Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Easy Rider

You have to wonder what's the path most choose. When faced with sticky situations, if given a choice, would it be the easier one? Or the one with troubles ahead?
Let's forget the inspiring tweets and speeches as regards the greater good but for the average person, beyond their personal zeal to help humanity, there also exists a family, a life and a desire to have a hassle free existence. Lets forget the example of Gandhi dropped at a hat by many, who also tend to forget the mans lack of family life to compensate for his zeal to deliver independence to India.
It's sometimes difficult to have that conversation in the vortex of leadership cults, especially within the NHS, who all seem to have an opinion about how other should lead their lives. There also seems to be that accusatory stance that if you haven't stayed on late, burned yourself that extra bit..then perhaps your vocation isn't strong enough. Those flippant comments about women having to leave early to pick their kids up...how dare they choose such a course when they should have stayed there and left their kid standing at the school ground wondering where his or her parents were. A scared child? Well what's one or two of them compared to healing a few more people. All for the greater good, isn't it?

It's odd, very odd  to see that attitude which has seeped into the NHS consciousness nowadays, driven a lot by many who themselves have got to a position where either they don't have a family or their family have left- look at Twitter, it's full of sanctimonious comments about the greater good- and it does get a bit nauseating after a bit.
I will be pretty honest, I get paid well, I try and put in a hard yard when I am at work, do my job to the best of my ability but no kid of mine will be left crying on a school field. Ever. And if that makes anyone think I don't have this mystical quality called vocation, so be it. Vocation doesn't pay your mortgage, school fees or more importantly, offer anything extra when you turn around to see your kids grown up and ready to leave home. The time spent on vocational work..sadly time lost being a parent too.

The same situation plays its part within the confines of the darkening mood of the NHS. As central grip tightens, the fear factor is there to be seen, Anything mentioned even in passing, even constructive criticism is seen as dissent. The story of the whistleblowers lay out a damning indictment...many a committee, many a panel, many a report later....many careers lie ruined. What lesson does that leave for anyone trying to raise any questions...Yep, it's the easy option out. You have two paths to choose....one is going against the establishment, voicing concerns, channeling your vocational element on behalf of the patient and risk it all....or you could keep our head down, do your job, go home and pick up your not too insignificant salary as a senior in the NHS. Why take the hassle?  Be the Easy Rider says the mind.

It's no different for leadership positions either...look at any report, it says the same thing..there aren't many good ones around. 2 obvious reasons stand out for it in my opinion. First, the attitude of the NHS towards it, continually seeing it as an extra rather than an important role and secondly, the inability to define the why. It's much more convenient to take the Easy Rider option. A good salary, a good pension, a few weekends work..why would you take the extra work? To many leaders, such thought is blasphemy...but once again, they perhaps forget their present position, they forget not everyone may share their zeal..and they forget leadership can't be taught in a classroom.Its very romantic to be able to take the harder option, build a story of battles fought, dragons slayed but one forgets that for many it is about just being a good, kind doctor for the patient in front of them and then going back to their families. Not everyone wants to be a leader, not everyone wants to sacrifice their lives to the cause of the greater good.

As time has passed, you can see the vocational aspect being slowly squeezed out..as I always say, you can't force vocation on anyone. Unhappy staff don't give vocation, they do their bit..and they go home. So NHS organisations and national bodies,if you want to squeeze that extra bit out, or look for transparency or even look for leaders to step up, think of how attractive that option is. You can't bark and ask for vocation; You can't threat and ask for transparency; You can't demand for leadership if you harp more about failure than success.
Think again...the key lies in the workforce...don't make them into Easy Riders.

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