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Why it is crucial to view from another’s perspective

Published: 1/29/2019

The health leader needs to ask what would my colleague or patient see, touch, think and feel? What’s important also is that perspective-taking makes us humble.

Associate Professor Audrey Chia
NUS Business School (Primary), Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health (Joint)

Perspective-taking is vital for leaders driving change. According to Associate Professor Audrey Chia from NUS Business School, our guest speaker at HOMER Meeting on 5 November 2018, when health workers see things from their colleagues and clients' point of view, they understand their team members and patients better. As a result, health workers collaborate with their stakeholders better. And patients can only benefit from the deeper engagement.    

Perspective-taking involves understanding all facets of the person – her physical, cognitive and affective assumptions and concerns. The health leader needs to ask what would my colleague or patient see, touch, think and feel? What information would they need? What conclusions would they draw in this situation? What decisions might seem reasonable in their situation? Have I allowed them to speak their thoughts and feelings? 

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A/Prof Chia describing how leaders can engage colleagues and patients in the healthcare landscape.


A/Prof Chia believes that heeding these questions can reduce misunderstandings, increase engagement and collaboration, and in time, bring about change for the better. The way to taking the perspective of the Other is dialogue. It begins with listening and allowing the other to articulate their concerns.  

"What's important also is that perspective-taking makes us humble," said A/Prof Chia. Humility closes power distance, disrupts the hierarchical relations, and makes for more networked relations, all of which are important for leading change from team level through ultimately, system level. 

Now, at system level, what if employees already feel fatigued from all talk of change?

A/Prof Chia answered this question from a member of the audience with this advice: Prioritise real change. Prepare staff for it. Inoculate them by introducing changes in small doses in their daily lives in order to increase capacity for bigger change. "For instance, put small plants on work desks. Watching plants grow is a tangible and positive illustration of change," said A/Prof Chia.

The idea of perspective taking resonated strongly with the audience. One of them, Associate Consultant Terence Quek, Department of Anaesthesiology, Intensive Care and Pain Medicine, Tan Tock Seng Hospital commented, "As an anaesthesiologist and chronic pain doctor, understanding the patient's mind-set and his or her overall pain experience is a vital part of holistic management. I found many parallels between concepts introduced during A/Prof Chia's presentation and what we do on the ground with our individual patients."

More than 120 health workers from NHG attended the talk at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. 

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Ms Yvonne Ng, Senior Director, NHG Education presenting A/P Audrey Chia with a token of appreciation.

Like the ideas here? Watch A/Prof Audrey Chia's talk again 

TAGS: HOMER Meeting; Leadership

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