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  • Keep your light shining bright – three tips from Sally Howard

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    One of the many Covid challenges is that there hasn’t been an opportunity for frontline staff to pause for breath and pay even a small amount of attention to looking after themselves. And when times are really tricky we only have so much energy.

    So this is just about you and three things that may help you keep going and keep your brilliant light shining.


    1. Focus on the things that are within your gift to influence

    Steven Covey[1] talks about circles of concern and circles of influence. A circle of concern will, if you let it, take too much of your time and dilute your brilliance. There are some things that are really impossible for us to influence. We may need to vent about them now and then, but we do have to accept them, for now at least.

    Circles of influence, however, focus on things that are within your gift, the great things you do each day for your patients, your family, your friends. If you focus your time and energy in your circle of influence it helps you to move from feeling like a pawn on a chessboard to someone who is making a difference, because you are even if it doesn’t feel that way.

    Simply mapping out the things you can influence and those outside your reach can help you realise the real value of your contributions.

    2. Build your resilience

    You are still the brilliant you – a light shining brightly – don’t let Covid make you forget that. And this is where building your resilience comes in. Resilient individuals are able to sustain successful performance and positive wellbeing in the face of adverse conditions, and to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.

    Robertson and Cooper[2] identify four key components of resilience: confidence, purposefulness, adaptability and social support:

    1. Confidence – having feelings of competence and effectiveness to cope with stressful situations.
    2. Purposefulness – having a clear sense of direction so you can achieve in the face of setbacks – the things in your circle of influence.
    3. Adaptability – so you can flex and adapt to changing situations that are outside your control.
    4. Social support – building great relations with others and seeking support from them rather than trying to cope on your own.

    Even better, they have an easy to access free online tool that helps you to identify two to three things that will best help you.

    3. Take a moment each day to celebrate something good with your colleagues

    If we always focus on the not so good, the good stuff will go unrecognised. Two years ago I had the pleasure of working with great clinical teams on the roll out of Patient First Programme. Part of it was the introduction of daily huddles. A maximum of 15 mins, some days just a few minutes, focussing on the improvements that individual team members were taking forward and each time they ended on a celebration. There was always something to celebrate – thoughtful appreciation from patients and their families, staff achievements in and outside work, great support from another department, an important ‘well done everyone, we are coping really well today’. This changed the music, the light shone through and helped people to recognise and say what a great job they were doing, sometimes against the odds.

    So keep your light burning, it’s too good to be dimmed by Covid.


    1. Stephen Covey: Discover The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (change-management-coach.com)
    2. Robertson Cooper. Mental Health and Wellbeing Specialists

    You may also be interested in reading Hidden wounds.

    About the Author

    Sally has held national and local leadership roles within the NHS in a career spanning more than 30 years. A respected leader, passionate about improvement and inclusivity, she is trained in quality improvement methodologies and has spent the last 20 years in their practical application.

    She is also a practising coach because its rarely just about the ‘what’ you do, it’s also ‘the way that you do it’. She works with leaders of small and large teams as a thinking partner to help them be their ‘best selves’ at work: 

    • offering both challenge and support
    • encouraging curiosity and bravery
    • building confidence and resilience – few improvement journeys are plain sailing
    • and sharing a few improvement tools along the way.

    She has run collaborative improvement programmes nationally, worked with organisations facing significant challenge and over the last 2 years on the roll out of the Patient First Improvement System in Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, melding it with work that had gone before, working intensively with wards and departments to build a culture of continuous improvement. 

    She has also worked as an Investigating Officer for the Office of the Health Service Commissioner and experienced the ‘great’ and the ‘not so great’ as a carer for her own family.

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