Looking After Your Team Case Study: Manager - Social Prescribing Project

Role and Context

This Midlands-based manager co-ordinates a team of eight Social Prescribing Link Workers. The service provides support to adults who frequently attend GP surgeries or A&E with both clinical and non-clinical needs (e.g., social support, reducing isolation, debt, mental health, housing). The manager started in February 2020, one month before the first national lockdown.

Just before the Covid-19 pandemic the service had undertaken a planned restructure to widen its social prescribing offer and adapt to the changing local landscape. The manager mentioned the restructuring process ‘had been hard on the team.’   

Challenge of Covid-19 on the team

The manager said that ‘the change process was harder to manage because of Covid.’  The pandemic meant that the nature of team roles had to change quite dramatically. The social prescribers were prevented from undertaking home visits during the first lockdown, and instead the focus changed to provide greater community support, matching vulnerable patients to volunteers to arrange food and medication deliveries and provide crisis support management.

“The changes were all quite unsettling, especially with a pandemic on top, and the additional work that this caused.”

The manager’s role did not change as much as the team still needed co-ordinating and support but they felt an increased pressure to maintain team wellbeing. Being new to the management role, they were anxious about how well they were managing the team throughout this challenging period and wanted to do the absolute best for the team. Having to use exclusively remote  communications with the team caused additional strains due the lack of non-verbal cues.

“The restructure and working remotely did put some strain on the team’s relationship, because you can’t have that same rapport on-line that you have when you are in a room together or have those corridor conversations.”

How accessing the Looking After Your Team coaching helped

With a recent change in role, and the added pressure and challenges of Covid-19, the manager recognised that objective support and time of reflection was necessary for their wellbeing, and how this could in turn support the team they managed.

“I just wanted an opportunity to be listened to and do a bit of self-reflection. I wanted to make sure that I was looking after my own wellbeing, so I was in a good enough place to support and manage my team through it all.”

The manager had never had coaching before and hoped that the sessions would provide them with some tips, strategies, and reassurances that they were doing a decent job. In the coaching sessions, the manager and the coach discussed ways in which team meetings could involve more of the team so they could feel more included in decision making and develop their own leadership skills.

Other topics discussed included being prepared to have difficult conversations and planning for the varying possible outcomes.

“The good thing about the coaching was that it isn’t just something that you do for an hour, then go away and forget about it. You got to discuss ideas, challenges and solutions that can be implemented straight away.”

The manager and the coach discussed forward planning, so they were able to see and then articulate to the team the direction of change and to understand more clearly how the team and their roles would develop. With the inclusion of reflective techniques to reduce the opportunity for negative thoughts to permeate, and diarising lunchbreaks and time for their own self-reflection, the manager has found that they are able to rationalise decisions and is more re-assured of what they must do to best manage their team and have effective and clear conversations.

Team impact of the coaching

The manager mentioned how the coaching has given them more confidence that they are a good leader. The careful pre-planning has meant that they feel less worried about having the sensitive or difficult conversations with staff.

“I have become more confident in delivering these conversations and I am getting a much better outcome as well…my team have responded really positively, and they feel they have been well supported.”

At the time of the interview the manager had received four coaching sessions, with one more booked in. They believed that the coaching would lead to positive sustained behaviour and improved self-belief.

“It was really important to take the time out to have that conversation and get that support and guidance that can really make a difference…you come out of the sessions reassured and with a plan of how to progress…”