Meet OD Innovator: Priscilla Gill, EdD | Director Workforce Learning – Mayo Clinic

This month’s OD Innovator spotlight features Priscilla Gill, executive coach, author, and leadership/organizational development practitioner who leads Mayo Clinic’s Workforce Learning enterprise function.  Dr. Gill has served as Diversity and Inclusion Administrator for Mayo Clinic in Arizona and has over 20 years of multidisciplinary business experience in a variety of sectors where she started up OD functions.

Q: Tell us about your commitment to advancing a culture of transformational learning.

A: First, we must shift our own thinking, and help learners do the same. It is important to note that Jack Mezirow, the founding father of transformational learning defines this as a “… process by which we transform our taken-for-granted habits of mind to make them more inclusive, discriminating, open, emotionally capable of change, and reflective so that they may generate beliefs, and opinions that will prove more true or justified to guide action.”

As organizational learning leaders, we are uniquely positioned to help facilitate change. We have a responsibility to help people look into the future and see what’s on the horizon, and the way we have thought about learning and leadership traditionally will not allow us to be successful going forward. Our role as leadership and organizational development practitioners is to create space for the kind of learning that shifts perspectives.

Transformational learning invites the learner to look inward. In all of our learning programs for 68,000 members of our workforce, including physicians, scientists, administrative leaders, and allied health staff, our team aims to facilitate sustainable transformation by integrating a variety of approaches that drive inner reflection, immersion, practice, peer feedback, and application.

Q: How does the work you lead at Mayo Clinic nurture individuals on their learning journey?

A: Transformation starts with respecting the learner for who they are and what they bring to the learning process. My team and I take into consideration that our audiences are constantly navigating the complexities surrounding health care today. Our role is to help leaders and learners walk through the transformational learning experience while ensuring they also remain connected to our core organizational values of respect, integrity, compassion, healing, teamwork, innovation, excellence, and stewardship. This is the essence of who we are and how we lead and work at Mayo Clinic.

We remain anchored to our core values and flexible to meet changing needs during the most disruptive times in healthcare history. With the magnitude of change occurring, now is the time to lean into learning, especially transformational learning. The role of my team in Workforce Learning is to care for the people who care for the patients by challenging learners to think differently and help them transform (hopefully with a sense of urgency).

Q: What methods, resources, or content does your team create and offer to allow for this type of transformation?

A: I would say we take a “mixed methods” approach to (1) strategic programs based on individual interest, role and tenure, and organizational needs, (2) coaching including one-on-one, team/group, and action-learning, (3) assessment interpretations and debriefs, and (4) consultations providing thought leadership around organizational initiatives and institutional change.  Our programs (from onboarding to senior leadership development) are intentionally designed to be multi-layered with opportunities for transformational learning embedded throughout while developing skills for creating alignment and agreement by fostering open dialogue around emotional or risky topics. Inquiry ignites exploration and nurtures a learner’s growth and open conversations create meaning and help to shift a learner’s mindset from an old way of thinking to a new way of thinking and behaving. This drives new insights, innovation and change. At its core, this is transformational learning. This approach to transformational learning has been integrated into institutional OD initiatives designed to create and strengthen our commitment to safety, a coaching culture, and employee engagement.

Q: In what ways does OD work take into consideration the whole individual in experiencing growth and learning?

A: First of all, we must keep in mind organizations are made up of individuals. Allowing the individual to come to work fully appreciated and to fully participate in the organization is something that is important to us. Aligned with Mayo’s values of respect and compassion, Workforce Learning strives to nurture the learner by appreciating their individuality. Mayo respects the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of learners by providing a safe and comfortable space to learn.

This approach invites a more willing and engaged learner who is open to new perspectives and change.

Transformational learning requires a trusting, safe space from which learners can challenge assumptions, discuss new ideas, reflect with peers, and take new action. A strong culture, consistent processes, support from peers and leaders and communication are vital to ensuring learning is integrated, sustainable and energizing. Our role is to ensure that we create a safe, inclusive, nurturing and comfortable learning culture where staff is willing to be vulnerable, take risks, test their limits and try again. Mayo provides a solid foundation for us to do this important work. The right environment needs to be in place for all types of organizational learning – especially transformational learning – to flourish.

Q: What closing thoughts would you leave for our readers as they integrate transformational learning into their organizational development and learning practices?

A: Technology has accelerated what we do and how we do it.  The healthcare industry is experiencing unprecedented change which presents unique challenges for health care professionals.  These challenges call for professional partnerships across Human Resources functions, and transformative solutions using various methodologies to co-create agile, adaptable, and accountable organizations.  Successful organizational development efforts require the right skillset, toolset and mindset.  The individual and collective mindset influences organizational performance and outcomes.

 There is an element of self-authorship in transformational learning. Learning is not done to us, we design and create our future and the role of Workforce Learning is to continue to develop the skills and careers of healthcare practitioners to best serve the needs of our patients first, this is Mayo Clinic’s primary value. As we make space for learning, we are also making space for like-minded partnerships with our communities and other organizations.

Additional Resources:

  • Gill, P. (2017). Validation of a process for the leadership development of women and ethnic minorities in a health care organization (Unpublished doctoral dissertation).Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, FL.
  • Gill, P. and France, T. (2018). Accelerating diverse leader readiness through foresight and futures thinking. In D. Schreiber and Z. Berge (Eds.), Managing rapid change in technology, globalization, and workforce diversity: Using foresight and organizational policy to ensure futures thinking (pp. pending). Palgrave Macmillan Publishing. 
  • France, T., Menaker, R., Thielen, K. (2018). Physician-Administrator partnership and the future of healthcare. Journal of the American College of Radiology, In Press, December 2018.
  • Jamieson, D., Shechtman, D, and Auron, M. (2010). “Managing ‘Use of Self’ for Masterful Professional Practice”. Organization Development Practitioner, Vol. 42, No. 3.
  • Southern, Nancy L., Taborga, J., Zabari, M. (2013) Shifting from Knowledge Power to Generative Inquiry: Creating the Field for Transformational Learning in Healthcare and Business. Integral Leadership Review.

About Jason Myers

As the Editor-in-Chief of OD Innovator Magazine, Jason Myers is on a mission to help people transform their organizations into more innovative and collaborative environments. He co-developed a Crash Course in Collaborative Project Leadership to arm leaders with needed skills to drive innovation in any organization.

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