This is a guest post from Taravandana. It fits in really well with the series I have been writing about values. Thanks to Tarvandana for sharing this article:
Last October I was fortunate enough to spend 10 days in Bhutan the small democratic kingdom found in the Himalayas nestling between North West India, China and Sikkhim.
Bhutan is a Buddhist country that under the guidance of the King is consciously modernising, incorporating the best of “the West” whilst holding to the values and philosophy of Buddhism. Whilst it’s not perfect I was struck again and again by the positive impact these have on the quality of life of the Bhutanese people for example through underpinning education and access to health care and limits placed on advertising. For such a small Himalayan country the infant mortality is low and compared to India that I also visited, the people and animals look well nourished and there is little litter on the streets.
Being a practising Buddhist I could be accused of being rather biased in claiming that it’s Buddhism that accounts for these observations. Maybe I am and yet the facts still stand.
What had even more of an impact on me was being surrounded by symbols and reminders of my deepest values. Everywhere I looked were pictures, statues, symbolic signs of qualities such as compassion, kindness, clarity, wisdom, peace and energy (in pursuit of the good) as well as the potential for human transformation.
Being based in the UK I’m used to doing my best to live a life informed by these values but it’s not easy, in fact it’s often tough. I find myself regularly swimming against the tide of the prevailing culture and I regularly take the easy option and give in, for example to the pressures of consumerism or pessimistic thinking.
So it was a relief to instead be reminded of how I aspire to be, live and work. I felt supported and empowered in my endeavours and ever more confident in the potential that we all have to grow and develop given the right conditions.
Since the trip I’ve been pondering the implications of my experience for leaders say in the NHS where the far reaching transformation agenda is only going to happen if leaders can maximise the engagement of their teams and work together collectively through shared values and mutual appreciation and support. The agenda is very challenging and when things are tough it’s my experience that leadership behaviours slip. Stress doesn’t often bring out the best in people.
There’s considerable commitment and investment being made in leadership development (at least in the short term) and yet I wonder if completing a 360, participating in a leadership development programme and accessing some coaching is enough to enable and support individual NHS leaders to be the leaders the staff and patients need them to be. i.e. role models of values like compassion, clarity, integrity, excellence and positivity, especially during times of upheaval and uncertainty.
It seems to me that the burden for turning around the NHS rests on the shoulders of individual leaders rather than to be shared. Is it any wonder that stress levels can be so high and behaviours unhelpful in the leadership community especially when it may be considered “weak” to admit to any worries or lack of confidence.
Perhaps we need to pay more attention to creating conditions that encourage and support our leaders to be as effective as they can demonstrating the values and behaviours that get hearts and minds involved and optimise patient experience?
Conditions such as:
• Encouraging collective leadership where “we are all in this together” rather than individualistic leadership where we compete for our slice of the cake (of the limited budget)
• Reminders and symbols of our values
o Reminders and symbols that feed our souls/psyche.
o Whilst posters describing Trust Values help I mean symbols that speak to our unconscious and conscious minds and so to our deepest values and motives, like those found in myth, fairy stories and ancient drama. For example archetypal symbols such as the knight, healer, goddess, king, wise woman, jester etc.
• Being role models to each other.
• Recognising, appreciating and reinforcing positive behaviours.
• Challenging unhelpful and unacceptable behaviours skilfully with compassion and clarity.
• Sharing the good news stories at least as much as the “bad” news stories but preferably more to redress the balance and boost morale.
Let’s give our NHS Managers and Leaders the support, encouragement and reinforcement to be the best they can in difficult circumstances.