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30th October 2013

Could an NHS Nurse win Strictly?

The flash of a leg, the passion and intimacy, and the feeling (in our dreams) of dancing with the professional are all ingredients that make Strictly Come Dancing into enthralling viewing.

But there is another compelling aspect for me – the listening. What every Strictly winner has, in my view, is the ability to listen. These “celebrities” have big egos. Yet they stand there with smiles on their faces while their best efforts are torn apart or even declared a “dis-arse-ter”. That said much of the judges’ feedback is really very constructive. The contestants take it on the nose and then next week their performance has changed; in short they have listened. Being direct, open and honest about someone’s accomplishments and, equally importantly, being able to take feedback are great skills. Caution is needed; not everyone is as resilient as those who enter show business. But skills such as fair feedback and listening do seem to have retreated from some workplaces, education, and the NHS.

Many who have had a loved one die in a NHS hospital will feel that these skills are sorely needed in that environment. It is not that employees in the NHS are any different from the rest of us. But we appear to have created a monolith – the largest single employer in the UK (and one of the largest in the world). Sadly large chunks of it slip into the command-control model of management. It is not that individuals in the NHS don’t want to listen. It is that when they do listen they have no power to change anything. That means that, unlike Strictly contestants, they cannot come back next week having changed. It is questionable whether the NHS itself can change to an empowering and engaging style of management, despite recent pressures to do so. But then twenty years ago no-one believed that trains could run on time.

So what do we outside the NHS learn from this? Quite simply the benefit of honest feedback, the true value of listening and above all the importance of creating an environment where our employees (at the coalface so to speak) know that they will be listened to. The best managers will be able to “come back next week” and demonstrate a response. They need to engage with employees. But this is part of effective management of human resources (with small h and r).

Employee surveys are a good starting point but employers need to be ready to respond to the outcomes. Training events, team building, and individual skills development all help build engagement. HR consultants stand ready to help.

And the NHS Nurse? If she, or he, can listen (irrespective of whether the NHS listens) – then she could certainly win. I wonder how the uniform will look.

Malcolm Martin – QCS Expert Human Resources Contributor

Topics: Human Resources


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