I’ve worn glasses since the tenth grade. I got them because my grades started to suffer and someone figured out it was because I couldn’t see the homework assignment on the board. My first pair of glasses were blue tinted which fit the time era along with Nehru suits, long hair, and peace symbols.
Since then I’ve lost the blue tinted glasses, the hair, and outward peace symbols. As I do every morning, I went on my five-mile morning run today and half way through the trek I took off my glasses. I could see fuzzy trees and cars, hazy colors, and the sidewalk under my feet. I knew the course after running it for several years; the details were imprinted in my mind. As I continued to run something happened.
The course didn’t change, but I became highly aware of my senses. My sense of hearing, or lack of as my wife would argue, became more sensitive to the sounds of the oncoming cars, barking dogs, and crying children. I heard things along the way that I had taken for granted in the past, like my breathing, the muscles in my legs, and the sense of mindfulness.
When my breathing quickened, I sensed I was going uphill or running too fast. I checked my GPS watch, and felt for my pulse. Indeed, my running pace had quickened. I slowed down, focused on my breathing, and I was back at the pace I initially intended to run.
I began feeling lighter by limiting the distractions around me. I was no longer worried about other runners around me. I didn’t move from one side of the street to the other because I could no longer see the dogs up ahead, which were leashed, however I never needed to worry about them in the first place. I was running more efficiently.
The newfound freedom was invigorating. My instincts and senses had taken over, and it felt all so new. Then I realized – this is how I was at work. I was so out of focus by all the distracting conversations, phone calls, and loud noises that I lost sight of my patients in front of me. Had I taken my glasses off, I would have learned a little more about their ailments. I could have taken more time to feel, to touch, and to see up close their fear and angst of being in an emergency room.
As physician executive leaders, we need to use all of our senses to connect with the people we lead. We know the path down the hallways, stairs, and sidewalks all too well. We need to be keenly aware of those around us and feel the tension, hear the quiet whispers, and smell the immanent danger of an uncovered manhole.
I found that building relationships and taking someone in my department out to lunch every so often gave me a chance to get some personal feedback or the inside track of a new administrative initiative. The information helped me build a foundation for developing rapport with other executive leaders. There’s something that happens during a quiet lunch. While breaking bread together, people become more open to sharing and discussing, and more supportive of each other.
Connecting with your five senses supports the emotional intelligence needed to relate to others and with those you lead. Take off those crystal colored glasses, engage your senses, and show others your real self, your caring self. Leaders cannot lead unless others follow. Good physicians like good leaders, achieve success when they are followed, supported, and appreciated by others. Explore your innate sensory leadership qualities with an Executive Coach who can help you maximize your full potential and become more mindful of your true strengths.
Norbert Adame, MD
AdameMD Executive Coaching