Appreciative inquiry and accepting praise
Learning from excellence through the practice of debriefing is a hot topic in healthcare teams. We hear this being referred to as appreciative inquiry; a model that seeks to engage stakeholders in self-determined change.
The model assumes that the questions we ask tend to focus our attention in a particular direction.
Organisations then evolve in the direction of the questions most persistently and passionately asked.
I'll often ask the healthcare professionals who attend our training courses whether they have a chat at the end of the day about how things went? "Yes, of course, we do."
But do you have this conversation in any real detail? "No, not really".
You would, we hope, if things have not gone well but how often is that? Maybe 1% of the time?
So, we don't really discuss the 99% of times when things go well. What effect does that have on morale?
At Atrainability we recommend three simple questions:
-Is there one thing that I or we do well?
-How about one thing I or we could do more of?
-Or maybe one thing I or we could do less of?
The crucial word is of course 'could'. Not 'ought' or 'should' because that is telling someone how to behave and no-one likes that. 'Could' makes it a suggestion, a nudge, if you will. Not a command.
Adult to adult conversation in practice. Thoughts offered with honesty and accepted with humility.
Naturally, people generally debrief if thing went wrong. This is good practice, far better than the alternative of sweeping the error under the rug.
But how often does it go wrong, rather than right? If we assume things go right 99% of the time, then most of the time these conversations, and any appreciative inquiry, are rarely taking place.
We want to be having these conversations. "It was really great when you pointed that out and said I was wrong. Do that again, please."
This is about reinforcing positives, which people don't do often enough.
Another challenge, especially within the healthcare profession, is that people don't accept praise. They shrug it off. "I was only doing my job".
Perhaps this is a cultural thing for us Brits, making us feel uncomfortable when someone heaps on the praise.
It's certainly a cultural issue within healthcare where we become so used to the extraordinary, it becomes ordinary.
Last summer, an extraordinary video of a nurse in the accident and emergency department at Leicester Royal Infirmary went viral on the Internet.
It showed 36-year-old nurse Caroline Clayton-Barker, along with several of her colleagues, putting herself in danger to protect patients from a man with a knife.
At one stage in the video, she comes face-to-face with the knife-man, before running to safety herself.
Despite Clayton-Barker later recounting that "It was like a horror film," she also told reporters she was just doing her job. "I don't feel brave, it's just your job, it's your duty of care to protect your patients."
In reality this was way more than 'just her job'; the lady performed exceptionally.
But on a more mundane level team members are doing great work daily but often just shrug it off.
We know that morale is low within the NHS. Staff recruitment and retention are both a huge challenge.
You can argue that working in the healthcare profession is often a thankless task. Nobody is saying thank you, and nobody is accepting the praise. This creates a vicious cycle.
If we don't accept praise, I reckon we get in the habit and don't offer praise as well.
Having the end of day conversations on the 99% of occasions where things went right, giving praise, and accepting praise, these are all excellent ways to get better and all feel better.