Still Naked!

Five years ago, I wrote my first blog – "The Emperor is Naked! Taking risks to reduce risk…"

The title pretty much gives you a clear idea of the premise of the piece. I invited the reader to consider that the brave little voice in the crowd that points out that the Emperor is in fact naked – while all around them (including the Emporer) have been fooled into believing otherwise – is like the voice that speaks up in healthcare when something (or someone) is not safe, patient centered, or effective.

Five years later I am still convinced that there are many in healthcare leadership roles that are still naked, and worse, they are surrounded by ‘loyal subjects’ that are too afraid to speak up and share this reality with their supervisor, with their ’emperor’.

The questions that I posed in that blog remain relevant:

  • Does your environment promote or inhibit speaking up?
  • Are your co-workers and managers so confident and conceited that they sometimes don’t acknowledge what everyone sees as true?
  • Are people ignoring what the data shows for fear of embarrassment?
  • Do people perpetuate "how" things are done to go along with the "crowd" – or because it’s the way it’s always been done?
  • Are leadership team members willing to take the risks required to speak up and act differently? (to be that little voice in the crowd)
  • What are the risks associated with speaking and acting differently?

What I’ve been reminded of over the past five years is that the driver of not speaking up is fear.

Overcoming fear: of being wrong, of push back, of disagreement, or of embarrassment is the essence of accountable leadership.

The reality though, is that often the fear of acting on our thoughts is misplaced. It’s the fear of the fear that holds us back. We tend to get caught up in mind games of what will people think and how will they react. What if someone finds out that I don’t know as much as I think I know? What if they think less of me? What if I missed something? What if…..

Enough already! If the past five years have taught me nothing else they have taught me that the mind games we play with ourselves are exactly that, mind games. Speaking up, saying out loud what we’re thinking and asking the question that no-one else is willing to ask is not as big a risk as we think it is.

Go ahead, try it. Not doing so creates more of the same, the status quo.

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