Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Burn Those Ships

I often get asked for advice and tips on leading a successful organization. And while the key focus of this blog is to serve as a platform to discuss what is going on in the health care industry, I wanted to also use it as a way to dispense some of my thoughts on organizational leadership and management. And so, in the weeks ahead I will be interspersing posts on health care industry topics with posts like the one below. I hope you enjoy, and I look forward to your feedback.


I am a history buff and one of my favorite stories is that of explorer Hernán Cortés who, upon arriving in the new world, ordered his six hundred men to burn the ships in which they traveled. The point he wanted to make to his men: there was no turning back.

I tell this story to my team and the people I mentor to stress that charting new territory in both life and business is scary and challenging. However, when you commit to moving forward, you need to do so fully and completely, with decisive action. And when you lead, you need be certain that you have removed any escape hatch for you and your team to retreat to when things get tough. You have to burn those ships.

This story is especially meaningful to me because burning the ships is also about leading by being personally accountable. By this I mean, taking responsibility for every step on the path to achieving the task at hand, as well as embracing and accepting the outcomes –whatever they may be. In doing this, you will develop an unparalleled trust with and among your team—
they will know you mean what you say, that you have their backs and that you can be trusted. Your team will follow you anywhere. And with no ships left in the harbor, your only choice is to move forward.

So, I encourage you to think about the story of burning the ships in terms of your own work life and your approach to leadership. Ask yourself: what am I willing to be personally accountable for in my business? How can I be more accountable and what ships do I need to burn to lead my team more effectively and propel my business forward?

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