Carl Davies is a clinician and a transformation specialist, leading major healthcare and operational improvement programmes for Ashford and St Peter's Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (ASPH) as Associate Director of iMSK & Trauma.
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My alarm goes off at…
7am now that I’ve moved closer to work.
I’m responsible for…
The new iMSK and trauma service, which is a large fully integrated model with over 100 staff. I oversee the operational and clinical teams and functions, I also manage a large transformation programme.
What’s top of your to-do list today?
Writing up the next phase of our system transformation plans, shortlisting for interviews and attending the trust performance meetings.
What’s the biggest challenge of being a line manager in your work area?
We are going through extremely complex system transformations and it can be difficult to keep the workforce motivated. I’m a huge believer in servant leadership and it’s never as important as when managing change. It’s easy to get tunnel vision when pursuing performance targets or strategic aims, so I always ensure we build management teams that understand the importance of supporting staff.
How do you get the most out of your team and keep them motivated?
Rarely do I come across staff who aren’t motivated to do a great job for patients, but often there are system and process issues that cause frustration or make conditions difficult. So, I listen to them and try to be responsive to the needs of the team. We set ourselves high standards and have big ambitions to achieve excellent results, but that would not be possible if the team didn’t share the same vision.
What one thing would make your managerial role easier?
There can be a disconnect between national performance indicators and the national narrative on culture, innovation and improvement. As leaders, how we manage a system is extremely important in terms of the culture we foster within it. I believe that a system focused on strict targets can create a culture that encourages a pursuit of targets at all costs, and that’s not good for patients or staff.
A national performance framework that helps move the system towards a different philosophy of leadership, in which how we achieve results is just as important as what we achieve would be helpful. For me, great results should be the output of a great system, not the focus of a bad one.
The most rewarding part of my job as a manager is …
I see my role as building a system and culture that allows great people to do great things. For me that’s about supporting people to learn and grow and give them the space to innovate without fear of failure.
I recently spent time with our MSK Physiotherapy team and was blown away by the ideas and enthusiasm they showed. Guiding talented individuals and developing their ideas into a deliverable plan that helps them, the patient, and our service is what transformation is all about, and that’s what I find most rewarding.
Do you have a standout proudest moment of being a line manager?
I’ve made some promotions of people that didn’t have the stereotypical CV, but they had the skills, ability and the attitude to do great things. My current service manager is an example. It’s a key position and she jumped bands into an extremely busy role at the head of the operational team. I had total belief in her, but she’s delivered beyond my expectations and I’m so proud of the commitment and ability she shows daily.
What’s been the biggest learning curve in your management career?
Understanding how to deliver change across complex systems. Effective teams will always beat groups of individuals and being effective as a system is vital in today’s NHS. Working and interacting across traditional boundaries is critical. I’ve learnt that effectiveness requires that we first ask whether we are doing the right thing. There’s little value in doing the wrong thing more efficiently.
What’s the best management advice you’ve ever received?
It was that ‘ideas aren’t enough’. Everyone has ideas, but not everybody is able to make them a reality - lots of good ideas fail. It’s the journey from where you are now to where you want to be that’s the difficult bit. Knowing how to recognise, embrace and manage the complexity is the key to success.
Any advice for new managers?
If you don’t like the present, commit to building a better future. Be humble in your own level of ability and influence - no matter how big or bright your ideas, you’ll be dependent on others to help you deliver it. Be sure to recognise the skills of the team, empower people to be autonomous and then recognise them in their success.
Who inspires you? Do you have a leadership icon?
I think leadership is all about how you treat people and how effectively you can influence, so we are not only shaped by our professional values, but our personal ones.
Professionally, I’m a huge fan of systems theory and complexity so I’d say Russell Ackoff. On a personal level I’d say my mum. I grew up in a deprived area of Wales, and she worked tirelessly to give me every opportunity she could. No matter how hard things got, she never complained and always had time for anyone who needed it. I learned from her the importance of working hard, being kind but assertive, and knowing when to put the needs of others before your own - I try to model those behaviours both personally and professionally.