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Scholar's Report

Leadership: When opportunities knockā€¦opening doors to fulfill my leadership potential

2016/16 - Penny Agent

‘When opportunities knock…opening doors to fulfill my leadership potential’


Introduction: A year into my role of Director or Rehabilitation and Therapies I was fortunate to receive a leadership scholarship – my opportunity that came knocking. This offered me practically a blank page to shape a leadership journey of personal development, to maximise professional impact, aid definition of my career objectives and to carry out a patient care improvement project. Change was going to be a central focus, both change for me as as an individual, but also organisational change and how I could influence it. I was keen to experience a myriad of opportunities that would be from both healthcare and non-healthcare experiences that would challenge and expose me to opportunities to fulfill my leadership potential. From this ‘year of opportunity’ I have reflected and outlined my key learning aspects.

Background: As a physiotherapist and allied health professional, amongst my fellow scholars I was in the minority but each of us created our own pathway, and drew strength from networking. I identified personal development objectives around five key aspects: Influence (outside my Directorate/Organisation); Resilience; Reflection; Emotional intelligence; Listening (including being less critical). Innovation and collaboration was natural in my practice and as an AHP a core affinity with being outcome and goal-oriented. Therefore, for my patient care improvement project I chose to (try to) implement seven-day therapy and complex discharge services for my Trust.

Programme Visits: I was particularly focused on planning both healthcare and non-healthcare based leadership experiences as I wanted to challenge myself personally and have broad and diverse experiences, ultimately that would impact directly on my leadership ability and potential.

- Non-healthcare based:

- Healthcare based:

Reflections and Learning: Starting the scholarship with a personal development programme (HPL at Cranfield) set the foundations for transformational change in me, and I acknowledged that scrutiny of my personal awareness, my values, traits and behaviours were fundamental in how I approached my role as a leader and also in shaping my other scholarship experiences. Tools such as ‘Integral Transformative Practice’ and the requisite of achieving balance and preservation as a leader have been paramount learning points. A common theme of the importance of vision, values and behaviours became constant throughout my visits and experiences, as well as a strong message from my healthcare experiences of quality and patient safety being of primary importance. Having a clear vision and strategy is fundamental and visits such as to Salford, the Cleveland Clinic and the Virginia Mason Institute all offered such a rich wealth of knowledge and take home learning points for me to influence in my home Trust. The appreciation of culture is key and witnessing how the Disney Institute focus on customer experience and use the prospect of ‘overmanagement’ resonated strongly in how we should ‘overmanage’ patient care and pay attention to the smallest of details that can be so meaningful for patient care, safety and quality.

Throughout my journey I have been proactive in sharing practice and learning points, creating meaningful and creative processes, whether through symbolic displays of personal reflections, prompting conversations, away day activities or forum presentations, as value of my scholarship experiences needs to be shared in order to achieve fulfill its full potential.

Project: The aim was ‘The implementation of 7-day therapy and discharge services’ which would require a transformational change within my Directorate as although it was commonplace for physiotherapists to work across the seven-day period, for professions such as dietetics and speech therapy this was an alien concept. An adaptive leadership approach was taken as inclusivity and engagement was key from the outset. Although multi-professional team working was evident Monday-Friday, when it came to weekends, services were sparse and back in silo working of single professions.

Despite patient involvement and focus groups, and staff demonstrating concordance with the aim, consultation and collaborative models of care devised, it was financial constraints that limited the full implementation unfortunately. Improvements in patient services at weekends were achieved through a small increase in staffing and the innovative practice of using rehabilitation students at weekends to enhance the provision of rehabilitation to patients. A temporary postponement of consultation for the full implementation will hopefully be revisited in a few months.

Conclusion: Although this is the end of my scholarship my leadership journey continues. I have experienced such growth and development and have had a plethora of positive experiences that have been diverse, complex, challenging, and inspiring. The value of reflective practice and mindfulness sit proudly alongside my appreciation of my personal values and maintaining my integrity as a leader, all of which I can use to influence improvements in others and patient care. I am confident my aims have been achieved and have clarity in where I want my career to progress. Every leader leaves a legacy and this leadership scholarship has been influential in creating mine – to make the most of every opportunity, be the best you can be, and to realise my leadership potential for my self and the development of others.

Acknowledgements: I would like to offer sincere thanks and gratitude to the Florence Nightingale Foundation, in particular to Professor Elizabeth Robb and the administration team, my sponsor Health Education North Central and East London, my mentor Caroline Alexander and to Sue Machell all of who gave expert advice and helped create my journey.