Author: Chris Woodgate, ISAS Officer
'Never Mind the Quality Feel the Width' was a typically 1960s politically incorrect British TV sitcom about the ‘rag trade’ with two tailors, one Catholic and one Jewish. However, in popular culture the title of this sitcom has become synonymous with quantity being more important than quality.1
As ‘winter’ approaches with all the incumbent pressures (I am sure you feel it never left) will this be your overriding feeling? That it isn’t about the quality of service you offer, but rather the numbers you can push through to empty the full beds and reduce the length of stay?
As you prepare yourself and your teams for winter, is quality something that is at the forefront of your thinking? Or are you concerned about the staffing levels, sickness rates, the call to do more for less and the fact that flu has ravaged its way around the southern hemisphere and is likely to do the same with us?
Quality was often not my top priority, just getting through by the ‘skin of my teeth’ was more in line with my thinking, but to be honest it was there niggling away that if as a team we didn’t look after the quality of care we offered it could be so much worse.
How then do manage in a difficult almost impossible situation, where resources are dwindling and all the ‘lifejackets’ have been taken?
Dr. Randolph Pausch was an American professor of computer science, human–computer interaction, and design. In his last lecture before he died from cancer wrote “No matter how bad things are, you can always make things worse.”
Now that I have made you feel so much better what is my point? He was talking about resilience and his next quote sheds some light on this: “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.”
That, I think, gives us some hope that despite the circumstances we are in, we can still stand by our principles, act with integrity and ensure the quality of our service is maintained to the best of our ability. In other words the situation does not rule us but we can ‘rule’ the situation.
Easier said than done I hear you cry, but how about thinking on these three points:
1. What can I learn from this - people who learn to look at challenges as valuable teaching moments are often the wisest and strongest leaders, converting ‘pain’ into personal value. They have developed an ability to understand that pain is always a temporary condition and an opportunity to learn. They ask questions like, “How did I get here?” and “What caused this to happen?” They choose curiosity over self-pity or anger. If they really are leaders then they generously share their learning and experience with their teams. They commit to making the most of the opportunity for themselves and others. The next time you’re faced with a particularly brutal challenge, perhaps ask yourself what you may learn from it.
2. Re-invent the future - Choice is the enemy of fear. When you have choices, you don’t feel trapped by your circumstances. We all have plenty of choices, but the most resilient leaders are masters at reminding themselves of this fact in the face of adversity. When you are faced with a seemingly dire situation, start by answering these questions: what is the outcome I most want, what other outcomes would be good as well what stands in my way from making these outcomes happen, who do I know that has overcome similar obstacles to those that stand in my way? It is so easy to forget you have a choice when all the competing parties are ‘snapping at the heels’ of your service.
3. A sense of humour always helps - humour helps you think more broadly and creatively. It is essential for problem solving, so try not to take yourself, or your situation, too seriously. You may even ask your friends/colleagues the question, “Can you tell me a few things that are ridiculously funny about this particular problem I am facing?” When they answer, listen for nuggets of truth and avenues for solutions and possibilities you may not have ever considered.
Finally is the challenge you are so distracted by today going to make a bit of difference to you when you are old and grey, very probably not. Why not treat it as the imposter / life stealer that it is?
My thanks to Mike Maddock for his article Three Ways Great Leaders Handle Great Adversity2013.
1Editorial Australian Journal of Forensic Sciences2015. Vol 47, No. 1, 1-2, http://dxdoi.org/10,1080/00450618.2014.982185 Taylor & Francis Group.