Know your context: CPD and leadership

In the third article in our leadership series, CSP adviser Nina Paterson explains how members can raise their small ‘p’ political awareness.

This week’s election raises some interesting issues about how members of the public are influenced by national policitians and media. In this article we look at what we can learn from this to help our understanding of the small ‘p’ politics of the workplace, where influencing skills are used daily.

Understand the landscape

Today, perhaps more than ever, physiotherapists need to be deft politically, able to understand the political narrative that is driving local and national decision making. 
If you are looking to bring about change or make a difference it is essential to understand what motivates people, such as cultures, values, biases. 
You also need to understand the impact of different political ideologies and how they will shape economic, social and health policies.
It is important to understand these drivers if you are looking to influence others or form collaborative partnerships or alliances with them, as you’ll need these to pursue shared goals, or share resources in the financially-challenged health and social care environment.

Collaborative alliances

We’re not talking here about becoming ‘political animals’ or ‘politicking’ which are essentially driven by self-interest, nor about ‘defending your turf’. We are talking about understanding the drivers of change, so that they can be used to convince others to support you or work with you. A good leader recognises the need to work with others. 
First, you need to establish trust and engender confidence. Personal integrity is key to this. The second step is taking the time to listen to both the overt and any possible hidden agendas and to see things from another’s perspective. Good leaders recognise that other people’s drive and values might be different from theirs. 
Karen Middleton’s Daring to be different article (Frontline 4 March 2015) highlighted the value of embracing diversity because of the creativity it brings to a team. 
It also helps you understand what is driving the other person/organisation, where your common ground is, and how best to motivate them. These are all skills used with patients, students and colleagues. 
When you read the features in this month’s Frontline or if you are leafing through any of the back issues, you’ll see these principles already being put into practice by your colleagues throughout the UK as they innovate or redesign their services. 
If you look at the two features in Frontline’s 4 March 2015 issue titled Man on a mission and Collaborative cardiac care you’ll see that both James Benson and Paul Stern are excellent examples of politically astute physiotherapists who understand the political landscape using the evidence and policies to justify why change was needed, forming strategic partnerships in order to ultimately benefit their patients.
While we’ve been discussing political awareness as part of the skills-set of a leader, it is worth noting that organisations, businesses, services and teams are more effective when all staff, not just those in leadership positions, share this awareness.
We’ll pick up in the final piece how to put this into action. Meanwhile, there are three activities (below) designed to develop awareness. The activities and the prompts are just starting points so feel free to add to them to ensure they’re meaningful within your work context . fl

CPD activity

Reading between the lines

If you are looking to develop your ability to ‘read between the lines’ you might find it helpful to analyse guidance, policy or a piece of legislation relevant to your area of work. Put aside some time to read it and determine its importance for your team, service or organisation. Think about its impact. Are there any opportunities? Will you need to make changes? How would you communicate this to the team? What approach would work well?

Key messages

Alternatively, you might consider responding to a consultation relevant to your area of work. What are the key messages? Look at structure, tone, choice of language. What can you infer about the ‘agenda’ or biases? Think about its impact. What will this mean for your patients? Are you in a position to influence the policy/legislation by yourself or are there any others that you could work with? 

Collaborative alliances

Identify an opportunity within your workplace that you need to work with others to achieve.  Think about the key decision makers. Who are they? How will you influence them? Where is the mutual benefit?  What does the evidence or policy say? How will you communicate and what messages will they be receptive to? Think about content (evidence), tone, language. Who might you form a strategic alliance with to help you convince the decision makers?   What are the mutual benefits, and what are your points of difference?

Nina Paterson

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