What is the impact of our casual rudeness

This week as most weeks have been recently was very busy for me with lots of facilitation of learning.

Now the thing is when you facilitate others learning, if it goes well you end up learning as much (sometimes more) as the participants. This was definitely the case this week. One session in particular has had quite a profound impact on me and how I view my behaviour.

We have been exploring how inclusion and civility can impact on team performance, and how using a coaching approach can support a more inclusive, and civil work space.

Every aspect of inclusion and civility is uncomortable when we examine our own biases and behaviours. We are especially guilty of holding a single story for people that are different to us. We often fail to acknowledge the richness of their stories and experience and what value those differences can bring to our workplace. We naturally create groups or tribes of people that share similar experiences therefore we hold multiple stories of each other, as a result of our shared lived history. When someone with a different lived history arrives in our space, we often have a single story which is based on what we have heard through our stories and what we have made up. As a consequence we can either under estimate or over estimate their impact on the team. This made me think of all the single stories I hold about people, about people from other countries, people with disabilities, people from different professions, people from other cities, people who drive range rovers, people who support Leeds United. The list is endless. We are liable to hold single stories about people that sit outside of what ever group we happen to be in at that time. Using a coaching approach allows those single stories to be multiple stories. By being curious, and listening with fascination to understand the rich lives and stories they have will not only enhance the team but will enhance yourself. What if by listening to the single story you are missing out on untapped knowledge that could change how your team works.

The biggest impact of the week came when we were discussing civility and the impact mild rudeness can have on people’s ability to function. If you are the recipient of mild rudeness (unkind flippant comments, being dismissed, on the receiving end of mickey taking, being ignored) your ability to function cognitively reduces by 61%. 61%!!!! That is just terrifying. Your chances of making a mistake have gone through the roof. The chances of you now being rude to someone else has also gone up. Witnesses don’t get away with it either, your bandwidth is reduced by 20% and you are 50% more likely to refuse to help someone.

So lets just think about this.From my experience I am generally mildly rude to 2 groups of people. Those I have a lot of investment in (my family, hoping that levels of forgiveness are high), and those I have no desire to win over, those on the outside of my group, those I hold a single story about. This made me feel dreadful, that I could be causing people I love to be less. Let this sink in . When you are mildly rude to someone, you diminish them, you make them less. Now think of those people you hold a single story about that you dismiss, or ignore. You are not hostile to them but you might make fun of them or be quite short with them when they make a suggestion. Every time you do that you reduce there ability to function efficiently. You could be the reason they make a mistake through your casual rudeness. That casual rudeness could result in someone being physically harmed.

I am going to start to practice, pausing and recognising my emotions before I spill over into rudeness, when I am with my family. I am going to pay attention to those people I hold a single story about, and get closer to them to understand and appreciate their multiple stories, therefore creating a greater investment in them.

A week of highs and lows

Well that was an interesting week, with a lot of contrasting emotions. It started as many of my weeks do nowadays in a classroom preparing for a day delivering coaching training.

On Monday morning I was delivering our introduction to coaching study day, where I introduce the communication techniques used when having a coaching conversation. We call it introduction to coaching,but I think ‘how to have meaningful performance and development conversations’ is more descriptive if not a bit long winded. This is my comfortable space, sharing my insights into having purposeful conversations. However I had not done this day for a few months, and managed to get myself a little lost in the content, sending myself into a mild panic when I thought I had got to the end of the taught element an hour early. I had not, I had forgotten where a certain slide appeared in the sequence, so I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Over than that little blip it was a very satisfying day with very positive feedback. A great start to the week.

On Tuesday I was spending the morning working with my favourite lady Janis, supporting her on her communication course. I was going to be working with half of her cohort, playing out difficult conversations. It was clear from the off that my half of the group were struggling with role play and what they needed to do. So I spent the first hour re framing the instructions and creating a purpose that was meaningful. In many ways subtly playing out a difficult conversation in front of them with the difficult conversation being the one I was having with them explaining the importance of playing out conversations in a role play setting, with actual content. We got there in the end, I had a great deal of fun and there was definitely learning in the room. Again I was buzzing. The afternoon was supposed to be spent designing content, for next week, but i kept on getting distracted with various minor issues that I felt required attention. However I could feel my stress levels rising as the deadline for the content was looming. I managed to get a lot done however and complete some other tasks, so all in all a satisfying day.

Wednesday was another a content delivery rich day. I delivered 2 workshops on coaching at our Trust’s Health Care Professionals’ Conference at the University. I did a potted 1 hour version of how to have meaningful conversations, along with a demonstration of coaching in action by blind coaching the participants. Again it was well received, and I got to listen to Derek Redmond (Olympic Athlete) deliver his inspirational key not speech. In the back of my mind I had a few niggling thoughts, I needed to get the content finished for the next week, and I needed to get my blood results from the bloods I had taken 2 weeks ago now. It was late before I finished on Wednesday so I did not get chance to ring for my results.

Thursday was my first day in the office all week. A chance to get the content finished. However I had a series of meetings during the day. These were important meetings that needed to take place, but I could feel my irritation and frustration building up. I am certain this was evident to those around me. I was not as calm as I am normally. Firstly I was coming down from 3 days of delivery, which however enjoyable is physically and emotionally draining for someone who has a preference for introversion. Secondly I knew I needed to get this content written and I was rapidly running out of time. Thirdly I knew I had to ring the doctors to get my blood results. Which I managed to do eventually, the receptionist told me there was a minor abnormality and I needed to see the doctor. So that was it I took myself to another place where I had type 2 diabetes with a lifetime on medication and declining health (we all like to catastrophise). I went home eventually under a cloud of despair.

On Friday morning I went to the GP, and got my results. I am pre-diabetic (so it is reversible), that means I need to pay attention to my lifestyle. On Friday morning this was the straw that broke the camels back. Exactly what I needed. I had a very real emotional response on the bus relaying the news to Lisa. Crying on a bus is not ideal in fact I did have to hold it in a little. But I needed to have this emotional response. Yesterday morning on the 154 bus to Hull Royal Infirmary it all got just a bit too much. My colleague messaged me and said it is OK to have Hippo time. Too right I was having my hippo time on the bus. For the whole of the journey I wallowed. By the time I got off the bus I had just enough capacity to get my work done ready for next week. When I got in from work I needed to wallow some more, I needed to feel sorry for myself and accept that life is unfair.

This morning I got up, I wrote about what I was experiencing in my journal to help make sense and articulate my emotion. I was overwhelmed and will be again. But writing about it helped me understand what is going on, so I can plan for what I need to do to stay healthy and successful.

Is compassion weakness? We can create accountability and attend to each others emotions.

I have written and spoken many times about how I struggled as a manager within a culture that valued a command and control approach to leadership. A culture that sees empathy and compassion as weak. This is a stereotypical masculine paradigm, the one that says the expression of any emotion in a work setting is weak. Emotion has only one place and that is within a female paradigm in the domestic setting, when caring for children.

What is really depressing is that I was a nurse! And not just a nurse caring for adults but a children’s nurse! How can it be that a profession whose primary function is to care for the most vulnerable, did not value these very qualities in their managers. This view of kindness and compassion being weak was widespread throughout the hospital, I would even say throughout society.Now this was a decade ago, things have moved on, haven’t they?

There has been some progress with plenty of research showing that a compassionate leadership approach, creates a productive, efficient, and importantly a happy work environment. There is even research that shows that compassionate leadership has a direct impact on the care delivered to patients. Compassionate leadership creates safer healthcare! That is the bottom line.

The issue is the 4th word in the paragraph above. SOME! The thing is, listening to and paying attention to the emotions of the individuals in your team is not easy. It does not come naturally. We have been conditioned that management and leadership are masculine roles. When I asked future leaders to describe and even draw leaders, they will invariably default to masculine descriptors. Our culture defines masculinity as strong, aggressive and protective. Winning and dominating are paramount, nurturing and compassion, and empathy are feminine are weak and have little place outside of the domestic setting. They are fine for the nurses on the ward but not for the charge nurse/sister, and anyone above them. They have to operate in a masculine world and must therefore learn to not show weakness. If you want to succeed as a leader you have to be the best and beat those around you.

This is our default setting, this is the route that comes easily for many of us, even though, the results of this approach are at best patchy and at worst create a toxic environment. This command and control approach to leadership in any setting creates fear and stifles innovation. As mentioned previously all the research shows that a positive, optimistic approach improves productivity and engagement.

So how do we change our default setting. Like any change, you have to start with the desire, the motivation to change. You have to be clear what you want from your team in the future. This vision of the future must be compelling enough to bring you back to it when you falter and slip into your old ways.

That is the starting point, the next thing to do is to collect the tools that help you create a compassionate culture. There are plenty of books and courses that offer instruction and tool kits. The vast majority of them are very useful. 3 books that I would recommend to start with are Dare to Lead by Brene Brown, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, and SUMO by Paul McGee. Also look out for leadership courses. Many large organisations either run their own or outsource to training companies. The other option is to employ a coach who will support you through this transition period.

Once you have the tools, you have to master the approach, the only way to do that is practice, practice, practice. The only way you can adjust you default settings is to create new habits. the only way to create new habits is to practice. The more you practice the sooner you will create a new habit. This is why having a coach can be helpful. It is not easy to keep up the practice when you are busy, and you need to get things done. Having a coach gives you the time to reconnect with the reason why you a moving away from your old ways. Stick at it, you will reap the rewards.

Health, happiness and age

Well it has been an awfully long time since I have written a blog. My last blog was looking back on my Nursing career and looking forward to my new role in Organisational Development and Coaching.

Since that blog I have experienced some minor health issues. I say minor as that is what they appear to be turning out to be. However in the moment these issues were quite unpleasant and me being a dramatic soul felt far from minor. It all started with abdominal and loin pain. The pain woke me up in the early hours of the morning. I have never experienced pain like it. It felt like my insides were being squeezed and blown up at the same time. As I mentioned I am quite dramatic, and have a very limited experience of pain. So I am not ashamed to say I panicked a little, which no doubt made it a lot worse than it was. I spent spent two and a half hours sat on the toilet, sat on the floor hugging the toilet trying to be sick, pacing the living room lying face down on the sofa crying into a cushion. Lisa was fast asleep and gently snoring upstairs. I thought about waking her when it started but thought better of it. I can be difficult when I am in pain, and Lisa doesn’t react well to me when I am being hysterical, so I thought it best that I let it be until I need her to take me to hospital or ring an ambulance. Leaving her asleep allowed me to be in a bad mood with her about not being sensitive enough to notice how much pain I was in, in her sleep. These unrealistic expectations never play well when the accused are present.

Anyway the torture lasted for nearly 3 hours, I was just about to wake Lisa to take me to hospital, when the pain went away. It was a very strange night. The next day was when I started feel unwell, I felt out of sorts, my abdomen and back ached, I was having hot flushes and felt incredibly tired. This lasted intermittently with occasional severe pain for a month. My GP was getting a little fed up with me (I could tell by his exasperated look on his face). I was in his surgery weekly. I had 2 courses of antibiotics with no effect, and a CT scan which showed nothing. There was no infection in my wee. Then he tested my blood. When I went back to get the results, his opening question was…. “Matthew how much do you drink?” I replied “about 6 bottles a week.” Well he nearly fell of his chair. “Of what!!!!?” he asked. “Oh god no, I said not big bottles, small bottles of beer.”

It turns out the bloods indicate that my liver might be fatty and that I drink probably more than I should. Then he pointed out I was carrying a bit of weight, so he wanted to test for diabetes! I was crestfallen. I have become a fat middle aged man, with diabetes, and a fat liver. It was a sudden realisation that stuff doesn’t just happen to other people, and if you don’t pay attention to health, there will be consequences. Yes I know, I have talked about this before, but like most of us I suffer from the habit of separating myself from the reality of life and the marching of time. It has been a wake up call. I don’t know if I have diabetes (I am still waiting for the result), but that is irrelevant really. What is important, is that I start to look after all of me. Going for a little run and paying attention to my well-being are important, but as I get older I need to pay attention to other aspects of my lifestyle, (mainly what I eat and drink). This health scare has made it real.

All this happened in an incredibly busy month. I started my new role, whilst at the same time completing my commitment to Nurse Induction. I don’s think I did either of these things justice. It was a big ask in the first place, but being ill just made it all the more demanding. I just had too much going on. This has caused me some distress, I had finally secured my dream job, and I was struggling to cope. I was exhausted and in both physical and emotional pain. Don’t worry though I got through it. It was difficult and painful, but not a permanent situation. I kept focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel. I would get better, there will be a time when I can concentrate on one role without being pulled in other directions. Remembering why I do what I do really helped me.

I am feeling better now, and I have started a plan to pay attention to my physical health. This plan is firmly routed in my purpose and core value. If I need to be useful, I have to become healthier.

Last week was Lisa’s special birthday, (50th but don’t tell anyone). We have spent the week celebrating. On Monday we went to see a band out our now favourite venue, The Polar Bear (a regular of Vialetters). We then spent a couple of days in York, staying in the very fancy Grand, York, and taking in the sights of York and enjoying their food a drink. We ended the week having a meal with some old friends. Speaking for myself, this was exactly what I needed to recharge my batteries after a challenging month.