The whole truth

I was recently enlightened by this TED talk by Brian Goldman

If you have the time, it is a powerful, short talk on how Mr Goldman is ‘coming clean’…admitting the mistakes he has made within his practice as a physician, in the hope that it may encourage the medical profession to follow suit. His honesty is admirable; his reasons are simple:

  • To allow others to learn from these mistakes
  • To eradicate duplication of the mistakes
  • To ease his own burden

I’m sure we can all relate to Mr Goldman’s story in one way or another.  Explicitly or implicitly,  we all teach core skills in our lessons in one form or another.  One of which (in England at least) is ‘working with others’ which encompasses a huge array of personal qualities. To build trust in our teams we need honesty, integrity, communication. C.S Lewis famously said “Integrity is what you do when nobody is watching”. quite apt for this topic. In aviation (my background) integrity is a vital characteristic of every individual, if a gas turbine fails in flight due to the mechanics shortcomings or the pilot misses a check, the consequences can be catastrophic.

I currently teach a Gas Turbine (aero engines) apprenticeship, yes we are far from doctors, but the personal qualities I mentioned above couldn’t be more relevant. Interestingly in one lesson I define error and mistake from an engine build perspective, as two separate things, an error being a miscalculation and a mistake being due to something more personal, such as fatigue or distraction, are they actually synonymous?

The industry expectation of honesty and integrity are both implicit and explicit parts of the curriculum. How do I teach it? In a similar way to Brian Goldman:

  • I tell my personal stories of the mistakes or errors that I have made, how I corrected them and then usually get my students to reflect on the consequences if I hadn’t have been honest.
  • I try to build a trusting relationship with my students thus creating an environment in which they can own up to mistakes or act upon doubt, safe in the knowledge that they will not be punished or ridiculed as they have done the right thing

After all, it called the right thing for a reason…


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