Recently I wrote about the power of mindfulness. I just finished a fourteen hour course on this topic and was impressed by how basic, yet complex, the approaches are. It combined well with some thoughts on the process of getting better results and how many times our approach completely misses two essential parts of the change process. The equation I believe applies to sustainable change is the following:
Thinking leads to emotions which lead to behaviors which lead to results
Too many times, in an urgency to get to results, how we think and what emotions that produces appears to be entirely overlooked, or, at best, receive cursory attention.
When I speak to people about how they think, I generally get a blank stare. Remember that a majority of my clients and contacts are extremely brilliant, educated, and accomplished healthcare professionals. And few of them have thought about how they think. And, sadly for some, the current grind of the healthcare changes has changed their brilliant approach into a more reactive than creative stance.
When the pressure is high, change has to be intentional, or the brain won’t allow it. What does mindfulness teach regarding thinking when the pressure is high? One approach, that resonated very strongly with me, was the concept of ‘the beginners mind’. This is comprised of three parts:
3. Readiness to learn
It is backed up by two other phrases:
1. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.
2. If you have found the answer, ask a bigger question.
Sounds like a lot of fluff until you start to apply it. Let’s take it live.
First to the floor with an example. Let’s suppose you work in a unit that has seen a lot of changes, both in policy and in management. You have some staff that are delighted in doing things the way it has always been done and have little interest in hearing new ideas. Furthermore, you are new to leadership and that drops your credibility more in their eyes.
Too many times the first tendency is to jump to what behaviors are off the mark and what the new results need to be. While some situations are truly urgent and need instant remediation, the majority of them can be addressed foundationally. This is where your leadership will be tested. Rewards are fast with short-term remediation. Sustainability is not. It gets back to the equation above. You cannot have sustained change without a change in the thinking. Remember the phrase “no problem can be solved with the same level of thinking that created it”.
Good leadership takes time. It takes you building the trust that allows you to get inside the heads of those you lead in order to know how they think. It is very easy to jump to conclusions regarding how others think by using the paradigms that you are used to using. That never helps trustbuilding.
That is where the beginners mind kicks in, along with the other two phrases mentioned.
You cannot think differently without first observing and then being open to the information that observation brings. Please know that I am not suggesting a meditation session as you do a shift change. I am not taking it that far. I just want you to have some framework in which build the new thinking patterns.
Remembering the scenario I mentioned about, how will you apply ‘the beginners mind’ to starting the trust building process with your staff? Another great read in this genre of thinking in new ways is Liz Wiseman’s book “Rookie Smarts“.
More on this next time.