Sometime in my past a quote was shared with me, “The greatest evil of good is better.”  I’m not sure why it stuck in my brain for over 15 years, but it did, which is odd because I truly enjoy and receive great pleasure out of improving things – all kinds of things whether it is improving a work flow, determining a better approach to working with someone, analyzing a better way to load the dishwasher. Sometimes there is success, sometimes not. That’s OK. That’s life.

Perhaps the quote stuck because the context of the quote was a situation involving an individual’s ego negatively impacting group dynamics and an organization’s overall success. The quest for being better did not seem to be particularly driven by quality as much as a personal ego to chalk up personal wins.

It is possible in our drive for being the best we leave some bodies in the road. It’s possible. Sometimes change does need to be exponential or transformational in nature to achieve a goal. But sometimes, improvements can be incremental and over time, small rapid improvements create significant change in our daily, routine interactions with our patients, families and colleagues.

Recently, a friend of mine gave me a lovely lavender plant as a hostess gift. I was touched by her thoughtfulness. I love lavender and the moments of brief pleasure of rubbing my fingers along the leaves, catching some of the oil on my hands, inhaling the scent, and taking a moment to remember my mother who enjoyed the plant too, is beyond measure.  But my friend took an ordinary lavender plant and made it special or an “extra” ordinary plant. Not too much, just one simple metallic wire with a few rainbow stars. Maybe she took a few minutes to locate something at home to “pretty up” the gift. Not overwhelming, not a “wow”, an “OMG” or an “a-m-a-z-i-n-g” just a little something to say “I took a few extra moments for you.” The plant is safely in my garden. The stars may be gone, but the image is implanted in my memory.

Our culture is built upon creating the “wow”, the “a-m-a-z-i-n-g” and the “five-star” service. We script service and actions, create beautiful, expensive, environments, and believe that we have fixed the service or caring problem. In addition, perhaps we get bogged down a bit with thinking we have to hyperextend or overextend ourselves to create that “wow” experience when perhaps we can create exponential patient or customer memories by each of us taking the ordinary moment and making it “extra” ordinary. Perhaps being “extra” ordinary is truly just “prettying up” an ordinary interaction or encounter but demonstrating innate charitableness.

In healthcare, we may experience potentially ordinary moments many times during the day; delivering meal trays, filling water pitchers, straightening a room, taking vital signs, just “checking” on a patient, passing a colleague in the hallway, being on the elevator with a family member, answering the phone, making a bed, or simply answering a question – all opportunities of ordinary moments to make a small change, a small improvement, a small connection through compassionate interactions to be “extra” ordinary. There are multiple service opportunities in other industries as well during those “moments of truth.”

As the service bar continues to rise, and it will, and we may find ourselves losing personal energy in hyperextending our service level. We may start to ask ourselves, what more can we possibly do?  when perhaps the customer really just wants to be treated as a human. Compassion is attending to the essential ordinary. It’s a small act of kindness, listening authentically and adding a moment of connection showing you truly care. Is it possible that by standardizing and scripting service, we limit thinking about, envisioning and delivering the essential ordinary? Perhaps instead of standardizing a service moment and triple checking if our staff is delivering the script, we help our staff define, envision, and deliver their own “extra” ordinary moment(s) of care.

Just for today:

Who do you know on a daily basis who moves the ordinary to the “extra” ordinary?

What would I want from someone caring for me or a loved one?

If I could create the perfect customer service interaction, what would it look like and feel like?

What is one thing I (we) can do today, to create the “extra” ordinary and share my natural charitableness?

Make it so.


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