continuous improvement, Leadership

Listen with fascination – How to get more love into the workplace – part 8

When was the last time you really listened to someone? Not just listened to give advice or to respond; not half-listened but really listened? Apparently we only retain 25% of what we hear as we are not actively listening. That’s 75% of what others tell us, we miss.

Giving your full attention to another person, is an extremely compassionate and human thing to do. We talk about compassion as a significant part of how we treat our patients in the NHS, however we talk about it less so in relation to how we treat each other.

To me, building a culture of compassion is crucial to ensuring that organisations enable people to bring their whole selves to work. If we truly want to build cultures of continuous improvement, where staff are enabled to make change in their own areas, then leaders and managers must learn to really listen to staff and support them to make that change. As Andy Stanley warns, “Leaders who do not listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.” This is a dangerous situation to be in as groupthink can creep in.

Recently I had the privilege of talking to Professor Michael West about our leadership development programme ‘Leading for the Future’; due to be launched by our Chief Executive in the Autumn. The aim of the programme is to support our most senior leaders to create the enabling environments within every directorate that will allow staff to make the change they want to see. We have identified the competencies we believe our leaders will need to create the right conditions for staff to take the organisation forward. We have categorised these competencies into our three pillars of leadership with the first and foremost being Culture of Compassion.

During our conversation West talked about the importance of leaders really listening and told me a fact that I found alarming which was that it has been proven that the more senior people become the less they listen. This appears to me to be paradoxical as surely the more senior you become, the more you need to listen so that you really understand your people and your organisation. There is a real danger that leaders become fixated in their own social construct and rely on their memory of what life was like when they were on the frontline earlier on in their careers. This can lead them to become out of touch; lead from a place of fear and put forward directives or initiatives that are based in historical success rather than on what the organisation needs today.

West identifies that compassionate leadership, the type required to enable a culture of continuous improvement to flourish, is supported through:

  1. Attending – paying attention to the other and ‘listening with fascination’
  2. Understanding – finding a shared understanding of the situation they face
  3. Empathising – feeling how it is to be in their situation
  4. Helping – taking intelligent action to help them achieve their purpose

This can really only be achieved well through visible leadership; that is leaders going out and about meeting with and listening to their staff to really understand their views.

So, next time you are talking to someone in your organisation, I urge to you to stop, pay attention and listen with fascination. What you learn may surprise you.

 

 

With thanks to Professor Michael West, Head of Thought Leadership for The King’s Fund and Professor of Work and Organisational Psychology at Lancaster University

 

About the author

Sarah Morgan is the Director of Organisational Development for Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and passionate about building more human organisations

Follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahMorganNHS

 

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Authentic Leadership, Diversity, Inclusion, Leadership, NHS Leadership

One conversation at a time – How to get more love into the workplace – part 7

We all dream of days at work that uplift, inspire and fill us with good feelings; however the reality is that they don’t come along as often as we would like. On 13th July, we had a day just like that, with 130 staff from all parts of our organisation, discussing how we create an organisation that is ‘fit to house the human spirit’. It created a positive energy and vibe that lasted throughout the day.

At Guy’s and St Thomas’ we have the highest staff engagement scores in the country, but we still have some dark spots. We’re focussing on shining a light on these key areas, one of which is improving staff feeling a sense of inclusion in the organisation. We have been running a series of Staff Engagement Inspiration Masterclasses, starting with Professor Michael West in May, and most recently we invited Eden Charles PhD to talk to staff about inclusion.

The amount of enthusiasm for the session was unprecedented. We had 100 places but were packed to the rafters with 130 staff wanting to take part. Eden delivered a key note speech and through the use of ZOUD – zone of uncomfortable debate – really got everyone to think about how we all have the ability to exclude others and to precipitate micro inequalities without even realising it. Leading on from Eden’s inspiring speech our Chief Nurse led a series of discussions both in thinking pairs and at a table level, to help participants to really engage with thinking about what they value about their own characteristics and how they might also lead them to accidentally exclude others both in the workplace and outside. This engendered a real energy and engagement of the participants really wanting to engage in thinking about how they could really start to understand others better.

In thinking about diversity overall, thought diversity emerged as a key topic; a conclusion of the Masterclass was that inclusion and understanding of others takes place “one conversation at a time.”

After only 2.5 hours of talking about inclusion, the atmosphere had changed and the energy carried out of the room with the participants. Some challenging points were raised such as ‘what will be different’ and the response is clear; “embracing diversity and being inclusive is everybody’s business”.

Having authentic conversations can often feel quite daunting; especially in the workplace. There are often cultural norms guiding what is considered appropriate and what is a taboo area, and if you are brave and do challenge the status quo it can often feel psychologically unsafe. This means that the culture prevails as people protect themselves by not challenging the norms, and those that feel differently will often leave as they do not feel comfortable or understood within the organisation. This leads to the unsafe practice of groupthink and can lead to poor decision-making and a stunting of the potential of an organisation to progress.

Moving to a place where diversity of thought is not only accepted but positively embraced is the way forward for the NHS and the wider public sector. We are living in a very uncertain and ambiguous time and therefore having a linear approach, based on the thinking that has always prevailed at the top of organisations, will not enable us to navigate the complexity of our new environment. We need a new way of thinking and being that will engender new, evolving conversations and inspire new approaches to enable us to re-invent our workplaces.

Back to the Masterclass; you could argue 130 staff out of our 15,000 is not many, however this is only the first step on the journey for us – a small step but an important one nonetheless. We want to start a completely different conversation in the organisation that encourages diversity and enables our leaders to create enabling environments that supports all our staff to bring their best to work every day. This will help us to continue to deliver high quality healthcare to the in excess of 2 million patients who access our services every year. We will do this one conversation at a time.

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Left to right: Sarah Morgan, Director of Organisational Development; Eden Charles PhD, People Opportunities Ltd; Yadveer Kaur, Staff Engagement Manager; Amanda Pritchard, Chief Executive; Dame Eileen Sills, Chief Nurse at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust at the Inclusion Staff Engagement Masterclass held on 13 July 2016

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 Participants of the GSTT Inclusion Staff Engagement Masterclass 13 July 2016

 About the author

Sarah Morgan is the Director of Organisational Development for Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and passionate about changing the world of work

 

 

 

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Authentic Leadership, culture of compassion, Leadership, NHS Leadership, Organisational development

Move away from fear – how to get more love in the workplace – part 6

Earlier this week research showed that there are high levels of perceived bullying in the NHS workplace.  According to the research by NHS Employers 20% of NHS staff report that they have been bullied by other staff and 29.9% indicated that they had some element of psychological distress. Managers and supervisors were perceived to be the most common source (51%).

This is quite a shocking statistic and one that begs the question ‘why?’. What drives, seemingly normal people, who work in a compassionate profession and are probably lovely outside of work, to behave in a bullying manner in the workplace?

My guess is that it is based in fear.

Fear of missing the target; fear of the ramifications of spending too much money; fear of losing job/ reputation/ career that you’ve spend decades building; fear of rocking the boat or speaking up. What fuels these fears?

Fear is toxic; it creates a unconscious psychological response in our amygdala or ‘reptile brain’ which is fight; flight; freeze. This is helpful when a sabre toothed tiger is bearing down on you but has no place in today’s healthcare environment except in extreme circumstances. We are starting to see some of the unintended consequences such as a recent CQC report awarding a requires improvement rating citing ‘learned helplessness’ as one of the cultural indicators created by the senior leadership team.

So, how can we support our leaders to move away from fear and start to create the right conditions for staff to be able to operate to their full potential?

As we know culture is the shadow of the leadership and if the shadow that is being cast is one of fear; perceived lack of ability to control or influence; driving for results no matter what the cost and an inability to listen to ideas or thoughts that differ from the cultural norms; then the conditions that are being created for staff to work in are oppressive; toxic and limiting.

Having grip and telling staff what to do can work for a short period of time, particularly in a crisis. However, over a longer period will lead to reduced results and a culture of escalation to the organisation as paralysis will seep in and staff will start to fear making the wrong decision and therefore will make no decisions.

To move away from fear takes a huge amount of courage and the ability to trust in others. Although the current regulatory environment means that there needs to be an Accountable Officer so it is clear where the buck stops, this does not mean that this person has to do everything; quite the opposite.

The key to that opposite approach is enabling the Executive Team to feel it is safe to let go. A recent interesting article by the Harvard Business Review (1) on exactly this, highlighted the rules of ‘self organisation’ the main element of which is communicating intent. This is a very different approach to delegation. One which establishes a set of principles and a clear framework from within which all staff are able to take decisions.

Many of the organisations featured in Fredric La Loux’s inspiring ‘Reinventing Organizations’ (2) have in common a clearly set out vision and principles and enable their staff to make decisions based within the simple framework that they have established. All of the organisations have established approaches to dealing with performance issues and with those people who do not make decisions according to the agreed doctrine, quickly and simply. This clear and simple approach appears to be yielding amazing results the world over.

It is often argued that this is much easier in organisations such as Google and Amazon and in healthcare organisations such as Buurtzorg in the Netherlands (3) as they are all start up companies and had the opportunity to set things up right from the beginning.

So how easy is it to introduce this new way of working into a well established; heavily regulated environment such as the NHS where everything that is paid attention to, measured and rewarded is the opposite? Well the answer is that it is not easy – but rarely is anything worth having easy to achieve. If it was we would have done it already!

Collaboration is the key. Today’s healthcare environment is too complex to rely upon the leadership approaches that worked for complicated problems. Complicated problems can be solved through processes and linear solutions. Complex problems are worsened if this thinking is applied as there are too many factors and variables and therefore a more emergent approach is necessary.

The fear many leaders will have to face is that their ‘tried and tested’ methodologies that worked for yesterday’s problems no longer work and they have no more tools in their toolkit to rely upon. This can often be the root of fear that drives the ‘tell’ culture and often leaders struggle to understand why these methods, previously so successful don’t work in today’s technology driven, disrupted environment. They interpret the lack of results as due to the way the staff are implementing their instructions rather than it being the wrong approach and so give further, more detailed instructions.  Thus creating a vicious circle of decline.

The simple truth is we need a new toolkit and manual for ‘letting go’. Bringing together clinicians and giving them the tools and techniques to enable them to improve how they deliver care and trusting them to come up with the answers, is the first stage to truly transforming the culture in the NHS.

We need leaders that can:

  • lead from behind, rather than in front
  • pose questions rather than offers solutions as they recognise wicked problems require emergent solutions
  • truly collaborate with the workforce and inspire them with purpose and commitment.

These are the leaders that will create the right conditions to replace the fear currently being felt in the NHS workplace with love and compassion, both for staff and patients.

(1)   How Leaders Can Let Go Without Losing Control; Mark Bonchek; Harvard Business Review; 2 June 2016

(2)  La Loux F; Reinventing organizations; A guide to creating organizations inspired by the next generation of human consciousness; 2014

(3) Community nursing organisation in the Netherlands based on the principles of self managed teams which achieves high levels of patient satisfaction, improved clinical outcomes and reduced cost. Featured in La Loux’s book as referenced above

About the author

Sarah Morgan is the Director of Organisational Development for Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and passionate about creating happy workplaces

 

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culture of compassion, Leadership, Organisational development, Staff development

How to get more love into the workplace – Part Two

What better day to talk about love in the workplace than Valentine’s Day? The day when we profess our undying love for the focus of our affection; we can choose to keep our identity a secret or reveal all; we wear our hearts on our sleeve and chance rejection. We take that risk in the name of love.

The workplace can be a minefield to navigate. There are different ‘tribes’; power dynamics and unsaid rules. It often takes courage to say what you really think; stand up for what you believe in and wear your heart on your sleeve. The question is why? Why do you sometimes feel psychologically unsafe if you speak out? Why are diverse views shied away from rather than encouraged? I can’t profess to fully know the answers to these questions, but I do suspect that it stems from a need to belong and our tribal instincts kicking in. This can lead to bad behaviour; exclusion and a general lack of compassion towards our workmates. There’s an interesting Switch and Shift article on this if you want to read more.

So, if it’s an innate part of us, how do we get more love and compassion into the workplace?

Well to me it’s about appreciating what others have to offer. There’s an old African proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This sums it up for me. Often we are imbibed with a sense of urgency; short deadlines; stretching targets and the volume of work and weight of expectations is ever increasing. Naturally, this gives us a tendency to lean towards the ‘going fast’. Other people, who may have a valid, but different point of view, could slow us down, and we haven’t got the time to ‘bring them round to our way of thinking’ so instead, divergent views are at best ignored or worse ridiculed and those offering them made to feel inferior or stupid.

Over time, divergent views stop being offered, which gives rise to a different challenge, that of ‘groupthink’. This was described by ACCA in their December 2015 article on the need to diversify Boards as a “psychological behaviour of minimising conflict and reaching consensus without critically evaluating alternative ideas.” Often this is found in highly regulated, performance target-led environments such as banking and healthcare.

The predominant leadership style in the NHS is ‘pace setting’(1) . At first glance this sounds like a style that would get results; sets high performance standards whilst exemplifying delivery themselves; however over time it can have detrimental impact as it depersonalises the work environment, making it all about hitting the targets whilst forgetting about the human aspects.

In healthcare, we talk a lot about the need for compassionate care but often we overlook the need to have compassion in our everyday interactions with our colleagues. We need a more human touch in the workplace. To me this includes treating others as you would want to be treated and showing compassion in meetings as much as on the wards. It also means having honest conversations with people, especially if they are not performing as expected, rather than avoiding the difficult issues and potential conflict and then letting things escalate, potentially leading to festering resentment.

To summarise I think compassion in the workplace involves the following three aspects:

1. Treating people as individuals – acknowledging we are all different and have divergent views and opinions. Building relationships and trust on this basis and being as open and honest as possible.

2. Being open and honest – it’s often much easier to develop a ‘parent/ child’ relationship between manager and staff member than it is to have an adult to adult relationship (2) . Having honest conversations and being open when things are not going as well they might takes quite a lot of courage for some managers. It is far easier to not address issues but this just builds ill will over time. Voicing your opinion and being true to yourself, colleagues and staff, will enable a much more positive and transparent environment.

3. Valuing others’ opinion – as well as voicing your own opinion, allowing others to voice theirs without immediately responding or trying to bring people round to your way of thinking. Often this is more difficult than it sounds, but really listening to other people and opening your mind to other possibilities is the key to working with colleagues from different professional backgrounds, organisations and industries. Working out how to collaborate and work through the net benefit, so there is a shared and collective understanding and an agreed way forward, takes real skill.
I think if we all listen a little more; talk a little less and think of the person in front of us as a fellow human being, we might just start to get a little more love in the workplace.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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1   Leadership that gets results; Daniel Goleman; Harvard Business Review; March 2000.

2.Eric Berne; Transactional analysis (parent, adult, child model); 1957.

About the author

Sarah Morgan is the Director of Organisational Development for Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and a passionate advocate of creating conditions in the workplace to enable creativity and innovation to flourish

 

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Authentic Leadership, culture of compassion, Leadership

How to get more love into the workplace – Part One

In my last blog post I shared my new years resolution for 2016, which is to get more love into the workplace.  This is part one of my approach.

I’m posting this from a snowy Colorado mountain on Martin Luther King Day; which seems very apt as MLK once said, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

MLK was a truly authentic leader who spoke out for what he believed in and empowered people to think and act in a different way.

It’s been a tricky start to 2016. With industrial action from junior doctors and the continued struggle with waiting times and financials; it’s starting to feel as though the old methods just aren’t working for us anymore and a new approach is needed.

It seems to me what is needed is a new leadership approach that moves away from traditional pace-setting, command and control styles that have dominated the NHS for at least the past decade, to a more authentic leadership style – MLK style. One that supports staff with the right tools and techniques to make the changes needed on a day-to-day basis, without the bureaucracy of committees that are – in some cases – far removed from the frontline.

The NHS has a good track record of supporting staff with training in tools and techniques, but what has always been lacking is a systematic way of improving the services and solving problems as they happen. Many healthcare organisations have trained up hundreds of their staff in various quality improvement techniques, though few have managed to leverage the benefits. What has been missing is the infrastructure and governance that allows decisions to be taken quickly, at the frontline, at the time it’s needed.

In the past, managers such as myself were trained to be ‘heroic leaders;’ i.e. it was their job to solve the problems (otherwise what are they doing?); however the time for this has now passed – if it ever really was the right approach – and it’s time to really think differently about how we support our staff.

In my view, there are three steps that leaders could take to become more authentic and to enable more effective decisions to be taken as close to the patients as possible:

Step One admit you don’t know all the answers and place the decision making in the hands of those who do; especially those at the frontline. That is a very big ask in this world of accountability and takes bravery; however it has been proven to yield effective results in healthcare systems elsewhere in the world.

Step Two give the staff the tools and techniques to make the necessary change. Supporting clinical staff by training them in quality improvement techniques; using data effectively and understanding how to manage change has the potential to make more of a difference in two months than a year’s worth of committee meetings.

Step Three take the governance to them. Don’t expect clinicians to navigate the intricacies of the corporate governance that many of us spend our days steeped in. Work with intention and develop a systematic approach that allows decisions to be taken quickly and easily. If needed, schemes of delegation can be drawn up to keep everyone safe. Knowing that the intention behind the decision is to ‘make things better’ for patients and staff whilst supporting clinicians to understand the constraints will unleash their creativity. As the saying goes ‘innovation loves constraint’. A really successful example of this is the Virginia Mason test: ‘What can you do with half the money, half the staff, half the space?’ This has supported them to radically change how they deliver healthcare at the same time as increasing quality and reducing cost – the holy grail.

In my view, these three steps will go a long way to bring about a more authentic leadership approach which will lead to a better engaged and enabled workforce and overall more love and wellbeing into the workplace. The question is, can we do it quickly enough to make the difference? In reality, do we have a choice?

I’ll leave you with the words of Mark Twain; “There isn’t time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving, and but an instant, so to speak, for that.”

About the author

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

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