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Are leaders asking the right questions?

Are leaders asking the right questions?
By Angela Sharda
2 September 2017

Often, when we discuss transformation we are hesitant to really examine and learn from what has gone before. It is almost as if we hope that innovation will come round that mountain like a hero.

I often wonder if this is a defence against really facing up to the challenging decisions we have to make with an ever-decreasing pot of money and increasing demand. I prefer the idea of evolving our thinking. The old and new merging together in order to survive and thrive in the new world. I’m not a fan of the never-ending demand to ‘transform’, suggesting we emerge without any sign of what was. I have had the privilege of holding leadership positions in mental health services and organisations for 23 years, so I can say ‘years ago we used to…’

The nature of the work in health and social care requires us to draw on our feelings about people. It demands that we think about why we are in role. Is the central purpose is to serve or to be served? I like to think that we are all motivated to serve our beneficiaries and staff. What can I do to make things better, how can I make a difference?

Compassion is practical

For me spending time in thinking about my values has enabled me to remain open, and empathic when organisational pressure naturally saps those qualities away. When I truly understood how important compassion was to me and others I was able to examine, for instance, how my services used language. How easy is it to access support? What did it feel like to walk into our buildings for help when you felt hopeless? These were not just ideas; policies were changed, people’s feedback was heard and acted on, rooms were decorated. What we did was both practical and strategic. It sets the tone across organisations.

We are in unprecedented times. We face increased need; evolving financial imperatives; an uneasy political landscape. It is almost a perfect storm. There are leaders across the land devoted to finding answers, and I offer just some thoughts here.

Do we appreciate the challenges facing the frontline?

I do not tolerate terms like ‘the burden of care’ but I do think it is important to understand the complexity of care.

  • Do we fully appreciate what it takes to continue to deliver high quality services within an inhospitable context?
  • Have we given enough thought to what people need; not just in terms of skills and pay but in terms of resilience, emotional literacy?
  • Will we listen when someone says something isn’t working?
  • Most people delivering care want to be there; the big question for us is how do we help them stay?
  • Do we take pride in the plethora of roles within the system; do we recognise leadership at all levels?
  • Are we investing in training and ongoing support?
  • Are we allowing the media to portray our workforce in a way that only demonstrates the downs and never the ups?

I don’t have all the answers but I support us asking each other these questions.

Sarah Hughes will speak on ‘Prevention -not a means to an end’ at the Healthcare Leader Forums on prevention and wellbeing in Birmingham, 14 September Reading, 21 September and Manchester, 12 October

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