The Christie NHS Foundation Trust is the largest single site cancer centre in Europe, treating more than 60,000 patients a year.

They are considered to be leaders in cancer care, and they strive to achieve the best quality care and outcomes for their patients. As part of this, they recognise the important role their leaders play in creating a happy and healthy workforce and how this ultimately influences performance and care.

Following the success of some previous training we had delivered at the Christie Trust, we were asked to design and deliver training content for their senior leaders to address three key topic areas: health and well-being, leadership and management, and team working. Specifically, the objectives of this training were to raise leaders’ awareness of the impact of work on employee health and the role they play in this dynamic, as well as helping to promote the creation of healthy, functional teams. An underlying theme to be fed throughout all three topic areas was the importance of the alignment between individual and organisational values and the role leaders can play in shaping a positive organisational culture that enables staff to be happy, healthy, and productive.

Given the huge demands on the Trust and the challenge of releasing staff from their job role, we needed to come up with an innovative solution that would enable us to deliver an impactful programme which helped to meet these objectives within a condensed time frame of three short ‘masterclasses’ (three half-day face to face sessions).

What we did

Firstly, to help us to understand the context of the organisation and to enable us to design and tailor the training content appropriately, we were given access to the Trust’s latest data and reports which helped to highlight some of the common themes and concerns of staff, including challenges around prioritising workload, addressing inappropriate behaviour/having difficult conversations with staff and the need for greater collaboration across teams. Taking this data into consideration alongside the training objectives, we were able to design content that met the organisation’s requirements whilst also being underpinned by psychological theory and research. The session outlines were as follows:

  • Health and well-being: This session will provide an insight into the dynamic nature of health at work and explores the interaction between demands and resources as a way of understanding health. Through attending this session, delegates will have a greater understanding of their own role in creating a healthy work environment and identify actions to maintain or promote their own health and well-being and the well-being of those who they work with.
  • Leadership and management: This session will help you understand what leader/manager behaviours are important for the prevention and reduction of stress in those being managed, which of these behaviours are already part of your management approach and which you will need to develop.
  • Team working: This session will explore the leadership skills and behaviours that contribute to effective team working and will utilise scenarios and reflection exercises to help leaders feel more confident in knowing how to approach challenging team situations.

Given that the training itself would only comprise of three half-day masterclass sessions, and to help consolidate learning, each masterclass was supported with a range of additional resources that were accessible via an online system and could be completed in their own time. This included personal assessments (e.g. a strengths based assessment) which enabled the leader to get some insight into their own leadership style and strengths. In addition, a number of pre and post-course activities were set; these were designed to be completed by delegates within their team and they were discussed and reflected upon at the subsequent session. This approach helped to ensure that delegates could see the practical application of the theory covered during the session.

To further support the masterclasses, delegates were offered the opportunity to attend a local action learning set to help them to reflect on their own experiences and engage in a problem-solving process with other leaders from across the Trust. To assist with the successful implementation of action learning within the Trust, we worked closely with the Trust’s HR department and delivered a session to the nominated facilitators on best practice for facilitating action learning. Following  attendance at this training, the action learning sessions were offered out to delegates after their attendance at each masterclass, allowing participants the time to reflect on their role and their responsibilities, challenges (big or small) and efforts towards supporting their own and their team’s health and well-being. Participant’s knowledge and experiences were used to reflect and solve real issues and situations they were experiencing in conjunction with the themes and learning from the masterclass sessions. Using this approach helps to support the transfer of learning back to the workplace, and can encourage tangible actions to be implemented to increase the impact of the training. Using this approach can also help to promote greater collaboration across teams.

In conclusion

Through using a combination of masterclasses, online resources and personal assessments combined with action learning sets, this project enabled us to provide an impactful learning experience for senior leaders, within the constraints of their organisational demands and pressures.

In addition, the evaluation data demonstrated that leaders felt significantly more confident in managing a range of leadership scenarios compared to their confidence levels prior to the training. Crucially, we believe that the approach we took helped to ensure that the learning could be transferred back to the job role; the evaluation data showed that 100% of delegates agreed that the training was very relevant to their job role and 100% of delegates indicated that they were keen to apply what they had learned.

Senior leaders who went through the training were shown to react positively:

“It made me consider my own behaviours and how this contributes to my own stress and could impact on my colleagues”

“Very positive experience with good techniques and insights. Great delivery.”

“Very positive delivery of the training thank you.”

At Zeal, we believe in strengthening people and organisations. Through our understanding of the science of human behaviour and experience of the workplace, we help organisations strengthen their people, teams and leaders to create healthier, happier and more productive workplaces.
What makes us different is we’re psychologists with business in mind. We are passionate about the use of psychology in the workplace, and aim to enhance individual and organisational health, well-being and performance.
Contact us for more information about our practical tools and the bespoke services we can offer to your organisation, or alternatively email us at or call us on T: 01159 932 324.

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