Category: News

Learning from Political Leadership

The Collaborative North West Partnership was delighted to welcome two north west politicians who described their inspiring and powerful leadership journeys.

Cllr Maureen Bateson MBE, Assistant Executive Member for Children & Education, Blackburn with Darwen Council

Cllr Bateson MBE has been representing her local community since 1983. She has held a range of roles including Mayor, deputy leader, chair of local labour party, working across a wide area of council services from housing to education and social services.

She described the formative parts of her life story, escaping an abusive relationship, surviving severe illnesses, living on benefits in a council house, working full time while bringing up her family and working as a councillor.  Explaining what attracted her to politics, Cllr Bateson said: “Political life is about people, this is where I felt I could do most good.”

Delivering services that reflect the communities they serve

Her life on a council estate informed her decision-making saying: “The council told people what they could have, how to live their lives. As Chair of Housing, I brought in a range of initiatives such as Tenant Boards and decentralised offices, taking the service out to the community.”

She fought internal resistance to these innovations because her lived experience told her that it was the right thing to do. She said: “I went out to meetings in the community, sometimes people were angry, but I felt it was important they should to be listened to.”

Listening to people is vital

Cllr Bateson recounted situations where council services can actually mean the difference between life and death, describing some of the most difficult incidents and the lasting repercussions that she has dealt with over her years of services.

She said: “Talking to residents first-hand is important, I’ve always made the effort to listen to people and hear their views on how services could be changed, it was a good way of making policy.”

Never missing an opportunity to support her local community, she used her position as mayor to champaign against abuse and improving services for disabled people, recognising that many people need an advocate. As a local leader, she used her network to find an alternative way to deliver youth services using an external partner when funding to the service was cut.

It’s the little things that make a big difference

She explained: “Most of what people need are the small things, they can make a big difference to people’s lives. If you’re making policy think about the about the detail, think about who it affects.”

Cllr Joanne Harding, Executive portfolio holder for Adult Social Care, Trafford Council.

Cllr Harding has been an elected member in Trafford for 11 years being shadow executive role and a committee member before taking on her portfolio role.

She said: “Being elected as a councillor is my proudest achievement.” She had been involved in community groups and was a school governor, her passion and dedication make her stand out and she was asked to become a councillor.

She grew up in Beswick in east Manchester then moved a council estate in Longsight, an inner-city area of the city. Although she explained: “Nothing can prepare you for life as a politician.” like Cllr Bateson, her family experiences inform her political life.

Authentic leadership creates trust

Cllr Harding explained that it is important when talking to fellow councillors, officers and the public to be authentic and real.

She brings skills and life experience to her role, describing her background working across health and social care sector for 25 years, with experience in managing addiction services, mental health crisis services, working with probation service and prison services.

Ask the difficult questions

She explained: “I want to change broken systems for people who come into contact with those services but also recognising how hard the staff in those services work. I am known as difficult and belligerent councillor. I was elected to represent and serve and so I have to ask those difficult questions.”

Co-productions means really involving people

Cllr Harding emphasised the importance of people who design public services not being prescriptive, explaining: “We talk about co-production but it scares people, not many members of the public attend council meeting let alone a diverse selection of the public. Are we doing the right thing or are we just ticking a box? We need to be engaging better with members of the public.”

She concluded by saying: “I want people to understand what local government is really about and how it can change lives, we need to work together with the people we are serving and not work in an echo chamber.”

Chair, Gillian Bishop, Chief Executive of North West Employers, concluded by pulling together the key leadership takeaways from Cllr Bateson’s and Cllr Harding’s powerful and inspirational stories –

  • Listening to local communities and being their voice
  • Being an authentic leader guided by life experiences
  • Tacking issues with courage and determination
  • Passion about creating services with people at the heart
  • Treating people with respect and enabling true collaboration
  • Bigger and better things can be achieved by partnership working

Leadership through a lens of health and wellbeing

This blog, written by co-founder of HWBInspiration Claire Harris, provides a summary of the work they have just completed on behalf of the NHS North West Leadership Academy, exploring the development of a healthy leadership behaviour framework #NWHealthyLeadership

“Back in spring 2020 we were commissioned by the NHS North West Leadership Academy (NHSNWLA) to support them with their Health and Wellbeing Strategy, with a particular focus on identifying the leadership behaviours which promote and detract from employee wellbeing at work.  The reason for wanting to develop a framework was:

  • It can raises awareness of the impact that leadership behaviours have on wellbeing at work,
  • it gives leaders a remit to discuss and promote wellbeing at work (which is aligned with the requirement of the NHS People Plan to ensure from September 2020 that everyone has a  wellbeing conversation)
  • it outlines what leaders can do behaviourally to promote wellbeing at work
  • It allows for the development of interventions to ensure leaders have the appropriate behaviours to promote wellbeing 

The approach we took was to:

The resulting framework contains three competencies / clusters (identified from the stakeholder discussions):

  • How I am (being) Actively engage with opportunities to understand and enhance positive mental and physical health for self and others, sharing own experience, being authentic
  • What I do (doing) Actively support and empower others to manage work and how it’s done
  • What we do together (enabling) Actively empower an inclusive healthy wellness culture that mutually enables us all to bring our whole selves to work

Each competency / cluster contains both positive and negative leadership behaviours (examples given below):

  • How I am (being)
    • Positive – being open, honest and transparent (authentic)
    • Negative – lacking empathy
  •  What I do  (doing)
    • Positive – trusting individuals and teams, giving them the autonomy and control to do their jobs (empowerment)
    • Negative – making decisions without consulting others (e.g., authoritarian /autocratic /command and control/directive style)
  • What we do together (enabling)
    • Positive – creating an emotionally supportive and psychologically safe work environment (positive, caring and supportive climate where people can speak out)
    • Negative – micromanaging others and disempowering them

We are currently discussing with the NHSNWLA, the recommendations that have been developed from discussions with stakeholders about how the framework could helpfully be used to help create cultures of positive wellbeing at work. Some of the stakeholder ideas include:

  • Recruitment – integrate the framework into role profiles, assessment processes
  • Development – integrate the framework into PDR, appraisal, 360, training, induction
  • Day to day – integrate into 1:1 and team conversations
  • Strategy – include in Board discussions to support the HWB guardian role in providing governance around health and wellbeing leadership behaviour

Claire and her team would welcome your views about how you could use the framework in your organisation, so please do get in touch with us here so that we can pass this feedback on.

The Road to Hybrid Working

Blog by Sharon Senior, Director at North West Employers, 12 May 2021

A year ago, if I’d have asked you what comes to mind when you hear the word “hybrid”, I’m guessing the answer would have been “a car”. It’s now the phrase being widely used to describe what the future of work might look like; a combination of homeworking and working from an office or other location.

Hybrid working, new ways of working, agile working – whatever you want to call it, one thing that is for sure, is that the way we work is changing. 

As lockdown restrictions ease, most organisations are now working through how to maintain some of the flexibility that remote working has highlighted.

Whilst many employees will have experienced working exclusively remotely during lockdown, fewer will have experienced a mixed model of both remote and office-based working.  So, what does this mean in practice? I wanted to share what I’m hearing across the North West and some of my own thoughts as a leader.

What I’m Hearing

A recent BBC poll of 50 of the UK’s largest employers, collectively employing 1.1 million people, found that 43 firms planned to use a mixture of home and remote working going forward, with employees encouraged to work from home two to three days a week.  This is echoed in the conversations I’ve been having with HR colleagues across the region with the majority of councils looking at options for a two to three day a week split where possible. One more radical approach is a pilot to try out homeworking by default, with employees only going into the workplace for 1 day a week when they need to collaborate.

Many organisations are carrying out staff surveys to better understand the preferences of their workforce and it’s expected that the results might be somewhat different to views this time 12 months ago. I know from my own organisation that some people who were really reluctant to work from home initially, have now found out that they quite like it and wouldn’t necessarily want to be back in the office 5 days a week.

There’s also talk of having bands or categories of workers, depending on whether roles have to be done at a fixed site, are mobile or can be done from anywhere.

What’s Your Destination?

All of this is throwing up lots of questions that organisations need to work through if we’re to successfully evolve from the temporary response into more of a longer-term mixed model. I’m not for one minute suggesting that I have all the answers and I think that’s a really important point. As senior leaders, we need to make sure that we’re clear on what our vision for the future of work is, but how this works in practice needs support and buy-in from managers and employees alike.

If we’re to be really flexible in the way that we work, a lot depends on the culture of the organisation. There needs to be trust. Trust that I’ll get the job done when it needs to be done. Trust that my colleagues will do what they say they’ll do. Trust in each other that we’re all striving to do the best we can for the organisation and each other.

I’ve read a lot about presenteeism and how managers of remote teams worry about how they can manage performance when they can’t see their team. I struggle with this to be honest and that might be from years of having worked in jobs where I have been out on the road a lot and so haven’t always been in the same place as my team from day to day. But even in those jobs where we have worked in close proximity, I don’t spend my time monitoring what everyone is doing – it goes back to my point above; it’s about trust and managing by outcomes. Of course, there’ll always be exceptions but that’s when you need to step in and manage by exception.

The Road Ahead

The changes pose a number of immediate questions relating to people policies. Organisations are working hard to review and refresh their approaches to agile working and flexible working to develop a framework that is future proof. There’s practical consideration needed on things like workspaces, equipment and health and safety.   

Light at the End of the Tunnel

We’ve learned a lot about what’s needed to support new ways of working over the last year or so and it’s important that we hold onto this as we look to the future. We’ve made massive leaps in terms of using digital technology to keep us connected so how do we build on this and ensure we have the skills and confidence to use technology to collaborate when there are some team members working from home and others in the office together?

We understand even more the importance of social contact and our mental wellbeing so we need to give thought as to how we enable this as part of our future plans.