Getting the best out of your team

Getting the best out of your team

As leaders, we want to lead high-performing teams and, as team members, we want to be working as part of them. 

Working in a great team is an absolute pleasure and has an enormous impact over how we feel about our work and the company we are employed by. 

Of course, the opposite is also true and working in a dysfunctional team is deeply negative and has a huge impact on performance. It can be enough to encourage individuals to leave and pursue other options.

So how do we establish a great team, how do we lead one and how do we play our part in contributing to the success of the team?

Let’s start by exploring some examples of great teams. The sporting world is a good place to begin. Anybody who is loyal to a particular team or club will know all too well the highs and lows associated with team performance. 

When a team is failing, the manager often gets put under enormous pressure and the result can be a swift departure, as experienced by Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur FCs’ head coaches Frank Lampard and José Mourinho this season. 


Winning strategy

Many of us have recently enjoyed the Six Nations rugby championship and each team taking part has been analysed by professionals, the media and all of us at home watching. Each team has its own characteristics, with Wales being admired for their grit and determination while England was heavily criticised for a lack of discipline. 

Back in 2003 when the England ruby team won the Rugby World Cup, the team was led by Sir Clive Woodward, who helpfully shares his winning strategy. 

Woodward says that ‘great teams are made up of great individuals’ and he focuses on creating a winning culture and claims a formula for creating ‘champion individuals’.

Woodward lists four key criteria to create a winning team:

Talent – individual talent;

Teachability – ‘It’s often the most experienced person who is unteachable’;

Pressure – the warrior spirit;

Will – commitment to win. 

In his 2003 team, Woodward describes having five champions and ten warriors, and he highlights the importance of coaching on two levels: for individuals and for the team together.  

Woodward’s approach was clearly successful and he continues to support sporting organisations but also offers coaching and consultancy to business executives. 


Significant improvement

Another team strategy brought to our attention is the ‘aggregation of marginal or incremental gains’. The strategy works on the premise that if we can improve every aspect of a team’s performance by 1%, the overall result will be a significant improvement. 

This approach was highly publicised following the success of the British cycling team in 2008 and 2012 and although its achievements are being questioned, the strategy is still popular in the business environment. 

One of my personal favourite sporting strategies that has been embraced by business is described in the book Will it make the boat go faster? as described by Ben Hunt-Davis in which he documents how his team adopted this strategy and subsequently won the gold medal in the rowing eight at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

I like this, as it is simple and can be used to immediately ensure everyone on the team is on the same page. 

In business, we might use this strategy to achieve a project within tight time-scales or to focus on a particular aspect of our service – for example: ‘Does it make the patient experience better?’ or ‘Does it make the treatment safe?’ It’s a great way to ensure focus and gain momentum to achieve short- and medium-term goals. 


Learning opportunities

These examples of sporting successes in team performance provide plenty of interesting learning opportunities that can be adapted for business and we may pick up ideas from numerous sources as we create our own leadership and team management strategies. 

Each of us can use best practice to influence our leadership style, but, ultimately, our approach will be unique to us and our personalities. 

As we build our own style, it is important to break down the aspects of teamwork and ensure we consider each aspect to build a good all-encompassing approach. 

Reflecting back to the wise words of Sir Clive Woodward, we can consider the four elements of team success that he bases his approach on.

1. Talent

To create the greatest team, we want to have the greatest leader and the most talented individuals.While this might be realistic for Chelsea FC, most of us are restrained by factors such as money, availability of talent, and geography. 

In the real world, what we really need to aim for is the most talented individuals available to us and ensuring that each individual delivers to the best of their ability.  

A team also requires a group of people with differing but complementary talents. 

In a healthcare setting, our teams potentially comprise doctors, nurses, administrative support and business managers, all of whom have very different skills and have been educated differently. 

All these individuals must find a way to work together to the benefit of the patient. As well as having differing skills, a team will also be home to lots of different personality types and character types. 

Some people are eternal optimists, always anticipating the best possible outcome and seem oblivious to any potential barriers. Others will be the complete opposite, preferring to plan for the worst-case scenario so that all bases are covered and prepared for. 


Opposite types

When two people of opposite types such as these come together, they can either create a perfectly balanced partnership or they can find it impossible to work together and hit a brick wall. 

Another potential conflict can arise when one person is an ideas person and another is a detailed planner. The detailed plan that is essential to one person can be viewed as a barrier to progress and a time-wasting activity to the person who has the great idea and wants to get on with delivering it. 

Again, a balance of these two styles is ideal, but how do we bring different personalities such as these together to work collaboratively? 

In last month’s article, I talked about leaders needing to develop self-awareness and to understand their natural style. I suggested using psychometric profiling tools such as Myers Briggs and C-me profiling and, again, these tools are equally relevant to individuals working together as a team. 

Once an individual understands their own style and also the natural style of others on their team, they can learn the right way to communicate and work with one another to achieve success. 

The ‘ideas person’ learns that by listening to the detailed-oriented individual, their idea has a far greater chance of success as a result of the detailed plan that will be developed ensuring that every outcome is prepared for. 


2. Teachability 

An ability and willingness to learn is an important attribute for all team members. 

Too often, we associate this with more junior team members, but actually it is relevant to even the most senior members of a team and Woodward is quite right when he states: ‘It’s often the most experienced person who is unteachable’. 

To work well as a team, every individual needs to be prepared to adapt their ways of working for the good of the team. The well-known management phrase: ‘It’s my way or the highway’ might feel powerful, but what if there is a better way?

3. Pressure 

When Woodward says pressure, what he really means is the ability to perform under pressure and he believes the only way to ensure an individual and therefore the team can succeed under pressure is to practice by exposing the team to pressure regularly. 

He uses role play requiring the team to work through every eventuality to ensure they know exactly what to do in each situation. This easily relates to complex surgical procedures and can also be adapted to the business environment – for example, the launch of a new service, clinic or company. 

Personally, I would also argue that all teams must think about how to recover from being under pressure and build resilience. It is clearly not possible for any individual or team to perform under constant pressure. 

We need to build in mechanisms for recognising long periods of extreme pressure and have plans to relieve it and allow recovery. 

This may involve adjusting holiday allowance, time off in lieu or activities within the working day to allow for recuperation, but they must be built in. This will be the topic for my next article. 


4. Will 

A team needs to be driven by an agreed goal or objective and to share a joint motivation to succeed and achieve the goal. This is why the strategy of ‘Will it make the boat go faster?’ is so effective, as it aligns the whole team to one clear, simple goal. 

If a team has one or more members who doubt the goal is achievable, then this will have a draining impact on the team’s morale and reduce each person’s motivation to succeed. 



It is said that ‘teamwork makes the dream work’ and we all agree wholeheartedly, but achieving the dream requires an investment of effort on a consistent basis. 

The most talented individuals might be individually amazing, but unless they can work together as a team, their talents can be wasted. 

Humans are tribal and evolved working together in teams, intrinsically knowing it makes them more effective and ultimately our lives more enjoyable. 

In recent months, we have seen an increasing number of reports of the effects of Covid on mental health and this is particularly apparent within the health care community. 


Making the Most of Your Free Time

Making the Most of Your Free Time

Read Jane Braithwaite’s latest article in the Independent Practitioner Today talking about how to make the most of your free time.

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Making the most of your free time

Last month, we talked about time management and how to utilise time more efficiently. We need to do this to achieve our ultimate goal: creating “quality time” for ourselves, for enhanced enjoyment of life.

Happiness is described as a mental or emotional state of well-being, defined by positive or pleasant emotions; these range from contentment to intense joy. When was the last time you felt pure joy?

Creating a good work/ life balance is to create a balance between work, career, and ambition. This includes considering our lifestyle, health, pleasure and leisure, family, and spiritual development. That’s what we are focusing on in this article.

The Statistics

We started by researching the statistics of the general UK population, relating to work/life balance, and found some interesting statistics from the OECD (Organisation for economic co-operation and development). The OECD was created in 1961 and represents 35 countries. The OECD helps governments design better policies for better lives for their citizens. They produce a bi-annual report called the Better life index, which reports on each member country’s performance, against issues that shape the quality of our lives.

Free Time

The report is based on 11 topics that the OECD has identified as essential to well-being in terms of material living conditions (housing, income, jobs), and quality of life (community, education, environment, governance, health, life satisfaction, safety, and work-life balance).


If you visit the OECD website, you can create your own profile based on the conditions that are most important to you. If work-life balance is your top priority, based on the 2015 report criteria, you should head to the Netherlands. The UK scores well on safety and health, but less well on work-life balance.

[plsc_pullquote align=”right”]”Exercise is important for all of us but it can be hard to stick to a routine – unless we find something enjoyable.” [/plsc_pullquote]

The phrase “Work-life balance” was first implemented widely in the UK in the 1970s, and in 2016, is still widely recognised as an ideal we all strive for. Many people report feeling stuck on the treadmill of working life, feeling trapped, getting little exercise, and following a poor diet.

If this is the case for so many of us, how do, we break the trend? The key seems to be to prioritise quality time for ourselves.

We have compiled our top tips on how to create quality time and make the most of it.

1. Define quality time for you personally.

We believe it should consist of several activities that appeal to you specifically. It should ideally include exercise in the fresh air, free time, and time spent socialising with friends and family.

2. Structure your free time.

Are you happier at your job or during your spare time? Research has shown that many people felt happier at work; one explanation for this is that leisure time without structure can feel boring. The secret to this is to plan. Arrange an activity in advance for Sunday afternoon. Waking up on a Sunday morning with nothing planned sounds dreamy, but can actually feel uncomfortable and tedious.

3. Free time.

Having made the point about structuring your time, it’s also important to allow yourself some free time. Time to have a nap, watch TV and lounge around. This type of free time allows you to relax in an entirely different way.

4. Family and friends.

Take stock of who your favourite people are and make a conscious effort to meet up with them. Arrange to participate in activities together. What do you all enjoy? Whether theatre, music, parties, or champagne – plan to indulge in these activities together.

5. Exercise is important for all of us

But it can be hard to stick to a routine – unless we find something enjoyable. Physical activity can sound exhausting but it’s very energising, particularly if taken in the fresh air. Get together with family or friends for a long walk or cycle ride. If you really want to work on your fitness, but have little time, investigate HIT training. Short bursts of exercise can be squeezed in at the start or end of the working day, or even in in your lunch break. Look at for those who need a personal trainer to motivate them. The good news is the training sessions are only 15 minutes long!

6. Hobbies.

Allocate time to indulge your passions and hobbies. If you have let these go over the years, try to revitalise previous interests, or perhaps start afresh with something new. If you love the idea of playing a musical instrument, take a look at “Get Playing,” on the BBC Music website. They have created a virtual orchestra of 1200 people of varying musical ability, playing every type of music. It’s fabulous.

7. Your Inspiration folder.

Create two folders, one physical and one online. File cuttings from magazines and newspapers of appealing activities. Store reviews of enticing restaurants and seductive holidays. Spend some time occasionally glancing through these ideas and investigate further. If you spot something interesting while you’re out and about, take a quick photo to remind you to follow up later.

8. Reflect.

Look back on your favourite holidays, days out and activities over the last few months. Which ones do you remember with pleasure? Make a mental note to repeat these, or investigate similar activities. Then plan them for the future!


If you fancy claiming back some of that free time then get in touch to find out how we can support you with a Designated PA and your practice with a Designated Medical Secretary.

Jane Braithwaite is Managing Director at Designated Medical and regularly contributes to the Independent Practitioner Today publication.

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Time you Stopped Chasing the Clock

Time you Stopped Chasing the Clock

Jane Braithwaite’s latest article, ‘Time you stopped chasing the clock’, published in the Independent Practitioner Today shares some tips with us about how we can stop time running away with us. Read here…

TopTips2Jane BraithwaiteOur monthly series by Jane Braithwaite (right) gives some vital tips to help you stop time running away from you.It is generally assumed that doctors are very good at managing time; after all, each patient’s consultation must be managed within a specific time-frame, whether that’s ten or 30 minutes.Stop Chasing the ClockHowever, it is fair to say that we all want more time; whether that’s to get work done, to enjoy life or both.

This month’s article on time management for doctors will explore several pertinent tips on how to manage your time – this most elusive commodity.

The Wikipedia definition of time management is as follows: ‘Planning and exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency or productivity’.

Stop chasing the clock

Favourite technique

My favourite time-management technique is the Eisenhower method created by the US President Dwight D. Eisenhower. It is also referred to as the Urgent/ Important Matrix.

[plsc_pullquote align=”right”]Eisenhower said: ‘I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and important. The urgent are not important and the important are never urgent.’[/plsc_pullquote]

The matrix described by Eisen­hower allows you to consider each activity in one of four sectors in his matrix.

An activity that falls into the urgent and important category is clearly something that you need to do immediately.

Urgent, Non Urgent?

However, non-urgent but important tasks are often more significant, but as they are not urgent, they slip down the list. Efforts should be made to deal with these tasks with urgency.

At the other end of the scale, any task that fits into non-urgent and not important should be discarded completely. And if it is urgent but not important, should you bother to do it? Only you can decide, but do make a conscious decision instead of wasting your valuable time.

Biggest time-wasters

One of the biggest potential time-wasters for all of us is the use of email and the Internet.

If time management consists of ‘planning and exercising conscious control’ over the amount of time spent on an activity, then email and Internet usage need to be managed with care.

If you are managing your own practice email and sifting out requests for prescriptions and follow-up appointments, why not ask your secretary to manage that account and to forward only the relevant emails to your separate ‘private’ account.

Personally speaking, I have picked up several tips over the years that have helped me in various ways. I tend to find one or two lightbulb ideas in each different method I research that subsequently stick with me.

Here are my tips for you:

  • Plan. Establish a planning routine. Some people do it at the start and end of the working day, others do it on a Monday and Friday at the start and end of the working week. Planning helps you avoid having to unexpectedly dedicate a chunk of time to dealing with an urgent issue.
  • Prioritise. Use the Pareto principle or 80:20 rule. Prioritise the 20% of actions that will have the most impact.
  • Delegate. Just because a task lands on your lap doesn’t mean that you must complete it. Immediate delegation is a very effective strategy, which brings me onto number four.
  • Avoid procrastination. This is a bad habit that needs breaking. Decide on the next action and do it.
  • Use an app. Numerous app developers have focused on time management, and you can choose from a wide range of software applications. I use Toodledo daily, but there are many others to choose from.
  • Email agenda. Always have an agenda in mind before you log into your emails. Starting at the first email and working through them chronologically is not an effective agenda.  Decide how much time you can allocate to email and set your objectives. Have a list at the ready of your top five objectives and deal with the emails that relate specifically to those objectives.
  • Analyse your time. Think about what you spend the most time doing and look at changing processes to save time.  There is a choice of time-tracking software programs, designed to help you measure the time you allocate to various activities.  For example, if you spend a notable amount of time phoning patients, perhaps the patient emails or letters you send could be amended to include more information.  Enclosing guides on medications, symptoms and so on might help to cut down time spent on repetitive calls.
  • Meetings. Before the existence of email, this was the number one time drain. Even if it’s not your own meeting – clarify your agenda and objectives in advance so you can focus on getting your desired outcomes. Set your boundaries by stating a time limit up front. Let the organiser know that you must leave at a certain time and stick to it.
  • Filing system. How much time do we all spend looking for something that’s filed in a safe place? Most of us need both a paper and online filing system. Investing some time in a good filing system will save many hours in the long term.

To conclude I would like to finish with a great quote by Stephen Bayne: ‘I am rather like a mosquito in a nudist camp; I know what I want to do but I don’t know where to begin.’

I hope these tips help you avoid being that mosquito!


Jane Braithwaite is Managing Director at Designated Medical and regularly contributes to the Independent Practitioner Today publication.

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Time Management Tips for Doctors

Time Management Tips for Doctors

Time management is the key to unlocking success in private practice.  Read the advice from the experts at Designated Medical on how to be the master of your time.

time management tips


Our team of medical secretaries are available to help manage your practice on a flexible basis to ensure you make the most of your time.

Contact us to discuss how we can help grow your practice.

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