Carrot or Stick?

A news item caught my eye this week and left me saddened. Doctors and nurses are to be charged and possibly imprisoned for not providing adequate care for patients. How that contrasts with one of my recent reads – The Element – How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything - by Ken Robinson. 

Robinson recommends an educational system and ethos which helps individuals discover their gifts, talents, desires and passions and then suggests how to help those develop by joining others of a similar mind (the Tribe) and finding a mentor to guide, challenge and further that person’s development.

He quotes many interesting examples from choreographer Gillian Lynne whose school thought she might have some type of learning disability, and who would in modern times have probably been labelled as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, to Mick Fleetwood (of Fleetwood Mac) who at school couldn't understand the first thing about maths, and would even now have trouble reciting the alphabet. Both went on to excel in their respective fields of dance and music once they discovered their passion, found a group of fellow enthusiasts and threw their energies into what never felt like work to them. Like many, traditional schooling had at one time written them off.

No doubt many doctors and nurses are born to perform a caring role. For some the job may indeed be a real passion, or may use their innate abilities to the full providing satisfaction and boosting self esteem.  I can look at some of the medical and nursing students who spend time in our practice, and see that many of them have a real aptitude and a desire to do well.   They radiate enthusiasm and empathy.

I was like that once you might say wistfully. Maybe before QOF and meeting targets were so much part of the daily focus.

As managers how do we retain our passion for the job and help others to play to their strengths, feel like they are part of a professional and committed team and see work as not necessarily one big chore?

We can’t ignore the system of financial rewards.  But I find that identifying the bits of the job that give me real pleasure and satisfaction and trying to cultivate them, find space for them and incorporate them into the everyday helps.

So on Friday last I created our practice Action Plan for increasing uptake of the bowel screening programme. Not a lot of fun to be had there I can hear you say.  But actually, you’d be wrong

  • I used my research skills to find useful articles to ‘crib’ from
  • I engaged my creative powers to move seamlessly into corporate management speak
  • I saved loads of time in a management meeting by presenting a complete draft instead of a blank sheet of paper
  • I felt good about myself so I radiated bonhomie to all

Action planning is maybe not your thing.  But whatever is, be it creating an all-singing, all- dancing spreadsheet, designing an eye-catching patient display board, or putting together the plans for a fabulous Christmas party – if you can do a little bit of something that gives you a buzz, then you might just get sufficient lift to cope with the energy sapping other tasks that await. And by modelling commitment, enthusiasm and energy you might be helping others to do their jobs more willingly and enjoy their work a little bit more.

Some politicians think the big stick works better.  Not only ‘Never Do Harm‘, but if we catch you failing, we’ll make sure you end up bitter, defensive and demotivated.

How much better that the working environment stimulates commitment, rewards professionalism and enthusiasm, and highlights examples of exceptional practitioners to motivate and inspire.

Or am I simply delusional?


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