Now you’re talking! Tips for communicating with colleagues and trainees

“Think of yourself as a communicator who speaks with people, not to people.”

That was the key message delivered by Annie Gingras, Founding President of the management consulting firm Tabono, who was invited to share her expertise in effective communication with employees of the Multidisciplinary Services Directorate (DSM). The DSM leadership had gathered its members for a staff appreciation event, to recognize their dedication as supervisors to university and CEGEP students.

In 2017 and 2018, DSM staff supervised dozens of university students in a variety of fields, including physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech language pathology, social work, audiology and clinical nutrition. They also guided more than 100 CEGEP students who completed their stages in respiratory therapy, imaging and radio-oncology.

“This is quite outstanding,” said Mary Lattas, Associate Director of the DSM, addressing the DSM staff who had gathered for the occasion. “It reflects the importance we place—as a directorate, as a team and as an organization—on training professionals who are providing care to our patients.”

“We understand that the CIUSSS is a more complex environment,” added Ms. Lattas. “Each of us is striving to excel in all areas—with our workloads, in our teaching and of course, in our personal lives. To help us achieve that balance, we can certainly all benefit from strong communication skills.”

Ms. Gingras spoke about the importance of meaningful conversations between colleagues, which require both parties to be fully present and authentic during the exchange.

“If you’re only half listening or have other preoccupations, it’s best to arrange to speak with that person another time, when you can give them your full attention,” she suggested.

Steer clear of yes or no questions, she proposed, because these will likely lead to a short, dull exchange. It is preferable to keep questions open ended, by starting with “how” or “why”. For example, asking a colleague, “how is your project going?”, instead of, “is your project completed?”, will open up the conversation. Consider what you might learn from the other person and how you can encourage them. When feasible, you might  even offer to help with their projects or tasks.

Ms. Gingras left the audience with some simple tips for explaining a task or relaying a message to a colleague:

  • Take your time when speaking and adopt a patient tone
  • Try not to repeat yourself
  • Keep the message brief and precise Provide feedback, whether positive or negative

“If we think of constructive feedback particularly as giving a gift to the person to help them, we enter the conversation with a positive attitude instead of an accusatory one,” she explained. “Feedback is a wonderful tool for strengthening the collaborative spirit of a team.”

The DSM leadership also took the opportunity to congratulate the Technical Aids Service team at the Constance-Lethbridge Rehabilitation Centre, who were finalists in the “Development” category for the 2018 Prix Reconnaissance Desjardins, awarded by the Association des Conseils Multidisciplinaires du Québec.