Are you Experiencing a Positive, Open Environment in Your Healthcare System?


“Wanting a more positive environment isn’t enough. You need to do something, and it doesn’t require a great deal of effort or some huge change in the way you approach things.”—Tom Rath

We recently traveled to a summit at the Cleveland Clinic where 2,000 people from hospitals around the world gathered to discuss empathy and openness in the health sphere. How inspiring it was to witness a group of healthcare leaders and workers concerned about creating environments of openness, understanding, and respect in their workplaces!

Imagine a concentric circle of increasing positive impact.


When the staff and medical teams at hospitals and clinics feel enthused by an engaging environment, their own feelings are projected outward and affect patients, patient families, visitors, and people who have never even been to the hospital but hear of the positive experience others have had there.

This impact is very tangible. I recently spoke with a client who told me she went to visit a patient in a hospital and she was so very impressed and touched by the security person and receptionist who welcomed her with friendly smiles and words. The respectful welcome was experienced at the nurse station also.  This seems small, right? And yet, she compared this experience to a previous one in which the hospital staff were not as welcoming. “If I ever get sick,” she said, “I’ll go to the hospital where I felt welcomed.”

The most effective advertisements are word-of mouth ones. When someone has a negative experience, they inform ten people, and those ten people inform ten more people, and pretty soon hundreds of people are aware of this negative experience. By contrast, the news of positive experiences may travel less, but such experiences are now so unique that even they travel.

How do we create a positive environment of respect in healthcare?

We have had successful experiences of creating positive cultures at health care systems and organizations across the globe.

We support people in widening their views of respect. Each person has a different definition of respect. We need to have conversations to understand what is most important to others.  Most of us don’t engage in such dialogue and believe our assumptions are accurate.  We have introduced OASIS Conversations which is a simple process of the five key moves that support connection.

The OASIS process is built on the value of giving empathy and cultivating an open mindset, which ultimately leads to refreshing conversations and meaningful connections with others. Hospitals are carefully evaluated and ranked, and the whole patient experience including interactions with hospital staff, nurses, and doctors factors into this ranking. Now more than ever it’s important to cultivate an engaging, oasis environment in these spaces.

Contact us to learn more about how to bring an oasis environment to your healthcare sphere.

Are You Creating a Coaching Culture in Your Team or Organization?

pablo (18)“What’s really driving the boom in coaching is this: as we move from 30 miles an hour to 70 to 120 to 180…as we go driving straight down the road to making right turns and left turns to abandoning cars and getting motorcycles… the whole game changes and a lot of people are trying to keep up, learn how not to fail.”—John Kotter, Harvard Business School

A recent study by the Conference Board revealed that top organizations are now exploring how to create coaching cultures. A survey by the International Coach Federation of over 500 of the largest companies in the United States found that companies with strong coaching cultures tended to have higher engagement and greater revenue growth in relation to industry peers. Such a culture does not diminish the need for performance and results but works on creating an environment where there is more dialogue and openness and encourages team members to explore new solutions to achieve greater results.

How would things be different if your team members worked on being open to one another and had strong connecting skills of listening and asking questions and establishing clear agreements? We all live in times of rapid change and uncertainty. We need to be resilient and innovative to stay in the game. Yet, people continue to be drained by the challenges of communicating with and inspiring their colleagues.

As an executive and team coach, I hear about the stress leaders experience when there is miscommunication, misalignment and mistrust. What’s required are open-minded conversations where people assume positive intent, seek understanding and can find common ground and shared purpose. Leaders and other professionals need the mindset and skills of coaches to create positive environments that enhance motivation and productivity.

I have supported cultural change in organizations for several decades. You need to equip team members with the mindset and skills to be effective. In addition, you need to address the systems and organizational norms to create an environment that fosters innovation. We have all experienced the difference in being in an environment that is open versus one that is closed. Working in a coaching, or what I call an open mindset culture, is the difference between feeling excited and supported for realizing results versus feeling constrained and drained.

People are quick to adapt an open mindset and coaching skills because they see their effectiveness and experience developing personally and professionally.

Feel free to contact to discuss further.

The New Normal

“There is a river flowing very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold onto the shore. They will feel torn apart and suffer greatly.

Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above water. And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate. –unamed Hopi Elder, Hopi Nation

I used to think busy or chaotic periods were just that—unique and that soon things would settle down and get back to normal.  Likewise, organizations would plan for implementing a change and then return to a steady state. Well… most of us have experienced change fatigue and now we need to accept that chaos and rapid change is the new normal.  The military coined the term VUCA to characterize our times—volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.

While we recognize that change is constant, disruptive and fast, we need to shift our internal paradigm of change.  How do we adapt? First, we need to give ourselves and others empathy.  The shifts we are experiencing are not easy and difficult to manage. In fact, the concept of managing may be outdated.  Instead, we need to be resilient and flexible and work with what is evolving. We need to work to be resilient and flexible.

The Hopi Elder suggests that rather than holding onto the shore for safety and fighting the elements that we allow ourselves to experience the river as it turns and shifts.  This does not mean we close our eyes and hope for the best. We can keep our heads above water by staying centered and present and making course corrections as we see obstacles. We can learn to ride the rapids. Ideally, we join with others and support each other on this challenging journey. When we relax into the evolving river of change we will see more opportunities.

Experiment with shifting your view of change from waiting for stability to learning to flow and experiencing the opportunities.  Who will you connect with on this journey for support?

Mindfulness on the Go

A coaching client told me that she enjoyed her morning quiet meditation and that she felt centered for a few hours.  As the day proceeded she felt less calm. She wondered if she should start meditating more times during the day and was a bit stressed about how to fit it in her busy day.

The value of taking a few minutes for quiet on a regular basis is to essentially practice being calm and building our skill of noticing and coming back to the centered state so we can do so in the midst of our activities.

It is not uncommon to become reactive and stressed as we face the challenges of daily life.  It is great to build the habit of becoming aware of our internal state and then centering. It is useful to build the habit of noticing your internal climate, naming your emotion and then shifting to become calm.  There are many ways to build this habit. You can notice your feet and feel grounded as you transition from one activity to the next and then calm yourself for the next meeting or interaction.  You can also focus on what you are grateful for as you hear the phone ring or stop for a light when driving.  You can give yourself reminders such as a tone on your phone or a note to yourself to remind you to reset and experience ease and calm on the go. You can also use moments of irritation as reminders to shift to being open. These small shifts support you in building the habit of experiencing ease and openness.

Notice how with practice the mindful process becomes automatic.

Show You Care About Career Development

I often speak with staff members about their views of their executive leaders. When it comes to career support, many leaders get low marks.  Leaders often feel they are too busy to be concerned about the careers of their staff. In addition, they often believe that each person is responsible for their own career.

Yes, each person needs to ensure they are learning and developing their skills and abilities.

Staff often indicate that they would like to feel that their boss cares about them as a person and takes some time to think about possibilities with them.  Managers can support their team by taking some time to explore their staff members’ aspirations and to help them see possibilities inside and outside the organization.  People want to feel like they are valued and that their boss will give them feedback and support their development.

While we often think of career progression as moving to a higher level position, it is useful to think of career development more broadly. When people begin to think of enhancing their awareness, skills, abilities and experiences as career development, there are many more options available.

How can you support the career development of your team members?

Practice Shifting Perspectives

We all have habitual patterns. Some serve us and some don’t anymore. Our patterns are like well-worn pathways in our brains. Someone irritates us and we yell. We get negative feedback and we berate ourselves until we feel we are not worthy and will always fail.  We feel anxious and worry about money or our health or our kids constantly.

Research shows that we can actually recondition our neural pathways and build new patterns that may be more productive.  The first step is to simply notice your current pattern and name it ideally with empathy. “I notice something in me is feeling angry as my teenager yells.”  “I notice I am beating myself up because I heard negative feedback from my boss.” “I notice that I am worrying about having enough money.” “I notice that I eat ice cream when feel alone on weekends.”

Recognize that you are human and experiencing these reactions is a part of our human condition. Your pattern did serve you at some point and now you sense it is less useful.

Practice exploring a different perspective.  You can imagine how a friend, a book or movie character or even your wiser future self may see the current situation.  “Perhaps my teen has not built the skill of managing himself. I will demonstrate that I can.”  “I am sure my boss is incredibly stressed and I recall the others times I received positive praise.  This negative comment does not wipe out my many successes.  What can I learn from this?”  “I’ve always had enough money.”  “Recall the people in your life that care for you.”

Practice noticing your habitual patterns, giving yourself empathy and trying on different perspectives.

Check Your Perspective

Even when our intentions are positive, we only see our perspective. A new principal saw how hard the high school students were working and wanted them to have a break and a “real” holiday. She wrote a note to all teachers telling them not to schedule tests or papers due the week after a holiday. She wanted the students to be able to take a real break.  However, her goodwill gesture was not received with joy by all. Many teachers were upset since they had a curriculum they were following and then decided to test the kids prior to the vacation. The students and parents complained that they ended up having many tests and papers due prior to the break. Other administrators complained because they ended up proctoring tests late into the evening prior to the holiday.

When we see something so clearly it is hard to remember that others may be seeing a very different perspective.

Check your perspectives out with others who may be impacted by your choices.

Take Time to Connect

An executive I coached was involved in high stress meetings from 8 to 8 each day.  He was known to be hot headed and exploded in anger often.  He was so busy that he remained task focused and failed to connect with people. He rarely shared anything personal and the environment he created was tense.  Team members failed to speak with him candidly in the face of his stress and anger.

He became a new person with a few simple changes.  He learned that by taking a few minutes to inquire about a person and be genuinely interested that he no longer had to question them harshly. When his team members felt safe and genuinely cared about, they freely shared developments and concerns.  He also shared more openly about his personal life and interests outside of work. People began to see him as a person and were more responsive. To his surprise, he enjoyed talking about his interests in sports and movies and felt more connected. Building rapport is essential.

Next he learned to notice and catch his reactions. He was able to pause rather than react and then be more at choice. He could give empathy or ask questions rather than yelling or telling. This worked a lot more smoothly and saved time and energy for all.  Noticing and managing our reactions is critical.

Finally, he began to notice energy.  When he was just thinking and focused on a task and not paying attention to others it felt like he was trying to achieve a goal in the dark.  When he remembered to pay attention to the relationship and was more present, it was like a light was on and the goal could be accomplished much more easily. Checking-in to assess our energy and the group’s energy is useful.  He took care of himself and maintained his energy by going to the gym, sleeping more, eating well and engaging in his interests. Reminding ourselves of our intention and how we support our energy is valuable.

With a clear intention and practice, he was able to build new habits and neural pathways that supported his new behavior. People were supportive of his shift and the team and organization benefited.

We all benefit from focusing on both tasks and relationships. Connection gives us the energy to achieve our goals together effectively, efficiently and enjoyably.

Practice Being Aware of Your Emotions

No doubt, we are each experiencing a range of emotions as we go through disruption and change after a heated and polarizing election. No matter whether you are experiencing anxiety or joy, it is valuable to make it a practice of noting your emotions and not making them wrong.

Our emotions serve a valuable purpose, they are energy in motion, e-motions that spur us to taking action or refraining.  When we are excited about a project, we are mobilized to jump in and begin.  When we feel hesitant or afraid, we are more likely to put off taking action.

When we appreciate the value of our emotions, we can be more of an observer and take note. A benefit of naming our emotions is that we activate the pre-frontal cortex part of our brain and we become more at choice about what kind of action we want to take rather than unconsciously reacting

Also, when you acknowledge (without judgment) your emotions, they more readily move through you naturally. A feeling of anger or worry can naturally dissipate with attention.  Of course, if we continue to ruminate on an issue and magnify our emotion, we continue to experience the feeling.  Some emotions require us to simply be with them without hoping they shift or leave. The more you become aware of your own emotions the more readily you will be able to notice and give empathy to others. As humans, we are continually experiencing a range of emotions.

Make it a practice of naming your emotions. Just notice and name.

Find Your Oasis Amidst Disruption

We are in the midst of change in our country, world and in our lives. We have learned that change is a constant and we have successfully adapted to many changes with technology, political shifts, family changes and aging. Even so, change is not easy.

Changing is particularly hard when we feel uncertain and ungrounded. It is easy to imagine the worst and to feel afraid. A part of us wants to hold onto what we have and resists change. When we are stressed we experience contraction and we literally don’t have access to the part of our brain that experiences possibilities. Continue reading