In person: on a good go slow

Sometimes you need to take time out in order to improve your performance, says CSP’s chief exec Karen Middleton.

Last year, I launched the Good to Great change programme at the CSP. Essentially, this is how we go about ensuring the CSP is the very best organisation it can be. 
There are various strands to the work. One is about leadership development. My particular responsibility as chief executive is to ensure the development of the leadership team – the senior directors and assistant directors.
During some team development time towards the end of last year, the leadership team focused on its purpose and performance. It sounds obvious but sometimes it takes some time away from all the ‘stuff ‘we do to really appreciate the value of what, to members and others, is the blindingly obvious role of the society.
I recall NHS England’s former chief executive, Sir David Nicholson, talking a lot about ‘leadership with a purpose’. Rather than just seeing the development itself as the end point, it is about developing leaders in order to deliver a purpose.
So we thought about our purpose, as a team. What are we here to do collectively? What is our ‘mission’? What is our contribution to the success of the CSP? What above all else must we deliver? 
Without this clarity, how can we possibly know how we are doing as a team? How can we measure our performance? How can we keep improving?
We then looked at what helps to drive up our performance. We discussed the connection between the meaning of our work, ongoing learning and enjoyment in our job. How do those issues drive our performance?
Without true meaning – what is important to you personally, why you do the job, what you care about – there feels little value in doing the job. We are unlikely to strive hard to do well. 
Without learning in a job, we are likely to stagnate and our performance will drop. And if a job is not enjoyable (and I don’t mean every minute of every day has to be fun) we are very unlikely to perform at our best.
First, we had to establish where we are all at in these areas. Then it was ‘simply’ a question of working out what would add meaning, learning and enjoyment in order to push up our individual and collective performance. This will, of course, improve the overall performance of the organisation and the service to members.
Our next step is to share our purpose with others: CSP staff, council and other stakeholders. Then we can all be clear about expectations of each other. 
I wonder if you ever take the time out to consider these sorts of goals in your work?  It is so difficult to find the time and to value such an exercise as being part of the job you are doing, isn’t it? 
The leadership team realised that ‘slowing down’ – taking the time to clarify our purpose and the elements that contribute to our performance – means we can ‘speed up’, or become more efficient.
Slowing down gives you the space to think more creatively and find solutions to problems and issues that take up your time. It also provides perspective.  
It is likely you are drafting objectives for the coming year around this time. Start by taking a step back before marching full steam ahead into listing your objectives. 
Instead, ask yourself: ‘How can I add meaning, learning and enjoyment to my job this year so that I perform better?’.

Karen Middleton

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