“Inspiration comes from ordinary people doing extraordinary things”
“Practicing small noticeable things creates inspirational leadership”. That was the key message from this year’s annual Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professionals Conference which focused on inspirational leadership and the importance of self-care to help build personal resilience.
Estephanie Dunn, Regional Director, North West Royal College of Nursing; Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives and Jo Fillingham, Clinical Director, Allied Health Professionals all spoke personally and honestly about the challenges they’d faced on their own leadership journeys and the lessons they’ve learned along the way.
Estephanie described her journey from her childhood home in the Caribbean to becoming a nurse as a teenager and through her many leadership roles both inside and out of the NHS.
Reflecting that “every day is a school day”, she advised the audience to “understand who you are and what your value is, because without having a value base that is visible to others you will never be authentic and will struggle to have integrity. Identify what you want to achieve – if you do lots of small things well, it turns into a more substantial thing. We can all go for the big thing like a leadership qualification, but does it impact the day-to-day or how you work with your colleagues? Lots of little things can have a bigger impact.”
Gill Walton talked about powerful leadership: not being powerful or having status, but leading in a way that releases the power in others. She too reflected on the importance of values, advising “live your life by your values and you will always do the right thing – even when the going gets tough!”
She also talked a lot about compassion and really caring about the smaller things, advocating that “In a world where you can be anything, be kind. The thing that makes us inspirational is being kind to each other, being respectful of each other. Being brave, standing up for values, being an advocate for patients all of the time.”
Knowing ourselves was a theme that was also picked out by the final speaker, Jo Fillingham, who said: “Self-awareness and self-love matter – who we are is how we lead”. Jo talked very personally about her own experience of having a new born baby who needed heart surgery, reflecting on what it taught her about her own career.
She said, “ We are privileged to touch people’s lives… but it is compassion that matters – the very small things, the very small acts that people did that they might not have realised they were doing that made a massive difference to my heart. Small acts of kindness stay with somebody. But compassion is not just about being kind to others, it is being kind to ourselves – showing ourselves the empathy we show others.”
In her opening address at the start of the day, Trish Armstrong-Child, Director of Nursing, Midwifery and AHPs, had already begun to make the link between being personally resilient and being inspirational:
“To be inspirational you have to give something of yourself. To inspire can come at a price. It’s not easy to come in to work every day, especially when we feel like we’ve nothing left to give and yet always manage to find something we can give to someone. It’s all too easy to give our best but always find ourselves focusing on the something else we could have done, rather than celebrate what we were able to give and achieve.
“All this has a price on our resilience and without resilience we can’t be the best version of ourselves. As a Trust we want to explore how we can support staff to build that resilience so we can continue to be inspirational leaders.”
Then followed a practical session to explore “self-care”, led by Becci Martin of Boo Coaching. The theme of ‘the small things’ was explored again. As delegates did some stretching exercises, practiced mindfulness ways of thinking and talked about the small things that they could do in their day to build resilience, Becci advised that, “People who tend to spend most of their time caring for other people, tend not to care for themselves. But you can do one teeny tiny thing in your day to help you feel brilliant.”
Concluding the day with thanks to the speakers and those involved in organising the event, as well as thanks to everyone in the room for the work that they do, Trish Armstrong-Child gave a round-up of the key things she hoped people would take away from the day:
- Inspiration comes from ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
- There is no such thing as “I am just a…”. You are not just anything, you are you.
- Seek people out who are not like you and connect with them – that’s what encourages diversity of thinking.
- Everyone’s opinion counts – opinions are neither right nor wrong. Never feel reluctant or embarrassed to share them.
- Be true to yourself – be authentic, understand your value.