Lessons in Integrity

It's Saturday and I am at home for the day with my 13 year old son so the tv automatically goes to ESPN. (We don't want to admit to each other that we may rather be watching something else.)  Many of you know that this weekend the conversations were not about college basketball or NFL playoffs, but about two interviews with high profile sports stars.

Lance Armstrong did an Oprah interview last week where he finally took responsibility (sort of) for his use of performance enhancing drugs while earning all of his Tour de France wins.  And Notre Dame's Manti Te'o reveals that the sentimental story which led to his widespread popularity was a hoax.

Like only ESPN can do, these stories were played and replayed all day.  Like many watching, I kind of feel like a chump because I fell for both of these stories.

I thought it was "neat" that this Notre Dame kid who had been through so much was having all this success in college football.  All season long, every story about Te'o included a comment about the fine character he demonstrated when he stood by his girlfriend while she lost her battle to leukemia.  The fabricated story got this young man a lot of positive attention.

Lance Armstrong has been accused of doping forever.  He always denied it and I always believed him.  An old Nike commercial featured Armstrong saying, "People always ask what I am on.  I am on my bike, busting my a**, six hours a day.  What are you on?" He truly confronted his accusers and I bought it.

Both of these men found themselves caught in a web of lies and they decided to let the lies persist, or made up new lies, rather than making things right.  They were headed down a slippery slope and didn't try to come out of it until they were caught.

The Lesson

Thankfully, when I have a lapse in judgment, it isn't analyzed all day on tv.  Because I, like you, have made my share of stupid mistakes.  I have done things I knew were wrong and I am guilty of trying to cover up some of those mistakes.

There is still a difference in the man I am and the man I want to be.

As people, we all have our own shortcomings, but what about our practices?  Can an entire practice lose it's way too?  You bet.

We each have a Vision of the practice we are working to build but few of us keep that Vision at the forefront of our attention all the time.  So we all occasionally lose sight of what we are trying to become.  We either get so busy with the hectic days or we let ourselves get distracted and all of a sudden the practice is headed in a different direction.

Maybe your patients are in the waiting room too long, maybe the frames you provide to your patients no longer meet the quality you say that you provide.  And maybe you are skipping important parts of the eye exam saying it improves efficiency.

How do you grow?

  1. Make a point to really study the Vision that you have created for your practice.  Schedule time to look at what you've written about your goals and dreams.
  2. Look at what is most important to you and compare that to what you are really doing.  Find a way to measure it.
  3. Recognize your shortcomings.  It is easy to justify why you are performing badly in one area or another.  Here's a big one in my practice: "Our glasses sales are down because we have been doing a lot of medical."  Maybe it's true, but it is still a cop out.
  4. Realize that your shortcomings in one area probably means you are cutting corners in other areas too.  Resist the urge to start fixing things until you figure out the source of your problems.
  5. Come clean.  While this is difficult to do, the entire team needs to be aware that things are slipping away from what we are trying to become and things will be changing so we can "right the ship."
  6. Plan.  I am a strong believer that everyone needs to be involved in coming up with the plan to get things back on track.  Sometimes this is not feasible, but usually you can make it happen to some degree.
  7. Prioritize.  Believe me, you can not fix it all at once.
  8. Get to work.

Remember that the first step to making things better is to quit making it worse.  

See you soon,

Mike