Leadership Academy

My NHS change…

Posted by: Karen Lynas - Posted on:

Introduction Text:
I am hugely fortunate to have a job that I really enjoy and spend time with fabulous people doing something I hope makes a difference. The last couple of weeks I have been sat in meetings, either as a participant or an observer, and want to make my pledge (for NHS change day) to change the way we do this.

The NHS has always been one for organising meetings, sometimes productive and sometimes not, they are often populated by the following people who don’t really help; do you recognise any of them?

There’s Mr Loving My Own Voice, talking endlessly, oblivious to whether anyone is listening or not as he rambles on enjoying hearing his own thoughts shared with the room. If only he were to think a little bit more about what the point was that he was trying to make, listen occasionally to other people, look at those around them and see whether they were engaged or not.

Then there’s Mr I am In a Different Meeting to Everyone Else, often quiet but when he chimes in it is to say something utterly irrelevant, misplaced or ill timed. He is the antithesis of quiet waters running deeply; loud and no depth. If only he were to listen to people, think about the conversation being held, wonder what a useful contribution might be and how he may interject in a way which adds clarity, offers insight or helps resolve an issue.

What about Mrs Repetition is the Greatest Form of Flattery, never known to have an original thought her contribution is just to repeat what someone else has already said. She doesn’t move the conversation on and often just consumes time and air. Perhaps if she engaged more in the conversation and didn’t feel the need to put her voice in the room without really having something to say. Perhaps if she was motivated by trying to resolve an issue, make a decision or conclude a debate she wouldn’t feel the need to just interrupt to repeat someone else’s contribution.

Then there’s Mr How Clever is my Question. You can tell he is really pleased with his questions as he doesn’t demonstrate any interest in the answer. If only he was more interested in understanding colleagues contributions, in supporting rather than undermining people, genuinely seeking greater knowledge, understanding or adopting a different perspective.

And finally there’s Ms Sorry I Was Planning My Holidays, quietly sitting in the corner where she usually sits, she comes to the meeting because she was invited years ago and keeps turning up, or because someone from her department has to be represented even though they have no contribution to make.  If only she thought to save her own time and spend it more wisely by not attending a meeting in which she has neither interest nor any contribution to make.

Do you recognise any of these people? Do you have your own? We know what makes an effective meeting and a good use of people’s time. There is plenty of support for people wanting to know how to chair a meeting well. Our core professional leadership programmes will concentrate on some of these skills. But we might all start first with critically reviewing our own behaviour at meetings and the contribution we make. My pledge is to watch my own behaviour, be conscious of other people’s time, be more thoughtful and only attend meetings where I have a genuine contribution to make.  What’s yours?

The NHS Leadership Academy pledges that our core programmes will give future leaders of the NHS the skills and behaviours to make real improvements to patient care. Discover more about NHS change day.

5 replies on “My NHS change…”

    Sadly, I recognise all your meeting attendees and more! Very interested in the core professional leadership programmes, as leadership training is clearly something that we in the Army Medical Services have focussed on for many years. Would you think there is any mileage in the Army Medical Services and the NHS Leadership Academy collaborating in some way?

    Captain Andy Jensen

    These frustrations resonate with me with pressure at a point where we can ill afford to waste precious meeting time. The cost of meetings is something I am always conscious of. I think I recognise myself in the ‘clever questions’ one, from times gone by I hope, when I was building up confidence and trying hard to impress. I now try to listen hard and boundary the subject matter and time. I have found this much more productive. Is there space for training about productive use of meetings or when to/when not to have a meeting at all?

    Jeanette Collins

    Like the comments Karen. I always quite liked the Henry Ford approach: max 1 hour meetings, a minute taker, a time keeper and a devils advocate, and all done standing up.
    I have attended “stand up” meetings and actually found them quite energising.

    Paul O'Donnell

    One of my faves is meetings that are scheduled for every month, fortnight or week, whether we have a reason to meet or not. The original purpose of the group can be lost in the mists of time and the reason for the meeting never revisited instead replaced with an all purpose agenda…minutes of the last meeting, matters arising, AOB…which serves no purpose apart from formalising a potentially pointless meeting.
    Every meeting needs a purpose, and if you’re clear about that its easier to get the right people interested an contributing.

    Kev Wyke

    This is great.One I’d add is Mr I’m thinking what I want to say goes to the heart of this and really needs to be heard but for some reason I’m not going to say it put loud and, whoops, now the talk’s moved on so I’ve missed the moment. Rather a long name I suppose but hey.

    nicholas bradbury

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