The art of being influential
Posted on 22 November 2012 by Anne-Marie Curtis
I keep going on self-improvement courses. In fact, I’ve been on so many now that I am probably almost perfect.
I’ve spent so much time on these courses that there is little time left for clinical work. And such is the perceived importance of my acquisition of various generic and interpersonal skills that many of them have been free, or heavily subsidised by the trust or the deanery.
So was it worth it? What have I learned?
I must admit that the value of some of these courses does not seem obvious.
On ‘assertiveness’ I feel like a bulldozer: it’s full of people who look so terrified I’m surprised they got out of bed in the morning. I suspect I don’t really need to be here at all, until the tutor equips me with an argument for me to assert my right to continue attending a particular teaching session.
‘Time management’ makes me realise I’m spending far too much of my free time at work and dealing with work-related activities. As soon as I get home, I phone my best friend. I have been neglecting my personal life in favour of clinical audits and attempts to publish in academic journals.
My favourite, however, is ‘leadership’: I sit on the floor chopping up magazines to make a collage representation of my department. My four-year-old would love it.
These courses have a common theme. They are all about communication: communicating with colleagues and patients; managing relationships; what you say and how you say it; being inspiring, convincing and influential.
They are usually run by highly effective businessmen and women, sharing their transferable generic skills acquired from years working in management with a room full of doctors who are all paying hundreds of pounds to be there. The cynic in me feels that this is an extension of the businessmen and women’s business plan, generating income from a well-off but naive group of professionals.
But do these courses make a difference to the way I work? Do they make me a more effective communicator, a useful team player or a great leader? Sometimes the analogies feel like they are a long way from real life. Does it really matter if I am a blue, red or green person? Surely I can develop these skills by observing colleagues and emulating aspects of their practice?
Yet of the hundreds of colleagues I’ve worked with over the years, there are very few who I’d consider to be brilliant all-rounders — good at leading clinical teams, running departments and defusing arguments between nurses and secretaries. So, yes, perhaps courses do have a role in medical training and professional development.
Anne-Marie Curtis is a junior doctor
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