Regional provider thrives with ‘coaching culture’

The need to leave emotion out of decision-making may be a widely held maxim in management circles but organisations should not underestimate the importance of emotional intelligence when preparing to implement major reforms, such as the kind facing aged care.

 

Organisational psychologist Kerryn Velleman
Organisational psychologist Kerryn Velleman

The need to leave emotion out of decision-making may be a widely held maxim in management circles but organisations should not underestimate the importance of emotional intelligence when preparing to implement major reform, such as the kind facing aged care.

That’s according to Kerryn Velleman, an organisational psychologist and director of Kru Consulting, who told aged care providers at the Tri-State conference in Albury this week that working in “emotionally charged” environments was the reality for most employees, particularly in aged care.

Ms Velleman outlined the benefits of emotional leadership which encouraged staff to “courageously engage in candid and respectful conversations about how they could improve their working relationships and collective performance.”

The best emotional leader was a coach, she said, and they sought ideas and insights to encourage reflection. They acted as a catalyst by sparking action and engaging staff to “bring the best of themselves to work.”

In practice

Sandi Websdale, the chief executive of Warramunda Village, a residential and independent living unit provider in the Goulburn Valley, told the conference her organisation has been transformed through the use of emotional leadership.

The impetus for a new approach at Warramunda had been a growth in bed numbers coupled with a series of changes in the management team. As a result, management was stressed and had “the weight of the world on their shoulders”, she said.

After consulting with Ms Velleman, the organisation decided to establish some goals, which included better change management and improved staff performance through quality feedback.

Over three days, Warramunda’s 90-plus staff attended training sessions where management “teased out of them” the things they were proud of, and the issues they wanted addressed. These issues included poor and irregular feedback, breakdowns in communication,  inconsistent messages, and issues with personal relationships at work.

The organisation established a leadership team, made up of leaders from all departments. Sub groups were also developed to work through the issues raised by staff. The leadership team adopted a “critical friend” model, whereby each leader had a partner with whom they could practice conversations, explore coaching strategies and share the journey, said Ms Websdale.

Leader as coach

Ms Websdale said the organisation had adopted emotional leadership through the “leader as coach” model. All leaders and care staff were offered the MSCEIT (Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test), and were using GROW, a framework for mentoring, and STAR/AR, a model for feedback.

Staff were provided with regular feedback on their behaviour and how it aligned with expectations, particularly around person-centred care. It was also an opportunity to acknowledge staff who had grown.

Ms Websdale said that the use of coaching meant the organisation was in a better position as an employer of choice. “We see high performing team members as our way of attaining the best in care.”

She said the organisation’s leaders had a renewed sense of purpose, while residents enjoyed improved continuity of care.

 

Tags: coaching, emotional intelligence, feedback, Kerryn Velleman, leadership, mentoring, Sandi Websdale, tristate2014, Warramunda Village, workforce,

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