Learning From Secondment: Why Kindness is Key

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Jul 16 2020 Blogs
Tracey Rawlinson, Whole System Flow Programme Manager


Kindness matters…..and to realise the effort of individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders have had to demonstrate appreciation in ways that maximise the impact for each individual.

I’d been with AQuA for less than a year when in March 2020 it was agreed to pause all existing programmes, and offer our members the opportunity of additional support in their response to Covid-19. One of the reasons I applied for a role with AQuA was that their values aligned to my own – Excellence, Respect, Integrity and Collaboration.

So when I was offered the opportunity to support a member organisation through a Covid-19 secondment, I approached the senior leadership team at Oldham Care Organisation. I already had established networks in place and felt that I was more likely to be able to hit the ground running, and worry less about how I might be received. I was also keen to see their ‘Kindness Collaborative’ that I had heard so much about on Twitter via the hastags #bekindtoeachother, #kindatalltimes, and most recently #coronakindness – and to experience first-hand how and if they were sustaining their kindness during challenging times.

I started my four week secondment on 2nd April – armed with my laptop, notebook, coffee mug, an untamed enthusiasm and an open mind to offer whatever support I could. An additional bonus was free parking too!

It was immediately noticeable that things were far from business as usual, but their clear consistent principles were still demonstrated on a daily basis – and were openly visible across the organisation.

Why kindness is key

It was clear from speaking with different people during my time at Oldham, that we each have different preferences when it comes to giving and/or receiving kindness. For example, being sincere wasn’t always enough. Whether it’s a pat on the back, a card for a job well done, a box of chocolates or simply just being heard, we each have unique emotions attached to what makes us feel appreciated, and what constitutes kindness.

So, when it came to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the need to respond to rapid and sometimes frequent changes in the way we work, individual motivation would have been maximized when we received our ideal form of praise, encouragement, or reward for our efforts.

Car parking fees were suspended, pizzas were delivered to wards, water bottles were distributed, and wobble rooms were established across the site – for both clinical and non- clinical staff who just needed some ‘me’ time. The impact from the kindness of strangers was really visible, with gifts from the public being distributed widely across the whole organisation, reaching as many teams and individuals as possible.

Personally, a simple ‘thank you for your support’ from a Care Organisation leader was enough for me to be inspired to go above and beyond what was expected. The kindness of my AQuA colleagues was also appreciated as they took the time to check in on me!

Kindness can improve patient safety

There’s a growing body of evidence that shows a culture of kindness and civility can result in many benefits to patients in terms of their experience and the quality of care they receive. How staff interact and treat each other has a direct link to the quality of care patients receive and even the outcomes they get.

Kindness can improve job performance, reduce staff turnover and sick leave[i]

As part of my secondment, I captured a lot of the emergent learning from the Covid-19 response. In the spirit of learning and improvement, the Senior Leadership Team at the Care Organisation sought out this feedback and reality check from the learning captured. We talked a lot about kindness and in particular the human factors associated with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs[ii], and the examples of when kindness had been met – or indeed were perceived as unmet by individuals and teams. Following on from the feedback, I was delighted to be invited to be an ‘external voice’ on the Care Organisation’s Kindness Expert Faculty in the 2nd phase of their Kindness Collaborative.

“Tracey’s continued involvement in our kindness collaborative as we enter into our next phase looking to develop a culture that is ‘kind at all times’ will be incredibly helpful both in terms of her personal insight and expertise in this area but also to add a healthy dose of realise to our discussions so that we don’t fall back on our confirmation biases!”
Dan Grimes, Director of Operations 

Kindness improves our quality of life in the workplace as well as in our personal lives. It brings people together. Doing good for others feels good. Showing kindness to others is just as rewarding as receiving it from someone else. The point is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to kindness. Moving out of escalation and into recovery, when staff may be feeling less resilient, it is crucial for leaders to look into what motivates, stimulates, and makes other people feel appreciated…and to always remember to be kind.

P.S Since writing this blog, Oldham’s Kindness Collaborative has been shortlisted for a HSJ Award in the ‘Recognising Safety, Culture and Experience in Patient Care’ category.

[i] “Can Kindness Be Contagious, Even At Work?” Feb 2018, R. Davidson, University of Wisconsin

[ii] “A Theory of Human Motivation” 1954, A Maslow, Psychological Review

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