Follow the Sheet

“I was new and I realized I didn’t know how everything worked at the hospital. So, one day, as I walked past a room that was being reset, I decided I would start following the sheet that would leave that room. And I followed it from being taken from the bed to being placed onto another.”

Though Ralph Syderman, 15-year Chancellor for Health Affairs at Duke Univ., may not have earmarked that one sheet during his first few months working there, the purpose of his story is that, as a person in a position of leadership, though you don’t have to do the dirty laundry, you need to know the process that goes into getting it clean. You need to know the basics of your organization so that, you can not only explain its inner workings but also so that you can improve upon them. After seeing that, in 1989 when his tenure began, the employees in the laundering facility, many of whom were African-American,  worked in sweatshop-like conditions with little chance for upward mobility he knew that a change was necessary in order to stay ahead of the curve. So he got air conditioning in the building, expensive though it may have been, and he provided the employees with professional development opportunities, ultimately changing the workplace culture from the ground up.

Do you know what is  going on in the positions that make your organization run smoothly? These support roles make your job look easy so why not work to make their processes easier as well? Take a day as often as you can to put yourself in the shoes of those who help make you more successful and see what you can do to repay them for all they do.


Make professional development a priority.


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