Friday, February 19, 2016

Leading the Team

A previous post dealt with making sure that you have great team members.  This made me think about how every team, regardless of its goals, must have leadership.  And simply put, if you are the primary caregiver it is up to you to be the leader of your team.  In this post I want to talk about what I believe that means, and share some things that have helped me to be a better leader for our team.
My number one principle in this regard is to be a leader by being a good teammate.  We have to remember that there is only one true goal which is to provide the best quality of life for our person in need.  Each member of the team has to do their part to make the entire system works.  There are simple things that you can do to be sure you are contributing to the team:

1.    Keep a list of all medications (with dosages), past procedures, etc. that you can provide at each doctor visit.  This is also extremely handy if there is an emergency and you are stressed.  Trust me, you can forget your own name if there is a medical emergency with your child so eliminate that distraction.  This can also save time at the beginning of meetings and appointments by simply handing them a copy

2.    Make sure everyone has up-to-date information concerning insurances, your contact information, etc.  If anything changes, take the time to inform them

3.    Keep your appointments and arrive slightly early.  Being habitually late will cause friction with those members of the team

4.    Be prepared with what you would like to see discussed during meetings and appointments.  Have goals in mind of what you would like to see accomplished.  Also anticipate the information that will be discussed and have that information together.  Go in with a plan!

5.    Consider making a list of questions for meetings and appointments.  Also make notes about important items that are discussed

6.    Utilize resources that your team recommends to you.  Existing relationships between professionals can be a great asset

7.    Don’t ever assume anything.  Better to over-communicate than under
Another important thing that I believe my experience has taught me is that it’s very important to “get along”.  This can be a challenge for many of us.  I try to remember that we all have bad days where things don’t go our way, and the professionals we rely on are no different.  What I try to remember is that if there is any ill-will between me and a teacher or doctor or administrator it can have a negative effect on Tyler’s care.  We would like to believe that this doesn’t happen but it is simple human nature.  When someone feels that I genuinely care about and respect them, I believe they will be more willing to do the same for me and for Tyler. 

When Tyler entered a hospital situation, for instance, the very first thing we told the medical staff is that we are there to support them in every way we can.  And in turn we asked that we be informed and give whatever input we feel would be helpful.  In most cases this statement was met with RELIEF.  We usually looked back on those situations and were pleased with how well we all worked as a team once the staff understood our expectations.  In most cases they WANT caregivers to be involved, which makes sense because you know that person better than anybody.  When we achieved that synchronicity with staff members it was tangible how excellent Ty’s care would become, and after all, that is the real goal.
The unfortunate fact is that caregivers and special needs professionals are typically good people that are tired, stressed, and work with limited resources.  This is why I always try the team approach first.  Most people I have encountered are happy to work with parents that are willing to listen, give input, and assist in their special need person’s care.  Getting started on the right foot can make a tangible difference in how the relationships will proceed.  It’s much better for everyone if you have the reputation as a caregiver who works well with professional staff.  It is one of the single most important things we have ever done.

The final point is this…..”getting along” doesn’t always work.  There have been a few times where I’ve had to growl or show my teeth because someone isn’t cooperating with me, or worse yet Tyler.  I believe that this is fine so long as it’s kept in proper context.  Look at it this way, if you have a reputation for being pleasant to work with, and something makes you complain or growl, it will likely be taken very seriously.  If you are typically difficult, and have a complaint, it won’t sound any different and you won’t likely be met with cooperation.  I’ve even learned that there are ways to growl that gets the point across without alienating the people you rely on.  And, sometimes, when all else fails, you can simply move on to another provider.
There are some folks that will think these concepts are a bit dramatic or over-analytical, but this is truly how we have approached different types of staffs in different situations.  While there have been times circumstances have overruled these philosophies, the vast majority of relationships have been positive.  As stated earlier, it’s human nature.  When you enjoy working with someone in any walk of life, you are more willing to do whatever it takes to satisfy them.  With each professional you deal with, remember that it isn’t your emotions or ego that is at stake, but rather it’s the well-being of the person you are caring for.

Be well and good luck!   Tom

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