A Fresh Start
We went to see Les Miserables last weekend…did you know they sing every word in that production? For those of you who haven’t seen the musical play or movie Les Miserables, the basic plot surrounds a man in the late 1800s/early 1900s who is imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving nephews and nieces.
After 19 years of hard labor, he is free…only to find that life as an ex-convict is not really freedom. He is told to report his convict status to the authorities where he lives, so in essence the crime will haunt him for his entire life. As it turns out, there is one police officer who becomes hell bent on finding the ex-prisoner, even though the main character has completely turned his life around and more than repented for his theft. Instead of the typical good vs. evil story line, this instead presents the questions of what is a just punishment for a crime, and can someone ever escape their past mistakes.
When a punishment is given that seems disproportionate to the mistake committed, we create an atmosphere of fear. Team members will be hesitant to try new things, and management will seem hyper-vigilant. When a great amount of energy is spent on a small mistake, then there is no leverage for reacting stronger to mistakes that are even more important such as patient care or medical mistakes. As a parent you hear the phrase “pick your battles wisely,” meaning that some things just don’t require a huge reaction, whereas other things you simply must enforce.
Everyone makes mistakes, and that includes the person staring back at you from the mirror. We welcome the opportunity to fix our mistakes, and learn from them as well. Yet sometimes we hold someone “guilty” in our minds even beyond a reasonable amount of time. We may still distrust the person’s medicine calculations because of an error in the past. We may resist asking for their help if they couldn’t restrain the last feline patient worked on together. We might want to handle all of their credit card payments because of the mix-up caused in the past. Obviously you want to ensure that the colleague recognized her mistake, and have learned from it so to avoid it in the future. But then, you must give them some slack to earn your trust back.
If the person who made the mistake is the person looking back from the mirror, then you also need to give yourself a break; no one is perfect. Sometimes the management of a practice can react in a way to mistakes that make us hesitant to even try again; we lose our confidence in the task. This is not helpful, and can damage someone’s ability to achieve future success. It is best if even those in leadership positions in the practice can admit their own mistakes to the team, and demonstrate how to move forward in a positive way. In this way, respect is fostered, and trust is maintained.