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Kirstie Stott, an NHS Graduate Management Trainee, explains how listening to the views of others can unlock the secret to a better National Health Service:
I was recently asked to speak at an event about future NHS leadership. I was keen to do this as I feel that being part of the future I have some thoughts and ideas around what may be needed.
I was quite privileged to have been asked to do this and I am always thankful when I get the opportunity, not particularly because I enjoy public speaking (I don’t) but because as someone in the healthcare system who doesn’t currently hold a recognised badge of seniority and, therefore, the influence associated with it, and as a graduate management trainee about to leave the warmth and comfort of the scheme and enter the big wide world, it’s important to be able to have my voice heard.
So what did I think the future leadership of the NHS should look like?
Well its quite simple for me, it shouldn’t be positional, you don’t need to have worked in the NHS for many years, and you don’t need to be in senior position in an organisation.
It’s also multi professional, it’s rich in diversity both gender and ethnicity. It’s not insular and, therefore, it weaves its way across boundaries and barriers, and through joints and cracks, like a vibrant ribbon which brings everything together. What I’m talking about is inclusion.
So back to the story….there I was a Graduate Management Trainee speaking to approximately 20 senior managers from across the region about the benefits of staff engagement, personal empowerment, diversity and inclusion.
Also about how, as someone who is incredibly passionate about equality, diversity and inclusion and also an avid NHS tweeter, I was lucky enough to connect with another passionate individual and through a first ‘tweet up’ at the NHS Expo we decided to develop a network for people who are passionate about having a voice that helps shape the future of healthcare, challenges the status quo and inspires the next generation.
I finished my talk, which included an introduction to the new network; when asked if anyone had any questions, one person said to me: ‘I can’t relate to a single thing you have said’.
Not only did they not think this was an issue in their organisation, but also within the system generally. Their strong view was that their trust was extremely inclusive and everyone within it would agree, also that there are not really diversity issues in the NHS as their CEO is a woman. Finally we just need more doers and less thinkers and innovators.
At this point my mind formed a T-junction in the thinking road, to the left was: ‘That’s fantastic how lucky are you and everyone who works at your trust’. My second thought, and more of a worry, was: ‘Does everyone really agree? Is there a risk that this narrow vision leads us to organisational silo working, that we are ok in our organisation thanks very much…when really we should be knocking down those barriers, working across the system and including the voice of everyone at all levels?’
As leaders we need to stop looking upwards and start looking outwards and across, listening to people who wouldn’t normally be heard. Difference is good, we need competing perspectives to challenge our normal practice and historic ways of working.
A great quote I really like is from the King’s Fund Paper – No More Heroes which states: “The NHS needs people to think of themselves as leaders, not because they are personally exceptional, senior or inspirational to others, but because they can see what needs doing and can work with others to do it”.
For me that is one of the simple aims of the NewHcVoices network, to bring people together, to see the wood despite the trees and encourage courage through an equal footing, learn and share how to influence, and to create synergy through shared values, beliefs and passion to make the NHS better for the public we serve.
So upon reflection my questions to you are these: Are you really inclusive and diverse in your practice, do you live your values? What could you do more to hear those unheard voices, will you be the one to make a difference, or will it be someone else’s job? Does change start with you?