Summer in London means people are more motivated to go out and be active.
Or so one would think.
Operating theatre staff are notorious for being reclusive and exclusive (even though in reality we really are a nice and sociable bunch). Tucked away in some hidden corner of the hospital, we probably see more blood than sunshine (morbid, much?), so as some kind of team building activity, I thought it would be a great idea for us to join the annual run organised by the Institute of Sports, Exercise and Health.
As you can imagine, when I raised this during the daily team brief I was met with reactions that ranged from skeptical to downright scornful. Team building for most people means having a sit-down dinner and maybe having a few rounds of beer afterwards, preferably sponsored by surgeons and anaesthetists. But. You can do that on any ordinary day. This activity is actually a chance to get everyone out in the sun and running for charity. Think of the health benefits!
But no dice. People heard the word running and they literally ran away from the idea. So I had to get creative (and manipulative) and think about how I can generate enthusiasm for my idea. I thought if I could just get 30 people to sign up, I’d consider that a good turnout. This was about two months ago. Here we are 60 days later, the event has just finished and I managed to get ONE HUNDRED people from the department to run the race.
How did I do it? I honestly have no clue. I had several moments these past couple of weeks as I was sorting out bundles of registration forms and actually collecting money in the form of COINS when I thought to myself, what in the world was I thinking? The whole thing had totally run away from me (see what I did there?) and I was petrified that I would fail to organise this properly now that its turned into such a large-scale activity.
But we did it. And a good day was had by all. Looking back I think there were six key things that really made all the difference. And I thought I’d share it with everyone just in case you’re thinking of getting your own department to do something active, and also I want everyone in my department to take note so someone else can organise this next year! Lol
Plan a picnic
I think food is the fulcrum around which all of society spins. Its not love or money that makes the world go round, its booze (haha). So when my team and I said that there will be a picnic afterwards, people became more enthusiastic about the whole thing. We told people to bring food and drinks potluck-style, and my colleague Joanne volunteered to head the food committee. Instant attendance-booster.
Appeal to everyone’s naturally competitive nature
I don’t know about other departments, but our theatre team consists of some of the most competitive bunch of individuals I know. So we made a competition within the race, telling people to get into teams, and the idea was that the first group to get all five people within their team to the finish line wins a prize. Suddenly everyone was coming up with team names, printing their own t-shirts, motivating each other to train and of course, ragging each other about whose team is going to win (mine won, by the way, JUST SAYING).
Open it up to family and friends
Look, we already work five out of seven days in the hospital. Its really difficult to get people to voluntarily come on a Sunday; for free I might add. So we made sure to encourage people to bring their family and friends and turn it into some kind of Family Day so that those with kids can be persuaded to come. It was good to see people mingling and having the kids play with each other.
I often think that seeing someone in a social situation allows you to relate better with someone. In a stressful environment such as the operating theatres, there are a hundred and one ways for people to end up in some kind of argument. There’s also a hierarchy, and in some ways that hierarchy is there for a reason, but it also makes it easy for people to forget that at the end of the day, we’re all human. We have more in common than we think.
Okay, I got a little bit sidetracked there. I was just really chuffed to see families interacting. It really warms the heart.
Un-complicate the process
I’d like to think that I have good insight and people skills. I have a sort of innate understanding about how people think and how to best get them to cooperate. And I know that in order for everyone to stay enthusiastic, I should take out as much of the administrative work as I can (and inevitably, have them fall on my shoulders).
So I asked ISEH if there was any way we could register as a group (this was back when I thought I would have at most 30 runners) and they were so great at helping me find a way to make it easy for people to sign up.
Of course, I did spend the last three weeks collecting registration forms, chasing people for payment, counting change and putting names on an Excel spreadsheet, but I looked around the number of happy, smiling faces today and I have to say, it was worth it.
Make running less intimidating
Honestly, when I first started running I never thought I could even finish a 3k, let alone a 10k (which is the longest run I’ve ever done to date). And I think most people feel that way. They think running is just for the fittest of individuals and that they’re too slow to participate.
Every time someone came up to me who was hesitant about joining the run, I told them, look, its not about finishing first or finishing within a certain time. The point is to do it, and even if you finish behind everyone else, even if you finish last, you still finish. That is an achievement in and of itself because on a Sunday, half the population of England are on their couches (or in a pub somewhere watching the Football World Cup).
Even if you choose to walk a 5k, that is literally 15,000 steps. It can be done in like an hour and a bit, which is still a good time for finishing a 5k run especially if you don’t run regularly or you’ve not trained. Also, it was good of ISEH to have a 2.5k option – especially for the kids – because that’s really what the majority of the our team chose to do.
It takes a village
The idea might have been mine, and I may have done the leg work, but this would never have been organised if I hadn’t had help from my team and if people didn’t embrace the idea. I’m really thankful for my bosses who were so supportive, and who actually came and ran themselves. It was also great of them to buy medals so we can have our own awarding ceremony. I’m thankful to everyone that came, period. I think everyone deserves a round of applause at this point.
At the end of the day, we were all there to support each other and have a good time. I lost track of the number of people who passed by me and took the time to slow down and give me encouraging words or a thumbs up sign. One of our theatre leads actually crossed the finish line AND THEN went back to encourage and motivate the rest of his team, it was awesome.
I’m realistic enough to realise that all the problems of the world, and the NHS and our department in particular, will not be solved by one little fun run. But i genuinely hope, at the risk of sounding too corny or maudlin, that we can keep the momentum going and be able to see work a little better with each other than we did before this run.
And if not, well, there’s always next year.
Thank you everyone for your support! 🙂