Why Your Doctor Should Care About Social Justice

It seems we’ve all been thinking deeply about race and racism in the United States. My interest in public health stems from a desire to work towards equity and justice.

One of my favorite TEDTalks is by Mary Bassett: Why Your Doctor Should Care About Social Justice.  Dr Bassett is the Health Commissioner for NYC and a long time health activist.

As you may know, I worked for several years at Partners In Health (and am working there on the COVID response now) and so appreciated her nod to the work of Paul Farmer when she says:

“But I knew that epidemics emerge along the fissures of our society, reflecting not only biology, but more importantly patterns of marginalization, exclusion, discrimination related to race, gender, sexuality, class and more. It was true of AIDS. It was true just recently of Ebola. Medical anthropologists such as Paul Farmer, who worked on AIDS in Haiti, call this structural violence: structural because inequities are embedded in the political and economic organization of our social world, often in ways that are invisible to those with privilege and power; and violence because its impact — premature deaths, suffering, illness — is violent. We do little for our patients if we fail to recognize these social injustices. Sounding the alarm is the first step towards doing public health right, and it’s how we may rally support to break through and create real change together.”

She ends her talk with this statement:
“Our role as health professionals is not just to treat our patients but to sound the alarm and advocate for change. Rightfully or not, our societal position gives our voices great credibility, and we shouldn’t waste that.”

Videos like this can be great ways to spark ideas among your team members. What if you showed this video to your team and had a conversation about it?

Here are a few questions that may help to spark conversation:
  • What do you think your individual role is in addressing the social issues that accompany illness?
  • What do you think our collective role is in addressing the social issues that patients experience?
  • Have we pushed the envelope far enough as an organization to ensure that we are using our positions of power to advocate for patients and families?

Effective Meetings

A great resource for running effective meetings can be find in this aptly titled article: How to Run a Meeting.

I’d like to draw your attention to the part regarding the functions of a meeting. In the meeting agenda, I encourage being specific about your agenda items in terms of what you wish to accomplish. The functions of a meeting can help you with that. Do you want to decide? Brainstorm? Review? Reflect? Spell it out. In doing so, your meeting purpose will be clearer and you’ll help your attendees better prepare for the meeting.
I particularly like that this article emphasizes the importance of building and maintaining a sense of the team in each meeting. 
 
The article also gives tips on how to seat people for meetings, how to draw out those who may not be contributing fully, and reign in those who may be dominating. All in all, it gives great suggestions and tips!
What are some suggestions you have for running effective meetings? I just read about how the Dropbox IT team deleted nearly all meetings from Dropbox employees’ calendars (except for those that were with customers). It gave their team a moment to pause and decide if a meeting was needed or the best means of solving a problem, communicating, or brainstorming. Interesting and very bold idea!

Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers

I’ve often witnessed an amazing power in collaboration around brainstorming and great ideas; it is amazing when it happens and has led to some of the best work in which I’ve participated.  At times, though, managers will need to nudge their teams along when it comes to brainstorming. We’ve all been in a position where we don’t want to be the one to share the dumb idea or to be the one to suggest something that has been tried before.

This talk by Adam Grant about the Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers and the accompanying discussion guide may help you to appreciate how your team may process their ideas, come up with creative ideas, and communicate about those ideas.

In global health, we strive to be innovative and come up with creative approaches to solving complex health issues.  It is a task with significant weight–truly lives are on the line.

Might you be up for leading your team in a discussion about creativity and original thinking?  Hopefully we can help to support the creativity of our teams and help to grow comfort in thinking about the same old problems in new sorts of ways.

PS: The Lean In website has lots of great resources that you can use. I am a fan of the discussion guides that can be used to guide our teams through difficult conversations or to help set team norms.

 

What it Takes to be a Good Leader

I’d like to share some  ideas about what it takes to be a good leader.

Take a listen to this talk by Roselinde Torres.

She distills the best qualities of leaders into three elements:
1. The ability to see changes that may be on the horizon and prepare for them
2. Networking skills that bring various perspectives to the work
3. The willingness to take some risks and abandon practices that may have been successful in the past but no longer serve the team

The reflection questions below may give you insight into your own practices and habits (and maybe encourage a change or two!):

  • What are your skill levels as they pertain to those three qualities?
  • Take a moment to think about, as she suggests, how you spend your time–do you allow yourself the opportunities to develop in these three ways?
  • Are you cultivating your team to be leaders?

What do you think about her distillation of leadership qualities? I would add skills around trusting and transparent communication to her very valuable list. To me, trusting and transparent communication is critical to giving and receiving feedback and to ensuring that your team is helping you to see what is on the horizon.

Have you considered watching TED talks like this one with your own teams? I have always appreciated leaders and managers who ensure that I keep learning and developing. Plus, they are short enough to fit into team meetings or over a lunch break. How do you help to foster growth and development in your team and in yourself?

Laughter makes us better workers!

Did you catch this great news? Laughter is not only the best medicine, but it makes us better workers, too!  Great news for those of you who (normally) enjoy the water cooler banter with colleagues and organizing the office parties–all of your efforts are justified!

I love tips about increasing productivity, but this one is extra special. Now, how does this news relate, say, to training efforts?

Well, I’ve facilitated lots of training of trainers (TOTs) and I’ve written lots of curricula that other people deliver. One of my great challenges is in convincing novice facilitators that the fun activities are written into the training to, yes, be fun breaks and to allow opportunities for team building, practical application of learning, and create lasting impressions of the materials. Those memories, especially when laughter is involved, can be the most lasting impression of a training and, thus, can help learners to recall other elements of the training.  If you are a novice trainer, challenge yourself to pace your trainings to allow for the active components of the training. If time is running out, consider restructuring your training to limit the PowerPoint or the lectures before you ax the activities. 

So, the moral of this story is…don’t skip the ice breakers, the energizers, and the activities.  Your team will be more productive because of it.

Feedback

Not to toot my own horn, but I tend to be quite good at accepting feedback and and incorporating it into my work.  I value feedback as an essential tool of collaborative work and as a means of ensuring that multiple voices and perspectives are heard and incorporated.

Of course, I’m sure we’ve all had those painful moments when we’ve gotten unsolicited feedback so late in the game that we end up facing a sleepless night on the eve of a big event or before a deadline.  Oh, the wound is still fresh!

In any case, we can always try to be proactive about getting feedback.  I like the AWARE model for asking for feedback that is highlighted in this talk:

Ask for feedback, 
Watch your emotions, 
Ask questions to clarify, 
Reach out for perspectives, and 
Engage your potential.
 

I particularly liked the description of why feedback can be difficult–as it lives in that tense spot between the need to learn and grow, and the need to be accepted just the way we are. Yet, becoming comfortable asking for and giving feedback helps to hone our growth mindset and helps us see feedback as a gift. 

Consider watching this video with your team and leading them in a discussion about how they like to get feedback from you and how you can solicit feedback from them.  A sign of a healthy team is one where 
 
Can you shift your mindset to one of growth and see feedback as a gift? Your challenge for the week? Ask for feedback from one of your colleagues by using the AWARE model.  

The Happy Secret to Better Work

Here is one of my favorite TEDTalks—The Happy Secret to Better Work.
 
 
 

In his very humorous talk, Shawn Archor talks about how we view the world and how that affects our happiness. Seems obvious.

He also says, though, “75 percent of job successes are predicted by your optimism levels, your social support and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of as a threat.”  

So what do you, as a manager, do to build that optimism and resiliency among your team? I’ve written about the need for feedback, both constructive and positive, in the past. How can we link that to building that ability to see stress as a challenge and not a threat?

I’ve incorporated several of the lessons that Shawn talks about here (and elsewhere) in my life, including keeping a running list of what I am grateful for. Even on the most craptastic days, there is always something out there that can add beauty to our lives. And if I am really struggling to find something, I create something by reconnecting with a friend, setting a (virtual!) coffee date, or even planning a trip (one of my favorite activities! We can hope, right?). I usually write my list before I even get out of bed in the morning as a way of framing the day in the most positive sense possible.  

Of course, we are in trying times, indeed. When Shawn delivered this talk, we were not months into a global pandemic. I, like many, am managing an entirely remote team. One of the things that seems to be going well on my team is that we’ve built and constantly reinforce the expectation that we will change, evolve, and pivot as needed to address COVID. In some ways, knowing that more change will come, even if we don’t know what it will be, disallows the team to settle into complacency or routine. The routine IS change. That clear-as-can-be communication has been crutial.  What tricks do you have up your sleeve for keeping the optimism on your team?

How have you built up your own optimism and resiliency? How have those skills served you now, given that we are living through this pandemic? What new skills have you been able to tap into?

Managers as Coaches

“The single most important managerial competency that separates highly effective managers from average ones is coaching“. What do you think about that bold statement? In the past, I have held positions where many of direct reports were fairly new to the workforce. I spent a lot of my time coaching them on elements of their job– from the importance of record keeping to writing professional emails. In the end, they knew that they could always come to me for help which, for me, was the true sign of a strong team.
 
If you are looking to build your skills, here is a free online course on Managing as a Coach.  If that goes well for you, consider taking the entire specialization that it is a part of: Become a Better Manager.    Overwhelmed by the idea of taking the whole course? Feel free to pick and choose according to your needs. 
What have YOU done to become a better coach?

Ranomafana, Madagascar, 2016

Book Report: The One-Minute Manager

The One-Minute Manager, by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson, is a quick ready. It comes in at just 112 pages. So, that is one argument for why you should read it, I suppose; you can learn something useful in just one sitting.

My argument against reading it is the same argument against reading a lot of these management books. There is no evidence to back up what they claim you should be doing to be a good manager. This (like The 5 Dysfunction of a Team) are written as a story with key management lessons sprinkled throughout. I am not a fan of that writing or learning style.

The story emphasizes the importance of asking the right questions, holding staff to a high standard, accountability, and offering praise when it’s appropriate. Common knowledge? Probably.

The book has some nice, neat, easily packaged take aways.

The One Minute Manager establishes One Minute Goals. Those are goals that should take no more than one minute to read. Write up goals for your team and individual employees on a regular basis to help manage their work flow, manage the team’s and your expectations, and help to keep everyone on task. They suggest having just a few short-term goals at one time; those goals are constantly updated.

The One Minute Manager also looks for things to praise. It only takes one minute to find something good! I do like the notion of keeping an eye out for the positive, especially in the busiest times at work! Of course, praise can help build motivation and reinforce what a person is doing.

Finally, the One Minute Manager reprimands in One Minute. It is a two step process. First, tell the person that what he or she did wrong, how you feel about it, and then let that simmer. Then, step two, tell the person how how much you value them and tell them your sense of their capabilities. The idea behind this one is that if you reprimand immediately after the reprimand-worthy event and reprimand often then a culture of feedback is built and employees get back on track quickly. To me, again, this advice seems pretty basic. Of course I value my team and will tell them that… even when trying to correct something that went wrong.

This was a quick summary. The author, Ken Blanchard himself, has a quick 8-minute lecture on the One Minute Manager.

So, overall, do I recommend this book? No. But, now that you have this handy summary, you essentially have the main take-aways minus the silly story. You’re welcome.

Book Report: Getting Things Done

Book reports–I’ll read it so you don’t have to.
 
One of the constant challenges that managers face is in balancing it all–taking time to be deliberate, creative, strategic, and visionary all while driving work forward. Ironically, when we get busier, some of these basic time-management tactics go out the window when we need them most. 
 
The book Getting Things Done offers lots of tricks and tools that can help do just what the author promises.  Frankly, I found the paper-based system to be outdated in this digital world; I am far too often on-the-go, rarely work at the same desk, and don’t own a filing cabinet all of which are requirements for his paper-based system.  However, I have some great take-aways from this book that DO work for me in our digital world.
So, this post is, essentially, a Cliff Notes series of suggestions that work for me, and hopefully, will work for you!
 

First up, the weekly review: In a weekly review, you, essentially, clean up the week that just ended and plan for the week to come. I especially like this approach as I find it helps me to transition more easily into the weekend and sets me up for success for the following week.  I find that my weekends are much more enjoyable and relaxing when I know that I have tied up loose ends from my workweek. This article offers a fantastic list of what you can include in your weekly review. Fans of Marie Kondo and Gretchen Rubin will appreciate how the process also includes a cleaning up of one’s physical work space, too. I typically look back at my calendar to see what meetings I was in and make sure that I have either completed the tasks that were assigned to me during the meeting or do any follow up that may need to happen such as asking for meeting notes, scheduling the next meeting, and so on. I also look to the week ahead and make sure that I have either provided or requested agendas for all of the meetings on my calendar. Great tip–if there is not an agenda consider carefully if it is worth your time! 

As a minimum, on Fridays, I try to use at least thirty minutes to review my calendar for the upcoming week, prioritize my to-do list, and use the Getting Things Done trigger list to help spark my memory of things that may be in the back of my mind or loops that may need to be closed. I don’t have a perfect system but this helps to make sure that I stay on top of my activities. Plus, I find that by using the Trigger List that I end up clearing my mind of all of these little things that I’d subconsciously been keeping track of.  I would love to hear your suggestions about how you optimize your time and make sure that we honor our commitments.  

 
What tricks have you learned and developed over the course of your career?
What works best for you?
Let’s hear from you in the comments so that we can all benefit from your practices! 
 
Do you have a team member who could use some help in getting and staying organized? Perhaps this review could do the trick!