Leadership and Mental Fitness

There have been numerous recent articles about the mental fitness of public leaders. The articles appear in self-help blogs, newspapers, and magazines. I recently came across a list of etiquette lessons that every child should learn. As a society, we are talking much more frequently these days about how we treat each other.

It seems that business leaders should also be evaluated on their mental fitness and capacity to lead. Based on an opinion-based editorial that appeared in the LA Times recently (Gourguechon) there are five qualities that define strong and strategic leadership. These criteria are condensed from the US Army Field Manual 6-22 Leader Development. (2015)

Trust: Trust is thought to be fundamental to the functioning of a team or alliance in any setting. Leaders who do not instill trust or enjoy it from others cannot get individuals to work together.

Discipline and self-control: Leaders must demonstrate control over their personal behavior and align that behavior with Army core values. Psychological filters or neurologic braking systems become very important as a leader. Leaders must be able to deal with disturbing thoughts, and powerful emotions, without doing everything that comes to mind.

Judgment and crucial thinking: These are complex and high level components of mental function. These include skills and abilities to assess, differentiate, plan, prioritize and compare. Deficiencies in these areas cause rigid and inflexible thinking.

Self-awareness: Leaders with this quality have the ability to reflect and the interest in doing so. They recognize their effect on others and are open to feedback. They know themselves, and do not blame subordinates for failures.

Empathy: I found this to be a surprising trait listed in an Army manual. Leaders who understand another person’s point of view and can understand someone else’s feelings and emotions have an essential component of leadership. This is a significant skill in the healthcare landscape as well.

While these attributes are not all of the characteristics a leader needs, it seems all of us in leadership roles should take a minute to evaluate how we “measure up” in these crucial areas.

 

Posted by Susan Odegaard Turner – MentorRN

Not Being Enough

Recently I spoke to someone who shared how anxious he was to interact with a visiting sibling. His sibling has achieved strong academic success, but still struggles with managing emotions and relationships. The young man I spoke with was certain that everyone who saw them together would assume the sibling was more successful than he, based solely on accomplishment.

I pondered the conversation for a long time. First of all, how did this young man get this burden on his heart? When did he learn that society decides that what matters most is what you achieve? Who made that happen? We have certainly seen some of the results of this dysfunctional balance since the last election cycle. People are angry, frightened, and more prone to acting out. Rage has become the new normal. Acting out in your own best interest regardless of how it affects other has now become common practice; albeit unacceptable to many. If you doubt this last sentence, read the recent newspapers about our new executive branch of government.

No one should be made to feel not good enough. Not even by their selves. We are all placed on the planet with unique gifts, skills, and abilities to help us achieve our human purpose. We all have a different purpose, and make our individual journeys to achieve that purpose.

While we are advocating for a more reasonable government and tolerance for immigrants and refugees, perhaps we can also rally loudly around advocacy for ourselves. That we all matter, we are all valuable, and we ARE ALL good enough! What do you think?

Posted by Susan Odegaard Turner – MentorRN

Essence or Achievement?

I spoke recently to a psychologist who asked me what was more important to me~ essence or achievement. I had to think about it. It was a profound question and one worth really considering. Since I am nearing retirement age, I figured I have met most of my professional achievements. What I hadn’t considered is if there are other achievements that are just as worthy, e.g. finding a partner, parenting a child, losing weight.

I looked up the definition for essence. Merriam Webster defines it as “the basic part of something.” A synonym for essences is “soul, spirit.” That is who we are as humans from where I sit. So the question of which matters more gets more complex. It is my belief that we start out focused on achievements…going to college, getting a degree, going to grad school, finding the perfect job. As we age, we focus on more on our essence and spiritual growth and less on personal achievements.

Everyone considers resolutions and ideas for the next year as we approach 2017. Are you going to focus on your achievements or your essence? Can you do both? Lots to think about as you enjoy the holiday weekend!

 

Posted by Susan Odegaard Turner – MentorRN

Professional Advocacy Matters!

As the post-election season winds down, and we come to grips with how different this next presidency appears to be, we are faced with two choices. We can be upset, vent our unhappiness on social media and talk about it with our nursing colleagues. Or, we can reach out as professional nursing advocates to make a difference.

Healthcare access and coverage is still a central issue in the US. No matter what you think about the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) or the new president-elect, care and coverage for the uninsured and working poor is crucial and ongoing. The good news is that California has developed a successful program that could be used as a model for the rest of the country. The less good news is that other states are struggling to meet the performance pillars of the ACA. While it appears that the president-elect will attempt to dismantle at least parts of the program, there is ample opportunity for professional advocacy around this issue.

RNs are the most trusted profession in the country. With that reverence, comes great power! Find a local cause about healthcare you can get behind. My work in correctional healthcare as a strategic planning consultant allows me to identify issues that are otherwise hard to see within the community. I am passionate about healthcare for inmates released on parole or probation (prison or jail), so they do not end up in the ER seeking primary care.

As an RN, you have seen first-hand the issues that affect your patients. Find one that you are passionate about and get involved. Write an op-ed piece, run for elected office or work as a volunteer. There are plenty of community healthcare issues to care about. What difference can you make?!

Posted by Susan Odegaard Turner – MentorRN

The Fall Season – What Are You Working On?

fall-leaves-small-white

The calendar says that the season of Fall has just begun. Fall is my favorite season! Because I was born in Boston, I think I have the changing seasons in my DNA. The beautiful fall leaf colors and shedding of leaves is a season full of transition and transformation. Transformation always requires transition (change) first. You cannot do anything new (transformation) until you determine the need for a change in the first place.

Working on your purpose requires a process of evaluation, soul-searching, transition and transformation-much as the leaves change color, and eventually fall off. The changing colors are glorious, but the process must include shedding the leaves so new spring growth can occur after winter ends. Trees without leaves are not dead, but rather getting ready for spring growth. This is true for those of us considering our purpose. We are changing on the inside, getting ready for new growth and direction.

This wonderful diagram making the rounds on Facebook demonstrates the intersection of purpose into our lives. Most religions and spiritual practices talk about having purpose. Do you know your purpose? Is it the same as your paying job? How do you entwine purpose in your life? How do you feel when you find it? Lots to think about while you watch the leaves change color and fall…

purpose-diagram

Posted by Susan Odegaard Turner – MentorRN

Leadership Caveat: Let go of vibrating poles

I recently came across two incidents of vibrating poles. This is a reminder that we all need to consider. There are multiple issues in healthcare organizations that can make you crazy. Our natural tendency is to try and control things so we can “fix” them. Many healthcare facilities are extremely dysfunctional, so we can’t change anything. As we continue to try and control whatever is dysfunctional, the more frustrated we get, and still nothing changes. A healthcare organization is the equivalent of a vibrating pole. The temptation is to hang on to the pole to make it stop vibrating. In reality, that makes both you and the pole vibrate. You cannot stop the pole from vibrating, no matter how hard you try! The answer is to let go of the pole. Not easy to do in work settings, but the only thing that will save your sanity.

 

Posted by Susan Odegaard Turner – MentorRN

What I learned: Control or Coordination?

I recently completed a consulting project involving a large jail healthcare system. The assessment and implementation of the recommendations was long and arduous due to politics, passive-aggressive behavior and an enormous bureaucracy. I was a subcontractor for this gig, working for a respected colleague and friend who “owned” the contract. We have different and complementary skills, and usually work well together. We struggled with this contract due to the issues above, but our biggest challenge was based on communication between ourselves about the project issues. We have very different communication styles and strategies.

This organization was the toughest I have ever consulted in. I believe they truly wanted help but didn’t want to deal with having a mirror held up or implementing the actual changes required to solve the problems. My colleague and I struggled mightily just to have our assessment considered accurate. As a result, we often got caught in others’ verbal crossfire. The question that kept coming up was “who was in charge?”

As a sub-contractor, I was often present physically but didn’t “own” the contract. I worked hard to identify myself as someone who “coordinated” work, but wasn’t in “control” of the work. I had to quickly identify a way to coordinate between us, without appearing to be “in charge.” It was difficult, especially when my colleague wasn’t physically present.

As a result, we had to adapt to this dysfunctional environment by talking frequently, not taking inappropriate staff behavior personally (not always easy when someone is insulting you!) and to improve our own communication so we didn’t fall into the same craziness we were witnessing.

What I learned is that coordination between colleagues is much more important than who is actually in control or in charge. It is crucial to accept that not everyone communicates the same way, and we had to work hard with our different styles. What matters most is that we did communicate, and completed the project in spite of the challenges. Can you tell when you are in control or when you need to coordinate your work with others?

 

Posted by Susan Odegaard Turner – MentorRN