according to their CEO, “in an absolute shambles,” to being the standard-bearer for the industry.

And he had accomplished this in little more than 18 months.

Realizing he had the attention of all at the table he explained he learned long ago that assuming anything about what people should know what to do is a huge mistake and that the fairest and only way to set people up for success is to meet with each employee one-on-one and, in as detailed a fashion as possible, outline clearly the expectations he has of that persons performance and of how they conduct themselves.

He has directed all of his immediate direct reports to meet one-on-one with each of their direct reports and have a ‘healthy discussion’ in which these expectations are outlined with crystal clarity so that each employee leaving that meeting, knows exactly what is expected of him/her in order to be rated and assessed as an exceptional employee and contributor to the organization.

Those direct reports do the same with their direct reports and this process permeates throughout his entire division.

As I listened to Anthony’s passionate description and incontrovertible belief around this exercise I was reminded of the number of times in which I have been asked by managers in my own client companies to coach a staff member who they felt was underperforming.

I have long adopted the practice of asking that manager exactly how he or she measures that employee – in other words what his expectations are of that employee – and then have asked permission to meet the employee and ask them how they determine if they are doing a fine job.

I learned a long time ago that if the two descriptions did not match then no matter how well that employee performed he or she would never be judged favourably by his or her boss.

In order for any of us to know we are doing exceptionally well we have to have a clear description of what exceptionally well means, otherwise we are living in a world of subjectivity where our perspective of doing well might differ quite radically from that of our boss or other people and, by so doing, we can easily find ourselves wanting in the eyes of someone who has sway over our careers.

The Habit of Setting Clear Expectations is an assured way of reducing so much of the friction that I personally have seen all too often inside of corporations resulting from ill-defined or undefined expectations.

The Habit of Setting Clear Expectations makes it easy for all to know the rules of the game and what we each need to do in order to win.

The Habit of Setting Clear Expectations; so obvious yet so rare.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

P.S.My book Life Sinks or Soars – the Choice is Yours continues to sell very well. Please visit us at http://www.lifesinksorsoars.com and let me know what you think.