Category Archives: abuse

Audit, Inspection and Scrutiny: the three ugly sisters?

This popped into my inbox today:

“The need to drive up the quality of care for patients, whilst delivering efficiency and productivity, is a key principle for the NHS. As pressure on NHS finances continues to build, UKAS accreditation is increasingly being used as an effective way for purchasers and commissioners to demonstrate that they can achieve ‘more for less’.”

I felt a stirring of irritation. This blog is the result……….

I know organisations have to behave commercially and tick boxes in order to thrive. I spend part of my working life encouraging and supporting charities and NFPs to do exactly that, but without losing their heart and soul to it. It is possible. But as an old nurse (registered about a century ago) and vehement supporter of the NHS original principles of free at the point of need and paid for by the entire community I am increasingly dismayed by the passionless, sterile performance of the people tasked with – and paid handsomely for – managing “public” health services. I have seen patients become the enemy, clinical standards side-lined in favour of improvement on the balance sheet, kindness become irrelevant, and buzzwords and trends take the place of clinical and compassionate behaviour. Health and social services are scrutinised, inspected, audited, governed, examined, professionalised more than ever before and we still have Winterbourne, elder abuse, Southern Health (pauses to spit), frequent reports of casual abuse and cruelty (that we know of), and we will all know those “care” homes with a good CQC rating which pong and employ people you would not want to sit next to on the bus. We will all know of supported living services that are little more than one person institutions with little or no meaningful activity and engagement – or to put it another way, that warehouse people in units of one, creating the illusion of choice and a Life but deliver isolation and fear. We have seen Southern Health reduce victims and loving families to statistics and irrelevancies, destroying people in order to prop up a system that sucks and protect the very people who allowed and encouraged the system that killed people and fixed the blame on others, with lies, obfuscation and bluster.

Some inspection agencies, several tiers of consultancy and management and many more are too often yet another layer of “approval” or box ticking to chuck at organisations. Along with services like 111 –  a dangerous irrelevance that often removes much needed funding from frontline services for the return of reduced standards and increased risk –  they also create a cash cow for canny providers without delivering any improvement in clinical outcomes, or supporting real people with the very real challenges of everyday ill health. We seem to simply carry on increasing layers of approval, fresh hoops to leap through (some with fire) rather than examine very basic factors. Often the people creating those hoops are not clinical and have little understanding of how  things actually work in the real world. I keep hearing that we need more funding for this that and the other – I keep seeing a variety of groups being blamed for an ever increasing number of failures and deficits: currently GPs are getting a hammering despite being possibly the last group of professionals who should be blamed and who, along with dedicated skilled nurses have kept things going against the odds. Commissioning services is clunky, inappropriately targeted, poorly contracted and badly managed, which is a criticism of the process –  again often created by people who do not understand the real workings – and not the people who have to work with it. The competition itself reduces the capacity to develop and really grow health and social care support services because contracts are not only badly drawn and managed but are up for renewal so frequently it is impossible to invest in services and also make that holy grail of profit. Profit is not going to be the first thing to go.

I firmly believe in a skilled and educated workforce well managed and led and supported with career choices and pathways. I also firmly believe in holding organisations and individuals to account. I believe those can be delivered without the huge self-propagating self- perpetuating roundabout of new mandatory qualifications and accreditations, incompetent inspections, and without the workshops, consultancies, projects, papers, enquiries, processes, requirements and bottom feeding organisations that have sprung up around services that are actually intended to protect, care for and nurture us.

There comes a time when the volcano erupts, the boil is lanced, the pus drains and healing can take place. We need to recognise that the privatisation experiment which was trumpeted as the way to increase choice and competition which were equally being promoted as in our interests – I am pausing for the laugh here –  is a failure, delivering little more than profits for largely incompetent organisations and draining the body of the NHS of resources and talent. Choice is not what sick people want, overall – they want skilled professional care, close to home, delivered kindly by people they trust and with their involvement in the process. And answers if something goes wrong, with a meaningful apology attached. Dividing professionals and organisations with “competition”, asking for innovation when compassion is good enough, blaming good people for systemic failures and expecting mountains of assessments, graphs, justifications, and hounding good people for honest mistakes does not result in decent health and social support.

Have a look at this: Laugh and then weep.

Look at me

I saw a few posts on social media this week about people who ignore their children in order to check their phones and messages…..you know the sort of thing, a picture of a fed up child and a parent staring at a screen. In my study (I am on the fourth floor and commonly known as the Mad Woman In The Attic, not without some justification) I watch parents taking their children to school and some parents even have earphones in – blocking out not only the wonderful sounds of the morning, birdsong and breezes, but also their children, who stump along next to them glumly, often trotting to keep up as the uncomprehending parent  marches ahead in order to get that task out of the way and get on to other important things such as staring at a screen and drinking coffee. It makes me feel sad…..

It also makes me angry that we are still at this point in our evolution. For the past thirty-plus years I have been attempting to inject humanity into health and social services on different levels, since the horror of student nursing (about a hundred and fifty years ago….)  when, on my first mental health ward for elders (the clue was in the shorthand title: PsychoGerries) I trotted along for my first day to discover a shabby-coated and smoking staff nurse standing – slouching – in the centre of a semi circle of commodes on each of which there was a naked elder. Both men and women were lined up together for ritual and casual humiliation. After a brief pause to get my breath as I stared at him I sent him home (well, there were a few well chosen and short words as well) and along with some chums set about restoring a little dignity. At every stage, for years, I have seen that same ritual and casual disrespect and humiliation handed out to all and any people using services by people who, if you met them elsewhere would probably seem like decent human beings. From elders having crap food shovelled into their mouths by smoking and grubby “carers” to people with learning disabilities ignored and belittled for being who they are, not even allowed to choose their own bedtime, their own food, the people with whom they will spend their days – their lives.

Don’t get me wrong: there are some brilliant support people, some fabulous organisations who strive to be good, to deliver humanity in their services and campaign for change. I know, and have worked with, many fab people who actually care and understand what that means (ie that it isn’t just about smiling a lot and nodding, but it is about taking risks, liking and respecting the people around you and understanding that each of us is individual – and encouraging that). But in the grand scheme of things these people are too few, and the others are tolerated because of where we are in our evolution. Which takes me back to where I started.

Being with people – supporting people, caring, whatever word you use, and the words matter because you will behave in a way that the words expect – IS the point. The things we do, taking children to school, supporting someone to eat, going to a gig with someone, supporting someone to put their clothes on, shopping with someone, they are all component parts, each as important as the other, as important in how we do them as well as that we do them at all. Those grubby “carers” shovelling food into someones mouth are indeed performing the task in their job description but their main task – of being with someone and having that relationship with someones humanity, their person-ness – has been lost. How much more time and effort would it cost to look at the person in front of them and see their person-ness and be kind? But that kindness is by and large not factored into how we commission, deliver, train for, reward and recruit to support services. Our task oriented focus takes us from task to task, KPI to KPI, box to box and target to target. When was the last time you saw the word “kind” in a job description……?

I remember – and I wish I could forget – watching a “carer” stand up, walk over to an elderly woman with dementia, and without a word roughly haul her up and out of her chair because it was “toileting time”. I sent a nurse home one night years ago because as we were nursing a comatose dying woman in her bed the other nurse leant over her – right over her – and said quite audibly to me “I don’t know why we are doing this she will be dead by the morning.” Casual cruelty, thoughtless indignity, the view of people as lumps of meat to whom we have to do things in order to earn a pay packet. Hauling ourselves and the people we support from task to task as quickly as possible…..for what? That task is a means to an end, a conduit through which we can nourish and nurture the relationship – it is the means, not the end.

It is that corporate and individual refusal to see people as human, as individuals, that allows learning disabled people to die in hospitals they should never have been in far away from the people who love them and allows the people who allow it to happen to bear no meaningful consequences.  It allows elders to be warehoused in buildings from which they will never leave until they die, who will never again feel the breeze on their faces, hear the birdsong or the sea, have someone look them in the face and hear what they are saying, be useful, be heard. Be a person. Have fun. If we are not having a little fun along the way what is the point?

Please take some time to look at the links here. Stay Up Late is a brilliant grassroots charity promoting the right for people with learning disabilities to have a choice about how they live their lives. That it is needed at all is telling.

The more difficult read is the piece about assessment and treatment centres. Read it and weep. And then sign up to the 7 days of action. Please

And please read about Connor Sparrowhawk and his phenomenal circle of support. Even after his avoidable death the people responsible have had little or no consequences, even after compounding the pain by denying wrongdoing, doing a bang up job of saving their own skins, and reducing the humanity of everyone involved. Shameful. Painful. And his Mother has responded with dignity and energy – I listened to her on the radio a few months ago while I was driving and I had to pull over and stop because I was weeping too much to continue driving.

Home

https://theatuscandal.wordpress.com/2016/04/20/natural-causes/

https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/clare-sambrook/on-connor-sparrowhawk-s-avoidable-death

The “care” industry is regulated more now than it has ever been – there are audits, documents, inspections, investigations, inspectors, investigators, commissions, boxes to tick, all manner of things supposed to keep us safe. And yet the abuse is still there, as open and filthy as ever. Safety is not guaranteed – and anyway, is safety the most important thing in life? Isn’t fun –  and autonomy, and independence, and risk, and loving and laughing, making mistakes, and pain and heartbreak  – as important? Aren’t those things the things that make us human? Those safeguards will never take the place of kindness and humanity, of seeing the person in front of us and respecting them just for being themselves. Let’s try that – and owning it when we get it wrong – for a while and see what happens………

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A little pain goes a long way…..

Gosh how we undervalue our physical selves! All High and Mighty about values and philosophies and high-falutin’ principles we ignore the uncomfortable truth that without physical comfort we can sink.

After a week of volcanic uncontrollable pain which I knew was temporary but that didn’t help, the pain is coming under control and the say-it-quick-and-it-won’t-matter cause, a massive infection, is starting to abate. Good grief I even got dressed for part of today! The worst is over and I am re-entering the world of humans again even though I still can’t talk without sounding like Sylvester Stallone chewing socks. I want to stay awake all night and read poetry! Write poetry! Get that sunrise that has been in the back of my head right to the front and then onto canvas. Read A Brief History Of Time again until I actually get it. Having spent a week unable to do anything other than lie down and let my mind rattle around I want to jump and dance – not that I could realistically anyway with two left feet and a dodgy knee but the urge never goes. Actually it’s more like three left feet when I get going – how on earth do cats and dogs and other cleverly quadruped creatures co-ordinate four limbs? I struggle to keep the two legs I have under control, on a good day.

I have dived deep into the many dreams that came courtesy of the analgesia and had the time to understand them – without that luxury I would have romped out of bed the morning after my dreams and failed to reflect enough to see that, for one example alone, on one night the unrecognisable woman in the dream was my Mother and lying there following the dream backwards I was able to start to understand a few things that had foxed me for years. With eyes closed and mind open I could travel around inside my head and find some of the obstacles there, and start to remove them. Thank you analgesia.

Moving from almost unbearable pain towards comfort it is possible to close my eyes and instead of the scary black holes that were there until today, see in their place now a multitude of constellations that give light and warmth as well as shade and comfort and I can watch and follow them behind my eyelids enjoying their shapes, colours and variety. They offer entertainment and reflection. During the worst times of the last week as a distraction I forced myself to stop and listen to the birdsong outside my window – a window through which I have, with great pleasure, watched the seasons changing for more than fifteen years and through which I have watched my children play and grow, and where my granddaughter now plays too. I was as warm and as comfortable as I could be given the pain and it was possible to start to look forward to the Spring listening to those birds, to picture the flowers and hedgerows and smell and taste the asparagus, spring greens, cucumber, strawberries, rhubarb as if they were already here. I was in my own bed, my own house, with my children making sure I was comfortable and my books and cushions around me and a shedload of pain relief making life ok.

I was able to look forward past the pain because I was physically secure. How much would I have coped with the pain had I been cold, wet, outside and without comfort? I have little enough to be grumpy about even with the temporary illness, but I still managed it from time to time. How dreary, how impossible to cope with each day had I been homeless or stateless, insecure and alone. I am one of many people fortunate to have the opportunity to work and create an immediate environment that is comfortable, happy, peaceful. I have provided for my family, alongside my husband, and we have done it pretty well. We can be satisfied that we have done a decent job and we reap some of those rewards in terms of love and affection, support and security, wellbeing and happiness. Damn, I am lucky! There are however many people denied that experience, denied the opportunity to raise their children in safety and warmth, sometimes even without adequate water, food, protection. As I look forward to Spring and those strawberries many others look forward to nothing at all, hoping simply to exist for another day, hoping to keep their children alive, if not safe. There are people living in hospitals who should never have been there and who have suffered infinitely as a result, the product of arrogant careless models of “care”. There are people bereaved because someone didn’t give enough of a damn.There are people who sleep on streets and benches because they struggle with a world of barriers and expectations. There are people in prisons because they have no meaningful means of breaking away from the ropes that hold them in place and fix them in the amber of chaos. There are elders locked inside “homes” who will never ever feel the breeze on their face again because there is no-one to help them outside because of “staff shortage” and because of people who don’t get that some things matter enough to make them happen even if they don’t show up on KPIs and audits.

Creative as I am I cannot even begin to understand how that feels. I can empathise and I can witness – and both of those things matter and support a greater understanding and tolerance. I can try to make a difference, and I do try. But those things, those terrible circumstances, will continue for too many people. That is almost as unbearable as the pain…….

As I recover and anticipate with pleasure and gratitude the rhubarb, spinach and strawberries I will keep in my head all the people who I know are not as happy or lucky as me. I will offer them my love and respect and will continue to try to make a difference in the tiny ways available to me and I will try to create more ways, and I know many many fabulous people who do the same and more, and it is a genuine honour to know them.  We will keep on trying, in gratitude and humility and this last week has helped me to focus on that. Otherwise what is the point?

 

Freedom this Bank Holiday Weekend……..

Every morning I wake up and whatever else is happening I recognise my good fortune and articulate my gratitude. I think about the day ahead, and reflect on the day before. This morning, looking out of my study window at the world outside my thoughts drifted down a path that pondered Freedom.

Living in a democracy, perhaps I am politically free, although that is dubious given how much people pay to become politicians and how much it costs them to retain power. Their wealth supports their power grab.  But I have a vote which matters and for which people gave their lives, so partially free perhaps and indebted to those courageous people.

I am free to work and earn my living, earn my self respect. Dependent on the people above to enable jobs of course, and dependent on me doing a good job.

I am free to marry whoever I choose, and that freedom has been refreshingly extended recently, partly because of our democracy and our right to lobby and protest peacefully – although that too is under threat when police measures so obviously discourage peaceful protest and peaceful and passive campaigners are taken to court for exercising their peaceful rights.

I am free to have a religion or not have a religion, but sadly not free to express serious doubts about religions because the weight of those religions are impacting my own, and their money and votes talk.

I am free to live in the expectation that I will not be abused, although that too is impacted by others who might disregard my freedom to live safely and securely and the impotence, ineptitude and apathy of those who might want, or be tasked with, protecting me.

Despite the limitations, I live in what we call a free society. But on what does my freedom depend?

While 9 year old girls can be bought and sold and abused and raped in “marriage” in some cultures, how can I be free?  While a country with whom my own country does business and exchanges money and with whom we have a relationship, is passing into law the right to stone to death someone who has sex with someone who is married but will not pass a law to protect those children who are being sold off how can I be free? When cutting into a child  of any genders genitals and mutilating them is accepted and condoned, how can I be free? When entire corporations condone the use of an animal slaughtered in a way that my society had rightly decided was barbaric and disallowed but which has, somehow, become acceptable again, how can I be free? How can I ever be free when my fellows are trapped?

Our freedoms are bought with our courage and our vigilance. Without the bravery of the people who marched, fought and died for my right to vote I would not have that democratic right; without the real struggles of people who valued freedom I would still be my husbands property and married to someone chosen for me; without serious campaigning and people prepared to endure hostility and violence I would not be able to earn a living wage. The key to life is movement, when we stop struggling and moving we die and that liberty is lost .

My freedom is your freedom, and yours is mine. As fellow humans, as people, we share the right to the freedoms that do not reduce other peoples freedoms. I will never be really free until all people are free and for that reason I will continue to strive for freedom for all of us. Freedom from the tyranny of crime, substance mis-use, abuse and the after effects of abuse, poverty, violence, oppression, political deviance, homelessness, fear and prejudice. In my small life there are opportunities to make a difference and I have an obligation to take those opportunities and pay back some of the debt I owe. It is my pleasure to do so.

 

I am looking out of my study window enjoying the birdsong, the breeze and the people passing on the pavement below. I can do this and I can write about it because of my liberty. Let us value those freedoms and strive to enable everyone to experience the same liberation. Let us not take our eye off the ball and let in those who want to reduce our freedoms – there are many of those, and the most dangerous are those who do it only because they believe they are right, who have a belief system that values their own principles and degrades mine. The picture outside my study window is beautiful because it is my view and I value the things in it, and one of the things I value most is that those things are not reducing anyone else. As I play golf this afternoon I will rejoice that I have the freedom, means and desire to do so, and can enjoy the wonderful company of my friends. We all deserve a life worth living, in freedom and in peace.

Have a great bank holiday weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A criminal waste, a disabled society. Unlock Your Future.

Easter is a time for reflection. I have been reflecting on the many people it has been my privilege to meet over the years. Many of the people I have worked with are people that the Jesus that I like to imagine would recognize: vulnerable, damaged, disenfranchised, hostile, broken, pathetic, lost, abused. I like them.

Disability is a strange concept, and many of the people with disabilities who I know would strongly suggest that it is not them with the disability but society, culture, which is disabled or which provides the disability. We build streets fit for the able bodied, buildings that exclude all but the well and the fit, work that suits only the driven and the straight and “normal”.  We see “work” as a means for economic growth and acquisition, and ignore the very real other benefits work can bring such as purpose, esteem, quality of life, respect. We patronise the successful disabled and express astonishment at their success. We create targets and drivers that take no account of alternative talents and aspirations, that fail to value otherness, indeed in a tabloid sense disability is so often viewed simply as a problem, a drain, a fiscal error.

If you look for the word “disability” online these are some of the words you get:

handicapafflictiondisorderdefectimpairment, disablement, infirmity  incapacityweaknessinability • Disability can make extra demands on financial resources.

Transfer those words to our environment and see what happens. Our shops have defects and will not allow wheelchairs in, our streets are afflicted with high kerbs and a lack of ramps, many work environments lack the capacity to value a range of people and talents and are, as a result, weak and impaired. Recruitment is afflicted by a set of rules and processes that despite legislation and encouragement still often excludes too many and that handicaps the workforce.

I would go further and suggest that people with a criminal history have been handicapped or disabled by society. Their forensic history effectively cripples their employment potential and afflicts their family life. If we suppose that it is indeed society and our culture that creates disability, in effect cripples its citizens, it follows that society can redress that. Some legislation attempts to do that by supporting “equal opportunities”, but equal ops can only happen if we view all candidates with an equal eye and the work environment is capable of accepting all candidates equally.

If you look for the word “criminal” online these are some of the words you get:

unlawfulillicitlawlesswrongillegalcorruptcrookedviciousimmoralwicked, culpable, disgracefulridiculousfoolishsenselessscandalouspreposterousdeplorable

I notice that none of those characteristics is irreversible. They are a description of how it is at the moment, not how it will be in the future. If we continue to exclude people from employment, to ignore the many benefits a varied and experienced workforce can bring, to expect jobless hopeless futureless people to suddenly somehow behave like employed, hopeful people with aspirations on release from prison, we set ourselves up to fail, and we fail our communities.

I don’t suggest for a moment that we employ anyone and everyone into any vacancy without safeguards and safety nets. I don’t do soft and fluffy. I do however suggest that we create those safeguards and safety nets and take the trouble to include the excluded and create a properly integrated and cohered environment in which everyone is valued, has the space to grow, and has their aspirations valued. Not because it is soft and fluffy, but because it reduces the risks of offending, of disaffection, and increases the chances of people buying into their communities and making the effort to support their futures and crucially it means we reduce the risk of missing out on some serious talent. Back in the day when social and health care services were even more rigid in their outlook than they are now, I employed an ex-offender who had done time for murder. I employed him in elder care. This was not universally welcomed…….But I ran the checks, created the risk assessment, spoke to the people I needed to speak to and importantly offered him a mentor and some effective support to re-adjust. It was a success.

No-one would suggest  there is an easy answer or that it is a simple matter. But that is not a good enough reason not to try.

No Offence CiC is a social enterprise  and I am lucky enough to be on the Board. We are not driven by private profit and we facilitate open access to crime and justice information. By challenging barriers to positive change and influencing future policy, our objective is simple: to make a difference. My own organisation, Mayall Management Ltd, is proud to support the Unlock Your Future project that No Offence is driving.

http://www.no-offence.org/

Unlock your Future

‘Breaking down barriers to employment for people with convictions’

This project will focus on identifying and breaking down the barriers to employment for people with convictions, to bring employers and employees together.

A simple key discreetly placed on a job advert will indicate that this employer will consider all applications on their merit and not their past.

Many employers have a skills shortage and would benefit from an increased pool of suitable candidates from which to recruit.

Unfilled vacancies can have an economic impact on any business and increase pressure on other employees attempting to make up the resourcing short fall.

We need a network of champions to raise awareness of this project and support employers to use the key either on their own website and/or on our jobs board and spread the word to those people looking for a job and also recruit other champions. Could you help us?

Employment provides us with a significant opportunity to break the cycle of reoffending. If you are an employer please join our network and we will send you the key to use free of charge.

http://www.no-offence.org/static-page/unlock-your-future/

 

Freedom fighters and terrorists

I was brought up in an Irish “community” which yo-yoed between London and Wexford – I didn’t even know I lived in London until I started school – I thought, if I thought about it at all, that we lived in Dublin. And the Convent did nothing to reduce that view populated as it was with weatherbeaten old Irish nuns and a few young and timid Irish nuns all of whom appeared to think Galway was the centre of the Universe, priests were Supermen, and who spent a lot of their time blushing. And using their ebony crucifix as a weapon of mass destruction in the classroom – I still have the migraines to prove it – but that is another blog entirely. Most of the Irish in that community had integrated well with the Brits, worked hard, played hard, were charming and funny, generous in the boozer, and made no trouble. Making no trouble was important: if you made trouble you were visible and if you were visible you were a target. I am old enough – just –  to remember the No Dogs No Blacks No Irish signs. I am young enough for that not to have hurt me as much as it must have hurt my Dad. Making no trouble also lost me most of my Irish identity at my Shires Grammar School where it was clear that British – or even better English – was the only way to be so that is how I sound. And then in the ’70s when some Irish people were committing appalling violence on the mainland sounding English was another good way of being invisible.  It is what it is.

We have heard a great deal in the past few months about “communities” responding to news of terrible crimes, the dreadful murder of a young man in Woolwich for example, a crime to which many of us, including myself, responded with anger, rage and a profound desire to show support and to evidence our own corporate abhorrence, a complete refusal to tolerate that kind of offence. For most of us the complexity of the West’s involvement with the Middle East was not relevant – one of our own had been violated and that was enough. It always will be. I was never asked, at any time, for my communities response. “Muslim communities”, “religious communities”, “local communities” were all asked for and gave their responses. Which was my “community”?

There is so much accepted wisdom about “communities” and the need to belong. Belonging to a community implies a committment, a shared identity, a shared purpose and some shared experiences. If those shared experiences, which are often deliberately re-told to include and sometimes encourage a shared sense of being wronged or misjudged by another “community” in order to consolidate the brethren nature of the group, are used by people with their own agenda, then we have “radicals”. Or, people with strong political beliefs. If these communities really do exist – and I remember with love my own splinter community in Kilburn where I felt safe and warm – then they will inevitably harbour dissent.

It is all in the words. Semantics rule. One mans radical is another mans believer; Freedom Fighter or Terrorist depends on where you stand when the landmine goes off.  If your community tacitly agrees that there is another community that oppresses yours, that there is a valid reason for dissent, then the people who resist perceived oppression will be Freedom Fighters, people to be if not feted then supported and protected. Our Own. The other community calls them terrorists. Whatever we call them they still kill and hurt people. The name does not mitigate the behaviour. There are many people today in the “communities” who are being asked for their views who make it clear that they do not know of anyone who is “radicalised” or a threat. Nonsense. I may not have known names or specifics as a youngster but I knew that there were people being hidden, supported, funded and fed by people who were good people, but who were supporting bad things because they were Ours. It is not possible to be even a small part of the group and not be aware of something. And that implicates the whole community. I remember my Dad and indeed our family being viewed with suspicion just for being Irish despite the fact that he was the least likely person ever to be a radical. Ever. The community was tainted.

Cards on the table: I support British troops to the max. My wonderful son in law is in the British Army and I don’t think I even have to add anything to that sentence. This piece isn’t about me, or him, or the British Army, or any communities. It isn’t even about politics. It is about perception. Perhaps because of my experiences I do not feel a need to belong to any particular group or community. That feels good. It means I am free to like anyone, or dislike anyone, based not on their community or group, their culture or their colour, their beliefs or their appearance, their criminal record, politics, height, weight, dis/ability, status or wealth but on their behaviour and their charm. That means I have a lovely eclectic collection of friends and acquaintances who give my life colour and depth. It also means that I would not shelter any one of them if I thought they had behaved oppressively or had hurt anyone. I don’t have to. I am free. I am free to love and support them whatever they do, but also free to disagree and not to feel obliged to shelter them if they do wrong.  That liberates both parties.

One of the first things that will support Radicalised people – people passionate about a cause –  to stop doing bad things to other people is for them to see those other people as people and not part of a group or community. Oppressing people will never relieve the oppression of another group, it will just complete the circular journey of hatred. But those groups will resist – why would they give up the power they have? It is in individuals that the answer lies. That means you and it means me.

Food Glorious Food?

Sharing meals allows us to come together and spend quality time with each other. It increases communication and understanding.  How many of us had our first experience of another culture through food? And coming together to prepare and eat food is part of many rituals and traditions. Food plays a big part in faith and in worship. When one shares in the Eucharist, it is said to be a  sharing of Christ’s body and blood, and worshippers are reminded of their responsibility to share all our meals with others. As St John Chrysostom once said, “You have tasted the blood of the Lord, yet you do not recognise your brother…You dishonour this table when you do not judge worthy of sharing your food someone judged worthy to take part in this meal.” Most faiths and religions have food rituals, most cultures have food rituals and norms. Food is significant. Food rituals – cutlery or lack of, how the food is produced (is it Halal? Organic? Vegan? Kosher?), how it is presented, how it is eaten – matter deeply to us all. The only people for whom those things no longer matter are the hungry, and even then I have known seriously hungry people refuse non-kosher or non-vegan food. So it is quite simply that important.

So…..

How many times recently have we heard about nurses now being expected to “feed and wash” patients for a year before they train? How many times do support workers and health professionals refer to “feeding” their patients or clients? The act of eating is reduced, for some, to the passive “feeding” offered by “carers”. It is reduced, for the care-givers, to a task to be got out of the way before the serious business of training, the important job of “nursing”, can be carried out. This simple attitude reduces human and humane care giving to the status of animal welfare. Now, let us acknowledge that there are similarities between the two, and animal welfare is very important. But in offering to care for and support other human beings we need to respect and acknowledge their humanity, and one of the few things that identifies humans as distinct from other animals is the development of specific and identifiable social rituals, especially around food, and the food rituals often define what we are as people: they indicate and specify how we live, what we believe, what matters to us.

The attitude that accepts us saying we are going to “feed” people when what we should  mean is that we are going to help them to eat or support them to eat is the same attitude that allows nurses and care givers to say things like “I have done Mrs Brown” when they mean they have helped or supported Mrs Brown to wash, or dress, or change her colostomy bag, or any of the other deeply personal, uncomfortable and intimate things carers do for us.  Those words, casually used and casually accepted, reduce our collective humanity, remove our independence. They remove the respect for our humanity that we properly expect our nurses and carers to demonstrate. They allow the casual neglect – and even the active cruelty – that we have seen in Winterbourne and at Stafford, and the many other places that have not yet hit the headlines. How can we pretend to be surprised by those events when we use the words that support the attitude of neglect and cruelty?

The words we use define how we behave, demonstrate how we think.  Let us challenge the use of words that encourage patient-passivity such as “feeding”, let us encourage the words that support active care such as “supporting, or assisting, to eat”. The former gives us a picture of food being shovelled into a patients mouth as a “carers” task, the latter gives us a picture of  someone in control of their food, being helped to perform their own task.  Notice the difference between “bathing” someone and “helping someone to bathe”.

When we become vulnerable through age, illness, disability or other reasons we often lose the option of privacy or dignity only because of the attitudes of the people tasked with supporting and assisting us. There are many discussions about why care can be poor, and often the poor wages are cited. And that is a factor – pay peanuts and you get chimps, and low wages do not reflect the importance of the job – but there is never, at any price, wage or  reward any excuse for reducing another persons humanity, for dragging away another human beings respect and trampling on their dignity. Individuals are responsible for their own behaviour and we should expect people recruited to care and support to behave properly – but the modelling of those good behaviours will flow from the leadership. If the people leading the services and the organisations do not demonstrate the crucial behaviours that indicate respect, humanity and the support of autonomy and independence for all then the people following those leaders will have no incentive to do so.

If you offer someone care and support, please, feed your dog but support your patient to eat.

My Fault, Your Fault, Our Fault

Ever since the breaking news of Jimmy Saviles alleged offences I have been reflecting with sadness. I worked in Stoke Mandeville Hospital and other local health services for a short period in the 70s and 80s while he lived there – in the nurses sick bay, for goodness sake –  and was one of those who “knew” and did nothing.  I can barely describe how appalling that makes me feel – although we did not “know” anything at all, we simply knew he was someone who made us uncomfortable and witnessed some odd behaviours like an unusually high interest in the younger and more vulnerable nurses and dreadful social skills with anyone other than the vulnerable or the star struck. I never saw this man do anything other than be odd, but I am left wondering why I did not put the facts together.

Back then, being touched up in the pub, wolf whistled in the street, and having leering men make unfunny jokes about sex or bosoms at parties was par for the course. It was expected, unchallenged and if we made a fuss we were lesbians. I was a feminist, still am a feminist, and make no apology for that even though my interpretation of feminism has developed over the years and bears little resemblance to my 70s feminism – but if I am claiming the political and moral high ground how can I explain not twigging some behaviours that were, if what we hear is true, going on in front of me? And now it is all breaking, it is so obvious that I am stunned by my own stupidity.

It was an era when children, especially disadvantaged children, were routinely dismissed as liars  or simply ignored, women were routinely patronised and abused, and the disabled were still called cripples and expected to stay indoors. The culture of celebrity was in the ascendence and the Telly was King. People were beginning to seriously worship the famous average and the famous odd. Throw some serious money from fund raising into the mix and we begin to see the shape of this picture.

This man was courted by people because he could get them dosh. He solved money problems for institutions and they grovelled for that. The institutions and the people running them dissolved the usual failsafes, ignored the usual safety measures, fell at the feet of that potent sludge of money and fame. The rest of us were too busy working to pay much more attention than t0 notice the guys odd manner and feel repulsed. This begins to look even less satisfactory the more I reflect.

We are a little complacent now – we see the paralympics and marvel at how “the disabled” now have the same opportunities to compete and win as “the able bodied” – we don’t really question whether that impacts on disabled people who just want to live an ordinary life, we just stand open mouthed at crip power. We reel back in horror at some of the “antique” words that were commonplace a few years ago, like “nigger”, “dyke” (although that has now been wonderfully reclaimed!), “spastic”, “dolly bird” (a personal pet hate), and we turn our noses up at “black coffee”, the term of endearment from strangers such as “love” or “dear”, and find new forms of offence to be taken every week, new words and phrases with which to struggle and stammer over. No offence.

But have we moved on that much? We worshipped a rich-girl-made-good when Diana died – she never had the opportunity or perhaps even the desire to just be a woman. I used to wish she would break wind savagely when she got out of a car in one of those  fab dresses just to break the spell.  We follow the slebs lives slavishly, young women have surgery and starve themselves to be like the famous average and people line up to be humiliated on national TV in the hope of being famous for a while. We profess horror when a footballer says “black” to a black man but still have room for the BNP leader to tweet an incitement to harass a gay couple for winning a court case. Young women are still less likely to follow a career in Physics than their male colleagues. Charmless rich men still trot about with tall totty with boob jobs and bleach jobs, wide smiles and silent acceptance.

I think what I am saying is that the revelations about the alleged offences committed by some famous men over the past few years – probably decades – has caused me to take a long hard look at how we have all been living. Perhaps doing that can help to make sure we reduce the risks of abuses happening in the future. Abuse isn’t just about force, or about sex, or even about  violence. It is about violation and lack of respect. It is about reducing people to objects, or to things that we can make use of – the vulnerable, the young, the minorities, the poor. People with little or no voice. People who have been in prison, people with mental health issues, the homeless, people with learning disabilities, many many more – a long list of groups and individuals who have been – are – abused without consequence. When was the last time you were enraged when you heard about a homeless person being beaten up? Properly enraged?

Until we  take the time and the effort to see people as people, human beings, with worth and value, abuses will be a risk, and we will open the papers again soon to find ourselves shocked about another story of inhumanity, perhaps a story about human trafficking, about an “honour” killing, about something dramatic enough to excite the papers. We will not see the wifebeater next door, the abusive Father and his submissive daughter, the homeless guy in the shop doorway, the celebrity with his own set of keys to a place that offers asylum to some of the  most dysfunctional and voiceless people in the UK.

Nothing says I Love You like a well run meeting…..

So, you have recruited the best, and you are paying them well. You have a business to develop, and standards to raise. You are leading a team. How do you really screw that up?

Create meetings that don’t matter, allow people to arrive late and faff, and fail to tell people if they are cancelled.

You want to get the best from your teams, to create opportunities for them to thrive, to deliver and to grow. You need to meet from time to time to review, develop, touch base, share and cascade information, to brainstorm, to hang out, and to motivate. So, you have opportunities to value and reach out to your teams. If you fail to use that opportunity, you don’t deserve it.

Meetings are fab, and a great place to get things done and decisions made. They are also the best place to lose the good will of your teams, to send absolutely the wrong message, and to poison your relationships. Get it right, and they are brilliant. Get it wrong, and they are toxic.

Even in the best companies not every meeting can be a hit. However, if there is a clear, up-front goal, a visible agenda, and the players know the difference between a constructive tangent and a distraction positive results are inevitable. Are you willing to speak up if you see ways to improve? Don’t let yourself get comfortable with the status quo. It only takes a moment to plug the energy leaks.

                                           MEETING EFFECTIVELY

1. Don’t Meet. Yes, you heard me!

Avoid a meeting if the same information could be covered in a memo, e-mail or brief report. One of the keys to having more effective meetings is differentiating between the need for one-way information dissemination and two-way information sharing. To disseminate information you can use a variety of other communication media, such as sending an e-mail or posting the information on your company’s intranet. If you want to be certain you have delivered the right message, you can schedule a meeting to simply answer questions about the information you have sent. By remembering to ask yourself, “Is a meeting the best way to handle this?” you’ll cut down on wasted meeting time and restore your group’s belief that the meetings they attend are necessary.    However, when deciding whether or not a meeting is needed remember The Myth Of The Paper Trail: We’ve all heard the myth of the “paperless office,” but looking at the mountain of paper that’s engulfing your workspace, how many of us actually believe it? In fact, studies have shown that the volume of paper produced by businesses has increased rather than diminished in recent years. Have you ever written a memo or report, then printed off 10 copies to give to your colleagues for feedback? You end up with 10 edited copies that you have to try and integrate into one cohesive document. Wouldn’t it save everyone time (and paper) if you called a meeting with your team, collaborated with the live document, and made your changes then and there?

2. Set Objectives for the Meeting
Set objectives before the meeting. Before planning the agenda for the meeting, write down a phrase or several phrases to complete the sentence: By the end of the meeting, I want the group to… Depending on the focus of your meeting, your ending to the sentence might include phrases such as: …be able to list the top three features of our newest service, …have generated three ideas for increasing our sales, …understand the way we do business with customers, …leave with an action plan, …decide on a new widget supplier, or …solve the design problem.

One benefit of setting objectives for the meeting is to help you plan the meeting. The more concrete your meeting objectives, the more focused your agenda will be. A second important benefit of having specific objectives for each meeting is that you have a concrete measure against which you can evaluate that meeting. Were you successful in meeting the objectives? Why or why not? Is another meeting required? Setting meeting objectives allows you to continuously improve your effective meeting process.

No clear goal invariably results in circular thinking, being “lost but making good time,” misusing the time for irrelevant details or pet distractions – a classic case of the “hours are lost while the minutes are taken.” Set the agenda in advance, gaining consensus on purpose.

If people drift off topic but nobody says “refocus” or gently challenges the speaker to tie comments back to the stated purpose it is a poorly led meeting and has a high risk of failure – it will also lose good will. Diversity of opinion is helpful when it leads to creative insight, but lengthy tangents often stem from unclear direction or not taking the agenda seriously. A flip chart page labeled “Parking Lot” can be used to quickly record side issues (I love this one – and it always works!) A gentle intervention is “Tie that in … how does that relate to our topic?”

3. Provide an Agenda Beforehand
Provide all participants with an agenda before the meeting starts. Your agenda needs to include a brief description of the meeting objectives, a list of the topics to be covered and a list stating who will address each topic and for how long. When you send the agenda, you should include the time, date and location of the meeting and any background information participants will need to know to hold an informed discussion on the meeting topic. What’s the most important thing you should do with your agenda? Follow it closely!

4. Assign Meeting Preparation
Give all participants something to prepare for the meeting, and that meeting will take on a new significance to each group member. For problem-solving meetings, have the group read the background information necessary to get down to business in the meeting. Ask each group member to think of one possible solution to the problem to get everyone thinking about the meeting topic. For example, to start a sales meeting on a positive note, have all participants recall their biggest success since the last meeting and ask one person to share his success with the group. For less formal meetings or brainstorming sessions, ask a trivia question related to the meeting topic and give the correct answer in the first few minutes of the meeting. These tips are excellent ways to warm up the group and direct participants’ attention to the meeting objectives.

5. Assign Actions
Don’t finish any discussion in the meeting without deciding how to act on it. Listen for key comments that flag potential action items and don’t let them pass by without addressing them during your meeting. Statements such as We should really…, that’s a topic for a different meeting…, or I wonder if we could… are examples of comments that should trigger action items to get a task done, hold another meeting or further examine a particular idea. Assigning tasks and projects as they arise during the meeting means that your follow-through will be complete. Addressing off-topic statements during the meeting in this way also allows you to keep the meeting on track. By immediately addressing these statements with the suggestion of making an action item to examine the issue outside of the current meeting, you show meeting participants that you value their input as well as their time.

If the meeting is not well managed outcomes drift and results are nebulous, or worse, wasted. If there is no accurate, written record of decisions made, clear consensus and accountability on action steps, or no follow-up from prior work, the bottom falls out. Make sure you verify all agreements, making sure there’s a reasonable “by when.”

6. Examine Your Meeting Process
Assign the last few minutes of every meeting as time to review the following questions: What worked well in this meeting? What can we do to improve our next meeting? Every participant should briefly provide a point-form answer to these questions. Answers to the second question should be phrased in the form of a suggested action. For example, if a participant’s answer is stated as Bernie was too long-winded, ask the participant to re-phrase the comment as an action. Remember – don’t leave the meeting without assessing what took place and making a plan to improve the next meeting!

                                                   

   LEADING A MEETING   – Lead that meeting! Grab it and steer it and use it!

Want to lead your next group meeting, but aren’t sure what to do first? Follow these guidelines and it’ll be easier than you think!

1. Schedule the Meeting

  • When scheduling your meeting, consider the information that must be covered, then allocate an appropriate amount of time. Don’t try to cram too many agenda topics into a 30-minute meeting. You’ll end up going overtime and attendees will become frustrated. On the other hand, don’t schedule too much time or the meeting may become slow-moving and get off-topic. My advice? Being realistic is the best way to allocate an appropriate amount of time for a meeting.
  • Don’t get caught up on halves and wholes. Many people will automatically allocate either 30 minutes or a full hour when scheduling a meeting simply because these quantities of time are common and expected. Schedule a 40-minute meeting if that’s the amount of time it takes to cover the subject. Don’t feel pressured to fill an hour if you don’t have an hour of issues to cover.
  • Carefully consider who should be attending the meeting. Only invite those whose attendance is absolutely necessary. If there’s someone who should know what happened in the meeting, but whose attendance isn’t absolutely necessary, send them a quick e-mail outlining the outcomes of the meeting. All of us already attend too many meetings. These individuals will be thankful for that one extra meeting they DIDN’T have to attend that week.

2. Create the Meeting Information
When sending invitations to a meeting, ask attendees if they have any agenda item requests. Once the agenda items have been requested, the agenda must be created at least one day before the meeting is scheduled. This way, you can distribute the agenda to all of the attendees before the meeting begins.

3. Distribute the Meeting Information
When participants have the agenda and access to background information before the meeting, it gives them sufficient time to prepare for any discussions or decisions that will occur during the meeting. This also saves time during the meeting. If attendees come to the meeting prepared, less time will be spent answering background information questions and more time for discussing the important issues. When distributing the agenda, remind participants that it’s their responsibility to come prepared to the meeting!

4. Lead the Meeting. Take responsibility. Step into the limelight!

  • Start your meeting on time! Even if all the attendees haven’t arrived, begin when you said you would. Adhering to the schedule sends out a message that you’re serious about the meeting and expect attendees to arrive on time. If your meetings often start late and run over time, it doesn’t have to be this way! It’s time to take your meetings more seriously!
  1.  Commit to starting and finishing your meetings on time.
  2.  Expect attendees to be punctual and the meeting to finish on schedule. Intolerance for tardiness will set a behavioural standard for the group, and participants will likely conform if expectations are well-defined and consistently enforced. Listed next are some tips to help you and your group stay on time.
  3.  Send a reminder e-mail thirty minutes before the meeting begins and encourage meeting participants to arrive on time.
  4.  Ensure that you begin the meeting at the scheduled time. If you’ve encouraged others to be prompt, don’t embarrass yourself by showing up late.
  5. Close the meeting room doors at the scheduled time. There’s nothing like late attendees to disrupt the flow of a meeting!
  6. Consider posting a note outside the door stating the meeting’s time. This may seem harsh, but it clearly communicates how serious you are about keeping your meetings on time.
  7.  If the tardy participants don’t consider your meeting important enough to arrive on time, perhaps they shouldn’t have committed to attend at all.
  8.  If your meeting starts a little late, you should still finish the meeting at the scheduled time. It’s inconsiderate to assume the participants’ schedules revolve around your meeting, so wrap up the meeting when you promised.
  9.  Consider creating a “latecomer jar” to which meeting participants must contribute £1 for each minute they arrive late to meetings. At the end of the week, you can buy muffins or doughnuts for everyone who attended the meeting… courtesy of the latecomers!
  • As the meeting begins, provide an overview of agenda items and introduce the overall objective of the meeting. This provides direction for the meeting and reinforces what needs to be accomplished during this time. Introduce each agenda item by mentioning who will speak next and what will be discussed.
  • As the meeting leader, you’re responsible for recording the meeting notes, whether it’s on an interactive whiteboard, flipchart or in a notebook. This will free participants from the burden of note-taking and encourage richer, more in-depth discussions.
  • It’s also your responsibility to keep the meeting on track. This means steering the meeting discussion in a way that fulfils the meeting objectives. If you have difficult personalities in the room or opposing views, this can be challenging! Try using sentences such as, “That’s a valid point, but doesn’t directly apply to this discussion. Perhaps we should schedule a separate meeting to address it fully.” Or, “It’s obvious there are some opposing views surrounding this issue. Perhaps our time would be best spent working towards a compromise. Any suggestions?” If a meeting becomes particularly heated, it’s best to address what’s possible in the meeting but consider hiring a professional facilitator for the next meeting – a neutral leader who’s trained to deal with high-pressure, high-conflict meetings.
  • Items that surface and must be addressed should be assigned during the meeting discussion. Assign a particular individual or group to follow-up on each action item. A deadline and priority level should also be assigned for the action items.

5. Wrap-up the Meeting

  • At the end of the meeting, the leader should review the action items, who’s responsible and by when. This way, everyone has a clear picture of who’s responsible for what when the meeting’s over.
  • Another item that should be addressed at the end of your meeting is the meeting process itself. Take a few moments at the end of the meeting to discuss what the group did well during the meeting and which areas need improving.
  • Once the meeting objective has been accomplished, adjourn the meeting. Even if it’s thirty minutes earlier than expected! Don’t continue meeting simply because that’s what the schedule dictates.

6. Provide the Meeting Information
After the meeting is over, send the meeting information to all the participants. Because you were responsible for note-taking during the meeting, you may be the only one who has this information after the meeting ends. Whether you provide the notes by e-mail or photocopied hand-outs, sharing this meeting information is vital for proper follow-up. It’s also a good idea to include a summary of all the action items assigned during the meeting. This acts as a reminder to all participants of who’s responsible for what and by when.

Remember…

It’s important to keep in mind that calling a meeting doesn’t always have to be a major production. Keep it brief, focus on the issue at hand, and concentrate on reaching a workable conclusion. Remember, scheduling a 15-minute meeting can be a lot more effective than three e-mails, two missed phone calls, and a paper report!

RIGHT – THAT’S THE ORGANISER SORTED. WHAT ABOUT THE ATTENDEES?

  Attend meetings well – impress your Boss!

Attending a meeting is an activity, not a passivity! Make sure your Boss remembers you for the right reasons!

  • Quickly review the agenda before heading to the meeting. It’s a good idea to remind yourself why you’re attending the meeting. Reviewing the agenda helps attendees be better prepared for the meeting and, in turn, will help focus the meeting, enable all of the agenda items to be covered and allow the meeting to finish on time!
  • Make your way to the meeting ten minutes before it actually begins. This will give you enough time to visit the washroom, pour a cup of coffee or deal with any issues that may come up along the way. Plus, you’ll get the best seat for the meeting!
  • Consider speaking up if the meeting organizer shows up late. There are several ways to do this tactfully without insulting anyone. For example, if the organizer consistently arrives ten minutes late to your weekly meetings, ask him if it would be more convenient to start 15 minutes later next week.
  • Try to ask only relevant questions during the meeting. If your comment isn’t directly related to the topic at hand, don’t mention it. Getting off track is one of the main reasons that meetings go over time. If your group can avoid getting off track, you’ll all spend less time in meetings.
  •  Leave the meeting when it was scheduled to end. When the organizer extended the invitation to meet, he stated when the meeting would finish. It was on this condition that you accepted the meeting and committed your time. If you have work to which you must attend, politely tell the organizer that you have to leave and excuse yourself from the meeting.

By acting on these ideas you can indicate how important punctual meetings are and how committed you are to making them work. Trust me, your Boss and the meeting organiser will remember you fondly if you follow the above steps!

      Make Meetings Fun! This goes for everyone who has to organise or attend meetings.

When the average employee is asked to attend another meeting during their busy day, the natural response is to run like the wind – or at least fake a “scheduling conflict.” It’s hard to imagine meetings being considered “fun.” But injecting a little fun into your meetings might be just the right thing to encourage participation and creativity.

No one will be required to recite knock-knock jokes, wear silly costumes (although I did once go to a meeting dressed as a Chuckle Brother – they were desperate times!!) or balance a spoon on their nose, but a little laughter can go a long way towards improving productivity and employee morale. Unless the meeting is scheduled to deliver bad news, why not try a few of these ideas?

  1. Most people learn by doing. Whenever possible, include hands-on activities, live demonstrations, field trips, games, role-playing, etc.
  2. Don’t be afraid to mix it up – variety is what keeps people interested.
  3. Bribery works! Organize contests to generate ideas and offer prizes to encourage participation. A little friendly competition can bring great results.
  4. If your meetings tend to be dominated by a few people, try passing out five pennies to each meeting attendee. Attendees must “spend” a penny each time they talk. And no borrowing allowed!
  5. Consider appointing a Director of Fun for meetings. The Director will be responsible for dreaming up participatory activities, bringing in additional fun materials (videos, comic strips, articles, snacks) that relate to the meeting topic. A different Director could be appointed for each meeting.
  6. For a fun change of pace, consider hosting a meeting in talk-show style. Have the speakers act as guests, attendees are audience members and the meeting facilitator can be the talk show host. The host will encourage the audience to ask questions and share their opinions on the speakers’ comments.

Having fun at work leads to a more enjoyable time and increased employee loyalty. It’s important to always provide employees with the caveat up front that they’re free to decide to what extent they wish to participate. Some employees will warm up more slowly to an unconventional meeting style than others. It’s not fun to have your meeting facilitator (or worse, your boss) breathing down your neck to hurry up and start enjoying yourself. People will participate when they’re comfortable and relaxed.

 Remember, laughter stimulates blood flow, strengthens the immune system, reduces levels of hormones that create stress, and reduces pain perception (this is especially important when you’re attending the sixth meeting of the day). Happy Meeting!

This is an extract from an Education and Development Workshop devised and delivered by Bernie Mayall for Mayall Management Ltd. Mayall Management Ltd devise bespoke educational experiences for your services and your organisations and deliver them, from Execs up to Domestics, there is education for all!

berniemayall@gmail.com     07757262380

Loose Lips and Predator Colleagues

Maintaining confidentiality in relationships with colleagues, students, and allied professionals is crucial to upholding the dignity of any professional relationship, fundamental to the management of relationships. A colleague who is not capable of that is not a colleague but is a predator. Maintaining confidentiality – or even simply respecting a relationship –  builds on the ability to have open and honest communication in the workplace secure in the knowledge that any information will not be shared with those you do not wish it to be shared with.

The Link Between Trust and Confidentiality

When you earn the reputation of someone who can be relied on to respect confidences, you command the respect and trust of people around you and build deeper friendships. In business, trustworthy people are more likely to sell more products, built a larger customer base, receive more benefits, lead stronger teams and enjoy earlier promotions. More importantly, though, to those among us who enjoy a degree of integrity, that reputation means that colleagues trust us and are comfortable with us. For leaders, this trait is vital – without it they will never obtain the relationships that will support their leadership. They will never be effective leaders. The ability to manage oneself, to control ones own behaviours, is an essential tool in the adult managers toolbox – not respecting confidential material exposes the lack of that maturity for the world to see.

Respecting and Keeping Confidences

Are you someone who can be trusted with private and confidential information?

Here are a few tips when it comes to keeping confidences:

  • Never share information that you have been asked to keep confidential.
  • Use your judgment when it comes to matters of implied confidentiality.
  • Keep things confidential that were intended to be confidential even if a relationship breaks down.
  • Do not vent your private marital or relationship issues with your friends. This will cause them to view your spouse or significant other differently, probably negatively.
  • When someone says, “I was asked to keep this in confidence, but I can share it with you,” let them know that you’d rather not be involved.

The next time you consider sharing information, be sure to ask yourself if there is a chance that the person who shared the information with you would like it kept confidential. If that is the case, don’t share it.

When you keep things confidential that should be confidential, you will gain the reputation as a person who can be trusted, and you will grow strong in character and value. Clearly, the lack of that ability has the opposite effect.  Leaders, effective managers, have this knowledge innately; for others it may be more of a struggle to control their impulse to share. For them, they will have to wait until their professional maturity kicks in  and they understand in a meaningful way the profound importance of confidentiality, trust, and relationship management. Until they understand how profoundly important that is they will never achieve the maturity they need to perform effectively.

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