Extraordinary times…

These are extraordinary times which require extraordinary responses…and we are all human beings.

Extraordinary times…CSP CEO Karen Middleton

Since the COVID 19 virus started to creep into our world, I have mostly been in awe of how members have responded in whatever sector they are working. The stress of being on the clinical frontline at times like this is immense but all members will be feeling the pressure of having to rapidly change practice, change plans and develop new ways of working and those of us in leadership positions will need to take people with us!

And, of course, we have our own health to consider and that of our family and friends and particularly those who are most vulnerable to this virus. None of this is insurmountable in the short term, but it does look as if we’re in this for the long haul.

On our website and across all our media you will see the information we are providing to members wherever you work. Of course, the advice changes as we get updates but we are trying to keep on top of it, using the government scientific advice we are receiving - which is quite difficult when so much of the media coverage is so challenging and provocative. Please do let us know what more or different support you need. It has been brilliant to see so many of our members step up and share expertise, experience and resources. Thank you.

In terms of leading teams, services or organisations during these difficult times, it can feel lonely. My advice is to assemble a team around you – a diverse group both in terms of expertise and style as the last thing you need now is group think.

Be visible. This might be ‘virtually visible’ but be out there communicating. Remember others will be looking to you to gauge how they should be feeling, so exude quiet confidence – even if at times you disappear off for a quick cry or scream in the loo. That said, being authentic is also important and if you don’t know, say you don’t know.

Being visible does, however, mean you will get criticism. Resilience is needed. Try to respond rather than react. Easier said than done but also easier if you have been looking after yourself, so don’t neglect your own health – do eat, sleep and stay hydrated. Leadership is about judgement and making judgements without necessarily having all the information are the hardest of all. I empathise with you, but as I said at the beginning, we are only human and we are all trying to do our best. Just remember that most people think about leadership decisions in terms of what to say and when to act-sometimes it is about choosing not to say something and deciding when not to act.

For me a plan is critical and it helps others to know what you are doing and why. At the moment, that plan has to be adaptive as more information about the virus becomes available but flip flopping all over the place just adds to the sense of panic and you will lose your people on the way.

I have talked extensively about leadership over the years in this column. We are all work in progress but we are also all leaders – how we lead ourselves and manage our impact on others; how we lead patients and their families through this; and how we lead our staff. We all have to step up and lead through this difficult time…and the CSP staff and I will do whatever we can to support you.

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