Choosing Kindness: We can all be leaders in the Kindness Revolution
Everyone has the power to Choose Kindness and in doing so initiate a ripple of positivity which oozes through the stressful milieu of a day’s work in healthcare.
Setting out on a leadership journey in healthcare is bewildering. Where to start, what to do, how to do it? And what makes a good leader anyway? Well there are many answers to that question but for me compassion is essential. And central to compassion is kindness. A choice that allows people to thrive; learn from mistakes and go on to add tremendous value to our health service. Unfortunately it is often lacking in our workplaces.
We all know the NHS is under unprecedented pressure. Demand is increasing at a time when budgets are squeezed. It feels like winter in July and in January its … ?. Clinician burnout is at an all-time high. There is a perception of fixation on targets and numbers, with little consideration for those slogging away on the front line. We are constantly firefighting one mini (or maxi) crisis after another. None of this makes for a happy workplace with happy people.
This has created a melting pot for incivility to thrive in our NHS. Incivility can mean any mildly hostile behaviour from an eye roll, to a full blown explosion of shouting and accusations-both of which are all too common in the NHS. Research shows we are more likely to be uncivil when we’re under pressure and feel stressed so given the current state of affairs it’s unsurprising we have a problem. A problem that is highlighted by data.
Doctors in training consistently report witnessing and experiencing bullying and undermining (1). For the past 6 years the NHS staff survey has shown that around 25% of all NHS staff report having been bullied with more admitting to witnessing it (2, 3).
So in a caring profession, how are we getting it so wrong?
Some possible reasons are:
The NHS is strongly hierarchical making it difficult or even risky for staff at all levels to challenge the status quo especially those deemed more senior than them.
There is an acceptance of the inevitability of this kind of culture due to the pressure everyone is under. It is expected, accepted and therefore, condoned.
A perception of futility rules. Most wonder what challenging the issues will actually achieve, and most are all too aware of the possible negative fall out.
The Health care leadership model is a tool for everyone in the NHS to use to consider how they can become good clinical leaders. The national agenda wishes to push the notion that we are all leaders and leadership does not require ‘rank’. Often ‘the real world’ conditions we live and work in make this difficult, but in tackling difficult cultures, here is something which does allow us all to be leaders. Every one of us have the power to embrace our leadership potential in daily acts of resistance to the culture. In the face of incivility we can Choose Kindness.
There is a real world cost to incivility. Incivility reduces time and effort spent at work, work time is lost worrying about uncivil incidents or avoiding the perpetrator, creativity plummets and performance suffers. The cost specific to healthcare is greater. Incivility is detrimental to patient safety (5).
Statistics show that people experiencing incivility have increased medical errors and they are less likely to raise patient safety concerns (6). Not only this, its negative impact spreads like a plague. Those who witness incivility also see decreases in their performance, effort and likelihood of helping others. 25% take frustrations out on service users. Incivility is dangerous. Civility literally saves lives.
So as you consider a step forward along your leadership journey I implore you to consider a simple act. There is a power that no rule, regulation, governing body or supervisor can take away. The power to Choose Kindness.
Choosing kindness is a philosophy. An automatic assumption that the reason for someone’s incivility is because they are overwhelmed, troubled or weary. It must elicit a knee jerk reaction to respond with warmth and kindness, and taking a moment to check in with out colleagues to make sure they are ok. It costs nothing, it breaks no rules, and is passed forward and onwards. One action of kindness can make a huge difference to an individual’s day. It leaves a shimmer in the air. Imagine the impact if we all made this choice.
The effects of incivility spread like a plague. Kindness will thaw a troubled workplace like the warmth of a roaring fire which seeps into the bones of cold and weary travellers after a day on the road. This role needs no rank, no position of power and no formal accreditation. It is a powerful way to stand out as a leader of the future.
We can all be leaders. And it is time to lead the Kindness Revolution.
Lizzie is currently the Fellow to the Future Leaders Programme offered by Health Education England, Yorkshire and the Humber. The programme offers year long fellowships to clinicians (Doctors and dentists in training, nurses, pharmacists and allied health professionals) working in the region wishing to further their leadership skills. Lizzie’s background is as an ST4 in Urology.