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Showing Up As the Best Version of Yourself at Work (Podcast)

Leadership lessons come from both successes and errors

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When Patrick Byrne, MD, MBA, arrived in 2020 to chair Cleveland Clinic’s Head and Neck Institute, his extensive portfolio of leadership experiences from The Johns Hopkins Hospital included development of a new ambulatory surgery center.

“I was asked to lead the effort to stand it up and develop a strategy to move it … out of the main campus and into the region,” says Dr. Byrne. “That was super interesting. Very humbling, to be honest. I learned a lot, including through taking some lumps, but that was a great experience to dive into that specific domain.”

Among the lessons: “People don’t get excited and jump out of bed for spreadsheets,” he says. “I can geek out on some operations details that I think are really interesting and cool, but not a lot of others share that.”

More importantly, Dr. Byrne that this role offered a laboratory, of sorts, for creating a culture. He cited a general tendency for staffs of main-campus operating rooms across the nation to be disgruntled by their physical environments.

“We thought, well, what if we could create an amazing place where, from the moment you walked in, the surgeons loved it, and the patients did, and all the nurses? How the heck do you do that? It was a fun experiment to try to figure out if you could design for that.”

The project was a success; the new ASC serves more than 100 surgeons in adult and pediatric specialties.

“It was really one of my great experiences in life, and I love everybody on that team still so much,” says Dr. Byrne. “We’re still friends. And I did hear from countless surgeons in that first year we opened like, ‘Wow, it’s different here.’ To me, that was more than the numbers and cents. That was the sign of success.”

Dr. Byrne, a facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon, specializes in complex reconstructive surgery of the face, head and neck, including microsurgical reconstruction. He recently spoke with Brian Bolwell, MD, for the podcast “Beyond Leadership.”

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Podcast excerpt

Dr. Bolwell: There’s a study that Steve Covey quotes in The Speed of Trust. What separates high performing organizations from those that aren’t as high performing (is) how you treat your fellow human beings. If you treat the people around you with respect and dignity and curiosity about what they’re thinking, that elevates culture. And it just is a winning formula.

Dr. Byrne: In facial plastic surgery practice, you’ve got a lot of different types of patients. Occasionally, you’ll have someone who is just going to be challenging. Maybe you met them before, and you see the name on the schedule. It took me a few years to figure out how best to manage difficult people in my practice. Somebody I heard once talked about how instead of being your true self (because maybe your true self that day is a grumpy person) be your best self and inhabit that space.

I started experimenting with talking to myself as I enter the room, and reminding myself, “I’m going to love this person no matter what they say.” I use the word “love” and I’m open about it. It’s always our reaction to the other person that causes distrust and lack of respect. It’s not the other person. By inhabiting that space of, “I’m going to be there to show compassion. I’m going to let them know it,” it just makes life better. I find that it’s like a switch that I think we can turn on with others, and remind ourselves that it’s not about me, it’s about them. How can I support and love this person? Hopefully, that’s a little contagious.

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