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a blog by Chris Barrow

It is not the critic who counts...

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Theodore Roosevelt - "Citizenship in a Republic" a speech given on 23rd April 1910

Having recently made myself the object of some criticism for Friday's post about my friend "John" - the dentist trying to offer emergency care in his own private practice - I know how frustrating it can be to listen to the armchair critics and their opinions.

We know all about opinions don't we - and how everybody has one. It seems that those who are the most sedentary can sometimes make the most noise.

Before the famous comments above, Roosevelt commented, “The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer. A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticize work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life's realities—all these are marks, not ... of superiority but of weakness.”

Last night I hosted a Zoom call with my clients in The Extreme Business Regeneration Programme and our special guest Mr Jonathan Collier, a consultant Oral and Craniomaxillofacial surgeon in the Craniofacial Department of the Chelsea & Westminster NHS Foundation Trust.

He shared with us a spell-binding hour, in which he described his day to day work on the Covid-19 front line, the challenges of being fitted for FFP3, of donning PPE at the start of each day and, even more laborious, disrobing at the end of each day. He shared with us a glimpse into a world that few of us can imagine.

Jonathan answered questions on his view of the likely length of time before we could expect a return to work and a vision of what general dentistry might look like in the post-lockdown environment.

I could best describe the hour we spent in his company as sobering and reflective - but a dose of reality that we needed to be able to plan properly for the future.

I started this post with Roosevelt's famous quotation, simply because I can sense another round of criticism emerging this week after the CDO's interview with Seb Evans from Dentistry magazine, which appeared around lunchtime yesterday.

There is no doubt in my mind mind that "the critics" will jump on her references to online communication and the contradiction between describing those who use social media as "spin doctors and myth weavers" and the plea that dentistry doesn't miss the boat in the digital age.

I'd be the first to admit that, in the last few weeks, the combination of the car crash webinar and now this interview have done little to reassure large segments of the dental community that they are well represented.

The only visible result is the spawning of a new "trade association" for private dentists left feeling that they are at best irrelevant and, in reality, an irritation.

I wonder whether anybody is advising the CDO on how her message is being received - or are they all just so busy trying to deal with this dastardly virus to even know they have a problem?

But this morning - just before you join the online mob crying out to "burn the witch" - take a moment.

Jonathan Collier joined us on his birthday last night - to share with us what he does every day now - and he'll be doing it this morning. Risking his life to help others in circumstances that we can but imagine.

I've no doubt that Martin Woodrow and the team at The BDA will all be putting another day in from home, having endless conversations with higher authorities in an attempt to represent their member's interests - as they have done consistently and impressively since this began.

I have a strong suspicion that Sara Hurley and the team at NHSE will equally be waking up again this morning and diving back into the maelstrom of trying to open and resource UDCs in the face of pressure from other sectors of healthcare for PPE, the logistics of getting the UDCs open and the challenges of redeployment - and, no doubt, a thousand other issues every day that you and I can't even imagine.

Yes - I'm a little bit offended today by her off-hand comments about social media - some of us use it responsibly to disseminate valuable information and to bring confidence and truth to those who are isolated and anxious.

Yes - I think the CDO needs a press relations officer to smooth her communications - sometimes we need a spin doctor to make our sharper edges more palatable. My spin doctors are my team, my coach and my wife.

But most of all - YES - I'm grateful for the countless hours that people are investing, sometimes putting themselves in harm's way for others, sometimes just burning the candle at both ends - to try and get us all through this.

We are all human and doing our best.

So before you jump on the bandwagon of criticism - just take 3 seconds to think.

Lockdown critics rarely count. They will not be remembered.

What you can do today to be a lockdown leader?

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There's a Johnny Cash song with a line like "you shouldn't judge a man till you walk a mile in his shoes" and I do believe the credit belongs to the man in the arena.

But some people seek out positions not just of leadership, but also of authority. On the other side of this is the poorly studied science of followership (I didn't come up with this - it was the editorial in JIDA this month, and it will be appearing more in the dental literature soon as I think an OMFS consultant has written a paper on it) and the best results are attained when a leader has good followers - motivated, demonstrating initiative and not cynical but…


Jonathan has always been an impressive individual! Sorry to have missed what he had to say

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