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Next steps for leaders

With many leaders feeling overloaded still managing the effects of the pandemic and being asked to make an impact on the work that was put on hold; this article provides some tips on building trusting and collaborative relationships to plan services and lead teams into the future.

Helen Northall

With many leaders feeling overloaded still managing the effects of the pandemic and being asked to make an impact on the work that was put on hold the last thing they may feel like doing is additional personal development, a course or spending time in facilitated sessions, especially when these are being managed on line.  However, it is more vital now than ever to support teams with a learning and improvement culture, build in recovery and reflection time for leaders and develop a clear plan for the future.

When supporting staff, and yourself, through stress – one of the essential elements is a clear plan for the future, cohesion and being able to allow some time out to reflect and discuss what has happened in a safe space.  The challenge for leaders now is to provide safe services that are the best possible for patients, but that can’t be done unless staff are supported and have a clear direction.  To do this the leader needs to look after themselves first.

Going forward the challenge will be for local leaders, at primary care network (PCN), place and neighbourhood level making the effort to build trust and collaborative relationships that overcome historical competitive behaviours.  Making steps forward when the immediate urgent operational and financial pressures exist will be hard.

Steps forward that may help include:

  • Ensure you have trust between the leaders working locally – if in doubt ask and open out the discussion if needed, honesty and surfacing reasons why things haven’t worked as well in the past can break the ice and stop resentment building future barriers
  • Identify small steps to work on together – share problems, identify the most pressing problem for the session and listen to understand the issues, not to provide immediate answers until the problem has been explored fully
  • Make sure you are not hijacked by urgent issues – but you are dealing with the important issues that will help prevent future urgent crises derailing the service
  • When exploring problems – use simple techniques such as forcefield analysis that identify the factors helping and forces acting against what you want to happen so you can explore what you collectively need to work on and agree a way forward
  • Develop a vision of how you want things to work – make sure it’s imaginable by all in the room and they can’t see show stoppers, that it’s desirable and attainable.  Working towards the agreed vision should then provide focus and something all can communicate to their teams
  • Minimise uncertainty for your teams – limited knowledge or not communicating a clear direction can be a cause of stress or poor performance.  So communicate what you are working on and listen to their ideas and concerns
  • Understand and act on insights from patients, carers and communities.  Involve the voluntary and community sector.  You may need to work differently to do this but patients and communities are part of the solution and not involving those who are a partner in the delivery of services is not only a missed opportunity but a loss of a crucial resource to help you towards solutions

To do this – make some time to network with leaders across your footprint on a regular basis with the right leaders around the table for the service or level of service you want to consider.  Networking will support the relationships to develop, breakdown barriers and silo mentalities and support the development of local health care systems for the future.  Although considering personal development or a leadership programme may be the last thing on your mind, an action learning approach for the local leaders to take this work forward, facilitation support to manage specific meetings, or developing your leadership skills to lead your area forward may be an investment worth making.

For support in facilitating local sessions or in developing leaders to take forward this approach contact