Connecting at a heart and mind level with all those we lead and serve

181127 military healthcare2

“It’s about love.”

For many years, I have been fortunate to lead & serve and teach & coach within military healthcare institutions. And on this particular day, I was truly blessed as a marine shared the “it’s about love” message with me.

We had just spent ninety minutes together (with many other healthcare leaders) as I taught a communication framework that positions each of us to connect at both a heart and mind level with ourselves, our colleagues, and with our veterans (our patients) and their families.

In doing so, I referenced learnings based on the work of caring and compassionate Radiologists and Rad Techs who wanted to ensure they covered the most important items for their patients and families, and which over time became what is now known as Studer Group’s AIDET Plus the Promise℠:

  • Acknowledge – Connecting at a heart level – Key Message: You are important to me / I respect you
  • Introduce – Connecting at both a heart and mind level – Key Message: You can have faith in me and your care team
  • Duration – Connecting at a mind level – Key Message: I respect you and your time
  • Explanation – Connecting at a mind level – Key Message: I want you to understand, so you feel safe and confident
  • Thank you – Connecting at a heart level – Key Message: I am grateful for you and your trust in me
  • The Promise – Connecting at a heart level – Key Message: I am committed to you and your family

We discussed the importance of the three dimensions of communication, with me referring to the work of social scientist, Albert Mehrabian, who conducted research in this area and found that certain behaviors associated with communication make a bigger impression on people than others. These behaviors, sorted into three communication cues, include:

  • Verbal, (refers to the choice of words we use);
  • Vocal, (refers to the tone or attitude of our voice when we are speaking); and
  • Visual, (refers to how we look when we are speaking; not only what our body language is saying, but also what is our face saying, and what are our eyes saying).

I further shared that Dr. Mehrabian’s research found that people’s belief (trust) in what we are communicating is driven as follows:

  • 07% of what people believe is based on the words they hear;
  • 38% of what people believe is based on how the words are spoken (tone); and
  • 55% of what people believe is based on what people see in another person.

And together we discussed how as healthcare leaders we have the opportunity to role model optimal communications – heart and mind – in our words, our tones, and in our actions. And must do so with authenticity … just checking off the boxes of heartful and mindful communication is obvious and often leads to harm as distrust germinates and adversely impacts information sharing, understanding, and primes non-adherence to carefully developed care guidelines.

As a group, we discussed barriers to authentic caring. And yes, burnout was discussed energetically with both clinicians and non-clinicians sharing how caring for veterans and their families is not easy.

We turned our focus to our WHY. Why we are here? Why this work is important? Who we have shared our WHY with? Who needs to hear our WHY? And who’s WHY we need to hear?

And as part of this discourse, these individuals noted that each of our WHY’s can be forgotten for many reasons, including that those we care for often display challenging behaviors – stemming from many challenges they have faced, on the battlefield and at home.

We reminded ourselves of the importance of caring for self and one another. How connecting at a heart and mind level with one another is essential to filling our own cups so that we are best positioned to care for others.

And at the end of our training session, this marine sought me out.

“Thank you, Tom. I especially needed to hear this message today. The challenges we are facing, I am facing, each day are mounting. And I am feeling myself going down an unhealthy path which will adversely impact all those I have sworn to lead and serve. All those I have sworn to care for and care about.”

As he said this, I could feel the grip of his handshake tighten as the beads of sweat began to appear on this forehead.

He continued …

“I had begun to forget my own why as internal and external stressors have hit me square. And I know I can do better. Your message of heart. Your message of reconnecting with my own WHY, sharing my WHY with those who need to know, and listening to theirs … yes. Today I commit to letting people know why I am here, how important to me this work, no not work, my ministry to care for veterans, is and that I am here for my colleagues too.”

“But Tom, it was when you said, that to truly lead we must be courageously vulnerable … and that heart comes from courage … that was the tipping point for me. Yes, I am a marine. And yes, I am afraid. I am afraid I am failing my men and women.”

He paused as he took in a deep breath and then,

“I have been too ego-driven to ask for the help I need. And I truly need it. My second commitment today is to truly be courageous … and ask for that help. It’s about love. Love of others, yes. And love of self in order to help others. Thank you so much.”

Connecting at a heart and mind level with ourselves, with our teams, and with all those we care for is essential to providing optimal healthcare … healthCARING. And yes, there are many strategies and tools to do so. But it all starts with knowing our own WHY, embracing it, and then doing the same for others. And once we are clear on our WHY, determining the path forward to best accomplish our mission … while not forgetting to ask for help when we need it.

By the way, as I was presenting recently, another military healthcare leader stopped me and said,

“EGO equals Edging God Out.”

Today, let’s each commit to being courageously vulnerable – just like this marine – set EGO aside, connect with one another at a heart and mind level, and open ourselves up to receiving the help we need to best lead and serve and care for (love) self and others.

And if you need help and are not sure where to turn … please contact me. I too am here for you.



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