Great care leaders look for fresh and innovative ways to improve the lives of those within their organisations and they value what technology can do to enable great culture and more person centred care.

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At iCareHealth, we think the principle of good leadership is so important to improving lives in the social care sector that we’ve invited Sophie Coulthard from the judgementindex to contribute to the iCareHealth Blog. In this post Sophie shares the key traits of successful care leaders and strategies to develop a leadership culture within your own organisation. She references the recent study of Outstanding care managers; the largest ever conducted in the UK, and shares what makes them different and how they engage and empower their teams to achieve. She also draws on her own experience of working with once failing companies, who have gone on to be multi-award winning and the steps they took to create change.

Developing Culture

Developing a culture that is underpinned by the values of the company is high on the agenda of any care leader. The acid test is to ask a few members of staff what the values of the company are. If they can’t name them then there is work to be done.

Many care companies may have some of the same values as their competitors so it’s important to differentiate yourself and ensure staff have a clear understanding of not just what the values are but what it means to embody those values. If you can develop them beyond the words on the wall or website and they can be lived and breathed by the staff then in turn that will lead to a great culture within the company.

This can start with a team meeting or workshop to begin bringing the company values to life. Try adding a visual stimulus to each value and also a description or code of conduct so that it’s clear what the value means and what it means to behave according to that value. By involving the staff this generates a level of responsibility and ownership with them and if you can turn it into a fun exercise you’re guaranteeing they will remember.

Sonnet Care Homes introduced recognition for anyone shown to be living their values of kindness, care and respect. Once a month a staff member is chosen and their experience or story is shared in the newsletter and at the front of the home. This is a great way of continuing the momentum and driving home what it means to embody the company values.

Engage and Empower Staff

Engaged staff who feel valued will always go above and beyond, so great care leaders spend time making sure their staff are engaged and motivated.

A DTI Study (department of training industry) found that engaged staff are 78% more likely to promote the business, generate referrals and meet customer satisfaction levels. For a care company this can mean staff members promoting the business to their friends and family which in turn can generate referrals from potential clients and staff. Meeting customer satisfaction levels doesn’t just mean from clients or residents; it can be from CQC and local authorities.

Engaging staff is about the leader making an effort to communicate directly with staff and build trust with them. Honesty from staff should be respected because if a staff member is thinking something, then for them their opinion is true and great care leaders respect that.

One care leader said an important step was to ensure any feedback from staff was taken on board, dealt with and then that member of staff was told how it had been handled. It’s easy to presume that nothing has been done unless management make that effort to feed back to the relevant person.

In order to spend time working on staff engagement it’s important to understand who in the team can be empowered for the leader to be able to free up their time.

It’s key to recognise the staff who are highly motivated and highly skilled. They are the staff that need to be empowered and left to get on with their job. If they’re constantly being told what to do with no freedom then they may become frustrated and eventually leave. Great leaders take time to work out who these staff members are and a good exercise to do this is with the skill/will matrix. Google this tool and spend some time with the management team to plot staff members on the matrix, it will give some great awareness of the team and who needs what approach.

Situational leadership

A great care leader is often very skilled in situational leadership and understanding what communication style is best suited to the situation or scenario. Being able to be flexible in your style and not resort to one style is the key to delivering the message to the audience.

Many leaders employ a commanding style of leadership; “it’s my way or the high way” and while that can be very powerful it will only resonate with around 20% of the audience. A leader who understands that it is not about them but the message, and thinks about the best way to deliver the message will always go further.

Our research has shown that new leaders struggle with this because their default is to either command or be too affiliative; they’re not comfortable being the leader of their friends. These new leaders can quite often lack a bit of resilience or grit, and so a good company will invest in relevant leadership training for these people. It’s important that they develop their mindset that they deserve to be there and learn self-leadership skills to help them on their journey.


Having a robust selection process in place for either new hires or for existing staff is a high priority for care leaders. They do not allow for poor interviewing and they make sure the values of the company are prioritised from day one.

Lots of companies have a selection process that takes a “look back” approach. They consider CVs, references and interviews that take place in a controlled environment but still hire people that interview well and wonder who that person is three weeks later. Great care leaders make sure they standardise their recruitment process and use tools to help have a more objective look at their candidates. That is typically where the Judgement Index is used by care companies and is proven to make a dramatic difference to staff turnover rates and in turn care quality.

Hiring right is the first step but great care leaders also ensure their onboarding process is as good as it can be. There’s no point in giving a great candidate experience and then giving that new hire no support when they start in the business. Taking time to train the new staff member and understand how to make them feel valued from day one ensures they have the best possible chance of staying.


About the Author:

Sophie Coulthard – Principle Consultant, Judgement Index

Sophie has a breadth of experience gained from her varied and diverse career path and has been involved with the family business ‘Judgement Index UK’ for many years as a support consultant, joining full time in 2016.  A previous self-confessed “job hopper” she witnessed poor onboarding practices and bad culture which subsequently had a negative impact on staff, causing high turnover and poor working environments. Sophie now works with care organisations to help support the selection and development of staff, create high quality teams by developing their own culture and values and ultimately increase care quality.

To contact Sophie: [email protected]

Listen to Sophie’s podcast:  A series for care leaders in the UK to help build a better service. Sharing tips & strategies from great leaders & industry experts.


To contact iCareHealth about how to get your care home from good to outstanding please email us on [email protected] or call us on 01440 766 400 to speak with a consultant.

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