Five ways in which people create the culture we feel



This past week, dear readers, my daughter underwent surgery. It was a simple procedure according to the surgeon and I’m happy to report Lulu sailed through with flying colours. Even before the nurse could bring the tea and toast to her bed in the recovery room, Lulu was on her phone Snapchatting with friends.

lthough we’ve lived in Ireland for more than seven years now, it was my first visit to a hospital. And for today, I’m going to share a bit of the experience as within the story, there are lessons for every business professional.

Make a first impression

I’m not going to lie. Our first impression of The Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital in Dublin was not good.

The parking area and front of the hospital prompted feelings of confusing disarray. Several incongruent buildings are scattered around with a jumble of direction signs in different fonts, colours and styles. The main hospital entrance doors were difficult to find; strangely flanked by a row of temporary parking and security module buildings.

Once inside, there was not a soul around. Although it was 7:00 am, a hospital is a 24-hour facility and I expected to find a reception area with someone standing by to direct, advise and comfort uncertain patients. This was not the case. The signage, the lighting, the seating area. Everything felt dated, cold and institutional.

Fortunately, I was arriving with my healthy, teenage daughter who had a non-life-threatening situation which only required a “simple procedure”. Imagine how you would feel if you were a first-time mother in distress arriving to the uncertainty that was this hospital’s reception.

Business leaders, if your company is greeting people in-person, how welcoming is your company’s reception area? Everyone, if you’re meeting someone virtually, how welcoming is your “Zoom Room”? Seriously. Re-examine and recalibrate.

The importance of greeting

When we finally managed to find a woman sitting behind plexiglass two rooms beyond those main entrance doors, she referred us to the fourth floor to actually check-in.

There, the first thing I noticed was a printed paper sign apologising for the hospital’s appearance as it was being remodelled. Apology accepted.

But keep reading, dear ones, this story gets better. The woman behind this next piece of plexiglass was named Sam. She had kindly called the night before to confirm Lulu’s surgery. And this morning, she was again incredibly welcoming. Her demeanour was not perfunctory. It was caring and friendly. A good second impression can offset a first.

Focus on the person’s name

From Sam’s check-in through to every subsequent hospital team member we met during our visit, each person greeted us kindly and by name. Yes, I understand it’s essential for a medical facility to ensure patients’ names are correct for identification and tracking purposes, but the same attention should be given in the corporate world too. When you value learning a person’s name, it demonstrates you value that whole person.

Value your target audience

Speaking of value, I must stress the personal kindness and professional attention we received from Josie, our floor nurse. She brought Lulu to her bed in the waiting room, provided her with a glamorous blue paper hospital gown and matching paper knickers – all with compassion and warmth.

By the time our consultant, Niamh Murphy, arrived to talk with Lulu before the surgery, she was already resting comfortably. I noticed Dr Niamh, as we called her, pointedly asked Lulu about a holiday-related topic the two of them had discussed during our previous meeting a couple of weeks ago. That was a great device to help Lulu (and me) relax.

Paying attention to personal crumbs dropped in business conversations will help you create stronger cables of connection between yourself and another party.

Next, Niall, the lead anaesthetist, came over to talk with Lulu. I was impressed how he directed his full attention to her. He didn’t simply address me as the mom. He showed great value to her as the patient.

When you’re with two prospects, do you direct more attention to the person you presume is “senior”? Be careful. An inegalitarian approach can backfire in the professional world, much the same way it can in the medical world.

The porters who took Lulu to the operating theatre also demonstrated great value. Sensing I was anxious, they offered me one of those lovely paper gowns and guided me into theatre to watch my daughter be surrounded by half-a-dozen team members and then be given the general anaesthesia to send her into that surgery-ready, sleep-like state.

Don’t forget to follow-up

Before the surgery began, I made my way back to the recovery room. Soon, Lulu was wheeled in, placed on the recovery bed and another series of caring visits was made by Dr Niamh, Josie and other members of the medical team.

When the tea and toast arrived, I joked that our experience culminated with room service like at a hotel. “Five stars,” Lulu proclaimed. Then she took a bite of toast and went back to Snapchat.

Although the building wasn’t great, an organisation’s culture is comprised of its people. We found a kind and considerate culture at The Coombe.



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