Branch Ed, short for Branch Education, is provided monthly at my place of employment. We sit through anywhere from one to two hours of necessary information that must be conveyed for us to continue doing what we do. (Effective and efficient is the name of the healthcare game.) A portion of this education can involve being given audit scores so that we have an idea where we rank against our previous scores as well as against other home health and hospice agencies; super important in the health care world. But for one specific meeting, my former Branch Director began stating that we have the best Social Worker in the entire company and we don’t know what we would do without her, her documentation is relevant and she always strives to do the best for our patients. Now, understand, I’m the only social worker in the building and I’m still sitting there wondering who she’s talking about. She can’t be talking about me, I was currently like fifteen charts behind on documentation (not really) but struggling to maintain my head above water. Once I realized that it was for certain me that she was talking about, the room erupted into applause as my cheeks warmed to a rosy blush and tears formed in my eyes. That room was giving me support and love and applause. And honestly, I would do anything for them as do I for our patients. But in that specific moment in time, all I could think was that I want to do my best for these people, my work family, my friends, my partners in crime. All I could think about was “what areas could I improve so that I will never let these people down”? Funny. I actually wanted to seek out my own flaws and fix them!
This made me start thinking. Let’s scroll back a few years to a previous employer. I never heard from my supervisor unless something was a mess. Never a word of thanks on a job well done, never a kind word when days were tough, never a feeling of “belonging” or of being valued as a team member. Let one audit score be slightly lower than a previous month and a meeting with the supervisor and their supervisor was conducted wanting to know what was the plan put in place as to improving said score. No discussion of the previous day staying with a family for four hours while they coped with the pending loss of their mom, teaching them how to comfort and show support to a mama that had loved and care for them their whole life, teaching them to say goodbye in an appropriate manner. No discussion of the hard work put into a recent abuse and neglect case where DHR was involved; where myself and the DHR case worker were in court by that afternoon due to some fancy footwork to insure our patient was removed and placed into a safe environment. Nothing but grief over the lowered audit scores. After leaving that employer for greener pastures I did some soul searching. What made me leave? The exhausting business of constant self validation. I constantly had to defend my actions, my documentation, my skills. I was constantly on the defensive defending my every move. Never once did I say to myself what are my flaws and how can I make them better? I never actually wanted to do better for them. I was too busy being on the defensive about what I thought was right.
What is the difference in these two scenarios? I’m human, so in both situations, there were certainly things that needed fixing on my end. But the difference was how I viewed myself in either situation. I was made to want to do better by a Branch Director who knew to provide encouragement.
While researching this particular topic, I came upon an article by Vicki Hoefle, The Difference Between Praise and Encouragement. Vicki Hoefle is a parent educator, author, speaker and coach and when I read her article…on went the light bulb! Such wonderful information and so spot on. She explains that “praise focuses on perfection rather than progress and improvement; a right or wrong outcome rather than a meaningful experience; good or bad decisions rather than the decision-making process; pride or disappointment rather than acceptance and support.” Man, did I say this was spot on?
How does this relate to us in our everyday life? Well, relationships in parenting and coaching and supervising and spouses and friends and the guy at the “parts house” (as my husband calls it)…should I go on? How we talk to and approach every single person in this life matters. It brings to mind the phrase “fair weather friend”. As long as things are going well, those fair weather friends or parents or coaches or spouses or supervisors are, as my sweet Mom would have said, “hunky dory”; but, when things are more difficult, when there’s not a word of praise that can be uttered because there is no perfection to be found…then what? Then what.
“They may not remember what you said – but they will never forget how you made them feel. ~ Carl W. Buehner
Man, that was a refreshing cup today! ~paula