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Lights, Camera, Action – Personal impact and presence for interviews and other events that can make an NHS Manager cry

The Dalai Lama when asked how he remained calm addressing thousands of people said “If I am anxious before giving a talk, I’ll remind myself that the main reason, the aim of giving the lecture, is to be of at least some benefit to the people, not for showing off my knowledge.”1

In other words he saw the experience as a conversation, a dialogue, rather than an exam , test  or audition. I like this. I like how it invites you to rewrite the rules on how we typically think about interviews, presentations and events were we see ourselves as the main attraction.  Do we need all the answers to the questions or is it that we would be better served focusing on what we have to offer that is unique to us?

Being the best version of yourself that you can be is perhaps a far more useful and achievable pursuit than striving to be someone that you think you should be for the duration of the selection process. You may well indeed land the job but will it allow you to be you.

So, how do you help the panel to get to know you and what you uniquely have to offer?  Using a range of approaches including NLP and a relational coaching perspective, I start by exploring your previous interview experiences and your personal construct of what an interview means to you.    We will look at how you approach questions to convey your stand out messages and consider 3 key questions:-

What do you stand for and how do you let the organisation know what they can expect if they choose you?

How do you find inner calm and presence during the interview so you are in the ‘flow’ whilst still demonstrating passion and focus?

How do you present yourself in a professional manner whilst still allowing your personal style to say something about who you are?

Case Study One – Jim

Jim came to me as someone who had a wealth of experience but was plagued by what he perceived as a poor interview experience. It was clear that Jim dreaded interviews and saw them as an exam to pass.  Jim would cram just before the interview to absorb as much information as possible, fearing getting the answer wrong. First we worked on Jim replacing this poor interview experience with one where he had all his personal resources at his fingertips. This enabled him to imagine being interviewed without being gripped by fear. We then reframed the interview as a conversation which could be use to showcase his experience and fit. Finally we rehearsed techniques that allowed Jim to remain calm and focused whilst still showing energy and enthusiasm.   

Case Study Two – Maggie

Maggie had an impressive career pathway that had then levelled out as she had brought up her young children.  As her family was growing up she was now ready to take a step up and apply for a Director’s post.  She was confident and self-assured however, she was struggling to present herself in the best light.  We focused on enabling Maggie to tell her career story in a compelling way that conveyed her commitment, passion and potential.   We also worked on a personal style that would be congruent with being a self assured professional who wasn’t afraid of being herself.

The benefit of interview coaching isn’t about success at this one off event, although that’s the immediate aim.  It’s also about developing habits, practices and a mindset that will enable you to succeed every day by capitalising on being more authentically you.

Over the last 10 years, I have been coaching people looking to maximise their chances of getting their dream job. With a background in NHS General Management, HR and OD I have extensive experience of interviewing for senior leadership and management roles.  I believe that the successful job interview isn’t the monopoly of the extrovert, the conventional charismatic or the polished performer.  It’s within everyone’s gift if they can access how to be the best they can be.

Contact me, Clare McGurk at; clare@authentik-you.co.uk or mobile 07930 417778 or via LinkedIn.

1 “The Art of Happiness – A Handbook for Living” HH Dalai Lama & Howard C. Cutler 1998

Leading with military precision Trust chief executive Suzanne Rankin draws on her nursing experience in a war zone to help empower her NHS staff. Jennifer Trueland tells her story

In some ways, managing a hospital is a bit like running a military operation and both involve the same sorts of leadership challenge.

That’s the view of Suzanne Rankin, Chief Executive of Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals Foundation Trust, formerly a senior nursing officer in the Royal Navy.

In both, the key is enabling staff throughout an organisation to flourish, to feel empowered to make decisions, and to deliver the best service possible, she says.

“When you’re running a hospital, the complexity is really high, there are many moving parts, you’re managing risk, you’re working with many external partners. It’s not dissimilar to running a military operation, where the operational environment is highly complex, there’s risk, and you tend to be working in coalition with other organisations, such as NATO.

“In both, you’re bound together by a sense of desire and vision to do your best for people; the public service ethos runs deeply in both organisations. There’s a moral and ethical dimension to it, and a value to it that’s important.”

Ms Rankin joined the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service in 1987, having been impressed by a school visit from a military nurse. “I thought it sounded exciting, nursing with an added dimension!,” she smiles. “It was quite aspirational – it was very select. And the big bonus was that we were paid a salary: there was more cash than a [nursing] bursary, and that’s great when you’re 18 or 19.”

Having registered in 1990, she spent some time consolidating her practice before being deployed to the Middle East in the first Gulf war, serving on the RFA Argus. “I was working in intensive care and there were some casualties, but that war was over quite quickly,” she says. She didn’t think to be nervous or apprehensive about being in a war situation. “At that age you think you’re invincible,” she says. “Then there was the whole camaraderie of being in the services. As a parent myself now, I think it must have been much worse for my parents, and of course there wasn’t the benefit of mobile phones or email then.”

A varied career included time as senior nursing officer at NATO headquarters in Lisbon, as nursing officer in charge of a 56-bed trauma and orthopaedic unit, and as a nursing adviser to the Surgeon General within the Ministry of Defence.

In that role, she had the opportunity to look beyond the military, and a new career in the NHS beckoned, firstly with NHS South Central SHA, then in her current trust, which she joined in 2010 as Chief Nurse, becoming Chief Executive almost a year ago.

She brings many leadership abilities honed in the military to bear in her current role – although not necessarily in the way you’d think. Contrary to popular belief, the military, she says, takes a devolved approach. “What [the military] taught me was something around clarity of vision. It’s about being clear about a plan, but also how important it is to empower people who work with you deliver that plan. My role is enabling people to deliver that plan, without feeling constrained.”

She’s a great believer in distributed leadership – devolving responsibility where possible – and in developing the skills and confidence of the workforce so that they are happy to take this on.

One of her priorities at Ashford and St Peter’s has been to invest in leadership and other development programmes for staff, creating a cadre of leaders, with a knock-on benefit for all staff.

“It’s about empowering leaders,” she says. “I don’t have a specific view of a leader – I think everybody has a leadership function.

She believes that resilience is one of the most valuable leadership qualities in today’s NHS – that, and staying in touch with your values as a human being. “We’re dealing with rising demand and coping with uncertainty; resilience is important,” she says. “But while that suits me, it’s also important to recognise that this isn’t a comfortable place for everyone to be. It isn’t everyone’s world. As a leader, you have to realise that not everybody is the same – my world isn’t everybody’s world.

“My ambition for this organisation, and my job here, is to create the culture and the environment so that all the wonderful people here can do a brilliant job. That’s what being a leader means.”


Profile: Krystyna Ruskiewicz, Managing Director, Space-4 Consulting

Having the time and space to think is a valuable commodity and one that many senior executives may feel is in short supply. Yet Krystyna Ruszkiewicz, managing director of human resources and organisational consultancy Space-4 Consulting, which specialises in the NHS, believes it is vital. 

“Leaders don’t get a lot of time to think innovatively. The work I do is all about creating space for organisations or individuals to think about what they’re doing and why they are doing it. That’s why we’re called Space-4, even though it can sound like a construction company,” she laughs.   

A former NHS human resources director – she describes her last two jobs in the service, at the Chelsea and Westminster trust and before that at the Royal Marsden, as “the two best HR jobs in London” – Krystyna has been working as a consultant for the past ten years.

Her move out of the NHS coincided with the then Labour government’s work on developing new models of care within the service, including independent treatment centres (ISTCs) and initially working with a firm bidding to build and run ISTCs.

“Creating a completely new organisation is not something that you often get to do. A number of these new initiatives don’t set out to achieve what they are meant to be achieve but have unintended consequences when they change practice in other areas. The ISTC programme’s focus on surgical care changed the way the NHS thought about the market.”

Krystyna stresses that change does not have to be about organisational structure. With the acute sector currently facing turbulent times, with hospital chains and an increasing number of mergers and acquisitions being mooted in the sector, she is equally clear that tinkering with organisational structures will not solve a health economy’s deep rooted problems.

“There are ways in which one organisation can support and mentor another - especially those in leadership roles - that doesn’t have to go into the transactional side of who employs who. Very often in health we get so tied up in the transactional processes and we take our eye off what is possible,” she says.

However Krystyna adds that despite recent moves to rid the NHS of a great deal of its structural hierarchies, with the dissolving of strategic health authorities, too often, an organisational  focus on structures and transactions still gets in the way of “what really matters”. 

“My intention was always to help people respond rather than react. Often this means working with the leadership team of a newly created organisation, often as a result of bringing two organisations together. The important thing from the outset is not to use the language of integration and merger when what is actually happening is an acquisition. If it’s an acquisition call it that from the outset. “

Regardless of the nature of the work Krystyna does with those in leadership positions, there are key issues she addresses with each.

“What’s important to them? What motivates them? It’s always interesting to explore what people think about leadership,” she adds.  “If they do think about the sort of leader they admire it doesn’t matter so who they are, what is more interesting is exploring why they admire them. What is more worrying is if they haven’t thought about it or acknowledged what a responsibility being a leader is.”

And she is adamant that organisations need to understand and be clear about what they are setting out to achieve and to temper their message accordingly.
“Language is so important. Everything we do is ruled by the words that we use. How do people talk about their organisation, do they say ‘we’ or ‘they’? If they are referring to the organisation in the third person then there’s going to be a disconnect. Any organisation can have issues but it is about creating a positive narrative and it is the job of the chief executive to do that,” she says.


Recruiting to two Board level posts for Kent Community Health NHS Trust

Excellent care, healthy communities
Caring with compassion | Listening, responding and empowering | Leading through partnerships | Learning, sharing and innovating | Striving for excellence

Kent Community Health NHS Trust (KCHT) is one of the largest NHS community health providers in England, serving a population of c1.4 million. We employ 5,500 staff.  We have more than 400 teams providing more than 70 services to people of all ages in a range of settings. 

Reporting to the Chief Executive, postholders will be integral members of the Board. They will provide advice to the Board on all professional issues. Of equal importance will be their input as a Corporate Board member to the operational issues and strategic direction of KCHT.

We are seeking to appoint two exceptional individuals to the following posts:

Director of Nursing and Quality/ Chief Nurse:
The successful postholder will have a customer/patient focus and have a proven ability to foster and instil compassionate care throughout the nursing and therapies workforce as well as having a track record in delivering transformational change in a clinical practice.

Director of Workforce, Organisational Development and Communications:
The successful postholder will contribute fully to the development, transformation and strategic direction of the Trust. Leading on the development of the workforce, the postholder will create an employee-oriented, high performance culture through staff that are valued, motivated, committed and proud of the organisation and the service they provide.

Please visit the Current Opportunities page for full information and details on how to apply.


Andrew Liles - transition from acute Trust CEO to Partner in a health care consultancy

After 10 years as an acute Trust CEO, and 20 years after completing the NHS management training scheme, l left the direct employ of the NHS last autumn to create a health care consultancy with a close colleague.  The last 9 months have flown by, I’ve worked with a wide range of clients on interesting assignments, learnt new skills, gained new knowledge, and feel just as committed to and as much a part of the NHS as I did before.

A major part of the success of my move to this new role has been my relationship with my business partner Paul.  He was a management trainee the year after me and we worked together in our early jobs as general managers and then directors.  As I moved into CEO roles, Paul moved into health consultancy and for the past 5 years had worked successfully as an independent consultant.  He was the go-to person for a range of providers and commissioners in the south east and London for help with strategy, planning and important business cases.  He led the production of my last Trust’s successful FT application integrated business plan.  As his reputation and demand grew he decided to find a partner to help build the business and that is where I came in.  One year after we talked about joining forces we launched Consilium Partners.

We planned our new company carefully.  We spent time talking about what we each wanted from it and what success would look like.  Our passion and commitment for the NHS drove the design of the company – we look for assignments where you can work with good people and where there is a need and commitment to deliver change or improvement.  We wanted to offer a different kind of consultancy experience – in which we work with the client to be clear on what they want to achieve and design a bespoke plan or approach that achieves it.  And we do the work ourselves and to our highest possible standard.

We’ve had some great assignments in our first 9 months, including the following.  We are supporting two of the Vanguard sites implementing the new models of care in the Five Year Forward View.  I am the lead advisor in a large system transformation programme for the care of older people across 4 CCGs and 4 Local Authorities.  I have worked with a Teaching Hospital Trust to redesign their planning processes and produce an integrated Annual Plan.  I am working with the GPs on a CCG Governing Body to redesign clinical leadership roles and processes to make them more effective.  I am working with three acute Trust CEO’s to explore and scope the potential for clinical and non-clinical collaboration and, we are now working on an implementation plan.

I like the work lifestyle with this new role.  It is varied and interesting.  You get to work with good people on the things that are important to them.  About half of the week I’m working at home and half out working with clients.  Paul and I talk everyday and meet regularly.  To do this role well you need to be flexible – you have a big responsibility to your clients and you need to do everything you can to meet their needs and timescales.  Sometimes this means working really hard and Paul and I will be working in the evenings and maybe the weekend to get something done on time.  The quality of our work is important to us – we’re building our reputation by making sure that the service and product we give the client is high quality.  A job well done is very rewarding.

At Christmas, the Royal Holloway University of London made me a Visiting Professor in Health Care Management.  This is a small, but important adjunct to our work to build Consilium Partners.  We’re exploring how we can work with academics to respond to the needs of the NHS and our clients and have just put forward a joint bid with the Computer Science and Psychology departments to model an urgent care system.   It is early days, but has the potential for us to be able to broaden and strengthen the support we can give the NHS.  It will make us different to most other companies.  I also chair the advisory board for the Management School and teach on the MBA course.

People ask me if I miss being a CEO, and more specifically if I miss my last Trust, Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals.  The answer is no and yes.  I enjoyed being a CEO and always thought it was a privilege to be able to do it – but after 10 years I was ready for a change.  I do miss being part of the large and vital human enterprise that is Ashford and St Peter’s.  The good news is that they’re going from strength to strength – my Chief Nurse is now the CEO, they were inspected by the CQC in December and given a Good rating and have just won the National Care Quality Award by CHKS.

Paul and I are now looking at how we can build on a successful start and increase our capability and capacity to support clients.  We have a good group of like-minded Associates that we can count on when we need a particular skill and we are currently looking to appoint a Management Consultant to work alongside us.  We’re very conscious that building the company needs as much careful thought as starting it required.  Whatever we do has to fit in with our original values and motivation and has to give the support that our clients want and need. If you would like to find out more please view the candidate brief on www.acertus.co.uk/candidates/vacancies or call Linda McCue on 07958 032839, confidential and informal enquiries are welcomed.

Andrew Liles

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