Attitudes and values
I once read a blog which stated when people ‘fail’ to fit into a job it’s usually not due to lack of skill, it’s more about attitude – this strongly suggests that when interviewing we should be interviewing for attitude and values – and of course there is other evidence to support this. The implicit thought is we can train for skills and knowledge once the person is in the role – which for me begs the question of the competence of competence based interviews!
I was mindful of this as we shortlisted for our Clinical Lead and House Manager posts last week and as I prepare to lead the interviews later this month.
I’m also thoughtful of the message, as we can’t interview exclusively on attitude and values – we do need an element of technical competence (depending on the job role). The key therefore is finding the balance – it’s more difficult to find that balance than you would think, or so it appears from some of the applications I read.
A useful yardstick for me is to refer back to something that was said by Professor Paul Martin (at that time CNO Scotland in 2007 that really stuck with me – he was addressing around 100 nurses at an event in Ayrshire – “are we technicians in a caring environment, or carers in a technical environment?” The balance between them, as I said earlier, is, for me a critical factor.
Complexity of Care
Since moving to work in a care home setting (Erskine) six months ago I have been struck by the complexity of care that is delivered every day by highly skilled and knowledgable care teams – is it perfect? well no, it isn’t – but what does perfect mean? As I reflected back on 32 years working in the NHS I couldn’t find that one area I’d worked in which delivered perfection – that team or service where everything was absolutely right and nothing needed development or improvement – and I worked with someone wonderful, inspiring people and teams, but even so none were perfect.
And so, as I return to my original train of thought and the question asked by Paul and relate it to my current quest – what I’m looking for are people who are carers, prepared and equipped to work in a technical environment. Care however is the pre-eminent, underpinning quality that I want to see shining through.
So what are the things I’m looking for when interviewing, and of course what are suitable questions to establish these attributes.
‘Tell me a time when’ question, in relation to care delivery, is both good and bad. It’s good in that it should put the interviewee in control and they can shine, this should bring out the inner warmth, it’s also a useful opportunity for the candidate to show where, in the past, they’ve influence without authority, which is of course a higher skill than being able to direct because of positional authority.
The other side, the bad aspect, as it were, of the question, is that interviews aren’t about gushing, it’s not about competence in telling stories, it’s about us, the interview panel, being able to feel the underlying care and compassion and being able to understand why this event was important to the interviewee and why it stood out.
So, as an interview panel we are looking for leaders who are less about control and more about influence; leader who are able to transform and adapt themselves to meet a wide range of challenges. Control is not the goal, leaders need to support and enhance their adaptive capacity and that of their team in pursuit of the organisation’s goals.
But at the very heart of what the leader does is an unbreakable golden thread taking all their actions back to the individuals for who they deliver care – if the leader can’t make those links…… !
Coachability – mentorability
Can the individual accept and action feedback from others – whether that’s their line manager, their colleagues or most importantly those they are providing care with? How can they demonstrate this? For me the most dangerous person to employ is the one who knows it all, they don’t need or embrace feedback – they lack insight into areas of both strength and weakness – usually because they’re brilliant at everything (or so they think)!
A key area, but one that is ‘difficult’ to measure at interview is emotional intelligence (EI). How much understanding does that individual have on their impact on others (and of course ability to regulate their own emotions). While this may be easier to evaluate if it’s an internal candidate being interviewed, careful questioning can draw this out from all candidates e.g. what impact are they having on the panel as they engage with the interviewers – feel the impact, not just the words but the totality of engagement.
I‘ve involved those that use services on interview panels previously, in this approach aspects of the interviewees EI can be observed and experienced from different dimensions.
One hugely successful interview I was organisers involved people living with dementia and their carers – every single ‘interviewer’ (based on feelings and engagement) picked the same candidate as the ‘technical’ interviewers. The successful candidates ability to engage with, and move between different complexities of interviews meant they were able to demonstrate their ability to judge the needs of the range of interviewers emotions.
Motivation – such an easy, trip of the tongue type of Q&A. Often superficial and bland. Whitney (1997) said “It’s better to be prepared for an opportunity and have none, than to have an opportunity and not be prepared”. I used to like asking the ‘how have you prepared for this interview?’ question – unfortunately the answer it frequently elicited let candidates down. Cramming in last minute reading and chatting to a few people is superficial and unimpressive.
When I’m interviewing I’m looking for the a description of the path that led the person to thinking this job was right for them. I always expect contact to have been made prior to interview (but I also like to see it made pre-application completion/submission). Only once the longer term path has been explained do I like to hear about the last minute reading, don’t start off there. So can we, the panel, understand the candidates motivation?
Technical competence: Can the individual demonstrate they have the technical skills/knowledge and aptitude to do the job?
Herein lies the rub, even the best skills/knowledge don’t really matter if the person isn’t open to improving, if they don’t have the underlying warmth of care, if they alienate their colleagues or if their approach feels at odds with the organisational goals and values.
Attitude/approaches that work in one culture don’t necessarily fit into another one – it is the interview panel’s role to first understand their own organisation and secondly to consider the interviewee in that unique context.
If I think about current staff that exemplify the organisation’s values, I am likely to be looking for new staff that can continue to build on these attributes (always bearing in mind we are not looking for clones!). What three or four things make the current exemplary staff ‘successful’? These are likely to be factors to consider with our interviewees – how well do they match those attributes? – of course a little bit of creative differentiation can support the organisation in not becoming stagnant. However interviews can be an opportunity to send reaffirm messages across the organisation of the values and beliefs we expect throughout the organisation.
So while the interviewees may be nervous as they prepare for their interview that interview panel itself should also be nervous, they have a huge responsibility – a decision they make may impact positively or negatively on the organisation for many years to come.
Let’s hope the interviews are very difficult for the panel as all our candidates excel. No-one said it was supposed to be easy – not for the interviewees nor for the panel.
Job application form
Some of the application forms have brought a smile to my face while others leave me shaking my head in disappointment.
I’m sure there are guru HR professionals would be able to articulate what I’m about to say much better than I can – however in this blog I’m going to reflect on my recent experience; if you are about to apply for a post I hope it might be helpful, if you’re about to be interviewed then my previous blogs related interviews may be of interest.
Second thing, having decided you do want the job, look at the advert, look at the job description and start to think about what value you bring to the post – not every staff nurse or senior charge nurse job is the same.
This is going to help you when you start filling in the application form.
Third thing, and I am astonished, indeed somewhat baffled that applicants don’t do this – if the advert gives you the name of someone to contact for an informal discussion – why on earth would you not do so?
Do you really need a written personal invitation to make contact?
There are two major reasons for making contact at this early stage:
- It will give you the opportunity to find out if the area is somewhere you actually want to work – what are the beliefs and values of this prospective employe?
- It gives you an opportunity to demonstrate to the people who may or may not shortlist you that you are keen to work for us, that you’re knowledgeable about the job and have the skills required.
The last round of interviews I was involved in there were 14 applications for four posts. It is highly unlikely we are going to shortlist all 14 (i.e. it’s a ‘short’ list that we’re tasked with creating), my role in shortlisting is to select the best candidates who we might be interested in employing, that means every bit of information you give the shortlisting panel is critical in you getting to the next stage. Someone who has made contact to find out about the area will, in my view and experience, have a greater chance of being shortlisted.
Only now should you be thinking about the job application form – it’s your second window for prospective employers to look into, and potentially the first one for some members of the shortlisting panel.
Let’s cut to the chase, if you can’t be bothered spending time on your application, if it’s full of mistakes and typos why would I or my colleagues want to shortlist you?
Do you really think that is the kind of nurse we want working for us? One who’s paperwork appears to be of little interest to them, despite the importance of the form – how might that translate into their written clinical records?
I have been disappointed with the lack of or limited post registration learning and development that is evident from application forms. Within my Board there is little excuse as we have actively supported post registration education over many years, not only via our SLA with the University of the West of Scotland, but also via a variety of post registration funds including some directly given by the Scottish Government.
Job role and function
My disappointment re post registration education was nothing compared to my concerns when I read the entries related to the current ‘Role purpose/Summary of Responsibilities’ of some applicants. Telling the shortlisting panel that your role is a series of tasks that seem to have very little to do with a person centred approach to care is unlikely to impress us.
These are actual examples from the past year: I wouldn’t mind if these things were listed last, however they play an unfortunate pre-eminent place on the form.
Complete the ward diary – undertake a smooth handover between shifts – I am often left in charge of the unit – order medicines/restock medicine cupboards – run the ward efficiently, using clinical observation sheets – run my caseload efficiently – liaise with the GP – prepare for and take part in MDTs – responsible for ward off-duty – cover duty system – I provide basic nursing care.
Is any reader of this blog inspired by this list?
I can assure you I am not, and in my recent shortlisting meeting neither were the two Senior Charge Nurses who were shortlisting with me.
Schein (2013) in his book ‘Humble Inquiry’ notes
“We think of task orientated relationship as impersonal and emotionally neutral”……. “… by contrast, a person-orientated relationship is expected to be more emotionally charged because one or both parties are interested in each other …”
In their application forms, few explored, what I consider to be the real purpose of the nursing role, as Schein notes above “because one or both parties are interested in each other …”
The caring role of the nurse should be the focus throughout the application, but it should most definitely feature prominently in your current role descriptor. When I read an application I want to be able to ‘feel’ the nurse’s caring approach exude from the page, I want to be able to understand the values and beliefs of the nurse writing that statement.
Of course tasks are an aspect of the nurse’s role, but it shouldn’t be the first thing mentioned and it shouldn’t be the thing that takes up the most space.
Rights, Relationships and Recovery
While not wishing to suggest stock phrases that can simply be regurgitated I’m hoping and expecting to see how you, the nurse deliver care; that you understand the preeminent place the individual who uses our service deserves to be in your application. In 2006 (refreshed in 2010) mental health nursing had its own strategy for continuous development of our profession; it was called Rights, Relationships and Recovery.
I fully expect to see in applications for a nursing role in Ayrshire & Arran that nurses know their role in upholding the rights of people in our care, that care is based on relationships with those we are in contact with and that a belief in recovery is a driving principle of the nurse writing the statement.
Also, when I read the current role that a nurse recognises the importance of engaging with carers, it can’t help but bring a smile to my face – and over the last year I’ve read several.
A role description will be able to articulate the writers belief in involving carer, of supporting them to be involved in care episodes where possible. Carers usually know their relative much better than we, as professionals do, they can help wrap care round the individual – I really want to see view point expressed in the job application form (and of course that’s it’s demonstrated in actions).
For those of you who have filled out an NHS Scotland application form you’ll realise that I’ve only covered the first few pages. Next week I plan to cover the rest of the application form and include some pointers of what to do, as well as what not to do.
Let me know your thoughts on the items in this blog, or if you’ve got specific questions you would like me to address.
Fear, shock and denial
Dementia, rather like the word cancer, can often stir negative emotions. There can be an element of fear, shock and/or denial when we think about it, the overwhelming thought of losing one’s identity or the impact on someone close to us can create a rising sense of panic. Despite this reaction, the term itself is not well understood. Although it is true to say that dementia will often be an irreversible, progressive and life long condition – that is, once you’ve got it you will always have it, it does not need to be a life limiting condition in the early stages, nor for that matter for some considerable time in most types of dementia.
In short, the earlier a diagnosis is made the better opportunity that exists to slow the progression of some dementias – medication has an important role to play in slowing down…
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Instantly two questions spring to mind 1) what do I mean by leadership? and 2) what is social media?
Malby in 1997 described leadership as “an interpersonal relationship of influence, the product of personal character rather than mere occupation of managerial positions”. Bennis and Nanus add to this by described leadership as ‘influencing and guiding’ as having a ‘future focus’, a ‘vision for the future’ while remaining in the present.
The key aspects that interest me in relation to digital and social media leadership is the ‘interpersonal relationship’ and ‘influencing/guiding’ components of these descriptions. To me they are key in my own engagement with social media, my own role as a leader.
So, what is social media – it’s those…
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Decisions at 16,000′
It’s been a month or so since I’ve blogged, primarily due to workload as I’ve taken on a new, interim role in NHS Orkney, as explained in my last blog. There’s been a couple of blog idea bubbling around in my head that I’ve wanted to share, but never quite put ‘pen to paper’ (or should that be fingers to keyboard?). Even as I write this I’m not sure whether to write about an idea I discussed with @docherty_e this morning as we sat in Glasgow Airport, or to write about the ‘difference’ – a blog I’ve already started. The ‘difference’ relates to my role as an executive member of an NHS Board and what is different to the role I perform in my substantive post as an Associate Nurse Director.
As I write this I’m at 16,000 feet looking out of the window at Aberfoyle far below, it’s decision time!
The decision – customer care
This morning I arrived at Glasgow Airport at 09.30hrs for my flight to Kirkwall, 90 minutes early: LoganAir check-in had four operators on duty and approximately 10 – 12 people in the queue (so not overly busy), having reached the front of the queue I moved forward when requested – “where are you flying to”. No good morning, no how are you today – “ID” – “have you got any of these items in your hand luggage?” All this while looking down at her screen – efficient and getting through the work! I asked if it was possible to get two seat together, for my colleague and I – we usually use this time to discuss the week ahead, areas that need addressed and basically as an extension of the working day – “your seat’s already allocated” pause “and Mr Docherty has already check in.” Hmm, the text I got from him 20 seconds earlier said he was waiting for his transfer bus at the off-site car park, of course he might be wrong and didn’t know nowhere he was!! I didn’t venture an opinion.
Let me look and see
I compared this to two other events, one last week and another one this morning.
- At one of the other desks an older couple were progressing rather slowly with the process of finding their photographic ID, the check-in operator didn’t rush them, however she also processed another passenger, via a side door, who was in the priority queue, while never losing focus on the older couple in from of her. The priority passenger was dealt with quickly and efficiently, he appreciated the extra attention he had received, the older couple were not rushed or made to feel they were a bother.
- Last week, arriving at check-in there was a fairly large queue (for LoganAir) of around 30 to 40 people. I arrived at the head of the queue and was called forward “good morning sir, where are you travelling to today” – “do you have your photographic ID please” – “on the front of the desk there is a chart, do you have any of those items in your hand luggage?” I asked if it would be possible to have a seat beside my colleague – “let me look and see what I can do, is he here at the minute?” – “no problem sir, I can give you seat 12C & D, I’ve just allocated that for Mr Docherty when he arrives”.
Not doing wrong might not be enough
Today’s flight is 75% full, last week it was 100% full and check-in was three times busier, which left me wondering – what was the difference? These three employees of Loganair each displayed different aspects of customer care. All three of them did their job, they were efficient and effective, they each carried out their duties safely, yet for one the person-centred, caring perspective was missed completely. It made me reflect on how we deliver healthcare on a day to day basis. My current area of responsibility spans nursing, midwifery and allied health professions – as I sat in the airport I wondered how many of our team today would be like last week’s check-in operator or the one on the ‘priority’ desk? How many will get though their workload today in an efficient manner, but never actually look at or consider the person in front of them? Which one do you aspire to be – are you efficient and effective, do you carry out your role as a task, or do you care about making it the best experience the person in front of you can have.
The check-in person this morning did nothing wrong, however I didn’t leave that check-in desk feeling important or valued – the outcome will still be the same, I’ll get to Orkney just after lunch time …………
………………. but I know which one I hope will be on duty next week when I arrive at the airport.
Will your patient’s look forward to seeing you at their next clinic or home appointment or the next time they are in your ward?
Will it be an experience characterised by care and compassion or will it simply be an efficient experience?
Begin with the end in mind
I recently was given the opportunity to work in an other health board area in a senior leadership role. It was easy to understand this role as a leadership one as the post directly managed only a handful of staff, and yet it’s impact should be felt on the greatest number of staff working in the Board. What was less easy was to understand what impact I could have in only three months (the length of my secondment); for me the important aspect of this dovetails with my last blog and my re acquaintance with Covey – Begin with the end in mind.
What was the end I had in mind, what did the Chief Executive have in mind and what would the individuals within the teams I would be working with have in mind.
Week one was hectic, there were people keen to meet me (which was nice), meetings that had to be attended, papers that had to be read. The Chief Executive drafted my objectives for the three months secondment (based on our conversations), and I was all set. However, my role as a leader demands more than what can be captured in a set of objectives.
If you don’t know where you are ..
In some ways the opportunity I’ve been given is to support others as they travel towards their destination – that’s a privilege and a responsibility. That said however, this involves individuals and teams knowing where they want to be, the destination, the shared vision. It involves ‘starting with the end in mind’ – what is the passion of the individual clinicians (as its mainly with clinicians I’ll be working), what do they truly want to deliver every day they come to work? Are each one of us focussed on the individual in front of us, the next person who will walk through the door. For each of us, it’s important to have a vision, to understand our personal/professional values, to understand our impact.
While I am a great believer in having a vision, an understanding of where you want to be, it is also important to know where you are. If you don’t know where you are, how do you know which way to go? Think of it as a road map. You might know the destination but without a starting point you are unable to determine the direction you need to head, where should that first step fall. Once we have accept where we are, good and bad, we can determine the steps needed to achieve our goal.
Pushing down or pulling up
Booker Washington said “There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up”. Leadership isn’t about pushing others down, it’s about pulling them up.
I recently read a blog by Todd Neilson about Leaders in ‘beta’ being a mixture of ambition with humility (beta refers to the IT term of things being in testing stage). He noted that it was ok for leaders not to know everything, this reminded me of Hawkins and Smith four stages of leadership – experimentation, the leader needs to understanding that it is ok not to know everything. Stage two starts with accepting that as a leader you are always in beta mode, always learning always testing. As you put that testing, learning and self reflection into action the next stage is evidenced by experience accumulation, you start to gain confidence in putting into actions the things you have learnt. Full leadership is more difficult to achieve, but people who have moved into this phase are obvious by their actions, they focus less on what they can get out of a situation and more on what they can put in, the outputs are more important than their person accolades. Their motivation is ‘what is the difference I want to make’, Covey described this as one of his four basic needs- To Live, To Love, To Learn, to Leave a Legacy: not the legacy of self serving obsession of fame, but rather the difference that the leader supports others to achieve, even when they are no longer there. Hawkins and Smith describe Eldership as the final stage in the development of a leader, many do not get there. The feature of this leadership stage is a detachment from the difference the leader can make and a focus on what has to be done, creating an environment for others to achieve. In this respect it follows a similar theme to Greenleaf’s concept of Servant Leadership. The perspective of:
- – caring for others
- – being mentor minded
- – having the passion to develop others
- – being the compassionate collaborator
There have been few times in my personal leadership journey when I can reflect with any certainty where I am in relation to the stages described. However I am confident that my role, over the next three months, is not about me, it’s about creating the environment for others, it absolutely isn’t about pushing others down, it’s about pulling them up.
This role I’m in is about Eldership, it about supporting others to ‘be all they can be’, to help set their path for the future.
It’s about finding leaders, but it’s also about finding followers – concepts that are not mutually exclusive, although the wisdom to know when, to be which at what point, can in many circumstances be elusive.
Whatever else, I’m looking forward to working with many new colleagues.