You should start planting the seeds of your legacy as early as today. There is so much that you can teach and pass on to a younger generation. This is what Dr. Rodney Peyton O.B.E. did. He did not pass on a name to a technique; he passed on the technique itself. Dr. Rodney is an accomplished general surgeon, consultant trauma surgeon, and surgical coach. He has also developed health care training programs around the world. Join Jeffrey Edwards and Dr. Rodney as they discuss the importance of learning by experience. Discover Dr. Rodney’s teaching process and how he is leaving his legacy. You are not an island in the health care business. Teach and pass down what you know today.
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Planting The Seeds Of Your Legacy With Dr. Rodney Peyton O.B.E.
I want to ask you this one question. At the end of your days, what is going to be your legacy? Take a moment and think about that. It might seem a little daunting like, “Why would people be talking about me?” Think of the people who are following your lead. What’s going to be that lasting impression experience that they’re going to have that will be the narrative of their total understanding in relationship with you.
We’re talking about the element of influence and impact. It’s often a topic that’s usually discussed later on in our careers. I thought, “Why don’t we start putting that seed in the ground now?” To help us talk about legacy and leadership, I invited a special guest. A gentleman that I met a number of years ago, who is a shining example of a mentor and a coach and someone who understands what it is to be a leader.
Dr. Rodney Peyton is a world-renowned general trauma surgeon, author, entrepreneur, international speaker and trainer. He has trained thousands of medical professionals, surgeons in 25 countries for as long-staying committed to surgical education and for his major contributions in the fields of medicine and surgery. He has received numerous awards. Among those is receiving the Order of the British Empire. It’s one of the highest civilian awards in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries. In 2021, he was named the trauma surgeon of the year by Global 100. It’s a privilege to have here sitting in the leader’s chair, Dr. Rodney Peyton. How are you?
I’m very well. How are you?
I am well. I introduced you and I get all choked up. It’s truly an honor and privilege to have you here.
Jeffrey, thank you so much. I appreciate the opportunity.
We talk about the idea of legacy and you heard in the introduction here. I’m curious to know, given what you have accomplished over your 50 years in your space and the many accolades and recognitions that you’ve received, what is your definition of a legacy?Your legacy is in the eye of the beholder. Click To Tweet
I suppose there’s the basic definition. It’s a physical or intellectual property that stays when the stimulus is gone. I first thought about this when I taught many years ago when I was first with the royal colleges, especially in London and visiting those colleges or other major institutions like the Sheraton in Berlin. When you go into these old institutions, if you look around the walls, there are these pictures or paintings of people many hundreds of years before and you can follow it done.
They have left something and that something has gathered over the years. It’s like a meme. They had an idea. That idea then is fertilized by others as it comes down through the years and it gives us the practice that we have at the moment. The practice we have at the moment isn’t static. It’s not, “This is what you do. You learn it and then you continue to do it.” It’s, “This is what other people have found and these are what other people are have put on top of it,” and so it’s magnified. The legacy changes over time. It’s in the eye of the beholder, but some stimulus has been there to start it.
Especially in things like surgery, we put the names to people in various operations like Billroth, Hartmann and things like that. You put their names on it, but what we do now is different from what they did. It’s evolved, but we are on their shoulders. They started to hold us up and by honoring them, listening, thinking and adding new contexts, then their legacy is carried through the years. Just looking at these people around the world, I find it very humbling to understand how these people put it out there in their generation so that the next generations can continue and improve.
Given the international recognition for your contributions to medicine and referencing the Peyton method, any standard in teaching surgeries is in the profession itself. How would you define your legacy?
The legacy is in the eye of the beholder, but as far as what I’ve done, the people I’ve been talking about, for instance, designed an operation, which goes on. What I set out to do, what I was asked, I was simply called in one day by the president of the college. He said, “Rodney, there’s this new technique in surgery. It’s called the keyhole surgery, the laparoscopic surgery.”
For the first time, the senior consultants, 50, 55, 60 are having to learn a completely new technique out of the blue. They haven’t been in medical school for it. They’re working independently on their own. Who’s going to teach and train and oversee them? “What we want you to do, Rodney, is we want you to write a quick training course and teach these people what to do. You’ll deliver it every 3 or 4 times and that’ll be it, and then the world will continue.”
I was given an opportunity then to teach this new form of surgery, but it had to be fast. It had to be effective and with good outcomes. The patient comes first. Patients died because of difficulties and the experience in bringing in these new techniques. It had to be safe for patients and it had to be fast and efficient. That’s why I developed my methods of teaching complex surgery. What I’ve left behind is not the name of an operation, but I’ve left a technique which has already expanded. It’s been academically researched. I looked at what was going before. People have taken that academically and researched in many fields. I tried medicine, including sport.
How do you teach how to throw a rugby ball? How do you teach somebody coming into the industry how to make an instrument like an endoscope, which is quite complex? I have been blessed with having produced that and watching that develop. We’ll see what happens over the years, but I think that’s what I will leave and that’s what I hope will help the generations coming to improve and make their practice faster, better and more efficient.
What I’m hearing in what you’ve shared is that you saw an opportunity to contribute to the advancement of your profession. Knowing you as I have, you have such a servant leadership element to you. It’s less about you and it’s more about how I can make life better for other people. I’m curious to find out from you, what were some of the influences in your life that you can look back on and see that led you to where you are?
My teachers, whom I respected when I was coming through in surgery, that was obviously the first thing I had medicine. They took me under their wing. A lot in those days, I was in apprenticeship, so you went with a master and you learned from a master. I learned very early on because they were open and honest with me and that’s a big thing I got. They taught me something and they said, “Always be skeptical, but never be cynical.”
They would allow me to challenge them as long as I was listening to understand and wanting to understand what they were doing. Be skeptical, don’t be rude. Don’t be cynical. Don’t put things, “That came from that medical school or that came from over there, therefore it can’t be any good.” To listen, to understand and as long as I was doing it, my teachers were prepared to talk me through why they thought something was better? Why did they feel I should do something in a particular way?
They spent a lot of time with me and even done the Hippocratic Oath. It’s about spending that forward. I can’t pay them back. I’ve operated in a few of them in my time. What I can do is I can pay it forward. I can take those people that have that time for me. The other thing I learned was that a wise man learns from his experiences. Good or bad, but a genius learns from the experiences of others. To listen to other people, if you’re going into a room educationally, you don’t want to be the most clever person in the room. That’s a waste of your time. You want at least 80% of the people in that room to be better than you are. How do you learn tennis? You don’t play. You learn with experts. All growth that I learned was coming from being uncomfortable.
I was taught to go to the front, to ask questions and not be afraid to do so. To show your vulnerability in order to learn and that didn’t put you down, that built you up. As I’ve got older, I have found with the staff coming after me. They’ve appreciated me saying to them, “I don’t know what you’re doing. You are far ahead of me and various things. Please tell me about it.” Not for me to say, “I think you should do this, but to listen to them or discuss with them, to talk with them and they enjoy that.” I hope that I have left behind me, the people I have trained to be skeptical of things, but to learn, to listen, to understand and to add their legacy as they move forward.
Hearing the experience that you’ve had over your lifetime, there’s one part to listening, understanding and taking information. Then it’s the other part to incorporate it naturally, put it into practice and developing the behaviors and the habits along the way. How did that process of transformation for you take place in your life from the novice surgeon to the world-renowned expert that you are now?Always be skeptical, but never be cynical. Click To Tweet
Part of that is tied up in the four-stage technique. If I might just run that, the first stage in anything, it’s to see it being done so that you understand what the picture is. It’s like doing what people call a puzzle or a jigsaw. It’s easier to do if you have the box if you have the picture in front of you. You have what good performance looks like. Instead of somebody told us, “Sometimes I do this and then maybe I might do that,” but somebody to say, “Here’s the picture.” To be able to follow somebody who shows you in real-time what it is, then to do it again and to take it apart and show you the same person does the same procedure, but tells you all about why they do, what they do, what they find about it, what tricks and techniques they have and to allow you to ask questions.
That means nothing happens to the patient. The senior person is still operating, still responsible to the patient, but because they know it. It’s in their head and they can answer you without being diverted. You ask a novice who keeps asking novice questions, they get distracted. They lose their train of thought whereas a really experienced person has that training and can do that. The third stage is for them to do it again, but say, “I’m going to do this operation again, but I want you to do tell me what I should be doing.”
As their trainer, you listen to make sure that they do know and they do understand. They tell you what to do next. They tell you what instrument to use. Even teaching sales, they tell you when you’re going to this age, you’re going to be doing this. You’re going to be doing that. You get to understand that they have learned this cognitive pathway. Only when they know that you then switch it around and say, “The next one’s yours, but just before you do that, I want you to tell me what are you going to do.” You’re not going to make a mistake because I’m here with you. There’s a little bit more to that.
It’s understanding that it’s a cognitive process before it’s an action process. In anything before I will let anyone operate on a patient, I need to know that they know what they’re going to do. The hands will do what they’re told. It’s a matter of putting the software properly into the computer. If it’s bad software, it’s a bad outcome. When I’m teaching even in leadership thing is to show them what you’re going to do, then talk them through. Then let them talk you through, even though you’re still in control, and then before you relinquish control, make sure to all you can do, do you understand and do you know what they’re going to do.
That’s how I’ve made sure and in somewhere like operating on a patient, there can’t be a trial and error. It just can’t be. I cannot have my patient put at risk. Therefore, I suppose it’s more obvious that the trainer has to be sure. Sometimes an industry tries to skip those stages, “You’re going to do that,” and then things go wrong. There’s a survey that a lot of CEOs when they first join a company, it takes them 3 to 4 months before they decide that all the other management in the company is rubbish.
They let them get on. It gives them a new direction. They don’t set the end. They don’t tell them the way they want it done. They do not communicate effectively and consistently, and then they wonder why other people are doing it to put inverted commas wrong. It’s about that leadership taking clear vision. It’s my job to make sure they understand the values of this company. It’s my job for them to understand how I want this to work and to give them proper feedback. Positive feedback is a word for it, but it’s not. It’s real-time feedback and helping them to grow and improve. Leaders who don’t do that, that’s why things go badly wrong. They just leave it and expect it to happen and that’s not going to happen because I can’t read your mind.
It seems to align with what we hear about creating a safe environment, a psychologically safe environment where someone feels they can be vulnerable. They can ask questions. It’s okay to be curious versus needing to know and have the answer. Just by having that level of flexibility and vulnerability in that space, opens up the opportunity for them to learn and be attentive to what they need to know and learn with ease and ease and full understanding of what’s expected of them and what is expected as an outcome as well.
That’s a very great insight because that’s exactly what has to happen. It’s got to be a safe space. You’ve got to trust the people you’ve taken in. When you hire somebody, you’re hiring somebody on their CV. You don’t know most of them unless they’ve come up through the company. You’re taking them in. They’re coming in and they’re feeling vulnerable. If they feel they’ve got to be macho and I mean male or female. They’ve got to show this, “I know what I’m talking about all the time.” That’s when things go wrong and that’s up to the leaders to say, “It’s okay to be vulnerable.” I expect you to grow. I don’t expect you to be asking me the same questions six times, but I am here when you need it and I’m here for you to run things by.
I’m your mentor, the mentoring and coaching thing. A mentor is somebody who’s been there before, who can help you and go with you on your journey. That mentor then turns into a coach or a coach who is holding up a mirror to you and saying, “This is where you are. This is what you do. Where are you going to go now?” Those leadership skills of coaching, mentoring and understanding the different field that is vital to anybody in a leadership role. They also need to know the other big skill is how to give feedback. To acknowledge if everything is going well and to turn around and say, “You tell me, what do you think went well and why was that good? What do you see yourself doing in the future? Why do you think that would be a benefit and how are you going to set it by doing it?”
If it hasn’t been and there’s been a problem, you shouldn’t be waiting a year to find out. You should be fairly quick on this. It’s to acknowledge the elephant in the room and sit somebody down and say, “Tell me what happened. What was the consequence of that? What are you going to do about it in the future? Do you need to learn something? How can I help you avoid that from happening again?” As opposed to saying, “You idiot. You screwed up.” This has happened. For a lot of people, the feedback is all about the past. The past is only the lesson for the future and leaders need to know that. They need to be clear and concise in their expectation. They need to know how to give proper feedback and direction and they need to have the vision for the company on how that’s going to be and set that out clearly, consistently to their style.
When you were going through your development and professional training, do you think back to the time when you were giving the feedback or you’re giving the corrections that you’re going through your development? What was that experience like for you? As you’re going through rotations, you’re going through residency in such and train to be a surgeon. To hear that, “You’re not doing this the right way. You need to correct this and you need to correct that.” What was your initial reaction when you heard that? I can see for some people just to hear that can be devastating.
Don’t get devastated. If they’re not confident in themselves and they’re just starting off, you can destroy somebody completely. When they don’t know what they’re doing, make expectations of people which are unrealistic. For instance, someone is coming from a particular department, but maybe they’ve been doing, even a medical school doing obstetrics or something. They go to a surgical department and somebody says, “Why can’t you suture? Why can’t you stitch?”
That happened and that’s called bullying. I’m afraid as rife in a lot of surgeons. Why I’m known through the world and as I’ve been brought into departments. I’ve been called the number one surgical coach because I set out to help departments get over that. To help departments learn how to teach because yes, I know at times it was done to me and it wasn’t very pleasant and some people weren’t very polite. I suppose I had a bit of an army I’ll bring, so I knew better. If you’re with somebody for a long period of time, they get to know you and you get to know them and you can take it sometimes if they suddenly turn on you for some reason, “They’re having a bad day.”
A new situation where people come in and out quickly. You go into a department, you’re going to somewhere else and you get hit and you’ve no long-term chance to get to know your boss, to get to work in a team, to get to work with people, that’s a problem. Because you don’t have the ability to get over it and see, “That happens to more than me. We’ll get there.” COVID has brought that to the fore with people working from home.A wise man learns from his experiences, good or bad, but a genius learns from the experiences of others. Click To Tweet
The young people coming into a company, how do they learn company values? How do they learn ethics? If the only time they meet a boss is to give them feedback, but they’re not sitting with them. They’re not talking to them. They have no social interaction with them, that has been devastating in this COVID pandemic. I got to begin with, but I was lucky and most of the people I met, who were good to me. There were some who weren’t. Somewhere you have to be a bit robust about it. You have to believe in yourself.
You make reference to being recognized as the number one surgical coach globally, for your approach and for your methods. It’s incorporating those elements. There’s the person and then there’s the action. It’s helping bridge the gap between the two. Ensuring that this is for their benefit. Any feedback, any information is to help them be better in providing service or delivering to their stakeholders versus being something that is negative.
I have been brought into departments in a number of countries where things have started to go wrong. I’m thinking of one where a colleague was advised to withdraw recognition of the residency program because the residents were complaining about the way they were being treated. When I went there, the bosses couldn’t see a problem. They said, “I’ve got work to do and they’ve got to do it.” I said, “To start off, these are your team who helped you to deliver health care. You’re not an island. You can’t do all of this. You need people around you and the way you’re acting, it’s going to be taken away from you. What do you think your life’s going to be like then?” Take three months with help. Take six months with that. What do you think is going to happen to your income?
What do you think is going to happen to your reputation? When you have to be there 24/7 for your patient and nobody will back you up and the colleges withdraw recognition. It was only when you got the leverage. You got a bit of pain on them that they suddenly started to switch. What they find is when they did switch rides, they were so much happier. It was a much better atmosphere to begin to come in to do this. They were being open. The residents were asking for help when they needed help and enable them to function on their own because they were developing confidence and competence and could function because they weren’t always looking over their shoulder because somebody was going to drop on them, just because they were in a bad mood.
For some of the senior people, they were just uncertain. They didn’t know how to bring someone along, how to help someone like that four-stage did when they could let someone else do the technique. “I better take over it. Get away.” They haven’t been trained. That’s where the coaching came and that’s where I made my reputation of that. I was coaching seniors and coaching employees. I went outside surgery into other fields to help people understand human interaction. It’s not terrible to have to do that, but the ego got in the way of a lot of people.
I think it’s something we just take for granted that everyone knows what to do. It’s this mindset that, “Why am I spending time on something that everyone should know?” It is something that takes focus and attention. We continue to ignore that element of a person’s development and we’re doing them a disservice as well. What are your thoughts on that?
You’ve just elicited the Dunning-Kruger effect. The Dunning-Kruger effect says, “You’re intelligent. You’re very good at this. You don’t understand why anybody should find it difficult.” Sometimes the seniors have been doing it over a number of years on they’ve honed their craft and delivered, but they expect somebody behind them to suddenly switch on and in a matter of a couple of weeks, be able to do what they can do to the same level because they can’t see the difficulty. The reverse side of that is people think it’s easy and they have no insight themselves and that they’re doing it wrong. The Dunning-Kruger effect is alive and well. The one we’re talking about at the moment is those who are very experienced don’t understand why anybody should have difficulty doing what they do.
There’s so much I would love to dive in with you. I’ve read your material, the books that you’ve read and you’ve written. The articles that you’ve published as well. There’s a depth of knowledge and wisdom that comes from your experience in life. One last question for you is this. I’ll bring up a quote from Warren Buffett. He says, “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree long ago.” There was that seed that was planted in someone’s life by someone or something that led them to where they are now. What would you say is the seed that you’ve planted that’s going to go on for generations? What would you say to that young executive, that new entrepreneur, in regards to how they can plant that seed?
They need to know their own passion. They need to know what they want to do and why they want to do it. They need to go and look at masters and open themselves. To put themselves in a vulnerable position, but that position with people who knew more than they do. To be skeptical about things. The one thing I tell people about being skeptical is if you’re going to be skeptical about me, please be skeptical about yourself. I don’t mind you’re questioning me, but question your own dogma. Is your belief something that somebody told you that you may respect in the past and you’ve just taken it? Belief has that word lie in the middle of it.
I tell people to be careful of their beliefs. Understand, have your passion, know where you want to be and where you want to do. Look for coaches and mentors and be open to being coached. I’ve done that all my life and I still do it. I still have tremendous coaches. Jeffrey, you coached me at times in different areas and I appreciate very much what you’ve done for me in the past. Because they’re all these different experiences which you then can gather and put into your own life and your own way of doing it, I tell people to know what they want and then go and be open. Look for others and continually ask the questions. How to make it faster. How to make it better people and how do they more efficiently do what they do. If you ask those questions, you’ll learn.
Dr. Rodney Peyton, thank you so much for being here. It’s a real pleasure and privilege to have you on the show. I’m sure that the many nuggets that I pulled away from here will also be pulled away for many people reading this episode. I look forward to our paths crossing again in the future and I’m wishing you the very best on your journey forward as well.
Jeffrey, thank you so much.
Thanks again to Dr. Rodney Peyton for joining us here and thank you for allowing us to be a part of your day as always. If you enjoyed this episode, go to Apple Podcasts, give us a five rating and share with people you know who could benefit from the information here. We’re excited to provide you with people, resources, and the information you need to thrive as a leader in your business and in your life. Until next time, be good and lead well.
- Dr. Rodney Peyton
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About Dr. Rodney Peyton
Dr. Rodney Peyton OBE MD is an internationally renowned trauma surgeon, author, trainer, and keynote speaker. For his longstanding commitment to surgical education and contributions to the global medical community his 50-year career, he is regarded by many as the world’s leading surgical coach.
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