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Put Your Heart In It!

A true story about a Hospice organizations’ internal change initiative and what we can all learn from them – when their dedication, love and passion was directed internally, the results were as amazing as what they were able to accomplish with their patients.

A few weeks ago, I introduced the “True to Life” blog series to share the stories that have transformed us.  As I sit in a hospital, visiting a loved one receiving Hospice care, I can’t help but think back to the years that we had the privilege to work with a regional Hospice to strengthen the Sr. Management team and develop an internal leadership program.

I’d like to celebrate those nurses, musical therapists, technicians, doctors, social workers, clergy, staff and volunteers who transformed everyone they encountered, including me.

We have studied the cultures of hundreds of organizations, but nothing quite prepared us for working with Hospice. The level of dedication, sincerity, empathy, love and passion for working with the patients and their families that these individuals have is beyond comprehension.  Day in and day out, they guide patients and their families through the end of life and the grieving process.

Before developing any recommendations, we felt it would be most beneficial to immerse ourselves in the organization and the different teams that worked together.  For days, we interviewed every individual on site – staff, volunteers, board members, family members, etc.  We were invited to do “ride alongs” with the musical therapy teams.  We were allowed in the inner sanctum of the programs for children.  As time progressed, we would spend more and more time with these amazing people in their environments.

And, one of the things I will always remember about these Hospice employees was that they had all the clinical/technical know-how but they also had the courage to put their heart into their jobs every step along the way.  That heart to heart connection is what transformed the experience for their patients and for the patient’s family.  And, with open eyes, they knew it would transform them individually.  That openness is why many of the staff would share with me that working for Hospice was “not for everyone.”  Those that chose this profession, most often did so because somewhere along the way, they were touched by someone or some experience and they felt called to do this amazing work.

As we listened and as we learned, we soon realized that many of these Hospice employees gave so much to their patients and their families that they had very little left to give to each other.  They fought for resources, they had no patience, they were irritable and snappy with one another, they had challenges outside of work and at home.  Yes, they were angels, but also mere mortals.

Mere mortals like the rest of us.

How many times have we forgotten the idea of civility in our own organizations?  Who on your team has never bought into the philosophy of internal customer service to begin with? When are the times that a team could have bonded with a little empathy vs. tearing each other apart?  Who in your organization cares for others when they most need it? When would it have been more appropriate to forgive and what would really be the downside of forgetting?

The Hospice team decided to focus their internal change initiative on sustainability – how to care for each other so that they would be able to continue to provide quality care for their patients.  The group that we worked with threw themselves into this challenge and decided on eight areas that they would focus on improving over the course of a year.  When their dedication, love and passion was directed internally, the results were as amazing as what they were able to accomplish with their patients.

In a time when we’re spending a lot of time focusing on the external factors that are impacting our business, let’s not forget the importance of giving some much needed attention to the inside – to our crews, our teams, our leaders, our volunteers – to everyone who makes a difference.  And, go ahead, put your heart into it – something transformational may just happen!

><(("> Melissa Laughon

Melissa is a ><(("> Team Member at Catch Your Limit, a management consulting firm with offices in Tallahassee, Florida and Richmond, Virginia. To learn more, visit

Posted in Change, Leadership, Organizational Culture, Teaming.


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