Profound Impact – Jenny Miller CEO PAMIS
I frequently reflect on why I act and lead in the way I do. Obviously not saying I always gets it right but I realise the key to the way I operate in both work and life in general is reflection. I remember having a discussion with a colleague when I worked in NHS Education for Scotland about managerial and leadership reflection. I explained that whenever something not expected happened, or if there was any conflict my immediate action would be to look internally at my behaviour and communication to see if I had caused it before then looking at other factors. There was surprise from the colleague who said this wasn’t a normal response but she thought it was a really positive one!
I realised that from an early start in my career I had had the privilege of being taught and mentored by some of the best educators for collaborative, compassionate and caring practice – people who had a profound learning and multiple disabilities (PMLD). As a young Occupational Therapist I became the only OT in a long stay hospital for people with a learning disability. Finding appropriate interventions, purposeful and meaningful activity for individuals who had their own way of communicating was challenging and I realised I couldn’t do it without the support of others in the team and from the people who really knew them – their long term carers. The individuals with PMLD were patient as I tried to find my way but reminded me if I was asking too much and gradually I learnt how to slow down and really see and hear what they were trying to tell me. I still got it wrong at times but they had taught me to then reflect back on what had happened and how my actions may have caused an unexpected reaction and so to adapt and change what I did the next time. They also taught me to look beyond what appeared to be a challenging behaviour and notice and wonder what it was they were trying to communicate or do. These skills were and are still so important.
I have taken this way of reflecting on my journey of work and life. When I am struggling with relationships and behaviours I look inside to see what I am doing to contribute to the situation, I also look beyond the behaviour to try to understand what someone is really trying to communicate. I might not always get it right, sometimes I don’t do it immediately and it is later I realise why the situation deteriorated, but it has given me a survival kit. It has also helped me retain a positive outlook to challenges and issues and means that no matter what, every day, I still want to get up to go to work. It has guided a leadership approach that values and respects and appreciates all the team members that I work with in all areas of my work. It has taught me that no one person has the answer to complex situations and only when we all work together will we build an appropriate and sustainable response or solution. It makes me humble and able to appreciate the wisdom, knowledge and value of those who are often not heard. Every day is a school day for me and I am grateful for all the lessons on life and work. This comes from children and young people, including my own, who can talk such sense if we listen. From the family carers that PAMIS works with who really are the experts in care and collaboration but also really sensitive and supportive teachers who hold our hands as we try to understand their children and their needs; their wisdom can guide us into developing practice that is inclusive and safe if we really listen to them. There is also much to learn from the paid carers, many of whom have spent a career developing unique ways of supporting and involving individuals with PMLD – often their interventions are what practitioners theories are based upon.
It feels appropriate on #ProfoundImpactDay2020 to share this blog and also the Leaders Council podcast I was asked to take part in a few weeks ago. When preparing for and answering the questions posed during the interview, the definition of Profound – meaning deep, wise, expert – came to mind and I realised how important my early career education had been on my leadership skills and approach. Being taught and mentored by people with Profound Learning disabilities and their family carers shaped my future leadership style. It also supported me to consider compassion; to acknowledge and value the whole team and that of course included the family carers; they showed me how to really listen and to seek to understand what was being shared; to persevere and not to give up even if it looks as though it is never going to happen or is impossible; to be creative; and to be resourceful but also generous in sharing.
To all my Profound educators I thank them for their wisdom and patience which has not only had a Profound Impact on my career but indeed my life.
The Leaders Council links are available on:
Youtube – https://youtu.be/Fy-RPDuToqU
#ProfoundImpactDay2020 #Resilience #workinginpartnership #LDWeekScot2020