‘Know thyself’ is as relevant now, as it was in ancient Greece.

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I recently ran a session for the Leicester Faculty of the RCGP for their First5 group. It was an evening session on a very cold and windy March night, but we had a full house. I used the MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) to give attendees insight into their personal preferences about how they naturally interact with the world, plan and organise their lives, make decisions and cope with change. Whilst we had a lot of fun, it was really interesting to see how individuals came to terms with some pretty intrinsic truths about themselves and how these might affect their transition from training programme to independent practice.

When I attended the session I did not really know what to expect- but afterward I feel like I have got to know myself so much better…In the busy world that is general practice and with the increasing pressure it was a breath of fresh air to be able to take a step back and assess my personality not only professionally but also personally. I feel that I have the tools to deal with future tensions better and also to be able to recognise when that is also not the case.” GP Attendee.
Knowing thyself and managing yourself are so important in the challenging and pressurised environments Doctors function in. Taking time to read your emotions and review the affect you have on others is vital for your development, as well as fundamental to your leadership and management effectiveness.
But it’s not easy. Doing things that come naturally or are habit can be straightforward to you. But doing things that you find difficult or are outside of your comfort zone are a different matter. And when you have to do something like this then your internal battle is tough. Knowing yourself and finding ways to out manoeuvre the urge to avoid things that you have to do, is a powerful self management tool.

Building Self Awareness

You can access a whole host of tools that can help you to build self awareness such as MBTI, Emotional Intelligence, Hogan etc and these are very useful. However I think it’s your inner voice and the relationship you have with yourself that is the greatest indicator of affective self awareness. I’m re-reading Dr Steve Peter’s (Psychiatrist) The Chimp Paradox at the moment. It’s really helping me train for the 10k I’m doing in July as my urge to not run is strong! But the book is supporting me to develop a more honest and realistic relationship with myself about running. See more about The Chimp Paradox HERE. We can be thankful that for most of us our brain is developable at any stage of our lives, so we can keep learning about ourselves.

If you would like to talk over Coaching to build self awareness call me on 0754 0593476 or email me at alexishutson@yahoo.com

NB, Dr Steve Peters is now working with the England football squad, so that should test the model…

Doctors who manage their emotions effectively, make better leaders.

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We assume Doctors are ‘natural’ leaders. But there’s no real training for it in medical education or specialty training programmes and people are expected to evolve their leadership skills naturally. For something so important, why is it left to chance?

 

I think everyone needs help and guidance on developing leadership skills; it improves your working relationships and can have a big impact on how you can make things better.

Firstly it’s important to make the distinction between management and leadership.

Management is the ways in which we organise ourselves and responsibilities whilst keeping productive.

Leadership is the way in which we deal with competitiveness, volatility, uncertainty and conflict in the pursuit of strategic objectives. It involves engaging and inspiring others and gaining their trust at times of change or risk.

All of these things are highly emotive subjects and good leadership comes from managing your emotions and reading others’. Great leaders are known by their capacity to connect; be courageous; walk their own talk; inspire others to action; and be worth following.

And the most emotionally influential part of your body is your amygdala. This is the part of your limbic system that assigns emotions to every piece of data that passes through your mind – before it even reaches your cortex. It will assign one of the following 8 emotions to any thought.

Fear, Anger, Disgust, Shame, Sadness – all defensive / escape emotions

Surprise – potentiating emotion

Love, Trust – both attachment / engagement emotions

For survival purposes, there are more defensive emotions that attachment ones, which means that most of us have a propensity to default to the defensive.

So it’s easy to see why there is often a combative culture between colleagues and management in the stressful and increasingly pressured clinical environment. The alarming speed a which your amygdala assigns emotions means that it can be very difficult to intercept feelings which are defensively unhelpful. So assisting people to read their own emotions and those of others, to encourage more rational and measured responses is a crucial part of leadership development. I believe Doctors deserve to have access to this.

We are powered by an emotional brain and its job is to forge relationships and establish intelligent emotions…We need to raise our awareness of how we refine emotions/feelings into judgement, because feelings are the data on which judgements are made.” Professor Paul Brown*

*Professor Paul Brown is a consulting clinical and organisational psychologist and Head of the Psychology and Applied Neuroscience Unit of the National Science Council with the Prime Ministeris Office of Lao PDR.

Handling conflict is a part of everyone’s working life, so what can Doctors do to manage it better?

A recent article in the press caught my attention. ‘Top doctors sent home for fighting: Hospital Consultant looses tooth after he and colleague squared up outside operating theatre.’ Article here. 

Unfortunately the culture for hospital Doctors, between colleagues or specialities, can often be combative. Over reliance on command & control and territorial behaviours means that conflict working styles that are productive are not displayed enough. It leaves people feeling stressed and anxious about how they manage their working relationships.

Of course there is nothing wrong with conflict in itself. Differences between people and teams are normal. It’s how we handle it that counts. The model I use to help my clients get a better handle on conflict is the TKI™ (Thomas-Kilmann conflict mode Instrument). This model describes 5 different conflict positions that all serve a purpose in working through differences. They are:

Competing – Collaborating – Compromising – Avoiding – Accommodating

Ideally we need to be skilled at using them all and choose which to use depending on the conflict and our position within it. The question is, which one do you overuse and which don’t you use enough? Are you adapting to each situation and analysing what is needed, or are you getting caught up in the emotion and heat of the moment?

By using a model like TKI™ you can develop a more rational and objective response to conflict which will help you manage these inevitable situations better.

Call 0754 0593476 or email me on alexishutson@yahoo.com to book your online TKI test.

 

The TKI™ (Thomas-Kilmann conflict mode Instrument) is an easy and accessible tool to help people handle conflict better. By identifying alternative conflict styles, it helps you reframe and defuse conflict, creating more productive results. The TKI questionnaire identifies five distinct conflict styles and provides you with conflict-management solutions. As with MBTI, you fill in a questionnaire and then a feedback session talks you through the report generated. I can administrate this for you. Find out more here.

 

 

Are women doctors as confident about their abilities as their male colleagues?

I was asked to run a session on Coaching & Mentoring at a conference yesterday. ‘Inspiring Women Doctors in Training’ had an emphasis on leadership and the keynote speakers all addressed why so many women doctors still don’t get to the top of the leadership ladder.

One theme that came out was individual’s ‘mind-set’. Whilst accepting that there will be many exceptions to the rule, all speakers spoke about an underlying lack of self-belief in many women doctors, an unwillingness to promote their achievements and a reluctance to seize opportunities.

So I wanted to share some research on Emotional Intelligence that was undertaken in 2011.

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is about intelligent use of our emotions. This requires being aware of our feelings and the feelings of others in order to manage our behaviour and relationships effectively. Underpinning all aspects of EI is our core attitude towards ourselves (Self-Regard) and others (Regard for Others).”Jo Maddocks, Occupational Psychologist with JCA.

JCA have been administering EI tests for over 12 years. They now hold data on over 12,500 people, across many professional sectors and covering 7 continents. What I found interesting about their findings is that there are a significant proportion of people in the healthcare sector who score low in Self Regard. In addition, women typically score low in Self Regard. This double-whammy means that women healthcare workers (including doctors) may be less likely to; rate their achievements, feel confident about putting themselves forward and feel empowered to do things differently.

Being a Doctor is a leadership role in its own right of course. Making decisions, taking action and leading others is a daily part of working life. But when thinking about the possibilities of further leadership in education, management, research, service development or commissioning, do women doctors believe “I could do that”? Or is there a saboteur in their heads saying, “I’m not good enough.”

To see the full JCA paper Click Here

Contact me on 0754 0593476 or email me on alexishutson@yahoo.com

 

Fully recharged? Or are you running on empty already?

Time is a finite resource. It’s an issue that almost always comes into sessions with my clients. None of us feel like we have enough of it and at the beginning of a New Year, we feel the passage of time more keenly. How we spend this valuable resource and how effective and efficient we are at it, is a common concern.

One-way of repositioning our relationship with time is to think about how energized we are when we are spending time. We cannot change how much time we have, but we can control how much energy we have.

…greater capacity makes it possible to get more done in less time at a higher level of engagement and with more sustainability.” Tony Schwartz.

Schwartz at The Energy Project describes a model of four energy dimensions that should be invested in:

  • Physical Energy – sleep, exercise, diet and taking breaks.
  • Emotional Energy – defuse negative emotions, fuel positive emotions, and review upsetting situations.
  • Mental Energy – reduce interruptions to important thinking tasks, stay goal focussed and switch jobs at healthy intervals.
  • Spiritual Energy – identify those task that give you more energy, allocate more time to those tasks that are really important to you and live by your core values.

For some of my Doctors they are aware of Physical Energy but less aware of their need to invest in Emotional Energy. It’s useful to reflect upon how you invest in these four areas as you may discover that only a couple of your ‘batteries’ are fully charged.

OK, so this is not going to ‘buy’ you more time, but it might help you feel more satisfied with how you spend the time you do have and give you some ideas about where you need to invest in yourself at this moment in time.

Links:

Click here to access Tony Schwartz’s Harvard Business Review paper.

You can take an online test to check out your relationship to these four energy dimensions by clicking here.

Click here to see 5 Top Tips for managing your energy not your time.

Call me on 0754 0593476 to talk over your relationship with time.

Email me on alexishutson@yahoo.com

 

Medical careers reach a long plateau after training and doctors seem more susceptible than others to the midlife crisis.

Dr Carl Gray, Consultant Histopathologist (See BMJ article)

I’ve been thinking about the midlife crisis recently. OK, some of it is personal interest (I’m 45) but a lot of it is about my clients.

Firstly, I really don’t like the word crisis. It’s negative and stops you seeing this period in your life as an opportunity for developing further insight into who you are, what you want and where you want to go.

Carl Jung described this period as the ‘Midlife Transition’ which I prefer. I think his work gives us a really useful way of viewing this natural process and getting the best out of it. In summary, Jung says that in the first part of our lives we are concerned with adapting, achieving, conforming and making a place for ourselves in the world – it’s externally focussed. This often involves compromise and the creation of roles/personas we develop for ourselves to fit in to society. This corresponds very neatly with doctors’ education and training pathway. However, we will all usually reach a point where we might start to think, “Now what?” or “Is this it?”. This can be triggered by a loss or separation of some kind, but will mark the start of a period of emotional upheaval. It often means people will want to retreat and spend time alone to reconnect with who they were and assess what they have become. If successful, the process can lead people to a deeper understanding and connection with themselves (more internally focussed) and with a greater sense of peace.

I see people of all ages whilst working with Doctors, but typically my clients are between 35 and 55. Therefore many of them will be experiencing some form of midlife transition. Perhaps the upward trajectory of getting through CCT and finally getting that GP or Consultant post is such a huge task that the plateau reached thereafter can trigger a transition. Either way, it’s normal and whilst it can be a bumpy ride at times, it is well worth the journey.

  • Carl Jung and the Midlife Transition – If you want a longer explanation of the Jungian theory see Dr Murray Stein’s paper here.
  • BBC Story on the midlife phase and happiness, click here.
  • And apparently chimps have a Midlife Transition too! See here.