Poor Eyesight and a Dead Tooth Due to Ineffective Leadership

Posted by Dr. Holly Latty-Mann on

Yes, you read that correctly. Too often we speak of leadership effectiveness within the context of managers and executives within the corporate world. Yet every human being has been victimized by someone’s inept leadership while providing a service, which could be related to the medical or manufacturing industry. I present these two true stories using anonymity to protect the innocent as well as the unaware (rather than guilty).

Poor eyesight:  She kept complaining to her provider that while her friends in the car could read billboards at amazingly far-off distances, why couldn’t she? The response she would receive from her practitioner over too many tolerated years had become increasingly hostile until he finally asked her to find another provider. Fast forward 6 months! “OMG,” she cried (literally, I’m talking about tears of joy!), “I can see the road signs and no longer make wrong turns! I can read subtitles from the kitchen sink rather than having to stand right in front of the TV.” The new provider had understood immediately why her vision tests were delivering invalid results and treated her with a supplement (not a prescription) for dry eyes, which allowed another vision test a few months later to deliver valid results. The new provider focused on resolving the problem rather than taking personally the faulty test results.

Dead Tooth:  She had chipped a crown and needed it replaced while her regular dentist was on vacation. The technician, using a monitor to determine if the “living tooth stub” was free of bacteria, scrubbed harshly, or more accurately, battered the stub for almost an hour until finally calling in the “real dentist,” who immediately recognized the technician was reading the screen improperly. It turns out what the technician had thought was bacteria was simply a shadow. Being all numbed up made it difficult to ascertain how serious the assault was on this tooth, but the woman later told the dentist her tooth had throbbed for almost 2 weeks following the assault.  The dentist response to her was, “You need to go to this specialist and get a root canal. That tooth is now dead.” The story does not end here. The woman had further complained that the new crown on the now dead tooth had a gap that caught food with each and every bite. The solution? “Here is how to floss that faulty crown fitting.” The story has a good ending. The woman returned “with hat in hand” to her former dentist whose practice was 30 minutes farther away and replaced that crown with one that looks great, offers a perfect fit, and costs $300 less. The inept dentist was too afraid to apologize for the obvious mistake and lost a valuable client.

Leadership effectiveness is for anyone who offers a service or product to another person. It boils down to actions that engender trust. The Wall Street Journal a few years ago had an article on its home page that offered statistics showing that people are less likely to sue and/or leave healthcare practitioners who apologize for their mistakes. However, I must add one caveat to these two true stories. Similar to those working in the corporate world, we need great leaders who are also great managers, which means they know their stuff. It appears the “eye doctor” may not have known his stuff, whereas, the dentist may have but didn’t protect the patient from the inept technician. Not acknowledging the loss of a perfectly healthy tooth due to the mistake literally added insult to injury.

Do you have a similar story? Leadership development is for everyone, not just those in corporate management positions.

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