Guest Column | June 12, 2018

Why Slow Down? Lessons From A Burst Water Heater

By Liz Bywater, Ph.D.

Why Slow Down? Lessons from Burst Water Heater

In my advisory work with CEOs and other key leaders, I sometimes field concerns about adopting a slower, more deliberate approach. “Liz,” my clients will say, “you are advising us to slow down … but if we do that, won’t we be left behind? Things are changing so quickly, we’ve got to move quickly too!”

I get it. The pace of change seems to be at an all-time high — and slowing down can feel like a bit of madness. At the very least, it can seem a luxury best reserved for less-turbulent times.

So let’s look at it from a different perspective. The fact is, when leaders, teams, and organizations move too quickly, mistakes proliferate — avoidable mistakes that take time, energy, money, and reputational currency to correct. Wouldn’t it be better to slow down just long enough to anticipate problems before they arise, fix small issues before they become large ones, consider the hurdles of the future, and prepare your organization to soar over them?

Let me share a personal example, a time when I missed my chance to prevent an avoidable problem.

Last week, I came home to a large patch of wet carpet in my basement. Actually, it was beyond wet — it was drenched. It didn’t take much digging to find the source of the problem: a burst hot water heater. Seemingly out of nowhere, the unit simply gave out and proceeded to leak water everywhere — across the storage closet, under the drywall, and into the carpeted main section of basement. Dozens of books got soaked, my husband’s guitar nearly ruined, several diplomas damaged, and more. We had to call in a plumber immediately to replace the unit (think: surge pricing!) and a carpet guy to replace ruined padding and sections of carpet. Not a tragedy, of course, but just not fun.

The greatest frustration? Much of the drama would have been avoided had I slowed down to inspect the aging unit and replace it before trouble struck. I could have prevented the stress of fire-fighting, added cost, and regrettable property damage had I simply taken a more proactive approach.

I encourage you to learn from my mistake. Take time to reflect (and don’t forget to engage your team) to answer the following:

  • Where are the potential surprises in our organization?
  • What lies ahead in our industry and across the regulatory landscape?
  • Who or what may cause trouble, and how can we prevent simmering problems from escalating into crisis?
  • Which upgrades and new investments will keep us safe from falling behind?
  • Where will we get the best return on investment? Consider your people, systems, potential acquisitions, innovations, and customer/industry repute.

In slowing down long enough to be deliberate, thoughtful, and proactive in your approach, you lay the necessary foundation to go faster where it counts … as you drive your organization to dramatically better outcomes while minimizing stressful, distracting, costly mistakes along the way.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Dr. Liz on Leadership. Each month, I will share new ideas, tools and advice to help you thrive in today’s ever-changing healthcare environment. Let me know what’s top of mind and I’ll answer your most pressing questions in future columns. Contact me at

For additional tools and thought leadership, check out my all-new website, And don’t forget to pick up your copy of Slow Down to Speed Up: Lead, Succeed, and Thrive in a 24/7 World!