In the previous post, we talked about how Covid-19 has impacted healthcare organizations and teams, and what steps can be taken to change the ending. Here, we’ll focus on core principles that can help forge a path forward.
The strength of vulnerability
Our executive team recently started reading and discussing Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts, by Brene Brown. Lest you think this a topic not worth investment, Brown’s TedTalk on vulnerability has garnered more than 51 million views (you can find it here), and her book has become a best seller. In her work on leadership, Brene’ writes:
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”
In addition, if we want clarity in our organizational purpose, creativity and innovation in our teams, and high-performing leaders, vulnerability is also the path. Leaving the crucible of 2020, and in our wayfinding as we begin a new year, the strength of vulnerability is a critical principle to put into action. As leaders, we can role model this essential principle and allow the power of genuine vulnerability to shape our way forward. Offering curiosity, questions without answers, true strength, and courage is a precursor to resilience.
There are other ways to show up. Micro-manage, control, protect position, pretend we’ve got it all figured out. These approaches may bring short-term progress and a sense of expediency, but they will not bring what we are really seeking. If we seek life-giving cultures, individuals engaged with hearts and minds, and the best we each have to bring to solve challenges we’ve never faced, then wayfinding with the strength of vulnerability is critical.
The resilience in releasing
The May 2020 wedding of an immediate family member was conducted in a park outside Chicago. One officiant at a distance with a mask, no wedding party present, no rehearsal dinner, no reception, no honeymoon. Parents, extended family members, and friends participated via Zoom. A small wedding cake and take-out pizza at their apartment was their wedding night celebration. We laughed, we cried, and it was beautiful. And yet, it was not what they had planned, not what we thought it should be. We were thankful, and we grieved.
My father-in-law died in June 2020 after a brief and fierce battle with cancer. There were no extended family or friends gathered at the funeral. Again, there was Zoom. The camera somewhat too distant, the sound muffled, the battery that died too quickly, and the pain of family and friends not present. It was not what should have been, not what we imagined it should be to celebrate such an honored and loving father and husband. We were thankful, and we grieved.
2020 is not what it should have been – yet it is. Releasing what isn’t begins to allow space for what can be. Hands and hearts now open can be filled. Seeds of hope and a new perspective can be planted, cultivated, and grown to realization. Releasing what should have been but is not, releasing what we wished for but did not receive, offers us a chance to see something new. This reality is true in our personal lives as well as our organizations. It is not what it should have been. The resilience of releasing what was not will give us the freedom to create what will be. We stand firm with open hands and step forward.
The wisdom of belonging
This past year we have realized, potentially more than ever before in the history of humanity, that we are connected. Whether we like it or not, we are connected. Not just our little neighborhood or our little town. Not just our large city or state. Not just via television or social media channels. Regardless of political or social views, all of us, everywhere, are connected: literally connected. We attempted to close borders to nations and states. We tried to create isolation and distance. We attempted to keep ourselves safe and secure. We acted the best we knew how with the information available. And yet, we have learned in ways no one could have ever imagined that we are all connected.
The pebbles we throw in the pond make ripples and the ripples matter. The words we speak, the actions we take, the decisions we make impact others. They impact more than we know. The question is not if we will be dependent; the vital question is with whom we should be dependent. Whom should we trust? With whom should we partner as we find our way? From whom can we learn, find strength, gain new perspective, and discover mutual benefit? No isolation will help us understand the most important lessons of 2020. In our wayfinding, we must stand with others and go with others.
As leaders, we have a unique privilege and responsibility in wayfinding. As we look up and scan the horizon, our vision settles: this seems a good way forward.
- During and in the aftermath of crisis, as rebuilding begins, may we always ensure beauty is on display. May beauty be central: to have the most prominent word, last word, and most enduring word.
- May the strength of vulnerability draw us closer; closer to our true potential, to our team members, and to those we serve.
- May releasing what could have been put a fresh wind in the sails of what can be and will be. May releasing bring resilience, the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties and to adapt well in the face of adversity not yet known.
- And may the reality we are connected to and dependent on others bring hope, true progress, and the gift of realized potential. May we find joy and peace in the truth that we belong to each other.
We have changed; all of us. As we face forward toward new beginnings and new opportunities, we have freedom to hold fast to these gifts: beauty, vulnerability, resilience, and belonging.
We will find our way. We will write a better ending. Of this, I am certain.
This is the second in a two-part blog series written by Robert Sundelius. As COO at Ascension Michigan Medical Group, Sundelius stood up and co-led the FEMA incident command structure for COVID-19 in one of the most heavily impacted areas of the country. To view the original post, click here.