I started to work independently just over two years ago now. It was a big step but fuelled by my intention to focus my work on the potential for transformational change. Witnessing those transformations in both individuals and organisations is deeply satisfying work.
One such experience has been working with Argyll and Bute supporting the development of an integrated and person centred network called Caring Connections. A key success factor in the network is developing a group of person centred coaches aimed at supporting change and transformation of care. I have been commissioned to shape the eight week course based on learning from the Esther network in Sweden and other relevant work but also make it appropriate to the Scottish context. In particular the course is shaped to develop the conditions and skills which enable the right conditions for person centred care and the integration of health and social care services.
Consequently we recruit future coaches from across health and social care and third sector. Their backgrounds range from care assistants to nurse consultants and managers in all services. This development is not about hierarchy, it's about having passion and commitment to improving services and a willingness to build awareness of the self and others. And so the course builds knowledge of the context and need for change, working through change and transition, it develops an understanding of continuous improvement. It builds understanding of how to achieve the ambitions of the health and wellbeing outcomes including working with communities, developing yourself and others, understanding wellbeing and transformational change, alongside the core skills of coaching to enable them to enact their learning. But perhaps the main outcome is, as one of the coaches framed it, is the embedding of person-centredness into the DNA of the participants.
Mindfulness meditation is a core practice too, enabling resilience and building awareness. The group itself is a peer resource which shares learning and experience and builds a support network. From the first weeks people start to use their new skills and see the difference they are able to make just by bringing a fresh approach, a deeper listening, and a greater sense of empowerment. Each session starts with a check-in which in turn builds the group, sharing learning as well as any fears or challenges. Developing a peer approach to support like this is particularly valuable in times of change and transition.The cross sector working too deepens empathy with other sectors and builds interaction. There is a focus on honest feedback throughout using a "what works well and even better if" tool which builds an authentic culture which increases the ability to be sure footed and resilient in times of change.
The highlights for me are when I see the light bulbs come on for people. Of course this happens at different times for people but what consistently emerges is people who look more confident, less stressed, more engaged with the passion for their work and with a network to support them to continue. We use a combination of learning methods with a strong focus on practicing coaching skills and utilising the wisdom within the group and supporting them to share their learning with others. Throughout the course people develop, shape and implement change projects. These have ranged from introducing a new way to admit people into a ward to changing how a team work together. Our focus is on what's learned from that to apply it to other situations and also to embed a culture of improvement.
Of course I'm a learner too. I have learned that you don't need to be the most senior person to be an effective person centred coach and indeed change agent, in fact sometimes professional boundaries can get in the way of that. I have learned that it is key to have a plan for the expected outcomes but be flexible in how we achieve them, working with the live issues in the group too. It's has been reinforced for me that people not only need mindfulness to help them be resilient but also the connection to others. And also the chance to laugh and even to cry when we need to.
I have been so inspired by the willingness to learn and develop and especially by the commitment of all of the coaches to a person centred service. I have mostly learned that the people who need the services are in good hands and we need to give them the trust and support to deliver their best for others.