I’ve had a nice experience today. I’ve had my ‘peer review’ with another practice manager, as part of the NHSE funded programme for Practice Manager Development. I volunteered to take part in the programme after a chat with the Lancashire and Cumbria LMCs, Programme Manager Sally Pern, when I was scouting around looking for things to do, rather than just (as if its ever just) being a practice manager. I’d contacted the LMC a couple of years ago to see if there was any funded support for PMs, as there was a system of support for GPs, but nothing for managers. I knew many of us were starting to creak with the increasing pressure and complexity of the job and were choosing to leave the system. As a Practice Manager, being the linchpin between GP Partners, Practice staff, Patients and external CCG/NHSE colleagues is sometimes a lonely and isolating place. The programme is intended to be both supportive for existing managers and developmental for deputies or aspiring practice managers.
Its all quite formal – it has to be to satisfy the paymasters that the money is being well spent. It also has to be ‘evaluated’ and ‘deliver outcomes’. First I had to fill in an application form, then have an interview to see if I was suitable and to identify what I could bring to the group in terms of experience. Its a bit strange being interviewed when its not for a ‘proper job’ and you know you’ve got a number of years experience doing the thing they are looking for. I still didn’t really know what was involved in the programme. After interview, I was invited to take part in two separate training courses; one to learn about the process and develop the paperwork and the second one to brush up my coaching and mentoring skills; both days expertly facilitated by Kevin Wyke, Liz Jones and Sally Pern. Kevin provided lots of useful hints and tools and demonstrated a coaching approach with Liz that I found refreshingly, (you get used to tip toeing around people as a manager these days) a lot more challenging than I felt I ever could be with a stranger, but it seemed to work. We are waiting to see that empty loft Liz.
As a group of reviewers, we quickly became comfortable and honestly shared our experiences and thoughts about the process and how the programme could help practice managers. Practicing our reviews helped us to realise that we have this knowledge and skillset, but coaching and supporting another manager may be very different from appraisals with practice staff. I am however, looking forward to my first reviews over the next few weeks.
Finally, before we start our reviews, we get chance to have a review ourselves to experience what its like. All so far so good.
Sally matched me with another Practice Manager from the programme, and today we both wondered aloud what criteria Sally uses to match people together. I had joked that I wouldn’t be an easy candidate, as I’m not sure I want to be a full time practice manager any longer and my reviewer had some trepidation too.
I was sent a guide and the ‘pre-review’ forms to fill in and had received the gentle nudge to return them before we met. When completing the forms at the weekend, I got a bit frustrated with the formatting – and a little sad that my offer to digitise the process hadn’t been taken up. Its crying out for a surveymonkey approach to make preparation, recording and reporting easier, but who knows, that idea might get adopted for the next round when the LMC team have to make sense of all of the cryptic responses. I also found it quite difficult to objectively answer questions about broad topics such as Governance, Sustainability, Management and leadership style, Relationships, Personal needs etc. I was beginning to wish I hadn’t volunteered and also reminded of why people find having and doing appraisals a bit of a pain.
The review is supposed to last 1.5 hrs, then we get an hour to write up an action plan. I cant imagine many reviews only taking 1.5 hrs as the time flew by and I think we could have spent longer. Managers don’t often get the chance to open up in a safe, confidential, non-competitive space, with someone who has total empathy and understanding of the role, environment, policy, powerplay, professionalism, personalities and pressures. And there is the real benefit of the programme. Not the ‘goals’ that I’ve identified, or the ‘actions’ that I’ve committed to, so that NHSE can be satisfied there is a ‘plan’ and that I’ll be ‘developed’ at the end of it. The part of significantly more value, was to be able to say to someone else, ‘what would you do?’ and to receive wisdom in a trustworthy, honest and pragmatic response, uninfluenced by any agenda, other than to support me in my role, in my career and in my life.
Thank you H, you did a great job.
PS, the comfy sofas, coffee, scone, jam and cream at Tebay services definitely created the right environment. I’d recommend it to anyone having a review.