Have you ever been to a restaurant where, in the short time it takes you to order and eat a meal, you get a pretty good insight into the workplace dynamics? Whether the waiters get along; how overbearing the manager is; whether the staff are overworked and unhappy?
As well as preventing costly setbacks like absenteeism and staff turnover, the importance of a healthy team dynamic filters right through to the end user.
Customers know when a team is working well and when it isn’t. It’s reflected in the quality of the service they receive and even in the ambience of the place.
Now imagine that the end user is a perioperative patient, justifiably filled with nerves and entirely at the mercy of the care they receive from surgeons, anaesthetists and theatre nurses.
The importance of healthy team dynamics in this ‘life or death’ environment is clear. Yet, as Scott Dutton explains, operating theatres can be just as susceptible to unhealthy team dynamics as any other type of organisation.
Ahead of the Operating Theatre Management Conference, Scott shares his expert perspective on how to create a healthy perioperative team culture that ensures the optimal delivery of high quality, patient-centred care.
#1 – Avoid complain and blame
“When I facilitate my workshops, I am often surprised by the common misconception within the Executive Team that it is only the staff that need to change, not themselves”, said Scott.
“When I see a lack of insight in relation to self-responsibility and accountability amongst leaders, I am immediately concerned.
“An effective leader is one who regularly assesses their own performance, takes on board feedback and continually strives for self-improvement.
“Leaders who become defensive when they are made aware of negative or hard-to-hear feedback can impede the development and direction of an organisation, as they are resistant to personal growth and transformational change”.
#2 – Be mindful
Mindfulness has become a bit of a buzzword over the years. It is rooted in Eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism, but has more recently made its way into secular realms like Western medicine and Positive Psychology.
What does it actually mean?
“In a team context, mindfulness is about being present and self-aware, remaining calm under pressure (i.e. responding not reacting) and being considerate of others”, said Scott.
“In a high conflict or high stress situation, a mindful person will remain calm, alert and dignified. In contrast, a non-mindful person may become defensive and reactive”.
“Cultivating team mindfulness doesn’t happen overnight, but a good place to start is leading by example and educating team members”, added Scott.
#3 – Ensure collective understanding of team values and behaviours
“It is vital that teams all work towards a common goal or vision; and adhere to an agreed set of values and behaviours. Delivering high quality, patient-centred care should certainly be at the forefront of that vision. But it should also extend to team dynamics and culture – since this is what will ultimately help you achieve that overarching goal.
“As an example, a team vision could be to create an environment in which staff treat each other with the same levels of consideration and respect as they treat their patients.
“To ensure buy-in from the team, it is important that this is a collaborative and co-created process and practice. This ensures everyone knows, understands and accepts the defined values and behaviours of the team.
“Upholding values and behaviours is a continuous process and not something that can be achieved by a single team meeting”.
#4 – See conflict as an opportunity for growth
Conflict is inevitable in the context of teams. But healthy teams differ in terms of how they handle and respond to it.
“At Fighting Fair we see conflict as an opportunity to self-reflect, reassess and redefine values; and to develop self-awareness.
“An unhealthy team leader will bury their head in the sand, let conflict fester, and not properly address the issues at hand.
“A healthy team leader will see conflict an opportunity for insight, growth and transformation”.
Scott Dutton, a renowned thought-leader and expert on conflict resolution and team dynamics, will expand on these insights at the Operating Theatre Management Conference – due to take place 29-30 July 2019 in Melbourne.