6 tips for leading a successful patient safety project

Effective leadership is essential for any patient safety initiative. It ensures that deadlines are met, staff are motivated, and that concerns are listened to. According to a report by The Kings Fund, "leadership is the most influential factor in shaping organisational culture..." As such, we've compiled a list to tips for quality leadership:

1. Make sure that your team are on the same page from the beginning

If a team is going to work cohesively and productively, they need to have shared objectives that they all value and can readily agree upon. Before you delegate tasks and build driver diagrams, gather your team together to discuss what values they share and what the overall goal of the project should be. 

2. Don't call people out

Blame culture is toxic to advancing patient safety. It brings focus to individuals rather than to the poor processes that led to the problem in the first place. It also alienates staff and prevents staff from voicing their opinions, leading to defensive behaviour.

3. Offer positive reinforcement

In a sector where time and resource pressures are high, it's vital to make sure that staff feel valued. Let your team know that they're on the right track; celebrate when there are successes on the project. It could be as quick and as simple as sending an email to your team members to let them know how well they are doing, and to reinforce the positive impact that their efforts are having on patient safety. You can also give incentives for completion of particular tasks and milestones.

4. Organise frequent meetings and follow-up emails

Projects can quickly disintegrate into procrastination or be deprioritised, particularly if the patient safety initiative is an addition to team members' usual workloads. Arranging regular meetings, setting clear deadlines, and sending emails to team members to touch base are easy ways to keep the project's wheels turning.

5. Keep stakeholders and any project sponsors up to date

Sending monthly updates to sponsors and stakeholders not only ensures that all individuals affected by the project feel included, but it also gives them an opportunity to contact you with any suggestions or changes from their end. This is especially important if there are notable conflicts between stakeholders or opposition to your ideas, as it will go a long way in improving communication and make people feel listened to.

6. Listen to team members and stakeholders

The most successful QI projects will include unusual ideas and a good diversity of team members and personalities. However, some team members will be listened to more than others, whether it is because they talk louder or because their ideas are more familiar and less daunting. This not only prevents potentially successful ideas from being implemented, but it can also breed resentment and discord across your team and organisation.

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