Friday, April 28, 2017
When June became aware her growing impatience with her staff was a result from trying to solve a problem that was not a problem to solve but a polarity to leverage, her capacity to be an effective leader increased.
Healthcare leaders are master problem solvers. There are many situations and issues that daily require problem solving skills and decision making. For example, do we need a policy for xyz? Who should we have complete the survey? And, Should Mary be promoted to nurse manager? Problems to solve have end points. They are not ongoing. They have mutually exclusive opposites. Problems to solve require Or thinking.
Polarities require Both/And thinking. Both sides of the polarity are important. There is a natural tension in polarities and the oscillation between both sides is ongoing. Other realities about polarities include:
· Polarities are inherently unsolvable in that you cannot choose one pole of the pair as a “solution” to the neglect of the other pole and be successful over time.
· If you treat a polarity as if it were a problem to solve, the natural tension between the poles becomes a negative, self-re-enforcing loop or “vicious cycle” leading to unnecessary dysfunction, pain and suffering.
· If you can see a polarity within an issue, you can leverage the natural tension between the poles so it becomes a positive, self-re-enforcing loop or “virtuous cycle” lifting you and your organization to goals unattainable with OR thinking alone.
· The natural tension within all polarities is often experienced as resistance. Polarity thinking helps us leverage the wisdom within this resistance. It helps us convert resistance to change into a resource for stability AND change.
· Polarity thinking helps us see ourselves and our world more completely thus increasing our capacity to love.
Dr. Barry Johnson www.polaritypartnerships.com
In addition to Task AND Relationship, other common leadership polarities include: Stability AND Change, Candor AND Diplomacy, Directive AND Participative, Collaborate AND Compete, and Conditional Respect AND Unconditional Respect.
What can we do when we experience the tensions and dilemmas of polarities? Dr. Barry Johnson created the Polarity Map™ and his team at Polarity Partnerships created the 5 Step S.M.A.L.L process to help leaders leverage polarities.
Seeing – Identify the tension and the two interdependent poles that when leveraged well will create a virtuous cycle toward a greater purpose.
Mapping – Determine the upsides (values) and downsides (fears) of both poles.
Assessing – Gather data to determine how well or how poorly we are leveraging the polarity.
Learning – Understand what we learn from the assessment.
Leveraging – Create action steps and early warning signs that provide us a path to navigate the energy of the polarity.
June’s map helped her organize the energy she was experiencing while feeling impatient with her staff and acknowledge the oscillation of energy needed in the polarity of Task AND Relationship to help her reach her greater purpose of being an effective and inspiring leader.
Polarity Thinking – Dr. Barry Johnson www.polaritypartnerships.com
Blog post submitted by: Danine Casper, MHA, St. Joseph’s Adjunct Faculty Member HA 511 Leadership in Health Administration. Danine is also a Leadership Coach and Consultant. www.aponicoaching.com and is completing the Polarity Mastery Program to be a licensed polarity consultant.
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Healthcare leaders work in complex and continuously changing environments. The challenges in this environment require new levels of leadership effectiveness. Leaders who capitalize on complexity have the capacity to supplement Either/Or problem solving skills with Both/And thinking.
June’s story illustrates developing leadership effectiveness using a polarity lens.
Feeling the pressure to meet performance improvement goals, June noticed herself becoming increasingly impatient with her staff. She asked for help to ensure her staff implemented her well-developed strategy and completed their tasks. Before discussing this, June agreed to explore her experience of being impatient and the impact it was having on her and the team.
During our conversation, June became aware that her impatience was connected to her need to control the outcome of the project in order to be recognized for the achievement and avoid the embarrassment of failure. This awareness shifted June’s perspective from wanting to control the outcome to ensuring she was being an effective leader. We discussed this dilemma and tension using the lens of Polarity Thinking.
Polarities are “An interdependent pair of values or alternative points of view that appear different and unrelated, competitive, or even opposite, but in reality need each other over time to reach outcomes neither can reach alone.” (Wesorick, 2016 p.6) Polarity Thinking supplements Either/Or problem solving with Both/And thinking.
June was experiencing a common leadership polarity: Task AND Relationship. Task and relationship each have a pole in the polarity and each have important values and benefits. However, when one pole of a polarity is overemphasized to the neglect of the other pole, over time, the result will be to experience a negative, defeating energy; a vicious energy system leading toward a deeper fear. June realized her impatience was due to her overemphasis on task to the neglect of relationships driven by her fear of failure and letting her team down.
When we find ourselves in the energy of the downside of the pole we have overemphasized, we have a natural tendency to course correct. June acknowledged when she notices herself becoming impatient it is a warning sign for her to evaluate how she is leveraging Task AND Relationships and adjust her energy accordingly.
As June recognized the impact her overemphasis on task was having on her team, she described what she and her team were missing out on by not leveraging the value of relationships. When they trust and support one another, they know their achievement far exceeds what any one of them could accomplish alone. When both Task and Relationship are leveraged a virtuous energy system is created that leads to the teams greater purpose of creating a thriving workplace.
At the end of our conversation June shared she was grateful for her new awareness that being an effective leader required her to have the knowledge and skills for the tasks to be accomplished AND self-awareness to recognize when there is a problem to solve or a polarity to leverage.
Part 2 of this blog will explore problems to solve and polarities to leverage along with a Polarity Map® and Five-Step S.M.A.L.L process for individuals and teams to leverage polarities.
Wesorick, B. (2016) Polarity Thinking in Healthcare: The Missing Logic to Achieve Transformation, Amherst, MA: HRD Press Inc.
Polarity Thinking – Dr. Barry Johnson www.polaritypartnerships.com
Blog post submitted by: Danine Casper, MHA, St. Joseph’s Adjunct Faculty Member HA 511 Leadership in Health Administration. Danine is also a Leadership Coach and Consultant. www.aponicoaching.com
Thursday, April 13, 2017
For several decades, our society has known that Baby Boomers would re-define what it means to age. Some aspects of “conventional wisdom” are now being challenged. I’ve recently challenged some of my students in a gerontology class to think about their own retirement. Assuming they will retire at the age of 65, and their life expectancy will give them quite a few healthy years beyond that, what would they want to do? Asking this question of people in their 20’s and 30’s can yield interesting results.
In Long Term Care, we’re developing an appreciation that quality of life is just as important as quality of care. What makes life meaningful and purposeful? Upon admission, we ask residents about their past hobbies and interests in order to support those areas. Often, though, I’ve heard people mention an area of interest that they haven’t pursued. “I’ve always wanted to take up painting, photography, music, reading for pleasure, etc., but between work and raising a family, I’ve haven’t had time.” The so-called golden years may be a time to take up a new hobby, too. We’re dispelling the idea that seniors can’t learn new things.
Elderhostel is a well-known program of designing classes for seniors. Teaching methods may differ somewhat from classes designed for “typical” college students, and the topics may not be commonly taught on college campuses.
Gerontological research is now showing that the abilities to think, learn, create, and innovate do not necessarily diminish with aging. People are often required to use these skills during their careers and child-rearing years. Upon retirement, the demand to use such skills may diminish, but the cognitive ability does not. Certain disease processes, such as dementia, may impact these skills, but aging itself does not. How can a senior use and sharpen such abilities?
First, the effort must be intentional. Pursue a new area of interest. Take classes through your adult education program or online (such as a course from Saint Joseph’s College!). Persist in learning a new skill, even if you aren’t proficient at first. The repetition of learning something new and practicing that skill can help to develop new neural pathways in the brain.
Secondly, hone your problem-solving skills. Mathematical puzzles such as Sudoku, and language puzzles such as crosswords, can train new neural pathways while also accessing previously known knowledge. I enjoy trying to figure out a mystery “whodunit.”
Third, view your personal history as an asset. By participating in classes with students from other generations, for example, you can lend your voice of expertise while also learning the new perspectives of others. I always enjoy teaching a multi-generational class where a variety of ideas can be shared. I’ve taken classes with students who were much older than myself, and I’ve admired them and the experiences they have shared. This may be the time to write your memoirs, make a quilt related to your family, or record stories about your family’s history, which will serve to benefit future generations.
Fourth, view your history in new ways. Gerontologist Harvey Lehman conducted a study of creativity in aging. He found that many of the most renowned sculptures in the art world were crafted by older artists. They used their life experience artistically in their work. If you create art, dance, music, etc., does the art you create at an older age take on a different, more mature meaning than it did at a younger age? The question may, or may not, be your skill level, but more importantly, the perspective presented by a more mature artist. Reclaim a long-forgotten hobby and compare your work of today with your work from decades ago.
Fifth, consider spending time in charitable work. Many seniors are taking time for short-term mission trips where they can use their skills for the benefit of others. Other cultures need your expertise in medical care, teaching, agriculture, and developing businesses, for example. Even if you can’t afford to travel to exotic locations, there are areas in the United States that need you, and there are growing opportunities for using these skills online. Many people express that they intended to bless others through their charitable work, but they received blessings as well.
Sixth, even if your senior years are compromised by health issues, find a way to give to others. In my work as a nursing home administrator, I found that depression and discouragement can be improved by focusing on the needs of others, not ourselves. Can you write letters to soldiers, knit mittens for underprivileged children, tutor children in reading, send care packages to college students, or record your own books for the blind? One of our most fun annual events was Bowl for Kids’ Sake, a bowling tournament to raise money for the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization. While the organization’s bowling tournament occurred at a bowling alley on a Saturday, our event was held on Friday on Wii. The organization brought our residents t-shirts, snacks, and prizes. One year the top fundraiser for the entire community was a nursing home resident! An important part of having purpose is the ability to give to others, to be a provider and not just a recipient.
Don’t let your assumptions define how you’ll spend your senior years. After all, this isn’t your grandmother’s retirement!
Submitted by Philip C. DuBois, CNHA, FACHCA, Program Manager, Long Term Care Administration, Saint Joseph's College