culture of compassion, Leadership, Resilience, self-care, wellbeing

Self care – the first lesson of being a good leader?

In January 2018, I took a decision that I needed to pay better attention to my health and well-being.  I was working long hours, not making enough time for exercise by continually missing my ‘planned’ gym sessions, not eating as well as could do and not seeing as much of my friends and family as I would like.  All of which was leading to weight gain, irritability, restless sleep and general feeling of heaviness.

I decided I needed to make a change.

I took a decision to focus on eating well, increasing my level of exercise and trying to get into a better sleep routine.  I needed a bit of help and encouragement so opted for an on-line programme that was based around 20 minutes of HIIT sessions rather than gym workouts or long runs as I was short on time and needed a realistic approach.

Being a night owl and self proclaimed ‘not a morning person’, setting my alarm for 30 mins earlier and dragging myself out of bed to do exercise was quite difficult at first but it was so enjoyable that I found myself getting into a routine of the 5 times a week really quickly.  An added motivation was the results were visible within the first couple of weeks.  I had expected to lose weight and get fitter but what I hadn’t expected was all of the other benefits.

After a couple of months I found that I was much more able to take stress at work in my stride.  I was sleeping better and felt much more calm, rational and in control.  My mood was more consistent and I felt happier.  Six months in, I was really starting to notice that I was much more productive at work and at home.  I was managing to fit more into my daily life and feeling better for it.

My team started to notice that I was less chaotic and calmer and I felt  I was able to devote more time to listening to the team and supporting them, which in turn made me feel like I was being a much better leader.

In my organisation, one of the key pillars of our leadership competencies is compassion.  My experience this year has taught me that that is important not just to have compassion for others but crucially, to have compassion for ourselves.  It may feel self-indulgent at first, but taking that essential personal downtime allows us to free up our minds and open our hearts to other possibilities.  This is a crucial tool in a leaders toolkit.  In fact, whilst researching the evidence behind my own experience I came across a wealth of evidence and articles, one of which was in Success magazine earlier this year and explains why self-care is a crucial part of being a good leader.  Concluding, “A leader who prioritizes downtime, relaxation and self-care discovers an increase in overall well-being and in multiple dimensions of performance”.  This is the holy grail for all leaders, so why do so many of us de-prioritise ourselves and end up burning out?

I’ve spent the last 20 years always striving.  A recent reflection I had was the last time I worked a job that was 9 to 5pm was when I was 15 years old and a waitress.  Every part time job I had after that I put in the extra mile and that has continued throughout my career.  This self-care experience has had a profound effect on how I view what is important.   I’m now finding myself making much more time to be with my friends and family; taking more exercise in the great outdoors and sticking to a tip from the Danish way of Hygge by working with a scented candle burning in order to nurture my soul and help me think.

It seems to be working.  I’m now 9 months into this new way of being and I like this new me!  This work/life blend has developed into a new habit for me and one that I intend to keep going with. The world is constantly ‘on’ and that means increasingly we are expected to be always ‘on’, responsive and doing, rather than being.  This is unsustainable and leads to less productive working, high stress and potentially burnout.  All of which is counter-productive.

After nearly 20 years in a leadership role I thought I knew what it meant to be a good leader, however this experience has opened my eyes and taught me that in reality, good leadership starts with self-care.

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About the author

Sarah Morgan is the Director of Organisational Development for Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS FT

She has a passion for supporting visionary and strategic solutions for the health and care sector.  With nearly 20 years experience in healthcare spanning operational management, consultancy, policy making, organisational development and applied research.

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culture of compassion, Diversity, Leadership, NHS Leadership, Organisational development, staff engagement, wellbeing

Staff engagement – a matter of life and death part 2

The world of work is changing and our expectations of organisations and how we experience the 40 hours or more we spend working every week is changing.  Organisations that do not create environments where people can bring their whole selves to work will quickly find themselves without a workforce as people will make different choices.

Creating environments in which people feel their purpose is fulfilled, their passion is ignited and are proud to work in is the role of leadership in the 21st century.

My last blog post described the importance of staff engagement for the health of an organisation.  For an organisation like the NHS, it vital to have happy, proud, empowered staff as the levels of connectedness that staff feel in a healthcare organisation has been linked to the mortality of patients.

The happiness of our people is something that we work on every day however my personal belief is that the term ‘staff engagement’ is a passive term and instead we should talk about how we nuture our people to ensure that our staff feel involved, empowered and proud to be part of of our oganisation.

The 2016 NHS staff survey results are due to be published on 7 March 2017 and last year we took the approach that despite being the top in our category of acute and community provider, we were restless to improve our scores and so as well as celebrating and amplifying what went well we also acknowledged that there were 3 key areas that we scored in the bottom 20% on that we wanted to make a difference in, which were:

  1. Equal opportunities to career progression
  2. Staff experiencing discrimination from staff or patients
  3. Staff working long hours

We identified ways to support this at both a Trust-wide level as well as within the individual directorates.  Each directorate came up with their top 5 actions to support improving in the areas that their own staff had identified and as an organisation we have focussed on the top 3 listed above.  Througout the year we introduced the following:

Equal opportunities to career progression

  • managers to have ‘career coaching conversations’ with their team members during appraisals or other suitable times
  • Realising Your Potential conference for a cross section of staff with our partner trusts
  • Surveyed and ran focus groups with different generation groups (Baby Boomers; Generation X; Millennials and Digital Natives) to find out what is important to them to inform training and development (with more to come on this next year)

Staff experiencing discrimination from staff or patients

  • Leadership masterclasses on inclusion and unconscious bias
  • Unconscious bias training introduced into different training courses across the Trust
  • Violence and aggression campaign run in conjunction with the Metropolitan Police to support keeping our staff safe

Staff working long hours

  • Reduce our email usage culture and encourage ’email free Fridays’ and managers spending time out about in clinical areas with their staff
  • The Model Ward (Nightingale Project) which is rolling out standardised practice on the wards for the first hour and last hour of the day with a safety huddle in the middle of the day to ensure all staff start and leave their shifts on time.

A couple of weeks ago I took part in a webinar for the UK Improvement Alliance along with Caroline Corrigan from NHS England, talking about how to engage staff in change.  This webinar and introductory video focussed on some of the things that we have put in place to ensure that Guy’s and St Thomas’ is a place where staff feel proud to work.  If you missed it you can catch up here.

I hope that some of the things that we have experimented with this year have made a difference to our staff and to test this we have made sure we are full census for the next three years to ensure every one of our staff has a voice.  Watch this space for the feedback!

About the author

Sarah Morgan is the Director of Organisational Development for Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.  An organisation in the English NHS with 15,000 staff that cares for patients in the London Boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth, across the South of England and both nationally and internationally.

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Authentic Leadership, culture of compassion, Leadership, Motivation, NHS Leadership, Organisational development, Resilience, wellbeing

2017 – My year of Focus

I was asked at the beginning of the year what my word for 2017 is and I decided it is ‘Focus’.

Just before Christmas I found myself in a complete state of overwhelm and was working inefficiently, flitting from task to task; meeting to meeting and trying to juggle too many variables at the same time.

Over the break I took time out to reflect and think about what I wanted to do differently in 2017 and came to the conclusion that less is more and I needed to re-prioritise.

I realised that in order to stay resilient I need to be more discerning and disciplined with my time, to not give it away too easily and spend more time on the things that energise me and make me happy in life including my spiritual and physical wellbeing. Most importantly I need to prioritise my time with my friends and family and ensure that I’m not taking them for granted.

I have decided to prioritise to five key things to focus on, which are:

1. The creation of a diary management system to prioritise both my work and social to have a much better use of time. This includes saying no more often and builds in protected time to think; write and research to ensure we stay ahead of the curve in leadership; OD and new models of care. This will ensure I can dedicate the right amount of time to the three major programmes that I am currently leading. I’ve designed a colour coding system so I know what is a must-do and what I can delegate or drop if necessary.

2. Limiting my social activities to only having one to two nights a week when I’m going on to an event after work. Prioritising things that I’m really passionate about. I became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in November last year and am keen to connect with their Reinventing Work network as is connects with my passion of creating more love in the workplace – the theme of my 2016 blogging year.

3. Leaving work on time to go to the gym and making time to get enough exercise. Particularly reconnecting with the activities I love such as yoga; climbing and recently I’ve gone back to High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) . Even after a few short weeks it’s making a real difference to how I’m feeling.

4. Improving my sleep as before Christmas I was only getting 5 hours a night and I was finding it was affecting my decision-making and judgement. I’m experimenting with making sure that I’m winding down and in bed for between 10pm and 11pm to make sure I’m getting enough sleep aiming for between 7 and 8 hours a night to try and maintain my ability to stay focussed

5. Writing To Do lists is something that I have to really discipline myself to do. I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to rely on my memory for keeping me on top of my workload for my working career. However I noticed that as I became more overwhelmed, coupled with getting less sleep I found that I was starting to forget to do things until the last minute, which is very out of character. I find writing a To Do list quite cathartic and am using magic white board paper on the wall to write things down as well as using a To Do List book and a daily ‘plan of attack’ to make sure I prioritise every day. I find the discipline hard but rewarding when I do it.

I’m hoping that by putting in place these simple changes I’ll stay resilient; passionate; achieve more in my working day and have a greater sense of wellbeing. I’m starting to see the shoots of improvement and I’m encouraged to stick with it for now.

I hope you’ll stay focussed with me in 2017!

 

About the author

Sarah Morgan is the Director of Organisational Development for Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust

Sarah’s blog was nominated in 2016 for a UK Blog Award – healthcare

Sarah is passionate about getting more love into the workplace which was the theme of her 2016 blog series and nominated for the UK Blog Award

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culture of compassion, Leadership, wellbeing

Put your energy in the right place – how to get more love in the workplace – part 5

I had a revelation this week; one of those Aha! moments that come along very infrequently but when they do they make a significant difference. It was about energy and the need to put your energy in the right place to increase your work productivity and sense of well-being.

It emerged during a coaching session when I was thinking about how to more effectively lead the programme that I am currently directing. What became clear was that as the programme is in the start-up stage and does not have a full team in place, my energy has been spent in the mechanics of the programme, administrating and being ‘in the weeds’ of the day to day rather than strategising and thinking through the policy implications.

My preference is for global (strategic) thinking, which is right brain dominant and leads to a focus on the future state; the big picture and people with this preference thrive on experimenting and spend time ‘thinking’ rather than ‘doing.’ This means that when I put my energy into detail; reactive activities and short term tasks, it results in a drain in my energy.

I had convinced myself that I was getting to the end of the week exhausted and lacklustre due to the fact I had been spending all of my time on intellectually challenging activities; however when I really thought about it and closely examined how I spend my time during the week it became clear that the majority of my time is spent in meetings and working on the mechanics of setting up the programme leaving only a small amount of time left for thinking and working on strategy and policy development.

This has started me thinking about energy and how to use it more wisely to be more productive in the workplace by focusing it in the right places. A further look into some tools and techniques for how to do this best revealed a really informative Harvard Business Review article about ‘how to manage your energy not your time.’ The article identifies that energy is defined in physics as the capacity to work, and comes from four main wellsprings in human beings: the body, emotions, mind, and spirit. It suggests that it is possible to systematically expand and regularly renew energy through specific rituals, which are described as behaviours that are intentionally practiced and intentionally practices so as to become unconscious thinking.

This article summed it up for me: “To access the energy of the human spirit, people need to clarify priorities and establish accompanying rituals in three categories: doing what they do best and enjoy most at work; consciously allocating time and energy to the areas of their lives—work, family, health, service to others—they deem most important; and living their core values in their daily behaviors.” Take their test to see if you are heading for an energy crisis and for top tips on how to prevent it.

My revelation has made me think more widely about the fact that, despite having the highest staff engagement scores in the country, my organisation is in the worst 20% of Trusts scoring that staff are working long hours and we are noticing that for the first time stress due to workload is on the rise. Finding the approaches that are going to make the difference in busy, healthcare environments is very difficult. Working on helping staff to manage their energy may be the completely different approach we might need to consider.

Over the next few months I’m going to be trying out some of the new techniques coupled with applying the learning from Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (more on this in a future blog) to see if I can change my energy balance; be more productive and fulfilled and hopefully make more quality time for my team and colleagues.

Resources used:

Identify the difference between strategic and global thinking http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/are-you-a-linear-or-global-thinker

Test whether you have a strategic or a linear thinking preference http://www.harvardbusiness.org/blog/are-you-strategic-thinker-test-yourself

 Full article from Schwartz and McCarthy; 2007; Manage your energy not your time; Harvard Business Review https://hbr.org/2007/10/manage-your-energy-not-your-time

Covey; Stephen R; The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People; Rosetta; 1989 

About the author

Sarah Morgan is the Director of Organisational Development and the Vanguard Foundation Healthcare Group Programme Director for Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust

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