Interaction for Collaboration and Safety in the Workplace
Episode

Michael J. Reidy, Senior Consultant at Interaction Associates

Interaction for Collaboration and Safety in the Workplace

As a system, healthcare can benefit from embracing a culture of collaboration and safety, something the whole world got to see during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

In this episode, Michael J. Reidy, a senior consultant at Interaction Associates, talks about how his company uses tools, programs, and techniques to build a safety culture, improve leadership, and develop conscious collaboration in workplaces. Michael and his company came up with the Interaction Method, a facilitated approach for building understanding and agreement so that individuals, groups, teams, and departments can take actions that make a difference to their workflow and their customers. He discusses behavioral aspects, like thinking and attitude, that can play a role in building a trusting environment and affect leadership.

 

Tune in to learn how Interaction Associates is working with teams to implement safe culture practices for the better!

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Interaction for Collaboration and Safety in the Workplace

About Michael Reidy:

Michael J. Reidy, a senior consultant at Interaction Associates, has more than 25 years of experience in consulting and responding to the learning needs of adults in the financial services, biotech, power, and service industries. Michael’s interest is in adult education, and he believes that the workplace has become the ‘third place’ of learning and development for the 21st century. Michael holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from the HKS, Harvard University. Interaction Associates is best known for introducing the concept and practice of group facilitation to the business world in the early 1970s. For over 50 years, IA has provided thousands of leaders and teams with practical, simple, and effective programs, tools, and techniques for leading, meeting, and working better across functions, viewpoints, and geographies. 

 

Outcomes Rocket Podcast_Michael Reidy: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

Outcomes Rocket Podcast_Michael Reidy: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Saul Marquez:
Hey everybody! Welcome back to the Outcomes Rocket, Saul Marquez here. I want to thank you so much for tuning back into the podcast. Today, I’ve got an awesome treat for you. I’m going to be spending some time with the outstanding Michael Reidy. He’s a senior consultant at Interaction Associates and former head of the Dublin Institute of Adult Education. He’s been training teams in safety culture best practices for more than three decades. His expertise has supported companies around the world, including Alkermes, ABT Associates, and many other health systems, such as Bon Secours, Catholic Health Partners, and many more. We’re going to have a great discussion around this topic of safety culture and best practices and things that we should all be considering here on the tail of the pandemic, but what seems to be more of a flu, which is getting us this year, but certainly want to welcome Michael to the podcast. Michael, thanks for spending some time with us today.

Michael Reidy:
I’m really delighted to be with you, Saul, and coming to you with a passion for the industry that cares for us, nurtures us, gets us back to health, and then also, of course, elongates our lives or helps us elongate our own lives, so completely vital to our continued existence on the planet.

Saul Marquez:
Amen to that, I agree, and that’s what makes healthcare so interesting for all of us. I think there’s no quicker impact than the work you could do in healthcare. So talk to us a little bit, Michael, about what inspires your work in healthcare.

Michael Reidy:
Well, I’ve been lucky. I would call it lucky to be involved with healthcare for approximately, in this, in the United States for approximately 20 years. And the original invitation was to help companies, a large national healthcare provider organization had offices in California and in Colorado, and in the D.C. area, and navigate the introduction of what they thought was just a technical change in terms of medical records. And what they realized, of course, was it was not a technical fix alone with, technical fixes are important but it was an adaptive change, and it required new working relationships between everyone involved, and that really excited me. How do you manage new relationships with technology thrown in as like the catalyst for this? And so that brought me into also contact with some large faith-based organizations in several locations across the country. And of course, I see what has happened in COVID as being an almost parallel traumatic event for the healthcare industry, where something that was technical at some level, how do we treat, how do we care, gow do we develop the culture in order to care that COVID presented being a huge adaptive challenge. And my admiration for those who do it is just extraordinary. They did an extraordinary job, I think, and they learned so much, at least in the people I’ve met, but they suffered so much. The economic scenario, they lost so much revenue, for instance, when patients could not come in for treatments, they lost some extraordinarily gifted people. And it’s almost like a starting again moment in the industry, not this very moment, but certainly, over the past nine months, I’ve experienced and seen this invitation to begin again. And I remember Elliot, the poet, saying, you know, ending is our beginning, and our beginning is our ending. And it’s out of the wasteland, but it’s an extraordinary invitation that is presenting itself to the industry, I think. To begin with fresh eyes, but begin with, and extraordinary learnings that they did experience of working together to build a culture of safety during the pandemic. So they learned from scratch how to trust again, and so my, how to build trust. I suppose my passion would be how do you transfer capability around collaboration and how do you model collaboration and how do you transfer capability around it? And can you help a culture to do that? And my belief is through a vision of leadership that says leadership is facilitative and with certain tools and certain skills, an individual, a group, a team, a division, in fact, a whole system can embrace a culture of collaboration which is built on, in the case of the healthcare industry, a culture of safety, of course.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, no, thank you, Michael. And my understanding is, so Interaction Associates, you guys provide leaders from all over the world with simple tools, programs, techniques to help with this culture of safety, with leading better. And you guys have this method, it’s called the Interaction Method. Talk to us a little bit about the Interaction Method and how is that different than what’s out there today?

Michael Reidy:
Yeah, it’s, when you hear method, of course, it reminds me of, that there is a process, that there is a way of thinking about this. In a very simple, as you say, it’s simple but not simplistic, we would define it as a facilitated approach for building, understanding, and building agreement so that individuals, groups, teams, and departments can take action that makes a difference. A facilitated approach or building, understanding first is the bedrock and then agreement so that individuals, groups, teams, teams and cross-functional teams, of course, can take action that makes a difference in their lives and in the lives of others. And so, of course, it’s behavioral. It says we, my image of it is that it’s like the molecule, there’s four pieces to it. So imagine behavior is what shows up, it’s what people in the medical profession see every day from each other, from physicians, from staff members, from those who are administrators, is behavior, but behavior is driven by thinking, by we would say, we would encourage strategic thinking. Strategic, I think the evidence brain theory suggests that even if someone says I did it impulsively, they had a moment, a second, of thinking first that gave rise to their behavior that had an intended consequence or an unintended consequence. Now, when we scratch that, and we say what drives thinking, even if it’s strategic thinking, we would say there’s an attitude that has to be there. And we would put the word collaborative before that and say, can you, at the level of attitude, begin to influence your thinking that begins to show up in behavior? But ultimately it is a shared responsibility for success. And it seems to me that these are for, like the, not great on the science, but the electron, the proton, the neutron constitute the molecule, I think, and we probably have discovered more elements now in our scientific uncovering. But the idea of those, attitude is circling around thinking, and thinking, both are driving behavior and that all are seeking to share responsibility for success. And it seems to me to be, the big word was facilitated, and the leader make and facilitated at its root, of course, is a …, from the Latin, to make it easier. So having a view or a vision of leadership that says my leadership job is to make it easier for others to contribute. My leadership job is facilitator, is the adjective. I make it easier for people to contribute their ideas. I make it easier for people, we make it easier for people to make decisions. We make it easier for people to speak up when they have problems. I think this came out really in the whole context of healthcare that people built the trust to speak about their fear and built the agreements. How can we deal with the COVID? How can we be safe and make it safe physically, emotionally, interpersonally for us to work together? So my mind sometimes is completely blown apart by the interaction method, by the interconnectedness, and by saying to myself, these are the Legos of my leadership. If I can find a way to bring those together, if I can find a way to build understanding with any, with you today, Saul, if I can build understanding, well, then maybe I have a chance of building on the agreement. Now, clearly, two or more would be needed for this.

Saul Marquez:
You know, and Michael, I like that. When I think of attitude, I think of beliefs, you know, and it’s these beliefs that inform attitude. And, you know, when you think about cultures within organizations and the behaviors and the actions that they take, how do you influence those beliefs? You know, that’s the core of it, I feel like.

Michael Reidy:
Well, of course, you’re very perceptively, I think, saying it’s underlying values and operating beliefs that drive attitude or that, they’re underpinning it, underlying values abound in healthcare and are sometimes very explicit. I think operating beliefs are less opaque. And so my belief is that you drive it by saying and by creating through your leadership, the culture where it’s safe to speak, it’s safe to speak up about, for instance, a lapse in safety culture. It’s okay to speak up when there’s a perceived lack of trust in my competence or my professionalism. And so, so much of the healthcare system that we experience depends on innumerable people doing their job. And so the, I recently went to visit a friend in a hospital. It was the first time in a long time visiting, but of course, I was greeted by somebody at the desk. Of course, I was tested. Of course, I went into a space. Of course, it wasn’t possible to immediately see my friend, but I saw the nurse or nurses approaching, I actually didn’t see the physician, but the physician had been there earlier than me in the day. My time spent finally resulted in me leaving and visiting a restroom in the facility, and of course, by chance, I met the attendants who were making it safe for us to use that restroom. On my way out of the facility, I saw that the place where everyone could have coffee or tea was operational again. And it certainly brought home to me that it’s, to use the famous phrase, it takes a village to do anything. But in healthcare, it seems to me to be more than operational. It’s the lifeblood. So building trust is what I would say, and then creating the conditions for that to be possible and to be felt.

Saul Marquez:
Thank you, Michael. Now, I appreciate that, and there’s certainly a lot that goes into making a system like that work. So I appreciate the illustration there. When you think about some of the biggest setbacks you’ve experienced, what’s one that comes to mind, and a key learning that came out of that?

Michael Reidy:
I remember being invited to facilitate a group of physicians for the first time. And my normal way would be to ask, can I speak to a few representatives of the group that I was working with? And the answer was yes, if we can get them. And finally, I was given access to two, and one of them was very enthusiastic, really, and the other person said, I don’t think I need this. I don’t think we need this. What can you possibly shed light on that we, have a calling, a vocation, we’re committed. And it was a setback for me to hear, I don’t think it was general in the group that I was dealing with, but there was a resistance to learning about the human side of interaction. Now, in the course of my time with that group, I’d have to say the individual that I’m speaking about had lost some of their arrogance, lost some of their, but it was a setback that was good for me. If I had gone in there thinking, it’s like thinking everyone is for collaboration, I think is a little bit mythical and a little bit wishful thinking. I felt in the end a little bit sad for some of the physicians because nearly all of their training had been focused on gathering and developing their technical capability. And when they, actually many of them were very, very, very, very seasoned physicians, were managing other physicians, what I realized was that nothing had prepared them to be a manager of other physicians. Nowhere in their PhD-ness was it required or asked, or even was guidance given, it seemed, as to how you might manage what seems to be the most fundamental thing to me, and that is the soft skills of the human interactions, which ultimately we end up having this mythical that the hard skills are the technical skills, when in fact it’s a complete misnomer, and we should, we do well, I think, to realize that the so-called soft skills are the hard skills. But it was, this happened a long time ago, and I’ve seen some shifts in the culture of physicians. I still think they’re burdened with the challenge of, which sometimes is imposed by us. We say, tell us, doctor, what we should do. But even within our own work, the physician is seldom seen as a collaborative leader, and it’s very often seen as a command and control leader, and that leads to a feeling of arrogance or feeling of, I’m not trusted by my physician. If I’m working with even a group of physicians, when they work together, I think it’s I mean, clearly they do work together and they do serve us all, so my heart goes out to them, it’s what I would say. And it embodies, I find myself being that it’s a very helpful perspective, that I was lucky enough to meet that resistance early on, and that it helps me navigate each encounter with a physician group.

Saul Marquez:
Thank you, Michael. Yeah, there’s definitely a lot of nuances there and sort of what we expect leaders to know, and have they had the exposure or the training that they need in order to deliver on leadership expectations and that dynamic of what one expects from a physician versus fitting them into a leadership role, there’s definitely a lot of opportunities to improve on there. What would you say you’re most excited about today?

Michael Reidy:
I’m excited by the, it sounds paradoxical, but because so many people have left, because there’s a dearth of even people willing to enter the profession, those who are there are really committed and they are curious and they are willing, I think, to seek not only assistance, but they want to look at success differently. I think they have been measured very, very stringently on results, and I think that it was a necessary shift, for want of a better word. Getting those records digitalized was a good move, however, and organizing the time of the physician. However, I think there is a reemergence of the human side of caring at the level of my interaction with my physician, but also within the human side of creating a culture of safety within, for instance, a practice group either who are in hospital scenarios or who are outside of hospital scenarios. The amount of healthcare that’s being provided outside of a formal hospitalization is significantly different than it was ten years ago.

Saul Marquez:
And it’s much larger.

Michael Reidy:
It’s bringing with it a culture of possibility that did not exist. And so I think there’s an emphasis not just on, we know process is really important, I think physicians understand that, I think nurses understand that, I think administrators know that. However, we know also that there is this third little dimension of success, which is relationship. So relationships can be measured, process can be measured, clearly, results can be measured, but those three dimensions of success, the result side, the process side, we sometimes see it as an equilateral triangle, which is never equilateral in reality, it’s always out of sync, and that’s why it’s so powerful. It allows us to say, where do we need to put the attention? Is it on the relationship? Is it on the process? Is it on the results? I don’t think there’s ever going to be a moment when we don’t measure results again in healthcare. I think that’s really a given. But we do need to remember that process and relationship are leading indicators of success and that by definition, I think results are a lagging indicator. So as we begin to look at what are the processes that are prevalent, that are already in place in our systems and healthcare, we can change them if the relationship is right. And that’s really hopeful to me, that almost the fact that we’ve lost some great people, some natural attrition, but others in what has become the great resignation and exasperation means that there is energy around changing a culture and rebuilding a culture of safety, I think.

Saul Marquez:
Thank you, Michael. Yeah, you know, I love the visual of the equilateral triangle, and is one side off. That’s where you focus, there’s process, there’s relationships, and inevitably those lead to measurable results. Why don’t we focus more on where we might be a little off? And I think that’s a great call out. There’s so much nuance here to explore and there’s turmoil, there’s labor shortage, there’s a lot of opportunities for us to find ways to bridge the gaps. That’s why I wanted to get Michael on the podcast today to share some of these concepts around how can we look at this, what lens can we look through to make the future of our health system that much better? Michael, I’ve enjoyed this conversation a lot. Before we conclude, I’d love if you could just share a closing thought, and then the best place where the listeners could learn more about you and explore more about the work that you guys do at the company.

Michael Reidy:
Well, my closing thought is that if you involve people in decision-making, which I think is at the core of collaboration, my wish, where I work, is that I would be invited to share my perspective, my opinion, my expertise, and together with those in interaction associates with whom I work, we would co-create not only the tools but also the delivery system that would deliver our gifts to the world, to a greater audience, but more efficiently. I think similarly, having people be involved in their own decision-making gives them ownership. This is a slightly irreverent way to say it, but very few parents call their own child ugly when it comes to decision-making. If you have been involved in the decisions that impact your life, your work life, and your professional life, you’re unlikely to call them ugly. You’re going to feel I’m involved, I’m part of that. So my final thought would be consider a culture that’s created on trust. Consider inviting people to envision the future. Consider doing a little bit of assessment. It’s coming to the end of 2022, we have seen a lot of water flow under bridges in the healthcare system, we have a lot of experience that we didn’t have even 18 months ago as we try to turn a corner that we thought was proximate but in fact, turns out to be a bit longer of a turn than we thought. But take a moment to stop, take a moment to say, where are we? Then take a moment to say, where do we want to be? Don’t say five years down the road, maybe say two years from now, and then begin to build that energy around, how will we bridge the gap? What are the processes we need to put in place? What are the relationships we need to build, and ultimately, what are the decisions we need to make? So it’s process, it’s relationship, and decisions, would be my, I suppose, my final thought. Maybe final, final, final thought is, give collaboration a chance. I think John Lennon used to say, give peace a chance, or sing it at least, and maybe I’m riffing off of that, but give conscious collaboration. Give conscious collaboration a chance to embed itself in your culture and you will see an extraordinary new humanity emerging and a successful business. I would say this is about a business, that it’s about a business being successful that chooses to focus on the care of the health of all of us. So nothing, nothing seems to me, is more important.

Saul Marquez:
Thank you so much, Michael. Love that closing thought. Folks, you could find Michael and all the work that Interaction Associates do at InteractionAssociates.com, and so check them out. We’ll leave a link in the show notes to that as well as a link to connect with Michael on LinkedIn so that you guys could continue the conversation. Michael, I want to thank you so much for your time today, and certainly appreciate you joining us.

Michael Reidy:
Thank you, Saul, and be well, go well, and act well.

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Things You’ll Learn:

  • A person in a leadership role has to facilitate others’ contribution in terms of ideas to make decisions and allow them to speak up when they have problems.
  • Soft skills are key to human interactions and are just as important as hard skills.
  • Physicians are seldom seen as collaborative leaders and are very often seen as command and control leaders.
  • Processes, it’s relationships, and decisions are the three dimensions of success.
  • If you involve people in decision-making, the core of conscious collaboration, the delivery side of any system can be done more efficiently, humanity will emerge amongst your workers, and you will have a successful business.

Resources:

  • Connect with and follow Michael Reidy on LinkedIn.
  • Follow Interaction Associates on LinkedIn.
  • Learn more by visiting the Interaction Associates Website!