The importance of successful team communication can’t be overstated–in clinical medicine or in public health.
I recently interviewed Samantha Cinnick of the deBeaumont Foundation. An early career public health professional, Samantha handles tricky team communication, in complex, large-scale projects. Yet the challenges she faces aren’t confined to public health.
In our interview, Samantha shares the story of one memorable project. She ends with three great pieces of advice that can be helpful in your next team meeting, no matter how large or small.
You can listen to the interview, and read the transcript below (with links).
Hi. This is 10 Minutes to Better Patient Communication from Health Communication Partners. I’m Dr. Anne Marie Liebel, and today I interview Samantha Cinnick of the de Beaumont Foundation about communication challenges within a team. Samantha shows us that even when working on large scale projects, success can still hinge on a team of individuals–who are often experts in separate fields–communicating well together. She tells us what she’s learned, next.
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I’m on Skype with Samantha Cinnick from the deBeaumont Foundation. Hi Samantha!
Hi Anne Marie, how are you?
I’m good! Thank you so much for being on the show today.
Thanks so much for having me!
So you and I met when you were still working at Columbia University. So maybe you can tell our audience a little bit about yourself and what you do.
Sure thing! so I am in early career professional and public health and I am passionate about the governmental Public Health Workforce. My first job was working for the Region 2 Public Health Training Center where I provided training opportunities for governmental public health professionals in Region 2. And now I’m working at deBeaumont and I am the Program Officer for their Workforce Development Center.
So how is what you’re doing at deBeaumont different from what you did for Columbia?
Sure so at Columbia, I was providing individual training opportunities. Things like webinars and online self-directed programs. And now at deBeaumont I am providing more systems-level change and Workforce Development. So the biggest project that we’re working on right now, it’s called Research to Action. And we’re helping seven health departments through a change management process in order to improve their Recruitment and Retention at their agency.
So that is a lot of communication of a lot of Education. I know you pointed out that you’re early career, but you’ve got a lot of experience already in helping Public Health folks communicate and educate. and so I want to ask you: what’s one challenge you faced in your work when it comes to communicating or educating?
When I was working at the Region 2 Public Health Training Center we were charged with providing training on three strategic skills. and the skill areas were systems thinking, change management, and persuasive communication. And these are very abstract concepts. They’re more difficult to teach than technical skills. So my director and I, we had a great idea to put these these skill areas within a case study. We were going to use the opioid epidemic, which was very relevant and very timely for most health departments in their communities. And we worked with 3 subject matter experts that knew everything about these strategic skill areas. However…
My director and I, we really had a tough time communicating the vision of what our training would look like. And because our subject matter experts were used to in-person training, lectures, it was hard to get us all on the same page about creating a online training with this type of of work. These type of areas.
It’s ironic that you got subject matter experts in communication and educating together, and like the communication is still not easy! So what were the biggest challenge of this project for you?
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I think that the biggest challenges for this project was getting enough time for the team to brainstorm; enough time for the team to decide on what was the problem we were trying to solve–what was, what were the learning objectives of things we’re trying to teach; and lastly getting us all aligned on what the big picture of the project was. What was the vision, where were we going.
That’s a lot, I mean gosh. So why why were those challenges important to you?
These challenges were important to the team as a whole because it was going to, it was going to guide the work, and make sure that we created the most quality training we could for our audience. By getting, getting aligned on the big picture and really just defining the problem so that it was the same for all of the subject matter experts, that made sure it really met the needs of the people who were going to get trained.
So as you’re talking I’m wondering if maybe some of the providers in our audience might be kind of smiling and nodding a bit. Because it sounds like some of these challenges: getting the team time to brainstorm, getting the team to decide on what the problem really is, getting the team aligned on the big picture–I wonder if maybe some of those they could identify with in clinical teams because of all of the importance of good team communication? So I wonder if maybe you have some advice? Some of what you’ve learned in dealing with these issues, since you first encountered them in Columbia.
Yeah. I think that one thing I’ve noticed as I moved from Colombia to deBeaumont is that these problems, they happen everywhere. they’re not just at my Public Health Training Center. They’re not just that the Foundation. They’re at Health Departments they’re at hospitals, they’re any place where people are working on really complex and difficult problems to solve. So I think that what I’ve learned so far–and everybody can take this with a grain of salt because I am an early career professional and I’m still learning–is is that the brainstorming piece is really important. And it’s really important to do it in a non-judgmental way, and really adding upon each other’s ideas. Being able to say “yes, and” to something. Being able to say to someone, “That’s a great idea, and what if we did this as well?” Being curious. Being, being curious about what that person is thinking. I think also, getting everybody on the same page. This sounds silly but asking is obvious questions of curiosity.
Like, when you’re in a meeting and you think that everyone in that meeting has agreed to something, be the brave one to stop and say: “I think I heard you say this. Is that correct?” and have them say back to you, “Yes that was what I said,” or, “No, actually I was thinking more like this.” You’d be surprised how many times someone will say, “No, actually that was misinterpreted.” So asking those obvious questions and then also just making the space to brainstorm. We don’t put it into our grant proposals. We don’t put it into our work plans. But I would say that they’re some of the most important things, is to have time at the beginning of your project to brainstorm. Make sure you’re on the same page. And to reflect at critical points during your process to make sure that you’re still aligned.
Sam thank you so much! thanks for being on the show thanks for sharing your stories
Thanks Anne Marie I’m glad I was on your show!
This has been 10 Minutes to Better Patient Communication from Health Communication Partners. I’m Dr. Anne Marie Liebel with Samantha Cinnick from the deBeaumont Foundation.