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  • Standing tall in the storm, a blog by Sally Howard

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    We know the link between anxiety, stress, burnout and patient safety. This blog from Sally Howard suggests four things we can do to help us stand tall and continue to grow from strength to strength, both for ourselves and for our teams.


    As I write this, I am one of the lucky people who can stay at home today, coach NHS colleagues, notice a storm raging and write this blog. Yes, it’s 18 February 2022, the day when many records of wind speed are being broken and our services stand tall against the odds (again).

    So how are you as we continue our march into March? We have an overwhelming demand for services, but you are still the brilliant you. Here’s four things that may help you continue to stand tall:  

    1. Take a moment to reflect on your contributions

    The last 2 years have been tough, exhausting, but you have offered your best under the most challenging of circumstances. Take a step back, just for a moment. Take a proper look at your contributions. There will be things you say you could have done better (we are often our own harshest critics) but you have made a real difference. Allow yourself the opportunity to appreciate your contribution, how you kept your patients safe. Talk to your colleagues about this. Individually and collectively, you can feel very proud.

    2. Seek out feedback

    Sometimes people say they don’t receive feedback; it maybe they are too overwhelmed to receive it, others may be too busy to offer it. Whatever the reason, seek it out.

    Appraisal meetings are a good starting point. Prepare for it, ask that all important question "How am I doing?". Check in in with colleagues – how did that go, what else could I be doing? The Healthcare Leadership Model also offers a great structured 360 opportunity.

    3. What’s next?

    As a coach, I often reference the magic triangle, especially when I work with people who have lost their mojo or are just secretly wondering whether it’s time for a new opportunity. A great job will give you:

    1. Enjoyment – you can’t wait to get to work.
    2. Challenge – you may have this daily, weekly. It can be exhausting but it’s also exhilarating. Supporting your team through the tough stuff, problem solving, enabling the right response. It’s what you do best.
    3. Learning – in the right role for you, there will be learning.

    If these three things are still very much in balance, great. If not it may be time to be thinking about your next role. No rush but it may be a consideration.

    4. Look after yourself and each other

    As I have said before in earlier blogs, seeking support is a sign of strength not weakness. There are services both internally and outside your organisation. In terms of external support, in the South East, the NHS Leadership Academy offers a ‘crisis coaching’ service: Coaching in a Crisis – South East Leadership Academy. Across the country, coaching and mentoring support is available via the NHS Leadership Academy: Coaching and Mentoring – Leadership Academy – just click on local coaching and mentoring offers.

    Thanks for reading this. With my best wishes for the months ahead.

    "She stood in the storm and when the wind did not blow her away, she adjusted her sails" Elizabeth Edwards

    Read some of Sally's other blogs:

    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 a topic lead for the hub focussing on leading for improvement. 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.

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