Happily Ever After

Category: Strategy Published on Dec 27 2016

Jane (not her real name), Executive Director of a small family therapy center, needed to hire psychiatrists in order for the center to become licensed. But, the psychiatrists kept quitting – sometimes faster than she could hire them.


In her words: “This is hopeless. We’ll never be able to keep psychiatrists on staff!”

My first response was to forbid Jane from ever saying or thinking that again. I let her know that she was creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, she needed to reframe the challenge in a more positive way. We agreed upon: “We are becoming a company that attracts and retains high quality psychiatrists.”


Now that we had a positive message, the work had begun. By moving from whining (yes, I said whining…get over it) about her troubles, she was able to think more optimistically and address the bigger question of how. How could her agency become a place that psychiatrists never want to leave?


Given that Jane runs a small not-for-profit that does not have a lot of resources to spare, this is a big question that required creativity to resolve.


And it needed to be solved sooner rather than later because it was a strategically important question as it was a key piece in their primary strategy of gaining licensure. It also was strategically important because the challenge was rooted deeply in their values to provide a supportive atmosphere. With this group of employees unsatisfied, it’s clear that they had yet to create a supportive environment for the psychiatrists.


Once Jane reframed the challenge she was no longer stuck…or at least as deeply stuck. She still felt the pain, but she had a goal – to become a place that psychiatrists want to work at. She just had to figure out how to do it.


She started off by asking questions – to psychiatrists who worked there, and those who didn’t. She asked questions like:

 - What are psychiatrists looking for in a work environment?

 - What makes their job easier? More difficult?

 - What do they like about working at this company? Dislike?

 - What does this company do better than others?

 - What do other companies do better than this one?


Jane was on a mission: A mission to discover how psychiatrists differ from family therapists. And how they are similar. She used this knowledge to create a work environment that served both populations as well as the clients. And to top it all off, one that also worked within the existing values and culture and didn’t tax the resources available.


I am happy to write the fairy tale ending to this blog: they all lived happily ever after. Jane discovered how to make psychiatrists so happy they had virtually no turn-over for several years. And the agency successfully met their licensure requirements.


What challenges are you currently facing that you are whining about? How can you rephrase the challenge so that you are empowered to overcome it just like Jane and have your own happily ever after ending?