Posts Tagged 'education'

The Gift of Gratitude

Gratitude is a funny thing.

It seems we spend much of our lives searching for approval, hoping a demanding boss or selfish coworker will acknowledge our contribution to the larger cause.

When we seek it, we often walk away empty handed.

Fishing for compliments–beyond being uncouth–rarely yields more than a statement grumbled under annoyed breath. Those whom we feel owe us praise are always the last to give it (if it does happen) and mostly do so out of a sense of obligation, it appears.

Earnest thanks, regardless of source, pours nourishing sunshine on the meadows of our soul.

What’s amazing is how difficult we find the acceptance of such a wonderful, simple gift. Made uncomfortable by a shower of grateful expressions, we run for cover in the shelter of our own inadequacy. “I didn’t do anything to deserve this,” we think. “I didn’t do that good of a job.”

Why is it appreciation manages to make us squirm?

You have a right to harvest the fruit of your labor.

Be gracious and welcoming, you sowed the seed. However unexpected, reaping a reward is the natural result of quality work. Spread the wealth–tell others how they influenced the outcome.

I am still learning how to do this.

Last night, I stood in front of my Pathophysiology students as a lecturer for the last time. Ten of the thirteen women in the room sat in the same room on my first night as a professor. Next week is their exam and I’m leaving at the end of the quarter, so it was our final evening together.

As usual, a quiz signaled the start of class. Shortly thereafter, I received a bevy of parting gifts, including a load of my favorite candy bars and healthy snacks. To top everything off, they took the time to print and frame a certificate of excellence complete with handwritten notes on it from each woman.

A tribute of any kind, let alone one so heartfelt and thoughtful, touches a person beyond the bounds of words.

One of them happened upon a blog I wrote about three months ago, the most-viewed post I’ve ever written.

It is about them.

Somewhat surprised to see my musings have been found by those who have inspired–at least indirectly–a good chunk of what I’ve written, I decided to pull back the curtain and reveal a little more to them. I was unintentionally given the opportunity to recognize their place in my growth as an instructor and a person, to honor the role they have played in my life.

I took them on a quick and unrehearsed tour of my leadership philosophy and observations about life. In the end, I challenged them to lean on each other for support and step to the forefront of the program and the university as a whole–my unspoken goal for them from the beginning.

In closing, before we shared some laughs while passing through many memories, I shared with them a paraphrase of these words from Ralph Nader:

I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.

I am incredibly thankful to have opened the gift I wanted, to have witnessed the growth of those under my supervision.

It is about them.

It always was.

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6 Lessons from a First Class Leader

I’ve completed my first session as a college professor.

After an eleven-week accelerated schedule, I’m in the midst of a thirteen-day gap between quarters and have had time to ponder what my pupils taught me.

“The student becomes the teacher” carries new weight in my mind.

The irony of productive leadership is the mutual nature of the relationship between the “higher” and “lower” levels.

I guarantee the most game-changing companies are helmed by individuals open to learning from (and exchanging ideas with) their charges. Why?

Exposure to other viewpoints and strange questions spurs growth in many directions.

The naiveté of fresh eyes invites reconsideration of old knowledge. Channeled appropriately, the resulting energy bubbles new ideas to the surface and energizes all parties. Such an environment is invariably the breeding ground of creativity and its money-making ancestor: innovation.

Several things are crucial to developing and maintaining dynamic rapport–and, by proxy, progress.

Being at the front of the class has given me these glaring examples:

1. Expectations are important
The first night of class, I took a flier and decided to open the evening with activities designed to smoke out what they believed to be “best practices” for instructors. Giving them the opportunity to have a voice in the course’s direction allowed me to set high standards for their performance.

If you get behind your people–and they will know when you are–it gives them something to rise to.

2. Rules must be spoken
Difficulties arise when an unwritten code is unwittingly trampled on. I nearly doomed the educator-apprentice relationship with an unfair exam in mid-April.

I operated under the assumption their study habits included reviewing the illustrations in addition to their notes.

They thought my outlines were the only important material.

The test blew them out of the water.

I was almost burned at the stake.

So I decided to…

3. Admit mistakes
On the way home from nearly being torched, I called an old friend to discuss the evening’s events. I resolved to apologize for my errors in judgment and throw out the exam.

“Are you crazy?!” she asked. “What doctor do you know who did that when we were in school?”

“None of them,” I answered, “but maybe that was the problem.”

Regardless of what anyone says, acknowledging missteps fosters deeper commitment–as long as you ensure it only happens once.

I used the opportunity to redefine the rules and remove doubts, which I believe led to better results.

(See #1.)

4. People drink on their own
You can pull with all your might, yet the horse will always sip from the well at whatever pace–and amount–it chooses.

I butted heads repeatedly with a particular student, insisting her hard work and faithful preparation would be rewarded–to the point I got so frustrated one evening I directed her toward the door.

She resisted the message with all her strength, yet the smile on her face when handing in her final showed me it had trickled in some–and made the battles worthwhile.

5. Humor is necessary
The day-to-day grind of any task becomes monotonous at times. Injecting laughter into a situation–like a running joke of people “agreeing with me” as they nodded off to sleep–makes the slog that much more bearable.

6. Roll with the punches
Your ability to take the group’s temperature quickly and navigate a situation is crucial to successful outcomes. I often found myself talking to a room half-full of zombies after the brain drain of my trademark 50-question evaluations.

The lecture moved slower.

Repetition increased.

Class ended early.

The lesson was still effective.

Your ability to shift gears on the fly and make educated decisions or give quality answers instills confidence–inside and out.

Building trust in this way accelerates grand achievement.

With this in effect–finding ways to put those under your supervision first–your organization can only blossom.

Understanding what others anticipate, using levity to cool the air and fessing up to poor decisions displays humanity.

Accepting people as they are, creating fair guidelines for conduct and being adaptable exhibits even-handed control.

Combine them artfully and you’ll paint a masterpiece.

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Life-saving Experience

Go to a busy hospital if you want to live.

According to a study published in New England Journal of Medicine, your chances of surviving the big three–a heart attack, heart failure or pneumonia–increase appreciably when you walk (or are carried) through the doors of an active emergency room. Your likelihood of living beyond the 30-day mark in some cases jumps 10%. At the brink of life and death, that’s a big deal. There’s more, though:

Patient satisfaction rates are higher, too.

It seems the knack for nailing the diagnosis and carrying out treatment becomes smoother as visit numbers go up. The staff delivers the correct medications, finds the appropriate specialists and moves the patient to the proper areas swiftly. Administrative hiccups are minimized and the delicate ballet of a hospital stay briskly passes from admission to release.

Why?

In a word, “experience.” Seeing hundreds of cases with a similar presentation helps doctors and nurses identify issues quickly. When every moment counts, the collective memory of successes and failures guides efficient action. A veteran professional spots the nuances on the fine line between “critical” and “stable” to prevent a “turn for the worse” and produce a “pull through.”

There’s a reason it’s called “medical practice.”

From the beginning, practitioners in every discipline are exposed to laundry lists of signs and symptoms for every condition on the planet. After that, it’s time to confront defeat. Everybody dies. Managing the emotions of losing out  and understanding what was missed is the core of working in healthcare. Without the wisdom of hindsight, the next patient’s odds of making it plateau at best.

If everything went perfectly, you’d never improve.

The mental torment of falling short, when it spurs thoughtful consideration of performance, is the chisel of your greatness. Each disappointment is a hammer stroke, chipping away piece after piece, until you are the phenomenal work of art you were made to be.

Each event, regardless of the outcome, shapes your future.

You learn based on punishment and reward.When you apply information gained through hardship, you determine the value of the happenings of a day. Utilizing that knowledge to identify similarities and avoid the missteps you’ve made before is what leads to success, whether at a bedside or in a boardroom.

You’ll recognize opportunities and threats easily. You’ll select a path faster than before. You’ll move confidently in the face of crisis, then act to prevent recurrence. You’ll feel assured, galvanized by the education you’ve received on the sharp edge of your mistakes. You’ll make better choices.

Before you know it, you’ll save your own life.

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