© 2009 Sean E. Mahar & Associates, All Rights Reserved.
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Welcome to Sean E. Mahar & Associates

We can help leaders, physicians, and educators dramatically improve the effectiveness of interpersonal communications.

NASA, the airline industry, and the healthcare industry, as examples, are all earnestly researching, testing and teaching a variety of methods for improving communication.  The reason--poor communication, and especially poor handoffs of responsibility, are frequently cited as the cause of errors, accidents, and even deaths in many industries.

Our work in healthcare, manufacturing, and education has led us to conclude that a new approach to understanding communication and handoffs can dramatically improve interpersonal effectiveness and handoff success.  After more than six (6) years' work with business leaders, physicians, nurses, and a variety of additional health care professionals, we believe the goal of an effective handoff, which clearly requires accurate and timely information, needs to be for the giver of the information to be responsible not only for the accuracy and completeness of the information, but also for verifying the receiver has fully grasped the meaning of the information including the knowledge of his/her responsibilities for subsequent decisions and actions.  This requires data plus dialogue.
Quite literally, the giver of information or instructions has the same responsibilities as the person who gives someone a file folder, cup of coffee, paperclip or antique. In the physical world, the giver never lets go until there is some evidence that the receiver has grasped the object and accepts responsibility for it.  The same standard is achievable in oral communication.

We work with executives, leaders, managers, educators, physicians, nurses, and mid-level providers who want to make dramatic improvements in the effectiveness of their personal and organizational communications.  Within this general area of interpersonal effectiveness, some of our most important work is in teaching our clients how to substantially improve their handoffs, no matter what checklists or techniques they are using.
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A recent workshop participant's
(for more,
see "Presentations" tab):

If you are looking for a speaker with the “wow” factor that also meets organizational goals, you have found one. 

Mr. Sean Mahar’s seminar … provides information on how to identify and participate as both a speaker and listener during the hand off process in healthcare ensuring continuity of care and patient safety. 

After the seminar, I received feedback from those that attended with factual stories that demonstrated that what Mr. Mahar gave to them was now at work in their professional roles.

If you are into "bottom lines," please scroll to the bottom of this page for one example of what leaders, physicians, nurses,
and educators learn from our workshops.
The Bottom line—
Ineffective communicators ask questions like these:
“Can you get this done?”
“Do you think you will be able to follow the instructions I just gave you in your hospital discharge plan?”

The Problems—
In the English Language, and most others, the word “yes” is a respectful turn taking cue that provides little evidence the receiver has
grasped the scope or importance of a task.
Power differentials between leaders and their direct reports as well as between doctors/nurses and their patients too often contribute to a
communication atmosphere that demands a “yes” response in order to save face.

The Solution, what effective communicators ask—
Our workshop participants know how to change “Can you get this done?” into more constructive questions that provide information about
the receiver’s understanding of the scope and/or importance of a task.  Examples include the following:
o“How long do you think this will take you?”
o“What do you think will be the hardest part of this assignment?”
o“If you run into any difficulty getting this done, who do you think you can count on to help you out?”
o“If you were to prioritize this task among the others you are working on, realistically, where would this one fall?”
Similarly, our participants change the “Do you think you will be able to follow the instructions….?” question into the following possibilities:
o“What are some of the things you will need to stop doing while you are recovering from this surgery?”
o“What kind of system do you have to keep track of all the prescriptions you will have when you go home?”
o“Of all the instructions we have reviewed, which ones do you think might be the most difficult to follow?”

When communicating something important to someone, speaking one’s mind is not sufficient.  If we care about the person to whom we are
speaking and/or if we care about the successful follow through of what we have shared, we need to actively look for cues that will tell us that
our receivers understand the scope and importance of what has been shared.  It only takes one good question.  If it is important, we
need more than just a “yes;” we need to care about grasping.

Sean E. Mahar & Associates
Human Communication