Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Teamwork - Know Who Is Packing Your Parachute

This is dedicated to physician spouses, families, medical school classmates and teachers, office staffs, patients, nurses, hospital executives and personnel, the physician sisterhood and brotherhood, and Stephen Barchet, MD, FACOG, CPE, FACPM, Rear Admiral, MC, USN, who was kind enough to share with me this story.

Who Packed Your Parachute?

“Charles Plumb was a US Navy jet pilot in Vietnam.

After 75 combat missions, his plane was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy hands. He was captured and spent 6 years in a communist Vietnamese prison.

He survived the ordeal and now lectures on lessons learned from that experience.

One day when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at another table came up and said, ”You’re Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Haw. You were shot down!”

“How did you know that?” asked Plumb.

“I packed your parachute,” the man replied.

Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude.

The man pumped his hand and said, “I guessed it worked!”

Plumb assured him, ”It sure did. If your chute hadn’t opened, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Plumb couldn’t sleep that night, thinking about that man.

Plumb says, “I kept wondering what he had looked like in a Navy uniform: a white hat, a bib in the back; and bell-bottom-trousers.

I wonder how many times I might have seen him and not even said,”Good morning, how are you?” Or anything because, you see, I was a fighter pilot and he was just a sailor.

Plumb though of the many hours the sailor had spent at a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship, carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands each time the fate of someone he didn’t know.

Now, plumb asks his audience.

“Who’s packing your parachute?’

Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the day.

He points out he need his physical parachute, his mental parachute, his emotional parachute, and his spiritual parachute.

Sometimes in the daily challenges that life gives us, we miss what is really important.

We may fail to say hello, please, or thank you, congratulate someone on something wonderful that has happened to them, give them a compliment, or just do something nice for no reason. As you go through this week, this month, this year, recognize who packs your parachute.”

As I was reading Plumb’s tale, a favorite book The Successful Physician: A Productivity Handbook for Practitioners by Marshall Zaslove, MD, a psychiatrist who gives productivity seminars for fellow doctors, came to mind.

In one chapter, Zaslove says an important key to productivity is to turn to your nurse or other member of your staff and ask, “Tell me, how I could do this better?” Or, “What would you do in this situation?” Or, “How could we run the office better?” “What would you like to be called?”

Let your staff know you need their help, you’re curious what they think, you
know what they contribute, and you’re aware who is packing your parachute.

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