Louise Bainbridge, chief finance officer at Derbyshire CCGs, shares her experience as an Action Learning Set facilitator and how she helped develop her graduates as well as herself.
Over the course of my NHS career, I’ve been lucky to benefit from a range of development opportunities. When I read about becoming an Action Learning Set (ALS) facilitator for the NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme, I felt that this would be the perfect opportunity to give something back to the wider NHS and help others on their own development journey. I also wanted to continue my own personal development, particularly thinking about my own leadership style. I held a real cynicism that a coaching style could deliver real results and that ‘command and control’ style isn’t the best way to get the job done.
As a group of new ALS facilitators, we attended an induction course and at the end of our training we were asked to choose a picture. The picture I chose was of a flock of birds soaring high in a blue sky representing my graduates at the end of the scheme flying off into a bright NHS future. When I chose the picture, I thought that I’d nurture, guide and teach. That somehow all the responsibility sat with me to ensure that my graduates would be ready to take on the world, and that they’d do it in my way.
I’d imagined that the role of the facilitator was like being the captain of a huge powerful ship, where all responsibility and authority lay with me to; set the course, command the crew, make all the decisions and make sure they were the right ones. What I soon learnt was that in order to steer the ship, it didn’t require me to be on the bridge at the front of the ship but instead I found my power sitting quietly at the tiller; carefully guiding, watching the water, the weather, listening, making minor adjustments to help the boat navigate its way. Sometimes having the courage to let the boat drift a while just to see where it might go.
I gained so much more than the satisfaction of helping others on their development journey, I was on my own development journey too. Practising coaching techniques and observing outcomes within my ALS gave me the confidence to try similar behaviours in my work environment. I’ve learnt to be more aware of my impact on others, about how my behaviour influences others behaviour and how I can use this positively both at work and at home. I now appreciate that action learning can generate real learning with a better, longer term solution to issues.
Although at times scary as I stepped into the unknown and tried out my newly learnt skills, I look back on my experience as an ALS facilitator with real joy and satisfaction. I saw my Action Learning Set bring real value to its members and I met some fantastic people who still inspire me today. I was learning alongside my set and I continue to learn. Don’t think I did this alone, I was supported throughout by the great facilitators at the NHS Leadership Academy and my peer ALS facilitators. It was a privilege to be able go on the journey.