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7 FREE Tools to help your PCN partners to connect and trust each other.

Updated: Sep 1, 2022

The rapid introduction of PCNs has brought promise of joined up working and additional investment, to practices nationally.

It also brought the rapid shift in business practice and partnership working, that we would typically call a merger or a scale-up (in other sectors).

Typically, a predicted organisational shift in culture is accompanied by support for the board (partners in this case) and a plan or policy for wider team culture change and behaviours that bring the whole team together. This is made more complex for primary care by the PCN approach, which for some practices, means that PCN employed staff can feel external to the organisation, despite being led by the same partners.

It can feel like 2 (or more) organisations, striving to create a single culture.

7 Free ideas / tools for PCN leaders.

We regularly work with Partnership boards and managers to establish PCN cultures, through connected and trusting bonds at the partnership level and eventual culture spread to the wider team. Here are a few of the key ideas we have been repeatedly asked to provide or seen the need to draw on in our work.

They might surprise you, as there is often too much focus on processes rather than the relationships between people that underpin these.

1. Adding in Team Building Space to your Partners Board

Partners have to build meaningful relationships and it is imperative that they create space to do this. Think of a partnership as a polygamous marriage, as it is not far off a marriage in terms of contract law. All parties have to work at the relationship, including clear and shared values alongside relationship building.

Click here to read how get started on creating this type of space for your team.

2. Learn to notice success and strengths.

We hear all too often how PCN meetings are problem focused without the cultural habit of celebrating each other. Imagine never complimenting your spouse? This is a regular experience in primary care and once appreciation is communicated, the effect is immediate and the appetite for more arrives.

Click here for 4 easy steps that will help your team to feel valued, by each other.

3. Always meet with the intent to notice each other’s experience.

Our most popular article by far, across all healthcare sectors — the value and method of ‘checking in’ at the start and end of meetings. Don’t dismiss this as a seemingly small and fluffy idea, read the article and be surprised by how big the impact can be from such a simple addition to meetings.

Click here to be persuaded on the value of a simple check-in.

4. Ditch the idea that you don’t have time for team building

Whenever we are commissioned to support partnership boards, we ask the entire partnership to meet us for 2 hours per month. It is the most effective screening tool we have for boards who are serious about change versus those who aren’t. It is also feasible, we have worked with partnerships ranging in size from 8 to 26 partners — all meeting us in a single workshop… and many choosing to keep this space as a permanent culture shift.

But we recognise that this is a hard sell, so here is the rationale that can help those who are stuck in the ‘not enough time’ mindset.

Click here to find out how team time creates capacity in organisations.

5. Learn to be healthy at work and home

Partners are famous for working long hours and burnout is increasing for GPs and managers, on top of already high rates pre-COVID. Learning as individuals and a team to be healthy outside of work — in terms of being able to let go of work worries, is critical for board functioning. Don’t underestimate the value of this… partners who ruminate about work all night suffer relationship issues and resentment at work, as work starts to feel like the cause of all problems.

Click here to discover approaches used by high stress professionals to quickly drop work and return to life.

6. Explore the Psychological contract with all partners

Partners give and expect different things. Some want to lead, others want to see patients. Some want to develop specialties, others want to hone their skills. Some want innovation, others want predictability.

Much of this is unsaid and creates issues, often in board meetings.

Learning to understand the contract we imagine we have with our partners (and the managers) is so critical to PCN functioning, especially given the rate of change that occurs.

Here is a primer to help you consider what needs exploring at the 1to1 level, or wider level in whole team building spaces.

7. Learning to have conversations that are missing

Organisations function entirely through conversation and in many PCN partnership boards, some of the critical conversations that bring people together and create unity are missing.

Here is a method for working out what is missing and adding it in.


Share ideas with the PCN and feel brave enough to play with them.

Find more ideas in our book (Leading Primary Care: Resilience, Team Culture & Innovation) which is available on amazon or for free in digital version here. 26 ideas that go beyond the PCN to think about GPs, managers and the wider team.

If you need help, you can also contact us directly.



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