The Knowing Self Knowing Others Podcast

56 Redefining Leadership and Cultivating Respectful Workplaces with Rob Thomas

March 25, 2024 Dr Nia D Thomas Episode 56
The Knowing Self Knowing Others Podcast
56 Redefining Leadership and Cultivating Respectful Workplaces with Rob Thomas
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Show Notes Transcript

Welcome to The Knowing Self Knowing Others Podcast! In this episode, our host Nia Thomas is joined by the insightful and experienced healthcare leader, Rob Thomas.

Rob began his healthcare career as a trainee, where he underwent a full six months Cook's tour, giving him hands-on experience in various roles within the medical field, including nursing, theatre portering, and working with GPs in the community. This early training had a profound effect on him and shaped his career. Despite the passage of many years, Robert still relies on the experiences and lessons learned during his initial training to guide him in his current work.

Together, they delve into the complexities of leadership, the impact of hierarchical communication styles, and the importance of creating a culture of safety and self-awareness in healthcare settings. Rob shares his expertise on topics such as self-awareness, growth mindset, and the significance of modeling behavior as a leader. Join us as we explore the journey of self-aware leadership and its transformative impact on creating respectful, kinder, and more creative working relationships.

More on the Pygmalion Effect

Book recommendation:  The Circle of Innovation

Recommended learning:  Clinical Human Factors: The Story of Elaine Bromiley

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Nia Thomas [00:00:03]:
Hello and welcome to the Knowing Self Knowing Others podcast where we discuss self aware leadership with thinkers from around the globe. I'm your host, Nia Thomas, and join me as I talk to today's guest.

Nia Thomas [00:00:15]:
I'm thrilled to introduce Rob Thomas today, who is a seasoned healthcare leader known for his exceptional track record across be revenue and profit growth in highly regulated environments. And hopefully he'll talk to us a little bit more about that. His expertise in strategic leadership, stakeholder relationship development, and brand management has been pivotal in roles such as health system director, hospital director, and executive director. So join us as we explore Rob's insight on business development, operational analysis, and the individual lessons that he's learned along the journey. Rob, it's very nice to have you here.

Rob Thomas [00:01:02]:
Thank you very much. Lovely to be here.

Nia Thomas [00:01:04]:
Wonderful. And I will start by saying, Dydd Gwyl Dewi da.  Now for listeners and watchers wherever you may be around the globe, today we are recording on St David's Day which is very important for us in Wales. And Rob is joining me from just to the west of Cardiff.

Robert [00:01:21]:
Yes. Yes. From Caerdydd. I'm from Pen y Bont, which is Bridgend in Welsh.

Nia Thomas [00:01:26]:
Indeed. So it's lovely to have an excuse to speak Welsh on the

Robert [00:01:30]:
on the podcast.

Nia Thomas [00:01:32]:
So tell us about your journey. You've had lots of different career roles and and you you've taken a winding path. Tell us a bit about about your experiences.

Robert [00:01:41]:
Wow. So, yes, it has been a long journey. Sort of a bit like bit like the Hobbit, I guess. Started off many, many years ago when I I was in the NHS, and I got on to the NHS management training scheme that was in Wales, which was a fantastic scheme.

Nia Thomas [00:01:57]:
Yeah. It still is.

Robert [00:01:58]:
It still is. Yeah. And you you do many things on that scheme, but one of the best things we did when we were trainees was a full 6 months cook's tour. And in in the cook's tour, you you literally work everywhere from operating as a nurse in auxiliary on a ward, show my age using that term, through to being a theatre porter with GPs in the community, etcetera. So that was a fantastic grounding. I was mentored by, again, showing my age, initial training had a profound effect on me and my career. And I I still if I told you how many years ago that was, I think, people would be surprised. But that has it's had a profound effect on me and it shaped me across my career and I trade on those experiences now.

Robert [00:02:45]:
So that's gone on. I've worked I worked in NHS roles in Wales and England. Then I left UK and I went to the Middle East. Oh. And that really opened my mind working in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Made many great friends there. Managing a hospital there. I was quite young doing that, just 29, 30.

Robert [00:03:01]:
And I was all set to come back to the NHS in Wales now to resume that career. And as if by accident, I ended up in the private health care sector. And I was approached by a role. I live I worked in Norfolk, lived near Sandringham Wow. Very nice. On the Queen's estate for for a while. I managed a small private hospital there, then I moved to, a larger private hospital in Bath, and I I stayed in the sector then for quite a number of years. I I love working in the private health care sector.

Robert [00:03:31]:
I love the freedoms it it gave. But I did return to the NHS for 5 years, which was an interest in then coming back into a public sector setting, having worked in the commercial sector. That that's given some interest in reflections. And then towards the end of this, a terribly long story, I went back to university when I was I was the oldest kid in the class, I think.

Nia Thomas [00:03:52]:
Okay.

Robert [00:03:52]:
I did a post postgrad in education, my sort of educational background is MBAs and that sort of stuff. I did a postgrad in education. That was the best program I ever did. Fantastic. A real eye opener for me. And again, that has shaped my leadership approach in since that. And that was only in the mid 2 2015, 2016, did that. And then finally, I've I I work I work for myself.

Robert [00:04:14]:
I run a training business. So I I wanted to prove to myself, like, I stayed myself and a family with these skills I had apparently learned. And we did manage to keep our head above water for 6 years, but I was enticed to come back and work in the commercial health care sector, first in Bristol and and and now in I work for a large UK charity, and I'll tell you what they are. They're in Nuffield Health. They're a fantastic organization to work in. And I've been in Nuffield Health for the last 5 years. We're back in the sector for pushing 8 years after a after a 6 year gap. So I'm here I am again, back in hospital, directorship mode again.

Nia Thomas [00:04:49]:
That really is a a winding journey from the the health care sector predominantly be but through different methods of delivery, I guess.

Robert [00:04:58]:
Yes. Yes.

Nia Thomas [00:04:59]:
How interesting. What are the main differences? And and obvious. There are some obvious differences that I'm sure we will all know in terms of the private sector and the public sector and health. But, are you seeing some other subtle differences that you weren't expecting to see across those 2 sectors?

Robert [00:05:16]:
Oh, absolutely. I think I love the NHS. It's it's tremendously close to my heart for obvious reasons. I still work closely with colleagues in it. I think the biggest biggest reflection I had was, here you are. You are here's the keys to the private hospital. Your relationship with the with the corporate was quite prescribed, but quite light touch in a sense.

Nia Thomas [00:05:39]:
Yeah. And

Robert [00:05:39]:
I think the and I think the big big difference was you had to go and make your agenda. You had to go make the run, and you had to make things happen as opposed to being trickle down policy or policy reigns, term term of use. So that was a big difference. And it's it was quite disconcerting, but quite unusual for a previous public sector manager to work in that environment. So that was a bit mind opening. I think there are also issues about pace of execution. The commercial health care organizations tend to be smaller, so our span of control is shorter. But in in general terms, the the the speed of execution from concept to delivery is generally a bit shorter, which is terribly helpful for somebody as impatient as me.

Robert [00:06:23]:
Okay? I think it's Really, really quite helpful. So those are, I think, two two key differences, but reality is there are masses of similarities as well in terms of the people part of the service are very similar, if not identical, really.

Nia Thomas [00:06:39]:
I guess people are people wherever you

Robert [00:06:40]:
find it.

Nia Thomas [00:06:41]:
Tell us about your thoughts on self awareness. As you know, our podcast is interested in self awareness and self aware leadership. How do you define self awareness?

Robert [00:06:51]:
Okay. Health warning before I say any of this stuff is, like many of us, I'm on a journey, and I don't profess to be an expert or anything but approach imperfection. So I'm an aspirant in all of this. But for me, being self aware is associated with conducting self aware practices. So I try to have I try to get to a state where I've got a quiet mind. I try to get to a position where I do listen to the internal voice, be mindful about our thoughts, our feelings. I mean, I'm sure you've talked about biases and our lenses on the world. Be be aware of where we got confirmation biases.

Robert [00:07:31]:
And to get that this is where you reflect on those, to get to a position where you can be as neutral and as objective as you can in terms of leadership and decision making. And I think it it's it's really important, particularly when you're you're approaching particularly sort of fast moving or turbulent situations to be able to take that step back and reflect, you know, what what are the what are the what are the strengths and weaknesses here? What are the what are the threats that are going on? Am I making assumptions about about stuff? And it's very easy to act too quickly with limited data and make bad decisions. So for me, it's about it's about coming back to those practice of trying to quiet the mind and try to be reflective. And and I would repeat the fact that that I am on a journey in that. But that that's my mission is to try and get that position when I'm as objective as possible.

Nia Thomas [00:08:22]:
So what do you actively do to ensure that the leaders who are around you are taking on those similar behaviors or ideas about finding that space to be self aware?

Robert [00:08:36]:
I've thought about that a lot. And I, what I've come to the realization of is many people either consciously or subconsciously model behavior. Yeah. And I I've seen that a lot, and that, in fact, shaped my own behavior. So I'm very conscious as a leader that in many ways we're establishing a tone in an organization of how we act and behave. That tone and the culture that it converts to actually is very fragile. So it's it's like pushing a really heavy rock up the hill, but it's easy to let it let it tumble down the other side very, very quickly. You can lose it.

Robert [00:09:15]:
So I think I'm I'm most mindful of how I behave. I'm most mindful of the the example that I'm setting because it's contagious. And being the difficult work world we live in, good stuff it's more difficult to spread good stuff than bad than bad stuff.

Nia Thomas [00:09:35]:
Yeah.

Robert [00:09:36]:
K? Bad stuff spreads quicker in my opinion. And then you layer across that your your management processes and your your your practice about how you interact with individuals. I think, you know, a lot of it comes down to good old fashioned kitchen table discussions, you know, giving people the time and space to discuss things, trying to be in receive mode more than transmit mode, which used to be a fault when I was a young young manager. But I I think that tone issue and the the the models that we that we promote are really important. Yeah. I think human beings do model on other people's behavior. They see the tone, and that's what particularly then when you link it to issues around conformance where we know I know you've got psychology colleagues in the audience, you know, the power of conformance, particularly somebody who happens to be in a leadership or a influential position are really powerful. So I have to, you know, to be mindful about that.

Nia Thomas [00:10:30]:
Certainly. And it was something that that came out of my research in terms of behavior modeling. And there's a phrase that Sally Evans used in, I think, his podcast number 2, is that the shadows we create as leaders stretch far further than we imagine that they will. And and I think you're right that modeling that behavior is is very important. And I think if you drop your guard and you forget that you are being observed and that people are following your lead. I think that's that's a naive position and potentially a dangerous position.

Robert [00:11:05]:
Absolutely. And I've often been amazed how subtle it is as well. And particularly if you're like me, you know, I've got I'm I'm sort of known for the throw away one line, and you have to be so careful because this links into the issue about bringing your whole self to work. You know, I come to work to try and self actualize and be my whole self. You just gotta be mindful. There are there are always boundaries. Although, as as leaders, I guess, we spend our world living in a world of gray. You know? But I think we need to be be mindful of that.

Nia Thomas [00:11:36]:
Great then. So you talk about cultivating an environment that encourages people to bring their whole selves to work. How do you do that whilst ensuring that they are able to maintain those professional boundaries and Yeah. And not get themselves into trouble, I guess?

Robert [00:11:53]:
Yeah. All roads come back to, again, the tone issue and the leadership attributes that we sort of exemplify and and show to our colleagues. I think that's key. So how how do I what do I aspire to be as a leader with my colleagues? And you notice my use of language is very particular. I really don't like the term mighty, my staff. I was like, to my colleagues. So in no particular order, really, I I I try to to act empathetically, you know, understanding what people are about, understanding their views on the world. That's that's tremendously important.

Robert [00:12:32]:
I think we've got to show capacity for being flexible with our colleagues. You know, lots of our colleagues got lots going on in their lives. You know, flexible working arrangements, etcetera, tremendously important. Celebrating success is tremendously important as well for for me, and that cements the motivation that colleagues get. And providing the right sorts of support and resources. So in in in our business, we've got heavily professionalized business. Professional colleagues need to be able to do their continuous professional development and what have you, plus the nonclinical staff as well are offered massive opportunities to to to grow themselves and and develop good access to credit schemes, etcetera. Equality, diversity, and inclusivity are key.

Robert [00:13:20]:
Being respectful and understanding of colleagues from different cultures, national backgrounds, now that hit me like a sledgehammer when I worked in the Middle East, clearly. I could probably write a book on that in terms of, you know, I'd I'd gone to the Middle East fresh out of the NHS, fresh off the general management training scheme. I always remember I hit this wall after about 6 weeks. It's in the days when memos would go out and emails would go out, and I realized nothing was happening. No change was happening. Nothing was going on. I realized in that environment, it was all about the informal culture in in the Middle East that that the informal ways of doing thing, you know, where the power brokers were. You you see it much more there than you do in the UK.

Nia Thomas [00:14:02]:
Oh, interesting.

Robert [00:14:03]:
And I I have to learn the ropes very quickly. I could ramble about this for quite a long time, but I my takeaway from that was and I say it to young managers coming into the system, it's about getting 3 things right in my opinion as a priority, and they get their pens on and they start writing it down. I said it's about relationships. Yeah. Yes. Second thing is relationships. And the third one, what do you think it is? It's about relationships and respect, and it's about our approach to the world. We got most organizations got a ton of policies and procedures here, haven't they, that got for all this stuff? Do you live them? You know? Do you do it? Do you do you do it in individual react in interactions? Do you walk the walk as it as they say?

Nia Thomas [00:14:47]:
Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah. That's the big question. And I guess that brings us back to behavior modeling because if your the values of your organization are inclusivity, but your behavior is to be exclusive, then as they say, culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Robert [00:15:03]:
That one. Yeah. Absolutely. Love that one. Yeah. You

Nia Thomas [00:15:07]:
you've talked about when you and I, we've had a a brief catch up before. You've talked about flattening organizers and reducing the power gradient. It was interesting. I've just finished the book, and within that book, it talks about power gradients and and it was really interesting. So what have you done specifically if you've been talking about dismantling hierarchies or flattening that power gradient.

Robert [00:15:31]:
I think it's one I'm quite passionate about, and who knows? I might do a bit of research on this myself at some point to keep myself out of mischief.

Nia Thomas [00:15:39]:
Absolutely. So

Robert [00:15:41]:
so core articles are faced now. So why do I believe hierarchies are bad? Fundamentally, for me, hierarchies will generate an environment which is less safe for colleagues and patients, customers, users, what have you. And one of the 2 industries which are quite aligned with this fantastic mutual learnings between the airline sector and health care. And, you know, I've done quite a quite a lot of reading on this and some great examples which you you should I call them your listeners or your podders? What do I call your

Nia Thomas [00:16:12]:
Oh, I oh, I quite like podders. Maybe we Podder. Listeners listeners and watchers, maybe we call you podders in the future.

Robert [00:16:18]:
Oh, listeners and watchers because of lotchers. Yeah. Maybe. Yeah. Listeners and watchers. Some interesting stuff. I'll I'll I'll give you a give them a lead. It's worth there's a couple of videos worth watching.

Robert [00:16:27]:
But I just remember one of the Far East Airlines had a tremendously bad accident rate 20 plus years ago. And it was fascinating. When you ask people about the accidents, you ask them, who do you think was flying the plane? And most people will say, oh, it was the, obviously, the inexperienced vice captain. And almost exclusively, it wasn't. It was the captain. Some really interesting stuff came out of a terribly tragic situation. So, for example, ice build up on the wings. Because people in the cockpit came from a very hierarchical society, They would use what is called a mitigated communication style in that hot situation.

Robert [00:17:05]:
So instead of you or I would say, Skipper, this ice on the wings, we're gonna we're in real problems. They would say things like, isn't it fascinating, Skipper? How quickly the ice spills up on the wings in places planes when it's cold? It's called a mitigated communication style because it's a product hierarchy. And there were other examples where isn't it fascinating how quickly we run out of fuel on these big birds? Isn't it fascinating to skip air? Crashes before it's the field. Ice causes the crash. So there was a huge cultural realignment program in that industry to to adjust the communication, start to make them more direct and and instructive and particular situation. So that really made a massive impact on me. So the link link for your watchers, our listeners, is just another day. It's it's a tremendously powerful video.

Robert [00:17:52]:
Airline pilot, his wife sadly, came into a hospital for a routine tonsillectomy. She needed intubation, which for your nonclinicians is to get an airway, make sure the airway is open for the the patient. It was a difficult intubation. We had very senior consultants. 1 was a professor, surgeons trying to get get the intubation kit in. There was a I think it was a Filipino or a far eastern nurse in the theater who knew that she needed a pediatric intubation set, a smaller piece of kit, essentially, and didn't feel empowered to speak out, didn't feel empowered to to push that issue, which probably would have made a huge impact. And the the the gentleman who was the husband runs runs this has done this fantastic series of lectures and videos about the need for safety in theatres. How simple things about, like, eliminating the power grid in the theatre can have the most profound impact on safety.

Robert [00:18:44]:
And the and one of the things I'm proud about in our hospitals, we have something called the World Health Organization Checklist at Starwood Theatre. We've done human factors training in theaters, which majors on communication, majors on the fact that anybody can raise a flag and stop the line or raise safety concern. And, you know, there's there's a leader, but there's no nobody's gonna Nobody can close people out. And those are the major issues on safety that the sector that I've been involved in has made. So it's a result of our incidents in theaters have dropped through the floor. That's happened across the NHS as well, and really, really very, very proud of that. And a lot of it's work in progress. You know, I've got a situation at the moment where I need to introduce human factors training because we've got the risks of culture getting in the way of safety.

Robert [00:19:30]:
So those those are my examples. In any organization I work in, I want a culture of disclosure. We know that the the greatest learning we get about from safety is from near misses. Really important because incidents and errors often appear on somebody's dashboard. Yeah. And I've seen so too many times, well, you get a culture disclosure going, people sound to report things openly. We do the root cause analysis, get the learning. Oh, why on earth your instant rate's going up? Alright? Why on earth are we getting that? So, fortunately, the organization we're working now has a very open culture and encourages reporting.

Robert [00:20:08]:
And, in fact, will red flag somebody if they're not reporting. Oh, yeah. I'm not so big at all. Problem. So that hopefully, there's some decent examples in there and also some decent resources for colleagues to look at, really.

Nia Thomas [00:20:20]:
Yep. I'll make sure that there is a link in the show notes for you so that you can go and have a look at that video. It's interesting that you were saying that about pilots because the book that I was reading so it's Leadership is Language by l David Marquette. And towards the very end of the book, he talks about this power gradient. And, actually, there are far more aircraft crashes when the pilot is leading the plane or flying the plane than there are when there are other people or anybody else in that cockpit flying that plane, and I think that's that's quite frightening. I I was involved in speak up programs when I worked in the NHS, and the NHS civility and respect, toolkit was launched at the time. And there are some really helpful resources in there. If you, listeners or watchers, are in an organization that is highly regulated and you are worried about the culture and the safety in your organization, take a look at that toolkit.

Nia Thomas [00:21:19]:
I'll put a link to that in the show notes for you too. Because I think regardless of your sector, regardless of your organization, there is something that you can take away from that guide, and it might just save somebody's life.

Robert [00:21:29]:
I would add to that. Isn't it? You can never do too much. Our organization now has introduced the, freedom to speak up concept, and we're just rolling it very assertively across the organization. Yep. And, that's great.

Nia Thomas [00:21:41]:
Advocates. Yeah. Most definitely. So, again, you you may have recently, been reading Stephen, Chad Leadski's book who talks about the speak up culture. We have something very similar in health care organizations in the UK where we give people the opportunity and actively so to speak up, to have an opportunity to speak to neutral parties within the organization if they don't feel able to speak up to the individual who who they have concerns about. So, again, there is a lot for you to learn if this is something that's a concern for you and your organization. So tell us about your thoughts on embracing a growth mindset. You talked a little bit about how you've learned a lot along the way in in your career.

Nia Thomas [00:22:27]:
But how do you instill that growth mindset in others?

Robert [00:22:30]:
Oh, that's a great question. It's it's explore what the notion of a growth mindset is for me. It's it's it's the notion that our capacity and capability is not fixed. That as individuals, we have almost infinite levels of capacity to learn and develop. That's a fairly optimistic view of the world. So I was immediately attracted to that was cemented and upon for me with the notion of lifelong learning, which I got from my education training. And I I think that I never get I never cease to be amazed at the journey my colleagues or team of people I work with or friends and relatives have in terms of their own personal development growth never cease to be amazed. And, you know, I I played a lot it might be hard to believe now.

Robert [00:23:18]:
I played a lot of sport in my time, and sport used to be quite fixed. Oh, he's a 3rd team player. He's a second team player. Never. And when I've looked back and seen what people have done by application of training, focus, never cease to be amazed. So how does that translate into my leadership practice? I'm forever getting into conversations with people saying, what are you gonna do next then? Well, you know, where where where where are you going on your journey? Have you thought about this? You know, what really appeals to you? And the colleagues seem to really like that. And it is closely linked to the expectations we've had of people drives their performance. And I've seen really clear and equivocal evidence to support that.

Robert [00:24:07]:
So that's that's the that's the growth mindset For me, it's about continuous learning, about continuous improvement. We're we're not fixed. Errors like the instance we were talking about, there's always opportunities to learn. You're gonna learn at the right time. You might have to get the issue sorted out, but you always have the postmortem, if you like. It's not a great term, but, you know, you always have the wash up, the reflection on whenever it's been an instant. I keep saying to colleagues, we need to get into the business doing premortems. The Japanese, I think, used to call it failure mode analysis.

Robert [00:24:38]:
You know, what could possibly go wrong before we do it? Negative brainstorming. That's So that's for me is a kind of amalgam of issues, which form the growth mindset approach to life. Very personal view.

Nia Thomas [00:24:52]:
What about your fixed mindsetters? How do you deal with that? Because I think being a fixed mindset and a growth mindset, they're they are 2 ends of the spectrum, practice, especially when we're talking about clinical practice, how do you help move them to nearer the middle?

Robert [00:25:19]:
With a variety of approaches, with default approaches, is to try to understand their view of the world. And let let's be respectful about colleagues. Some people are very happy to have a fixed mindset. There's nothing wrong with that. So I wouldn't wanna be judgmental. There's nothing wrong with somebody who's excellent doing x, y, and z, and I don't wanna develop further. So that's that's quite important. And often and this is one one of the risks, I guess, of being very centric on a particular leadership model is that we assume everybody's got the same view of the world as us.

Robert [00:25:54]:
Okay? So there will be a cohort of colleagues who really will never shift, but they have to be brilliant at doing in x, y, and z. The the tactics I would use are around modeling, around trying to understand what the barriers to change are, understanding what their fears and emotions are. I quite often come across anxiety and fear. I don't I don't like the uncertainty. I I don't like the fact that I've got to try and process additional stuff in work, which I'm gonna sleep at home and all that sort of stuff. So I really try and and get under the skin and understand if it's movable. Try to explain the why of any change we wanna make. You know? I use the curve a lot.

Robert [00:26:40]:
And you know the classic dip on the curve that people are going through change called the I like the the best extra description I've heard is call it the dark night of the innovator, you know, the the pit. Hang on to the to the why we're trying to make a change or a shift is tremendously important for me. And I read a great book by Chip and Dan Heath, Switch, where they talk about human beings having a very strong emotional elephant that you need to appeal to to get the move. Trouble is the the elephant could move very strongly and unpredictably in the wrong direction. And then and they talked about having this really quite small rational rider that directs the way and all that sort of good stuff. It's a great read, switch. It's been around a number of years. So there is no magic bullet.

Robert [00:27:28]:
I think it's about being mindful, being respectful where people are, trying to explain what we're trying to do, what is the why. Then your stuff around modeling comes in, then your your stuff about trying to take them through the change management curve comes in, supporting, resourcing, people going up and back and down the curve and and and being respectful and mindful of that. But there's no magic bullet, yeah, for this. Yeah. And and ultimately, you can come back to that point to say near the start. You know, some people don't wanna change. They won't change. And there's virtually always a role for those in organizations.

Nia Thomas [00:28:00]:
It's interesting. I as you were talking, I was remembering that I worked with a clinical team. So I was developing integrated care pathways at the time, and it was about aligning practice so that we had a very clear pathway of the expected best practice. It was in, intensive care unit at the time. There were nursing team colleagues who were very much on board, there was one clinician who had a louder voice in that team than anybody who didn't want to be working in this way. So I spent some time with that clinician, and I think you're right. It's about going back to the why. What he was very concerned about was, were we potentially reducing the likelihood that his patients were going to have the best care.

Nia Thomas [00:28:46]:
So when the more we talked about the the principles of integrated care pathways and how we could bring that back to the intention is we if we develop an integrated care pathway that has the best practice expected outcome for our patient, it helps us understand the deviations from that, and therefore, we can reduce those deviations for those patients and make the care better. And he actually became a real advocate for integrated care pathways and and Yeah. He was leading the charge by the time we we'd finished that process. So I really do align with what you're talking about. Go back to the why.

Robert [00:29:20]:
Yeah. I've so we we've had to put the electronic patient records into our hospitals, which, you know, you giving up your handwritten notes and, you know, dictating stuff into a machine, Kenya, is the end of the world as we know it for some some colleagues. And very often as leaders, what we try and do is you'll focus on the fact that your biggest blocker can ultimately, if they move, become your most evangelical change agent. So the stickers or the fixed mindset colleagues that you talk about are worth the effort. It's all worth giving the diligence because often in there, you'll get your evangelist.

Nia Thomas [00:29:57]:
Yes. Yeah.

Robert [00:29:58]:
I agree. Worth worth the pain if you like trying to to make the shift, but recognize that some will never shift. Alright.

Nia Thomas [00:30:04]:
Tell us about the Pygmalion effect. This is something you talk about. So tell us what it is first, and then tell us why it's important to you.

Robert [00:30:13]:
So your your listeners will know about Pygmalion, the stage show, which turned into Liza Doolittle, the the film. I don't think it's called Liza Doolittle, but I don't know what it's called though. Anyway, so Pygmalion effect rests on a very simple premise that our expectations of people directly influence their performance. Mhmm. And quite good research, empirical research supports this, and I and I see it in my leisure practice, if you like. So it goes back to 60. Rosenthal and his colleague took a bunch of students and completely randomly assigned them to academic boomers category. I think they used regardless of their latent ability.

Robert [00:30:55]:
And clear evidence, and it's been repeated many times, showed that those at the in the high expectation boomers or bloomers group performed far better than students in the other groups, even though they may have had higher academic what I call contamination by content intervention. And we see that in sport, for example, where we pick people who are who are great at a young age because of where they happen to be on an age spectrum within a school year, and they tend to do better. The reality is they get a lot of lot more resources and investment. So I think those sorts of contamination we try to be engineered out, and we still see the Pygmalion principle. So my my approach to to life using that principle is I tend to have really good expectation trying to set the culture environment where people feel as if they can self actualize and perform. And it's extremely impactful. I often ask myself in the air, so I I wander into these organizations. It's, you know, a product of a very varied experience.

Robert [00:32:06]:
Why do people start to perform better? You know, I don't put myself down as a rocket scientist. The feedback I get from colleagues is is that we've got great expectations of ourselves, each other as a team, and it has a great impact. I've also seen the flip side of that. I've seen I'm sure you've seen organizations go into where there's there's a culture, there's an oppressive environment permitting the organization. And, hey, guess what? That organization have to have really high complaints, safety incidents, all 9 yards. So it's it's one of those where there's empirical evidence, and by god, it works from my operational experience. Your expectations we have with colleagues drives their performance and their feeling of self worth, frankly. Yeah.

Robert [00:32:52]:
And I and I I think what does somebody wanna say? People remember how you made them feel.

Nia Thomas [00:32:57]:
That's right. Yeah.

Robert [00:32:57]:
I think it's really true.

Nia Thomas [00:32:59]:
Yeah. Really true. You mentioned earlier praising people and acknowledging people for the good work that they do. I think Yeah. That is definitely a part of it as well. I I think that acknowledgment makes a huge difference. And and you're right. The the the little actions that you do, it's almost subliminal in your behavior, which is why behavior modeling and your self awareness has to be on 247 when you're a leader.

Nia Thomas [00:33:24]:
And none of us are perfect. As you say, we will dip and we will have a bad day.

Robert [00:33:29]:
Yeah.

Nia Thomas [00:33:29]:
But I think you have to have the awareness and the reflection to be able to go back and say, do you know what? I didn't do such a great day today, but actually, I will do better tomorrow because that impacts others. And others will then say, well, if he can do better and she can do better, well, so can I? And we all have that expectation of each other.

Robert [00:33:46]:
When we drop the ball is acknowledging that. So I'd like I felt that's quite powerful because I, you know, I regularly drop a ball when I was playing rugby. But as a leader, we do drop off of a human being since we we didn't get that right. It's when you circle around back to a colleague and say, I'm sorry about that. It's that just that just didn't come out right. I didn't it's more impactful than getting it right first time, to be honest. That's I'm not I'm not advocating messing it up to salvage it, but there is you know, there's something to that. You know? Yeah.

Robert [00:34:14]:
Having having the openness to do that.

Nia Thomas [00:34:16]:
What about those people in senior leadership roles

Robert [00:34:20]:
who

Nia Thomas [00:34:20]:
don't do any of this? I'm sure you've seen quite a few of those on your journey too. How have you seen them behaving, and, do you have any stories that maybe make toes curl?

Robert [00:34:34]:
Stories which I've been trying to neutralize my own mind to make them sufficiently anonymous. So that's it's probably it's probably one of the most difficult things I find personally to handle, is when when you're in a big organization, you see somebody acting and behave, behaving in a way which is contrary to your core values. Something I've tried the hardest, and, you know, I've seen seen lots of examples. I saw one fairly recently where not in this organization another organization acted in quite a hierarchical way in terms of how they treat treated a colleague in a social setting. And I think I found that difficult to to deal with. I suppose the the follow-up question, how would you do, Rob, if we saw something acting in a way within your organization or outside it in a in a way which was causing problems? If it actually was causing problems, I'd I'd confront and challenge in the nicest possible way. But that isn't always easy to do.

Nia Thomas [00:35:24]:
No. Certainly.

Robert [00:35:25]:
Not easy to do. You know, speak of the economic climate we're in, and it's easy to talk a good game and hard to do on that. I think I've often found myself in in the business of dealing with the aftermath and stuff like that.

Nia Thomas [00:35:38]:
Mhmm.

Robert [00:35:38]:
And that's probably, as a leader, one of the best things we can do is is is is deal with the aftermath. But if he does cross a line of safety or dignity, we have to have a red line and challenge. And I remember once a great old colleague of mine, who's a close friend of mine, she she was a chief exec in the NHS, who's no longer on this earth, once said to me, being a leader and chief exec, Rob, is about being courageous. So we have to have courage that it ain't easy given the impact.

Nia Thomas [00:36:09]:
I'd agree. Before we go, if you have somebody who's new to a leadership role and they're wanting to develop their self awareness within their leadership, what kind of advice would you be giving them?

Robert [00:36:24]:
If you think about it, on a purse on a personal level, I'd introduce them to the notion of mindfulness and the skills, techniques, and tools you can do for yourself, reflective meditation. I love the 5 AM club, which which I observed from a very great distance. I love the 5 AM club, you know, 20 minutes meditation, 20 minutes reflecting, even in physical exercise. So I would I would introduce them to the concept, the tools and techniques, and say to them that and I do say to them, seek views which are contrary to your own. Seek view from the colleagues that you work with, the team that you work with. Do your 360. Be mindful. So those are the key key messages I would give.

Robert [00:37:04]:
And don't be afraid. You know, a lot of the young managers will see it as a sign of weakness. I said seeking feedback, guidance, vertically, horizontally is the greatest sign of strength you could show as a leader, because that will support your leadership practice and the success of what degree of failure that you can encounter going forward. So that would be my slightly rambly answer to that.

Nia Thomas [00:37:26]:
I think one of the things that I'll take away from our conversation is that just because we know what self awareness is and we know how to be a self aware leader, it does not mean it's easy, and you have to work at it every day, and it is an ongoing journey. And you will never get to the end of that self awareness, superhighway, But there is always a journey that has to be traveled, and you have to be mindful and on that journey to be able to travel it. Wonderful. Rob, it's been brilliant having the conversation with you. Thank you so much for joining me.

Robert [00:37:58]:
Thank you very much.

Nia Thomas [00:38:01]:
Thank you for joining me on today's episode. Please remember to leave a rate and review on your favorite podcast platform because a little word from you means a big deal to me. Can also sign up for my newsletter on my website, knowing self, knowing others.co.uk. Join me next week when we discuss self aware leadership with thinkers from around the globe to generate kinder, more respectful, and creative working relationships through reflection, recognition, and regulation. Looking forward to having you on my learning journey.

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