Role modelling isn’t just for leaders

In the third of my trilogy on ‘joy’ I will explore the things that everyone can do.  As it says in the title, role modelling isn’t just for leaders.  Firstly, everyone has the ability to be a leader no matter where your role sits within the hierarchy or structure.  Secondly we can all role model the behaviours we want to see in others including joy. Similar to our @signuptosafety twitter campaign #kind2018, there are some really simple things you can do today to bring joy to others.

Say thank you

Saying thank you is a powerful act of civility

(Kumar and Epley 2018)

We never thank people enough.  I don’t mean just the generic ‘thank you’ at the end of the shift or clinic or session.  It has to be authentic and genuine – you have got to mean it.  Research* shows that we underestimate the positive impact on others and ourselves when we say thank you.

What can you do today? Send someone a thank you message; write a text, a tweet, an email or a letter telling someone how they had helped you.  Do this in a meaningful way by being personal and detailed, explaining what they did and how it had affected you, how it had made you feel.

Be kind

What’s not to like or to lose by being kind to people?

What you can do today? Follow the people who inspire me everyday with their efforts to mainstream kindness, fairness, learning from excellence, joy in work, appreciation, and civility…:

  • Gemma Crossingham – Consultant Anaesthetist in Plymouth.  Tweet: @gemolio
  • Adrian Plunkett – Consultant Paediatric Intensivist at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.   Tweet: @adrianplunkett
  • Emma Plunkett –  Consultant anaesthetist at University Hospitals Birmingham and Birmingham Women’s Hospital. Tweet: @emmaplunkett
  • Neil Spenceley – Head of Paediatric Intensive Care in Glasgow and the Scottish Paediatric Patient Safety Lead. Tweet: @Neilspenceley
  • Chris Turner – Consultant in Emergency Medicine. Tweet: @orangedis and more via http://www.civilitysaveslives
  • Steven Shorrock – Psychologist – Human Factors and Ergonomics Blog at and Tweet: @StevenShorrock
  • Richard Taunt – Tweet: @RichardTaunt and @kscopehealth
  • and of course – the team @signuptosafety

Keep a gratitude journal

Its hard being positive all of the time, in fact I would suggest impossible.  But there is a human trait which is to doubt ourselves or to feel like nothing seems to go right.  To help, some people have found it works to keep a gratitude journal. It has helped them feel more positive about their life or their work.  Those that keep one have said it is really easy and over time the things that they feel grateful for become smaller and smaller, as in they recognise more and more the things they feel grateful for.  Some people have given blank notebooks to staff when they start a new job or a new rotation or for attendees of courses to use to keep a gratitude journal.

What can you do today? Simply jot down the things you are grateful for at the end of the day or the end of the week. Write about what you feel is great, what you are proud of, who you might want to thank, what kind act you mind want to do, as well as things you might want to do differently.

Share stories

Lisa Rosenbaum** wrote an article ‘Twitter tailwinds – little capsules of gratitude’ about the Twitter campaign #ShareAStoryInOneTweet – this as she says ‘briefly transformed twitter’ into the most wonderful collection of stories from healthcare practitioners. It describes how an emergency doctor in Oregon US – Esther Choo – shared a story and used the hashtag. This role modelling of storytelling was picked up and briefly twitter ‘lit up with stories’.

What can you do today? Share your own stories with others.  Share what brings you joy and what you are proud of or grateful for.

Don’t use incident reporting systems as threats

Sadly so many people tell me that incident reporting systems have lost their purpose.  Rather than being used to learn they are being used to threat.  This keeps the negative culture alive.  It is a significant symptom of the culture of your organisation if it is used to blame people, target individuals, prod people to prioritise your issue above others.  It is a significant symptom of the culture of your organisation if it is used to replace a simple conversation between one human being and another.

What can you do today?  Completely rethink the way incident reporting is implemented in your organisation so that it is purely about learning.  If you need to tell someone that you are not happy with their attitude or behaviour then think of a different way and if possible sit down and talk it through with them.  And Be kind to people when things go wrong….  Ask the 3 questions Sidney Dekker suggests; who is hurt, what do they need and whose obligation is it to meet those needs.

Learn from what works

Shift the emphasis from just looking at things that go wrong and move towards learning from things that go right.  Try it out. When you are in a room full of people talking about what works you can almost touch the joy.  Appreciative inquiry is a great method for shifting the tone of a conversation from relentlessly focusing on the negative.  Carrie Biddle shared a blog*** on how she used appreciative inquiry in culture survey debriefings to keep a positive focus on what people wanted to do for a better future.

What can you do today? Ask positive questions.  Ask – even when things have gone wrong, – what worked.  Ask – even when you are investigating a complaint or incident or claim, – what worked.

When you are opening a meeting or receiving a report from others or carrying out a debrief or huddle, ask what worked first.  Asking what works first sets the tone for the rest of the conversation.


*Amit Kumar and Nicholas Epley (2018) Undervaluing Gratitude: Expressers Misunderstand the Consequences of Showing Appreciation, Psychological Science

**Lisa Rosenbaum (2018) Twitter Tailwinds – Little Capsules of Gratitude N Engl J Med 379: 209-211 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1806737

*** Blog: Carrie Biddle (2018) Improving team culture to deliver safe sustainable services for patients – The South West Academic Health Science Network –