In Part 1 of a 4-part miniseries, Samantha Cinnick of the Health Resources and Services Administration talks about some of the communication challenges involved when people collaborate to bring about systems change. What she shares can be helpful for anyone who wants to communicate better with their colleagues.
Today I kick off a 4 part miniseries on communication inside public health. Samantha Cinnick of the Health Resources and Services Administration talks about inter-professional communication, and what she shares can be helpful for anyone who wants to communicate better with their colleagues. In this first installment, Samantha tells us about how she’s handled some of the communication challenges involved when people collaborate to bring about systems change.
Hi everybody, this is “10 Minutes to Better Patient Communication” from Health Communication Partners. I’m Dr. Anne Marie Liebel. Our course Foundations of Equitable Communication in Health has been found to make a statistically significant improvement in people’s communication knowledge, confidence, and skills. And This course includes a one hour, live, group meeting for participants after the course. So we can get started applying what you’ve learned–in your specific workplace. Learn more at healthcommunicationpartners.com.
I’ve been looking forward to sharing with you this miniseries about communication inside public health. Once a month for the next 4 months I get to sit down with Samantha and talk interpersonal communication. so even if you’re not in public health, this miniseries can help you communicate better with your colleagues. Samantha Cinnick was a guest on this show years ago talking about interpersonal communication, she’s back today, and we’ve got a lot to catch up on! Samantha shares her experiences and what she’s been learning about communication as an early career public health professional.
Anne Marie: I’m Live via zoom with Samantha Cinnick. Samantha works at the health resources and services Administration. Samantha welcome to the show!
Samantha: Hi Anne Marie! glad to be back!
AM: Yeah welcome back! Sam, you were here before covid. I can’t believe it’s been that long, that your last interview with us is in November 2019.
Sam: What is that almost 3 years?
AM: Honestly, honestly! So catch us up! like what have you been up to? what are you doing now?
Sam: Sure thing! I am currently working at the health resources and services Administration as a public health analyst. I work with the health center program, and I work to disseminate data about that program to policymakers and to the public. Within the time of our last podcast, I was lucky enough to be a chapter author on a book about systems change in public health. So the name of the book is Leading Systems Change in Public Health: A Field Guide for Practitioners. And I got to help write a chapter on interpersonal leadership.
AM: That’s awesome because that leads right into my next question which is: what is an issue or problem that you are facing that’s related to communication?
So, in my work as a public health professional, we’re trying all the time to make systems changes to influence health. And the bottom line is that in order to change a system you need to make change on multiple levels. It’s not just about individual health change in order to get people to be healthier.
Well thanks for that because systems change is I think in the air quite a lot now, and I am I’m here for it. What do you think systems change has to do with communication, specifically?
Sure, so like I said, improving Health requires real-world systems change at multiple levels. And you’re going to have to communicate your change vision, your desired future State, at all of those levels. So that means you need to be able to communicate your vision with individuals, with teams, organizations, partnerships between organizations.
In public health you’re always working with someone else!
Yes absolutely! And that’s the only way that things get done. And if you’re going to start to work with other people, one of the best ways to do that is to develop your own interpersonal leadership. And interpersonal leadership, that’s the ability to develop authentic, meaningful relationships. Not only friendships with colleagues, but really understanding their diverse perspectives about the work that you’re doing together. in a way that when it’s shared with you, you understand it and you can combine it to take action towards your shared visions of the future.
And I think there’s something interesting here about this, the interpersonal aspect. and also thinking of yourself and of your colleagues always as potential leaders. And the leaderful aspects that we all have, whether or not we have the official position of “leader.” So how are you how are you coming at this? How are you facing the I don’t want to say problem but the challenges of communication in these enormously complicated collaborations that we need to do in order to change at a systems level? How are you facing that?
I have been very lucky. I have some mentors that I’ve been able to work with who have taught me Frameworks in order to build my interpersonal leadership. And one of those frameworks that’s creative interacting. And that is something that we talk about in the book I mentioned at the beginning. It’s a philosophy, and a four-fold process, in order to help people strengthen their interpersonal skills. And so with creative interacting, the idea is that you make sure everybody’s contributions are genuinely heard. And that even if they’re contradictory, you’re able to connect those contributions together, to find a solution that builds upon everybody’s ideas.
That is a high bar, right? So can you give us a quick flyover? what is what is this work?
I can, I can. So there are four elements of creative interacting and that includes: authentic interacting, appreciative understanding, creative interacting, and expanding capacity. The first one, authentic interacting, that’s your ability to bring your genuine self to an interaction with someone and allowing that person to do the same with you. That requires a lot of Courage, a lot of Bravery to be vulnerable in that space. So that’s the first one.
That’s a good place to start too.
Yeah I think so. The second one, appreciative understanding, that’s affirming somebody’s contributions. Validating what they have said to you. And not only welcoming the new ideas, but really saying to them, ‘wow, I really like that. let’s find a way to put that into what we’re trying to do together.’
Then there’s creative interacting, which I think is the most difficult. I’m practicing a lot, practicing all of these but practicing this one especially. It’s it’s letting go of polarizing viewpoints and embracing these paradoxes and complexities in order to find the connections between different points of view.
I can see yes there’s there’s layers of challenge there.
And then lastly is expanding capacity, which I think is the most intuitive. After you’ve done your authentic interacting, your appreciative understanding, your creative interacting, that’ll bring up a lot of stuff. A lot of things to consider. And you’ll look at all of those things and think to yourself, “what am I committed to here to make change on, based on what i’ve heard so far?” And then move forward trying to improve it.
Thank you for that flyover! That was incredibly tidy, but also very deep. Like, you’ve given me a lot to think about. So can you give us a sample of something that you’ve done with this framework?
So I think an exercise that folks could use today comes from the creative interchanging piece. The piece where you’re bringing together disparate points of view to find a common way forward. And this exercise is called three pluses and a wish. And the idea is that when someone brings an idea to you, maybe you don’t like all of it. Maybe there’s something about it you wish was different. You start by naming the three things that you really like about the idea, and the one thing that you maybe want to change. You don’t frame it as ‘I don’t like that let’s get rid of it.’ you frame it as, ‘I wish that it looked like this. I wish that this idea had this in it.’ so by saying it that way, you’re opening up people to think more positively about how they can improve their idea.
I love this. Thank you. That’s so effective. 3 plusses. I see you’re validating, you’re letting people also know that you heard them. You’re reflecting back to them some of what they said. And all of that is powerful communication. And then the wish, because that’s from your perspective, the way you would like things to go. And you’re situating that in your perspective. That’s fantastic, really powerful. Thanks for sharing that Sam. So what are you learning from facing the challenges of collaborative communication with this framework?
As an early career professional, I think when I was first starting at in public health I would try to solve problems very quickly, right away. I would want to try to prove myself, make an impact, move on to the next thing. But by tapping into an interpersonal framework like this, where you’re really taking the time to think about different perspectives, it allows you to shift your thinking and be more curious about what are the potential ways to solve a problem that aren’t within just yourself. So it opens up space to see New Perspectives that the members of my team or my department have and can bring to big problems, and allows us to solve them I think more effectively.
You’ve said a lot there, Sam. Especially the idea that you, you’re resisting the pressure to like boom, boom, boom, like solve these problems. And I mean which is very real at all stages of someone’s professional path. You know we’re all under pressure to pretend that there’s a way to quickly solve some of these enormous problems. So what are the next steps for you? Where are you going from here?
It’s a great question. I think next steps for me include continuing to practice my interpersonal leadership skills! I am still learning, like we all are. And I was lucky enough to work with Chris Chrisley, Christina Walter, and Pat Marshall on learning more about creative interacting and how I can put it into practice. So that’s something that I would like to continue to do. But I like to mentor others in this framework. I think that there are a lot of places where my own learning can benefit others in public health. I think lastly I want to say for others that are experiencing communication issues or problems in their work, especially on collaborative projects, that I highly recommend the book, Leading Systems Change in Public Health: A Field Guide for Practitioners. It includes not only that chapter interpersonal leadership, but other successful practices for implementing system change on multiple levels.
Thanks for that, Samantha Cinnick from HRSA. Like I’ve learned because of what you’ve shared and our listeners got to learn from you as well so thank you so much for spending time with us today Sam
Thank you for the opportunity Anne Marie!
I’m so grateful to Sam for reflecting on her experiences and allowing us all to learn from her, challenging the notion that somehow early career professionals don’t have things to teach us. She took us far in her 10 minutes! This has been “10 Minutes to Better Patient Communication” from Health Communication Partners. Audio engineering by Joe Liebel, music by Joe Liebel and Alexis R.