7 Values Learned On A 500 Mile Hike

This short piece by Victor Prince is so great, I just had to post it forward! Enjoy….Dave Dowling


7 Values I Learned By Walking the Camino Across Spain

Last week I shared the 5 project management lessons I learned by walking across Spain. Hundreds of people found that article useful, so I decided to share another set of lessons I learned from my 500 mile hike.

Every pilgrim (peregrino) has a passbook to get stamps along the way to prove they are doing the trail. My pilgrim passport hangs proudly on my wall and gives me something more than just memories: it lists 7 values each pilgrim should live by while on the trail. I’ve found these values useful for everyday, post-Camino life.

#1 “Live in the Moment” – To prepare for the month long hike, I loaded my iPhone with hundreds of hours of audiobooks. I left my iPhone turned off the first day to fully experience it. I never turned it on after that. I’m glad I didn’t, as the Camino turned out to be so much more interesting with its own soundtrack.

LIFE LESSON – I will unplug my earbuds and plug into the world around me more, especially at the start of a new experience.

#2 – “Welcome Each Day, its Pleasures and its Challenges” –  The Camino is clearly marked with yellow arrows and the scallop shell symbol to guide pilgrims. Sometimes they are on poles, sometimes they are simple arrows spray painted on the ground. Because the trail is so well marked, pilgrims don’t have to spend hours each day with their nose buried in their guidebooks and maps to make sure they don’t get lost. By having the path clearly marked, we were able to focus on appreciating all the things around us.

LIFE LESSON – Each night, I will set a simple goal for myself to welcome the next day. That daily goal will serve as the yellow arrows for my day so I can focus on experiencing the pleasures and challenges along the way.

#3 – “Make Others Feel Welcome” – My first bad blister appeared on a Sunday night in a small town. Other pilgrims told me the local pharmacy was open until 9 or 10 pm so I hurried there one limp at a time. When I got to the door it was locked with a “closed” sign. I didn’t knock, but an older gentleman was in there cleaning up and came to the door. He opened it and simply asked me if I was a peregrino. I said “si” and showed him my blister as a shortcut to a word they didn’t teach in my high school Spanish. He let me in and, without another word, he pushed a button and said something on the call box outside the door. A few minutes later an irritated pharmacist appeared from outside and asked me what prescription I needed. I pointed to my blister. She huffed, and while giving me the antiseptic gel, she angrily told the cleaning man this wasn’t what she considered an “emergency” for her after-hours on-call status. The old man played dumb with a “sorry, I misunderstood the American” shrug. I paid and he showed me to the door. Letting me out, he took my hand with a conspiratorial smile and a wink and said “Buen Camino.”

LIFE LESSON – Be the stranger someone will tell stories about for your random act of kindness.

#4 – “Share” – Every night, I ate with a different group of peregrinos who happened to be at my same stop. The group was always an eclectic one, with people from many different countries. One day I stopped at a village and saw another peregrino I had met before so we decided to do an impromptu picnic in the little park. I bought a bottle of wine and she brought some chips and we shared. Within a few minutes, our picnic grew as other peregrinos came along. Some contributed food or drink or maybe just shared their different guidebook. Some had nothing to share. Fast forward two years, and I still count several people from that picnic in this picture as good friends.

LIFE LESSON – Giving away things for free today can be very profitable tomorrow.

#5 – “Feel the Spirit of those Who Have Gone Before You” – Not everyone has the time, health or means to do the Camino. It’s also a physical challenge that can be dangerous. One day’s hike started with a grueling, long climb up a steep hill under an unforgiving July sun. About half way up the hill, I saw a memorial marker for a peregrino who had died a few years before at that spot. I paid my respects, rehydrated, and continued on. When I finally reached the top of the hill, I was stunned by the view and I snapped a picture of the landscape. (In fact, if you are reading this story, that view made an impression on you, as it is the picture at the top of this story.) So my fellow peregrino may never have made it to see that view himself, but his spirit lives on with every peregrino that stops to pay their respects at the memorial his family placed on that hill.

LIFE LESSON – Whenever I walk by a memorial marker, I will stop to read the story it tells, because that story was important enough to someone to make that marker.

#6 – “Appreciate those Who Walk With You Today” – Every day I had a moment with a woman who was walking the trail alone. She was older and slower than me, so I passed her each day. Our daily shared moment became a ritual that I looked forward to, partly to see she was OK and able to continue her solitary pilgrimage. Every time I passed her I exhausted my French with a “Bon Jour!” and “Ca Va?”. She always smiled, albeit a more tired smile each day, and replied with different words in French that I pretended to understand. When I reached the end of the trail in Santiago, I went to the mass for pilgrims in the cathedral. The mass capped off a very emotional final day for everyone with many hugs and tears. The hug that meant the most to me was the one I got from this woman who I had gotten to know, and care about, in 30 one-minute interactions.

LIFE LESSON – Whenever I ask someone “how are you?” I will actually mean it.

#7 – “Imagine those Who Will Follow You” – I wrote this article to help others interested in the Camino. If you have read this far, maybe the next peregrino to follow me will be you. If so, allow me to be the first to say “Buen Camino!”

LIFE LESSON – If I feel others can benefit from my experience, I will take the time to craft the story in a way that others will find useful and interesting. (And I’ll lead with a great picture.)

About the Author:  As the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Victor Prince helped build a new Federal agency and led a division of hundreds of people. As a consultant with Bain & Company, he helped clients across the United States and Europe develop successful business strategies. Today, Victor is a consultant and speaker who teaches strategy and leadership skills to clients around the world. His new book is Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide their Teams to Exceptional Results.

The Leadership Crisis in Healthcare Delivery

I continue to be struck by the varied, and often times limited leadership capabilities of healthcare systems’ top executives. While there are many effective managers, great leaders are few and far between.

Helen Adamopoulos of Becker’s Review quotes Simon Gisby, Managing Director of Deloitte Corporate Finance in her 4/4/2014 Blog noting there are four main operating models that hospitals are using to survive in a world of value-based care. They include:

  1. Innovator- provides cutting edge care;
  2. Diversifier- builds services across the continuum of care;
  3. Aggregator- leverages infrastructure across a greater number of hospitals; and,
  4. Health Manager- collaborates with health insurers, large employers and others to improve the health and wellness of specific segments of the population.

Whatever role, or combination of roles, a health system leader chooses the right mind set and leadership moves are essential. The reality is that there is a number of baby boomer CEOs who got the corner office years ago because they were solid managers, not necessarily because they were effective leaders.

One of the response to Helen’s Blog notes Warren Bennis’ list of the differences between management and leadership:

  • The manager administers; the leader innovates
  • The manager copies; the leader is an original
  • The manager maintains; the leader develops
  • The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people
The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust
  • The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective
  • The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why
  • The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the leader’s eye is on the horizon
  • The manager imitates; the leader originates
  • The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it
  • The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his or her own person
  • The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing

Great leadership is essential for those leading healthcare delivery in this country to transform our rather broken system. Developing and maintaining collaborative relationships with the right organizations/leaders, for the right strategic reasons that creates lasting value will not happen without leadership.

Stated differently, if the clinical and administrative leadership of healthcare delivery organizations only does what they have always done before (and been quite successful along the way!) innovation will continue to elusive.

Many leaders think that they can simply reason the way to creating a more effective healthcare system. For many their current reasoning and thinking process has led them to exactly where you are. So that has to change.

And, it all starts with self-awareness. Where are you and your leadership team members relative to Bennis’ managing-leading dimensions? What can you do for, and with those people to move from managing to leading? Knowing where you are is essential to setting the course forward. Actions to improve are most times obvious when the questions are called. Take the risk and give it a try.

In my work as and advisor and consultant to healthcare leaders, I have seen great managers, shift their mindset and develop some new leadership moves if they are willing take a look in the mirror.

Like relationship building, we were not taught self-assessment. However, most of us can take a pretty good guess at what makes us tick. Here are some questions you could apply immediately to help you fill in some additional perspective:

  1. What are the life events that have most shaped who I am today?
  2. What do you do love to do—the stuff that makes your heart swell?
  3. What do you do exceptionally well—the stuff people will take about at your memorial service?
  4. What do you want to learn and why is this important to you?
  5. What kind of work-life environment is ideal?
  6. What sacrifices are you willing and able to make to obtain?

Based on the answers to these questions, consider asking members of your leadership team these same questions. Then, map the talent mix across you team and identify critical gaps that must be addressed to explore, develop and implement strategies required to maintain leadership in healthcare delivery.

One final thought–there is an insufficient supply of next generation leaders with traditional healthcare delivery experience. Look outside the traditional career path and seek leaders with self-awareness and proven leadership impact who also are agile learners.

International Happiness Day 2015


Today is International Happiness Day. Tomorrow is the 1st day of Spring, hence the picture.

In the spirit of this day I decided to make a list of some expressions that I have seen create smiles among colleagues. Perhaps you could use one of today.

  1. You make very special contributions to this team. Examples include…
  2. I appreciate your passion and enthusiasm because…
  3. People trust you because…
  4. You are a great fit within our culture because…
  5. I appreciate how you think when you…
  6. I appreciate how you help other people think and express their feelings…
  7. Is there anything I can do to help you with so that you can…?
  8. You inspire our team when you….
  9. Thank you, I have learned these things from you…
  10. Earlier today (or sometime in the not to distant past) when you did…it showed me how committed you are to…

As leaders we are so skilled at finding that which needs to improve, right? It is equally important to stop, make note and communicate the things that we experience from our colleagues that actually make us smile.

Enjoy the day!