OD Superstar - Beverley Aylott


31 / 3 / 2015 Midnight

Our March OD Superstar is the wonderful Beverley Aylott who is Head of Leadership at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. Beverley has had a varied career with roles in insurance, banking, engineering and the not for profit sector, before moving to her current NHS post.

Beverley won bronze for her leadership development programme in the Training Journal Awards 2013 and also wrote the cover article for the Training Journal in October of that year on how she successfully integrated learning and development into her business. She was a speaker at the 2014 Training Journal Leadership Masterclass and also spoke at the CIPD Conference in 2014 on the application of neuroscience and behavioural science to learning and development.

1. How would you describe your role in the organisation?  

In my current role I am responsible for all of the management and leadership development across the Trust and the talent development activities which support that. I feel that this is a real privilege; shaping tomorrow’s managers and leaders. I also believe that great managers and great leaders together can make that magic organisational “backbone” which drives motivation and performance.  As you can tell I am particularly passionate about leadership development. I read somewhere recently that engagement is about relationships not initiatives and I totally believe that. If you can get the relationships between individuals, teams, managers and leaders working well that is the key to a healthy, sustainable and successful organisation.

2. What does OD mean to you?  

I started in HR, not to show my age but that was back when it was called Personnel! I quickly realised that my passion lay in developing people. I love the breadth and creativity of learning and development, the complexity of understanding what makes people tick and being able to help people to become more than they thought they could be. Over the next few years I gradually moved across into learning and development, and now OD. 

To me OD is a mindset; a way of working that is collaborative and open. It is about creating healthy, sustainable organisations where people can thrive. Relationships are they key and having constructive conversations are critical at all levels of the organisation. Over the years I have learnt to be flexible, go with where the passion is, give people freedom to act and then support them to make it happen. I have three things on my wall in the office;

3. What OD projects are you most proud of? 

Last week a group of participants from our new leadership development programme Horizons went to an Executive Board meeting with their proposal for a culture change initiative. This is a group of ten senior leaders, in a range of roles both clinical and non-clinical, from across the organisation. Their presentation was a huge success and they now have Executive level support and resources to move forwards with this project. They told the Board that if it weren't for Horizons they would never had come up with the idea or moved it forwards. That might seem exciting enough but that’s not the really exciting bit from an OD perspective; that is how this actually came about.
As part of the Horizons programme we deliver a module called Highly Engaged People in partnership with Cathy Brown from Engage for Success. When the group attended this module the plan for the afternoon was for them to work through the Trust’s engagement survey results and think about how they could take action in their own areas, however as we were discussing the four pillars of engagement in the morning it became clear to me that there was a real passion in the room to change the culture through a really inclusive process – something which has never been done before. So, I took a huge risk and scrapped the whole plan for the afternoon!!   Instead, during the afternoon we supported the group to explore their culture change idea and put some structure around it and encouraged them to take ownership and agree a firm next step and here we are - wow! 

4. What would you like to learn more about?  

I have now designed, managed and delivered many different development programmes in many different organisations but the L & D field is one that keeps evolving and we are finding out new things all the time like discoveries coming from neuroscience.  It’s a wonderful field to be in; challenging and rewarding.  I also am addicted to learning myself so it’s fantastic to be immersed in learning all day long! I am currently learning all I can about neuroscience and regularly attend Breakfast Meetings run by Jan Hills from Head, Heart & Brain.

5. Who inspires you most? 

In my current role the Nurses I meet really inspire me, their selflessness, their innate drive to care for others is so humbling. I could never do their job and I am constantly amazed by them.
At this point I have to give a shout out to all the introverts out there in learning and development roles; one of my old bosses bought me the book Quiet by Susan Cain to show that he understood and valued my contribution. I love that in her book she says that introverts are not shy or lacking in confidence, not unsociable or unenthusiastic, they are just very highly tuned to the world around them, absorbing masses of information and so need time and space alone to process their thoughts and feelings. Hurray – go introverts!!

6. What’s your one 'must read' book/article/website on OD? 

I am a voracious reader of management books. I have just finished Simon Sinek’s Leaders Eat Last and his concept of the Circle of Safety really resonated with me. I am also an advocate of positive psychology and believe that we should enable people to do what they do best every day rather than constraining them by job descriptions and competency frameworks – we’re all different with different talents let us be different! 

7. What would you like to achieve in 2015? 

Not to sound ancient but I guess I am starting to think about where I want to be when I retire, what I want to have achieved and what legacy I want to leave. I think I will continue to seek out organisations where I can bring in new thinking and new ways of working and really make a big difference through exceptional people development. Ultimately, I think I would like to do a strategic OD role in an education setting. 

8. What would your motto be? 

My key personal principle is that everyone deserves to feel good about themselves at work, going to work should be a positive, safe and fulfilling experience. No one should feel fearful or anxious walking through the door in the morning. We must value difference and embrace all types of people in our workplaces.

9. What advice would you give to a budding OD professional? 

It would have to be get an OD qualification and join some OD networks. Doing my Certificate in OD practice at Roffey Park was wonderful, the learning environment is wonderful there; relaxed, thoughtful, stimulating. I learnt a lot about OD but also about myself too. I was with a group of six and we had a fantastic experience together, we still meet regularly and ask each other’s advice on sticky situations. It’s wonderful to have such a great professional network I can call on. 

10. What is your favourite sandwich? 

I would have to say the Bacon and Egg sandwich my partner Andy makes…yum.

If you have any questions about Beverley and their work, then please feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn.

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