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Rebel or troublemaker: how do you lead change?

Naomi McVey says you can rock the boat and build bridges at the same time.

I’ve been a fan of the School of Health and Care Radicals for a while now. An online training resource for people who want to ‘rock the boat while staying in it’, the school is forward-thinking, accessible and free.

I’ve dipped into the online resources since it launched, but work pressures had stopped me from completing the course.

So, when I got the opportunity to work with NHS England’s Horizons Team to organise a one-day school I grabbed it.

Change is inevitable

Change is inevitable in healthcare, and it’s not something we can or should stop, but it can feel tough.  What we can influence is our approach to change.

Last month over 80 allied health professionals, pharmacists, healthcare scientists, psychological professionals and others came together in the North West to spend the day learning how we can lead change in healthcare.

Here are some highlights and reflections:

  1. Change starts with me
    It’s good to be a rebel, but there’s a fine line between being a rebel and a troublemaker. I know I’ve stepped over that line over in the past and remember the harm it caused to some of my professional relationships. The school has helped me to understand the difference: if we stay purposeful, positive, creative and collaborative, we keep on the right side of change.
  2. From me to we
    Rebels need to do everything they can to put the ‘we’ into change. Being part of a community gives us support but it can also give us more influence, with shared values and purpose at the heart of what we do.
  3. Seek out people who think differently
    It's easy to always work with 'strong' ties: colleagues and peers who are people like us. But if we strive to improve services with our 'weak ties', including people who question our current practice and ways of working, then we are more likely to innovate and create lasting changes.
  4. Tell a story
    Stories can be far more powerful in influencing change than data alone. Make it personal, relevant and authentic, and finish with a call to action. Karen Middleton’s powerful Founder’s lecture in 2014 shows us how to do this.
  5. Being told 'no' is okay
    This was my lightbulb moment of the day. Being told no when we’re suggesting a different way of doing things is okay: we need to take time to listen to why and use this as an opportunity to step back, reflect and learn; and use our communities to support us.   

Relationships trump structures

A few years ago I heard Sir Jon Oldham, national clinical lead for quality and productivity, speak on how 'relationships trumps structures every time' and this has influenced my approach to work ever since.

If we are to influence improvements in healthcare we need to invest time and energy in relationships. Without relationships built on trust, respect and shared purpose we are destined to fail at times of status quo let alone change.

So, embrace your inner rebel, keep hold of your passion and collaborate with others: rock the boat while building bridges too.

Naomi McVey is programme manager for AHP Workforce with the North West AHP Network.

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Post date:

2 June 2016

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