What’s your best-fit coaching style?

Our quality improvement project support officer, Kate Phillips reflects on her learning from the West of England Academy Improvement Coach Programme…

I recently took part in a great two-day improvement coaching event hosted by the West of England AHSN, funded by The Health Foundation. The event was attended by 26 of the West of England Qs, a group of people who I am really enjoying getting to know as we share a passion for driving quality improvement (QI) in healthcare. Sue Mellor and Dee Wilkinson, our fabulous facilitators, guided us through three coaching approaches with an emphasis on finding our ‘best fit’ coaching style. This encouragement for honest reflection ensured I left with a bounty of personalised counselling tools.

We started the course by working out our Honey and Mumford personality type which led to conversations around team dynamics and how to make the most of individual talents. I felt a sense of belonging and of ‘finding my people’ as the room was buzzing with personality type ‘private’ jokes. A particularly comical moment was when three ‘activists’ were first up to grab the board pen, while the ‘theorists’ were still discussing the merits of the process!

I initially joined the ‘pragmatists’ as I thrive on finding evidence-based logical solutions. However, following an insightful conversation with a colleague, I scooted myself closer to the ‘reflectors’. She had noticed how I often approach tasks with a reflector mindset, which I reckon comes from a desire to learn best practice from more experienced colleagues (experienced in QI and identifying personality types!).

Having very recently made a jaunty sidestep away from a career in teaching, I am still finding my QI feet… Interestingly I think personality types are fluid and can change depending on the situation we find ourselves in.

For example, if I was to stroll back into a classroom and teach a class about displacement reactions (fire!) you would see a pragmatic Kate, but put me in the office answering the phone you would firstly see me very flustered as I juggle the telephone voice, demands of the caller and transferring the call. However after my heart rate has returned to baseline, I will reflect on the success of the phone call and how I can make it less of an ordeal next time (more fire?).

As I’m sure a lot of QI projects involve taking people out of their comfort zones, I think it is important to recognise that personality types may take a detour away from ‘the norm’ during the changing situation. I can imagine this having quite a big impact on team dynamics.

As the two-day programme unfolded, Sue and Dee skilfully balanced theory-based learning with opportunities to ‘play’ with different coaching approaches, always with the focus on our own QI projects. We worked in triads to explore the benefits of three different coaching approaches:

GROW – Goal, Reality, Options, Will

CLEAR – Contracting, Listening, Exploring, Actions, Review

OSCAR – Outcome, Situation, Choices, Actions, Review.

As both coach and coachee, the chance to experiment with these approaches and to work with different Qs was an invaluable opportunity for me.

As a coach I grasped the power of suspending judgement, in allowing silence to fall in a conversation and the truth that can be discovered by tapping into the conversation energy level as it peaked and troughed. My favourite approach was GROW, as I found the acronym was easy to remember and the conversation often flowed quite naturally along this path.

In the position of a coachee I learnt to approach the conversation honestly and openly. As a result I was rewarded with multiple light bulb moments as QI ideas and feelings bubbled to the surface, simply drawn out with a few pertinent questions and some very active, active listening. I’d like to thank my triads for these delicious moments of clarity.

I left the programme feeling excited by the power of listening and empowered by the ability to harness a 15 minute time slot. My enthusiasm was echoed amongst the other delegates. “It’s powerful stuff for fostering change,” said one.

I’d love to hear your own thoughts and tips about using coaching to promote and accelerate QI projects. You’ll find me on twitter at @IamKateP or @weahsn.

Hot off the press! Our guide to Quality Improvement

Our new Guide to Quality Improvement (QI) is a handy, A5 sized handbook, which explains what QI science is all about and how it can be used to deliver safer and better patient care.

It provides a summary of our five-phase Improvement Journey, our methodology for making change happen, and a useful introduction to some basic QI tools.

It is designed to encourage healthcare staff across the West of England to learn more about QI using the resources on our Academy academy web pages, and to get involved with local improvement projects.

Download a PDF version of the handbook here.

Alternatively if you would like a printed copy of the handbook, please email academy@weahsn.net.

Join us on the Improvement Journey

The West of England Academy aims to increase the number of staff across our member organisations who have the knowledge, skill and confidence to plan and deliver sustainable improvements to patient safety and care.

A key element of our strategy is the introduction of Improvement Coaches; volunteers who are already experienced in the use of basic improvement science who will have the opportunity to develop their coaching skills and enhance their own knowledge of improvement so they can direct, guide and coach colleagues in the use of practical tools and techniques – that will help enhance services in order to drive better patient care.

We were overwhelmed with the number of applicants for our first cohort of Improvement coaches from 19 of our 21 healthcare member organisations, but have had to limit the number to 50 coaches who will start on 1 March 2016. Planning is already underway for a second cohort to start in the autumn.

The interest and enthusiasm shown indicates we will achieve our ambition to expand our community of Improvement fellows across the West – experts who will be at the cutting edge of new developments in improvement science.

But all staff can develop their knowledge and skill for making improvements happen. Our Improvement Journey online toolkit will be launched this spring and available to all.

The Improvement Journey is a five-phase method for planning and delivering a quality improvement project. However complex the improvements you wish to make, our ‘journey’ will take you through a logical approach and provide a suite of tools for you to choose from that will help you to successfully implement changes.

At its heart, the Improvement Journey encourages small-scale tests of change to see whether these will lead to improvements, prior to formal implementation.

For more information on either Improvement Coaches or our Improvement Journey, visit the West of England Academy pages or contact david.evans@weahsn.net.

Nurturing a network of Improvement Coaches

The West of England Academy now underpins all the learning and development activities we organise and deliver and aims to continually increase the number of healthcare professionals across the region with the skills and knowledge to deliver long-term, sustainable improvements in patient care. As part of this, we are setting up and training a new network of Improvement Coaches.

These Improvement Coaches will be staff from our member organisations who can support colleagues to plan and deliver improvement projects that will make a real and positive difference to patient safety and care.

We are inviting Chief Executive Officers from each organisation to select up to three members of their staff to take on this role. Nominations are required by 8 January 2016.

The ideal Improvement Coach will have experience of using basic improvement tools in the planning, testing and implementation of a change that has led to a measurable improvement in their organisation. They will be in a position of influence within the organisation and, as enthusiasts for improvement, they will relish the opportunity to learn how to coach others.

The induction training will consist of three offsite training days and two 90-minute webinars. Further WebEx and face-to-face training will be provided through an optional rolling training programme to continually build capability within a network of peers who will be encouraged to share and learn from one another.

For those who miss out in this first wave, there will be further opportunities as more cohorts are established later in 2016 and 2017.

The longer term ambition is to build a network of Improvement Coaches within each health community to support delivery of the Five Year Forward Plan, by offering each other peer support, accessing advanced master classes and sharing knowledge and learning.

At the same time, the West of England Academy will continue to encourage and support all staff keen to use improvement tools and techniques to deliver better care for their by providing online access to tools and templates.

If you wish to apply to be an Improvement Coach, please speak to your Chief Executive for an application form. You’ll also need to get executive sponsorship to support your application.

The deadline for the submission of applications is 8 January 2016.

For more information contact:

David Evans, QI Programme Manager
0117 900 2249
david.evans@weahsn.net