Friday, August 14, 2009

The Send Button

It was hard to do.

We were facing a difficult clinical issue. I had given clear direction for someone to follow. I don't go into these situations lightly and I think about them deeply. I've never forgotten that I'm muddling in people's lives so I never give advice that I don't think about. I thought what I had come up with was fair, respectful and safe.

So it surprised me that the person whom I was directing (don't try to guess where this happened, I consult to a variety of different organizations) made a different decision and changed one part of the process that I had recommended. She informed me that whilst following my instructions she got new and different information therefore she felt that she had to incorporate that information into the process and alter the plan accordingly. I should have felt pleased that she felt able, under my clinical supervision, to make new and different decisions.

I did not.

I took a breath and calmly (I'm not a yeller) explained (I'm an explainer) that she needed, in this circumstance because of all the issues involved, to follow my instructions. She apologized saying that she had made a big mistake, I accepted her apology and gave new instructions for what was to happen next. It was all very kind and very forgiving on my part but I'm sure she got the message 'don't mess with my recommendations'.

Then, time passes as time has a habit of doing.

Then, I thought about what had happened and about the new information that she had gotten during her work with the individual involved. And because time had passed and there was distance between the moment she told me of the change and the 'now' I realized that, in fact, she had made a good decision. That I would have, in the same circumstance made the same decision. That my insisting that she should have followed, lock step, my recommendations was an error.

Oh well, at least I'm not a yeller. I could simply let it slide.

So. I did.

Then, I thought that if I didn't talk to her she would forever think that she shouldn't think when I'm consulting to her. She would mistrust her own judgements, which proved to be very clear and very insightful, and maybe start making mistakes. She would begin to look for guidance when she should simply be providing leadership. This was no longer about the individual being served or the decision being made. This was about my character and her future.

Shit.

Then, I sat down and wrote an email saying that I had been wrong in my assessment that the new information didn't change anything - cause it did. That her decision was correct and that she did a good job of a difficult situation - she altered the part of the recommendations I had made that were affected by the new information but not the rest. Her clinical insight is good, she has judgements that she should trust and that she should always think independently in her work with me. I apologized for taking so long to figure it out. I told her that I may be older, I may consult to her but I also may - occasionaly and rarely granted - be wrong.

I read the email over and over again. Part of me really didn't want to send it. Who likes admiting they are wrong? Part of me went into a fit - she'll never follow your instructions again, she'll act independently not asking for help when she should, she'll think less of you. With those voices clamouring for time in my head, I pushed 'send'.

I saw her recently. She smiled broadly and was walking maybe an inch taller. But, what's this, there was a renewed respect in her eyes when she looked at me.

That, I didn't expect.

9 comments:

Belinda said...

Humility is one of the key qualities I hope we whose fingers touch the lives of others, have. The person you apologized to, learned something about humility when you sent that email. It will have an exponential ripple effect into the lives of every staff she ever supervises in her career. I say, "Bravo Dave!!"

ivanova said...

It sounds like where you work, people care about what they do and actually take their bosses seriously because their bosses are not just pond scum. Weird. Good for you.

liz said...

Good for you!!!

Maria said...

I admire ppl who can admit they are wrong , I think it takes a very confident individual to do so. It says to the person you are admiting it to ... I trust you , I believe you , I know your bright. I think it is esp. important that professionals can say you were right and I was wrong.

Wouldn't life be great if there were politicians out there said I am wrong , I accept responsibility. There is the word "responsibility" you accepted it and moved on. Great job.

rickismom said...

Every parent should take note. And every spouse. We are ALL sometimes wrong, and the moment we admit it, we only stand to gain from that. People will trust us more, believe us more, and respect us for that admission. (unless you are dealing with abusive personalities, but that is a whole different matter....)

FridaWrites said...

I think you did the right thing. Having someone get far more upset with me at work when I was young and then being micromanaged in a new environment led me to drive other supervisors bonkers because I thought I needed to have everything I did approved. Took me a long time to realize that wasn't expected.

lisa said...

Dave,
I would kill to have someone tell me what you told her. Wow, of course she respects you, even if I didn't "know" you, I respect the person who would do what you just did.
Wow.
Lisa

Morah Mary said...

One of the things I've learned along the way: when I admit I'm wrong, I give others the courage to do the same.

Thanks for reminding me of this, Dave.

theknapper said...

That second part of the consultation was the best part....the people who I go to for training/support are the ones that are perfectly imperfect & can be real. I can't relate to people who talk like they've never made mistakes or their clients respond predictably......I either dismiss them or decide I'm totally hopeless. When I listen to someone who is real, then I pay attention to what I can do & there's a better chance of it working.