The witness was an emergency room nurse, Nancy Ortberg, who was finishing up work one evening before heading home. I’ll let her explain:
"It was about 10:30 p.m. The room was a mess. I was finishing up my paperwork. The doctor with whom I loved working was debriefing a junior doctor, who had done a very respectable, competent job, telling him what he'd done well and what he could have done differently.
Then, he put his hand on the young doctor’s shoulder and said, “When you finished each surgery, did you notice the young man from housekeeping who came in to clean the room?
There was a completely blank look on the young doctor’s face.
The senior doctor said, “His name is Carlos. He’s been here for three years. He does a fabulous job. He gets the room turned around so fast that you and I can get our next patient in quickly. His wife’s name is Maria. They have four children.” Then this amazing man shared with the intern the names of the four children and told him each child’s age.
This wise doctor went on to say, “He lives in a rented house about three blocks from here in Santa Ana. They’ve been up from Mexico for about five years. As I said, his name is Carlos. And next week I’d like you to tell me something about Carlos that I don’t already know. Okay, now let’s go check on the rest of the patients.”
Nurse Ortberg went on to say: “I stood there with my nursing notes – stunned – and thought, I have just witnessed breathtaking leadership.”
The Lesson: I doubt this is something that is taught in most MBAs and Leadership Programs yet it contains more wisdom than you will find in the content of many leadership programs.
Source: This example was originally written up by Rich Karlgaard in Forbes magazine. I’m fairly sure that I came across it in Donald Cooper’s newsletter well over a decade ago. I’ve treasured it ever since, occasionally relate it to my clients in coaching sessions and thought you might appreciate it too.