OD Superstar - Caroline Mabey


31 / 10 / 2014 Midnight

Our October OD Superstar is Caroline Mabey, Deputy Director of Learning & OD for Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust for the last three years. Caroline has previously worked at North Middlesex University Hospital as Head of OD and as an independent Management Consultant predominantly in the Social Housing Sector.

Caroline’s main focus of work as an independent Consultant was Leadership development, Board development and governance, and supporting cultural change of organisations newly formed from stock transfers or the creation of Arms Lead Management Organisations. Caroline states that leadership development has always been a key part of her portfolio, passion and personal interest.

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

I am Deputy Director of Learning & OD at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust with 10,000 employees. My role is to lead the Organisational Development department which is responsible for developing, co-ordinating and managing the provision of a wide range of ‘people’ interventions, and training and development activities across the trust. I have a talented team and collectively we strive to support the Royal Free in being an agile organisation, proactively adapting to its changing environment, working with leaders to align to and integrate with the trust’s internal direction, in particular where it relates to behaviours, culture, mind sets, leadership and values. 

My role is to give the space to help others shine, creating the platform encouraging them as they grow and develop.  Sometimes, I am the ‘awkward’ voice , striving to create the conditions to talk about what is right and support leaders to be successful. In short my role is to continuously build the organisational capability working with a great team of expert OD practitioners and Learning & Development experts.

2. What does OD mean to you?  

Very simply helping the people and the organisation to function more effectively. It is about the hard and the soft stuff, the now and the future. It is action focused, based on theory but always practical and always about involving leaders and their people in change.

3. What OD projects are you most proud of? 

Much of our OD work builds on our organisational values launched in 2012 and continues to nurture a world class culture. My team and I have developed a number of interventions, based on thorough diagnostics and research, and we have been glad to share this with other NHS organisations. This includes:

  • Royal Free Leadership Toolkit - online just in time leadership tools.
  • ‘License to lead and manage’ modules – 17 modules that can be selected based on need and dovetails with the leadership toolkit.
  • Bullying & harassment pathway (looks like a tube map) and has a supporting interactive guide.  This empowers individuals to take control and provides a number of routes/choices to seek resolution.  It is very much about education and rehabilitation and not about retribution.
  • Integrated leadership and talent framework – this is based on the leadership pipelines model. This aims to focus development at leadership transition points based on requirements at each transition and attempts to  create clear levels of leadership from the Board to the ward.  Our  leadership curriculum is now being developed, working collaboratively with multi-professional groups. I believe our approach to talent is inclusive and selective and will deliver a full flow of talent and leadership pipelines.  
  • Cultural integration workstream - constantly checking that we are paying attention to the right things and nurturing a world class culture.   

4. What would you like to learn more about? 

There is no doubt we live in a turbulent world and the NHS is an extremely complex organisation.  Learning more about systems theory and how to work effectively with complexity.will sharpen my OD practice.  I am very much looking forward to the opportunity to learn more on this provided by DoOD (thank you).

5. Who inspires you most? 

My greatest inspiration in life has been my Dad who sadly passed away in October.  He was always kind, caring, never critical and always interested in others., A man of tolerance, great patience and with a delightful humour. In my working life so many people inspire me and every day I am inspired by colleagues, collaborative partners and external groups. I don’t want to single anybody out but you know who you are!

I find our London Learning & OD network inspiring and feel very fortunate to be supported by so many amazing groups: London Leadership Academy, DoOD, HPMA. I constantly meet people who I’d love to spend more time with and feel I have much to learn from them. More recently I had a fabulous opportunity to facilitate a day for our Clinical Directors.  Their commitment, passion and willingness to strengthen their leadership skills to provide the best patient care was inspiring.

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

Can I have more than one?

The early influence on my thoughts on organisational development was from reading Peter Senge – The Fifth Discipline – The Art and Practice of a Learning Organisation. The idea that particularly resonated with me, and still remains very clear in my head after reading the book more than 15 years ago, (and before I knew what OD was) was about the rocking motion…..do you keep just rocking backards and forwards? What will it take to propel forward and to continue moving forward?

In my OD practice over the years that has often been my guiding light, to simply make sure I leave groups/organisations in a better place than when I started and in a  position to keep moving forward to the change they desire.

and building on that I can’t stop reading OD or OD related books/articles.

  • An influential article recently being  Hilary Scarlett’s – Neuroscience: Helping Employees through change
  • The blogs on DoOD with NHS employers are great
  • King's Fund – Chris Ham  and Michael West
  • Mee-Yan Cheung-Judge and Linda Holbeche's 'A practitioner’s guide for OD and HR'
  • The Leadership Pipeline by Charan, Drotter, Noel which has had a big influence on my latest piece of work - the Integrated Leadership and Talent framework  

7. What would you like to achieve in 2014? 

I have many goals at a number of different levels.

At an organisational level: continuing to support and nurture a world class culture for the enlarged integrated organisation (after the acquisition of Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals).  We know and understand the importance of paying attention to culture for the ongoing success of a merged organisation. Continuing work on developing and implementing our leadership and talent framework that will integrate a number of our OD interventions and create clear leadership pathways and associated leadership curriculum that will provide full and flowing leadership and talent pipelines.

And at a more local level: Successfully integrate the people and processes of the newly formed Learning & OD department and soon to be formed Education & Development department, whilst also supporting the wider integration of Workforce & OD.     

8. What would your motto be? 

  • Trust your gut and trust your process
  • Understand the patterns in your organisation – where there is difference don’t hide it – explore it .

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

  • Build your relationships and networks– connectivity is everything
  • Help each other to think differently – in this you constantly grow
  • Be passionately curious, follow your instincts and take risks
  • Encourage lots of 'yes and ' conversations
  • When you face personal challenges and push back, reflect what is is they need from you? Don’t give up, there is always a way  

10. What is your favourite sandwich? 

I am trying to avoid sandwiches as I am probably addicted to bread, but if I was to go in search for one, I probably would find it hard to bypass a wild crayfish & rocket.

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