Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust provides a range of high quality community health care services to the population of Leeds, including adults and children. You can read more about us on our website at www.leedscommunityhealthcare.nhs.uk
Tuesday, 26 August 2014
Work lessons from Oz - Doorways of hope and possibility
Einstein once said, 'If you want your children to be
intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be very intelligent,
read them more fairy tales.' Stories are part of our human way to articulate
lessons and meaning. They allow us to connect and express our deepest wishes
and dreams. They raise us up and open up doorways of hope and possibility. It
is probably a sure sign that a civilization is losing its soul and its way when
it can longer tell stories in a meaningful way.
The Wizard of Oz( or to give the book its proper title 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz' ) is
something many of us remember from childhood when the film was always shown at
Christmas. This story, told in a meaningful way, has many significant lessons
for the workplace and office andhere we
explore just a few . The ones we choose will hopefully have a relevance to the
ongoing discussions in the NHS about how we produce the best cultures for staff
and the best services for our clients.
The Three Companions
The story is that a young girl from Kansas journeys to a
mysterious and wondrous land called Oz. It's very different from home. She
tells her dog ( who makes the journey too ), 'I've got a feeling we're not in
Kansas anymore' and she needs to get home. She meets three companions on the
way who become friends. They all seemingly lack something. The scarecrow a
brain, the tin man a heart and the lion courage. In the 1939 film they all sing
the same song bemoaning what they don't have. The scarecrow sings 'If only I
had a brain'. The tin man sings 'If only I had a heart' and the lion 'If only I
had the nerve'.The plan is to go to the
Emerald City to see the great Wizard of Oz who they hope will solve everything
for them. So off they set along the Yellow Brick road with their dreams and
wishes. Does this resonate with our workand life ? We have hopes, wishes, passion and dreams and we go
looking for something, some place or someone to make them come true.
When working with
people and teams in the NHSwe often
hear a difficult story. It is that people are waiting for someone else to make
They seek a ' hero' who maycome along, make the difficultstuff stop and allow the good times begin.
Working with people and teams teach us that we all have to own our own
contribution to the present situation. It may be small or major. This is a
critical first step to improving any difficult situation. Self discovery and
owning ones ' whole self' are critical skills.
The three companionsin our story make an amazing discovery. They see at the end of their
journey thatthey already have what they
went searching for.For them courage,
brains and a heart.But whatabout for the rest of us? Seeking what we
desire, want, and feel we need is most definitely a journey. It is a painful
process for teams toconsider what a
'great' team looks and feels like and then benchmark their own current
situation against thisfindinghow near or far away from this they are. It
is also, and always an enlightening process.To do this work in our teamsis
challenging and needs courage. If we want our NHS and social care to be a
greatwork place and as a result deliver
excellent services we must look at ourselves in the mirror each day. Weneed the courage, capability and the ability
to create a kind and caring work environment. We learn, from our characters in
Oz thatit starts from within.
And just like the characters from Oz, teams realise it
takes the event and experience to see this. The traveller to Oz discovers what
they need is what they have in and through each other. This is an important
lesson. We all have great gits and qualities. Yet we only see, own and release
these throughour journey. We also
experience the manifestation of these with and in others. There is a friendship
and social aspect to our becoming what we wish to be and how we choose to live
our work lives. We can be kind and supportive to each other or unfairly
competitive and harsh. The choice lies in our hands. We 'become' through and
for others. We spend many hours with our colleagues at work -let us seek to build supportive communities
in our workplacesthat value and
include. Happily the three companions find what they are looking for. The three
things they found - courage, a heart - compassion and intelligence are things
we all need too.
What sustains them on their journey is a growing
friendship, mutual support and hope. We would suggest this is the samein our teams.
travellersget to the Emerald City they
enter into the awesome habitation of the Wizard. In the film in his room they
see no one except a face that keeps appearing and disappearing. There is
smoke, fire, a booming voice and an authoritarian presence. They discover a
These are all tricks - mere smoke and mirrors. The
Wizard is actually a man behind a curtain working levers to create the
atmosphere. The 'great and powerful Oz' is a little man working a machine.
Dorothy accuses him of being a very bad man. The Wizard replies, 'Oh, no, my dear; I'm really a very good
man, but I'm a very bad Wizard, I must admit.' This is the lesson here. We actually think the Wizard was
very wrong. He was saying he was a good man but had no magic, no power. The
truth is that we all can choose to be good and we all have power. The problem
is one of three things:
see that we have power.
.Or we don't
really own that we have power.
.Or that we
don't find the ways for the power to flow and function.
The fact is if we don't see we can't own and if we don't
own we can't have the power. It is a great error to think we don't or can't
have power in our lives.
Again a feature of
teams facing difficulty is that theyoften describe feelings as powerlessand being over
powered.It always strikes us that
having no power is such a disabling state. Yet as we explore the issues of
power and becoming disempowered we discover an interesting fact. When the
going gets tough we often defer to those above us ( just like we did when we
were children ). We ask those above us to make difficult decisions then we
complain about the decisions they have made and we distance ourselves from
those decisions. We often wonder about this dynamic;do we fear being part of the decision making
process so much we would rather act as a victim to the decision of others?Within this dance we have given away our
We have also seen
the opposite - the liberating picture of staff finding their power and voice. In Oz, Dorothy finds that when she confronts the
Wizard, he is a little man, another human being just like her. And so it is our
world.We are all human, trying to do
the best we can with what we have. We may get it wrong. We will make mistakes.
The people above us are not bad people. Just human beings doing their best
often in difficult circumstances. We work in one of the most politicised health
systems in the world ( in our humble opinion )and a key commodity we all have is our personal power. We should never
play games with it or give it up. We should guard it with our lives.
It is what gives us identity, stability and hope to work
for change . Our patients and clients should expect no less from us. They
deserve a staff force which holds its power and uses it positively and
discovers what it's all about.At the end
of the story Dorothy can't get home to Kansas. She is understandably upset. In
the film the good witch tells Dorothy, 'You don't need to be helped any longer.
You've always had the power to go back to Kansas.' Thescarecrow asks if this is so, why didn'tthe witchtell Dorothy. The good witch says, 'Because she wouldn't have believed
me. She had to learn it for herself.'
Again we find here the need for Dorothy to find her own
answers and power.
The Wizard couldn't give her this. It was her own inner
wizard she needed to find - her will, energy and gifts. Ifthe good witch had told her this she wouldn't
have seen or believed it. Dorothy needed the journey of self discovery just
like her three friends.The story of Oz
calls to how we must learn from work and life, it asks us to consider how these
journeys can support our growth,how
thefriendships and relationships we
make on the wayco-developus. And finally we are asked to consider our
inner most ability and thetreasure that
lies hidden within each one of us. The North East of England and Yorkshire may
be a long long way from Oz - certainly a rainbow away. Yet the lessons are the
same and we commend them to you
John Walsh, York Street Health Practice
Dr Maxine Craig, Head of Organisation Development at
South Tees NHS Trust and visiting Professor at Sunderland University.