Welcoming Failure in Clinical Leadership

Why a Failure Culture Matters in Building Clinical Leaders and Teaching Shared Leadership

Everyone is a Leader.  This is where I begin.

Not all leaders are ready for all tasks, information, nor responsibility.  The concept of Shared Leadership speaks to the fact that no matter your role, you are a leader.  In short, Lead Where You Are.

But what happens when people in the organization fail?

  • Fail to communicate
  • Fail to complete necessary paperwork resulting in audits
  • Fail to schedule well
  • Fail to tell the whole truth
  • Fail to create a workplace where all people are welcome

What then do we do as clinical leadership, who are ultimately responsible for such failures and human errors within our organizations?

  1. We Breathe.
  2. We Take Stock of What is Right
  3. We Breathe
  4. We Refrain from Taking Over and Fixing It…as much as we would like
  5. We Teach the People Around Us to Solve the Problem, Fix It
  6. We tell them honestly if it were a costly mistake (and how much it cost us)
  7. We tell them honestly how we feel about it without the raw emotion behind it
  8. We teach …our staff how to team-collectively communicate- and fix it
  9. We model

Error Correction for Adults in the workplace can be challenging.  Why?  Because we don’t extend the same errorless learning procedures, prompt hierarchy we give to our clients.  Why not?  Because of time…money…and resources.

Truth is, no matter the Performance Score Card; the Process Manual; or Checklists..human beings are fickle at times.  This means, they are simply operating in humanness.  But the key to allowing failure, is allowing and making room for Critical Conversations and Learning from the Chaos.  Yes there are systems, but not a perfect antidote for the daily task of managing people and running full operations.

Here is the solace, no matter what we do…large or small…organizations have entire departments and procedures to handle error.  This means that in every environment, humans are being…human.

Communicating with Precision, Clarity, and Honesty is critical to the a clinical organizations’ function from levels of customer-client services, treatment plan and implementation, staff interpersonal relations, as well as supervision and supervisee relationships.  Communication is not talking about goals met, the success’, or the good stuff.  Real movement is when we communicate the tough-rough-uncomfortable of goals unmet, client relationship missteps, and staff interpersonal hard stuff.

How do we learn how to be better then do better?  It’s something I tell my five year old son, that I hope he remembers.  We teach our staff to stand in it…the doo doo of your mistakes..shoulders back…eyes forward…and talk about what you have done…stand in the consequences of the reactions of others.  The secret to leading when failing is separating your actions or inaction from how you feel about yourself.

In other words, clinical leaders have a responsibility to teach and model the following at all times.

  1. Mistakes happen.  Mistakes can be fixed.
  2. Grace given is important…pass that baton over and over again.
  3. Admission of error does not remove consequences.
  4. Full discussion and follow-up is important to create a new game plan.
  5. Ensure you have an open door to talk about it…flesh it out
  6. Communicate your disappointment or frustration or anger not from the rawness of those emotions (take 5 when you need to), but with clarity  and honesty.

Failure is inevitable and a valuable teacher, if you allow it.

It keeps you humble, if you allow it.

It makes you extend grace, if you allow it.

And it ultimately makes you realize how human you are…and in clinical leadership it is critical that we recognize that superheros are fictional characters.

We are real.  And as such, our humanness allows the people that work with and for us be the same.  Human…mistakes and all.

~Keep Thriving.

Landria Seals Green, MA., CCC-SLP, BCBA

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