DWHLI 2017

June 3, 2017 by  

The 2017 DWHLI was held May 23-26 at the BMO Institute for Learning in Toronto. Eighty five participants from across the health professional spectrum of roles and disciplines, and representing several provinces, participated in 4 long days of concentrated leadership development programming. More information about the program, the speakers and facilitators, and the innovative projects that were launched by the attendees can be found at healthleaders.ca

Exerpts from Longwoods Nursing Leadership, June 2016, Special Focus on the The Dorothy Wylie Health Leaders Institute

November 9, 2016 by  

Exerpts from Longwoods Nursing Leadership, 29(2) June 2016 Special Focus on the The Dorothy Wylie Health Leaders Institute

DWHLI and CNA celebrate their partnership and plan 2016 events

December 23, 2015 by  


Earlier this month Judith Skelton Green, Julia Scott and I sat down with Anne Sutherland Boal, CEO of the Canadian Nurses Association, and Carolyn Pullen, Director of Policy, Advocacy and Strategy to put the final touches to our partnership agreement to offer together our 27th Leadership Institute.

Dorothy Wylie, retired Professor of Leadership at University of Toronto Nursing, after whom the Institute is named, and Karima Velji, President of CNA, joined us for dinner and celebratory toasts.

A few collaborative events are scheduled for 2016. In February we will offer a webinar about leadership competencies for health care professionals, and their importance in today’s complex and rapidly transforming environments.

We are hard at work designing a leadership workshop for participants at CNA’s Biennium in June in St John’s NB. In October we will offer our 27th week-long Institute with CNA. We are thoroughly enjoying our collaboration – truly a “meeting of the minds” – as we are very much on the same page about the value and importance of leadership at every level and in every discipline providing healthcare today.

Dorothy Wylie Health Leaders Institute in New Partnership with the Canadian Nurses Association

October 25, 2015 by  

Dorothy Wylie Health Leaders Institute Canadian Nurses Association

New Partnership with the Canadian Nurses Association
The Dorothy Wylie Health Leadership Institute (DWHLI) is introducing a new and significant partnership with the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA).

The institute is a unique Canadian leadership program that brings together health-care leaders from all disciplines across the country for a concentrated study of leadership principles, models, skills and tools. Established more than 15 years ago, the program offers a refined, highly-specialized and interactive leadership learning experience. A recent survey found that more than 75 per cent of institute alumni said their experience had a positive or profound impact on their personal life and career, and it was described as a “catalyst for change.”

DWHLI has chosen to work with CNA, the national professional association of registered nurses, because its program will be an excellent companion to CNA’s existing suite of professional development offerings, including continuing competencies, advanced practice support and specialty certification. In its 111-year history, CNA has demonstrated a sincere commitment to health-care leadership, and now it will connect more professionals from across Canada to the institute’s innovative work. By working together, the two organizations will extend the reach of the institute’s program, explore new blended learning approaches and integrate advanced technology to enhance participation.

Work is already underway to deliver the 2016 program jointly, with the first offering in October (details to follow). Both organizations look forward to this dynamic collaboration for the advancement of health leadership.

For more information, please visit: Health Leaders Institute or cna-aiic.ca

Thinking about Occam’s Razor

March 3, 2015 by  

While watching an episode of Madame Secretary the other night, I was interested to hear the main character mention Occam’s Razor as she wrestled with a complex issue and the need to get at the variables, understand them and make decisions about how to proceed. Knowing my interest in complexity and complex adaptive systems (CAS) theory, a friend told me about Occam’s Razor awhile ago. I had never come across it before, despite lots of reading about complexity and complex systems – obviously not reading the right things, Ann! Thanks.

Wikipedia tells us that Occam’s Razor (which is also sometimes written as Ockham’s Razor) is a problem-solving principle devised by William of Ockham in the 13th C – believe it or not. William was a respected English Franciscan friar, philosopher and theologian.

The principle of Occam’s Razor states that among competing hypotheses which predict equally well, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. Other, more complicated solutions may ultimately prove to provide better predictions, but—in the absence of major differences – the fewer assumptions that are made, the better – according to the theory.

Called also the Law of Parsimony, it tells us to KISS or keep it simple, and not over-complicate. This of course makes a lot of sense and it also reminds us to quantify, qualify and verify our assumptions. Wikipedia goes on to say “ For each accepted explanation of a phenomenon, there is always an infinite number of possible and more complex alternatives, because one can always burden failing explanations with ad hoc hypothesis to prevent them from being falsified; therefore, simpler theories are preferable to more complex ones because they are better testable and falsifiable.”

The fact that we are still considering William of Ockham’s ideas, 7 centuries later boggles the mind, and makes me question how much more we know or don’t know today than we did centuries ago.

It also makes me wonder about the fit between Occam’s Razor and complex adaptive systems’ theory. This is for another time.

Appreciating a Preference for Introversion

April 21, 2013 by  

I have had the pleasure of getting to know many people whose preference for introversion is obvious in their interpersonal relationships – including their relationships with me, an avowed extrovert. In her recent excellent bestseller Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, I was reminded of the many famous and talented introverts who have given the world great things. The contributions of Albert Einstein, Warren Buffet, Barbara Streisand, Bill Gates are unprecedented and undeniable. I realize that with age and experience I am getting better at being a good listener when I am with people whose preference is for Introversion. Even though I still find the silence disconcerting, I am trying to better understand and appreciate it, and, through my own silence, enable both my own reflections about the nature of our conversation, as well as the ability of my introverted colleague to choose where to take the next part of our discussion. It’s hard work though very worthwhile for both of us.

Qualities of Leaders: The Amygdala Hijack

January 6, 2013 by  

Recently I was driving on a freeway with a friend. We were having a quiet companionable moment together when someone cut in front of our car while changing lanes. My companion, who was driving, immediately went ballistic, swearing and yelling at the other driver. His behaviour seemed to come out of nowhere and I was shocked until I remembered reading about the so-called “Amygdala Hijack”, a term coined by Daniel Goleman in his writings about Emotional Intelligence.

What an interesting phenomenon this is!

Drawing on LeDoux’s work, which uses animal research to understand pathological fear and anxiety in humans, Goleman uses the term Amygdala Hijack to describe immediate and overwhelming emotional responses which are over the top and out of sync with the actual situation. In these cases the stimulus has triggered a more significant emotional threat than would seem reasonable to an observer.

The neuroscience reads like this: From the thalamus, a part of the stimulus goes directly to the amygdala while another part is sent to the neocortex (the rational or thinking brain).

If the amygdala perceives the stimulus as a fight, flight or freeze situation, it triggers the HPA (hypothalmic-pituitary-adrenal) axis and hijacks the rational brain. This emotional brain activity processes information milliseconds earlier than the rational brain, so in case of a match, the amygdala acts before any possible direction from the neocortex can be received, leading to seemingly irrational and possibly destructive behaviour.

If the amygdala does not find any match to the stimulus received with its recorded threatening situations, then it acts according to the directions received from the neocortex.

Now my friend is – most of the time at least – a charming man with a high degree of Emotional Intelligence in his interpersonal relations. He is a leader. As well, he is kind and empathetic, and can often put himself in another person’s shoes and feel deeply for their problems. So when he reacts to a moderate stressor with such an over-the-top response, I find myself getting stressed and wanting to shout at him to settle down and be reasonable, which of course would not be the best choice of my own behaviour!

I wonder if testosterone is involved in some way and if women experience Amygdala Hijacks as often as men may do – and do the trigger circumstances differ with gender differences? or it is more related to temperament and world view thus influencing how different personalties approach and interact with their world?

International Nursing Conference in Jerusalem

May 26, 2012 by  

Preparing: We’re off to Israel on Monday. We’ll land in Tel Aviv Tuesday morning and have 3 days to explore the city and connect with a few people. Hoping to get to Jaffa and the northern coast as well before boarding a train to Jerusalem.

Monday, May 28 – we are now on our way. The first indication that we are flying to Israel – with its vulnerability to violence and terrorist attacks – is the double security check at the airport, first entering the departure gates and second entering the specific gate for the flight to Tel Aviv.

Tuesday – arrival at Ben Gurion airport and taxi to Park Plaza Orchid after an uneventful overnight flight with no sleep. All the customs agents are young women! Easy process.
Wednesday – fascinating hike to Old City of Jaffa, many good pictures on the way and managing to overcome the jet lag. We want to be fresh when we get to Jerusalem and the conference. View from our hotel is spectacular.
Thursday – City tour of Tel Aviv-Jofa and lots more pictures. Doing well with jet lag. Clocks are set 7 hours ahead of Toronto time – like much of Europe.
Friday – arrival in Jerusalem by car via highway 443 that winds directly through Palestininan land and hillside villages. State of the art highway has been built and is maintained by Israel via an agreement between the 2 countries – and lots of barbed wire and high stone walls! Apparently it’s “very safe”. We weren’t at all concerned. Arrival in Jerusalem was a treat. It is a very beautiful city. Out hiking to see the sights and into the Old City via the Jaffa Gate. It’s very hot in the day and cool at night. Very blue skies most of the day and the search for shade is constant even for sun lovers like me! Today is the holy day in the Muslim tradition but we don’t see much change in the city. We are told there are 1000 synagogues, 500 mosques and 200 Christian churches in this city of 700,000. Population of Israel is said to be 7million although I’m sure it’s very hard to make an accurate count.
Saturday – Its the Sabbath in the Jewish tradition and the city is quiet and we take time to see the important sights in the Old City. This time we enter by the Dung Gate and run into a young Muslim man who wants to guide us for a very large sum. We decline because we’re not sure what we would get ourselves into. There are many people who want to sell you something – maybe it’s a hard scrabble life for many – but what you agree to seems to grow significantly and the stories that emerge change with the telling.
We see King David’s tomb and I am told by a very old woman drinking coke that I can’t go in to the women’s entrance because I’m not a Jewess. Perhaps because it’s the Sabbath. There’s not much to see anyway. We see the room where purportedly the Last Supper was held and it’s a beautiful room but not much evidence that anything happened there – It was destroyed and rebuilt in the 15thC by the Turks – no windows such as the one in Da Vincis Last Supper. We see an older painted replication of The Last Supper. It’s fascinating to be in these thousand++ year old places but hard to tell myth from legend from truth. I am pleased to find delightful colleagues from Montfort Hospital in Ottawa at the Inbal Conference site.

Sunday – The Holy Day in the Christian tradition, and a normal work school day in Jerusalem. We find a city tour bus and take a 3 hour tour some of it very interesting and much of the dialogue either hard to understand or spoken very quickly. Glad we did it though as it was ovall very interesting , informative and included parts of the Muslim section which we wouldn’t otherwise see as its quite a distance from our hotel.

Monday – as well as registering at the conference we spent seveal hours visiting the Israel Museum, which is fantastic and houses the Story of the Book – the Dead Sea Scrolls – beautifully positioned and curated in a climate-controlled building designed to resemble the jars inside which many were found. The gardens are magnificent, full of olive trees, rosemary bushes, lavender and amazingly a beautiful rose garden that is thriving despite the tremendous heat and hot sun all day. We have been resting and swimming at the King David Hotel in the heat of the afternoons. It’s a sister hotel to ours in the Dan chain. Ours is quite basic but comfortable.

Tuesday – Today we toured the Tower of David which was both interesting – with a well curated history of this land going back 4000 years – and a beautiful archeogical site built into the Old City wall between the Jaffa and the Dung gates. Lots of school children visiting as well with energy that if bottled could power the country. I loaded and tested my slides at the conference site and met with a few people.

Wednesday – Back to the Israel Museum to see the things we missed and the presentation at the conference which went well. Interest from Hebrew Unversity in Jerusalem and from the University of Arkansas in pursuing a similar track and I will follow up when I gt back to the office.

Thursday – We’re a little at odds today wanting to tackle something big but also not so energetic. We have 2 more days here n Jerusalem.

Mandela and Leadership

April 16, 2012 by  

I was listening to an HBR webcast yesterday – an interview with Christiane Amanpour, who has always interested me, on Leadership. One of the things she said really struck a cord. She said “leadership is not a zero sum game” – an expression that has long confused me and which I now understand more clearly. She said: “As a leader, you have to look for the win – win for yourself and for the other. She used Mandela’s desire and ability to build relationship with De Klerk as an example and she talked about understanding the other’s perspective so that you can find the win-win and enable others to act. This is something I have always believed in and tried to practice and teach/coach. With her gift of communication, she expressed it so well and so easily.

Leadership and Patient Safety

May 7, 2010 by  

We often hear about the need for leadership in health care practice. Yet for many, the word leader is just another buzzword. We often think leaders are born not made, and leadership is for others with important titles, nice offices and assistants at the door.

Our experiences with the Dorothy Wylie Nursing and Health Leaders Institute, now in its 10th year with over 2300 alumni, provide us with a different mental model. We believe that building leadership skills and developing leadership competence and confidence is important for every health professional. We believe leadership makes a profound difference in the quality of care patients receive. We believe that health professionals who see themselves as leaders will make a difference in every patient and family interaction. Read more

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