By Stephen C. Schultz
The sun glanced off the window and reflected at a strange angle to the floor and up the wall. As I looked outside, it was obvious that spring had arrived. There were bright green leaves having recently unfolded on the shrubs outside. Tulips and Hyacinths stretched upward, bending occasionally in the cool canyon breeze.
The boxed lunch from a local deli that included a ham sandwich on rye bread with potato chips, a cookie and a pickle stared back at me. There was the regular lunch time discussion with the laughter that rises up and then fades just as quickly. The room consisted of a large mahogany conference table with twelve plush captain’s chairs. The chairs were full of colleagues, all of us eating lunch after a morning training session.
We were the sales and marketing team from two private psychiatric hospitals. We had gathered at this particular location because Melody was in town training us on the latest skills associated with Professional Sales Skills (PSS), the State of the Art sales system put out by Time Life Corporation in the early 1980’s.
Melody was in her mid thirties and wore a slender charcoal grey suit/skirt. She had blonde shoulder length hair and spoke with a southern accent. She was the corporate regional trainer and flew out the night before from Macon Georgia specifically to meet with us.
The conversation around the table started to subside. Our 1:00pm start time soon passed and before we knew it, 1:35pm had come and gone. A small chorus of questions started to build as people wondered where Melody was. I stood and poked my head out the door. I caught the eye of Kathy, the Executive Secretary to the CEO of the hospital.
I whispered; “Where’s Melody? We've been waiting for a while now and she hasn’t come back from lunch.”
Kathy glanced at me with a mixed look of horror and sadness. “Oh…I am so sorry! No one told you? Melody got a call at about 12:15 pm from corporate. She was let go and she is on her way to the airport.”
This experience made an impact on me early in my career. It’s an experience I have never forgotten. I have no idea if Melody was really any good at her job, or why it was felt to be necessary to fire her over the phone. There was a lot I didn’t know about “Corporate” and why they did the things they did.
I did know one thing about “Corporate”. Whenever we heard they were coming to town there was a collective groan. No one ever looked forward to “Corporate” making a visit. Routines were disrupted. Stress levels increased. Schedules were changed and once they were gone, things slowly got back to “Normal”.
At this point in my life, I might be considered a “seasoned” professional on the downhill side of my career. As our organization has grown, one might conclude that my office is at “Corporate” headquarters. However, ours is not a corporate setting that encourages the use of that term. In fact, we actively discourage it. We are not an organization of “Top Down” directives and impersonal memo’s. Yet, there is a feeling of accountability across all of our treatment programs.
Ours is an organization that doesn’t fit the norm in modern day corporate circles. We don’t aspire to have “Corporate Titles” that espouse a certain hierarchy or position. Ours is an organization of "Individually Branded" treatment programs as opposed to a "Branded Organization" of individual treatment programs. To many, this may be a silly distinction that seems like semantics. However, it’s an important distinction that directly impacts culture of a program. The culture of any treatment program directly impacts the care and success of the students, clients, patients and families of those that are receiving that care.
Our leadership recognizes that the caring and compassionate interaction between therapists, teachers, families and the direct care staff happens at the program level. This is where the healing takes place and families’ lives are changed.
While no professional organization or work environment is perfect, (simply because it has humans involved) there are some work and treatment environments that are better than others. If you are a parent or allied health professional, it’s important for you to explore treatment options for your family or clients.
It is important to remember that the culture of any organization is a direct reflection of those in leadership positions.
There is also the old treatment saying; “Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”