Episode 48: Looking after your people through COVID and beyond

We may be returning to something of a more normal working life, but there is still a lot of change ahead of us and we face continuing challenges both in our day to day work and leading our teams.

Some of our greatest challenges exist around communication – with teams that may be split between being able to meet in person and those working remotely, communicating with your team where there may be uncertainty and the lack of creative thinking that often can occur in team meetings where you can quickly get ‘group think’.

Joining Rachel this week are not one, but three guests – her ‘go-to’ gang, or as she describes them – her ‘wise guys’!

Throughout the COVID crisis all of this week’s guests have experienced huge changes to their working lives in healthcare; Judith Bird manages a team of 70 clinical and non-clinical staff in her role in audiology, Dr Catherine Hayhurst is an Emergency Physician, working in a team of  26 Consultants and many, many other health professionals, and Ceinwen Mannall is currently working remotely for a Sustainability and Transformation Partnership.

We talk about how we and our teams have responded during the different stages of the crisis and reflect on what this has taught us. 

In the early stages, adrenaline was high – particularly for Catherine whose entire Emergency Department faced massive change to adapt to the demands of the crisis. Even for those who weren’t working on the frontline, the adrenaline was felt in the changed ways we had to adapt to, to enable working from home successfully and we significantly focussed on the people we work with handling these changes. 

However, as the return to ‘normal’ working life looms, it is easy to get swept up in the task-driven nature of all the new initiatives. Split working teams and unreliable technology have had a massive impact on communication and the myriad of new processes and demands in place may shift our focus away from the people we work with – who may still be experiencing significant disruption and challenges in their lives due to the pandemic. 

It’s crucial that we remember to keep AS big a focus on the team as we do on the processes and that means looking hard at how we communicate and run our meetings. The gang share some tried and tested tips on how to overcome technology and communication difficulties that can occur in these hybrid meetings, including pre-planning, booking the right space and using the comments boards in video conferencing platforms to ensure everyone can share and take part.

Creating and nurturing a culture of support is hugely important and can feel overwhelming if you lead a big team. Rachel and co. discuss how through empowering your team to be part of leading this culture, you can develop support networks through your entire team or department.

With hindsight, we can see that there is an avalanche of communication in our lives resulting from managing the crisis. Giving some thought to communications planning and getting creative with how you deliver messages can have a huge impact on the key messages you need to share. 

The gang have experienced some wide ranging initiatives; from departmental psychologists to support through Facebook groups with varying degrees of success. We look at  how the use of different media from newsletters, to posters and podcasts have meant that messages can be shared, reiterated and questions fielded in places outside of meetings. These sharing forums can also be a great place to discover what really needs to be on the agenda in your team meetings.

Finally we talk about the importance of check-in chats, how to adapt them to these group and individual settings both in person and remotely. What you can get from them, and how much they can mean to someone just to be asked ‘how are you – really?’. As a manager, it can be easy to feel like you need to solve your team’s problems (which prevents some managers from adopting these check in moments), but sometimes just giving an opportunity to vent is all that person needs. The opportunity to offload and be heard, or just to be asked can offer a moment of pause and care in uncertain, stressful and busy times.

Ultimately, the key to looking out for and after your teams is to communicate, communicate, communicate. 

Our top tips are:

  • Find new and creative ways to communicate.
  • Remember to look forwards, not just review the past.
  • Informal chats for mentoring can be transformative, whether you lead that person or not.
  • Run a Stop Start Continue on your remote working strategy.

It’s really important to look after yourself too, don’t discount the value in finding your own mentor. Your team is likely to have some great problem solvers, reach out to them when you need inspiration. And finally, remember that it won’t be like this forever – even if at times we feel stuck and can’t see an end to this.

And if you’d like to join our BRAND NEW membership for busy leaders who want to get productive and thriving teams in the new ways of working then check out the Resilient Team Academy.  

We’ll give you all the tools and resources you need to have transformative conversations, run better meetings, and use a simple coaching approach to empower your people. You’ll receive the Shapes Toolkit Core training and all the material will be delivered direct to your inbox in short, bitesize chunks. We’re only open to new members until 22nd Sept so you need to be quick! 

Download our Stop Start Continue Checklist Toolkit

Podcast links

Find out more about the Resilient Team Academy – the brand new membership for busy leaders in healthcare and other high stress organisations.

Sign up here to receive a link to the CPD form downloads for each podcast which you can use for reflection and to submit for your appraisal. 

Looking for resilience training for your team, your organisation or your CCG or GP Training Hub? Find out more about her online and face to face courses for doctors and other professionals on surviving and thriving at work.

Get the COVID Team Wellbeing Toolkit which includes instructions on how to run a team check in chat here

For more episodes of You are not a frog, check out our website https://youarenotafrog.com/

Sign up to our mailing list here for loads of useful resources about thriving at work https://www.shapestoolkit.com/free-team-wellbeing-toolkit

You can also join the Shapes Collective Facebook group where we chat about the hot topics and regularly post interesting articles – 

24 hour support for NHS staff: Call 0300 131 7000 between 7am and 11pm or text FRONTLINE to 85258 24/7.

BMA Wellbeing Service 

The NHS Practitioner Health Programme 

Podcast Links:

Find out about the Resilient Team Academy  Rachel’s brand new membership for busy leaders

Contact Rachel 

LinkedIn @Dr-Rachel-lMorris 

Twitter @DrRachelMorris



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