Check out these insights into Wellness and Communication with Puja Chadha, M.D. and Leadership Essentials courtesy of Gene Crumley, M.Div.
2 Steps Towards Wellness
Tools to reduce the burden of conflict and promote wellness in healthcare interactions. Try them today!
Wellness and burnout can be seen as two sides to the same coin. Physician and healthcare provider burnout is an issue has been a hot topic in healthcare forums and journals. One threat to wellness and fuel to burnout is conflict and harm in interpersonal interactions. Looking closer, harm related to cultural and gender identity issues are deep and penetrating. They perpetuate harmful microaggressions and trigger stereotype threat (1). The harm builds like sores if you are walking barefoot on sharp rocks for miles without end. I wish I could tell you that you and I are immune to these, that we will never cause or experience harm related to these issues. Unfortunately, the reality is that no one is immune to these harms. Even if we don’t intend to, we can cause these harms in addition to being on the receiving end. So what do we do with all this harm? How do we get to wellness?
We are learning that physician wellness does not necessarily mean more Yoga (2). I’d like to share 2 simple steps on how to address when harm happens and promote wellness for ourselves and the interactions we have with others—both in our work within healthcare and potentially even help in our personal lives.
If we hear about harm happening or even worse that we somehow caused or contributed to the harm—it can be painful, uncomfortable, frustrating. It can trigger a reflex reaction when we are tired/overworked/stressed in a way that does not allow us to be our best.
My first invitation to you is when harm occurs to PAUSE.
If you can take a split second to “pause” before reacting, take a moment to acknowledge the harm that has happened. It can be hard but rewarding to accept your role in the cause of the harm as well as the repair. Take a moment to understand where the harm occurred—specifically the “how & why” it occurred. Then take time to take a survey of how you are feeling and initial reactions you have. Most importantly is have self-kindness, most of us most times don’t mean to intentionally cause harm—recognizing the harm might be unintended is important. Then asking yourself what support you need and allowing yourself to get it. Next embrace and explore how you can be part of healing and change.
Second is how to address conflicts in a positive way in conversations. I invite you to try Triangulating conflict (4). When we are talking about issues often they come between us and the person we are talking to, what happens is we end up having a lot of emotions and harm can continue into the conversation.
When you recognize or anticipate a situation like this I invite you to PAUSE and shift your focus:
Shift your focus from the issue to the relationship. Sincerely consider that you and the other person are both good, with good intentions. Then when the relationship is the priority you can approach them with a healthier conversation saying hey, “I value you and your thoughts on this issue. I also value we are both with good intentions on this issues. You have your ideas on the issue/solutions, I have my ideas on the issue/solution, maybe together we can find a better solution that can actually work.” This shifts the energy of the issue out from between people and allows better solutions to form.
- Colin Harrison, Kimberly D. Tanner. Language Matters: Considering Microaggressions in Science. CBE Life Sciences Education. 2018 Spring; 17(1): fe4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6007773/
- Amy Barnhorst, MD. Physician Wellness Doesn’t Mean More Yoga: A different path to happiness, no leggings required. Psychology Today: In Crisis. 21, 2018. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-crisis/201810/physician-wellness-doesnt-mean-more-yoga
- Suo S, Chadha P, Levy P: Chapter 15: Personality Disorders, McCarron RM, Xiong GL, 2e, Woltvers-Kluvers (in Press).
- Suo S, Chadha P, Levy P: Triangulating Conflict Model. Excerpt from Personality Disorders, McCarron RM, Xiong GL, 2e, Woltvers-Kluvers (in Press).
Five Leadership Essentials
A Strong Ethical Compass
So, what does “a strong ethical compass” mean? Here it is important to distinguish between ethics and morality, two words we often use interchangeably or synonymously. The English word ‘morality’ derives from the Latin word moralis, meaning “proper behavior of a person in society,” literally, “pertaining to manners or customs.” In other words, moral behavior is customary behavior, and it is often behind the claim or rationale, “I’m just doing what every other leader does …” Such justifications or explanations are an attempt to explain away behavior that is otherwise questionable, if not objectionable, much like, “Nothing I did was illegal.” In fact, very few leaders act illegally, which is why when they do it makes it into the news media.
Morality, in other words, is contextual, it’s what is meant by the definition of mannered or customary behavior. Ethics is different. Very different.
The English word ‘ethics’ derives from the Greek word ethika, which at its root means an animal pen. Huh?
It makes sense when you think about what an animal’s pen does … it defines boundaries and those boundaries act as protection for the animal. An ethical leader defines the boundaries of behavior in their organization, both for the individuals within the organization and for the organization itself, which leads to the second essential of leadership: careful stewardship.
Caring for an organization’s well-being is principally an act of stewardship. It’s exactly what is meant by the phrase that leaders have a ‘fiduciary responsibility to the organization’. A narrow reading of ‘fiduciary’ responsibility is ‘financial’ responsibility, and that certainly is implied in the phrase. Again, some etymology is helpful here: the English word fiduciary derives from the Latin ‘fides’ or faithfulness. Certainly one would never assume a marriage partner is faithful to the marriage if all they did was produce income. Faithfulness to an organization’s well-being implies so much more than concern only about its “bottom line.”
Indeed, the chief responsibility of a leader may be to care for an organization’s reputation.
Here we again need to distinguish between two words that sometimes get confused with each other: reputation and brand. An organization’s brand is the image that leaders try to shape and control about how the organization is perceived by others. An organization’s reputation is what others experience when interacting with the organization.
So when an organization’s reputation and brand are consonant with each other, the organization benefits because others benefit. Branding is what marketers do … building a reputation is what leaders do.
Be sure to look out for a follow up post, where we’ll look at the three remaining leadership essentials: attention to an organization’s culture; curiosity; and, courage.