July 23, 2018

Elevate your emotional intelligence at OR Manager Conference

By: Elizabeth Wood

Meg Soper, RN

The old adage, “Laughter is the best medicine,” is worth adopting as a daily mantra to offset the pressures of the OR environment. Each year, the OR Manager Conference ends on an upbeat note with an inspirational and often humorous closing session. This year’s presentation, on Wednesday, September 19, is no exception. Meg Soper, RN, will apply her comedic skills in an entertaining but thought-provoking presentation: “IQ Will Get You Hired, EQ Will Get You Promoted.”

As a former staff and OR nurse, Soper knows firsthand the high level of stress and tension that can dominate daily interactions in the OR.

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“We need a sense of humor to survive and thrive in the demanding setting of the OR,” Soper says. “Laughter builds bridges to bring people together across the disciplines and the different roles that we all play. Humor and laughter are something that every member of the team can share even while providing the highest quality patient care. Is it possible to do that while embracing a fun and collaborative work environment? Absolutely!”

Soper, formerly a registered nurse in the OR at Halton Healthcare and St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, balanced the dual careers of nursing and stand-up comedy for many years. She began doing stand-up comedy while in nursing school, and as her popularity grew, she became a regular performer.

“Pursuing dual careers helped me be better in each of my roles because both called upon me to think on my feet and be resilient—whether facing a challenging patient situation or an audience that gave me crickets even after my best lines,” she says. “I transitioned to the role of motivational humorist 10 years ago, and pretty soon my speaking career took over my calendar. Over the years, I have learned that laughter and humor help to facilitate learning, and I always strive to use humor to create tangible takeaways for my audience that can be applied personally and professionally.”


Emotional intelligence

Most OR leaders are familiar with the concept of emotional intelligence, but knowing what it means and putting it into practice are two different things.

“Deciding to think positive thoughts is a good initiative, but is not enough,” Soper says. During her presentation, she will share some tips for practicing mindfulness techniques to create a more positive work environment and energize staff.

“In my role as a staff nurse, I have worked with many different managers and leaders who ranged from poor to exceptional,” she says. “I was inspired early on in my nursing career by the first manager I ever worked with. She made it a priority to be accessible to her staff so that each team member felt valued and connected, and she accepted that our mistakes were learning opportunities. We weren’t afraid to ‘own it’ when things went wrong while at the same time wanting to perform at our very best for our manager.”

Soper believes people can always challenge themselves to be self-aware, ie, to know that their individual diversity and personality styles are a source of strength and that they must be accepting of one another's differences.

“My experience is that the best performing teams acknowledge each team member’s contribution, building connection and strength,” she notes.

“Being self-aware requires us to be mindful of how the energy and personal attitude we present at work impact those on our team. Positive energy and mindset are essential ingredients in creating a positive environment,” she says. “The more attention we pay to our emotions and what triggers our emotions, the more sway we have over what we are thinking and feeling.”

In addition to cultivating this kind of self-awareness, she says, the ability to empathize with staff and understand their needs is crucial for fostering a productive, positive environment. “When we devote the time to understanding the values and beliefs of the people we work with, we are better able to bring out their strengths,” she says. “People don’t tell us how to treat them, but they do give us lots of clues. Your job as an effective leader is to understand each of your team members so you are able to bring out their strengths by ensuring each feels supported and valued.”

As an example, she points to Millennials, who grew up in an environment based on feedback and reward. It’s very important to them to know that their voices are heard and their ideas are taken seriously. “Accessible leadership, positive communication, and active listening are a few of the key elements to working effectively with the different generations in the workplace,” she says. “What gets recognized and rewarded gets repeated!”

Soper stresses that leaders need to set the tone for the team and encourage their participation in creating a collaborative working relationship. “As a leader, your circle of influence touches every role on your team. Your perspective and what you choose to focus on have the biggest impact on the culture.”

For more information or to register for the conference, visit http://2018.ormanagerconference.com.

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