Guest post by Grant Kinghorn, Nurse Manager – Practice Development Unit | Justice Health & Forensic Mental Health Network
Many thanks Grant for an inspiring story of great leadership.
Some years back, my wife and I were travelling in Austria. On the second last night of our holiday as we were walking back to our hotel, we started to walk over a step long bridge between the town and our hotel. We could hear what appeared to be a drunken voice yelling loudly in a very thick German accent. Due to our extremely limited German vocabulary we could not comprehend what he was saying at all. We continued to walk until we got to the crest of the bridge at which point we saw it was a young man who was making all the noise. He was standing on the wrong side of bridge railing, staring into the dark waters below with his hands behind his back hanging on the railing and only an inch of concrete ledge where his feet balanced stopping him from falling.
By the time we got close to the young man, there was already a small group of people standing a couple metres between themselves and him mumbling to themselves in German all seeming unsure of what to do. Just as we’re about to ask the group in our extremely broken German, if we needed to call the police, an older man on a bike who was riding over the bridge stopped near us. He firstly attempted to engage us in German, which he quickly found out was not useful. He then talked to the group of people, who just shrugged their shoulders.
Then, although he appeared extremely anxious, he started to slowly approach the young man talking in a very calm voice. Initially the drunken young man became increasingly agitated and louder. However, the older man continued to approach slowly until his hands were on the railing next to him. To my disbelief, he then put one leg over the railing and leaned over so he could talk to the young man while making eye contact with him. We were shocked that this person was now putting his own life in danger to speak and make eye contact. After a couple of minutes of conversation between the pair, the young man appeared to be calmer and was engaging with the older man. It was soon after this that the older man waved us over and signalled to help pull him back over the railing.
Once the young man was safe on the right side of the railing, he looked to the group of us, smiled and started walking towards the town. The older man picked up his bike and turned to us and said “don’t worry, I’ll look after him” and proceeded to walk next to him. While my wife and I stayed behind in disbelief of what we saw, everyone else who was standing with us on the bridge began to follow the two men back towards the town….
The interesting thing is, years on when people ask about our favourite part of that holiday, we refer to the beautiful scenery or amazing food rather than the time we saw a man almost fall off a bridge. Yet that is the experience that I definitely look back as the most profound. The reason for this is because it strongly reminds me of a mentor who used to describe leadership as ‘not doing the right thing, but the thing that is right’.
This statement of leadership is exactly what I witnessed on that night with the older man on the bike. He could have like us, stood back and ensured his own safety was kept, he could have called emergency services and he could have spoken to the young man from a distance. These would all have been the right thing. Yet he did more than that, and even with the high level of anxiety I could see in him, he went on to get close to the person even to the point where he was risking his own safety. He essentially did the thing that the rest of us we were all afraid or unsure of, or felt incapacitated to do. Even once the young man was safe, he could have believed that his job was done but he didn’t. His words of “I will look after him”, continued to demonstrate the leadership of someone who put others before himself. This obviously resonated with everyone else who followed him afterwards back towards the town. It was as if these people saw that the man on the bike as having the ability to do more than the right thing, he was able to do the thing that was right.
Interestingly, in health care, I often find that because the profession is seen as “difficult”, it results in many people believing that doing a good job means meeting KPIs, fulfilling a job description or related duties. And after all, that is what is expected. That is doing the right thing.
However, when we talk about leadership in health care, we don’t witness people meeting their KPIs or following policy and say “well that’s a great leader because they’re doing the job they get paid for”. Rather, we see greatness in leaders who see situations for what they are and tell themselves and others, “I don’t want this to be like this anymore, because this isn’t right”, “what I can do to make this better for the people around me?”, “what is my true capacity to influence or change this?”
Essentially, it’s asking; what can I do to make sure that I’m doing the thing that is right.
Strengths Finder Assessment and Feedback
Doing Strengths Finder coaching has enabled me to see how I can make the most of my natural abilities. The test itself outlined 5 particular strengths but it was the coaching that meant I now know how to actually utilise this information. It is going to help me a great deal when it comes to my academic life and in particular how I can study in the most effective way. The coaching helps access the key to knowing your strengths and Deb has helped me devise a plan of how I can move forward with these skills. Her work with me has been vital to the Strengths Finder process and I would absolutely recommend the coaching as vital to finding your strengths.
Family Harmony Workshop for Parents
The course gave a great framework to build a more harmonious family - I find it difficult to explain to my teens why I don't like their behaviour but with this toolkit I am able to articulate this easily and less emotionally, resulting in better communication and a less charged atmosphere. Thanks Deb for the lifeline
Team Building Facilitation and Coaching
As a new Manager to a newly formed team of eight staff, I engaged Deb to facilitate our first team planning day. The objective of the day was to identify a shared vision and to start a process of strategic planning for the next three years. The day was a great success and set the team up with greater clarity of purpose and a framework for future planning.
Deb demonstrated a great understanding of the team, its context and challenges. This was due to her careful and thorough planning and reflections prior to the day. Deb managed the varying levels of engagement among the team exceptionally well; she did this with the establishment of clear ground rules and a sense of trust and respect. Deb listened actively and regularly questioned for greater clarity before reflecting on the team’s contributions.
We ended the day with a clear vision that was shared and in which all members felt they had an investment. Deb followed up regularly after the session to check in on progress and to provide advice about next steps. We were extremely lucky to have been able to work with Deb at this important stage of the team’s development and I would not hesitate for a moment in engaging Deb again.
Angela Hehir, (Manager)
Business Leadership Coaching
Debra's help in getting me to focus on the strategic direction of my business and my work-life priorities has proven invaluable. She has the ability to ask simple questions to create greater clarity and focus in both work and personal goals. Debra is a great listener, follows up on her clients and creates a great support base for her clients through recommending network groups, courses and reading material. For those who want a leadership coach that goes that extra mile,
I highly recommend her.
Yvette Audet, Sport & Recreation Management Services
360 degree feedback and Mentoring
Debra provided feedback on my 360 leader/manger profile. I have taken this style of development tool on two prior occasions and found the feedback underwhelming. This time I found that Debra has an empathetic and approachable feedback style. Previously I have felt very much that I was being placed in a stereotypical box.
I liked Debra,s approach and understood more that the outcomes of the survey reflect a favored management leadership style and this could be flexible. Debra is able to draw out your thoughts on how you feel others perceive you rather than preaching which was a great attribute.
We talked about the outcomes and the way forward and I was left with a comfortable feeling that I could achieve my higher aims. Debra provided positive feedback and kept in contact after the initial interview. Her trouble in organizing some key topic papers and net links was commendable. I hope very much to take Debra up on some future mentoring and would highly recommend Debra’s leadership skill set to you.
Professor Tim Lyons, Newcastle
Concrete personal career goals
I have appreciated my coaching sessions this year more than I can say. Deb has challenged me at every turn which I have loved, making me work hard to find my own solutions during an extremely professionally challenging year. This has been extremely satisfying.
I also now have concrete personal career goals and a plan on how to get there – non existent when I started coaching and really not something I consciously thought I needed. As a consequence I feel more focused and motivated for the next year and beyond.
Finally I would have to say my coaching session with Deb have been an absolute lifeline for me this year, keeping me on track, helping me to grow and learn and ultimately make a monumental shift in my approach and style as a leader. I am very grateful for her time, patience, humor and professionalism – I am certainly am better leader thanks to coaching with Deb.
Bernadette Hollis, Sydney