Lead from Your Heart (As Well As Your Brain)
We’ll be celebrating Valentine’s Day next week. No, this is not an article about red roses, boxes of chocolates, or candlelight dinners. But if you are going to be a successful leader, you’ve got to put heart into the workplace. What matters most to people is how they are made to feel by the organizations that employ them, and by the bosses who manage them.
The American Psychological Association has been an advocate of the importance of psychological health in the workplace. In 1999 the APA established ‘The Psychologically Healthy Workplace’ Award to recognize organizations for their efforts to foster employee health and well-being - not just to help workers feel good, but to understand the impact of psychological health on organizational performance. Consider this: The four award winners in 2013 had a turnover rate of just 6%, compared with the national average of 38%. Surveys completed by the winning organizations revealed that an average of just 19% of employees reported experiencing chronic work stress, compared with 35% of workers nationally.
One of the most interesting ‘Best Practice’ Honorees was in the Government/Military/Educational Institution Category, Hawaii’s Tripler Army Medical Center (TAMC). It supports 264,000 local active-duty and retired military personnel, their families and veteran beneficiaries. In response to the dangers of compassion fatigue and burnout, Tripler developed resiliency training for all staff members. Ultimately, the program has shown that what’s good for the staff turns out to be even better for patients.
Compassion, satisfaction and resiliency in the face of a challenging patient base is easier said than done. The trainings at Tripler range from two-hour workshops to half-day programs to five-day retreats for every staff member on an annual basis. Anyone who comes in contact with patients is mandated to attend their particular level of training. Some take place in the hospital and others on the beach.
Every training session includes some lecture with some experiential modules. The curriculum consists of information on health, fitness, and stress management. Training incorporates humor, yoga and even meditation. Facilitated group discussions and written exercises emphasize the importance of self-care and personal health. The impact is impressive, especially given the fact that this is happening in the military, traditionally known for a control-and-command type of leadership.
Since the program’s inception, employees have shown significantly lower rates of burnout and secondary trauma and broadened their knowledge of key resiliency concepts. Additionally, patient satisfaction, communication and morale have improved because employees are better equipped to handle the stressors they face every day. The training has made Tripler the top-rated Army Medical Center in Army Medical Command for performance measures focused on cost, access and quality of care. They even increased their workload 10% over the previous year, and this enabled them to schedule more appointments. If the Army can do this, think about your office!
It is important to remember that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to creating a psychologically healthy workplace. Success is based, in part, on addressing the challenges unique to your particular organization and tailoring programs and policies to meet your needs. Nonetheless, here are some common criteria.
1. Employee involvement in decision making and increased job autonomy.
Positive emotions create harmony in our nervous system and maximize the ability to use our brains. That means higher productivity and better patient care. So pay attention to the emotional tone of your office. Bring your heart to work, on Valentine’s Day and every day!
If you would like information on bringing happiness and resiliency training to your practice, contact Dr. Haller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at email@example.com
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