The key components of effective teamworking during the COVID-19 Crisis

Michael West: An introduction to effective teamworking during the COVID-19 crisis

In this 5-minute video take some time to consider how to maintain effective team working during the COVID crisis.

The context: In health and social care at this time, multi-disciplinary team working is absolutely vital. Teams are being set up very rapidly across the United Kingdom and they are facing very big challenges in a short period of time. Much of what we’re seeking to accomplish is new and hugely demanding. 

How do we create effective team working under pressure, quickly, and build trust?

  • Focus on teamwork competencies
    In a crisis, our tendency is to focus on technical training but we know the focus should be at least as much, if not more on teamwork competencies to help people to work together in new teams and challenging situations.
  • Encourage a climate of compassion
    In this incredibly challenging time it’s really important to encourage a climate of compassion in our teams; compassionate support for each other, listening, understanding, empathizing and helping each other, checking in with each other to make sure we’re okay.
  • Make clear team purpose
    It’s important to ensure that there is a simple and clear statement of the purpose of the team’s work that everyone understands, that’s repeatedly reaffirmed.
  • Give clear objectives
    It’s critically important to ensure regular setting of 2 to 4 clear shared objectives for the team so that there are clear priorities and a clear understanding of what the objectives are.
  • Provide regular feedback
    Wherever possible provide feedback and data on how well the team are achieving objectives.
  • Clarify roles
    Everyone needs to be clear about their role in the team and the roles of others. There must be a shared understanding of who is responsible for different types of knowledge and tasks during the work.
  • Minimise hierarchy
    Particularly in multidisciplinary teams – we have to minimise hierarchy and boundaries between professionals so that we build trust. We build a valuing of everybody’s contribution
  • Value everyone’s contribution
    A simple but effective way is by taking the time to have breaks together, to eat together. It makes a huge difference to our ability to work together effectively. And we know it makes a difference to the quality and outcomes of care.
  • Regularly plan and review
    In a critical care situation, this should be daily, maybe at the start and end of shifts and schedule longer weekly reviews if possible. We know reviews are associated with higher levels of productivity, care quality, and staff wellbeing. Remember to review how the team communicates.
  • Trust is key
    Build a climate of faith in each other’s benevolence, goodness, and compassion. Trust in the abilities and skills of fellow team members. Trust means that team members believe that a person will perform their duties.
  • Competition is disastrous
    Competition and conflict within teams and between teams is disastrous for patient care. Teams also have to work effectively with other teams in this crisis.
  • Develop shared responsibility
    Build a shared responsibility for putting these principles into practice on a daily basis.

Michael West is Senior Visiting Fellow at the King’s Fund, and Professor of Organizational Psychology at Lancaster University.

Michael led the Department of Health Policy Research Programme into cultures of quality and safety. He also led the NHS National Staff Survey development and implementation. He assisted in developing the national framework on improvement and leadership development in England (Developing People, Improving Care – 2016) and in Northern Ireland in developing the Collective Leadership Strategy for Health and Social Care (2017). He is supporting HEIW to develop the national NHS leadership strategy in Wales. He co-chaired with Dame Denise Coia, the two-year inquiry on behalf of the UK General Medical Council into the mental health and well-being of doctors Caring for Doctors, Caring for Patients (2019).

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