Trends Impacting on NHS Leadership

On Friday I got to spend the morning with some very senior NHS leaders looking at the future of leadership development.

As part of the exercise we developed a mindmap of the trends impacting on leadership in the NHS at the moment.  I managed to record the trends in the map below. I have probably missed some though.

I hope you find it useful.

If you think of a trend that is not reflected in the map please mention it in the comments below, and I will get it added to the map.

Daniel Goleman on Learning to Be A Better Manager…or anything else

I have been teaching managers for almost 30 years, and for the last 10 or so I have been teaching managers and leaders the art of self directed leadership development.  How you can take control of your own leadership development and base it in your everyday work, and your aspirations for how you want to be.

In this 2 minute video, Daniel Goleman (the pioneer of emotional intelligence amongst other things) talks you through a 5 step process to take control of your own leadership development.

  • What did you think?
  • What was your top take-away?

Please do leave me a comment or question in the comment box below!


PS: If you liked this video and you aren’t already signed up to Be A Better Manager then please take a moment to register with us!  That way you will keep receiving great free content from Be A Better Manager!

Free Video: How to Become an Outstanding Manager

Please enter your name and email address to watch this FREE  11 minute video that will put you on the right path to becoming an outstanding manager…

What should we conclude from a complaint rate of 0.048%?

You serve a million customers a day in a complex and emotionally demanding business.

Each day that generates 480 complaints.

A complaint rate of 0.048%.

Surely a cause for celebration.  But not complacency.  One complaint IS one too many.

But this is a remarkably low complaints rate.  Perhaps suspiciously low.

I pinged out the following tweet:

Tweet 1

And the (almost immediate) responses I got were fascinating….

Tweet 2

Not much delight here!

Tweet 3

And this is an intuitive and perhaps constructive and appreciative response

Tweet 4

Tweet 5 (tweeted from a locked account )

So, do we use the data to conclude that our service is pretty good and capable of further significant improvement?

Or do we use it to consider whether we really understand the nature of customer experience and how we might uncover it more accurately?  I have seen previous examples of complaints and satisfaction processes used to paint a pre-ordained picture rather than to uncover valuable data from which we might all learn.

Could this be what is going on here?

I suspect the outstanding manager does both.


Management: Bottom Up and Top Down

Top down management is characterised by a small number of people recruited, promoted or hired to develop a ‘strategy’ that will hopefully lead to progress.

The ‘strategy’ is usually accompanied by a ‘plan’, where costed elements are prioritised and scheduled for delivery in the full expectation that things will, as a result of the implementation of the plan, get better.

The strategy and its associated plans are usually supported with evidence and feasibility studies showing just why this is the right course of action, and how benefits will accrue.

Top down management is also characterised by:

  • delegation down a chain of command to manage implementation
  • fierce discussions about the correct allocation of scarce resources
  • disputes about chosen methodologies and the viability of alternatives
  • piloting and subsequent rolling out of schemes and plans
  • attempts, with varying degrees of honesty and legitimacy to encourage participation in the top down planning process – phrases like consultation and engagement are used liberally.

Bottom Up Management

Bottom Up Management is characterised by people using their own power to develop their own self interest. Self interest is not selfishness but means ‘self amongst others’.  It is about establishing our role and identity in the organisation. Usually the best way to develop ones own self interest is to look after the self interests of others.  Effectively managing the polarities of looking after self and looking after others is at the heart of the healthy and successful organisation.

Sometimes bottom up management is also characterised by groups of people coming together when they have shared self interests.  In bottom up development this coming together around common cause requires little engineering. It just happens.

Bottom up management is characterised by:

  • People working in their own self interests in the way that they see fit
  • People looking for  the resources (help, money, time) that they need to make progress
  • People pondering their options and taking decisions rather than awaiting instructions from above
  • People coming together around common causes – forming associations and organising in order to increase their power to make something happen.
Bottom up is the only way to really get large numbers of people engaged in their own development and developing agency in their own lives and organisations. Bottom up is about participation and engagement.

Bottom Up AND Top Down

Both bottom up and top down processes are necessary.

Top down to plan and provide the structure and resources required and bottom up to allow individuals and groups to use it effectively.

But few organisations and managers succeed in keeping top down and bottom up in balance.

Management today is challenging because we are, I believe, in the midst of a seismic shift from top down management towards a much more bottom up approach. Very few managers are equipped with either the skill sets or the systems that they need to manage this shift.

If that sounds like something that might benefit you then please do sign up or get in touch via comments or the contact form.

Mike Chitty

The Secret Formula for Outstanding Management

The good news is that it is not that difficult to be an outstanding manager. You just have to master 5 relatively simple skill sets, and have a system that means you use them consistently.  We will talk about the system some other time.  For now let’s consider the 5 simple skill sets that get you well on the way being an outstanding manager – and that (not so) secret formula:



OM = Outstanding Management

GWR = Great Working Relationships

GGF = Giving and Getting Great Feedback

BBC = Being a Brilliant Coach

MED = Maximum Effective Delegation

TPM = Time and Priority Management

On a scale of 1-10 how do you rate your ability (and success) in developing Great Working Relationships?  How many working relationships do you have that don’t work so well?  What are you doing to improve them?  What could you do, in the next few days, that would increase your own score by 1?

On a scale of 1-10 how do you rate your ability in Getting and Giving Great Feedback?  Do you give and get feedback on daily basis?  Do people respond to it? Or are you wasting you breath?  Do you respond to feedback?  What was the last piece of feedback that changed your behaviour? What could you do, in the next few days, that would increase your own score by 1?

On a scale of 1-10 how do you rate your ability in Being a Brilliant Coach?  Do you coach every member of your team, every week to improve their performance in critical areas?  Or do you leave it to the annual performance review? What could you do, in the next few days, that would increase your own score by 1?

On a scale of 1-10 how do you rate your ability in Maximum Effective Delegation?  Do you have a scheme of delegation and a bomb proof process for making delegations that work?  Or do you just think it is quicker and easier to do it yourself? What could you do, in the next few days, that would increase your own score by 1?

On a scale of 1-10 how do you rate your ability in Time and Priority Management?  Do you get all of your work done in your contracted hours?  Or do yo work additional hours for free?  Do you spend most of your time on the most important, highest return areas?  Or do you spend a lot of time working for little apparent return? What could you do, in the next few days, that would increase your own score by 1?

So, how did you score?

If you are interested in scoring better and would like further resources to help please do take a moment to sign up using the box on the right.

Your comments too are always welcome!


Mike Chitty


The heart of management – 121s

I am continually surprised by the number of organisations that I work with who are exploring the ‘higher planes’ of performance management and the pursuit of excellence (using balanced scorecards, strategy maps and so on) who do not yet practice some of the management fundamentals, such as 121s, feedback and coaching.  By getting these management basics right I believe that most organisations can make substantial improvements in performance quickly and at low cost.

What is a 121?

A 121 is a planned, structured, documented meeting between a manager and a direct report held on a weekly.

Why are they so effective in improving performance?

  1. 121s provide the foundation on which managers and their reports can build a genuine and powerful working relationship that provides the foundation for high performance.
  2. They provide the report with the opportunity to bring to their manager’s attention where they need help, support or permission to act.  Providing reports with this opportunity in a structured way will dramatically reduce the time that managers spend reacting to ad hoc requests.
  3. They give managers the chance to talk about issues that have occurred over the course of the week that may impact on the report – either because of changing priorities in the business or because of some aspect of their work.
  4. Managers have the chance to talk on a weekly basis about the medium and longer term future.  What training and development does the report need to develop their career?  What projects and opportunities might be on the horizon that the report may be interested in working on?
  5. 121s provide the foundation that allows manager’s to make the transition from fire fighting to genuinely managing and developing performance.

I manage 10 direct reports – I won’t have time to do weekly one to ones.

Lack of time is the most common objection to implementing 121s.  If the manager has a team of ten, then 121s will take about 6 hours a week – allowing a little time for note-taking and follow-up actions.

After 2-3 weeks of doing 121s the vast majority of manager’s report that they are saving time.  Because reports know that they have structured time with the manager they will hold non-critical issues until the 121, instead of raising them whenever they have the chance.  Interruptions are reduced significantly.

Regular 121s allow many minor adjustments to be made in the work of, and relationship with, the report.  This means that more problems are nipped in the bud and more opportunities are spotted and acted upon quickly – saving lots of fire-fighting time later on.

Scheduling 121s can be a problem.  But most managers’ diaries have plenty of space just 3-4 weeks ahead.  This is the time to start booking 121s.

If the number of direct reports goes much above 12 then fitting in weekly 121s can be a problem – and they can be made fortnightly instead of weekly.  If your team is made up of some full and some part-timers then you may want to schedule 121s with part-timers on a less frequent basis.  121s still work if they are not done weekly, but they do not work as well and the results take longer to show.

Why do 121s have to be documented?

Taking notes, and following up on them, is a vital part of effective 121s.  It demonstrates that you are taking the meeting seriously and that you are committing to acting on what is discussed.  The notes also provide a comprehensive record of what has been discussed with the report over the year and make annual performance reviews much easier to do.  They also allow you to keep accurate records that can be helpful when making a case for promotion or dealing with poor performance.  I recommend the use of a simple proforma, which is handwritten during the 121, and stored securely in a file for each direct report.

Making the Commitment

121s show a very real commitment from the manager to each of their direct reports.  This commitment has to be maintained so that 121s become part of the management routine.  They should hardly ever be missed.  121s have a major impact on organisational culture when they are adopted throughout the organisation as they show a real commitment to people and performance.  However if the organisation is not prepared to commit top them as a part of the culture, they work just as effectively for individual managers who chose to adopt them.  In fact these managers soon develop a reputation for excellent service delivery, as great people developers and soon stand out from the managerial crowd.

Implementing 121s

Making 121s work requires both will and skill.  Managers can be trained in how to effectively set up and maintain a system of 121s in a half day training session.

Building Relationships That Work at Work…

Lets face it. Not all of your relationships at work are working. At least, not as well as they should be.

Working relationships are essential to manage effectively.  Without them we can neither listen nor be heard.  Our influence is minimal.  Without a working relationship management becomes almost impossible.  We resort quickly to the capability and discipline procedures and watch our working relationships go from bad to worse.

But what do we mean by a working relationship?

Even great working relationships sometimes come under strain, and I am not talking about the occasional rough patch.  I am talking about the consistent failure to really connect, to bring out the best in each other.  Those relationships at work that feel difficult and are characterised by mediocrity, poor communication and personal antipathy.  It is important to recognise that these types of relationships are common, and they cost us a lot psychologically and in productivity!  We have a choice about we handle these non-working relationships.  We can put up with them and do our best in the circumstance to get the best outcomes that we can.  Or we can acknowledge that the relationship isn’t right and do what we can to change it.  To improve it.  To make it a working relationship.  One where both parties are open to feedback and willing to act on it to improve things.

What you choose to do about non-working relationships will depend on who they are with.  Non-working relationship with bosses, peers and reports all have different implications and challenges and need to be thought about carefully.  But there are some common characteristics to be considered.

It’s a personality thing…

This is perhaps the commonest reason I am offered for why relationships aren’t working, and it is rarely helpful.  It provides a usually superficial, meaningless, pseudo explanation for why we are not able to work effectively.  It does little to help the situation unless we understand the personalities involved a little and change the interactions between them to reach a more productive state.  Labelling the problem as a ‘personality clash’ usually just resigns us to acceptance.  Understanding personality is no trivial task, but I believe that there are some simple tools that can help us to diagnose the origins of a personality clash and offer us some possibilities to improve things.  Many of us have heard of, if not been profiled with,  the Myers Briggs Type Indicator or MBTI.  4 dimensions, 16 types, dominant and auxiliary functions, MBTI is a very useful tool – but can get a tad complicated for use in every day management practice.  So I prefer a simpler model based on similar Jungian psychology called DISC. 2 dimensions, 4 types and that’s pretty much it. It has worked well for me over the years, and is relatively easy to teach, learn and apply in real life situations – without having to call an occupational psychologist!  But there are lots of personality models out there and most offer useful frameworks for thinking about how we can work better together.  Choose one (or more), learn it, and use it to think about what might actually behind that personality clash that you use to explain non-working relationships.  I will be teaching and using the DISC model in the forthcoming workshops on How To Be A Better Manager.

It’s a behaviour thing…

Usually behind non-working relationships are a set of behaviours that are just not hitting the mark. It is the things people say and do that make it hard, or easy, for us to work well with them and vice versa.  These behaviours hold a real clue to turning non-working into working relationships.  If we can just get adjust our behaviours to get them working for each other.  But many managers don’t deal in behaviours, preferring instead the currency of labels, such as ‘unprofessional’, ‘hard working’ or ‘poor attitude’ for example.  Once these labels have been applied, and become the way we see our colleagues, they almost pre-ordain the nature of our working relationships.  It is hard to have a good working relationship with someone who we have already labeled as ‘unprofessional’.

So where do these labels come from?  What evidence are they based on?  Often managers struggle to answer these questions with any specifics and have to learn how to track back from a label to the specific behaviours that have ‘created’ it.  Let’s take for example the label ‘bad attitude’.  What kind of behaviours might lead that label to be created? Well, here are some common ones: arriving late for work, leaving early, missing meetings, keeping quiet in meetings, being over bearing in meetings,  responding with negative comments about ideas and proposals, checking mobiles during meetings, not making eye contact, talking loudly on the phone, tapping, clicking, sneering, shrugging, frowning…and the list goes on…

These behaviours that drive the labels are managerial gold dust.  If we can observe them, describe them and their impacts, and feed them back in a way that is fast, safe and actionable then we can start to encourage more of the behaviours that create value and less of the behaviours that destroy it.

It’s a time thing…

Building good working relationships takes time courage.  Time for high quality communication.  Talking and listening about goals, hopes, frustrations and fears.  Time to build trust and respect.  Time to explore what’s working and what’s not and to demonstrate a real commitment to building a relationship that works.  I am a big advocate of regular 121s.  Up to half an hour every week just to talk, listen, plan, provide feedback and support.  As long as you have a sensible span of control, say up to 15 direct reports, these 121s if managed well will save you a lot of time.  I will be teaching The Basics of Effective 121s in a workshop later in the year.

It’s a courage thing…

Above all to building working relationships takes courage. You have to be prepared to face up to the issue and be prepared to both work on your own behaviour and exert your influence over the behaviour of others.

Working on Relationships Top Tips

  1. Get to grips with at least one model of personality that you can use to think about the relationship dynamics that might be at play
  2. Choose to work on the non-working relationships – give them time and look for positives (be careful though, don’t let the squeaky wheels get all the grease)
  3. Focus on behaviours – what are you doing and what are they doing that leads to the problem? Use feedback – both giving and getting it – to influence behaviours.
  4. Give yourself time to build the relationship – it might not happen overnight




Rules for Being Amazing

Risk more than is required.

Learn more than is normal.

Be strong.

Show courage.





Speak your truth.

Live your values.





Adore mastery.

Release mediocrity.

Aim for genius.

Stay humble.

Be kinder than expected.

Deliver more than is needed.

Exude passion.

Shatter your limits.

Transcend your fears.

Inspire others about your bigness.

Dream big but start small.

Act now.

Don’t stop.

Change the world.

Robin Sharma

Affordable and Effective Training to Help You Be a Better Manager

I am pleased to say that, in partnership with Canopy Housing, I am running the first set of Be a Better Manager workshops in Leeds.  There will be one half day workshop each month.  Each workshop will be supported with written materials, including forms and examples supplied at the workshops, and additional advice and support published the Be A Better Manager website.

15th October – How To Be An Outstanding Manager

12th November – Brilliant 121s and other meetings – a systematic approach to managing people

17th December – Giving and Getting Great Feedback that drives performance

21st January – Developing potential – Manager as Performance Coach

18th February – Effective Delegation – Getting More Done Well

18th March – Time and Priority Management

Each workshop can stand alone – but taken together they provide a comprehensive system for management that produces great results.