In my job as a Health Readiness Coordinator, I am required to exercise a high level of skill in communication, leadership, organization, as well as basic statistical analysis. In specific, I have found the following principles of group and organizational dynamics, leadership styles, and basic statistics to be invaluable.
One of the first ways in which a Health Readiness Coordinator begins his or her relationship with a client is by helping them to make relevant decisions. Of course, the best way to begin this process is by utilizing a "break down" method that separates the decision into defined components. Specifically, these include defining the problem, collecting the relevant data on all possible choices, evaluating present alternatives, and finally, making an informed decision (Amos, 2004). Additionally, I have also found it useful to add a final reflection step in which I evaluate the success of the decision, and learn from its effects, thereby helping me in future situations.
Another important aspect of my job is having a good method of communication as well as one for the motivation of my clients. Often, because my position involves a high volume of clients inexperienced with the health care industry, I find that having a good understanding of the balance between communication, motivation, and leadership, can help me in my quest toward serving the client in the most efficient manner. Specifically, the concept of communication and motivation involves both simple and complex components. The most basic of these include body positioning, facial expressions, encoding and decoding, an understanding of the appropriate use of formal and informal communication, as well as the all important concept of listening styles.
A find, that when I am meeting and discussing a client's health care needs, that my body positioning is an important mechanism by which I can establish an atmosphere of ease and trust. I do this by positing myself so that I appear attentive and friendly, yet not overly informal. I want the client/s to understand that I am interested in their case -- I lean forward slightly as I listen to their concerns. I do not "slouch," or appear rigid, nor do I lean back in my chair. Additionally, I try to have an open and friendly facial expression, and I am careful to give physical clues that I am hearing what they are saying. Specifically, I understand that the processes of human "encoding and decoding," represented, in part, by my behavior, is then decoded and assigned a meaning by my listener (CSU, 2000).
Without this understanding, I not only miss a vital opportunity to establish a good rapport with my client/s, but I may also convey unintentional meanings that may damage that rapport.
Another important skill in the communication realm is the ability to judge when informal communication is appropriate vs. informal communication. This means that there are times, when dealing with a provider representative, or attorney, for example, when a more formal communication style is essential. However, I have also found that I must modify my communication to present a more informal style when discussing health care with the majority of clients. Not only does this place the client more at ease, but it facilitates a closer "connection" with the client. However, the line must always be drawn between "informal" communication, based perhaps on a more friendly and relaxed speaking style, and a lax or overly "chummy" style. In short, the relationship must still remain professional in all aspects.
In my position, I have also found that having a good understanding of one's listening style is also important in achieving a good level of positive communication. Although there are different "types" of listening styles I have found that understanding the different types, and being able to utilize them all in the appropriate circumstances is important. The styles I may use include the following, developed by the Bresnahan Group in their 2004 work, "Talk is Cheap. Listening is Priceless:"
Appreciative. This listener wants to be entertained. He likes to listen to people who make him feel good about himself. This helps him relax. He cares more about the impression made by the speaker than the details of what is presented.
Empathic. This person empathizes with the listener. He is a patient listener, and listens to feelings and emotions. He reflects on what has been said. These listeners are often sounding boards for others and they encourage the speaker to make a decision.
Comprehensive. The listener relates what he hears to his previous experiences. He will summarize what he has heard frequently by asking questions and clarifying. He can usually recognize when the speaker is saying one thing while meaning something else.
Discerning. This person wants to make sure he gets all the information. He frequently takes notes so he won't forget. He finds distraction annoying and will try to eliminate it.
Evaluative. This listener tends to look for the facts to support what the speaker has said. He listens for how the arguments are developed, so he can critique the message. He will listen until he is sure of what the speaker is saying. He tends to be skeptical (Bresnahan, 2004).
Examples of how I may use these different styles in different circumstances might include using the "appreciative," "empathetic," as well as the "comprehensive" styles either individually, or more often, in combination when I discuss cases with most clients. However, in more formal communications with providers and/or attorneys, I find that I resort more often to the "discerning," or "evaluative" styles.
Another component of my job involves seeing the relationship between my client, myself, and the health care service or provider involved as a kind of "team." This means that I recognize that each individual or entity has a specific role to play, and that I, in a sense, function as a kind of "leader" of the relationship. Because of this, it is extremely important for me to understand the differences in "leadership style," as well as which style might be appropriate for each different case or situation. For example, in some instances, I may use the autocratic leadership style. Although in most situations, using this style, in which I am the "dominant" and overtly driving force in the "team" is not the best way to go, there remains a significant portion of the client pool, as members of the military, who respond well to such leadership. Further, this is also useful when a situation calls for "urgent action" (Gerard, 2002). There are times, however, when a democratic style in which I encourage more participation from each team member, and delegate roles in which they have authority in some of the decision making. In other instances, I may even use a free rein approach, in which I trust that both members of the team will essentially accomplish the established goal on their own.
Of course, understanding which approach to use is based mainly on an understanding of team dynamics, or the factors that determine the way the team works. This means that I must understand the organizational barriers that may restrict the interaction of team members, this may include a lack of flexibility or institutional reluctance to negotiate on the part of the provider or service with regard to the client. Further, I must also understand any internal barriers, that may include personal traits or decisions that continuously impact a client's ability to perform a certain task, or impedes their ability to complete a behavior or set of behaviors. A further complication of this aspect in specific, is being capable of discerning whether each internal barrier is caused by a cognitive (and perhaps impossible to change), or emotional, components. Understanding the type of conflict helps to either overcome the internal client barrier, or perhaps (if possible) work around it.
In short, it is the combination of understanding the factors that "make up" each team member -- including the barriers that might impact the dynamics of the team that affects the way in which I conduct the "team building" between myself as the coordinator, the client, and the provider or service. Without this information, I am far less effective.
Another aspect of my position that is somewhat separated from the "human interactive" portions is the ability to analyze data effectively. I have found that the inability to examine data accurately can significantly affect my ability to fully understand the picture I am dealing with. Therefore, I must be fully able to not only analyze data, but I must also be able to interpret, display or describe, as well make decisions based on the data in front of me.
The skill of analyzing data involves many steps. The first step involves identifying both a population and sample. This means that I can regard the "entire collection of items is the focus of concern, (ASC, 2004)" after which I draw a random sample from which I can use analysis to draw conclusions about the population. One of the ways I may use this in…