David Allen

Inclusive Leadership training for the NHS: Q&A with Creative Director, Rosie Perkin

Since late last year, Enact Solutions has been working with South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust putting together an Inclusive Leadership training programme with a difference to help them achieve 3 key aspirations for BME employees.

The pilot stage took place last week, and the first of 20 sessions for all staff with leadership and managerial responsibilities will shortly get underway. Also, in March, there’s a complimentary (no charge) event to tell interested NHS Trusts about the work.

To throw some light on what goes on behind the scenes with a job like this, we asked Rosie Perkin, Creative Director, a few quick questions.

So, Rosie, all the pilot sessions for South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust’s Inclusive Leadership programme have now been completed. How’s it gone?

Really well. The feedback from both the senior leadership team and the diversity team was all highly positive. ‘This was exceptional’ was just one of the comments we received. When you are working with mixed teams of people it’s always a challenge getting the scripts spot on, so everyone can identify with the characters, the behaviours and the situations.  This is really important as it enables individuals to easily translate their learning back to their own working environment.  There were no script changes needed which is always a relief to the actors at this stage.

Very little else was changed, a few minor tweaks here and there just to make sure it will achieve exactly what they need it to.

Everything is falling into place nicely then?


So, what’s it meant to achieve? What does success look like for the Trust, and for you as the creative force behind it all?

Okay, so this piece of work supports the start of a four-year programme of change for the Trust. Whilst the sessions as a whole look at Inclusive Leadership and what more we can be doing as leaders to ensure we are promoting a healthy, happy inclusive working environment, there’s a clear focus on changing the face of diversity within the workforce; particularly the higher you move up within the organisation.

At the moment, approximately 53-57% of the local population, the people this Trust serves, are white.  Just under 40% of the workforce are from Black, Asian Minority Groups. As you move higher up the organisation this representation drops to as low as 8% – that’s at Board level.  So, how can we be sure we are driving and implementing decisions that best reflect the community we serve?  This was one of the findings in Roger Kline’s work, Beyond the Snowy White Peaks of the NHS, in which he identified 7 areas related to race inequality that were potentially impacting on patient care.  Our client has made a commitment that before 2021 they will have proportional representation at all levels across the trust.  I’m proud that we are supporting the start of that journey, engaging with leaders to consider their inclusivity and the part that they will play in achieving the Trusts aspirations.

We’re calling it a ‘training programme with a difference’; what exactly sets it apart in your eyes? What kind of experience can participants expect?

The three hours that they are with us will absolutely fly. From the moment they are in the room it will feel different.  There are lots of activities to get them up on their feet, engaging them to think about how they see things and how they might view things differently.  Although they are never asked to role-play, so they are safe, it is hugely participatory and experiential. Working with actors is one of the most engaging ways to really get to understand what it might be like for someone different to you working in a similar environment. I truly believe we open their eyes to seeing the world differently. We blend this with paired and small group work so everyone feels they can contribute in a way that makes them feel comfortable.

And the client, presumably they’ve been closely involved in the creative process long before the pilot?

Yes, and that’s exactly how I like it. I encourage them to be as hands on as possible.  The more involved a client, the more we understand exactly their needs and what they want to achieve. Either myself or one of the creative developers work closely with all clients from the outset to make the project the very best it can be.

What’s your favourite part of putting together a programme like this?

[Laughing] It’s easy to let the ego come in to play and say ‘See that there? I made that!’ But it’s much bigger than that, why we do what we do. Because we want to make a difference. That’s my measure of success and what gives me personal satisfaction; knowing the long-term changes that a client will see are, in part, because of our intervention.

It all sounds very bespoke; would it work elsewhere? Lots of organisations, not just NHS Trusts face similar challenges.

Of course, Inclusive leadership is the future! And whilst there is lots of research around NHS organisations and why this is important, actually what we are talking about is every single member of any organisation feeling engaged, respected, listened to and with a fair opportunity to develop – show me an organisation that has nailed this and I’ll apply to go and work for them [laughs].

What’s next then? Is your work here done?

Well, there’s lots to do, projects to create around difficult conversations, unconscious bias, bullying and harassment, but, that doesn’t mean to say I’m leaving this one behind!  I will be observing the programme once it’s underway.  I love to see how it develops once it’s been run with delegates a couple of times.  I make sure I get out to see the sessions to make sure they are still on point, doing what we need them to do and keeping them fresh. I don’t think we can ever sit back and think that something is good enough, I’m constantly looking at ways we can tweak things to make them even better.

Great stuff. Thanks for lifting the lid on some of what goes on behind the scenes. We obviously hope it all goes well.

Thank you! I’m confident it will.

Enact Solutions and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust are running a complimentary (no charge) event about our Inclusive Leadership Programme in London on Friday 2 March 2018. Places are limited, but when they run out we will be running a waiting list in case any become available due to cancellations.

Find out more and book your place here.

Also, do feel free to contact our Creative Director, Rosie Perkin, directly if you’d like to discuss any aspect.

Collaborate or die!

The modern world

It may sound like a gross exaggeration to suggest that survival depends on collaboration… but hear me out!

We are living in a VUCA world. If you are yet to have come across the acronym VUCA, it stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. It was originally introduced by the US Army War College to describe the landscape that the military has experienced since the 1990s, however, the term has also been adopted by the business world as it is an accurate reflection of the business landscape and how strategic leadership, communication and collaboration need to be optimised to counter these threats.

Perhaps the most recent and relevant example of the VUCA world we live in can be seen in global politics. And alarmingly, rather than countering the VUCA threats, it appears that the people in the positions with the greatest responsibility are providing case study after case study of the negative impact of not embracing collaboration and instead lighting the VUCA touch paper.

The obvious example is Donald Trump wanting to build a wall and stop certain people from entering America (amongst other things). Based on the Barrett Values Centre 7 levels of consciousness, (pdf) his behaviours could be seen as ones of self-interest, discrimination and intolerance, which are represented as the negative aspects of the lowest levels of consciousness. These psychological levels are normally reserved for babies and young children… now that is a scary thought!

Shifting attitudes

But let’s shift our focus to something a little more positive. In his excellent TED talk Howard Rheingold, paints a more optimistic picture around the fact that, by enlarge, leaders are increasingly aware that the old template based on the idea that businesses and nations succeed only by defeating, destroying and dominating their competition is no longer fit for purpose and instead they are embracing a new template based on co-operation, collective action and complex interdependencies.

Forward thinking organisations are willing to collaborate with their competition in order for both to benefit. Organisations are finding ways to overcome the prisoner’s dilemma.

What does this mean for you and what can you do?

But let’s now delve deeper and consider what collaboration and cross team communication means within an organisation. First of all, it’s worth considering the case for why this is important. On an organisational level, benefits include:

  • Better results (higher profits, satisfied customers)
  • Higher levels of employee retention
  • Reduced performance issues
  • Organisational learning and improvement

On a team level, benefits include:

  • Creativity and involvement, the camaraderie of collaboration
  • Engagement, satisfaction (dare we say fun)
  • Greater responsibility, accountability

And on an individual level, benefits include:

  • Greater effectiveness
  • Opportunity to differentiate yourself, broaden your influence
  • Increase your innovation skills and produce new ideas
  • Involvement in complex work, and the ability to learn from others can also be crucial motivators

So what can organisations do to optimise their collaborative efforts and foster an environment where openness, trust and curiosity are embraced?

A good starting point is to consider and effectively manage the following 6 areas:

Clarify the purpose. Make sure people are aware of why cross team collaboration is a good idea and encourage them to connect with the benefits it brings to them, the team and the organisation.

Bring together the right people in the right places. Having an awareness of your weaknesses and the strengths of others will ensure your blind spots are covered and you are capitalising on the right resources in the right places.

Cultivate Trust. Trust is a fundamental ingredient in effective collaboration and communication. But don’t confuse it ‘liking’ or ‘agreeing’ with someone as you don’t necessarily need either of those to trust someone. What you do need is the ability to have difficult conversations, to listen, to be heard and to find a common ground from where action can be taken.

Clarify accountabilities. As with the need for people to have a connection to broader purpose behind collaboration, it is also important for everyone to know what part they play, what is expected and when its expected. Clarity in this area ensures that gaps aren’t missed or things aren’t duplicated.

Create an infrastructure for sharing information and learning. In order to facilitate the sharing of information, consider what infrastructure is in place. Utilising the right tools supports the open flow of information in all directions (not just from the top down) and enables continuous clear communication channels.

Be comfortable with the unknown. Change equals progress and therefore clinging to ‘the way things are done around here’, whilst familiar, can also be detrimental to facilitating new ideas and innovation. Therefore, collaborative communication should be approached with an open mind, with a sense of curiosity and an ability to ask good questions that challenge the status quo and shift thinking into uncharted waters.

Next steps

Based on delegate feedback in our training programs we consistently hear that the challenges related to coordination, cooperation, communication and collaboration are of the utmost importance and addressing them would have a significant positive impact across the business.

Now more than ever, we all need to take responsibility to ensure we are not languishing in the lowest levels of Barrett’s consciousness scale with Donald Trump, but instead making the shift from self-interest to common good.

“It is at the intersection of self-interest and shared interest that effective collaboration takes place.”

Failure to navigate this path and effectively capitalise on collective resources could just mean the difference between survival and extinction.

Based on market feedback and demand for development in the area of cross team collaboration, Enact Solutions are creating a highly innovative and engaging new product to address these challenges and provide an experiential learning solution to create positive change within organisations. If you are interested in increasing productivity, creativity and engagement then visit our website and register to attend one of our upcoming free events or contact me on +44 (0)7590 848 541 to discuss how this or any of our programs can benefit your organisation.