This recent New York Times article, Walking on Eggshells in Medical School, is well written and so true. Here are some lessons I have learned through my journey as a physician leader, educator, specialty advisor, research mentor, and well, just a "teacher" for young learners who want to grow up and care for other humans—in spite of the many challenges and hurdles related to the complex “business” and practice of medicine that their cognitive and medical training will never prepare them adequately for.
- Feedback is much better received, and the desired outcome for the trainee to improve their “performance” and even more important, their perspective and thinking, (because action follows thought), if there is a foundational trust and authentic and mutually respectful relationship. The same applies to marriages, relationships, parent/child interactions or that amongst all members of the health care team.
- As Coach Lou Holtz taught me, “Criticize the performance, never the performer.” Be sure to explain gently that it’s not personal even if it feels personal.
- Always assume any less than ideal performance was not intentional, and discuss and uncover the “why”.
- Walking on eggshells never addresses the real issues, because it’s not authentic and no true meaningful connections have been made.
- Let the person you are giving feedback know that your comments, observations, and decision to intentionally share and provide the feedback, is out of concern, care, and is subjective but from your perspective important.
- When receiving feedback, thank the person giving it. Model positive behavior for giving and receiving feedback.