Bitesize Leadership & Gratitude

Welcome to my bite size. One of 12 blogs in a new series looking at leadership characteristics.

This week is likely to present you as a leader, or someone others call a leader with many new challenges. What if instead of being tough-minded and focused, firing off directives from the executive floor you went out and around your organisation saying thanks to people? What if at the end of each day you wrote down what you were thankful for in your day and also write down who you had said thanks to?

Research shows gratitude works as an effective leadership intervention. It will help build your presence and will help you specifically over time;

Change your perspective – as your mind will focus on the positives and the possibilities. Energy –You will  lead with more energy and commitment turning setbacks into opportunities. Outward focused you will find creativity to deal with the challenges your organisation faces. Resilience you will become stronger with greater psychological reserves.

Your team will feel valued – You will draw your team around you as they feel attended to. Getting it back – gratitude draws others in as when they start to experience your genuineness. 

Discretionary effort emerges – Staff start to know their efforts get noticed and work harder.

Morale will improve – The morale of your workforce will improve as they feel valued.

You become more self-aware –Gratitude given and received slowly opens genuine feedback. 

You will integrate your life – Being more at ease talking to the PA, post room staff, your kids. 

You will become a leader who has followers. 

So, how do you start? Start small, start private and start genuine.

Get a notebook keep it by your bed or in your work bag. Write down each day no more than five things you are grateful for.

Even on a terrible day when the trains late, a key buyer pulls out or your team misses monthly performance you still had a great cup of coffee.  If you are a real leader you are deep in the muck and bullets so a great coffee might be the best you can do. But, start there it will get better and bigger if you do this genuinely and for at least a month.

Once you have got the hang of the GRATITUDE LIST then start a second THANK YOU LIST list. Think of the people you said thanks to today, the bus driver, your PA for a great cup of coffee, your deputy who pulled off the deal for the team.  Notice this list, you might struggle to put one thank you down at first. You may notice you are rubbish at saying well done or thank you. So leave it blank and tomorrow commit to say one thank you to someone, and mean it.

Keep these two lists for a month then review yourself against the characteristics I listed above. Notice how the lists changed and developed and what  you learnt about yourself.

Like my approach? then do contact me http://www.amandareynolds.org to talk at a key event or to coach you or your team. Pictorial of the blog thanks to @engagevisually

Want to be a great leader? Leaders love difference

Welcome to my blog, one in a series exploring leadership characteristics. Here I draw on my own leadership experience and my work as an executive coach to share with you my thoughts on what makes for a great leader. I consider there are a number of leadership characteristics a leader needs to display and work on to be more than average.  I want in this blog to focus on the theme of difference or diversity in leaders and leadership teams.

Please don’t think this is for someone else in your team or that I will make a moral or quotas argument about board diversity.  I want to talk instead about the business, rational and logical case to love difference. This is really NOT an add-on to your business or something that your human resource team can lead on for you. You need to pay attention to this yourself to be more successful than your competitors.

LOVE-DIFFERENCE.with-shadow.SFW

I love to coach leaders as they identify their challenges, their business goals and grow their capability, confidence and self-awareness. I had the honour recently of coaching a leader who was looking to expand his team. When exploring what he needed in his team he boldly said:

I need to bring in someone with a very different profile and skillset to me and the rest of the team. I know it will be challenging and the organisation might find it uncomfortable. But, this place will only grow and develop a really engaging vision if I recruit difference.”

He is a leader with a clear goal, he is after DIFFERENCE and he knows why it matters to the growth of the organisation. I think he knows something about the vital role difference plays in top teams and organisations. I know from my own career and personal life how difference can be challenging. I, like others am always more comfortable with those like myself. Then when I look back my greatest achievements in life they have come when I led teams of difference or worked with those very different to me.

But why would a leader go out of their way to look for very different skills, skills they do not have or understand themselves?  Having the hassle of welcoming someone into the team who will not fit easily and may jar with colleagues and the organisation/team culture? That is madness isn’t it? You want people who complement each other and create team harmony for a great team, surely?  People who share the same values and ideas as you. People who will work with you easily. You want people like you surely; no you do not.

The evidence is mounting that loving difference is what you need to do if you want your business to rise above the mediocre and win over its competitors. It is also definitely what you need to do to engage the discretionary effort and maximise the morale of your workforce.

This thinking of mine is not new, in fact Stephen Covey said “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.”  It’s been around awhile but I think it is still not taken seriously enough. Many Boards are still not making it core. Businesses and leaders are falling behind because they are ignoring it or worse deliberately avoiding difference in their teams or belittling its importance.

But, meanwhile a minority of businesses are seeing the benefits. They will overtake you if you do not get DIFFERENCE into the core of what you do and how you do business.  And that’s exactly what Mckinsey in their recent research found. More diverse boards do equal more profit and have a more successful impact in their market segment. Mckinsey do not say categorically why that is but they suggest some reasons.

I agree with Mckinsey that the CEOs and chairs they found who are open to, value and seek out difference in people around them and in the strategies pursued are then leading more successful companies. Mckinsey go as far as to say they are putting diversity as a core business goal and there is best practise here to watch. These are boards it seems where gender, race, sexuality, varied social backgrounds, belief, age and disability are seen as valuable assets not barriers to success.  You can read the full summary here:

http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/organization/is_there_a_payoff_from_top-team_diversity

And of course you want to lead the most successful team in your field don’t you? You do not put in the hours and heavy lifting to come home and say I was average today or my team was mediocre do you? If you want to be the most successful business in your field then you need the best team. Many CEOs and Chairs spend a great deal of time with coaches and recruitment agencies considering how to achieve this. But what if they are looking in the wrong places and working with coaches and recruiters too like them? It seems you only get real success by seeking out difference, not the same. Maybe the first thing you could do is fire your recruitment agency or your coach and find a DIFFERENT one!

Patrick Lencioni in his New York Bestseller “The five dysfunctions of a team – a leadership fable” starts by stating:

“Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.”

Patrick writes convincingly and with much real expertise from coaching executives and teams. But his 5 dysfunctions needs the addition of a 6th dysfunction avoiding difference. Yes we do need to build trust, engage in conflict, build commitment and accountability and focus on the results. BUT we must also seek the different, the divergence, the new, the unusual the downright weird. As in this place is the breakthrough you need in your business and to avoid it you are likely to be a breeding ground for the horrors of Group Think. Group Think is not another new concept either. In fact it was first coined by psychologists in the 1970s. In my work with organisations and leaders I still find it far too prevalent four decades on. Irving Janis in his work at Yale described Group Think and its real dangers as:

“The more amiability and esprit de corps there is among the members of a policy-making ingroup, the greater the danger that independent critical thinking will be replaced by groupthink.”

So the crazy idea I suggest is you need to build a team that will make life more difficult, more different to you, less harmonious and more conflicted at times. Through this difference you and your business will become more successful in your field.

Malcolm Gladwell in his latest book “David and Goliath” sums up how assumptions and current paths to the top table do not get us diversity in thinking, approach or strategy and he says:

“We spend a lot of time thinking about the way that prestige and resources and belonging to elite institutions make us better off. We don’t spend enough time thinking about the ways in which these kinds of material advantages limit our options.”

We know leaders and business are less trusted now than ever before and we know when we look up at the top table they don’t look much like the rest of us. So, advantages as we measure them, the right school, college internship and CV aren’t advantages. They potentially stop you connecting with your organisation and your customers. You need difference in your team to see different and be different to the rest of the field.

And teams need this difference as teams that are full of people who are too alike often are not harmonious. They can breed constant internal tension and focus turns to individual status, ego and MY results instead of the whole organisational success. Difference stops the internal competition and comparison that is always so tempting to fall into in top teams. In teams where difference prevails the focus shifts to competing together against the world and to grow and succeed together. A good analogy would be to fix a door you need wood, hammer and nails, three of one won’t do it.

We need to go a bit further than just recruiting difference in our teams and organisations we also need to be different ourselves. I recently interviewed a CEO of a very large public sector organisation. He had taken on an organisations that was in a mess and one that has had high profile interest for its many problems from government and regulators in the UK. He was past his retirement age and shared with me how he was leading the organisation back onto its feet and to be a leader in its field. His background was not traditional CEO as he had spent a number of years in research, strategy and policy development. He did not fit the bill for the shortlist. He wasn’t a current deputy CEO, chief operating officer or finance director.  He said to me in describing the rationale for his approach which was different to his peers:

I am not like my CEO peers in other organisations. I have not come through that route and I don’t have status and belonging to that group to hold me back. I’m going to turn this organisation around the way it needs to. It will not be comfortable for me or the Board. But I’m past retirement age so what is the worst that can happen to me? They might fire me.  Then I will say thanks for giving me a try and I will go home to the cottage by the sea and put my feet up!”

He is an outsider with the passion, vision and energy to make the change. He is not reckless and he is building a very clear strategy to develop his organisation. Because he is not part of the pack he can challenge and change things without fear of what he will lose. He does not need the approval of peers and he is not looking for it either.

Malcolm Gladwell sums this quality up as being disagreeable, and my CEO friend, lets call him Ted is clearly disagreeable in his approach:

“Crucially innovators need to be disagreeable. By disagreeable I don’t mean obnoxious or unpleasant. ……They are people willing to take social risks – to do things that others might disapprove of.”

So how do you develop a team that is difference or disagreeable? and how do you work on your own difference? There are a few thing you could try and they build on my Curiosity and Gratitude blogs. If you are serious about being different and loving difference get a coach and a team facilitator if you don’t have one already. Get a coach who isn’t like you but someone who is different to you and your team. Here are some thoughts on what you could do and you will need your notebook again:

  • Go out and about and notice people in your organisation “the ones who are most unlike you”. Take time to talk to them about the business and get their feedback.
  • Who comes to mind as trouble when you implement a new plan at Board? The one who won’t like it or complains about it. Go see Joe, Fred or Betty ask them to explain what’s wrong with your plan, say thanks and just write it down.
  • Who is the quiet one in your team? Take them out to coffee and ask them to tell you what they think about how the business is doing and what could we improve.
  • Look at your top team psychometrics again or get them done. And see what skills and preferences you have lots of and what is missing in team.
  • Go visit a successful business in a completely different field and reflect on what they seem to be getting right.
  • Find out all you can about the main competitors in your field and ask where they are different to you in team and approach.
  • Ask yourself and your team if we made diversity core to our business what would we do differently?
  • Ask yourself if I could recruit any business innovators past and present and from any field to my team who would I pick and why?
  • Reflect on when you last had someone very different in your team, how did you feel or how did you react to them? What have you learnt from this experience.
  • Find out from your team: what is the worst job they ever did? And what was a big event in their childhood? Tell them yours also.
  • Now take some time out to reflect on what’s in your notes and what it is saying to you? Reflect on what surprises you.
  • Set up a top team day and tell your team what you are hearing from outside, ask them to share what their reflections are on this feedback.
  • Start to devise your refreshed business strategy with your team based on what you have learnt
  • Ask your top team one by one and privately to buy in to the new refreshed strategy and direction. Offer them an opportunity to step aside if they don’t want to do the tough work in a DIFFERENT team.

This will not be easy, it will be harder work but you WILL get better results.

So, in summary difference is what you need in your team and your organisation and different is what you need to be also. Maybe you are more different than you let on and maybe on your journey to the top you have hidden your unique attributes and difference? Don’t hide yourself anymore,  be authentic and it will make you a better leader if you share your difference.

“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
― Nelson Mandela

Do contact me for executive coaching, mentoring and leadership speaking. I can travel to you or I offer high quality Skype coaching. I might be some of the difference you need and I would love to work with you on your leadership journey.

http://www.amandareynolds.org

Can you learn to be a great Leader? – try GRATITUDE

Welcome to my blog. I plan to write 12 blogs in a new series looking at leadership characteristics. I will draw on my own leadership experience along with observations taken from my executive coaching and mentoring practise. My blogs will be focused and to the point so, do read on as I will help you think differently about leadership and how to approach your work.

But if you are short on time try this visual

AMANDA REYNOLDS LEADERSHIP

There will be problems and this week is likely to present you as a leader, or someone others call a leader with many new challenges. Maybe your teams are not performing, targets missed, your customers or buyers are unhappy and your budgets are overrunning. So, you know what you need to do – be tough minded, make difficult decisions, avoid distraction and focus on the immediate tasks. Or is that the right strategy here? What if instead of being tough minded and focused, firing off directives from the executive floor you went out and around your organisation saying thanks to people? What if at the end of each day you wrote down what you were thankful for in your day and also write down who you had said thanks to. That’s crazy, you don’t have time for that. You have to lead from the front and face problems head on. Its tough so staff need to see you modelling tough don’t they? They don’t need the ceo out bothering and distracting them. And, you have back to back meets all day and you will struggle to find time for lunch let alone have anything much to feel positive about. But, what if I told you research shows gratitude works as an effective leadership intervention. It will help build your presence and will help you specifically over time by; Changing your perspective – once you start to practise gratitude your mind will focus on the positives and the possibilities in situations. It stops you becoming inward looking obsessed with problems and instead your mind starts to clear as you develop a focus on others. Energy –You will start to lead with more energy and commitment as you turn setbacks and challenges into opportunities. You will find creativity to deal with the challenges you and your organisation face, because you are outward focused. Resilience -You will become stronger with greater psychological reserves as you start to build personal and inter personal resilience. I’m not talking unrealistic over optimism but a different perspective on your challenges and problems. You will draw your team around you as they feel valued and attended to by you. So it’s not about you being tough, it’s about a strong team. Getting it back- Leadership is often talked about as a lonely place. No one speaks truth to power and no one walks the journey with you. But gratitude draws others in as when they start to experience you showing genuine gratitude they will offer it back to you. It’s not about you –You will start to see your staff as your greatest asset. You will start to see the person behind the title and start to feel a genuine rapport with those who can engage with gratitude. You will stop feeling you have to solve the problems and instead engage the organisation and its people. Challenges move -It will at times seem almost miraculous when challenges get solved because people collaborate with you with focused and clear minds. They start to know their efforts get noticed so they work harder. Morale will improve – The morale of your workforce will improve as they feel valued. They will focus more clearly on the task as they are not held back by negatively. You will unlock all that discretionary effort that is currently taken up in resisting change or fighting the system. You will become more self-aware – many leaders become isolated, self-absorbed and have a different view of themselves to their staff, their team and their organisations. They get lost in the job of leadership and take reinforcement from the status and the power. Now gratitude given and received starts to slowly open you up to genuine feedback, to noticing others and they then notice when you make a difference. You will be surprised by what others see as important in the leader. You will start to integrate your life – evidence suggests most leaders only talk to other leaders. People who are just like them but it takes a whole organisation to deliver the business so you need ways to engage with all those not like you. If you are a Myers Briggs ENTJ leader you are just 4% of the world. So, what do all those others think!! You will start to find yourself more at ease talking to the PA, the post room staff, your own partner and kids and break into fabulous spontaneous conversations when the train is delayed. You will become a leader who has followers – A CEO can get on a soap box, meet teams, sign off strategic plans but they only become real leaders when they have followers. So, how do you start? Start small, start private and start genuine. Get a notebook keep it by your bed or in your work bag. Write down each day no more than five things you are grateful for. Even on a terrible day when the trains late, a key buyer pulls out or your team misses monthly performance by a barn mile you still had a great cup of coffee. So, write it down. Be genuine, don’t shout about it and don’t kid yourself with big statements. If you are a real leader you are deep in the muck and bullets so a great coffee or a train home that ran to time today might be the best you can do. But, start there it will get better and bigger if you do this genuinely and for at least a month. Once you have got the hang of the GRATITUDE LIST then start a second list; Think of the people you said thanks to today, the bus driver, your PA for that great cup of coffee. The cab driver or your deputy who pulled off the deal for the team.  Notice this list, you might struggle to even put one thank you down at first. You may notice you are rubbish at saying well done or thank you but better at barking orders. So leave it blank and tomorrow commit to say one thank you to anyone, to someone, and mean it. Keep these two lists for a month then review yourself against the characteristics I listed above. Notice how the lists changed and developed, what have you learnt about yourself and notice how you feel about yourself, your family, your work. I’m certain you will do better on authenticity, self-awareness and resilience. You may also have more energy, better staff morale and business success…. Staying with gratitude let’s finish with a story from Aesop… A Slave ran away from his master, by whom he had been most cruelly treated, and, in order to avoid capture, betook himself into the desert. As he wandered about in search of food and shelter, he came to a cave, which he entered and found to be unoccupied. Really, however, it was a Lion’s den, and almost immediately, to the horror of the wretched fugitive, the Lion himself appeared. The man gave himself up for lost: but, to his utter astonishment, the Lion, instead of springing upon him and devouring him, came and fawned upon him, at the same time whining and lifting up his paw. Observing it to be much swollen and inflamed, he examined it and found a large thorn embedded in the ball of the foot. He accordingly removed it and dressed the wound as well as he could: and in course of time it healed up completely. The Lion’s gratitude was unbounded; he looked upon the man as his friend, and they shared the cave for some time together. A day came, however, when the Slave began to long for the society of his fellow-men, and he bade farewell to the Lion and returned to the town. Here he was presently recognised and carried off in chains to his former master, who resolved to make an example of him, and ordered that he should be thrown to the beasts at the next public spectacle in the theatre. On the fatal day the beasts were loosed into the arena, and among the rest a Lion of huge bulk and ferocious aspect; and then the wretched Slave was cast in among them. What was the amazement of the spectators, when the Lion after one glance bounded up to him and lay down at his feet with every expression of affection and delight! It was his old friend of the cave! The audience clamoured that the Slave’s life should be spared: and the governor of the town, marvelling at such gratitude and fidelity in a beast, decreed that both should receive their liberty. We never know when gratitude will be returned so go on start it today. If you like my approach then do contact me to talk to you as a leader or to your team. I love and learn from feedback so do tell me what you think of the blog………

pictorial view of the blog thanks to @engagevisually

www.amandareynolds.org

Can you be a great leader? Experience failure

Welcome to my blog, one in a series on leadership characteristics. Here I draw on my own leadership experience and my work as an executive coach and share with you my thoughts on what makes for a great leader. Did you try to be more curious ? I do hope that you did. Because if you are trying to be more curious then your brain is already growing in strength and size as it forms and deepens connections. Don’t forget to write down what you are learning and discuss it with your leadership coach. This will really help you grow in your self-awareness also. Growing self-awareness is a nice link in to my next topic, failure. I’m sure you are feeling both intrigued and maybe a little uncomfortable right now. Short on time then take a look at the great graphic by @engagevisually

3.-MAR.-FAILURE.SFW-1600high

We don’t talk about failure in leadership much do we? In our fast paced business environments with many challenges we focus instead on performance and delivery. It all about success and more success, leaders can’t be allowed to fail, can they? So, what happens to the leaders who do fail? We know in our hearts and from research that many of them do? I think they go quietly out of their role, in hushed tones, ashamed to talk about what went wrong in a world where success is so prized. We talk about them though don’t we? not to them but we do talk and wonder about their failure and how on earth it happened. And, how we can avoid it. Because deep down we may suffer from imposter syndrome, am I good enough? Will I be able to hold the performance of my team together? Will my company grow and survive this market? How will I navigate the choppy waters ahead? How the heck do I keep my life in balance and be great at work and at home also?

Don’t kid yourself  the odds are stacked against you also. With 40% of CEOs failing in their first 18 months and even more failing to live up to their company board expectations in the medium term. But, you don’t have to be on a leadership track based on the statistics. You should though start to expect failure and learn from it. Even get to a  place of embracing the failure.   I am not wanting you to become pessimistic and disabled by the thought of failing. I know that failing as a leader can be a catastrophic life event but it does not have to be. I want to suggest a new way of approaching failure. I believe that we all fail as leaders and we will go onto fail more as our careers progress. Even if we don’t make it out of the door, box in hand as the next big firing, if we are leading then we will fail at some point. In fact I suggest we need to experience failure to get success. We need to engage with the failure and learn from it. I also don’t actually think we will succeed unless we fail.

Crazy but true, look at some of the great business leaders over the life of their careers. Take Walt Disney, failure after failure but that’s not the story we remember is it?  His first animation company in 1921, he had to dissolve it as distributors didn’t pay him.  Then Universal took his cartoon rabbit and claimed ownership and stole his Disney artists to work on it!  MGM told him Mickey Mouse would terrify women on the big screen. He was told Three Little Pigs & Snow White would not sell. Pinocchio production was shut down due to spiralling development costs. When he did premiere it, his publicity was a disaster as the 11 people he hired got drunk, then stripped naked and ran around New York!  He experienced failure upon failure, but he learnt from his failures. Failure brought him insights and wisdom that success would not and so he then went on to great successes.

The ones we really need to worry about in business are those leaders who think they never fail. I know you have met them and recognise them. You definitely cannot fail around them as failure is seen as a moral failing. Then there are those who hold the badge of CEO but are not leaders but managers. You recognise them also as they were recruited for their technical skills. Maybe a finance or chief operating officer by background. They carry on like they did in their previous role and subtly use power and processes to coerce their organisation and staff. These are people that John Kotter (1990) would describe as transactional and not transformational. You work for them and ache to discuss vision, purpose and the impact that your organisation is having on the customers.

Or worse still they are failing and have no idea of the failures they are presiding over or the impact of those failures on their staff or their organisations performance. They lack insight into the role of  leadership and do not have the antennae leaders need to spot what is really going on. They have not developed their antennae because they never engage their team, do not look at themselves, they never ask for feedback and they never look at wider industry and its advances. Recognise that boss?

So why do leaders fail? Are there some common characteristics. In a fascinating book   “Lead like it matters because it does” published by McGraw Hill (2014) Roxi Hewertson, CEO of Highland Consulting Group and AskRoxi.com lists five reasons why leaders fail: Over or under confidence – not leading confidently and so not taking people with you or being over confident and rather too big for your boots. Approaching leadership with the wrong expectations – many leaders have a limited idea of what they are getting into when they take on a leadership role and don’t realise that growing and leading their team is key to success. Lack of training in the skills of the leader – leaders fail when they try to apply the technical skills they acquired on the journey to the role of the leader. It requires different skills now and they need to be learnt and mastered to succeed. Ignoring the need for a healthy team – leaders need a team around them, they need to build that team and develop healthy interpersonal relationships with and within that team,. They need to build trust and the will to follow them in others. They have to keep working at this listening and growing themselves on the way also. Failure to listen – leaders often feel they need to be directive, to have all the answers and tell not listen. They need to learn to listen, not to jump in, to reflect, to engage and develop the organisation to find the answers.

So, why is failure important, something to engage with and not run away from? As I stated earlier if we are truly leading we will fail, we will sometimes push too hard.  We may be in a culture that does not fit well, not take people with us and not get the change happening. Leader don’t operate in a vortex so we might be failed by the business context or by our own organisation. We may have a vision and values not aligned or we might have an innovation or idea ahead of its time.

Do not run away from your failure instead let the failures be your teacher. This is difficult I know as with a sense of failure often comes despair, guilt and a sense we are inadequate in some way. Those emotions are normal but failure is not an end, it can and often is instead a beginning. It just requires us to look at ourselves.  Ask yourself, with the support of your coach: Where did I fail? Were the examples above speaking to me? Were there signs of impending failure that I missed? Were people trying to warn me and did I not listen? What have I learnt? How did this failure impact my values? What is my leaders vision and how do I stay on track? What can I do next time? Who should I have working alongside me? How can I turn this lesson into a success in the future?

Then encourage yourself to try again, be easy on yourself, and others when you fail and keep talking about it. Surround yourself with “life enrichers” who will help you to rebuild and move forward. Walt Disney learnt to recognise business people around him. He described three types: “There are three kinds of people in the world today,” Disney said. “There are ‘well poisoners,’ who discourage you and stomp on your creativity and tell you what you can’t do. There are ‘lawn mowers’ – people who are well- intentioned but self-absorbed; they tend to their own needs, mow their own lawns and never leave their yards to help another person.

Finally, there are ‘life enrichers’ – people who reach out to enrich the lives of others, to lift them up and inspire them. We need to be life enrichers, and we need to surround ourselves with life enrichers.” So, in summary we leaders need to develop mastery of ourselves and be around life enrichers. We need to become self-aware to our strengths and most importantly our weaknesses. We need to spend time reflecting on where we got it right but more importantly where we got it wrong. We need to admit the failure(s) and we need the support and affirmation of a great coach or mentor to do this with us and to avoid us falling into negativity or despair as we reflect. We also need to be aware of others in the team, how they also will succeed and fail and how we must help them move forward on their journey also. We need to be transparent and show some humility and humanity to those around us knowing that we all fail but we can succeed also. Only if we are open to failure and to learning from it  as a continuous circle of leadership improvement, only then will you be effective as a leader. Do contact me for executive coaching, mentoring and leadership speaking. I can travel to you or I offer high quality  Skype  coaching. If you want to learn then I would love to work with you on your leadership journey. http://www.amandareynolds.org

Can you be a great leader? – Try CURIOSITY

Welcome to my blog, where I explore leadership  characteristics. Here I draw on my own leadership experience and observations from my work as an executive coach.  I hope you tried out gratitude after reading my last blog. If you did, I am certain you are already seeing a difference in your self-awareness, your resilience levels and your energy levels. You could say I am curious about leaders and the qualities of the best leaders. But, I am curious about many more things and I want to encourage you to develop your skills of curiosity also. In addition to gratitude I think curiosity is an important and under developed skill for leaders. So, do read on, but if your short on time do have a look at this graphic that captures the key messages.

2. FEB. CURIOSITY. Graphic. SMALL

Some of you may at this point want to close my blog thinking, oh yes curiosity if only I had time for that! I am too busy running this place, dealing with business and financial strategy to take time out to be curious. You may be thinking about the other dictionary meanings of the word curious and conjure up in your mind strange, unusual peculiar, bizarre, freak or deviant. Or maybe a parent or teacher comes to mind telling you to FOCUS,as “curiosity killed the cat!” All of those views on curiosity are limited.  For starters the proverb was never originally intended to be “curiosity killed the cat”. The original form of the proverb, now little used, was “Care killed the cat” and is attributed as early as Shakespeare. In this instance, “care” was defined as “worry” or “sorrow.”  It got changed in the 18th century to “curiosity killed the cat” as feminine and feline characteristics were deemed unproductive.  We can agree that worry and stress are disablers for leaders in complex organisations. So, it’s conceivable to think worry would kill the cat also. So, if curiosity didn’t kill the cat but worry did then you might just be seeing curiosity a little more positively now. The other interesting thing about curiosity is it leads you in all sorts of different directions. Curiosity is where we have a strong desire to learn or to know something. Evidence is mounting that learning something new grows your brain functions. That’s where the concept of brain neuroplasticity comes into play. Scientists are discovering that the adult brain can still grow,change and develop and can actually be trained to improve. The flip side if you don’t keep growing your brain or its functions it will diminish. The best way to grow your brain is to learn something or do something new. When you are learning a new skill and you repeat it, or access a memory you grow your brain by making new neural connections. As a leader with all the business challenges you face every day, wouldn’t it be great if your brain was bigger, reasoning quicker and your ability to solve problems more effective.  Some of you are already curious and this blog will be a relief and reinforcement to you leaders. Practising curiosity can help you as a leader but I bet curiosity has not been top of your list as a leader maybe FOCUS has. With your education, your parents and teachers, your college, your organisations they all encouraged FOCUS. Focus on the grades, FOCUS stop day dreaming, FOCUS on getting into the best college, and be FOCUSED in the interview to get the job and boy do you need to be FOCUSED to succeed in business too. I’m not suggesting you toss out focus. Curiosity is not the opposite of focus. If practised curiosity will encourage your brain to change and grow and it can enhance and develop your focus, it will develop your self-awareness, you will think quicker as you make connections across new and sharper neural pathways and your skills and tools will grow. You will spot opportunity, new people, new contacts, and new ways to do things also. This is not magic it will require work and practise just like developing your focus required time effort and practise. Focus has developed the skills and depth of experience that got you to the top table, didn’t it? Well yes it did, but on its own it will not help you now you are there. How do you grow into the 70% of the job of a CEO that your experiences and qualifications never prepared you for? You need to develop yourself and awareness of others, develop radar for what might be, what is out there, what and could be different and what is coming over the hill. You need the ability to lead and engage your staff to follow the company journey. No business survives if it does not grow, change or take its staff with it, especially the diverse thinkers. SAID Business School in their recent CEO report described in their review of leader competencies a new type of leadership intelligence that is needed in addition to emotional and contextual intelligence. From their research the best CEOs seem to possess something they call ripple intelligence. It helps them do the job and continuously adapt and grow personally to keep succeeding as a CEO. Quoting Dr.Michael Smets, Ripple intelligence is described as: “The ability to see the interactions of business contexts like ripples moving across a pond.  It enables CEOs to envision how trends and contexts may intersect and change direction, so they can anticipate disruptions, make time to plan, and protect against being blindsided by unexpected events. Ripple intelligence also makes CEOs aware of their own impact and how it may influence contexts that might otherwise seem remote and unconnected. ” http://www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/sites/default/files/Press_Office/Docs/The-CEO-Report-Final.pdf Practising curiosity is a tool that could help you develop ripple intelligence. Start small and like with gratitude do not try anything too ambitious initially. Your brain will need some training here. I know you don’t have much time and with all these years spent focusing you might just find being curious strange and a little tough. Here is a possible small exercise. Find somewhere quiet and undisturbed and set a timer on your watch or phone just for 2 minutes (it will seem like an age). Now get your mind to FOCUS on the present. Think of a small baby, how it uses curiosity to develop its focus by staring at its hand. Just staring at it, and the curiosity and the focus sit together. The curiosity over time when practised develops in the baby the focusing of the optic nerve. So, your curiosity will develop your skills, remember that as it feels strange, your Brain is a muscle and practise will start to stretch it. So now like a baby just look at your hands really look at your hands. Notice their size, their colour, your nails are they short or long? Are they in need of a manicure? Are they grubby from gardening, or are your fingers stained with ink from the pen that leaks? Maybe your skin is a bit dry, is the skin ageing, are the veins noticeable? Do your hands have a light tan from a week skiing maybe? What story do your hands tell you? Time up….just leave it there for today. Tomorrow I want you to notice the hands of others. Glance at them when you shake hands, look at your partners hands, look at your kids hands, let your eyes settle for a moment on someone’s hands on the train or the bus. Look around your board table to see colleagues. What do their hands tell you? Anything just think anything?  Ignore the thoughts in your head telling you this is rubbish and get back to the day job. Just be curious have a look and a little reflection. Keep practising this for a week and see what and who you start to notice, you might want to jot those thoughts down to come back to later. Please ignore the negative thoughts. You will not get immediate external results as this is inside work. You are growing your brain and it takes a little time and practise.    If you want inspiration think of a creative who solve problems, who bring great ideas into play and determine to remain curious yourself.  Read about business breakthroughs like Virgin Airlines and Richard Branson. He went on a delayed and disrupted flight and became curious about how to fix it. He didn’t run airlines, he had no experience in that field but he became curious, questioned and now we have Virgin Airlines. If you found this exercise intriguing you will probably want to move on to something more taxing. Just remember this isn’t a competition.We are building new connections and sharpening those neural pathways so you can move onto some bigger stuff now. You could:

  •  Take something apart, look inside see what’s there and how it all fits together and then try and put it back together – make sure it’s belongs to you first or family and friends may not thank you.
  • Buy a magazine on a subject you do not know about and take time to read it.
  • Take an elder out to lunch (a neighbour maybe) ask about their life story.
  • Ask someone different to you what the latest movie was they saw, go see it.
  • Take up a hobby, not one you’ve done before though, or, learn a language or try painting.
  • Go to a different restaurant, pub or holiday spot.
  • Join a group or volunteer.

Keep alert and after each activity make a note of what you saw, felt, did, and what is happening? What am I seeing? Who am I meeting? what am I learning? what is different here? Share these reflections with your leadership coach as they can help you process, reflect and help you grow that brain function a bit more. I promise that practising curiosity will help you as a business leader as it will unlock different perspectives. You will start to solve problems because you are open to new ideas, experiences and finding solutions in the less obvious places. You might find improvements in your energy, motivation, business innovation and taking people with you, especially those different to you, in age, gender and race and background. You might just hear a great idea in your organisation and be curious to find out more. Most of all when your organisation hits uncertainty and choppy seas you will remain positive. You have not been here before, but you know you can find a way through because your brain has learnt and is still learning to make new connections and think more. the unusual is not scary its is a new opportunity to learn and to grow. So go on, have a little try at being curious and remember what Albert Einstein said; Never lose a holy curiosity. Contact me for executive coaching, facilitation and keynote speeches at http://www.amandareynolds.org

 

Can you learn to be a great Leader? – try GRATITUDE

Welcome to my blog, I plan to write 12 blogs in a new series looking at leadership characteristics. I will draw on my own leadership experience along with observations taken from my executive coaching and mentoring practise. My blogs will be focused and to the point so, do read on as I will help you think differently about leadership and how to approach your work.

But if you are short on time try this visual

AMANDA REYNOLDS LEADERSHIP

There will be problems and this week is likely to present you as a leader, or someone others call a leader with many new challenges. Maybe your teams are not performing, targets missed, your customers or buyers are unhappy and your budgets are overrunning. So, you know what you need to do – be tough minded, make difficult decisions, avoid distraction and focus on the immediate tasks. Or is that the right strategy here? What if instead of being tough minded and focused, firing off directives from the executive floor you went out and around your organisation saying thanks to people? What if at the end of each day you wrote down what you were thankful for in your day and also write down who you had said thanks to. That’s crazy, you don’t have time for that. You have to lead from the front and face problems head on. Its tough so staff need to see you modelling tough don’t they? They don’t need the ceo out bothering and distracting them. And, you have back to back meets all day and you will struggle to find time for lunch let alone have anything much to feel positive about. But, what if I told you research shows gratitude works as an effective leadership intervention. It will help build your presence and will help you specifically over time by; Changing your perspective – once you start to practise gratitude your mind will focus on the positives and the possibilities in situations. It stops you becoming inward looking obsessed with problems and instead your mind starts to clear as you develop a focus on others. Energy –You will start to lead with more energy and commitment as you turn setbacks and challenges into opportunities. You will find creativity to deal with the challenges you and your organisation face, because you are outward focused. Resilience -You will become stronger with greater psychological reserves as you start to build personal and inter personal resilience. I’m not talking unrealistic over optimism but a different perspective on your challenges and problems. You will draw your team around you as they feel valued and attended to by you. So it’s not about you being tough, it’s about a strong team. Getting it back- Leadership is often talked about as a lonely place. No one speaks truth to power and no one walks the journey with you. But gratitude draws others in as when they start to experience you showing genuine gratitude they will offer it back to you. It’s not about you –You will start to see your staff as your greatest asset. You will start to see the person behind the title and start to feel a genuine rapport with those who can engage with gratitude. You will stop feeling you have to solve the problems and instead engage the organisation and its people. Challenges move -It will at times seem almost miraculous when challenges get solved because people collaborate with you with focused and clear minds. They start to know their efforts get noticed so they work harder. Morale will improve – The morale of your workforce will improve as they feel valued. They will focus more clearly on the task as they are not held back by negatively. You will unlock all that discretionary effort that is currently taken up in resisting change or fighting the system. You will become more self-aware – many leaders become isolated, self-absorbed and have a different view of themselves to their staff, their team and their organisations. They get lost in the job of leadership and take reinforcement from the status and the power. Now gratitude given and received starts to slowly open you up to genuine feedback, to noticing others and they then notice when you make a difference. You will be surprised by what others see as important in the leader. You will start to integrate your life – evidence suggests most leaders only talk to other leaders. People who are just like them but it takes a whole organisation to deliver the business so you need ways to engage with all those not like you. If you are a Myers Briggs ENTJ leader you are just 4% of the world. So, what do all those others think!! You will start to find yourself more at ease talking to the PA, the post room staff, your own partner and kids and break into fabulous spontaneous conversations when the train is delayed. You will become a leader who has followers – A CEO can get on a soap box, meet teams, sign off strategic plans but they only become real leaders when they have followers. So, how do you start? Start small, start private and start genuine. Get a notebook keep it by your bed or in your work bag. Write down each day no more than five things you are grateful for. Even on a terrible day when the trains late, a key buyer pulls out or your team misses monthly performance by a barn mile you still had a great cup of coffee. So, write it down. Be genuine, don’t shout about it and don’t kid yourself with big statements. If you are a real leader you are deep in the muck and bullets so a great coffee or a train home that ran to time today might be the best you can do. But, start there it will get better and bigger if you do this genuinely and for at least a month. Once you have got the hang of the GRATITUDE LIST then start a second list; Think of the people you said thanks to today, the bus driver, your PA for that great cup of coffee. The cab driver or your deputy who pulled off the deal for the team.  Notice this list, you might struggle to even put one thank you down at first. You may notice you are rubbish at saying well done or thank you but better at barking orders. So leave it blank and tomorrow commit to say one thank you to anyone, to someone, and mean it. Keep these two lists for a month then review yourself against the characteristics I listed above. Notice how the lists changed and developed, what have you learnt about yourself and notice how you feel about yourself, your family, your work. I’m certain you will do better on authenticity, self-awareness and resilience. You may also have more energy, better staff morale and business success…. Staying with gratitude let’s finish with a story from Aesop… A Slave ran away from his master, by whom he had been most cruelly treated, and, in order to avoid capture, betook himself into the desert. As he wandered about in search of food and shelter, he came to a cave, which he entered and found to be unoccupied. Really, however, it was a Lion’s den, and almost immediately, to the horror of the wretched fugitive, the Lion himself appeared. The man gave himself up for lost: but, to his utter astonishment, the Lion, instead of springing upon him and devouring him, came and fawned upon him, at the same time whining and lifting up his paw. Observing it to be much swollen and inflamed, he examined it and found a large thorn embedded in the ball of the foot. He accordingly removed it and dressed the wound as well as he could: and in course of time it healed up completely. The Lion’s gratitude was unbounded; he looked upon the man as his friend, and they shared the cave for some time together. A day came, however, when the Slave began to long for the society of his fellow-men, and he bade farewell to the Lion and returned to the town. Here he was presently recognised and carried off in chains to his former master, who resolved to make an example of him, and ordered that he should be thrown to the beasts at the next public spectacle in the theatre. On the fatal day the beasts were loosed into the arena, and among the rest a Lion of huge bulk and ferocious aspect; and then the wretched Slave was cast in among them. What was the amazement of the spectators, when the Lion after one glance bounded up to him and lay down at his feet with every expression of affection and delight! It was his old friend of the cave! The audience clamoured that the Slave’s life should be spared: and the governor of the town, marvelling at such gratitude and fidelity in a beast, decreed that both should receive their liberty. We never know when gratitude will be returned so go on start it today. If you like my approach then do contact me to talk to you as a leader or to your team. I love and learn from feedback so do tell me what you think of the blog………

pictorial view of the blog thanks to @engagevisually

www.amandareynolds.org

Cats, power and building barriers in the NHS

In the last year or so we have talked a lot about NHS culture in the media, blog posts and in the Francis inquiry. How the culture is wrong, how we need to change culture. I think we use “it’s the culture” as an excuse to keep doing what we have always done and so we get the same results. Saying it’s the culture is also a way to quieten down those who might challenge the status quo.It all then becomes about keeping going and survival. Some NHS managers and leaders act like my cat when another cat enters her territory.

In the garden today I can see my cat on the fence in a “Mexican standoff “with a black cat. Hissing and howling and just sitting, balanced on a fence refusing to shift. My tabby just digs in and exerts her power on the status quo. I’m not shifting, this is my yard and you are not getting in. Eventually of course the stranger leaves and my cat goes back to lying in the sun and cleaning her belly! That’s pure power and the status quo is protected.

Of course patients and their families are not an enemy cat and the status quo of health care is meanwhile falling around our ears. We are more than just animals guarding our territory and we need to use different and more sophisticated strategies to move the NHS forward. We need to genuinely engage in co-production, listening, changing and developing new solutions with patients and their families. Some are already leading this change across the NHS.

I am currently working with TLAP, The NHS Confederation and NHS England on bringing personal health budgets to mental health. I have worked on the personalisation agenda now for many years starting with direct payments in social care when I was an Assistant Director, then as a DH official leading a regional team and most recently as an Executive leading strategy on a Foundation Trust Board. So, I know a little about this agenda.

On the 9th July 2014, NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens, announced his intention to drive forward a new form of radical, people-powered commissioning of health and social care, including the extended use of personal health budgets and integrated personal budgets across health and social care. The Integrated Personal Commissioning (IPC) programme, starting from April 2015, will bring together health and social care funding around individuals, enabling them to direct how it is used for the first time (NHSE press release 9th July 2014).

It’s a no brainer on one level, we are great at lifesaving emergency care in the NHS BUT when we organise care for people we don’t often get to the nub of what would make a difference to their life, independence and health condition. We give drugs and support these interventions with health professional visits. Many, many years ago when I was a baby community team manager I worked with a couple of inspirational psychiatrists (one of whom is a National Medical Director at NHS England now.) They taught me so much about what makes good health and good mental health. One of them said they always visit patients with complex mental health problems at home. As the drugs and support from community teams will do nothing if they sleep in a flat with no door, no furniture, no heating and have no friends and no food. Now that’s simply what Marmot talked about in

http://www.instituteofhealthequity.org/projects/fair-society-healthy-lives-the-marmot-review

So, at its core that’s what personal budgets offer. The chance to help individuals answer the questions : what helps me stay well, out of crisis and what could we do to put those things in place for you? So together we can help people with complex needs and their carers have better quality of life, more people are kept out of hospital and care homes and people can access personalised, coordinated services for their whole life needs.

The evidence suggests people want to be more actively engaged as partners, that services frequently underestimate their willingness and that the potential impact of harnessing this contribution could have huge economic value and lead to better outcomes. Approaches that personalise support to people’s level of activation, that build skills and confidence and use peer-support have been shown to have a positive impact. Additionally, people who start at the lowest “activation levels” have been shown to improve the most, indicating the opportunity for a personalised approach to support the least engaged and challenge health inequalities.

So what is stopping us? I think we behave like cats, thinking we need to be tougher, more managerially focused with more fire power or action plans and project teams to solve the problems of no money and increased demand. Because we ultimately do not trust people to manage their own care and we do not trust our clinicians to make this move to facilitate rather than direct care and support. It is called the professional gift model
http://www.centreforwelfarereform.org/library/by-az/citizenship-professional-gift-models.html

Deep down though we know that fear only leads to more stand offs and more of the same. We know more of the same of the NHS is not sustainable. So we need to move at scale and speed to coproduce care with the patient. Start trusting patients and families to decide and using professional expertise to facilitate the support provided. Already lots of great examples abound of how to do this and stories of where it’s already happening.
http://www.thinklocalactpersonal.org.uk

Or you can just sit on that fence howling at the strange cat and hope your territory stays the same. I tell you it will not as change is coming and fast. So, for my colleagues and patients and family carers leading this exciting work:

Labbi siffre said: Brothers and sisters
When they insist we’re just not good enough
Well we know better
Just look ‘em in the eyes and say
We’re gonna do it anyway
We’re gonna do it anyway

National Voices recently published Evidence for Person-centred care drawing together evidence from systematic reviews of different approaches incorporating support for self-management and shared decision making, promoting prevention, improving information and enhancing the experience of healthcare: http://www.nationalvoices.org.uk/evidence
What the evidence shows about patient activation: better health outcomes and care experiences; fewer data on costs Hibbard JH, Greene J. Health Aff (Millwood). 2013 Feb; 32(2): 2017-14.
Hibbard JH, Greene J. “What the evidence shows about patient activation: better health outcomes and care experiences; fewer data on costs.” Health Aff (Millwood). 2013 Feb; 32(2): 2017-14.

I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?

It’s almost a year since I set up my company Blend Associates Ltd. So whilst I’m not one for Christmas newsletters it seems right to do a little stock take.  Those of you who have followed me on twitter and read my blogs will know it has been a bit of a roller coaster. Life’s thrown curve balls my way and I’ve tried to be strong and bold and hold my nerve.

I’m known by many for my dispassionate logic and reason, but I’m also marked by my passion and courage (some say bloody mindedness!)  I have needed to engage with these qualities to identify who I am, what would I do, and how on earth do I make a living going forward.

When I was leaving the NHS some key confidants helped me think beyond the loss of career and making a difference on the inside of the public sector to the opportunities that lay beyond. Well, didn’t get that one straight away! I was in the maelstrom of self-pity, despair and worry and I felt at times vulnerable.

What I now had in buckets was time. So, I started to think on what I had covered in my career. Not the stuff you have to do to deliver your job and meet your targets but the stuff that energised. The stuff where I felt I made a difference to patients, their families and the wider public service offer to the tax payers. A few key words kept coming through –Big plans, passion for people, make a difference, intolerant of less, equality, connection, energy.

One day my hubby said BLEND. In cooking you take individual ingredients, BLEND to make something better. So it is with wine and paint colours and pigments. I sat with it a few days and thought yes it sums me up. BLEND it was, and I turned my attention to what the company would offer and three words came to mind:

STRATEGY looking ahead and moving forward, the big plan in conditions of uncertainty or inertia. Looking left, looking right, challenge the status quote. I bring clarity about why we are here, where we are going and who we are here for.

INTEGRATE combining things to complete them, sitting at the edge of organisations, bringing disparate groups together, ensuring all have a voice, not just the big guys. If we integrate anything it takes huge effort so it’s got to make what we offer better and make sense to the patients and their families.

COACHING this one is about reaching out, being with the leader, helping them find their way like many others have coached and counselled me. I realised I love people, I’m fascinated by them, and what makes them tick. Giving them the space to think, and if they want to learn they will find a better way.

One day I Google, looking for quotes and there I found him and this:

The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic towards common problems and their fellow man alike, timid and fearful in the face of bold projects and new ideas. Rather, it will belong to those who can BLEND passion, reason and courage in a personal commitment to their ideals.” Robert F Kennedy 64th US Attorney General.

If you were born in the 60s like me, you are unlikely to know of him, he was the younger brother of JFK and his right hand man in the West Wing. The strategist, the reformer, passionate about civil rights and friend of Martin Luther King. Straight talking, spoke his mind, offended some with his record for cleaning up organised crime…..Then elected New York Senator oh and they shot him on his own Presidential run.

This sort of courage passion and reason are vital if we want to see real, sustainable, people based change to our public services. So, here I am a year on now I run my own company offering strategy, coaching and business consultancy to both the public and private sector. I have had a number of great commissions and across the range of my interests too. This past 6 months I have worked to support CEOs, Boards and national organisations. In areas including board diversity, mental health, learning disability and personalization. I have also just been appointed as a non-executive director of my local community trust. So this girls back on a board. And I submitted my ILM level 7 Executive Coaching Dissertation to OPM in November. So I might just get a certificate in the New Year!

What have I learnt? Doors swing both ways. Some do close and others really do open. Some of the new rooms are also better than those you left! Be strong – even if today feels tough it will be better tomorrow. Be bold – step out, reach up and aim high. Be big – present yourself to the world based on what you can offer not what you are doing today. Be creative – try new things and talk to lots of different people. Most of all Be authentic and  take enough time to Be still and have faith – in what you believe in, in yourself and your ability and in those who say you will be ok. This Christmas cheers to all of you my customers, fellow consultants and all who have helped me this last year. Let’s look forward together to 2015.  One thing I didn’t anticipate in 2014 I now work with a guy who makes the best cricket bats so #putoutyourbats.

Have you heard a lioness roar?

Have you ever seen footage of a lioness roar? It is amazing and the male lion  and  other animals cant turn away, cant think of anything else until she stops. The lioness roars as a threat, to clear the path, as a warning, when her cubs are in danger and when she is grieving.

I have thought a lot lately about social media and how it  has the potential to change health care delivery and management. Today NHS England launches it plans to bring everyone’s notes to a smart phone app.

http://www.england.nhs.uk/2014/11/13/leaders-transform/

I have also thought about how the NHS is not appreciating the significance and potential of social media and assistive technologies to engage the patients, carers and public and to improve care. I have also thought abut how it is already being used by activists to change things. That has taken me to thinking about Sara.

@Sarasiobhan has been to me like a lioness  since the death of her lovely dude son. I don’t know Sara personally but I know many people who have been supporting her and I have watched her, listened to her and engaged with her on twitter.

Her roars have been loud and constant at times, difficult to hear but unable to walk away from or ignore.  She has roared very loudly and frequently via twitter. All the kingdom, at every level has heard her roars as she has not politely engaged. Instead she has roared like a lioness would roar following the rules of the jungle not structured by rigid hierarchy. Monitor and CQC, the media and many learning disability improvement bodies have heard her roar and responded to her calls.

Some days the pain of her roar cuts through me. Some people tell me they cant bear it, they feel uncomfortable. Well I guess that’s how a gazelle must feel!

The anger, the hurt, the sense of lose and the total sense of injustice that the loss of her cub could have been avoided if others watched over him like she did.

Some days I have been overcome with the pain I could hear and see in her tweets that brought me to tears. To a dark place where I think of my kids and how on earth I would cope if I lost one of them. On those days all I could do was retweet her, so her roar got louder but I could not engage. Other days I talked to her and joined her campaign.

What is amazing about Sara roar is so many have listened and responded that it is changing the world. she roared via social media and we now see and feel the power of activating social media to campaign in health. Many have joined the @JusticeforLB campaign, fund raising for legal fees, blogging, advising. Even I wrote a blog (as a I know a bit about NHS boards and governance).

I have never met her, one day I hope to . I only know from what I have read or listened to on the radio but I couldn’t ignore that roar. Many others have done the same and last week the bill was launched. This week she meets the amazing and committed @Normanlamb. To discuss taking a bill to the floor of the House of Commons. WOW now that’s the power of a lioness roaring!

Her roar has changed social media in health, we now know that people can engage with the hierarchy in many ways, at all times and its no longer 9 – 5 and controlled by the institution! It has the potential to write and to change law too. It shows us as leaders we cannot rely on the old ways and traditional planned communication or public engagement.

We leaders need to work differently now: to listen out for the roar and we need to respond to the roar. This requires a different sort of leadership. Humble, listening, compassionate, proactive, flexible. Expecting to get it wrong but working with our patients and their families to put it right the way they want it. More fancy words would be saying candour, compassion, integrity and accountability.

We can never bring the dude back but her roar can ensure other dudes have a better life, a life they control despite what disables then. Most of all so they don’t end up in uncaring remote institutions.

Read the bill please, respond to lioness as she roars

http://lbbill.wordpress.com/what-is-lbs-bill/

And Sara keep roaring it is starting to change the jungle

Better Care Fund, David Soul & Cycling

an old blog but why BCF is worth a punt

Three things I want to focus on in this blog.

First, I went out on my lovely new road bike – she is truly great (a specialized dolce sport), this is my new form of cycling. I’m a good cyclist, in fact a fairly competent cyclist but never on a road racing bike before. So, we are still getting used to our new relationship, each other and this new balancing act of working together. It’s been going ok so far. Today started off like that, then, out of nowhere I hit a bump and crash on the floor toes still stuck in the silly pedals. Why do they have those pedals?  Why do I have those pedals?

I grazed my knee and now I’m abit sore, bike still looks good (big relief) small graze on handlebars only evidence. A few miles still from home, what did I do? Well I got back on and road her home. Apprehensive and more uncomfortable than usual with a scraped knee and ripped lycra leggings. Will I stop riding? No, I am enjoying the challenge and I love cycling. But, I have to admit I am in a new way of working with “miss road racing bike” and we will probably hit a few more bumps, gravel and uneven surfaces before we fit together. I want to make this work though and even though it’s optional, I am determined to keep at it.

Second thing that occurred today is the Better Care Fund got some publicity suggesting in national media that Whitehall were calling a halt to the transfer of NHS funding to local government. Therefore implying Ministers getting cold feed with integration. The Better Care Fund will be the vehicle to transfer £3.8b of NHS money to local government from 2015. It’s to be spent on furthering joining up of health and social care services thus prevent older people and other vulnerable groups ending up in A& E and acute beds in hospital. The money is to be spent as part of a joint commissioning plan in each area on evidenced based models of community support. It has a challenging target associated with it of needing to reduce unplanned demand for acute care by up to 15%.  Tough ask and harder than getting used to a new road bike I fear.

The BCF hit their own bump and the aspiration and necessity of developing integrated health and social care services for our population (particularly the elderly and most vulnerable) got a few grazes today.  There will be a large number in the NHS secretly glad that the BCF may have come off its bike. As they see money as belonging to the NHS and needing to be spent on only NHS services. Truth is that the BCF is still going ahead, but it needs more work on the detail of the plans behind it, more work on managing risk and I agree with the Kings Fund it needs a transition fund set aside or current provision will implode while we build the new. Another big risk is that providers have not been well engaged by commissioners to date and they have the most to lose here if not won over to the benefits of integrated care that is supported by industrialised 24/7 primary care.

So I sat with Ice on my sore knee reflecting on what happened, what went wrong and could I have avoided the crash. I remembered my neighbour, retired and a very good road cyclist saying when I saw him with my new bike “you will fall off that at least 3 times you know, everyone does.”

There is a risk here that those who want to hold onto the status quo will convince Ministers it’s too risky to progress with joining up health and social care and more beds and more specialised acute care is the answer.  Meanwhile, they will advise let’s take a breather as all this talk of integration is too hasty and too poorly thought through. They won’t want us to try this new way of working with “miss road racing BCF.” Of course to proceed is not without risk and we will probably hit a few more bumps along the journey and fall over a few times too.

Unfortunately the current state of services is not fit for now or the future, and is not without risk of a road crash. Health and social care in many areas still provide separate services with different assessment processes and spend endless time arguing about who pays for what services. Mental health services are on the edge of a major crisis, Winterbourne did not stop the institutionalising of more and more people with learning disability. The NHS is not fit to care in hospital for people with complex health and social needs and people themselves don’t want to be in hospital either. As the full force of austerity hits the most vulnerable in society combined with our aging population something will give.

Too many examples abound on social media and even BBC Panorama and Protecting our Parents show Individuals and their carers becoming exasperated when they need care that supports their long term condition and keeps them independent. More often than not 4 visits from social care and some community nursing is the most we can get you. Wanting a simple, 24 hour, joined up system that gives us and our elders support to stay at home however frail we are, is all we ask.

The reliance on acute care is not the answer either or just more money added to NHS to fund more of that. As more hospital beds will beget more beds and lead to more cost with poorer outcomes for the most vulnerable. Acute care is fabulous for those who require high tech, high spec, highly skilled acute interventions but it is the worst place to be if you need ongoing support to manage a long term condition.  Care needs to maximise the independence of the individual and the natural resources of the family and wider community.

This isn’t going to get better without effort and real change. The Better Care Fund is one of those levers, but it needs help and support and careful implementation everywhere. Numbers of over 65s will increase by 65% in the next 25 years, by 2030 we will have 3 million childless elders and 50% of those currently over 60 already live with a chronic long term condition. It is clear that the current models of care are not sustainable so let’s not dismiss the BCF, let’s help it succeed.

So finally, I sat there with my sore and bleeding knee and on the radio came David Soul a cheesy crooner from 1977 singing “don’t give up on us baby”

Don’t give up on us baby, don’t make the wrong seem right

The future isn’t just for the night, it’s written in the moonlight

And painted on the stars, we can’t change us…..

Don’t give up on us baby, we’re still worth one more try
I know we put the last one by, just for the rainy evening
When maybe stars are few, don’t give up on us I know
We can still come through

I believe passionately, and the evidence is mounting that the only answer to the challenges our aging population faces is integrated care. Care that is coproduced with the recipient and their family. Get back on that bike, get a few scrapes and don’t give up on us baby.