Reflective Compassionate Practice

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A few months ago I was asked to design and deliver a workshop on professionalism to a group of nurses. When I was thinking about what to talk about I was thinking about the challenges faced by nurses in an increasingly complex workplace. On the face of it, our workplaces do feel more stressful than they used to be. In reality the actual physical workload does not seem to have changed dramatically. What has changed though is the vast amount of data nurses receive and are expected to produce, during their working day. So on top of caring for patients, nurses now have to process data from a variety of sources, analyse this data to decipher what is useful and what is not. So there is no wonder they get make mistakes, miss things, get stressed, and in some cases burn out.

This is an issue that is high on the agenda of people who work in health care, and across the world healthcare professionals are finally looking at how we can look after each others well-being as much as we care for our patients. The emphasis very much is on how the resilience of healthcare professionals.

With that in mind I felt that a workshop on professionalism, must centre on the nurse’s responsibility to pay attention to their own well-being to the benefit of their patients. If you are going to pay attention to your well-being you need to reflect on your behaviours, actions, feelings. Showing compassion and empathy are the cornerstones of nursing, but are practically impossible to show if you are not compassionate to yourself. Therefore that is why I called the workshop Reflective Compassionate Practice with the aim of the workshop being, to encourage participants to reflect on why they react and think the way they do, and how that impacts on themselves and others, then to appreciate their uniqueness, and accept their perceived failures. The premise is that non-judgmental raising of self-awareness increases your ability to problem solve, increases your ability to show compassion and empathy as you are more willing to accept what causes you distress and pain, therefore it is easier to connect with others that are experiencing distress and pain.

So the workshop invites the participants to practice critical thinking at work and outside of work. Critical thinking takes practice, so therefore I introduce some simple concepts of testing the information they are given and not just taking it at face value. So encouraging them to delve beneath the surface of what they are being told:

Have I got all the information in need?

What assumptions am I making about what I am hearing?

What are the implications of this information?

Is it true, or factual? How will I test its accuracy?

Is the information consistent with what you already know?

Is there an alternative point of view?

Is my judgement of the information reasonable?

Now there is a lot more to critical thinking than these simple questions, however I want to encourage the participants to be curious and have a desire to get accurate information, to increase the chances of them making the right decision based on accurate correct information. We all know that often the real truth often sits just beneath the surface of the initial statement.

I then invite them to consider how they react to stressful situations, using the work of Professor Steve Peters and the chimp paradox. So we discuss that unpleasant memories can have an effect on how we react to situations, that we perceive to be stressful. On many occasions these memories are not ours but are folk stories that develop within the culture of teams. For instance during the winter hospitals are extremely busy. There is often more patients than there are beds available. This can create tensions between teams and between bed managers and teams. Despite all involved having the same goal in mind (caring for the right patients in the right place) things can get quite tense. Often this is because the nurses and managers are already prepared for a confrontation before it happens as their brains have told them that the people they are going to talk to will be difficult and will not want to do what they believe is required. So there is no surprise that arguments start. If their brains referred to memories that were generous to the intentions of those other teams and managers, then perhaps then row would de-escalate to a constructive discussion that is resolved in a more timely manner, allowing everyone to get on with caring for the patients. Steve Peters would call it turning your gremlins into autopilots, or making unhelpful memories, helpful memories. Again this takes practice so I encourage the participants to carry out this practice in all aspects of their life.

We then do a short exercise to determine how they prefer to behave and think. Whether they prefer get their energy from working with others or working by themselves. Generally most nurses are comfortable doing one or the other. Also whether they prefer to think things through and then act or whether they prefer to start to solve the problem straight away. So using Jungian theory I invite them to consider how they will show up at work and why people who show up with different behaviours might react towards you in a certain way. This is by no means meant to be an accurate psychometric test but, just to help the participants examine why they might behave the way they do and why they react to different people in different ways and how they can adapt how they connect with each other.

The participants are now beginning to get a picture of themselves and some tools that they can use to increase their self-awareness.

We now examine stress and why we all experience it at different times and what can trigger feelings of stress. We looks, examine, fatigue, hunger, and perception as they can all have an impact our stress levels. We then discuss strategies to manage our stress levels. For instance, taking breaks at work, taking on fluids and eating. I will invite them to suggest strategies to they use to manage workloads, such as list writing, briefings and debriefing.  I also introduce them to an hour of happiness. I invite the group to come up with activities they do regularly that are just for them and make them feel happy. I then challenge them to make a commitment to allocate themselves at least one hour of happiness a day.

At the end of the session we discuss the importance of setting goals to create a sense of optimism and create a solution focus rather than concentrating on the problems they see. I introduce them to Miles Hilton-Barber who decided to become an explorer and adventurer when he was in his 50s. Miles had gone blind as a young adult, after 30 years of being limited by his circumstances he decided to concentrate on achieving his dreams. Miles is now in his 60s and has flown from London to Sydney, run across the Gobi Desert,  and climbed Mont Blanc, to name but a few. There are a number of his talks on YouTube and I encourage you to seek them out. Basically his message is, start with your dream and not your circumstances. If you start with your circumstances you will never do anything.

I then invite them to write a commitment of what they are going to do over the next month with a deadline to encourage them to start thinking in terms of goal setting and being resourceful.

To be an effective Professional it is vital to self-aware and show yourself the compassion you show your patients.

Mind The Gap

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Below is a blog I wrote this morning for my coaching network blog at work. I have adjusted it slightly to make it more generic and accessible for people who work outside the NHS. I liked so I thought a slightly wider audience might like it too.

This week I have been preparing for an interview, for the Coaching Lead role. During this preparation I starting thinking about my values and those of the hospital. This got me thinking about how often I really examine the hospital’s values. When I do an appraisal I look at the values and talk to the member of staff about how their work reflects the hospital’s values, but I rarely examine what they mean to me and whether or not I really live up to these values on a daily basis. That then got me thinking about times where I have seen a gap between these values and the behaviours I see around the hospital, from all grades of staff, including myself. If you take account and think about it yourself, do you show Care, Honesty and Accountability everyday at work, or do you get caught up in the busyness, complexity, and stress of work. That drive to get things done within a timeframe to a certain standard, can often get in the way of these values, and we ignore them to enable us to get the job done. So we don’t always show care towards each other, we can let our mood show, we do not always own up to mistakes for fear that people want show us care and won’t blame us, we can blame others for shortcomings. It is sort of vicious cycle, that if left unchecked we can rapidly get sucked into. Our intentions are honourable, we want to get the job done and do our best, but our methods are not as effective as they should be.

Before you fall into a pit of despair, all is not lost. We are all still good, kind, caring people. Where ever we work we want to make a difference. We just need to pay attention to our values and challenge ourselves to live up to them. We have to ‘Mind The Gap’.

Recently I have discovered the work of Brene Brown, she is an American Researcher, with a background in social care. She specialises in personal, social and organisational leadership, through compassion and empathy. So for anyone who knows me, she is right up my street. Through her research Brene developed a checklist that you can use to check yourself against when you are working with others, whether they be staff that you manage, your colleagues or your patients. She calls it BRAVING

Boundaries; Have you set you own boundaries and made them clear to all those around you? This is what you accept and what you will not accept. Do you respect other’s boundaries

Reliability; Do you do what you say you are going to do? Do you turn up when you say you will?

Accountability; When things go wrong do you own up to your part in it? Do you look for ways to correct it? Do you take credit for when your actions work?

Vault; Do you keep confidences? Do you not engage in gossip, that highlights others failures or shortcomings

Integrity; Do you choose courage over comfort? Do you choose to do what is right over what is fun? Do you practice your values rather than just profess them?

Non-Judgement; Can you ask for what you need, and listen to what others need?  Can you sit down and talk with them about what you think and feel without judgement?

Generosity; Do you extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words and actions of others?

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I invite you to copy this checklist and periodically, check yourself against it.

It is normal to not live up to our values when we are under pressure, it is however our responsibility that we attempt to keep ourselves in check and ensure we do not widen the gap between our common values and our behaviours.

If you are a manager, it is more important than ever to ‘Mind The Gap’. In addition to BRAVING I urge you all to seek out a coach to help you narrow the gap.

Do you belong or are you just fitting in?

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Over the last few weeks I have been thinking about turning the connected living program I have written into a book. So last Saturday I dared greatly and started putting together an overview. So far I have the titles of the chapters and the beginnings of the first chapter. As soon as I started writing it, I felt nervous and unworthy. I became vulnerable, I could feel my shield coming up. Telling myself that it would only stay on the computer, no one would read it anyway, so why bother. You know the usual, no doubt all the things that we all say to ourselves that keep us in our box. All the words that perpetuate the pontificating, the voices that stifle our creativity. I started writing it anyway, telling myself, if no one would ever read it then what is the harm, after all I am half way through my memoir that no doubt is never going to see the light of day. So I started it and got quite far in a few hours.

As if by fate this week a friend of mine shared with me that they had written a short story and then had sent it to a competition. They asked if I would like to read it. It was wonderful. They expressed the same fears as I had, they were surprised that I liked it, as I am surprised when people say they like my blog. My friend though had taken the plunge though, they had made themselves vulnerable, they sent it to a competition which creates that risk of rejection. They put themselves out there, and since my feedback they have sent me another short story, again another engaging story a tough read as the subject is dark but well written. This has inspired me and hindered me at the same time. I tell myself it’s scary to risk ridicule and rejection, your friend has done it, and they are still the same person they were the day before. But their stories are good, is my content good enough. I know the answer I speak the answer to others. Is it good enough for you? Does it express what I want to get across? Am I able to get that message I want to share out of my head and on a computer screen? Well duh, I do that every week on here, and I share this with the world(I know my most popular blog has only been read by around 100 people).

I have just realised that I am writing this blog to give myself the courage to write more of the first chapter. So please excuse this self-indulgence.

By worrying about what people will think about me writing a book and what is in it, am I trying to fit in rather than belonging?

Am I trying to adjust who I am, and what I do, because I have not connected and feel comfortable with who I am?

Belonging, truly belonging as Brene Brown would describe it, is first connecting with yourself. I think of it as looking in a super high-definition mirror that is able to reflect your soul, as well as your physical appearance, and when you see your whole self reflected back you love what you see. Not like, but love, and I mean all of you even the ugly unpleasant bits. That is not easy to do, in fact for a long time I thought it was impossible. Not anymore I see it is possible, I am yet to perfect it completely but I love a large part of me, however there are some parts that I can now tolerate, and I still worry about whether people like me and what I do or not.

So how do you get connected with and love yourself? In my blog entitled connected living I have described the process I put together to help people connect with themselves in order to make connections with others.

Once you practice connecting with yourself, you can start belonging, you can start to feel comfortable with your own view of the world and therefore be comfortable with alternative viewpoints held by other people. You will start to feel confident enough to brave what Brene calls the wilderness, to belong to yourself first, even when what you believe to be right is unpopular or wildly different from the people around you. For instance writing a blog like this is not what my family would do, very few of my friends write blogs, or share their thoughts and vulnerabilities like I do. I stand out, I don’t fit in, but I do belong I belong to me first and to the rest of you if you want me.

I really want to belong to the world around me, and when I don’t feel I do the desire to fit in gets really strong, and I have compromised by beliefs and values to try to fit in, as no doubt you have, and it is normally when we lack confidence in ourselves and what we believe. It never works out though, and no matter how much we try we still feel on the outside and never belong. When you truly belong there is no us and them there are just people who have a different map of the world. I can disagree with them and still feel connected with them. My mum’s political views are often opposite to mine, I don’t hate her or think she is stupid. I love her with all my heart, there is so much more that connects us than disconnects us. All of us are connected, we are all connected by biology after all.

Gosh that was philosophical.

I will leave you with a quote by Brene Brown and then another from my favourite lady in world ever Maya Angelou

True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”

Brene Brown

You are only free when you realise you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.”

Maya Angelou

I have resolved that I will carry on writing my book, I will dare greatly and brave the wilderness if I need to. I will approach it like I approach my blog. I write it first for me, then for anyone who wants to read it. I belong to me and anyone else that wants me.

 

 

PERMA and That Hour of Happiness

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The past week has been a little turbulent. It has been a week of feeling vulnerable, after sharing my feelings on here and sharing a little of myself in the support of others. In fact sharing in support of others Is suppose has triggered this blog.

I had no plans to write a blog today. I thought I was spent after sharing my parenting pains yesterday. However when I was out on a run this morning I started thinking about what I had said to a group of new registrants and the end of their first year as Registered Nurses. I was talking to them about the daily stress they encounter in their everyday job as part of a talk I do to Nurses about compassionate reflective practice. The premise of the talk is that to be truly compassionate to others, you have to show compassion to yourself. Part of that compassion is looking after and maintaining your capacity for stress.  Our lives are stressful, that is normal, life has always been stressful and always will be. If didn’t have stress and discomfort we would not have great innovation and creativity. Learning and development come from a place of discomfort. However if not checked and managed that discomfort can turn into distress. Innovation and creativity die in a place of distress. So at this point in the talk (if you ever attend this talk or the day I do on human factors and error management, look interested and intrigued as if you have never heard it before) I drew a bucket and invited them to imagine that the bucket was their capacity for stress. Now every time you experience stress it sits in your bucket. If you don’t pay attention to your bucket it can overflow and that is when you become distressed. I suggested to them that the way to manage their bucket is to attach a tap to the bottom of it, and they can do this by setting aside an hour everyday that is dedicated to their happiness, something that is just for them, or something that just makes them smile or feel good inside. I suggested to them that they may already be taking part in some of these activities but do not label them as part of their hour of happiness. This is quite a powerful proposition and is a way of appreciated, yourself, people around you and your environment.

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This got me thinking about Martin Seligman’s PERMA. In his book Flourish (if you are a Psychologist or a student of Psychology please forgive my clumsiness) and no doubt in earlier publications he suggests that people who mentally healthy have the following characteristics.

Positive Emotion

Engagement

Relationships (supportive/positive)

Meaning

Accomplishment

I suppose that hour of happiness in many ways is doing an inventory and just checking in with your PERMA on a daily basis.

So I invite you to pay attention to your stress bucket, by allocating an hour of happiness in your life. It can be anything that pays attention to your PERMA.

So far today I have gone for a run for 30 minutes, that has given me sense of accomplishment, which in turn has given me a positive emotion at the end of it. I have been writing this blog for about 40 minutes now which has been engaging and will give me a sense of accomplishment, it will also create connections with some of you readers, some of whom I know, so therefore builds our relationship further. Already I am over my hour, however I am not finished with my happiness today (it is Sunday I suppose). I have had 2 short 5 minute conversations with my sons one on the state of modern drama and it’s over reliance on the crime drama, with him stating that nothing useful or original has been said in that genre for the past decade. That made me smile and made me love him that little bit more. I then had a conversation with my youngest and his girlfriend about the programme they were watching, which was a comedy by all accounts, although there appeared to be no laughter in the room. The usual banter occurred as always does ending me gently making fun of his stubble and him telling me I need to grow up. This again made me smile and even laugh out loud and I loved him that little bit more. Thinking about those conversations also makes me feel proud of the young men they have become, so I suppose to 3 minute conversations have shown to me that my PERMA is safely intact and it is not even lunch time.

Even just taking stock of what makes you happy during the day can turn that tap on at the bottom of your bucket. We cannot escape from the stress of our lives, and nor should we. Stress and discomfort are vital for a successful life if managed, and only become a problem if we neglect ourselves and don’t pay attention to how we feel.

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My invitation to you is find and embrace your hour of happiness everyday, you well-being and resilience depends on it.

This forms the first part of my connected living program, if you would like to know more about managing your stress how you can better connect with yourself and others get in touch.

matt@mattycoach71.com

 

Be Your Perfect Leader

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On Monday I facilitated a timeout morning for a group of senior ward Nurses. The subject soon got onto leadership. The discussion centred on how to encourage leadership in the team, to enable staff members to actively seek solutions rather than default to the ward manager, deputy manager or unit co-ordinator, and how to manage difficult situations themselves.

To try to help them answer these questions, I posed them a question. They did not have to answer the question at the time, in fact they could keep their answer private if they wished. The question was more an exercise on looking for the right answer from their own knowledge and experience.

The question was, do you have a person you admire, and look up to when it comes to leadership? What are the qualities that make them a great leader? How do they behave (portray themselves to others)? I asked them to create a clear picture of their perfect leader. In reality this perfect or great leader is actually themselves (or yourself if you are having a go).

I personally always like to project my ideal onto someone else other than me, I find it easier to admire someone else than think of myself in those terms. However if you find it easier to see yourself as the perfect leader then construct the image as the perfect version of you.

Once you have this construct of your perfect leader, then you can use them as your reference point. When you come to a difficult dilemma, ask your perfect leader what they would do in this situation. The answer they provide are based on the attributes that you admire so are worth listening to. Work through the problem answering how you perfect leader would, including the people the perfect leader would, asking the questions your perfect leader would. You will get to the answer you need.

In reality you have been the leader, you are your perfect leader. That is not to say you will be right all the time. This method gives you the confidence to think you actions through, and to give yourself a better chance of success.

Give it a go it works.

If you want to discuss how you can improve your confidence at work, and be the best you can, email me on Matt@mattycoach71.com or message me via my Facebook page. Changing your opinion of yourself will make a massive difference.

 

Vialetters’ First Gig

On Wednesday night, we went to see Ben (my oldest) play his first gig at The New Adelphi (Hull’s iconic music venue) with his band Vialetters. As I said it was their debut gig as a band at least one member (Ollie, the founder member) had played gigs before, but they had never played together in public before.

What a triumph it was. They were second on the bill supporting a Leeds band Young Amphibians. However most of the crowd were there to see them. They had managed to mobilise their friends from college, youth theatre, and family. Considering they were playing in front of their peers and relatives they didn’t show any nerves. Their music was vibrant and fresh, with a nostalgic nod to indie stalwarts from the 80s, up to present day. Even if my son was not in the band I would happily listen to them. It was the best debut I have seen. I cannot wait for them to record some of their tracks. I am definitely a fan. 

I have deliberately not gone on about how amazing Ben was, because the whole band were amazing. I am however incredibly proud of him and he proves that if you practice a lot and live what you do you can produce something wonderful, and what is more wonderful than creating music that people want to dance to. Trust me for the passed 6 months all I have heard is bass line after bass line coming from his room. Bass lines by themselves are quite tiresome, but I am so pleased I put up with, because all his effort paid off on Wednesday. 

I am probably not the target demographic, in fact the few parents and family members there felt quite old. But I am afraid they have me as a fan. 

As a parent there is nothing better than seeing your child pursue something they love and have worked hard at. If I was choosing a path for him it probably would not be this, but I am not, it is his life and I am so proud of his endeavour.

Keep an eye and ear out for Vialetters. As soon as they have some recordings, don’t worry I will be sharing it with you all.