Jill Pennington, Consulting Director & Peter Clarke, Head of Product Consulting at PSI Talent Management, tell us what we need to know about how developing a leadership climate in the NHS humanises healthcare
Psychological safety is vital if you want to create a culture where teams are productive, engaged and prepared to try new things. This type of leadership climate gives employees space and freedom to think, test and learn. Organisations are increasingly looking at how they need to respond to technological change, rising consumer demands and changes in demographics and society. In a study of Fortune 1,000 companies,1researchers found that employees at organisations with a growth mindset culture feel more empowered to innovate and more committed to company goals.
This growth mindset enables agile, pace and innovation, as well as improvements in customer service and product development. A key element of agility is engagement and psychological safety. So how do you set up your systems and processes in the public sector to create a culture where employees are comfortable with innovation and testing new solutions? Much of the answer lies in the leadership in organisations.
Leadership in healthcare
Sharing data with leaders about the climate they create – how it feels to work for them – is a highly eﬀective starting point for development. And the NHS Leadership Academy is a great example of how this approach can be used to improve leadership and bring about change. The evidence-based NHS Healthcare Leadership Model was developed by the NHS Leadership Academy to reﬂect the values of the NHS.
The Model outlines nine dimensions that leaders should display at work, including leading with care and inspiring shared purpose. Using an online tool, 360-degree feedback and self-assessment are mapped to these dimensions and comprehensive reports are generated. This helps managers to make sustainable improvements to their performance at work while developing their leadership skills and building better cultures within their organisation. Research into 360-degree feedback shows that interpreting a report with a coach or in a facilitated session plays a crucial role in encouraging managers to accept the ﬁndings and initiate behaviour change.
So as part of the process, an accredited feedback facilitator works with every participant to help interpret the report. This supports robust conversations about how an individual rates within each of the Healthcare Leadership Model dimensions and how important each of those dimensions are for their role.
Thousands of NHS staﬀ come into contact with the Healthcare Leadership Model and 360-degree feedback tool every year and it’s making a real diﬀerence to how they understand themselves as leaders. The tool is useful for everyone, whether they have formal leadership responsibility or not, allowing individuals to make more mindful – and more impactful – interventions in their day-to-day roles. This has a positive eﬀect on their team, organisation and ultimately the patients they serve.
The tool consistently receives fantastic feedback from users about the quality of conversations they are able to have about their individual and group results. What’s more, the additional research questions and in-depth analysis that have come from the tool have been crucial in helping the NHS Leadership Academy to better understand their user-base, as well as start exploring wider cultural implications for the healthcare service.
Take it from the top
It’s an old adage that tone comes from the top.
That’s why it’s important to consider that very few people are born leaders and most employees won’t possess the innate abilities needed to manage a team and establish a positive leadership climate. The report that individuals receive as a result of their 360-degree feedback draws heavily on the principles and practice of Emotional Intelligence (EI) – the habits that turn human potential (personality) into eﬀective leadership behaviours and performance (competencies). Neuroscience has shown us that attitudes inﬂuence feelings, which fuel thinking and in turn drive behaviour. And the good news is that leaders can develop their own EI and change their attitudes to create lasting behaviour change.
To establish and foster a culture of psychological safety where innovation and agility are actively encouraged and properly rewarded. The key to increasing EI and improving leadership isn’t rocket science – it’s proven people science. Surveys have been used to gather 360-degree feedback since the 1950s and technology now provides the opportunity to use this powerful tool even more eﬀectively. Behave your way out Now, more than ever before, the NHS needs a leadership and organisational climate where it is possible to build relationships on respect, talk truth to power and initiate potentially diﬃcult conversations.
At a recent conference hosted by PSI Talent Management, Duncan Forbes, Chief People Oﬃcer at East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, spoke about humanising work and the role of EI in improving performance. Duncan summed up leadership by saying, “Leadership is not giving people a solution. It is creating a safe environment where they can come up with solutions themselves.”
Developing EI based on 360-degree feedback and self-assessment is a proven way to create this environment. Changing behaviours through EI helps to reduce prejudice, retribution and blame and increase acceptance, diversity and inclusion.
As Duncan said, “You can’t think yourself out of a problem you have behaved yourself into. You need to behave your way out.”
Overall system 360-degree feedback isn’t a standalone tool for leadership development or performance management. The involvement of facilitators and touchpoints to ensure ongoing, sustainable development is key to the success of the NHS Healthcare Leadership Model 360-degree feedback tool. When used correctly, the process of gathering conﬁdential feedback from line managers, peers and direct reports gives an individual insight into other people’s perceptions of their leadership abilities and behaviour. Which, when combined with their own self-assessment, provides invaluable data that leaders can then act on to deliver smarter, safer care, higher staﬀ engagement and a better patient experience.