Mr Henry Marsh: Philosophy, Plumbing and Humility

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I’m listening to the neurosurgeon, Mr Henry Marsh, talk to a large group of the public, this includes teenagers with an expectation of insights into a life of glamour as a neurosurgeon. Mr Marsh’s leaves us feeling inspired, thoughtful, and most of all sober to the inevitable fact, that with life comes death.

He calls neurosurgery plumbing because he’s no neuroscientist; nevertheless, neurosurgery is a career for educated plumbers with nerves of steel (one must achieve three A graded A Level’s, to be shortlisted for medical school). He describes the stress of emergency life-saving surgery as verging on terror, yet, this doesn’t get in the way of fast plumbing.

An ability to act in spite of fear has been suggested as a hallmark of success. It points to a well documented core leadership trait – courage. Being a doctor isn’t for everyone, but the principle of courage stands, whatever your profession or your status therein.

Failure for Mr Marsh was core to the learning process, an uncomfortable truth perhaps. He described over delegation and misplaced trust, yet in essence, the ability to deal with failure was necessary even when the stakes were life or death. Mr Marsh was notably humble and authentic in the presence of his starry-eyed audience.

In a nutshell, the art of being a ‘consultant neurosurgeon’ appeared more about decision making than it did surgical skills; that is, to operate or not to operate? One could be forgiven for thinking Mr Marsh a philosopher not a plumber. But undoubtedly, there were no shortcuts to plumbing or philosophy.

As a true master, he glided effortlessly through two hours of crafted teaching, leaving the attendees with discreet golden insights into the world of transformation. We expected glamour, we received philosophy, plumbing and a humble version Mr Marsh. Encore!

What can we learn from Mr Henry Marsh?

  • In the presence of fear we can still do what’s necessary.
  • We don’t always get it right, this is a part of our growth and learning.
  • As we accept our fallibility, we learn humility, this creates clarity of decision making as we gain experience in our field.
  • We work as part of a team, as a leader we must own our team’s mistakes.
  • If you don’t know the answer tell the truth, we’re not all neuroscientists or…fill in the blank.
  • It takes courage to do what you love – do it anyway.

Books by Henry Marsh:

Marsh H (2014) – Do No Harm.
Marsh H (2017) – Admissions.

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A Life in 5 Chapters by Portia Nelson

Poem shared by Dr Wayne Dyer:
Chapter 1
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.
Chapter 2.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes me a long time to get out.
Chapter 3
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in. It’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault. I get out immediately.
Chapter 4
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
Chapter 5
I walk down another street.

Listen – It’s Not All About Us.

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The subject of active listening keeps cropping up in conversation, mostly with doctors. They keep talking but remain convinced they’re not being heard.

Recently, a colleague and I delivered training for the NHS London Leadership Academy, part of this involved a session called ‘Listening with nothing on your mind.’ The feedback suggested that it was the most popular part of the programme. The exercises we used were insightful.

The challenge for all of us is to listen without interruptions from self-talk and a pre-occupation with the outside world. We are often deeply distracted by our own state of mind. If over thinking is a perfectly normal part of the human condition, how do we improve our listening skills? How do we know when we’re distracted and off track? How do we know that we’re not missing something vital to the future of our business? In healthcare the ability to actively listen is necessary for safe clinical care.

It’s not always as simple as it sounds. Coaches like myself have supervision and many years of training to hone this skill….the art of coaching essentially depends upon deep active listening; this requires awareness. We must manage our tendency to be distracted by ourselves or by others.

Notice when you’re being distracted – try it, today. Notice the difference it makes to your relationships with the people around you and also the quality of your experience.  We may also find that your jobs become much easier, as we learn, that it’s not all about us.

Beyond Healthcare’s Burning Platform

 

I’ve written recently about the above, and the tendency for NHS managers to refer to the NHS as a burning platform. But there are those who’ve made a career or winning strategy out of fire-fighting, the Red Adair’s of healthcare ( Red was the famous wild well extinguisher).

But fighting fires, whether in work or at home, indicates a habit of reacting to what’s thrown our way, as opposed to the planning of a more satisfying alternative. Individually, this can be difficult to see, we’ve become experts at reacting to what goes on around us, we can’t see any crazy alternatives.

A coach mentor of mine, Steve Chandler talks about creating a Crazy Good future. Most of us dare not plan for good, let alone crazy good; but until we do, we’ll be stuck right where we are — feeling as though we’re on fire with our hand on the water bucket.

What’s your crazy good alternative?

 

Is Fear the Death of Creativity?

Editing A Blank Page

I haven’t blogged for a while because I’ve been learning to write fiction. Who’d have thought learning to write fiction could be as difficult as learning any other new skill? On some days it’s been rather a slog, and it feels more difficult than it should. As Gene Fowler once said:

    ‘Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.’

It occurred to me more than once, as with any other endeavour, it is the fear of failure that is more likely to grind us to a halt. I learned from the masters, that it is better to write poorly than not write at all.  After all, as Jodi Picoult once said, ‘you can’t edit a blank page.’ 

Newton’s Law, Relativity and Marmite

Notes On A Blog by Paula Goode

Paula Goode is a Coach, Author and Healthcare Transformation Specialist. Founder of the The Coach Hub at Goodeinsight Ltd (goodeinsight.co.uk)

“Creativity thinks up new things. Innovation does new things.”

                                                                                                Theodore Levitt

 An ambush was inevitable. A wielding of an oratory political sword across the airwaves.   What about privatisation of the healthcare system in the UK and why were nurses treated so badly? It crossed my mind that the potential answers were worthy of a doctoral thesis. It was a paradoxical monologue, challenging the status quo and opposing change all at the same time.

Is it true that we either hate something or we love it – black or white, good or bad, right or wrong? For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  The impulse is to swing to the right while the conversation polarises to the far left. Fortunately there’s an alternative, because unlike Marmite, most things are relative.

“To be called an innovation, an idea must be replicable at an economical cost and must satisfy a specific need…Innovation involves deliberate application of information, imagination and initiative in deriving greater or different values from resources…”

Paula Goode is the author of Notes on Nursing a Thought (2014)

http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=paula%20goode

The Habit of Excusing Oneself

I am sat waiting for a friend of mine who is a hospital consultant he’s late. He’s always late and I realise,  whilst pondering this,  that he rarely makes an excuse he just apologises. Only once I waited so long that I though he wasn’t actually going to turn up. It’s not personal; he’s late for everyone. As I write, a text arrives saying that he is in the resus bay with a critically ill child, he’s not coming, he doesn’t apologise because he doesn’t need to.

This time is used to write a blog that I was planning to write later. The blog was going to be about the ups and downs of habits and the excuses we make to ourselves in order to maintain these habits. For me, I’d like to spend more time writing and learning to be a better writer, but I spend a disproportionate amount of time on other activities – there are good excuses for this.

My blogs are late this year, having been unwell; I decided to take time off. I’ve had a good rest and feel better. This isn’t an excuse; it’s a conscious decision to take time off. There is a difference. This down time was an opportunity to reflect on the difference between conscious decision-making and excuse making. The difference isn’t the lack of intention. I notice that when I set out with my intention I go looking for reasons why it can’t be done, soon a sense of inertia begins to develop and there’s a feeling of being stuck. There’s something between the intention and the action – I realise it’s usually an excuse. Sub-consciously, I’m looking for the excuse and when I notice one I hold on to it.

The upside of noticing this is that we get to make a conscious decision about whether the goals or intentions we have set for ourselves really need our attention. The ability to make conscious choices in our intentions mean that an inability to achieve our goal can be more about either the quality of our decision making or the quality of our excuse making.

Intention – Excuse + Action + Result

So I’ve started my New Year, albeit slightly late, with some new intentions. With an eye on my personal excuse regulator it’s going to be an amazing and fruitful 2015.   Happy 2015, may it be filled with intentions and cured of its excuses. It’s a cure that requires no prescription, those excuses – just let them go…