Looking After You Too Case Study: Chris Complin – Business Manager

Role and Context

Chris is a Business Manager, managing a small village practice in Hampshire, covering around 10,000 patients in the local community. The practice employs three GP Partners and three salaried GPs. The practice has a largely retired population who regard the practice as central to the village and there is a high level of patient expectation.

Chris has worked as a Practice Business Manager in primary care for almost nine years (this is the third practice that he has worked for) and overseen mergers as well undertaking work to deliver new models of care (as part of the NHS ‘Vanguard’ programme). Prior to working in primary care, Chris had a career in the Royal Navy for 27 years.

Challenge of Covid-19 on own wellbeing

At the time of the interview, the practice was about to undergo a merger with two other practices they had been working together with for several years. The Covid-19 pandemic had acted as a catalyst for a more collaborative approach, and consequently the practices took the decision to merge their operations at short notice, enabling them to maintain a high level of service for patients in their community.

“It really was people just picking up their desks and moving to another practice, getting all of their IT working and everything else. Over a Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday we kind of rolled into a Monday, middle of March last year, with the teams all working together with people they had not worked with before.”

The merger resulted in a change of role for Chris, who took a lead on compliance and worked closely with the Practice Managers they had merged with. Although the three Business Managers still had an allegiance to their individual practices, trust had been built between the three of them and the relationship has matured over time.

Chris commented that over the past year throughout the pandemic, all staff at the practice had to constantly adapt to deliver patient care in new ways and ensure that the practice was ready to respond to evolving patient needs and government guidance. He commented that the pressures were like those he had experienced when on deployment in the Navy, without having had an opportunity to decompress.

Chris found that he was taking work home with him (logging into his emails when not at the practice) and was aware of increasing tensions between tired managerial staff.

How Looking After You Too coaching helped

Chris had taken time off work over Christmas 2019, following a stressful period, and accessed support through The Veterans Mental Health and Wellbeing Service at the NHS.  When the Covid-19 pandemic began, Chris knew the importance of looking after his wellbeing. He came across the Looking After You Too service when researching support for a colleague in the practice, and he realised he too could benefit from it and signed up.  One benefit of the service was the sense of ease the coach provided.

“It’s obvious they know what they’re doing, it just feels safe.”

Chris discussed rising tensions at work, his time management, and his difficulty in ‘logging off’ from work at the end of the day. The coach encouraged Chris to build detachment from work into his day. As he lives close to work, he often returns home without having had sufficient time to switch off from work. Now, he sometimes takes himself on a detour and “puts some really rubbish music on and has a right good sing song”. The coach advised him not to log back into work emails when at home and he now spends time with friends after work.

“I look after myself…I’ve certainly learnt through the coaching sessions as well that, as managers, that we can really make sure we get that downtime, because the sprint that has gone on to be a marathon is still going on and you can see it in everybody now.”

Chris has decided to reduce his working hours and takes a proper break from work every seven weeks or so, as he mentioned “I know now that is about my limit.”  He has also spent time with his coach discussing relationships at managerial level. Chris was aware that he has a direct management style, and there were tensions at work as people were adjusting to their new roles. Chris realised that his communication was not “landing right”, resulting in team frustrations. The coach suggested new communication techniques for Chris to try, including encouraging him to share his feelings about issues he was trying to address rather than assuming how others felt.

Impact of the coaching

Chris has completed two lots of four coaching sessions and thought his colleagues have noticed a change in him.    

“They [the partners] can see the difference, they have been hugely supportive since I had my time off, and they can see the difference it makes to me as an individual and then, for them, running their business.”

He feels confident that through the coaching he and his colleagues received, personal relationships within the practice had improved which resulted in better service provision.

Chris has also encouraged more colleagues in the practice to access the coaching service, as he recognised the positive impact it has had and believed that others would also benefit from the wellbeing support the coaching provides.

“It’s certainly improved relationships, which is then helping us to deliver a better service.”