Managing Malignancies

May 26, 2015 Affective LeadershipCustomer ServiceEmotional IntelligencePeer Powered PerformancePositive DevianceSocial SmartsSpirit at WorkTopicsTraining  No comments


The story is true, the setting is healthcare but the emotional intelligence, communication expertise and service delivery systems can (and should) be lessons for anyone.  

I appreciate the kind concerns that have been expressed by so many but the purpose of this article is to provide a platform for evaluating your own service delivery systems.  Real Lessons, Real Science, Real Solutions.  It is easy to talk in the abstract.  The challenge is moving from aspiration and inspiration to determination.  Excellence is hard work but serious solutions have a far greater chance for success when we remember that managing our emotions is the key to sustainable progress.


He said the bad news is that you do have prostate cancer but that is the only bad news.  Sounds like the start of a joke.  Dr. Waldmann  sat down on a chair grabbed a Kleenex box off the counter turned it over, placed the lab results on the box so he would have something to write on and rolled his chair over to us.  I couldn’t stop thinking about my favorite Geico commercial.

Dr. WaldmannI said “I am not going to need a tissue he got a cute quizzical look on his face and then realized the box he was holding and we all had a good laugh.  I said “I may need a hug but no tissue”.

He spent the next hour plus of what I am sure had been a very long day for him explaining details and answering my interminable queries in the most loving, forthright, collaborative way possible.  His demeanor could not have been more different than my first urologist who had treated every question as an insult to his authority.  His response to research I had come prepared to discuss was “Where did you get that GNC“.  The articles were actually proceedings from the American Urological Association  and The 2015 European Congress of Radiology 


I have a reasonably aggressive from of cancer in two of the six quadrants used to diagnosis prostate cancer.  Each biopsy, in my super simple layman’s terms, is rated as a combination of how much and how bad creating a Gleason score.   To give this a business perspective you could compare these results to the members of any organizational culture.  In my case I have a few increasingly inconsiderate team members that are highly unlikely to change their poisonous personas.


The traditional treatment options for my localized cancer cells are not unlike the traditional responses of many organizations.   Businesses often spend inordinate amounts of time creating all-encompassing demoralizing policies for the mass instead of specifically addressing the mess.

I think the corollary is also accurate in that the vast majority of seriously disenchanted people are happy being unhappy.  Like my cancer cells no matter what you do they are not going to play well with others.   In business you have two choices.

If you still believe in the unquestionable authority of hierarchy and are in a position of power it is your responsibility to excise those who choose to be enduringly unhappy.

If you would like to experience how future generations are going to manage pathogenic people consider using Peer Powered Process instead of coercive control to allow your team to coach your organizational cancers into remission.


The accepted standard of treatment in the US involves the surgical removal or radiologic annihilation of the entire prostate gland.   Complete removal or destruction is not necessarily bad, you don’t need your prostate.  The nerves within the prostate are important and my cancer is a potential candidate for focal therapy which is still an experimental approach in much of the US.  I am not underestimating the seriousness of my condition.  An increase of more than 1 PSA point in a year is cause for concern mine had increased 5 points in 2014.  Standard treatments may still turn out to be the best solution as they are for a vast majority of patients.


Prostate DrawingDr. Waldmann sat close to us drawing a picture SHOWING how my biopsy related to the pathology report.  Now Dr. Waldmann, as you can see was not an art major he is a surgeon yet the intimacy of creating understanding and communicating caring through imagery is irreplaceable.  Once the diagnosis was complete he moved on to treatment options.  Almost immediately, and in retrospect without the gentility he had given us we eliminated surgery from our list of treatment options.

At this point take 60 seconds to really think about the difference between Dr. Waldmann’s response from 99% of service providers you have ever encountered.  Most take the rejection of their services personally and either push you out the door or attempt to use their sales scripts to pin you to the floor.

miracle-on-34th-street-1947-kris-unites-macys-and-gimbels-for-the-holidaysDr. Waldmann’s reaction was the exact opposite.  He was more like the Kris Kringle character in Miracle on 34th Street providing direction, encouragement and concern ASKING to stay involved.  LISTENING to, CONNECTING, UNDERSTANDING and SHARING the experience of NOT KNOWING ALL THE ANSWERS.

There is a reason Miracle on 34th Street was rated one of the top ten films in the past 100 years.  We are all at our best when we are giving and despite our occasional bouts of bad behavior we all know it.


How would you or members of your team behave in similar circumstances?  Don’t ask for the answers you want.  Set the scenario and ask team members to role play their responses to rejection.  Would they focus on quotas, dive into defensiveness or slither into sales?  Or would they truly care about their customer, patient, coworker, family member or friend?


Jen MechamDr. Waldmann will be intimately involved in our treatment selection process even though our search for the best possible treatment is international in scope.  I will write more about this in my next article “When Yes is not THE answer”.  I would be remiss in describing our experience with Idaho Urologic Institute if I did not mention Jen Mecham, MA “Medical Assistant Extraordinaire”.  I think Dr. Waldmann would be the first to say he would not be who he is without her.

During my biopsy the Valium Ihad been prescribed was not enough to achieve the necessary relaxation so Jen rubbed my feet.  I thought we had a special connection (snicker, snicker) but as we waited for the pathology report we would hear her laughing each time she passed the examination room.

I have no doubt she treats every patient (and team member) with the respect and compassion she shared with us.

I am eternally grateful to all members of the IUI team.  I had spoken to this group during an employee appreciation event several years ago and see a friendly face at every turn.IUI montage


IUI is a wonderful of example of Peer Power.  There are hierarchies, chains of command and positional levels of authority but each member is encouraged to bring their authenticity to every interaction.

We can be inspired, by experts, motivated by managers,
but we are Powered by our Peers.

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