- Posted Tuesday August 6, 2013
Over the years I've been tested, questioned, fed back to and 360’d. I know I’m a completer finisher/facilitative/a good co-ordinator/ and an INFJ (if you know your Myers Briggs Personality Test).
So maybe it shouldn't have come as too much of surprise when a member of staff called me MUM one day! But it did. That was on my first tour of duty in this GP practice as a Practice Manager. And when I came to take early retirement 10 years ago, I felt just like Mum leaving her children behind, abandoning the nest. I had separation anxiety for many a long month after I left, as well as feelings of guilt. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross would no doubt have had another name for me then, such was my sense of grief and loss.
However, in my second tour of duty here, called back from retirement to cover a maternity leave, I have gained a more healthy perspective on the job. No-one has called me Mum (or fatty, given the extra stone or two!) so far but one community staff colleague did ask me if I was a Counsellor as well as a Practice Manager. I’m not – but I did make use of a bit of management theory and an effective listening style which helped her in her dilemma over a new post she’d been offered.
The theory – from Gareth Morgan in Images of Organisation – describes any system as constantly changing and even chaotic, and yet over time self–organising into surprisingly stable patterns with attractors which sustain those patterns. I can look at my own practice, returning after 10 years of massive changes (QOF, new partner, and a new IT system among many others) and find an environment and culture very similar to the one I left. It still feels like the same place.
My colleague had been offered another job with higher salary in a different secondary care setting. She had initially turned it down, then been persuaded to take the post, and as time went on proceeded to have considerable doubts about her decision.
I sensitively shared with her my observation that she was showing no enthusiasm for the impending move, had not told any of her colleagues that she was going, and was making no plans for handover. It didn’t seem right. She was in real quandary.
So I drew the attractor pattern diagram for her and used it to explore the idea of how tipping or bifurcation points, given the right conditions can precipitate a ‘flip’ into a new pattern. It looks something like this:
The lure of a sizeable payrise might have been a big enough attractor to allow my friend to enter the new pattern or way of being, but it seemed to be insufficient to cause the flip. There were too many other attractors keeping her where she was – great colleagues, pleasant working environment, interesting job, contact with patients, cakes on a Friday.
We might have reached the same conclusion if we’d used a cost-benefit analysis. I’d done that very thing when the practice asked me to stay on following the resignation of the person I was covering. In the intervening years I’d become a writer but why wouldn't I take the opportunity work part-time with wonderful colleagues, lots of laughs, much respect, a varied set of duties and a chance to top up the bank of Mum and Dad? Put like that, I couldn't see much to attract me away.
I know who I am when I’m here. I just need to find the right title! All answers on a postcard please.