Provide – Strengthening team working and team leadership resulting in outstanding ratings

Context

Provide CIC is one of the largest social enterprises in the NHS. They employ around 1,000 people who work largely in remote teams across a widely dispersed area of approximately 100 miles radius of Colchester. They provide a range of health and social care services for a range of healthcare commissioners, local government and healthcare organisations. This is delivered through approximately 55 teams which largely consist of nurses, allied health professionals and support staff.

Two years ago, the organisation was facing a number of challenges. The greatest of which was the need to build a genuine sense of “team” across their workforce. This was caused in large part by the fact that the contracts the organisation delivers begin and end more often than a service would typically be delivered within an organisation, requiring people to move in and out of teams every couple of years, and causing major disruption. The same contract issue means that there have typically been challenges in creating shared values across the organisation given that employees are so remote from the headquarters and each other, and often working under the banner of another organisation through sub-contracted services. The third major challenge the organisation faced was in enhancing leadership when managers hadn’t been provided with leadership development opportunities in the past, particularly those with a clinical background.

Approach

The Chief Executive, Rob Tinlin, and the Organisation Development (OD) team of the Council recognised that key to enhancing engagement, innovation and efficiency was leadership capacity across the organisation. At the same time, it was acknowledged that leadership culture could not change unless it was led from the very top of the organisation. Rob Tinlin and his Executive Team were very willing to accept this reality, and agreed that the programme of culture change should start with them personally.

A compelling “bridge” model was designed by the OD team to illustrate the programme. It described how Resilience and Growth could build capacity and capability to consider how Focused Performance would lead to change. Engaging Leadership being the underpinning theory and the keystone that joins the two, this model’s approach to balancing change and stability.

Team Development Programme

The programme started with a launch event attended by the CEO, Senior Directors and next two layers of management. This enabled the start of a shared vision of the future, particularly in relation to the leadership behaviours, values and culture that would support future success in today’s challenging climate.

The next step was rolling out a programme of team development, in which each of the 55 teams would be able to reflect on how they perceived their culture and competence using multi-source feedback, and compare their perceptions of themselves as a team with the perceptions of other teams and stakeholders around them. Being able to understand and act on their own shared perceptions, and those of others was intended to provide evidence on which each team could create a meaningful and effective development plan, and celebrate strengths.

To achieve this, the Real World Group Engaging Team 360 was applied across all teams in the organisation, including those of senior Directors. This instrument is based on the key leadership and team behaviours that are addressed in the article, and has been validated in longitudinal research. To increase internal capacity across Provide, a number of individuals from the organisation were trained to administer the 360 instrument, and to facilitate the feedback workshops.

Across the course of 18 months, each team was provided with a 2 hour briefing session in which they had the diagnostic tool introduced to them, including a summary of the research behind it, and how it would enable team members to enhance performance at the same time as increasing wellbeing. Team members collectively agreed who their reviewers would be at the end of this workshop. The team choosing their own reviewers is a key part of helping to ensure that they felt they were in control of the process, and that they would accept the feedback provided, whether it was positive or challenging.

Once feedback had been gathered, the line manager of the team was provided with their own report of their leadership style and impact, according to their team and the other stakeholders. The report also included the team’s own feedback. To help them interpret and build on the feedback, each line manager was provided with a confidential, 90 minute 1-2-1 feedback session. They and their team then came back together for a half day feedback workshop a couple of days later. During this workshop, the team members learned a lot about each other, and how they are experienced by other teams, their manager and external stakeholders. Line managers were encouraged to share aspects of their own feedback to further enhance the collective development process.

Managers who were more senior than the team line manager had sight of the team reports (but not the line managers’ own report). This enables them to understand how well their direct reports are running their own teams. Where there appear to be clear leadership challenges, these line managers were provided with further leadership development and coaching. This enabled them to strengthen not only their own leadership but also their team’s effectiveness further. 

An additional part of the next phase of the programme was the Board of Provide undertaking 360 degree feedback as a team. This has been a key part of the process given that the Board understands that they must role model the importance of gathering feedback from others, and the leadership and team culture that they expect from the wider organisation. This was utilising a different multisource feedback instrument (Board Leadership & Governance 360) that closely mirrors the Engaging Team 360.

Results

Feedback from Provide so far has been extremely positive. Teams and their line managers have felt that they’ve very much benefited from the activity, especially in relation to improving team spirit, bonding, and the quality of service that they provide. The senior OD team have gathered lots of positive feedback from the organisation and feel that there has already been a positive shift in the culture in terms of the key issues they initially faced.

Teams proactively shared their reports with CQC inspectors in the most recent organisational inspection, and the CQC were impressed with this comprehensive approach to developing leadership and team culture. The resulting CQC rating from the overall inspection indicated that Provide is Outstanding.

Executive HR and OD Director, Richard Atienza-Hawkes, says

The process has helped teams to understand their interdependence not only with each other, but with other internal and external teams with whom they interact. This heightened awareness has led to teams taking time out to better understand each other, building their marketing and communication approaches with internal and external stakeholders and driving system changes that improve the service delivery quality, safety and efficiency.”

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