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October 2023: Feedback

It seems like forever ago that we were inundated with first day of school social media posts with the shiny shoes, oversized rucksacks and blazers that “they’ll definitely grow into” but here we are at the start of October already. Autumn is my absolute favourite time of year, and I am completely ready to embrace the colder weather and better TV (Layton has my vote on Strictly and Saku is my favourite baker).

In September we welcomed the next cohort of the Trainee Leadership Board (TLB) and I have been blown away with how they are embracing the challenge with open minds and positive attitudes, and I can’t wait to see what they achieve over the next few months. I will keep you updated on their progress but in the meantime, if you’d like to, you can find out more about the Trainee Leadership Board.

This month I wanted to talk a bit about feedback, which felt timely after we have all completed our appraisals, so I have taken some time to reflect on how beneficial but also how difficult it can be for us on either side of the table.

What do I like about getting feedback? Well, like most people, I get that nice warm feeling when I get some positive feedback, particularly when it’s about something I’ve been working really hard on like a project or even some personal development. It makes me feel good to know that other people appreciate my work and makes me want to continue working hard and doing a great job. However, as much as we all enjoy giving and receiving positive feedback like that, and we do all need a bit of positive encouragement to feel motivated and appreciated, that’s really the easy bit and that alone is not enough to push and challenge us to reach our full potential.

Negative feedback can be hard to take, and to give, but is it really negative if we are learning how to look at things from a different perspective or realising that our work could be even better if we developed in a few areas? It may not always be conveyed in the form of a constructive learning opportunity but if we take feedback in the right way then it can always be a chance to reflect, grow and accomplish even more. I think the first thing we need to do is reframe our thinking and see all feedback as a gift that could get you to a place you may not have reached by yourself. Whether it’s a line manager doing your appraisal, a colleague making a suggestion or a patient telling you how they felt about their appointment, all these people are offering you the opportunity to gather some valuable insight into your practice which may be just what you need.

Once again, I am going to use this blog to keep myself accountable and make some pledges about the way I give and receive feedback. These are mostly things that I have learnt from various colleagues and mentors, some things from training courses I have recently attended, and some have formed somewhere in my own brain:

  1. Always be honest when giving feedback and don’t be afraid to challenge or offer a different viewpoint in a constructive way, rather than only focusing on the positives
  2. Reframe thinking about whether ‘negative feedback’ is, in fact, negative and take more time to reflect and draw out the learning opportunity, even if it is sometimes hard to find
  3. Actively seek out opportunities to receive feedback and to be thankful to anyone who takes the time to offer it
  4. Always be open-minded to opinions, ideas and suggestions from others and welcome different viewpoints and perspectives which may offer different insights to make a piece of work even better.

Whether you’re new in your role and looking to progress, you’re taking on a QI project or perhaps you manage a large team of people, take some time to reflect on how you give and receive feedback and think about any changes you could make to develop yourself as a clinician and a leader.

Getting to know our BHT board…

As well as offering personal reflections, insight into the board affiliate role and demystifying the work of the BHT Board, this blog is also the place where we can learn a bit more about the people who sit around the Board table. Our Board members take on some of the toughest challenges that our organisation faces, enabling us to provide the best care for our patients in a safe and comfortable environment.

One such Board member with the unenviable task of managing our money is Chief Finance Officer, Jon Evans. This month Jon has kindly agreed to share his thoughts and experiences of working in BHT, as well us telling us a little bit more about what he gets up to outside of work.

Q. Jon, what is the best bit about being the Chief Finance Officer at BHT?

A. Being fortunate enough to work in such a positive, engaging organisation.

It is a privilege to help shape the delivery of healthcare across Bucks, by making the best possible decisions on creating and moving resources to places that will add the most benefit to the communities we serve.

Q. What has been your biggest challenge in your role so far?

A. Joining the Trust as we adjust and meet a redefined set of expectations following the pandemic has been the biggest challenge so far. Not having the historic knowledge, the challenging expectations on recovery and the significant period of governance-lite, when the rigour of understanding the benefits and impact of decisions was understandably relaxed, has made understanding changes made during the period of the pandemic and since, and more importantly what we do in response, challenging.

We have been highly successful in recruiting colleagues in recent years. One of the biggest challenges for us now is to maximise the benefit of this to improve our productivity to provide benefits to our patients. In particular faster access to services and treatment, and to enable investment in our clinical services, digital and our estate.

Q. What are you most excited about in BHT over the next 12 months?

A. The Trust is in a strong place to continue building upon the positive foundations already in place. Building on the positive opinion of the Trust by its staff and patients, the strong quality and safety culture, evidenced by our CQC inspection rating, and being an integrated acute and community trust, gives us opportunities to strengthen services for our patients across, that is arguably more challenging for other NHS organisations not starting from this position.

We have a real need and opportunity to improve the estate and digital infrastructure for the benefit of our patients, colleagues and wider community in Buckinghamshire, to manage risk and deliver improvements, but need to ensure it’s balanced with improvements in internal productivity, so we can do so effectively and sustainably.

Q. If you could have any superpower for one week, what would it be?

It would be the superpower of Fun.

It’s really tough sometimes to lift yourself and colleagues out of the very real challenges we find ourselves in, with the difficult decisions and trade-offs we have to make everyday to make the best use of limited resources. But doing this in a fun, energising, and unforced way, must make doing the job a more enjoyable, satisfying and ultimately rewarding. I make a point of reflecting on how I can do this, but it being my super power for a week would be so fulfilling.

Q. Tell us something about yourself that we might not expect.

A. I coach my son’s Under 9s rugby team on a Sunday morning and it’s one of the highlights of my week.

Being able to focus on nothing but the next 90 mins, with 15-odd children learning new skills, doing what they want (rather than listening to me) and enjoying themselves, is incredibly rewarding and a welcome distraction from the rest of the day-to-day.