An Olympic challenge

There are two camps of Brits out there right now: those who are loving the Olympic Games build up and those who are thoroughly hating the hype.

So if you’re in the latter, stop reading this now. It is likely to provoke symptoms of agitation and possible exasperation. But if you’re an out and proud Olympics fan, then read on – this story could make your heart swell.

I work in a district general hospital where the staff turnover is low (below the national average) and long service awards are a-plenty. It’s both a positive (strong relationships in and across teams) and a negative (team morale can disproportionately suffer in challenging times).

So as we step up our communication and engagement efforts to encourage transformational change, it felt timely to measure that morale. And so, using the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement “energy” test, we asked the hospital’s top 100 employees (nurses, doctors and other healthcare professions) to tell us. My hunch – that our energy state would major on ’resigned inertia’ – was right. We’ve got a lot of downbeat staff out there.

Then just the other week, I saw quite the opposite. I watched off duty staff from one of our wards compete in their own mini Olympics fundraiser at the front of the hospital. They did it in lousy weather, with far fewer spectators than the official ones around the corner. And as I stood watching them in the freezing cold, as they ran up and down the obstacle courses, I couldn’t help but ask what was motivating them? They’d gone to a lot of effort. Equipment had been loaned from a school, a bouncy castle had been borrowed, they’d sat down to plan and manage the event and, above all, staff had bothered to come in on their day off. These people were neither inert nor resigned.

Here’s why I think they did it. They have a great leader in their lead nurse. She connects with people across the hospital and outside it, she’s a great communicator, her energy levels are off the scale and she’s keen to try new ideas. She is inspirational and her team adore her. They can see her vision (absolutely amazing care for elderly and dementia patients), they can feel her passion and they want a piece of it. It’s that simple.

So while our overall energy levels need some tlc, there are pockets where it’s hugely productive and positive. What we need to do next is understand the measurable success factors in those teams and benchmark against them. If we do that, while continuing to frame our organisational challenge as a positive one, we might just have ourselves a winning team.

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