Leading by Example: The HEE/CILIP Leadership Development Programme – Sessions 1 and 2

Sam Burgess
Library Service Manager
Hampshire Healthcare Library Service

Heather Steele
Library and Knowledge Lead
Leeds and York Partnership NHS Trust

11th October 2017 – Session 1

It was an early start as we travelled to London for the first day of the HEE/CILIP leadership course for health librarians.  Sam met a colleague at Waterloo and took the opportunity to walk to Senate House, spotting Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben), St. Pauls, the Shard, the London Eye, the Royal Opera House, and bypassing Covent Garden with no time to do a spot of shopping.

On arrival we saw a few people that we knew and it was an enjoyable opportunity to have a quick chat before the day started.  Sam even recognised a few people that she’d only corresponded with via Twitter e.g. @hollingtonn and @heatherbake.

The course leader, Jo Walley (@joeyanne) warned us that this would be a very full on day and it proved to be so as we started with a speed networking session that really raised sound levels in the room!  We all lined up in two rows of about 11 people in each and then we had one minute to talk to our opposite number and then a minute to listen in return.  Eventually we agreed to just talk to each other for two minutes instead of one minute each as people clearly wanted to keep talking and gently groaned at being informed that their one minute of chat was up and they needed to swap!

We then had a brief introduction to leadership styles, e.g. autocratic (do as I say), democratic (we make decisions together), transactional (carrot and stick reward systems), laissez-faire (hands off and allows group members to make decisions), authentic (through honesty and ethics, i.e. there is no difference between ‘work me’ and ‘home me’), and collegiate (working together to solve problems).

After lunch we were fortunate to hear Patrick Mitchell talk about his leadership story although he actually spoke less about his own journey and encouraged us to think about our own more.  For instance he asked us to think of ourselves as animals and why we might have chosen that particular animal.  Sam chose octopus because she keeps finding that she has her tentacles in so many pies and then gets all tangled up and doesn’t know what to do next.  Heather said she was a horse, as she feels she tries to carry other peoples’ problems and plods along, but could chose not to and trot along a bit quicker. The other examples of “animals” in the room were giraffes, peacocks, and many others!

Patrick then encouraged us to draw a time line of our life and career, taking particular note to the high and low points – essentially getting us to realise that we matter as rounded leaders – what happens outside of work and in our personal life matters too and not to forget that. 

Before moving on to starting work on our projects we were challenged (in small groups) to match quotes to their speakers, e.g. Gandhi, the Queen, Napoleon, Kennedy, and Blair.  This was much harder than expected with few groups getting many correct; although we are pleased to say that our group correctly matched the Queen with her quote! (It was too well crafted to be any other than an official speech.)

The remainder of the day was spent having project meetings with our sponsors.  There are three project areas – Statistics, Health Information Week (HIW), and two Knowledge Management groups (North and South); and we are both in the statistics group.  Sam’s face fell when she realised that she was in the statistics group, after all who like statistics!?   However, the project proposal from our sponsors (Linda Ferguson and Clare Edwards) clearly showed that this is not actually about collecting statistics, but how to use what we collect as they have the power to be more useful to us than a once a year collection for national purposes.

6th November 2017 – Session 2

We had our first action learning set day at Stewart House (just behind Senate House if you are interested).  Travel issues made Sam slightly late as a derailment at Wimbledon meant that all trains heading into Waterloo were on a “go-slow” and then Goodge Street station was closed so she had to walk down from the next station up! (At least there was bright sunshine to enjoy.)

The cohort for the course has been split in to four action learning sets; they consist of the four project groups which keeps the action learning sets small (six people in each) with the added benefit of allowing the people within the project groups to get to know each other better.

The day started with an overview of coaching along with listening styles and the kind of effective questions to use.  Essentially there are five listening styles:

  • Me now –   where the listener is merely waiting for a pause to say what they want
  • Just like me – the listener can offer examples of their experience
  • Do it like me – giving advice without listening to deeper concerns
  • Encouraging – listening and seeking more detail
  • Active listening – listening to everything – the silences, the body language, the hidden meanings and not just waiting to say your own piece!

Then there’s the right questions to ask when coaching which are RHOSE ones!

  • Reflective – encouraging the coachee to think about their situation
  • Hypothetical – offering the coachee alternative ways of thinking of their situation
  • Open – always better than closed questions
  • Silence – not jumping in with the next question, but allowing a useful pause to think
  • Encouraging – offering encouragement is always good.

We had a session on coaching in the morning and as we only had ten minutes each for coaching Sam chose to focus on her tendency to be very untidy at home!  We discovered that it is easier to observe because as coach you’re trying to retain the conversation in our heads and think of the right questions to ask within a very short space of time.

During a quick lunch we attempted to have a meeting regarding our project work; mostly focusing on communication as we are suffering from a few typical issues.  So, we are now using WhatsApp for quick communication, Trello for storing information, and using email as braces to our belts!

We moved on to action learning sets in the afternoon; this is essentially another form of coaching, but on a team level.  We all offered up our own topic for discussion and gave it a number as to its importance (1 least to 10 most); and two topics were chosen to be discussed.  The first action learning set was a bit of a learning curve as we tried to figure out how to do this together whilst simultaneously learning how action learning sets work!  As this was our first attempt we went round the table (several times) with each of us asking a question of the person seeking advice – obviously using RHOSE questions and looking to move forward using the GROW model (Goal, Reality, Options, Will) with the aim of seeking a way (Will) forward for the coachee.

What we learned

If there is one thing that I have learnt about coaching and action learning sets is that I need to learn to BITE MY TONGUE!!  Despite knowing how action learning sets work I really wanted to have the conversation that was happening in front of me.  However, it is NOT  about that conversation, instead it is about eliciting responses from the coachee and getting them to think about their situation and where they want to be rather than offering solutions and my own thoughts.

I am certainly enjoying being part of a very open, honest, and reflective action learning set.  It is clear that there is a passion for what we do and that we have common issues and problems that we can support each other with.  I am looking forward to seeing how the rest of the course turns out!

I found the Action Learning Sets very useful. At first I was daunted by the idea of being so open, and I spent quite a while thinking of questions to ask waiting for my turn. It was tricky, but by the end of the day I felt more confident and optimistic that with practice I will be able to use action learning effectively. I even found it enjoyable, which surprised me because I started out so apprehensive. It was an enriching experience and I’m looking forward to the next session.

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