Leadership Message from Jordan Nicholls

Jordan Nicholls

Feedback saves lives.

There’s an approach to improvement called ‘Black Box Thinking’, made famous by the book written by Matthew Syed. In a nutshell, the idea is that whatever challenge you’re facing, you find as much data as possible to help you look for solutions. In Formula One, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of data collection points on the car, the pit wall and even in the drill heads used to remove the tyres. Team Sky took a similar approach for their Tour de France races, looking at ways of shaving tenths of a second off wherever possible, to get a large saving at the finish line. Collecting all this data meant that the teams could look at what they were doing well, and where they needed to improve. If they had to make something quicker, more efficient or safer, they had the data to know if it was working or not.

We don’t have thousands of data points to collect information from at work. What we do have is each other.

On a daily basis, we deal with a number of people. All of them could be goldmines for small improvements we could make, to improve our overall performance. But generally, we don’t ask for any feedback from them.

It can be seen as a loaded word; ‘feedback’. It can have negative connotations of being reprimanded or getting into trouble, but it really shouldn’t!I’m the first person to admit that when someone says, “can I give you some feedback?” I feel like I’m in that scene from Jaws where he sees the shark on the beach…your blood runs cold and things are brought into sharp focus.

While we don’t always look forward to getting feedback, it plays a huge part in our work. If someone can give us one piece of advice a week, the improvements we could make over a month or a year could be huge. If we can give one piece of feedback a week, the benefits to our colleagues and our patients could be dramatic. Always make sure the environment is right to give or receive feedback in the best possible way;

So, based on some experience I’ve had of giving feedback terribly, here are some tips that might help:

  • Timing is everything - consider when you’re giving the feedback and if the person you’re talking to is in a mindset to listen
  • Be honest - there’s no point giving a half truth; be as open as you can, but do so with compassion
  • Be kind - it’s hard to hear some feedback, so be as civil as you can when giving your opinion
  • Be specific - vague feedback, positive or constructive, doesn’t do anyone any good. Be specific so people know exactly what area you’re talking about

And, from my experience of receiving feedback, both well and not so well, some of my tips would be:

  • Don’t take it to heart - easier said than done, but don’t take it too personally. It’s never easy to hear and hopefully the person giving it will know that
  • Clarify - if what you’re being told isn’t specific enough, ask for more information to get the most out of it
  • Don’t knee jerk - it’s easy to immediately react to feedback, but try to take some time to process what’s being said

The most important thing is to remember that we’re all here for one purpose; to help the patients. No one comes into work to do a bad job.  Remember we are here to help each other as much as we can. And it is really great to give people positive feedback, so I would encourage us to do this more if we can.

If you see something you want to raise, talk about it. Next week is Mental Health Awareness Week and, speaking as a Mental Health First Aider, a conversation that just starts with “are you okay?” can be the most powerful thing. And don’t forget to ask twice – just to be sure!

I just want to say thank you for everything that you do.  I’m so proud to work alongside the most caring people I’ve ever met, everyday. 

If you’ve got any questions or feedback, then drop me an email at Jordan.nicholls@eastamb.nhs.uk


Published 9th May 2019

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