Connecting your team to what is meaningful by creating a compelling vision can increase engagement, inoculate against burnout, and build a positive team culture.
As we learned from Trina at Island Health, a simple vision, like 'Great Patient Care and 'A Place Where People Want to Come to Work,' can have an incredible impact on your team by supporting individual well-being, fostering a collaborative team culture, and improving productivity.
In times of rapid change and increasing complexity, however, creating a vision for the future can feel irrelevant and futile. How can you inspire your team with a sense of purpose when things are unpredictable, and you have to navigate constantly changing variables?
Neuroscience literature helps show us a way.
Neuro-economist, Dr. Paul Zak, has spent his career studying the powerful neurochemical oxytocin and its role in collaboration. His research shows that when people hear an engaging story, oxytocin is released, which results in a feeling of bonding. You've undoubtedly experienced this effect when you watch a movie and become emotionally invested in the main character's struggles. Emotionally engaging stories, Zak has found, inspire pro-social behaviour (Zak, 2015).
In healthcare, one of the most impactful forms of storytelling comes from your patient's stories and their ability to increase empathy and imbue a sense of purpose and meaning into our work.
So how can you leverage the power of stories to help align people to a sense of purpose at work?
Here is our 4-step method you can try with your team to create a story that fosters alignment and engagement:
Create an Inspiring Vision
Step 1: Identify a challenge that you overcame.
Think back over the last two years. Is there a challenge you and your team faced where you were proud of the outcome? Maybe it was a particularly chaotic day or a challenging patient case where you all rallied together and contributed positively to a patients story.
Step 2: Find the common values
What values did you express in the story that you told about the challenge that you overcame? Did your team exhibit the value of collaboration? Great patient care? Care for one another?
Values are a vital piece of living your purpose. When you can identify the values that you and your team have felt proud to exhibit in the past, you are on your way to aligning yourselves to a meaningful, impactful purpose that will guide you forward.
Step 3: Plan to express your values more often
It's easy to become so focused on a particular problem that you lose sight of the values that should guide you daily. Once you've identified a value you've been proud of exhibiting in the past, make a plan to keep them front and center in your story over the coming weeks.
- What can we do today to exhibit this value?
- What can we do throughout the next week?
At the end of the week, sit down with your team and assess how you did at expressing your values and how you can continue into the following week. Incorporate values in your weekly meetings to ensure they stay inspiring and top of mind.
Step 4: Keep your focus on the short term.
Before the complexity of the pandemic, it was common practice to craft a vision statement that projected far into the future. But in times of uncertainty, when things are no longer linear or predictable, it can be frustrating to try and achieve a far-flung vision.
Instead of working with a long-term and abstract vision, shift to thinking in the short-term where there is more predictability and certainty. Focus on things you've already done well that you want to do more of, and then celebrate the moments when you've achieved those micro-goals.
Download a full, printable version of the Create an Inspiring Vision exercise and take it to your next team meeting.