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Dealing with COVID-19 change – how some teams are responding and thriving.

Over the past month or so, I have been closely observing and questioning clients and colleagues in healthcare to understand how they and their teams are dealing with the COVID-19 situation. There is no doubt that these are unusual times – the challenges and solutions needed are changing daily, advice is changing regularly, risks are increasing.

On top of that, there is illness, death, sadness and fear – emotions are high.

So, how are my connections in healthcare going? Obviously there is tiredness, overwhelm, anxiety. Yet I have been curious to see the ability of healthcare workers and teams to adapt with rapidly changing situations, to innovate, and to quickly implement solutions. And these are not everyday solutions that are required – many of the issues are unprecedented – lack of equipment and supplies, logistics and transport restrictions, health and hygiene catastrophes.

Looking across those I have observed, and those I have talked with, a few common themes keep appearing in people and teams who are coping reasonably well with the crisis. By ‘coping’ I mean being able to deal with challenges constructively, avoid burnout and overwhelm, and maintain positive team cohesion. And for some, they are even able to thrive.

The themes observed are:

  1. Adaptability
  2. Positive mindsets
  3. Fast learning
  4. Strong connections
  5. Mood monitoring

Adaptability

Consistently through this crisis, people in healthcare (and beyond) have demonstrated an ability to adapt. And quickly. Sometimes information has changed several times a day, and people have needed to process new information and develop new strategies. Now I’ve worked in healthcare for over 25 years, and in my opinion, it’s not generally an industry that makes changes rapidly. Yet necessity, and a deep understanding of the severity of the situation, has spurred healthcare into action! Teams may have been stressed, yet they have still demonstrated resilience and perseverance in times of rapid change.

Positive mindsets

Just prior to the escalation of COVID-19 globally, I set up a Facebook group for healthcare managers and teams to connect and learn. It’s called We Lead Healthcare. With growing numbers over the past few weeks, it’s been interesting to see what people most engage with inside the group. It’s an active, content-filled space, with good balance of members from across all types of healthcare roles. I thought initially that people might engage most with the “What challenges do you have?” discussions. Instead, what I am seeing, is a higher proportion of discussion and posting around the more positive-leaning posts – things like “What are you most proud of?” and “How are you getting balance?” It’s reinforced how positive mindsets can impact those around you in productive ways. How it builds resilience during tough times, and how it can help you thrive despite the chaos.

Fast learning

I guess this could be classified under ‘adaptability’. I’ve singled it out though because it’s been so evident in many of the successful teams I’ve observed. This is the ability to try something, understand when it doesn’t work, and adjust implementation to address new issues. It’s the ability to seek insights from other teams, fine-tune them to a unique position, and implement others’ ideas. It’s the ability to detect that ‘something’s not right’, assess the situation and change behaviours. Sure there have been mistakes, you could call some ideas failures. Yet something has always been learnt. These teams have quickly understood an error, accepted it didn’t work, acknowledged learning and pivoted to adjust.

Strong connections

We can’t always handle crises on our own. And a pandemic requires a collective approach. From my observations, those teams who’ve coped best are the ones that already had strong bonds; solid connections. Prior to COVID-19, these teams had trust, a shared understanding, agreed values, common goals. They knew how to have healthy disagreements, problem-solve, and celebrate success. They were already deeply committed to the team’s success. This has made them rock-solid, even when it felt like normalcy was crumbling around them. It doesn’t mean they haven’t experienced high stress or conflict, or that it’s been ‘plain-sailing’. It just means that they were better equipped to handle challenges effectively.

Mood monitoring

This speaks to individuals and the team. Even with all the anxiety and fear rising to the front of society’s focus, I’ve seen individuals and teams move beyond paralysis and thrive. Looking into this more closely, it seems that these people have the ability and determination to monitor their own mood, that of the team, and even that of those around them. They are acutely aware that emotions and mood can be contagious too. They know that their emotions trigger their behaviours, and there is a flow on impact onto others. So they monitor their thought patterns and emotions. They observe cues in others. And they adjust their thoughts and behaviours accordingly. In so doing, they do not contribute to the sense of anxiety and fear. They do not heighten others’ concerns. They ask for help if they feel overwhelmed. And they keep track of one another to offer support where needed.

A pandemic is a global crisis. It impacts us all. And we each respond in our own unique way. Yet when we look at those amongst us who thrive despite the challenges, we can observe some common attributes and actions. When we look at the team level, we can identify common strengths.

These 5 factors here are simply my observations over the course of this crisis so far. What have you observed?

Interested in joining a healthcare movement to create extraordinary teams that transform the lives of managers, employees and patients, and positively impact (at least) 10,000 communities? Then check out our free and private Facebook group – We Lead Healthcare. 

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