WHY Fronts: Experience

Published: 22 January 2019 Ezine

By Chris Woodgate, ISAS officer

This month in Synergy News I have taken the theme of making a difference by making one small change. It is based on the Top Talk piece from March 2018, check it out on theTop Talk archive.

How do you as leaders encourage your teams to make a difference to your service, no matter how small? I would venture to suggest that there is nothing like expressing your own experiences to show that anything is possible.

As you travel through life, it is important to remember that no experience is wasted. Yes, even those which are painful and difficult; I would assert that they are the ones that impact on us and the way we lead the most.

The temptation is to demonstrate to others our strengths and successes but, if you think about your own career, it was often when listening to a mentor or other significant leader’s struggles that connected you to them. 

If we want to motivate, it is important that our team/s know both the successes and the trials and tests we went through to get there, as it makes it attainable for others to follow in our footsteps. Or do you want your achievements to be so out of reach they give up?

I would dare to say that sharing even those worst of times will give others hope that they can make a difference by persevering through their own difficulties or frustrations.

From personal experience, I can say that the bad times taught me how to be a better leader; I remember thinking “if I get into that position, I will not treat people like that”. 

When I felt I was getting it wrong, it made me apologise to the teams and remember to listen and not just to pontificate or pressure.

The important lesson was that the teams I worked with had much more to offer if I allowed them to express their ideas rather than tell them what and how to do something.

Empowering those we work with is key: from allowing a staff member to make one small change to a whole team making a big change for the benefit of our patients.

How does empowerment work? There are many books on the subject and, while I am not in any way qualified to comment on them, maybe I can give a few pointers?

  1. Envision – does your team know what their vision is, or what your vision is for the service? If someone knows the direction they are travelling, it allows them to motivate themselves and could improve efficiency.
  2. Fulfilment – when a person understands what fulfils them, they will be motivated to strive for it. When they are challenged by a situation, why not ask what the one thing they will do to help others is, whether it be patients or colleagues, that will be their point of motivation (fulfilment).
  3. Behaviour – do you model the actions and behaviours that you want to see in your teams?  You will empower them by the way you respond to situations or ask for help/support and how you delegate and take calculated risks.
  4. Autonomy – how many times did you want to be able to get on with it (whatever it was) without having your manager breathing down your neck? Can/do you empower your team to get on with a task and then wait for the results?  The trick is to give a little more freedom than you feel comfortable with; maybe you will be rewarded with results you hadn’t even imagined.
  5. Solutions – it is really easy just to give the answer to a problem rather than to wait for team/s to come up with the solution. This is hard when you work in a pressured environment with calls for savings and improvements, but, in the end, it is often worth the wait (you can time limit). The solution might actually be better than the one you had prepared.
  6. Generosity – this is the most difficult for a pressured manager/leader: how do you give your time generously? Empowered people feel connected, appreciated and inspired by their managers/leaders and this gives them the resilience to press forward. 

I think it is true that when you aim to help others, there is a reward and a brighter future; it may be my rose-coloured glasses, but hope is always better than despair.