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Lessons learnt from leading through a crisis

Aghileh Hatami, Registered Manager of Care Concern

The pandemic has seen registered managers leading their teams through challenges they could never have predicted when they took on the role.

The last year has been a tough time for the sector’s 22,500 registered managers but keeping the people they work with safe has also brought about an intense period of professional and personal growth.

We spoke to Aghileh Hatami, Registered Manager of Care Concern (Homecare) Ltd in Chiswick, West London, who has been working in adult clinical and community care for over 20 years. Care Concern Homecare Ltd was rated “Outstanding” by CQC for the second time in June 2019.

Aghileh, who began her career as a nurse in Iran and led a team of cardiac care nurses before moving to England and working in adult social care, said that each time they were trying to save a life in the cardiac ward, it was an acute critical moment but the scale of the pandemic and its impact on people’s lives and her sector of work has been the most challenging time in her career.

Aghileh told us that constantly reacting to new information and sourcing PPE in the early stages of the pandemic were the most difficult elements of the last 15 months.

Consulting with colleagues, not rushing, and prioritising tasks are the three lessons that Aghileh has developed over the pandemic. She told us that her experience of the pandemic has added another layer of depth to the resilience she had already gained in her personal and professional life.

“It’s about relying on your resilience and being strong – you may not know you have that strength, but you get reminded” Aghileh said.

Aghileh says that being open to consulting with others when making decisions became more important than ever.

“It’s not a simple decision, it’s about people’s lives. I didn’t see any reason to make important decisions alone. Because when the situation is unknown and you may not always receive clear instructions, you need to invite and listen to your management team, make a group decision and then focus on it.”

Aghileh and her team has maintained effective ongoing communication with their staff and have been always available to meet staff either virtually or in person in the field. Their management team worked mainly from home but were also in the field making sure that staff had what they needed in terms of PPE, information, and guidance. The company went through a process of adaptation in order to maintain a high-quality induction for new staff and virtual training for existing staff, while minimising contact as requested by the government.

Leading and supporting her team through a national crisis has been a learning curve for Aghileh, and she feels that the experience has cemented her leadership skills.

Discussing how to support a team through a crisis she says: “Having empathy is the key. Understanding people, it is a skill, it’s been overlooked. It’s not just a characteristic, it’s not just a personality trait, it is a skill.”

Aghileh considers herself a leader working alongside her team rather than managing them. Not only has Aghileh supported her team, but they have also been a source of support and inspiration for her.

“An amazing management team and excellent care workers have been my support – they are wonderful people. They put their lives in their hands, go out and look after people. I am humbled by their performance and sacrifice. Sacrificing has always been a part of health and social care.”

Aghileh also believes the pandemic has brought more awareness and recognition for the care sector.

“I think the whole care sector has finally been recognised and valued. Carers feel proud to be part of an important sector working in the community.”

Aghileh offers some advice to other leaders who find themselves leading their teams through a crisis.

“Have empathy and walk by their side. Be available to talk. Be open and facilitate difficult conversations in order to learn from mistakes and improve.”

“Thank your staff and celebrate the achievements, and again consult, don’t rush, prioritise, and stay focused on the decisions you make.”

Reflecting on everything she has overcome, Aghileh feels the past year has also brought her a new level of confidence.

“Next time there’s a challenge I’m more equipped, I’m more confident.”

To help be an effective leader Aghileh relied on peer support from Skills for Care’s Registered Managers Networks, as well as videos and case studies on their website.

“Skills for Care and the Registered Managers Networks have been very useful. They have speakers from different organisations, and you get a lot of information out of those network meetings and webinars.”

Skills for Care offers a wide range of support and resources for registered managers, including Registered Managers Networks. More information can be found on www.skillsforcare.org.uk/registeredmanagers, including details of over 150 local networks across England

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