North Essex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
In 2009 we were invited by Susan Richards, Associate Director of Workforce Development, to discuss the possibility of being involved in an innovative and exciting project. Since the organisation became a Foundation Trust it was determined that there was a need to develop and enhance the leadership skills of the clinical psychiatrists in the Trust. This was so they could become more aware of the challenges associated with funding, managing market forces and communication, managing projects, organisational change and diversity, management and leadership.
Susan and her team set up a series of five Leadership Master Classes and Workshops to take place once a month dealing with these different elements. We were invited to submit a proposal for the communication workshop. After a detailed discussion we devised two different but very practical courses both with the same ultimate aim: to build confidence, presence and excellence in communication.
Susan selected the course she felt was best suited to their needs and budget and the personalities involved.
The major challenge was to balance the group and individual tasks when working with this larger than usual number of trainees, to give them the confidence of working in a group and also the opportunity for one-to-one feedback.
The Trust booked Pontlands Park Hotel near Chelmsford, a splendid venue, for the last of their five sessions, Personal Impact and Communication Training. We got to the room early and set up our camera and recording equipment so all was ready for when the delegates arrived. The doctors were found to be very experienced at communicating one-to-one, but less confident when faced with larger audiences.
We alternated sessions of group work on the physical, emotional and intellectual aspects of preparation and performance with short individual presentations, both in impromptu mode about their lives and careers and later in the day about specific clinical topics which the doctors had previously prepared. Each of these short presentations was followed by ‘role-play’ questions. These were replayed and analysed for impact, style, content and effectiveness.
Although we were primarily addressing the doctors individually for these sections, we used each point made as a teaching tool and broadened elements when they related to others in the group, thus keeping everyone involved all of the time.
At the end of the session all the trainees got their own DVD plus a pack of Guidance Notes which covered most of the things which were likely to have been explored, including all the exercises we completed during the course of the day.
I had not realised how lively, amusing and entertaining the doctors were going to be. They had done four courses together before this one and were all very enthusiastic. They were all laughing and joking when they arrived, which was a terrific boost for the day. All the trainees were highly motivated, and interested in getting the most out of the experience. The questions were all relevant and wide-ranging, frequently prompting stimulating discussions.
Persuading doctors to prepare for speech and not print and to keep to time, proved a bit challenging. Also encouraging them to believe that ‘less can be more’ and that editing and timekeeping are important. Another area for discussion was the value and use of visual aids; convincing them that an overdependence on text-heavy visual aids wouldn’t help them and would be, in fact, a barrier to great communication.
The organisers were delighted at the success for the programme, so much so that their next Leadership Programme, which we have just completed, had double the number of attendees and we are booked to do a third session later in the year.
“I was very much impressed by the way you encouraged all and each of us to believe in ourselves when it comes to presentation. You stood among psychiatrists as if you were one of them, using very convincing psychological approaches. You managed to point to areas of strength we perhaps have not acknowledged in ourselves before and you gently pointed to areas for improvement. The whole atmosphere was great. Going home with tapes was very useful. I would definitely recommend your communication training.”
Dr Manal El-Marachy