This blog post was inspired by two things: (1) the memorial of Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Wednesday, and (2) Tuesday, the beginning of a book club that I am facilitating with a group of female ophthalmologists and optometrists with the book, How Women Rise. I would highly recommend the book.
My passion for coaching women healthcare leaders, and being in former gender inequality job situations, prompted me to take the morning off Wednesday to watch the live stream of the memorial for Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I love the opening given by Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt, "To be born into a world that does not see you, that does not believe in your potential … and despite this to be able to see beyond the world you are in, to imagine that something can be different: that is the job of a prophet. And it is the rare prophet who not only imagines a new world but also makes that world a reality in her lifetime," Holtzblatt said, speaking of Ginsburg's lifelong work to enshrine gender equality in the nation's laws.
I think the words, "seeing the potential in people and being able to see beyond the world we are in (pandemic, social injustice, climate change nightmare events) and imagine something can be different" is also the job of a leader. How will you rise to see beyond the angry patients, the staff that consistently call out, the doctor, yourself, and staff that are reaching burnout, the finances that might not be so great right now?
The book How Women Rise offers twelve habits that are not serving us (women) well. I am just going to explore the first habit: Women Struggle to Claim Their Accomplishments. This may not be true of everyone; moreover, research from the author, Sally Helgesen, claims women have discomfort with drawing attention to their successes and taking credit for their accomplishments. For instance, they would underplay their role in a team's success, preferring to spread recognition rather than acknowledge their hard work in front of senior colleagues.
If you have been creative and innovative in coming up with new processes, consistent support of the team, turning the ship around, and then talk about those achievements. If you don't, you might appear to be unauthentic and maybe even dismiss and demoralize the team's efforts and be resented by the team.
If you are still wondering how to rise, don't do it alone. One of my clients said today," It takes a village to lead staff; the experts (those outside of the organization) that I partner with are my village." We cannot always guarantee that the talents and habits that landed us the job will keep us in the job. In the words of Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith, “What got you there, might not keep you there.”
Chief Justice John Roberts had this to say about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, "Among the words that best describe Ruth, tough, brave, a fighter, a winner, but also thoughtful, careful, compassionate, honest." Reflect on how you rise with the inspirational legacy of RBG! Rest in peace, RBG!
Every business I know is preparing for the future that will be boldly different from the past. I have caught myself saying, "When things get back to normal." Then, I realize that will not happen, and we will not return to "normal." I like to think of how I am pivoting now and the future as the "better normal."
The research (ophthalmology and optometry clinics) that I have collected thus far in analyzing trends and challenges over the last six months indicate patient flow changes are resulting in greater efficiency and decreased patient wait times. What do you think were the outcomes on the doctor, staff, and patient satisfaction with greater efficiency and decreased patient wait times? A "better normal?" Indeed! What do you think will happen if we try to go back to "normal" after seeing how the forced change provided a "better normal."
We are all on a new learning curve. We are making important decisions more quickly than ever before and taking more risks. If we are to guide our organizations into a post-COVID world boldly, we need to consider a few RED strategies.
Reflect on the past few months - Some of you are just now coming up for air. Yay! By now, you know breathing is one of my favorite techniques for managing stress. If you haven't already, schedule some time of reflection with key leaders and the doctors. Process these questions: (1) What has helped us through? (2) What has set new standards? (3) What has been a barrier? (4) What have been the breakthroughs? How might the barriers and breakthroughs change in the next week, months, years? COVID has revealed some vulnerable weaknesses in operations, but it has also revealed inner strengths.
Explore the culture for agility - an agile culture is about creating a work environment guided by established values and expected behaviors that allow for adaptive and innovative practices during a time of complexity, uncertainty, and change. The latter describes what we all have and are continuing to experience with the pandemic. The simplest way to create an agile culture is to remove barriers. (1) What are the established values and behaviors that are consistently communicated and implemented? (2) What processes can you streamline to increase patient flow? (3) What are the silos that need to be dismantled to facilitate effective communication and collaboration? Whenever a more agile way of communicating and collaborating occurs at the team level, celebrate those success stories.
Develop resilience - Developing resilience entails reimagining your employee and patient experience. (1) Does our communication with staff project genuine care? (2) What important leadership messages need to be amplified? (3) Are customer behaviors and buying patterns shifting? (4) What organizational barriers might be eliminated (that's not how we do it here) to include diversification or business model innovation? Leaders need to refresh their skills. An objective third party can help you increase your leadership strength and resilience. (1) How can leaders gain a deeper understanding of their natural behaviors to make a difference in leading with resilience? (2) Are shifts in mindset (fixed mindset versus growth mindset) or leadership style needed to lead a future workforce? (3) How can leaders use the COVID-19 crisis to identify star performers and future leaders?
Succession planning is part of becoming a resilient organization. Leaders need to prioritize their people continually and when promoting people to provide formal leadership training and coaching to inspire high-performance teams. In the words of Simon Sinek, one of my favorite authors, "Numbers will never come to our aid. People will."
Something unexpected is causing your Internet to run slow or not at all. How many of you have heard the words, "Did you reboot or reset the modem? For some of us, or if not all of us, the prolonged pandemic causes us to function in survival mode or a state of hopelessness that it will never end.
Let's face it the pandemic has been a hardship that none of us saw coming. The lessons we learn from difficulties have less to do with the events and more to do with how we respond to the events. The developmental benefits for leaders going through a hardship include:
Self-awareness - Hardships reveal strengths, weaknesses, limitations, patterns, beliefs, and skills we didn't see in ourselves or appreciate. The shift to self-awareness is powerful. We get to make choices based on how we and others act and feel, and what we and others can and cannot do.
Increased compassion, empathy, and grace - Enduring the pandemic hardship has led to us being vulnerable without having all of the answers. We have had to practice humility to rely on others to help find solutions. The receiving of this support may have led to us give support more readily to others and extend grace and empathy.
Resilience - Surviving this pandemic hardship and willing ourselves to move forward strengthens us to face future challenges. Early last week, there was a conversation on the listserve about how leaders in the ophthalmology industry have been so good at pivoting. The openness to learning and agility will keep you figuring out what to do next.
So what might indicate a need for a reboot or reset?
Staff calling out more frequently than before the pandemic hardship - Constant change, the uncertainty of job security, and the unknowns of contracting COVID-19 have brought additional stress. I am taking monthly 4-day weekends to reduce stress and anxiety. This practice was not the case before the pandemic. Talk to your staff about solutions to schedule time off versus just being short-staffed with increased call-outs. They may have some excellent ideas about scheduled time off to reduce stress. Addressing the elephant in the room encourages vulnerability and builds trust.
There is a kink in the positive communication loop - ask for feedback just as much or maybe more than you give it. Listen carefully to the feedback from your direct reports and follow-up with a timely response. Provide feedback as often when things are going right as often as when things are not going right.
A lack of collaboration - Resentment may have crept in with those who feel like their work has increased while other jobs or departments' responsibilities did not seem to increase. This may cause silos that inhibit communication and collaboration. A collaborative, jointly accountable mindset of safety for all team members and patients means everyone can collaborate on that result.
The blame, complaining, and rescuing game - Are you hearing things like, "That is not my job," "We are working behind, but is it not my fault." This behavior is known as drama in the workplace. Challenge and empower team members to be the creator of solutions. Encourage employees to focus on what they can control versus focusing on what they cannot control. Even leadership can be caught in the trap of rescuing employees and being the savior with quick fixes and complaining and blaming employees for less than expected results.
Become self-aware. Don't ignore the warning signs of the need for a reset or a reboot. If you need help, ask for help. Don't go through the reset or reboot alone. Encourage reflection, engage in dialogue, and seize teachable moments.
How are you learning to dance in the rain? The pandemic, otherwise known as the storm that is sticking around longer than we expected, has taught us how to dance in the rain. The biggest puddle that I see being stomped in is stress. Stress from the ambiguity of what next, pivoting daily with changes that will change again tomorrow, getting the coronavirus, and taking care of children and their school needs, and caring for older parents, can leave us exhausted.
According to surveys by APA and the Harris poll, 7 in 10 adults say work is a significant source of stress in their lives. Gathering research from practice administrators in ophthalmology clinics over the last month yields similar results concerning stress. I wonder how we are coping with stress in our workplaces.
Dealing with stress is not a one size fits all strategy. We all are affected by stress differently and need different approaches to cope. How we manage stress has a direct effect on our well-being. There are personal and workplace strategies in dealing with stress.Personal Strategies
We all wish the pandemic would be over; however, none of us have a magical wand to poof it away. Being real and transparent about stress and speaking life to the strategies of dealing with stress is the right thing to do for your employees. Acting like it does not exist or downplaying stress is likely to harbor resentment and poor employee morale. Be in this together for greater trust and cohesion and another silver lining of the pandemic.
I have been thinking of what I don't want to be cheated out of during this pandemic of COVID-19 by playing one or all of these roles:
What roles do you see yourself playing right now? What would happen if you wrote a list you felt would be a miss in your life because of playing one of these roles?
Learning is an essential part of our growth and development as leaders, and it's through personal growth and development that we cultivate a culture of learning in our organizations. There are always new leadership skills to master and new technology to learn, and learning these helps us become leaders in our industry when we are engaged in learning. What's more, empowering employees to continue to learn new skills sets your organization apart and creates a culture of professional development.
Learning also helps people adapt to change in their job or field. How many people find themselves continually battling drama in the workplace? Leadership is about adopting tools that help us grow and be better than we were yesterday. Learning new things recharges us and gives us a sense of accomplishment. It can inspire us to try new things and rest old habits that keep us from reaching a more significant potential.
Neuroscience even shows how learning makes our brains grow. The more knowledge and concepts you have in your mind, the more ideas you can access when faced with new challenges. So how can you get started learning and empowering your staff and team towards personal and professional growth?
And last but not least, move to the positive pyramid as you engage with these roles:
Life-long learning is a gift you give yourself. Don't cheat yourself out of some beautiful gifts.
Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. — Viktor Frankl
Every day we are faced with a multitude of decisions. One of the many choices is how to respond to our emotions. The inner critic may have us choose to stay in anxiety of I am not good enough to succeed, jealousy of others and their accomplishments, rejection of the next sales call, or victimization by life being too hard. The barrier to recover from these emotions is known as emotional rigidity.
The circumstances with COVID-19 and the ongoing protests for social justice have fear and anxiety dominating our emotions for an extended time. The low optimism for life to return to “normal” and the predictability of the spread of the virus has some people in a the state of emotional rigidity. The nervous stiffness from these circumstances can affect the quality of life for many individuals.
Susan David, the author of Emotional Agility, provides some strategies to get unhooked from the emotional rigidity using emotional agility. David defines emotional agility as approaching negative emotions and experiences with a mindful, values-driven, and productive way. Research from professor Frank Boyd from the University of London suggests emotional agility can help alleviate stress, reduce errors, become more innovative, and improve job performance.
There are four practices to develop emotional agility are as follows:
Effective leaders are aware of the situations around them and their experiences but don’t get caught up in them. Emotional agility is not easy. Acknowledge and honor your thoughts and feeling, but don’t stay there. Use your power and choose to be confident in your values and not respond or be guided by your emotions.
Sometimes we all can get worn down with the unrelenting COVID unknowns. Moreover, I am finding communication to be of more importance than ever. I read an interesting article, These 13 Research-backed Actions Will Help You Talk to Anyone More Effectively, and love these practices! There is little we can control in the middle of a pandemic year with so many unknowns about health, the economy, and how the world will change with the demand for racial justice.
There is one thing we can control, and that is communication with each other. Here is the short version of the actions:
Keep connecting, showing compassion, and increasing your competence!
Stay safe. Stay mindful.
On my run this morning, I started thinking about the aftermath of COVID-19 for healthcare, particularly clinics. Most clinics have had to furlough or lay off employees as mandates have limited services to only emergency surgeries and procedures.
As I have been coaching with practice administrators and physicians, some are planning for 10-12 hour days and Saturdays to catch up from the backlog of appointments, surgeries, and procedures. The handwriting on the wall suggests the aftermath could be more detrimental than the current state with regards to well-being.
One approach could be that since there has been some downtime in the schedules, we are all ready to kick work into high gear with all hands on deck. After all, this should only be for a season. In nature, seasons last three months. However, I see providers with appointments, surgeries, and procedures booked out for at least three months. If clinics are closed for one to three months, we can start doing the math and see how long this season might last, four to eight months. How sustainable is this long of a season without a chronic fight or flight response?
The fight or flight response resides in the sympathetic nervous system. The flight or flight response causes us to react in danger or when we need to respond quickly. This is a good thing when it is balanced. When we become chronically stressed the stress hormone, cortisol, can become too high causing other additional health problems.
How do you prepare to minimize the chronic fight or flight response? One, you can become mindful of the handwriting on the wall and verbalize the challenges that are ahead. Here are a few more strategies that might be helpful:
For now, everyone stay safe and stay mindful!