Weeknote: 14 to 18 February 2022

Footpath in park blocked by fallen tree
A tree came down in the park near our house

What did I enjoy?

A couple of sessions with digital urgent & emergency care (UEC) colleagues on our strategy and programme benefits. Having a sharper focus on realising actual outcomes from our work has been one of my top two mantras ever since I took on this role last year. (The other is the need to ground all our work in the reality of patient and frontline staff experiences.) As I noted in my learning from 2021, people can be reluctant to connect their work to service outcomes for a number of reasons – not wanting to take the credit for others’ work, or for fear of being held accountable for things beyond their control. In this week’s sessions I sensed we can find a way through that.

It does feel like we have an opportunity to look up and out at this time of the annual UEC demand cycle, and it was great to hear a senior leader who doesn’t work in digital reinforcing the importance of involving digital specialists in the making of overall UEC strategy and policy.

Also this week, Imogen started as head of product in my team. I’m pleased she is joining us now, just as we’re setting out on this strategy work.

How did I uphold the NHS Constitution?

I was interviewed for an evaluation of the NHS Leadership Academy’s Nye Bevan Programme. I talked about my personal learning from that course, which I still try to put into practice: thinking about the impact of my behaviour on my team and colleagues, especially those most at risk of facing discrimination; what I learned about other international models of organising health and social care; and the powerful opportunity we had to practice board level behaviour in a peer learning set.

What did I experiment with?

A few times this week, I caught myself asking leading questions which might have made it harder for someone to voice dissent or raise concerns. In “Leadership is Languauge“, David Marquet notes the powerful impact changing the way we ask questions:

Self-affirming questions seek to prove what we want the case to be. The purpose is to make the asker feel good rather than to reveal the truth of the situation. “Right?” “Does that make sense?” “You have what you need?” “All good?” “Is everything tasting great tonight?” “Did you have a wonderful stay?”

Instead, seek enlightenment by asking questions that make it easy to bring up challenging information. I call this “self-educating,” not “self-affirming.” Some examples would be: “What am I missing?” “What would you like to hear more about?” “What could go wrong?” “What could we do better?”

Next week, I’m going to try to and ask more of the “self-educating” questions instead.

What was hard?

I’m trying to support my team in a part of the annual business planning process, but finding it challenging because information and requsts trickle out bit by bit as isolated requests, or as answers to emails, or are revealed through changes to spreadsheets which my eagle-eyed colleagues have to keep up with.

What do I need to take care of?

As a director and senior leadership team member, I want to be a good corporate citizen and participate in solving the organisation’s overall challenges, but this week I found myself having to dig in deeper to understand what late changes mean specifically for the areas that I look after. I realise that can come across as uncollegiate and trying to hoard resources, so I need to take care in how I frame my challenges. We’re all here to deliver the same overall outcomes.

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