Lead-Wise

MEANINGFUL & IMPACTFUL RESULTS

Category: Organization (page 1 of 3)

What Does It Mean – To Be An Effective Leader?

Many current and aspiring leaders across the world grapple with a basic question:
What areas of competencies are needed to become an effective leader?

My first podcast focuses on the required awareness of fundamental leadership capabilities and the four competency areas for leadership success in any environment.

For HR professionals – Making Your Voice Heard

We recently saw in the press about an employee situation in a leading IT organization in India. HR was blamed by many. There will be many occasions in organizations that involve difficult situations to execute and the pressure seems high. One of the most common reasons cited in such situations is financial pressure.

Many times, a different contradicting view is not raised by HR because of the fear for their own jobs, to avoid conflict with the leaders who are more powerful, whose support is needed and to avoid personal issues. Business leaders play a key role in making their HR teams comfortable and confident for such discussions.

An important lesson for HR professional here is to clearly listen to oneself, think from multiple perspectives and highlight one’s point of view, when experience and conscience clearly tells something is amiss. You have to take responsibility for a decision that you are involved in and highlight concerns at the time of review. When a delicate situation goes out of control later, you will most probably see others pointing towards you, though you were not the only person in that room. Sometimes, these may involve ethical scenarios that can come back and haunt the organization in a major way (eg. recent harassment claims in a prominent U.S. organization). The situation may require you to take a clear stand that sometimes creates tension.

For any professional, it is also important to build your credibility by constantly interacting with all key leaders regarding your points of view. One needs to develop trust, skill, knowledge and credibility to initiate and influence such discussions.

Poor leadership is seen when business or organizational leaders hide behind HR teams for decisions made and don’t feel comfortable communicating themselves. The best business leaders take responsibility for leading their organizations, initiate discussions through leadership channels and actively partner with their HR teams. They form a great partnership to build an engaged culture and everyone wins in the process, especially the organization. As an HR professional, it is important to realize you are ultimately safeguarding the organization and key stakeholder interest when you bring different and sometimes contradicting perspectives to a complex discussion.

I once interacted with a headhunter team who were sourcing for a HR Head in a startup. They seemed to become upset and dismissive on being asked related questions and ended up responding quite unprofessionally. It made me wonder that if they could not tolerate detailed questions about the organization while searching for an HR leader, what sort of HR professional and team would be hired.

We see this aspect become increasingly relevant for organizations to acknowledge. Many times, issues and scenarios go out of control because of the “How”, not the “What”. In today’s world, where everyone has access to both channels and sources of information, the professional and balanced HR perspective internally or externally, becomes critical for every professional and organization to develop, succeed and thrive.

Leadership Development For Smaller Organizations In The New Year – 4 Topics To Consider

Happy New Year to all readers!

Many smaller organizations find it difficult to figure out relevant activities in the area of leadership/management development. Related questions come up frequently and at times, a mistaken perception exists that leadership/management development is only applicable to larger organizations.

If left ignored, this is one area that will hurt any organization in many ways. Worrying symptoms start showing up in different areas for the organization including stakeholder engagement, execution and it becomes difficult to diagnose the real problem as time passes.

Here are four topics under leadership/management development for leaders and HR teams to consider.

  1. Any development effort starts with developing self awareness. Leadership self awareness development can start with understanding oneself deeper through facilitated 360 degree/other feedbacks, personality assessments (like MBTI, Hogan etc.) and follow-up reflections/coaching sessions. These sessions can be facilitated at the individual or team level, or a combination of both for quality reflection and action. Periodic follow-up interventions are invaluable for any development effort. Self aware leaders also recognize coaching opportunities for themselves and their team members toward meaningful results.
  2. A related impactful area to consider focusing on is leadership team development. Many leaders miss the opportunity or don’t take the time to consciously reflect on establishing the building blocks of developing an effective team and co-creating a focused agenda with the team. When teams are not developed consciously and carefully especially at senior levels, it leaves room for potential confusion, conflict and frustration. Even for well established teams, this is an important topic to revisit consistently and not to be taken for granted. Supporting leadership transitions in this context also become highly relevant.
  3. Building a shared understanding of what “leadership“or being a leader in the organization means (leadership constructs) will help clarify expectations. Support can be provided through training programs for first time managers, middle managers and leaders. The more leaders understand what it means to be and is expected from a leader in the organization, the more impactful results organizations can consistently achieve through them.
  4. Building a shared understanding on the organization’s strategy, values and culture is often an important item that loses focus. Many times, the clarity on values and culture stays strong with only the founding or early members. As a result, many people tend to apply their own interpretations which leads the organization’s value system in different directions and dilution over time. Sometimes, there is a need for a discussion on how the culture has evolved or needs to change in the context of business direction. Reinforcing and aligning the organization’s understanding and shared beliefs will ensure stronger cohesion, commitment and execution across the board. This can be facilitated through various well designed OD/HR, engagement and communication initiatives.

If you are a leader or HR professional in a smaller organization considering impactful activities to implement in leadership/management development, these may be some practical and actionable ideas to think about for the new year. It is important to constantly be aware of the paradox of busyness & development.

Best wishes for a Meaningful, Impactful and Successful 2017.

Tojo
Lead-Wise

An Approach To Differentiate And Stand Out At Work Anywhere

 

This situation plays out constantly in multiple local and multinational environments. A customer walks to a service counter (banks, hotels, airlines etc.), government/corporate office or store with a need for support from the staff.

If the staff member’s response focuses on why your request cannot be processed, won’t work or only through a difficult and inconvenient set of steps, you feel dissatisfied with the service and think it was a waste of time. If you notice a similar continuing trend with the same individual, you will try to avoid interaction with that staff member in future.

If the professional’s response and action focuses on the solutions or alternatives for you as the customer, you feel happy and more satisfied.

It is important to be aware that we ourselves could be in that situation.

The key differentiator for any professional here is your focus and approach to a solution. When your focus and actions are aligned to working out solutions and not getting stuck in problems, your customers prefer to return to you and recognize you as a professional who can get things done efficiently for them. 

While it is important to understand, acknowledge and think through the problem at hand, what matters more for your customer is where your focus, energy and communication are directed. We see many professionals who get stuck in the process or problem side.

On the other side, as customers ourselves as well, it is worthwhile to think how willing and flexible we are.

Even though this is not a new concept or idea, we encounter such scenarios very regularly in our daily lives. It therefore becomes really important to remind ourselves and others about this simple yet powerful message.

Largest HR Competency Study Results (2016) Are Out

2016 Round 7 of the Human Resource Competency Study (running since 1987) by The RBL Group and the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, involved over 30,000 surveys ratings, 23 regional partners and around 4,000 HR professionals around the globe.

CEO surveys increasingly point to businesses winning through differentiating themselves through organization and people.  This research identified what individual HR professionals should know and do to respond to these business opportunities.

In my opinion, the latest competency model also reflects the increasing complexity and demands on the global HR professional.  Here’s a quick introduction to the model and some of my selected notes from the RBL Group HRCS report.  The findings have implications for who is hired into HR and the development, promotion and rewarding of HR professionals.

The report shares nine competencies through which HR professionals deliver business value.

Three Core Competencies
1. Strategic positioner – applies knowledge of business context and strategy.
2. Credible activist – builds relationships of trust and influence with key people within the organization.
3. Paradox navigator – navigates the many embedded tensions in business operations.

Six HR enablers
Three of these enablers focus on building a strategic organization:
1. Culture and change champion – makes change happen and weaves change initiatives into culture change.
2. Human capital curator – manages the flow of talent by developing people and leaders, driving individual performance, and building technical talent.
3. Total reward steward – manages employee well-being through financial and non-financial rewards.
Three enablers focus on tactical delivery:
4. Technology and media integrator – uses technology and social media to create and drive high-performing organizations.
5. Analytics designer and interpreter – uses analytics to improve decision making.
6. Compliance manager – manages the processes related to compliance by following regulatory guidelines.

According to the study, some competencies seem more critical for certain stakeholders.  Creating value for internal stakeholders, such as line managers and employees, requires being a credible activist. Creating value for external stakeholders such as investors and external customers, however, requires being a strategic positioner.

The study also found that about 50 percent of the perceived performance of HR professionals comes from their competencies.  About 35% of the perceived performance of HR professionals comes from their demographics and career histories.

A key overarching finding was that the activities of HR departments as a whole consistently explain more of the department’s performance than the competencies of the HR professionals within those departments.

Activities of HR departments that most impacted HR value creation for key stakeholders
1. Employee performance HR practices: HR activities that help employees develop their skills and abilities.
2. Integrated HR practices: HR activities that offer integrated and innovative solutions to business problems.
3. HR analytics practices: HR activities related to a scorecard for the HR department.
4. HR role in information management: HR role in managing information to make better business decisions.

HR professionals have more impact on key stakeholders when they work as an effective HR department. The report also notes that the old adage, “I like my HR professional, but I hate HR” needs to change because the HR department’s activities have more impact on all stakeholders than individual HR professionals.

For those interested in learning more, you can find Dr. Dave Ulrich’s videos introducing the latest model and competencies here.

(Previously posted on LinkedIn)

References
1. HRCS Round 7 – Creating HR Value From The Outside-In
https://s3.amazonaws.com/rblip/HRCS/pdf/hrcs-7-report.pdf?utm_source=RBL+Newsletter&utm_campaign=867e0e23f2-11_15_Newsletter_Test11_20_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_24fb7cc248-867e0e23f2-19097425

The Rise of HR – Wisdom From 10 Thought Leaders In 20 Sentences

Rise of HR_Image

“The Rise of HR: Wisdom from 73 Thought Leaders,” is a recent anthology published by the HR Certification Institute in collaboration with Dave Ulrich, Professor, University of Michigan and Co-founder of The RBL Group, Bill Schiemann, CEO, Metrus Group, Inc. and Libby Sartain, Business Advisor and Board Member.

As I was reading through few chapters, I thought it would be worthwhile to attempt consolidating the following ten themes from leading HR voices (relevant chapters indicated under ‘References’ below).

  1. The HR professional of today is more likely to be a talent expert, a technology expert and a consultant.  They must focus on 3 categories of skills: how to recruit, develop, and manage people; how to organize, enable and improve the organization; and how to manage, leverage, and exploit data and technology.
  2. Getting the transformational change process right in an organization means attending to the Structural, Cultural and Human elements. All change requires an expenditure of physical, emotional and cognitive resources that should be prioritized like any other organizational asset.
  3. HR leaders need to be conductors of the organizational orchestra, by coordinating the orchestra and being comfortable balancing the various tensions (individual versus firm, star versus supporting players, timing, and flow).  Three key elements underlying the new HR are talent, data and strategy, and require an ability to coordinate alignment across different levels of organizational hierarchy.
  4. HR professionals will need to spend more time thinking about and developing strategies for operating in what has become a transparent world.  More than ever before, HR professionals have to approach their role by constantly reminding their organization to consider the question: What would happen if an employee or customer saw this, or if this appeared on the front page of the newspaper?
  5. Creation of an employer brand is as important as our corporate brand – and thus HR and marketing should be attached at the hip.  In this age of transparency, employees are the media and HR is essential to marketing, as they deliver on the brand promise day in and day out.
  6. In any business dialogue, an HR professional can proffer three unique contributions – Talent, Leadership and Organization.  Three dimensions of competitive organization are organizational capabilities (what the organization is known for, good at doing, how it allocates resources), culture (pattern of how people think and act) and management actions (intellectual, behavioral and process agendas).
  7. Culture is the catalyst that connects executive leadership goals to HR goals and creates a perpetual winning environment.  Great cultures are created through everyday relationships that employees have with leaders, their work and with one another.
  8. Success in any field is based on two characteristics: long term resilience and the ability to be centered, or “in the zone” more frequently.  This resilience center spans five aspects of our lives: our emotions, our physical selves, our spirits, our finances and our relationships.
  9. Workforce metrics is strategically important for firms because the workforce is most firms’ single largest expenditure – and the least scrutinized in assessing its impact on value creation.  HR must focus on delivering outcomes that enable top-line growth through the firm’s strategic mindset and by leveraging the performance of individual roles that impact value creation and top-line growth.
  10. Forward-thinking HR organizations choose their leadership arenas carefully, letting others take the lead when trends are new to HR, and taking a leadership role as HR becomes more involved.  It means gaining credibility with functional partners from other disciplines so that they welcome the involvement of HR in their domain and are willing to help translate and apply their expertise to HR issues.

Hope these are helpful notes for valuable reflection, action and further reading for HR professionals around the world.  A strong community of highly capable and committed HR professionals, leaders and organizations is fundamental for the rise of HR and its future evolution.

References
* Book Website – http://hrleadsbusiness.org/rise-of-hr-e-book
1. HR’s Role In The Digital Workplace: A Time For Reinvention, Josh Bersin
2. The Case For Change Capability: How HR Can Step Up…, Holly Burkett
3. The Reluctant HR Champion?, Robert Ployhart
4. HR And Transparency, Susan Meisinger
5. Think Like A Marketer!, Libby Sartain
6. From War For Talent To Victory Through Organization, Dave Ulrich
7. CEOs Want Better Performance.  Great Culture Can Make It Happen, China Gorman
8. Finding Our Resilient Center, William G. Ingham
9. HR Analytic And Metrics: Scoring On The Business Scorecard, Richard W. Beatty
10. Avoiding The “Profession” Trap By Reaching Out And Retooling HR, John W. Boudreau

Leadership Trust At Any Level – 6 “Be”s

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(Posted on LinkedIn on October 21, 2014.  Modified version of a previous post on www.tojoeapen.com/blog.)

One of the most common leadership questions and challenges we come across in organizations is “How do I/we build trust?”.

This is a topic that will be constantly revisited by many, in personal and professional lives. Trust can be built more consciously through repeated, consistent actions. Every action and behavior can contribute to building or breaking trust. When a healthy mass of leaders practice trust building behaviors in an organization, it starts to shift and impact the culture positively. You can also build some of these aspects into organizational practices and systems.

1. Be visible.
Don’t get too busy with meetings and spend most time within closed doors. All stakeholders, especially your team members have a high need to see their leaders, even more when uncertainty is high. As human beings, visibility is reassuring and, builds certainty and confidence.

2. Be respectful. 
Being respectful in your direct and virtual interactions, irrespective of organizational levels are major acknowledgments and motivators for individuals. The deeper you go in an organization, the more charged up and motivated individuals feel when leaders find time for them. Respecting personal space and feelings, especially during difficult phases go a long way to building commitment and trust.

3. Be aware (of self and impact of your behaviors and actions on others).
Take time to understand yourself, what drives you, your values, principles, strengths and development areas. Self awareness is the starting point of any personal development. Next stage is to understand others around you and the impact of your behaviors on them. Trust is a two way street and someone needs to extend a hand forward first to get the process of interactions into motion. It becomes even more powerful when you extend your hand first.

4. Be authentic (consistent in behaviors and actions). 
Be yourself. Don’t try to be someone else. Most people are smart enough to see through ‘fake’ and artificial personalities. This does not indicate the license to do whatever to be yourself, rather this is about being aligned to your values and principles. Practice what you preach. Admit mistakes with accountability when they happen and share recognition when success is achieved. Explain your thinking approach because people may think differently about a certain topic and struggle to see the rationale in another person’s point of view.

5. Be open (to discussions, while being conscious of biases).
Having the openness to discuss aspects that you may not agree with and have a strong view about, may help you see different possibilities and ideas. Sometimes, it helps to be open about the fact that you have a strong view for a certain reason. It also encourages others to share ideas and thoughts without fear. Presence of fear and defensiveness are among the biggest barriers to trust. It becomes more difficult to share mistakes that may come to haunt you later, or to speak up when the perceived power distance or threat of repercussion seems high. Being vulnerable, even to some extent is a big factor for others to see your humanness and increases accessibility.

6. Be fair (in your approach and communicate clearly, especially tough choices).
People can live with tough choices if they feel it was based on a fair process and they’re not being misled into believing so. Many times, lack of visibility on the process or the way it was communicated or an absence of it, results in difficult scenarios and contradictions for everyone involved.

To easily remember, we can also use the acronym ‘FAAVOR‘ (Fair, Aware, Authentic, Visible, Open, Respectful).

It is valuable to reflect constantly. Taking out some thinking time with yourself, your close connections, coaches or mentors can help you in finding more clarity. We all have different scenarios to think about and there are no perfect solutions. Observing, reflecting and adjusting our approaches accordingly would help to figure out an appropriate approach for our environment.

Over time and with practice, building trust becomes achievable and impactful through a concrete set of actions.

 

3 Omnipresent Leadership Coaching Scenarios

Posted on LinkedIn on September 16, 2014

We see these scenarios play out in organizations every day but leaders seldom seem to act with urgency or seriousness to support development for themselves or their teams through impactful coaching. Effective leadership impacts multiple lives, not just of employees but also their families and beyond. As we experience ourselves, emotions can be contagious and many times, our good and bad emotions stay with us beyond work.

The three most common leadership coaching scenarios I’ve observed in organizations, irrespective of locations around the world:

1. Strong Individual Contributor but Weak Leadership

2. Strong Technical/Analytic Skills but Weak Emotional Intelligence, Social, Communication Skills

3. Strong Execution but Weak Strategic and Long-term Thinking Skills

Would you agree?

Ignoring these weaknesses could lead to major derailers for leaders and organizations.

I have little doubt that disengagement in organizations stems from poor leadership and HR practices. Gallup’s 2013 State of the Global Workplace report found that only 30% of American employees, 15% of German employees, 9% of French employees, 6% of Chinese employees, 11% of Korean employees, and 9% of India’s employees were engaged at work actively sharing their best ideas and giving their all for high performance.

For leaders, it is important to recognize that building self-awareness requires a lot of work. The issue becomes compounded when leaders don’t seek feedback in the right manner and are surrounded by ‘yes’ people. In addition, they don’t receive adequate support or the ‘safe zone’ to reflect and modify their approaches. This leaves many teams and organizations with unresolved toxic emotions and issues.

If you are a leader or HR professional, please consider placing leadership coaching support and related skills high on your agenda – for yourself and others.

Have you encountered other common coaching scenarios?

Reference:
From Blue Ocean Strategy to Blue Ocean Leadership
http://knowledge.insead.edu/leadership-management/from-blue-ocean-strategy-to-blue-ocean-leadership-3577

India & Global Competitiveness – Miles To Go

The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index and report for 2014-2015 was released last week.

I am highlighting key notes on India from the report, as the topic of global competitiveness in today’s world is critical and impacts all our lives, directly or indirectly.  These notes indicate the amount of work and important contributions needed especially from our leaders, elected representatives, administrators and all key stakeholders in the public and private sectors.

The World Economic Forum defines competitiveness as the set of institutions, policies, and factors that determine the level of productivity of a country.  The Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) includes a weighted average of many components, each measuring a different aspect of competitiveness.  The components are grouped into 12 pillars: Institutions, Infrastructure, Macroeconomic environment, Health and primary education, Higher Education and training, Goods market efficiency, Labor market efficiency, Financial market development, Technological readiness, Market size, Business sophistication and Innovation.

These are the key notes on India:

  • Dropping for the sixth consecutive edition, India ranks 71st (down 11 from previous year) out of 144 economies in the Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) 2014-2015.  It is the lowest ranked among the BRICS economies.  China ranks 28th and continues to lead the BRICS economies by a wide margin-well ahead of Russia (53rd), South Africa (56th), Brazil (57th), and India (71st).
  • The rank differential with China (28th) has grown from 14 places in 2007 to 43 today; while India’s GDP per capita was higher than China’s in 1991, today China is four times richer.
  • Despite its immense potential and promise, by many accounts India continues to suffer from poverty.  A third of the population still lives in extreme poverty.
  • Overall, India does best in the more complex areas of the GCI: innovation (49th) and business sophistication (57th).
  • In contrast, it obtains low marks in the more basic and more fundamental drivers of competitiveness.  India ranks 98th on the health and primary education pillar.  The health situation is alarming: infant mortality and malnutrition incidence are among the highest in the world; only 36 percent of the population have access to improved sanitation; and life expectancy is Asia’s second shortest, after Myanmar.  On a more positive note, India is on track to achieve universal primary education, although the quality of primary education remains poor (88th) and it ranks allow 93rd in the higher education and training pillar of the GCI.
  • Transport and electricity infrastructure are in need of upgrading (87th).  Addressing the infrastructure gap will require very strong participation on the part of private and foreign investors through public-private partnerships.  For these types of investments to materialize, the institutional framework needs to improve.
  • There are encouraging signs.  India has achieved spectacular progress in various measures of corruption and now ranks 65th.  Red tape seems to be less of an issue than it had been, and government efficiency is equally improving.  However, the overall business environment and market efficiency (95th, down 10 places) are undermined by protectionism, monopolies, and various distortionary measures, including subsidies and administrative barriers to entry and operation.
  • The World Bank estimated that it takes 12 procedures (130th) and almost a month to register a business (106th).  In addition, it calculated that taxes for a typical registered firm amount, on average, to 63 percent of its profits (130th).  The labor market is inefficient and rigid (112th).  These factors contribute to the high cost of integrating more businesses into the formal economy.  Some estimates find that the informal sector accounts for half of India’s economic output and 90 percent of its employment.  It is therefore urgent that the government create the right incentives for businesses to register and contribute their fair share to the provision of public services.
  • India achieves its lowest rank among the 12 pillars in technological readiness (121st).  Despite mobile telephony being almost ubiquitous, India is one of the world’s least digitally connected countries.  Only 15 percent of Indians access the Internet on a regular basis. Broadband Internet, if available at all, remains the privilege of a very few.  India’s knack for frugal innovation should contribute to providing cheap solutions for bridging this digital divide.
  • India’s fiscal situation remains a concern, as evidenced by the country’s 101st rank in the macroeconomic environment pillar of the GCI.
  • Because of the high degree of informality, the tax base is relatively narrow, representing less than 10 percent of GDP.  In addition, over the past several years India has experienced persistently high, in some years near double-digit, inflation.
  • Despite the abundance of low-cost labor, India has a very narrow manufacturing base.  Manufacturing accounts for less than 15 percent of India’s GDP.  Agriculture represents 18 percent of output and employs 47 percent of the workforce.  Low productivity in the sector means very low wages.  The services sector accounts for just 28 percent of employment but for 56 percent of the economy.  White collar jobs remain rare.  The business-process outsourcing sector employs 3.1 million workers, or 0.6 percent of India’s 482 million strong labor force (but accounts for 6 percent of GDP).  India needs to create jobs in the “missing middle” for the 610 million youths under 25—half of India’s population— who have recently entered or will soon enter the workforce.
  • India’s competitiveness is also reduced when sustainability is taken into account.  Social sustainability is hindered mainly by the population’s very uneven access to sanitation (only 36 percent of Indians have access to these basic services) and high rates of vulnerable employment.  India’s environmental performance is also below par because the country’s natural assets are depleting.  Air quality has slightly improved, but concentrations of particulate matter and carbon intensity are still very high.  In addition, the limited treatment of wastewater is increasing pressure on India’s water tables, and limited protected areas are wearing down the assessment of the quality of the natural environment.  Although on some issues the authorities are working to improve the situation, little action has been taken on specific but significant areas of environmental management.

Improving competitiveness will yield India huge benefits.  It will help rebalance the economy and move the country up the value chain so as to ensure more solid and stable growth; which in turn could result in more employment opportunities for the country’s rapidly growing population.

There is a tremendous amount of work to be done with strong leadership focus at all levels of governance and partnerships.  It is encouraging to see India’s new prime minister and team actively putting many of these core elements among top priorities for the nation.  Hopefully, we can all contribute in our own ways to at least one of the pillars to ensure effective progress.  There is a long way to go and lots of committed work to reach our aspirations as a nation.  Like it or not, our competitiveness as a country impacts all our lives.

Best wishes…

Note: Special thank you to my Rutgers professor, Dr. Randall Schuler for actively influencing and instilling the habit of following and thinking about global reports, trends and indicators.

Reference:
World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness report 2014-2015

Fundamental Thinking For Healthcare Providers

How many of us have been to a hospital during the past year, for ourselves or others? Healthcare providers play a vital role in our lives.  The frequency of our visits go up over time and very few of us go to a hospital with total peace of mind.  It is important for healthcare providers to recognize this, as they play a huge role in the patient’s and family’s wellbeing.  There is more to patient care.

In India, it seems that the healthcare infrastructure has developed admirably in many places with the latest equipments, medicines and many technical services (and fees) but the quality of interactions, interfaces and emotional intelligence skills leave a lot to be desired.  On the other side, customer/patient experience and satisfaction haven’t kept up.  People are constantly on the lookout for the next best service provider and willing to pay more for better services.  We seem to have many skilled experts who have low emotional intelligence/social skills and caring approach with their patients.  Medical schools, hospitals and clinics can progress a long way by developing these skills consciously from the early school training phase and revising every ‘touch-point’ with their customers/patients across their systems.  These aspects have to be revisited constantly but first there needs to be a clear intent to change.

Emotional Intelligence (EI) can be defined as a set of abilities (verbal and non-verbal) that enable a person to generate, recognize, express, understand and evaluate their own and others’ emotions in order to guide thinking and action.  It includes two key perspectives – interpersonal (insight into others) and intrapersonal (self awareness).

So, what could we learn from related studies and research around the world?

Patients who feel that their physicians treat them with respect and fairness, communicate well and engage with them outside of the office setting are more active in their own health care.  The researchers looked at four factors: the quality of the patient-physician relationship, including how well patients felt their doctors communicated with them; how much respect and fairness patients felt they received; the involvement of the patient in setting treatment goals; and the frequency of any patient-physician communications outside of the office setting, such as email or phone calls. Each of these factors was associated with greater patient engagement, with the exception of involvement in the setting of treatment goals.  Getting patients to be more active in their own care is important and this can be decreased by a power differential in the relationship between physician and patient.

Physicians often underestimate patients’ desire for information. In one study – in 65% of the encounters doctors underestimated patients’ desire for information, in 6% they overestimated, and in 29% they estimated correctly.  Doctors’ information-giving, was significantly related to patient satisfaction.  Affective behavior (especially non-verbal behavior: eye contact, shown interest) appeared to be very important in determining patients’ satisfaction.

Low physician emotional intelligence is associated with greater illness and health care utilization.  Empathy may be the most important component of emotional intelligence in the healthcare setting.  Given the importance, even centrality, of empathy to the doctor–patient relationship, testing for empathy in medical student applications or development deserves more attention. Issues within the system, e.g.. among doctors, nurses and other staff members also affect patients.  

The results of the 2009 Doctor-Nurse Behavior Survey (American College of Physician Executives) indicated that nearly 98 percent of the survey respondents reported witnessing behavior problems between doctors and nurses in the past year.  While disruptive behavior is terrible, no matter whom the target, the problem becomes especially worrisome when it affects innocent third parties – patients and their families. It is also important to acknowledge that healthcare providers themselves need support, while having to work with very difficult environments and emotions.

A recent study in Kerala indicated that patience, care and concern of doctors and nurses, doctors’ interest in patients and the comfort provided by them were vital factors impacting patients’ satisfaction.  This seems to be aligned with the above studies.

A pivotal study shows that when the brain fires up the network of neurons that allows us to empathize, it suppresses the network used for analysis.  It is important to be aware that when the analytic network is engaged, our ability to appreciate the human cost of our action is repressed.  In short, we have a built-in neural constraint on our ability to be both empathetic and analytical at the same time.

If you work in healthcare, it would be very worthwhile to review your own self awareness, emotional intelligence and conscious development, at an individual and systemic level.  Deep expertise in medical science might lead to a heavy reliance on the analytic brain network – we need both analytical and social.

I leave you with one important question for reflection:

How would it feel if you and your family were on the receiving side of your own service?

“As healthcare professionals, sometimes we fail to see the whole picture.  We don’t see the patient, the person, the human being, the mother who had brought up a family who were desperately worried about her condition.” – Dr. Penny Sartori


References/Resources:

Emotional intelligence and patient-centred care, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1939962/

Doctor-Patient Relationship Influences Patient Engagement, November 29, 2011, Valerie DeBenedette, http://www.cfah.org/hbns/2011/doctor-patient-relationship-influences-patient-engagement

Doctor-patient interaction, patients’ health behavior and effects of treatment, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6474225

Emotional intelligence and empathy: its relevance in the clinical encounter, Paul Burcher , Dove Press Journal, May 2011

Bad Blood: Doctor-Nurse Behavior Problems Impact Patient Care, Carrie Johnson, https://www.ache.org/policy/doctornursebehavior.pdf

DOCTOR-PATIENT COMMUNICATION: A REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE, L.M.L.ONG, J.C.J.M.DEHAES, A.M.Hoos, and F.B.LAMMES, http://tusk.tufts.edu/auth/pdf/529179.pdf

Role of Empathy In Ensuring Patient Satisfaction At Government Hospitals In Kerala: An Investigation, Rehin.K.R, Dr. Raveendran. P.T.

Empathy represses analytic thought, and vice versa, http://blog.case.edu/think/2012/10/30/empathy_represses_analytic_thought_and_vice_versa

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