IHI webinar: Reflections on leading in a crisis

Picture of Jason Williams

Published on 19 May 2020 at 21:35

by Jason Williams

IHI Covid19 Webinar

Today saw another inspiring and thought-provoking IHI virtual learning hour from the COVID-19 special series. The topic in focus today being 'reflections on leading in a crisis', with guest speakers Jason Leitch (National Clinical Director, Scottish Government) and Kate Slemeck (CEO, Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust).


With so many great stories and insights shared it is hard to distill the learning into a few key points, but here are my personal takeaways from the session …


QI tools used to frame leadership approach

The Scottish Government framed their approach to leading the country through the crisis using a Driver Diagram. With the aim of 'delivering clear, accountable leadership in a pandemic' the three main drivers were split out into: open and transparent communication, creating a safe culture, and reflective practice and support.


This use of the driver diagram reminded me of the power of this tool in distilling and communicating actions needed to tackle a complex problem. 


Communicate using the channels people use, not just the ones you use

Jason Leitch talked about the diverse set of channels they have been using to share information with the public and facilitate dialogue. Highlighting the importance of adapting your style and medium to suit the different audiences you are communicating with. His example focused on liaising with the public, but this is equally applicable to internal communications.


Focus on what matters to those you lead

Kate Slemeck discussed how before the pandemic the Royal Free had already embarked on a 'what matters to you' Joy in Work programme which had highlighted themes of: team work, feeling safe, and feeling you can make changes. During the crisis these themes haven't changed and if anything have been reinforced and actions to address them accelerated. 


For me this highlighted the importance of already knowing what matters to staff. Without this it would be incredible difficult to pay attention to that during a time of crisis.


How to hold on to the best improvements

This was a popular topic on the webinar chat thread which both Kate and Jason responded to. A couple of their messages really resonated with me ...


Kate described how some of the recent changes now have enough momentum behind them that people would not want to revert back to the previous state. This seemed like a pretty good indicator that those changes are here to stay, whilst others may revert or be further adapted.


Jason highlighted the importance of looking at the balancing measures - look out for unintended consequences have been brought about by recent changes (such as a resurgence in central line infections). Whilst many of the recent changes be have been necessary and beneficial we must stay alert to the potential for knock-on impacts to quality and safety.


Our leaders have led with compassion

During the session the audience were polled on what characterised the leadership they had witnessed during this crisis. There were and array of responses but the leading sentiment was clearly - compassionate. A warming reflection on our healthcare leaders, even during times of crisis and stress.



Thank you IHI for yet another fascinating learning and sharing session. Big thanks to Pedro DelgadoSusan Hannah and the IHI team for continuing to organise and host such a helpful series of sessions.



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