Hospital Leadership Focuses on Strengthening the Coaching Approach to Leadership to Build Psychological Safety
by Maryanne Matthews
Strong leaders build strong teams that can accomplish the best results. For Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, that means the best possible outcomes for patients and families. What separates high performing teams from dysfunctional ones is the way teammates treat one another. That’s why our Hospital is focused on leadership development and psychological safety.
Psychological safety is achieved when team members feel safe to take risks and be vulnerable in front of each other. Behaviors that create and maintain a level of psychological safety in a group support people to feel comfortable to fully contribute, which enhances the group’s potential.
The focus on psychological safety is part of the ‘Me to We to All’ leadership framework that was developed in earlier stages of the Strategic Plan 2020. It’s a comprehensive approach to leadership that focuses on improving the organization’s culture from the top down.
“We have to focus on staff-centred leadership as part of Patient and Family Centred Care – treating staff the way we want them to treat our patients,” said Amanda Bjorn, Executive Vice President of People, Culture and Strategy. “One of the main principles is helping leaders to better understand themselves and how the ‘me’ affects the ‘we’. It’s about focusing on people’s unique and individual strengths, and learning to use them in a positive way for the benefit of the whole team. We also explore our weaknesses, or our ‘leadership shadows’, so that we can better understand our impact on others both positively and negatively.”
The coaching approach to leadership has been shown to build psychological safety. Ultimately, the goal is that the Hospital’s coaching approach will guide all interactions at the Hospital – both among colleagues, and with patients and families.
“There are megatrends that influence and dictate the leadership styles that will be required for success into the future,” said Bjorn. “We are shifting to a coaching, collaborative, and co-creative approach when working with each other and will continue to deepen this in our interactions with our patients.”
The LIFT team members (Leaders Influencing the Future Today) were the first to experience coaching with an emphasis on psychological safety; and have begun a formal coach training program (The Business Coaching Advantage TM program) to enhance and strengthen their coaching skills. The experience supports them to personally understand the benefits of coaching and accelerate their leadership journey. Moving forward, the training cycle will continue until most members of the leadership team have had a chance to be coached, be the coach, or even receive formal coach training.
“Coaching is often misunderstood as something punitive; but I want everyone to know that coaching is actually a personal growth acceleration tool that deeply benefits our high performing leaders who want to enhance their strengths and take their leadership to the next level,” said Bjorn.
The process is still in the early stages and Bjorn is encouraged by the positive feedback received. “Our leaders have welcomed the coaching process so far. We’re creating a space where our leaders can grow together and feel confident in sharing their thoughts and suggestions for improvement. I’m encouraged for the future and the impact this will have on our staff and our patients and their families.”