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Commitment is vital to drive change

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Making pledges to your staff will enable you to role model behaviour and create sustainable improvements

As a child, I was a girl guide and I made a commitment to be true to myself and to develop my beliefs. When I started my nursing career I made another commitment to the Nursing and Midwifery Council to treat those in my care with respect, dignity and compassion.

These are both important commitments, which I still take very seriously and continue to sculpt my behaviours in my current role.

So, why should you make a commitment?

Change fatigue is a common phenomenon in the NHS, with staff reporting regularly that they have had more than enough of it.

However, if we redefine who is instigating the change this can actually have an empowering impact.

Top tips for making commitments for change

● Actively listen to your team and be sure you understand their perspectives
● Commitments work best if they are personal to someone. This gives a sense of accountability and ownership
● Commitments need to be genuine, not tokenistic. If you are committing to your team it needs to have some real value to them
● Commitments should be written and public. This reinforces accountability and raises their profile
● Commitments should require some effort. If it’s not a stretch, then it’s less likely to carry the same degree of importance
● Incentives can be used. However, making a commitment by itself can persuade people to change
● Creating a new sense of identity is the reason commitments are effective. After making a commitment, we perceive ourselves differently
● Be sure to follow up on your commitments and remain authentic. Otherwise, you risk a loss of credibility and respect

It is important that NHS leaders and managers visibly support our frontline staff to create a compassionate culture that challenges the status quo and encourages staff to push forward the changes that they want to see.

By making commitments and pledges to staff, managers and leaders can role model behaviours and create sustainable change. This is especially so if these commitments are rooted in what staff have said needs to happen and if they are framed around our shared NHS values.

The NHS Change Day 2013 saw staff make over 189,000 pledges. Some of these were small, some were bigger, but all these changes could make a significant impact on patient care.

At the same time, this sense of empowerment and possibility created a social movement, which kickstarted a large-scale change in the way in which the NHS saw itself.

The key to success now is following this up, taking action and learning from the action to make the change sustainable by consistent reinforcement and recognition.

So, what will you commit to today?

Lyndsay Short is deputy director, East Midlands Leadership Academy

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