Highlights from two Ontario physiotherapists on CPA’s Leadership Forum 2017.

Emma Tallman, London District President:

My name is Emma Tallman and I am what you might label a “recent grad” physiotherapist. I graduated from Western University’s Master of Physical Therapy program in 2014 and I work in private practice in a clinic in London, Ontario. In the past year, I’ve decided to take on the role of President of the London district of the Ontario Physiotherapy Association.

As part of my new found leadership role within the London district, I was very fortunate to be able to attend the recent CPA Leadership Forum in Ottawa. As a new graduate, I still feel like one of the new fish in the sea of physiotherapy. What an ocean it is – trying to navigate my way helping my patients in the clinic, as well as trying to gain an understanding of the sometimes very complicated healthcare system and where I fit in all of it. I decided to attend the CPA Leadership Forum because I wanted to be inspired by the leaders in our field. I wanted to learn from them what I could so that I could try to emulate their qualities as I embark on my own leadership journey.

I will be honest, I had my trepidations about attending because I am new to the profession and relatively introverted. Networking and socializing do not come easy to me – it can be exhausting! So, when I thought ahead to a weekend of “leadership”, it was hard not to picture myself sitting idly by in a room full of extroverts and highly accomplished physiotherapists.

I quickly learned when I arrived in Ottawa that leadership has many faces. The Forum began with the bright and rather eccentric Deri Latimer. She taught us how to re-frame situations and focus on a positive mindset. One of my favourite sessions was the next day during the PT leaders panel discussion. Each leader was from a different walk of life and described their paths to leadership. They all described that they never pictured themselves being in the leadership roles they are in, how they never really felt that they were ready for their position, and how important mentorship and support systems were to their growth. This inspired me as this is how I feel. Then, in one of the breakout sessions I attended, Randy Goodman challenged us to define our purpose, values, virtues, and core roles – items that are very important to success that we don’t often take the time to think about. Dave Walton presented his preliminary findings from his recent Physio Moves Canada project, which challenged us to consider who we are and where we can best position ourselves and our profession in an ever-changing healthcare environment.

On the last day, everybody was brought together for what was one of the highlights of the Forum – the “PT Think Tank”. This was a session for us to start the conversation about how we should best position ourselves and our profession within the healthcare system. We discussed how we as individuals can be leaders in our own ways, and we encouraged each other not to sit still but to find ways to promote ourselves and our profession.

The closing remarks by Emma Stokes, President of the World Confederation of Physical Therapy, was the cherry on top of a fantastic weekend. She discussed the importance of learning and understanding each of the roles of the members on your team and using these characteristics to help your team thrive. She also described the importance of positive disruption. She urged us to not be afraid to rock the boat, but to make sure we have considered the “second paragraph”. In other words – don’t be afraid to be a critic but make sure you have a solution to bring to the table.

I left Ottawa feeling absolutely full to the brim with inspiration, motivation, and a new-found dedication to our profession. Physiotherapy is a wonderful profession with a great platform to help lead Canadians to live healthier, happier, more active, and fulfilling lives. I learned at CPA Forum that everybody is a leader in their own right, and that everyone’s voice matters. You shouldn’t be afraid to step into a role that you might not feel ready for because there are amazing individuals in our profession who will be more than willing to support you and help you thrive. I am so thankful for the opportunity I had to attend the CPA Leadership Forum and I look forward to more of these great events in the future.

Shannon Mulholland, Home Care Advisory Committee Member:

My Name is Shannon Mulholland, and I am a clinical physiotherapist who has been practicing for 29 years. Currently, I am the owner of a small private neurological PT home based practice in Kingston, Ontario. I also am an independent contractor for a company that contracts to the SELHIN (home and community care), where once again, I am privileged to treat many patients with neurological impairments as well as a variety of other diagnoses in the publicly funded home care system. I also enjoy providing educational support to the Stroke Network of Southeastern Ontario.

I have recently joined the Home Care Advisory Committee of the OPA which helped sponsor my registration to the Leadership Forum in Ottawa. I am very grateful for the opportunity; it was a leadership conference which has already influenced me professionally and personally.

I got to travel with my amazing PT friend, Mary Jo Demers, and re-connect with a number of former Ottawa colleagues. I also met some new people, including a Manitoba physiotherapist, educators from across the country, and Wendy Smith, OPA’s President.

There is so much to talk about, but with this brief submission, I will highlight a few areas that struck a chord with me:

Deri Latimer (Neuroscience of Leadership): What is your story when interpreting information? Know that we have choices about how we interpret information – positive/helpful or negative/unhelpful. The brain cannot be in two places at once so choose positivity and enjoy the benefits of healthy brain responses and more resources for thinking/planning; choose to be away from negativity and cortisol production (fight or flight responses) that impede creativity, happiness, and leadership ability. Effective leaders are Curious, Connected, and Caring.

Tanja Yardley (Leading a Team: engagement 101: Building an exceptional Team): The most important skill of a leader is self-awareness. Have people give you 360-degree feedback because while we judge ourselves on our intentions, others judge us on our actions. Meditate daily and in the morning list two to three tasks you are going to accomplish for that day. Be a collaborator. Stop getting people to do what you want them to do and start seeing what you as a team want to create together. If you continuously focus on effort you will get more effort, and eventually build a culture of martyrs who work and work and work = BURNOUT. Be courageous with tough communication when things go awry. We avoid these situations because of fear, so do not dismiss these tough conversations; remember cortisol shuts down creative energy. Leadership is a disposition and happiness is contagious!

Emma Stokes, Kate O’Connor (Think Tank Session): We were asked to write a postcard to ourselves so that in one month we would be reminded of one actionable item in support of the statement: Physiotherapy is Canada’s Essential Partner for Optimizing Health. What does essential mean? With so many competing groups for similar health dollars – what do PTs do that no one else does? If physiotherapists were absent from Canadian health care tomorrow  what would be missed? Perhaps this is our essential service? Perhaps this is our brand? WOW– this is so exciting!

We are at a time when Canadian physiotherapists collectively through CPA need to make some tough decisions about who we are, what we can offer that no one else does, and how to position physiotherapists for continued viability in the Canadian healthcare system.

Let’s get excited about this challenge. Lead the discussion with your colleagues!

I am re-energized! I am looking forward to incorporating more personal reflection/meditation into my day. I will make choices on how I want to interpret information so that I can be productive in my relationships with others. I will look for how I can develop my leadership skills in new situations.

I would recommend this conference to all. #PhysioCanLead.

Check out many resources and videos on developing leadership skills in the Leadership Project.