Management training

Developing care home leaders during a pandemic

Sean Gavin, chief executive of Hampshire-based provider Hartford Care, explains how the organisation’s leadership development programme has benefited its care home managers while facing the numerous challenges of the past year

The pandemic has brought into sharp focus the need for effective, resilient leadership within care home environments. Never before have care providers, home managers and their teams had to deal with such a constant stream of change and challenge, always striving to ensure that residents and staff are safe and protected in their environments. Care home managers have had

to show more resilience than ever, demonstrating qualities such as courage, confidence, and strength. When the pandemic began, we discussed with our managers that, as our leaders, they needed to recognise that everybody would be looking to them for assurance. Ultimately, they are the ones whose

role it is to reassure their residents and teams despite the difficulties being faced. Care sector leadership is about using emotional intelligence to see what other people are going through, as everybody’s lens is different. Within Hartford Care’s leadership development programme (LDP), resilience and emotional intelligence are two of the behaviours and competencies we explore to imbue our managers with the capabilities to be excellent leaders within our organisation.

Developing personal visions For some time, I had been struck by the depth of knowledge acquired by our managers as they carried out their roles regarding care. While our managers were ‘top of the class’ in knowing what they had to do and when, they could, at times, lose sight as to why they were doing it. As a result, we wanted to create a development programme to support them in this area and focus on our purpose. Initially, we devised a Stars of the

Future programme, aimed at identifying

and supporting our aspiring leaders. We created courses to develop skills such as how to recruit well, how to have difficult conversations, and how to get the best out of individuals and teams. As our human resources director and

I began developing this programme, we had a moment of unexpected clarity. We realised after taking this course that our future stars would potentially be better equipped than our existing leaders! This was the embryo for the LDP. From this starting point, we designed

a programme to enable our managers, future managers, regional managers, and people in positions of leadership throughout the organisation to identify and develop personal visions for their roles within Hartford Care. The company vision to be ‘the home of

choice for both residents and staff’ was a keystone in the programme, but the focus would be to explore what ‘good’ looks like in their individual settings. Our 16 care homes and managers

all have different personalities. Also, their localities - ranging from central

June 2021 •

city locations in Portsmouth and Bristol, to seaside towns in Devon and the Isle of Wight, and rural settings in Buckinghamshire and the New Forest - have very diverse characters. Our leaders learn how to form their

vision and how to deliver it. This often requires an objective assessment of the current state to identify work required. The programme then runs parallel with our other courses, which include our Stars of the Future programme, that has continued to develop some outstanding future managers.

The programme So far, nearly three-quarters – 73 per cent - of Hartford Care’s care home managers and deputy managers, together with members of the senior management and head office team, have undertaken the programme. Twenty-nine staff have graduated

from the programme, which is now in its fourth cohort. The current cohort, which started in 2019 but was delayed due to the pandemic, has nine delegates who were


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