My Great American Adventure – The beginning

It is true to say that when you get up in the morning, you never know how your day will turn out. I remember being very excited about going to the Institute of Health Improvement (IHI) Quality of Care conference in Paris earlier this year.

It was my first time at an IHI conference and I was overwhelmed by the sheer brilliance of many of the speakers there. If you haven’t been to an IHI conference as yet, beg, steal or borrow to get a ticket to attend, the next one is being held in London next spring. It is quite simply the best conference I have ever attended. The enthusiasm and passion for high quality healthcare was infectious and many of the speakers, including our own Helen Bevan and Jim Easton were quite simply world class.

Unexpectedly, I was asked to give a presentation to the IHI board on the work I have been doing on diverse leadership. I hadn’t time to prepare the ubiquitous PowerPoint presentation, so simply told my personal story interwoven with the facts about Inclusion (formerly Breaking Through). To cut a long story short, the IHI board were impressed enough with what I had to say to invite me to spend some time with them in Boston looking at diversity issues there; What a result!  Always being prepared to give a good account of yourself certainly paid off. It reminded me of the numerous training programmes I’ve attended where the facilitator tells you to prepare your ‘elevator’ speech. I had always scoffed at the notion of ever meeting a CEO in a lift and having to wow him/her with my silky skills, experience and knowledge in 30 seconds, this experience was the big brother of that.  The Moral of the story is ‘be prepared to give a good and professional account of yourself, wherever you are because you never know…’

The invitation to visit Boston came from the very impressive Maureen Bisognano, president of the IHI on behalf of her Board. To say I was bowled over is an understatement. This kind of experience does so much for your confidence and self-esteem. It makes you feel the work you have done has been of value. It also reminded me of how very few of us get that level of affirmation. I have been lucky and am extremely grateful to have been in the right place at the right time. Some people say that you make your own luck, that’s debatable but lucky is how I felt and how I feel. I have to say the response to the invitation from my boss Karen Lynas was incredibly positive. Without Karen’s unwavering support I would not have been able to make the trip to Boston. She lives her values in being the kind of leader that is demonstrably supportive of developing others.

Leaving my home and family for 6 weeks was the hard part. ‘Come on everyone, group hug’, said my son Oliver who had come down from his home in Derby to see me off. My husband and children are awesome, supportive, loyal and helpful (most of the time). I have never been away from them for any length of time so this was a new experience for all of us. With cheerful and tearful good byes and words of advice about keeping safe and using technology to communicate ringing in my ears, I left the sanctuary that is my home in Northwood and headed for Heathrow terminal 5.

So five months later, here I am, lying on the bed in a bijou little bed sit in the heart of Beacon Hill (look it up), Boston writing my blog – unbelievable, quite simply unbelievable.