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  • I think you’re on mute… a blog by Sally Howard

    Sally Howard
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    In her latest blog, Sally Howard talks about the importance now more than ever of listening to and looking after each other.

    • Making your voice heard.
    • Listening to and appreciating those around you.
    • Looking after yourself.


    Anyone who has the pleasure of virtual meetings in the current climate will hear the phrase "I think you’re on mute" at least two or three times a week. And this may not be the only place where people feel they are ‘on mute’. The dangers we know: voices unheard, frustrations hidden, staff feeling overwhelmed, undervalued. So if this is you, here’s three simple tips that may help:

    Make time to talk things through 1:1

    Create a safe space to talk things through with a trusted colleague, maybe your boss or a colleague, a good friend or a trained coach. The NHS Leadership Academy offers access to trained coaches: https://www.leadershipacademy.nhs.uk/resources/coaching-register/.

    Make time for a 5–10 minute daily check-in with people around you

    Less a luxury more a necessity, especially now. A lot of teams have daily huddles in place. It’s a time to listen, a time to ask the right questions and have your say. What you think, what you see; your great ideas matter.

    Appreciate those around you

    Nancy Kline recommends a 5 to 1 ratio of praise to criticism. It really does work.

    And finally be kind to yourself

    Years ago a brilliant colleague recommended her three treats approach:

    A daily treat Maybe a special coffee or a just take a bit of fresh air during another long shift

    A weekly treat Long walk, lovely meal, whatever gets you in a happy place,

    A monthly treat Very long walk (only joking) – you’ll think of something.

    "You can buy your employees' time and muscle... but their hearts and minds come free.” Stephen Covey

    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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    Hi Sally

    Hope you're well. Thanks again for another great blog. 

    Very useful! My husband and I do go on very long walks - rather muddy now we're into autumn.

    Praise to criticism ratio of 5 to 1. Gulp, not sure whether I achieve that. Especially with my young adult kids!,



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    Hi Helen - lovely to hear from you - yes the 5:1 ratio takes a bit of practice - we are moving house just now and I think I may be unintentionally offering 1:5!

    Speak soon


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