Looking After Your Team Case Study: Simon - Lead GP and PCN member

Role and Context

Simon is a lead GP in his practice based in Liverpool, and alongside his clinical duties he also represents his practice in his regional Primary Care Network (PCN), which was the ‘team’ he accessed the Looking After Your Team coaching service about.

At the time of the interview a lot of the discussion both in his practice and the PCN centred around the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out, and how that was being managed by the local GP surgeries, as well as the appointment of additional roles that had become necessary throughout the pandemic to support primary care (for example, pharmacists, social prescribers, pharmacy technicians and other healthcare professionals). His practice, along with another, had led the administration and the general provision of the vaccine programme, with many staff heavily involved. 

Challenge of Covid-19 on the team

Simon mentioned that in general the pandemic had meant that ‘it was a challenging time logistically with having to arrange or re-arrange everything in the practice’. Although the PCN ‘shone in terms of the delivery of the vaccine programme’, he mentioned that there were some challenging communications between network participants which were becoming difficult to manage. Simon had personally been involved in the PCN for approaching three years, and although the network had been crucial in developing enhanced services for the region, he believed this could only occur if all those involved in the network worked together, which could at times be difficult.

“General practices are not used to working with each other, so working with the PCN has been a steep learning curve. You are obliged to work with people that you have not chosen to work with because of the geographics and location… it can be challenging and time consuming and headspace consuming.”

Simon had recognised that there had been some conflict with another PCN member, and this was beginning to have an impact on other team members. Having had coaching in previous roles, he thought that the Looking After Your Team service could help in this situation.

How accessing the Looking After Your Team coaching helped

The coach helped Simon to ‘get underneath’ the issue, and to gain some perspective on how to resolve the problems that were emerging and to find a way to collaboratively move the PCN work and team relationships forward.

“They helped me to remove the pettiness from the situation and they asked questions to really focus on what the relevant core issues were and to make a plan to address them in a way that was likely to work.”

Simon discussed that once the ‘what needed to change’ questions were resolved, the focus of the coaching was then able to address the ‘how’. The coach discussed taking a ‘values-based approach’, which allowed Simon to consider addressing the issues in a balanced way, but also not compromising himself when addressing the situation. Another technique the coach suggested was to think about the situation from the other person’s perspective and to try and understand why they may be approaching the situation in a particular way. This meant that in meetings space needed to be provided for team members to voice their concerns in a non-combative atmosphere.

“One of the main points I took from the coaching was really the importance of putting yourself in other people’s shoes. This is actually quite difficult, especially if the issues to resolve are large, because you have to give people the space to tell you where their shoes are.”

The coach also provided tips to help develop governance processes in the PCN. This included setting agendas for meetings, understanding who was responsible for what aspects of the PCN work, and to decide on what going forward would be the main issues that the PCN should be focussing on.

Active listening to recognise what other PCN members were saying, taking time to reflect on important conversations, and preparation for meetings were all practical tips that the coach was able to provide Simon. Although Simon felt that ‘I did a lot of talking and the coach did a lot of listening’ he felt that the coaching had provided greater insight into how ‘teams’ work and how to have affective conversations.

Team impact of the coaching

Simon said, ‘I would not have been as successful in the big team meeting as I was, without the coaching.’ He felt that the ability for the team to work together towards common PCN goals had improved and there was a more productive and easier going atmosphere. Although he admitted that there was still some way to go to resolve all the underlying issues, Simon commented how the coaching had been integral in getting the process underway.

“The process is still being taken and more actions still needs to be taken. But this is a process, and it is about being accountable for your behaviour and that is what people are starting to do… because of the coaching I was able to understand where I was coming from and why. There was a need to be open and honest… I was able to identify that and work with that to the benefit of what we are trying to do.”

Simon discussed how he will keep using the techniques the coaching provided, as he felt that they were gaining the trust and confidence from other PCN members, and PCN members were showing greater willingness to see improvement with more people finding their voice in PCN meetings and feeling able to contribute effectively. 

“The team coaching has certainly helped me with what I needed to do with the team and given the how’s and the why I needed to do it… it gave me the confidence to go and talk to other colleagues and I got a very receptive response.”