You can use a time-out, too
Surgical tool can help outside the OR, too
Every parent of a toddler knows that a time-out isn't so much a punishment for the child as a moment to breathe for the parent. It's this moment of calm that is the basis for the use of time-outs in a variety of fields, including surgical medicine. It's a chance to stop and make sure the path you are on is correct. And it's a tool that anyone can use, says Vicki Hess, RN, MS, principle at Catalyst Consulting, based in Baltimore, MD.
Hess says that no one says, "I want to go to work and be engaged today." They think they want to have a good day, they want to be productive and make progress. Those elements, however, are just what can make an engaged employee.
But not every day is good. Sometimes, something bad happens — Hess calls those things "pows" — and taking a time-out can help you turn that bad event into a positive outcome. "I might take a personal time-out if I'm hit with a challenge to think of different options." If a particular report isn't ready, rather than rant and rage, a better idea is to take a moment. "I check myself, take a deep breath to calm down, make sure I'm in a positive frame of mind," she says.
If something bad happens at work, taking a minute before you approach your team will help you ensure they don't get hit with the "pow" themselves. You can set the tone for their reaction, Hess notes.
Then gather the team in a huddle and tell them what has happened. Ask them to take a moment of time, too. Hess created a checklist to guide that time-out she calls the SHIFT — Stop, Harness reactions; Identify and manage negative emotions; Find new options, and Take one positive action.
The surgical time out and use of a checklist when used outside the operating theater can have the same kind of positive impact, Hess says. "You don't want to approach a problem with a knee-jerk reaction, or shouting, pouting or lashing out."
Think of it in surgical terms. Someone comes to the OR with a problem to be fixed. You don't want a panicked surgeon trying to fix it. You want a doctor who is calm, focused, and has a plan of action that will help you. It's the same with a non-surgical team.
Further emulating the surgical scene, a key element in dealing with a problem is to make sure you want to foster a culture that doesn't engage in blame, but where everyone can report a problem and know the team will come together to find a solution without pointing fingers.
"Fear and blame bring things further into a spiral," Hess says.
In a forthcoming book, Six Shortcuts to Employee Engagement, Hess addresses the healthcare industry by suggesting ways to "shrink team pows, grow wows, and shift pows to wows" — a wow being the opposite of a pow in her parlance.
"Don't be afraid to call a pow a pow," she advises. "It won't disengage you. You can rally us around a problem and we'll respond. Acknowledge the crummy feelings, and don't ignore the problem. Your team will appreciate the realism." But that doesn't give you permission to pout, she says. That's what the time-out is for — to master the initial bad feelings, and put them away so a problem can be solved.
For more information on this topic, contact Vicki Hess, MS, RN, principle, Catalyst Consulting, Baltimore, MD. Telephone: (888) 797-6700.