24 / 3 / 2016 Midnight
John Scott, HR change team leader at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (DBH), talks about the trust’s Future Leaders initiative which develops strong leadership within the organisation through links with their local army unit.
The Future Leaders 2020 programme was developed through a desire to foster effective leadership within the trust. After links were established with the local army medical services unit, 212 Field Hospital in Sheffield, it became clear that the trust could benefit from many of the qualities that define the Army’s style of leadership; confidence, determination and perseverance. Through aligning the Future Leaders’ values with that of the Army, it was hoped that a style and efficacy of leadership would be developed and emulate the leadership seen throughout the Armed Forces.
Delegates for the Future Leaders 2020 programme were carefully selected through an initial application and essay detailing what they would bring to the programme and how they would use what they gained in their wider work. The rigorous selection process was important, as it would create a team that would make the most of the opportunity. The final 15 delegates were from all areas of the organisation - clinical backgrounds and catering to administration and business functions - who had shown their commitment to developing professionally within the organisation.
The team’s first challenge was to take part in an executive stretch weekend undertaken at the local army unit. Designed to help delegates push beyond their perceived limits and test their leadership skills, the executive stretch consists of a series of tasks similar to regular and reserve army training such as sleeping outside, using observation and communication, search and rescue, dealing with a medical emergency, rifle shooting, and hoisting an overturned truck back onto four wheels.
During each task, the team was asked to select a leader and, under time pressures, were forced to make effective decisions rapidly. By being pushed out of their comfort zone, the delegates gained an insight into how to lead well under pressure and take unforeseen challenges in their stride. The sessions showed the team that they are capable of both challenging themselves and leading others – a great first step on their talent pathway.
In the six months since the programme ran, the future leaders also attended a number of bespoke internal management sessions and were encouraged to attend modules on the DBH management skills programme. The participants report that they have all benefited from the programme, with two achieving promotions, one at DBH, another at a neighbouring trust. They have all been offered a mentor and invited to take part in one of the project workstreams created as part of the trust’s Turnaround programme. The value of the overall programme is perhaps best summarised by a couple of comments from participants:
“I’ve come back more confident with a sense of how a team can work well with the right leadership. Any task can be overcome when you work together by listening to all members of the team. Even if the first idea doesn’t work, it’s important to stay positive and keep trying. Encouragement of every person will gain results.”
“I am a lot more self-confident, with a good attitude towards problem solving. I have improved my communication skills by understanding the importance of being clear and direct. I have a better understanding of leadership and teamwork. I also have a real sense of personal achievement. This experience has changed me for the better.”