I facilitated a session among a diverse group of health care professionals who have been getting together for about six months to learn how they can create more patient-centered care. In the session before mine, Margie Hagene an excellent facilitator was debriefing visits that had been made by team leaders to the sites. She was asking for feedback to the leaders about the visits. The leaders were in the room. Of 19 tables, one spoke up and said (paraphrasing here): We really appreciated the interest and the support; it just makes you feel good to know the leaders care enough about what’s going on to take time from their busy work and listen and encourage. Margie thanked her for the feedback and said, “Who else would like to offer feedback on the value of the visits?” The only rumblings came from the air conditioning system.
Now, Margie was obviously a strong and sharp facilitator and so she explained to them that she was not looking for compliments and flattery, and she was very open even if the feedback was constructive. But her point in asking, she said, is that sometimes leaders don’t know what’s most helpful, and they want to be helpful. So, she said, this was a great opportunity to shape the future visits to make them most valuable. And she continued to explain intelligently and solicit feedback with passion. From this extended invitation, she got one more piece of feedback (just one, or a 100% increase, depending on your perspective). This second contributor said: It really helped to have the visiting leader remind them of their initial purpose and check and see if they were still on track. And she added, almost apologetically as though she and her colleagues shouldn’t need it, that her clinic appreciated the encouragement for the progress they were making.
As a facilitator, it’s great to watch others work, because you see differently when you don’t have the microphone in your hand. And here’s what I saw: First: gosh it’s hard to get people to give honest feedback to their leaders. So, leaders, you must, as Margie did: Explain. And make it safe. And repeat the invitation. And surely find other ways than the head-on, in-the-group approach to get feedback. Never forget that at a deep level people are timid about telling the emperor about the clothes he or she is wearing – whether their threads are transparent or made of fine silk.
One thing struck me even more than the need to push for feedback. Followers, i.e., people, especially adults, and adults-at-work grossly undervalue the role of positive encouragement. The two groups that spoke both talked in terms like “it was just nice to hear that we were doing okay.” And so why is that a “just?” Why did they seem to couch it as if encouragement doesn’t really count, isn’t really important. It seemed like they were saying if perhaps the leaders had delivered some incredibly piercing insight, or revelatory discovery, that would be truly worthwhile. But this was “just” encouragement. Nonsense! Encouragement is hugely important and we should never stop offering it.
Jack and I were running up and down a field playing catch with lacrosse sticks yesterday. I started out as usual the noisy and irrepressible coach: “see it all the way, Jack” “watch the angle of your stick,” “come on, don’t quit.” Blah. Blah. Blah. He bristled. Who wouldn’t? I made myself start counting how many “good’s” or “nice” comments I could make in a row. (I lost track or blew it at about four.)
You KNOW what happened both with respect to Jack’s efficiency and his joy-factor, when I switched to the positive, right?
These are days of extraordinary challenge change. I both thank you and applaud you for taking a minute to read something to encourage and stimulate you, and I invite you to be an encourager today, as you
Lead with your best self!