The Van Gorder Dance

Scripps CEO Chris Van Gorder’s shoes

I have a confession: I’ve been known to dance on the job.

OK, this requires some explaining.

Soon after becoming CEO of a Los Angeles area hospital in 1997, I started looking for ways to meet members of the staff, which was considerably larger than the one at the hospital I had just left.

I found the answer along a corridor.

Actually the answer WAS the corridor, a long central walkway that linked the campus’ principle facilities. At nearly any time during the day, hundreds of employees were walking the corridor, but I immediately noticed that few of them ever broke from their hurried pace to say hello to anyone else.

That really made me uncomfortable, so I decided to try to change things.

It didn’t work so well initially. Since most everyone walked by staring at the floor, I literally had to lean over to make eye contact when saying hello. But I didn’t give up even as weeks turned into months.

At some point, I started rubbing scuff marks off the floor with the leather soles of my shoes. A few people joked about my habit, and one of my managers started calling it the “Van Gorder dance.”

Before long others adopted my “dance,” and the floors actually got a little bit cleaner. It also served as a small sign of a much broader shift in culture that had started to happen within the hospital.

After a year of doing my walks and “dance,” I noticed more passers-by not only saying hello to me, but also starting to talk to each other.

What’s your dance? It might be something as simple as regular stops in the break room. Go find your own method for connecting one-on-one with front-line employees that’s authentic to you, and stick to it.

Before long, you won’t be dancing alone.