Performing The Heart of Care (Compassionate Care conference presentation)

Here’s a link to a PDF of the presentation I gave at the Compassionate Care conference at Teeside University in April. The presentation develops on some of the points I made in earlier talks I gave in Toronto and Tasmania with regards to our attempts to practice kindness, compassion, and healing care in culturally unsustainable and toxic environments. The programme of the Compassionate Care conference is below. McCann The Heart of Care Teesside 2015    

Self-care and Enclosure

Self-care isn’t impossible in culturally unsustainable environments of enclosure (difficult, even toxic working environments), but it does tend to be rendered unlikely, unless you make ready, strengthen your sense of presence and resolve, and clarify what’s important to you before entering the arena.  When all around you is swirling, it’s important that you don’t start swirling too. You can go into it convinced that all will be well, that the integrity of your ego and confidence will remain intact. Some people go the other way, actively wanting their personalities to be displaced, dissolved, and reformed, but the consequences of that can be disastrous. People work in difficult environments for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes it’s because they love the buzz, the conflict, and the drive. That stress can get addictive. Sometimes it’s because they feel like they have no option but to, on account of financial necessity. Sometimes it’s out of a sense of family loyalty. Whatever the reason, the most difficult work environments often shroud their cultural unsustainability through high employee turnover. Staying in a difficult environment for a number of years will grind anyone down, even if you rise to the so-called top of the pile. Sometimes it’s as simple as your adrenal system

The He(art) of Care: Changing the Cultural Climate Equation (full text)

This is the text of a keynote address for the Enhancing Practice 14 conference for Practice Development in Toronto in 2014.         The audio recording of the talk is available here: *** I’d like to thank Nadine and the organisers for the invitation to speak here today. If keynotes are anything like giving a speech at a wedding, I suppose I’m obliged to start with a joke. Two fish in a tank. One turns to the other and says, “How do you drive this thing?” My relationship with healthcare goes back a long way. I was born in a hospital. And I wouldn’t have been born at all if my Dad, a young seminarian training for the priesthood, hadn’t fallen in love with the good-looking nurse that tended to him while he was waiting for an operation. And on behalf of my family, thanks to all of you who work in hospitals as nurses and doctors. You’re awesome. My wife is chronically ill and lives with a myriad of complications that come with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder, and epilepsy, and we have two kids under two. Without the support of health workers our

The Elimination of Uncertainty: the engine of enclosure

Operating as if the elimination of uncertainty is possible, plausible, and desirable is what drives the cancer of “enclosure” at the heart of organisational or institutional practice. Enclosure is the accelerative and intensifying process in play when good situations go bad and when bad situations get worse. When left unchallenged, enclosure spreads, it deepens, and it corrodes the core cultural supports of your organisation, among them productivity, employee engagement, creativity, and trust. When this happens, it is “business as usual” that makes the unhelpful difference. The assertion of control, the quest for perfection, the correction of error, the drive for efficiency, the targeting of enemies, the defeat of competitors, the solving of problems, the silencing and eradication of opposition and resistance, the assertion of unquestionable truth, the desire for purity, an insistence on sameness, a lack of acceptance or respect for women in the workplace … all of these and more can be versions of the elimination of uncertainty in practice. Following the principles of Hummingbird’s Cultural Climate Framework, an enclosing cultural climate comes with what I call the Organisational Enclosure Triad – an environment saturated with the elimination of uncertainty ethos tends also to be characterized by chronic heightened intensity, and by chronic heightened directivity. While there are many more features of enclosing cultural climates, these

Frog Soup

The most significant unhelpful changes in any environment aren’t usually heralded by drumrolls or the sound of trumpet fanfares. Although it would be terribly helpful if they were. Frog soup. It is widely reported that if you take a frog and drop it into a pot of boiling water it will immediately jump out of it before it has achance to say “rebbit!” However, if you were to put a frog in a pot of cold water and slowly raise the temperature of the water in increments, the wee frog will swim about quite comfortably in the water, not noticing the subtle changes as the temperature rises, until such time as he’s not noticing anything at all, having been boiled alive. I’m guessing this story may not have been tested under laboratory conditions, or even have been certified by the Humane Society, but the meaning of it is hard to ignore – if changes and escalations are small, slow, and subtle, it is very easy to miss the woo d for the trees and not be aware of the bigger picture, that conditions can become harmful to us without us even noticing. If we’re going to be frogs we need