In person: good, better, best

No matter what stage you are in your career, there’s always room to improve, says CEO Karen Middleton.

In February, I had the privilege of attending two events to celebrate the ‘graduation’ of those members who had been through the CSP Leadership Development Programme. 
At each event, the participants, either individually or in groups, gave a presentation relating to their learning on the programme. Some were about their leadership journey, some about their take on specific aspects of the programme, and others were about the service transformation project they had completed as a result of the programme. 
The presentations were often moving, insightful and exemplary. All finished with a ‘next steps’ slide to indicate the journey and the learning were only just beginning.
I used the word moving because all the participants talked about their very personal experience and reflections of the programme. They had truly made themselves vulnerable in order to maximise their learning and this had taken great courage.
All the participants had gone through a process of gathering insight into their style of working, strengths and weaknesses and, most importantly of all, the impact they had on others. They all commented that the formal assessment was so accurate that they felt like someone had got inside their brain and taken notes!
Having a mirror held up to you is not easy, but it is the beginning of learning about yourself and realising what it is like to be around you. It gives you the opportunity to adjust your behaviour to have greater and more constructive impact. Most of us learn this the hard way or when we are much older and wiser – and sometimes not even then!
I first learnt some of this in the 90s when I attended a senior leadership programme where the contract between members of the group was to give each other timely and honest feedback, but without judgement. This was all in the service of having a more positive individual impact, of performing to a higher level that would, in turn, result in our organisations performing better. Organisations are, after all, just a bunch of people!
I learnt that my uber positive, gung-ho type of behaviour, which I thought was so very motivating and inspiring, could actually be deeply irritating to some people. It could even result in people wanting to do the complete opposite from what I wanted them to do. My husband describes this as my ‘girl guide mode’.
I have to work very hard to control this but I know it is important if I want to have the positive impact I intend in order to drive up my own and others’ performance.
Understanding our impact on others should be something we all strive to do in my opinion and it’s important, we don’t diss the feedback we receive by explaining it away as someone else’s problem. It’s so much easier to do that and take no responsibility yourself.
We often don’t even need someone else’s feedback as we can see our impact for ourselves: the person who looks like the world has been lifted from their shoulders when they share a problem with us; the person who is crushed by our criticism; the person who tries even harder after we’ve given them a pep talk.
But how often do we delude ourselves? How often is our impact so indirect we are totally unaware of it? And how often do we ensure we get no feedback by being so aggressive, others are too frightened to give it. 
And when we are in that sad place, our ability to learn is diminished.
What I saw at those celebratory events were physiotherapists developing into well-rounded clinical professionals, and I mean professionals. They were hungry to learn and were willing to make themselves vulnerable to do so.
I could see future chief executives, future entrepreneurs, future council members, and future vice chancellors. But more than anything I saw a very bright future for our profession. 

Karen Middleton Chief Executive Officer CSP

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