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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How to Win the World Cup, Improve Health Care, and Defeat the Taliban

I sat over a cup of tea talking to a doctor.  He told me that he almost didn’t come to the physician colleague group I have been running at his hospital because it sounded too “touchy feely.”  I smiled, appreciating his honesty.  He is not alone—many busy people believe that getting to know one another below the surface is a time luxury they simply can’t afford.

In my opinion, we can’t afford not to.

France’s soccer team was supposed to contend for the World Cup.  Instead they totally imploded in a spectacular display of disunity.   General Stanley McChrystal was relieved of his duties in Afghanistan, not because of his performance on the battle field.  Rather it was a breakdown of trust and communication between him and President Obama.

In the meantime, I am hip--deep in studies showing that patient outcomes improve at hospitals where the staff pays attention to teambuilding.

Anyone who has ever been in a relationship knows that they aren’t easy.  Whether talking about a soccer team, running a war, or working in an emergency room, working together is complicated.  Each of us is an intricate, knotty, convoluted blend of neurons and needs, light and lunacy.  Add the pressure of whatever the battlefield represents in your work, and it makes for a sensitive environment.

Most research indicates that the simple act of knowing one another at a deeper level improves communication and work performance. Taking a few moments to deepen relationships amongst colleagues when you are not in the heat of the battle usually improves team performance when you are there.

I am pleased to report that the aforementioned doctor is now an active part of our physician colleague group. He is honest, authentic and articulate.  If I ever found myself on my back in an emergency room, I would hope to see his face looking down on me.  Along with an appreciation for his medical skills, I would be glad to know that he is a part of a team that communicates well.

Working on our relationships with colleagues is not a touchy-feely luxury.   It can be the difference between winning or losing, life or death.

Question:  How is your team functioning?  What can you do to make it better?

Doug Wysockey-Johnson
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