I have just returned from a great conference in Fiji where I was invited to speak to a group of senior doctors about wellbeing in the professions and the importance of personal presence. A conference in Fiji truly is the perfect place to reflect and reset - I’ve attended retreats like this annually as part of my own self-care as a professional and I totally value how essential it is to take time to refuel.
This is a group that I feel really passionate about – with such an increase in burnout and extremely high rates of mental health issues and suicide within the professions, it is essential that individuals are equipped with the skills to help them deal with the day to day pressures of such intense occupations. These are all roles where the focus is continuously on others rather than yourself.
But why would I need to speak to medical professionals about communication in relation to burnout? On a very basic level, my presentation was about holding authority when you speak and engage with others. And on a scientific level, it is about taking into account the neuroscience of nerves and the physicality of voice.
The professions have high professional standards and entrenched cultures whereby it is difficult to speak up for and ask for help, or even recognise when a crisis point is being reached.
Like managers in many fields, doctors are employed and promoted due to their superior technical skills after undertaking extremely intense training for many years. They then find themselves in positions of leadership tasked with managing others, yet the same level of training isn’t there to support the development of managerial skills. Theoretically, we all understand that practicing good communication skills is one of the key elements of successful leadership, but most of us avoid conflict and confrontation, which in turn creates anxiety and distress in the workplace.
Stress is a killer - people avoid conflict and in doing so, stress increases unnecessarily. When they feel empowered to deal with conflict, the energy that is expended by weeks of worrying and avoidance is channelled into a more positive direction, producing better results.
Ultimately, good communication skills are essential for dispute resolution and difficult conversations.
And so this is what my workshops explored. We looked at how to find your voice by developing skills to stay grounded, focused maintain your own composure in the face of conflict, as well as language choice and practical voice work exercises.
It was interesting to discuss how diverse workplaces do lead to better outcomes, but also inevitably more internal conflict. We explored how people need improved emotional intelligence and communication skills in order to achieve those better outcomes because with greater diversity naturally there is a greater conflict in value systems.
As a nationally accredited mediator, I shared my guidance on how to manage high conflict interactions, by providing tools for diffusing emotion as well as acknowledging its role and refocusing teams. With a solid foundation from my actor training, whereby preparation for abnormal stressful situations and high performance, I find that this transfers perfectly into the professional sphere.
It’s so important that interpersonal skills are developed in order to get even better results from high performing diverse teams. It is essential for success, productivity, happiness and most importantly wellbeing
One statistic that was shared in the session was that the litigation rate for doctors increases at around the age of 40. This is no coincidence that this is around the same time that many medical professionals report having compassion fatigue. This is exactly why taking care of yourself as a carer is so important, so that you can continue to provide great quality care.
I encourage professionals to take some time to consider crafting their communication. Whether it is at a conference overseas or simply by taking time out, it is important to take stock regularly and focus on what is important to you. After all, personal development is professional development.
Kayte Lewis is a mediator, lawyer and professional development specialist dedicated to helping people ‘find their voice’ through communication. As the founder of Voice Lawyers & Voice Consultants and Advocates, Kayte believes in gaining a deeper insight into organisations and individuals to find a resolution.
Voice Lawyers have offices in Sydney CBD and Macquarie Park and hold workshops in both Sydney and Melbourne. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org (02) 92318602 if you are interested in knowing more.