In this episode of HR on the Mat, Courtney and Peggy talk to Elissa Atkins, registered nurse and manager of school nurses for a large metropolitan hospital. They talk about focusing, cultivating relationships on and off the mat, the unattainability of perfection, and helping others grow.
This transcript was created using an automated transcription service and may contain errors.
Welcome back to HR on the Mat, a series where we talk about parallels between your work life and your yoga mat. I’m Courtney Scott with Balance and Harmony Yoga, and joining me, as always, is Peggy Hogan from Purple Ink. As you can see, today, we are on site at Baptiste Yoga once again, and with us today is Elissa. I had the opportunity to meet Elissa several years ago practicing yoga. It’s one of the things I love about in-studio practice, is this opportunity to meet fellow yogis who end up coming to the same classes that you do week after week and developing a tribe and community of fellow practitioners. So Elissa, I’ve enjoyed practicing with you. Why don’t you introduce yourself for our viewers?
Hi, I’m Elissa Atkins, and I am a nurse. I work for a big hospital in Indianapolis, and I manage a unit that includes 55 school nurses in about 40 different school buildings. So it is a large group of nurses that I’m in charge of.
That’s a big job.
Yeah. So…and so, obviously, health and wellness has to be important to you, because you work for a healthcare facility and you’re overseeing the health and well-being for children all over the community. So how has yoga kind of helped you professionally?
I think, as a leader, it’s important to, you know, demonstrate what you kind of want out of your people, as well. And for me, to take that time to care of myself, I really want to push…especially my younger nurses, I’m trying to train to put yourself first, you know, take care of yourself physically, mentally – our motto is, you know, spiritually, mentally, physically – all aspects of your life, to take care of yourself. So I come to the mat to really focus on all those aspects to make me a better leader.
And you’ve got so many people deployed in so many different places. We know that’s a challenge for leaders, especially right now, people are starting…some people are starting to learn that. You’ve been living that, really. And I love that you mentioned focus, because you know, one of the yoga terms that we use is “drishti,” which is the item that you’re sort of focusing on. Has that helped you at all, or do you think about that?
It is. So, you know, when I come to the mat, I try and train myself to really let go of everything and just focus, just stop letting my mind wander a million different ways. And I use that to spend time with my nurses one-on-one and really dedicate myself to my time with them. And the biggest issue with my department is we are in 40 different buildings and we’re not a unit in the hospital where everybody’s together, where typically, you can bounce stuff on each other and you have that support. Well, you are typically one RN by yourself, so everybody feels much more isolated. So I love to give myself one-on-one to them. Almost every day, I choose a nurse each day to spend time with and really just shut down my world and focus on that and take in everything. It doesn’t have to be work, it can be their life, their home, their kids, anything, they can complain – but really just focus on them. And it makes such a better relationship, one-on-one, especially when they are isolated, to know that I’m there for them and I care. I dedicate my time to them.
So talking about this idea of drishti and focusing in those one-to-one conversations, how does that correlate to how you would identify what you need as a leader internally, and setting the priorities to take care of yourself first before you can take care of your team?
So, I’m also a mother, and you know, you spend your whole life focusing on your kids, and they come first – and they do – but you also can’t be a good mother unless you take care of yourself, just, in the workplace, as well. Like, I have to learn to prioritize myself and give myself that time to really just clear everything and it does. I walk off the mat and my mind’s clear, and it gives you a fresh focus, and you’re happier. You feel good. And then I come home or I go to work and I can completely give myself to everybody else, because I’ve given myself my time to start off the day.
Yeah. How important is having a community that isn’t your work community, and it isn’t your home community, or maybe even your neighbors – it’s just a different place to meet different people with different professions and, you know, different things going on in their life. How important is that to you?
It’s very important. So, it’s how I met Courtney, and it’s just as important for me to have my time with my friends where I release and talk and are open about everything going on personally, professionally, and where the people I meet on the mat are the people that can take that in, as well, and hear everything I have to say, just like I do with my staff. Like, it’s my time to release and just converse, and we bounce…you know, you learn so much from people on the mat. So I have a small little world of my co-yogis, and it’s very important for our time together, too. And I look forward to my time with them.
Has that grown to time off the mat with them, too?
It has. It has led to wine time and you know, getting the kids together and meeting other moms that are similar or husbands, there are men that we hang out with, as well, and we spend all kinds of time. And you learn new crafts and ideas and you’re open to new experiences of whatever your life may entail off the mat.
I think there’s so many correlations to what you said about cultivating those relationships, not only from a personal leadership perspective, starting with the common ground of yoga, which is how we met, and then the relationship has just blossomed. And opening yourself up to those new experiences where you do have to stretch yourself or get into an uncomfortable position that you just…it may be just unfamiliar, and that’s what makes them uncomfortable. Can you share a little bit about how do you take the lessons and the value that you get on your yoga mat and from your practice, and try to share it with your nurses or with your kids, or anyone else in your life who could benefit from a lesson, even if they’re not a yoga practitioner themselves?
So, some of the big lessons I’ve learned, include, maybe…that you’re never perfect, you’re never going to be there. Life is always growing. You will always make mistakes. You know, you never reach that perfect level. And I love the thought that every day of your life, you just take another step to grow. And whether you fall, you just get back on and you do it again. And even when you think you have something perfected, you can always tweak it more, you can always move on and learn something new. So often that, I take it to definitely my kids, my family, I mean, my friends. That’s how we grow our relationships. Especially my employees, maybe they made a mistake, or, you know, I don’t know, especially the younger ones, where you’re really kind of trying to guide them, I use that to kind of stop and say, It’s okay. I think sometimes they’re scared, like, what kind of trouble they’re gonna be in or anything, but…maybe there is, but most…you know, you’re like, you’re gonna grow, you’re gonna learn and it’s okay, we’re gonna improve the next time.
That’s, that’s awesome. That’s great management, and really kind of mentoring, too. And I think one of the things that I’ve learned is adaptability, and that just what happens today isn’t necessarily what happened yesterday or tomorrow. And I know just yesterday, I was doing a practice that Courtney was teaching, and I just could not balance. Like, it – normally, that’s my jam. That’s my favorite part, is, like, the tree poses.
And I had to say, you know what, I don’t know why, but today, I’m gonna just do the easy modification. And, you know, there is a vulnerability that you really kind of open yourself up to when you’re on the mat, because there are people who are in all sorts of contortions and things, and you know, it could be easy to look at them, and kind of say, Well, I can’t do that, so I shouldn’t do it. But what I love is there is this acceptance of where you are, but there’s also encouragement to continue the journey. And I think that translates really well for a manager, in terms of communicating that to someone on your team. You know, we don’t want to say it’s okay to just stay status quo, for sure. But there’s that balance.
And, well, and it’s that encouragement. I can remember you and I in some of these sessions trying to do different, crazy contortions, inversions, and testing ourselves. And…
It was so fun to support each other and try and lift each other up that way.
…and, like, get so excited that the other one accomplishes something. And that excitement for something…for a yoga practice, at the end of the day, it’s not that serious. It’s just yoga. But what is serious about it is that encouragement that is 100% heartfelt and that support in a non-judgmental environment. I think that’s so critical for leaders, especially now, in this virtual world, helping to create that environment for their team members and anyone who’s following them and to create that followership through that encouragement and non-judgmental…
And I also feel that yoga, you know, people think of the the moves and the contortions and the stretching and flexibility. And then they also think of the sort of, you know, the “ohms” and the, you know, the stuff that gets kind of…you know, they might feel like it’s kind of flaky, even. Where do you sit with all of that? And where does that kind of influence you even at work? Like, is it more of a physical thing for you, or mental, or, you know, how does it work for you?
Probably mental. Just, you know, when I come to the mat, I do…. It’s taken me years to stop focusing on other people and what they can do or where I need to be, and that’s a huge step, like, mentally, to step back and say, This is me, and it’s only me, and this is my goal, not anybody else’s. So when I take that to work, especially when I’m really focusing on the staff, if I sit and take in what they are, I’m there to help them grow. Like, hey, let’s focus on you, not me. And, you know, definitely, I love helping them grow, whether it’s in their nursing skills, or do they want to focus on a master’s in something, or they’re in some trade, I love seeing that and being like, how can we make this work? This is you, like, let’s focus on you. This is your time, not mine. And it’s hard for people to…the competition and what’s going on outside. So you just have to learn.
But that’s a good leadership quality, really. You know, a lot of people – I’m not going to say leaders – a lot of managers want to manage performance, and they want to say, this didn’t go well, fix it, figure it out, you know, this is your job. And that’s so different from how can we get there, and this is about you, and you know, how we’re going to help and kind of… that’s really more leadership, you know, leading someone in a positive direction, which might mean leading them out the door one day.
Absolutely. I mean, if it were not the right fit, but at least you know, and I think knowing the person like that, and hearing them is where you really get to know them, you can understand where they’re coming from and how to help them grow, whatever it may be.
Elissa, we really appreciate your time today. Thank you so much for joining us in another conversation on HR on the Mat.
Yeah, and I love just the the idea, again, of the drishti, and the focus and focusing on your employee. We do know employees leave, a lot of times, because of their managers. And a lot of times that is because they don’t feel like they get that one-on-one time, or that that one-on-one time isn’t really about them, it’s about the task, you know, so I think if we can take a lesson from today from you, maybe having some sort of drishti, whether it’s something on the wall to help you balance or something for that employee, maybe it’s goal setting and writing something on paper with them that they can attain.
Alright, we’ll close. Big inhale up, arms go up, palms come to kiss. Exhale down to heart center. The light in me sees the light in all of you and our viewers. Namaste.