Waiting at the top of the hill

We have been talking to a number of our clients who, having made urgent preparations to provide expanded intensive care services to patients with severe symptoms from Covid-19, are feeling they have marched to the ‘top of the hill’ and are now left waiting there; on alert and ready to deal with a sudden influx of seriously ill patients to their departments and the inevitable strain on staff and resources that would follow. However, thanks (so far) to the magnificent response of the general public to the lockdown, the NHS has been able to manage the rise in critically-ill patients. In many areas outside London and other big cities, the lockdown has worked; the number of patients requiring intensive care is (for the present) much lower than was feared six weeks ago and the upward curve in new infections is levelling off.

What hasn’t levelled off though is that heightened state of anxiety; the knowledge that the situation could turn at any moment. As a result, our clients are asking us how they might best deal with these feelings of apprehension and how they can best work for and with their teams who also feel anxious.

What coaching provides is the space to be able to reflect, to think out loud and to speak openly and honestly. In our 1-1s with senior NHS executives we provide that space. Working long hours and under huge pressures leaves little time for personal reflection but it is essential that leaders do because, when it comes to leadership, how they are and who they are is even more important. In times of rapid change and upheaval, a team will expect its leader to demonstrate clarity of thought and action; to create a culture where people feel that it’s all manageable. That’s a tough ask of anyone, so allowing oneself the time to stop, sit back and have that internal and external dialogue about ‘how do I manage while I wait at the top of the hill’ is essential.

Through coaching, we are enabling our clients to embrace the importance of ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’ and encouraging them to ‘take a picnic at the top of the hill’ as it were – to make the time to reflect in order to recalibrate. And this kind of reflection will hopefully give them reinvigorated self-belief and remind them that they are brilliant people, which in turn may reduce their anxiety and so that of their team.

There is a lot to be said for the old adage ‘Keep calm and carry on’ in times of adversity. Our advice to the amazing people we’re coaching through the current crisis is ‘Take a pause, reflect and regroup, and then carry on.’

If you’d like to talk to us about the challenges you’re facing as an NHS senior manager and think coaching could help you, drop us an email to beBrilliant@ox-exec.com.

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