2016/77 - Professor Alison Richardson
This report describes the process and outcomes of my Florence Nightingale Leadership Scholarship awarded towards the end of 2015, and progressed during 2016. I was kindly sponsored by Health Education England and supported in my pursuit of the Scholarship by my employers’ University of Southampton and university Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust. I am grateful to all four organizations’ for playing a role in my programme, albeit in different ways. It has felt an immense privilege to have been bestowed the Scholarship, giving me the opportunity to cross the unknown sea of leadership, learning ways to look for hidden patterns in both my personal and professional life, and given new meaning to my work.
I was drawn to the Scholarship for two reasons. Firstly, I had been considering some form of leadership development during the last three years, but had not found anything I felt quite met my needs, nor was structured in a way that would sufficiently support practical application. The nature of my clinical professor’s post demanded I operate strategically across boundaries, but given my career trajectory to date I had many opportunities in the past to access leadership development. Secondly, I had reached a point in my work where it was obvious to me I was at a gateway – but a gateway to what? It was time to consider how I wished to spend the last decade of my career, what I wanted to achieve, and in what ways I might best impact on my profession.
The application and interview process in themselves helped me, through personal reflection and conversation with a few select colleagues, surface issues and go some way to characterise what I wanted to both learn and practice. The bespoke nature of my programme was built around a series of diagnostic exercises, comprising leadership assessment, a profile of political intelligence, Myers Briggs profile, learning style and finally emotional intelligence. This forensic examination supported by an extremely skilled leadership consultant, whilst not always comfortable, enabled me to appreciate my strengths, areas for development and potential learning opportunities to help address these.
PERSONAL LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT
I drew up a personal learning plan and bespoke learning and development programme with the support and advice of my highly experienced mentor. It had a number of core elements, one of the most significant being attendance at an intensive five-day residential programme. This presented an opportunity to meet my fellow scholars, and learn together with the support of a highly experienced and knowledgeable faculty. This developed my understanding of the roles leaders can adopt to foster a culture that celebrates both stability and change in order to ensure success today and tomorrow. We were provided
PERSONAL LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT
I drew up a personal learning plan and bespoke learning and development programme with the support and advice of my highly experienced mentor. It had a number of core elements, one of the most significant being attendance at an intensive five-day residential programme. This presented an opportunity to meet my fellow scholars, and learn together with the support of a highly experienced and knowledgeable faculty. This developed my understanding of the roles leaders can adopt to foster a culture that celebrates both stability and change in order to ensure success today and tomorrow. We were provided with explanations on how to identify and diagnose performance gaps and develop action plans to attain and maintain organisational success.
I attended the Westminster Experience, again with some of my fellow scholars. This was a fantastic and extremely worthwhile day where we were given the opportunity to walk in the shoes of those who walk the political corridors of Westminster and develop a deeper understanding of the relationship between politicians and civil servants and reflect on how political thinking is translated into policy. It was a powerful demonstration for me of the importance of managing multiple sources of conflicting information, characterising and re-characterising your arguments in order to ensure they land, and how to manage conflicting pressures and people whilst not being blown off course.
September I attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts three –day workshop, a programme designed to enhance communication and influencing skills. Delivered by an accomplished actor this was a life changing experience and one of the best learning experiences I have been exposed to. Despite rapidly easing me out of my comfort zone, I quickly became intoxicated by the spirit of the programme. Carefully and skillfully we were encouraged to experiment and were coached in how to connect with our pillars of confidence. Most importantly how to breathe – not as simple as it sounds but once mastered highly effective and producing dramatic, positive shifts in personal impact.
I also chose to access a programme at Ashridge, a module called ‘Influencing Strategies and Skills’, part of the Advanced Management Programme. The programme covered the key skills, techqniques and approaches for successful influencing. Theories, models and ideas were offered for discussion combined with a practical, thought provoking and challenging exercises. Joining others from the higher echelons of industry, such as company directors and chief operating officers, threw me out of my comfort zone of health and higher education. But underlined the similarities in our situations as leaders and managers. I left more knowledgeable, confident and capable as an influencer.
Towards the end of the year I attended a one day programme at Cranfield entitled ‘Winning Hearts and Minds: story telling for professional managers’. I was attracted to this course because I am increasingly expected to deliver presentations, and often these will entail enthusing, engaging and motivating my listeners, as oppose to a traditional scientific conference presentation of research findings. This was a high experiential course and I now feel ready to take more risks with my presentational style and influence others through a delivery that embodies clarity, passion and presence.
Finally, for the first time in my career I chose to work with a coach. Selected for her appreciation of both the NHS and higher education sector this process has challenged my thinking and behavior in a positive and meaningful way. It served to enhance my understanding of the importance of deploying soft skills to get hard results. Most importantly it increased my confidence and belief in my abilities as a leader.
As a Health Education England (HEE) supported scholar it was expected I develop a project aligned with my sp0nsor’s priorities. There was also opportunity for me to work with, and alongside, members of HEE staff who were part of the Directorate of education & Quality. I made a conscious decision to develop a ‘project’ that would contribute to the implementation of recommendations contained within the recently published Shape of Caring review (1) use the HEE placement to achieve a number of different things; an appreciation of how to frame issues and initiatives in a language recognised by, and attractive to, national bodies and national agendas; examine various influences – people, places, politics – and observe and learn how influence is achieved or fails to be exerted; work through scoping an issue, listening to, collating and analysing different perspectives and sources of data to formulate an argument; and support to formulate recommendations and actions that can lever change at a national level through to local impact. Specifically, I contributed to formulating and actioning the annual project plan for the relevant work stream and took responsibility for developing and managing two specific pieces of work. My focus was on policy directed at building clinical academic capacity and capability in the nursing profession. 1. I also very much saw this is an opportunity to further my overall Scholarship learning objectives in that it could, if managed in the right way, support extension of knowledge and skills about how policy is shaped and influenced and provide opportunity for me to test my skills in this context. I was drawn to two particular areas that fell within the scope of the review – post registration education and training, in particular career frameworks to underpin clinical progression and development of a clinical academic career framework. My intention was to
My placement with the team at HEE generated a rich learning experience. My initial objectives were met and in many ways surpassed. It was a privilege to walk in the shoes of the HEE team at a time of extreme turbulence and dramatic shifts in the nurse training landscape. In particular it helped me appreciate the importance of having a clear goal to work towards, but underlined the importance of the fact that if I want to land in the right place I need to be flexible in my route, and this requires countless readjustments on the way.
The Scholarship has supported my personal development in a myriad of different ways. It has both moved me and changed me and helped me discover still points amid my slightly mad and frantic world of work and encouraged me to slow down. It has eased me into a place where I feel more comfortable not being in possession of all the detail, but still able
to make sound decisions. Fundamentally, it has given me insight into my personal and professional self, how I work and how I can work better with others. It has been both practical and illuminating and especially helped me step up my people skills to get the results I want. As a final note I wish to acknowledge my mentor, in particular his generosity and willingness to share and as a relaxed but skillful conversationalist which resulted in me feeling supported throughout the Scholarship. And last my fellow scholars, traversing together, but at the same time, plotting different courses. I wanted to thank them for the experiences we shared together, the work we did together helped me enormously to fully appreciate what I am good at and accept I don’t have to be perfect in order to be confident and effective in getting things done.
1 Willis, P (2015) Raising the Bar. Shape of Caring: a review of the future of education & training of registered nurses and care assistants. Health Education England: London.