Creating a Great Culture – Part 2

In the last blog, reflecting on the book “Legacy”, by James Kerr, I started to explore how the All Blacks have managed to create such an excellent culture; reflecting on what we can learn from it in the health and social care system (or indeed any environment).

 

Of the 15 principles outlined, I looked at the first 8 (the pack) and now I will look at the back 7.

 

9) Stay Focussed under Pressure – The eighth principle is to practice under pressure and learn to keep a cool head. This ninth one is about individuals and the team keeping their focus and attention on the task in front of them when the pressure comes. There are times when the stress is on. We are hard pressed from every side. The powers are breathing down our necks, the crisis is in front of us, we feel under resourced, over stretched and at the end of ourselves. Keeping our heads, and not losing them at such times, is the mark of a team who know how to manage themselves and take care of each other. This is really about learning to be mindful, to be present in the moment and to centre ourselves well. At times of real pressure, psychologists recommend three key things: 1) Slow your breathing down and focus on the breath flowing in and out of your body – this calms the mind and brings you into the present. 2) Find a repetitive action, like tapping your foot, scrunching your toes or clicking your fingers to help your body connect to the moment you are in. 3) Rehearse some mantras, which you can repeat back to yourself, over and over, to remind you of the basic things you need to do. That is what we use ABCDEF for in resuscitation – it’s why we need the automatic pilot. It also makes us far less likely to snap at team players and hurt relationships when the proverbial hits the fan.

 

10) Authenticity – the best leaders stay true to their deepest values, no matter what situation they find themselves in. Honesty = Integrity = Authenticity = Resilience = Performance. Be taken at your word. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Be true to who you are, no matter where you are. To be lovely at work and a terrible person to your spouse or family lacks integrity and authenticity. Good people make good leaders.

 

11) Sacrifice – now, I would offer a word of caution here. We work in environments in which sometimes we sacrifice our own wellbeing or our own marriages/families due to the pressures and expectations that we put ourselves under, because we are good hearted people who often have the need to be needed or the need to be heroes. However, there is definitely a balance, because without some sacrifice and having the kind of love, which as Thomas Jay Oord puts it, is “self-emptying and others empowering” we will lack something vital in our culture.  Buckminster Fuller says we must wrestle with these questions: ‘What is my job on the planet? What needs doing, that I know something about, that probably won’t happen unless I take responsibility for it? What extra mile will make us extraordinary?’

 

12) Language – Sing your world into existence. I hosted a conversation  in Morecambe recently, in which I shared that I often sing to places as I drive or walk through the streets (weird, I know!). But I asked everyone there, that if they were to sing a song to Morecambe, what that song would be. There was nobody without a song! Leaders are storytellers. All great organisations are born from a compelling story. Words and values really matter. Organisations need their own vocabulary, mottos, mantras and metaphors. The food of a leader is knowledge and communication. In Morecambe Bay, we are beginning to develop a language and a narrative around ‘The Bay Way.’ We want our vocabulary and our dialect to reflect the vision, values, culture and behaviours here.

 

13) Ritual – now, it might be pretty awkward if we all started to try and do the Haka at the start of our meetings! Not only would be awkward but it would make little cultural sense! Even for the All Blacks, the Haka has had to change. The team is no longer predominantly Maori, but a mixture of many cultures. They have had to go on a journey together of how to keeep and adapt a ritual that really means something and connects the team together. Ritual makes the intangible real. It can take many different forms, but it really is vital. It might be a daily team check in, but my sense is that it takes some bravery to establish and continue. In the West, we are so much more detached from our sense of corporate history and identity. Perhaps we feel embarrassed about it or no longer know what it means for us now. What might ritual look like in our work places and teams now? There is a Maori phrase which says: “Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I’ll understand.” This is why I am so keen for our teams to experience things together, like the Art of Hosting. It is in the partaking, the encountering of the ‘other’, the immersion in the experience in which we find ourselves changed.

 

14) Whakapapa – this is the principle of being a good ancestor. What are you sowing into those around you. The All Blacks make it really clear that becoming an All Black is a privilege not to be taken lightly. When you receive the jersey, it comes with a weight of history and a responsibility that you take it to the next level. The challenge is not to aim for something nice to be written on your grave stone, but for your fingerprints to be left in the lives of those around you, so that the thread of your story is continued. Here are some good words: Care for the land, care for the people. Go forward. Grow and branch forth for the days of your world.

 

15) Legacy – This is your time. What will you do with it? What will your legacy be?

 

There is so much to reflect on in the chapters of this book. We are in danger of rearranging the systems in which we work, without dealing with the issues of the heart. I will keep on saying this: Culture is vital. If we do not get our values and our culture right, we build on very shaky foundations and our house will not stand. Taking the time to reflect and build our culture together will enable us to create a legacy for the future that will be beautiful and life giving.

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Learning to Celebrate Success

iu-2The NHS really is amazing. Today, I have been at the NHS confederation (confed2016), a conference which helps to set the pulse and rhythm of the health system over the following 12 months. I heard Dame Kelly Holmes speak movingly about her own experiences, help she received from across the NHS and how grateful she is to live in a country where there is such excellent healthcare available to everybody, no matter how rich or poor. As a double Olympic champion, she highly values her personal relationship with her GP, keeping care local and personal. She would not be where she is today had it not been for the superb care she was given when in the depths of depression only a year before she was able to achieve her dream. Had it not been for surgery, physiotherapy and nutritional expertise all from people working within this incredible system, she would never have accomplished what she has done in her career. And not only her, there was a moving tribute from her mother who has also had significant health problems over the last year.

 
In a time of austerity, although in the OECD countries, there have been 260,000 extra cases of missed cancer in the past year, not one of them has occurred in the UK!! The NHS is staffed by brilliant, caring, compassionate people, who are pursuing excellence in the care they provide. The NHS is able to provide some of the best health outcomes in the world and is still rated as the best health organisation in the world by the World Health Organisation, despite having one of the lowest government expenditures in the developed world.

 
We hear so much negativity in the press about failures, pressures, targets and financial strain that it is no wonder there is a low morale at times amongst the staff. But Kelly Holmes tells us that we must learn to celebrate our successes, because in our dark times (and there are many in the field of healthcare), it isiu-1 vital that we keep hope alive. There were many times, when the press was against her, out for a good story, many times when things did not go to plan, but the celebration of her successes along the way kept her hope alive. We are going to have days when we get it wrong. We are going to have increasingly more situations in which we feel squeezed, hard pressed and floundering, but there is so much we are doing every single day that literally transforms the lives of countless individuals. We look people in the eye and tell them our names, that we will be caring for them and that they matter to us. We compassionately communicate the best and worst of news. We use our skills to arrange appointments, clean, bathe, bandage, measure, test, diagnose, operate, teach, manage, cure, deliver new life, care for the dying and so much more. This is nothing short of amazing.

 

1973049_861ba277[1]I am so grateful for the teams I work with at Ash Trees Surgery in Carnforth, Lancashire North CCG and Better Care Together around Morecambe Bay. We are doing brilliant things together every day, as are countless teams across the UK. Part of the culture shift we need to see is for us to lift our heads, celebrate what is excellent and use it as fuel to propel us further forward into the love and good of the future. I thank God for the NHS, it is worth remembering what a treasure we hold in our hands and continue to be grateful for the privilege it is to serve people through it. If we don’t learn to celebrate our successes, we may not find the reslience we need for the path ahead. But with hearts full of gratitude and a sense of achievement, we can continue to go for gold.

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4) KEEP LEARNING (5 Ways to Wellbeing)

Tweet Here is the 4th vlog in a mini-series, exploring the 5 ways to well-being from the New Economics Foundation to help transform the culture of the NHS.   Share This:

5 Ways to Wellbeing 2) BE ACTIVE (Changing the culture of the NHS)

Tweet In my last vlog, I started looking at how we might use the 5 Ways to Well-being  to help build resilience and promote health, particularly for those who work within the NHS (though it can apply to anyone). This second vlog takes a look at the being active and how it can improve health [Continue Reading …]

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