25 March - non-executive directors - compassionate leadership with Gill Galliano

25 March 2022

This week’s non-executive directors webinar opened with a conversation about compassionate leadership with Gill Galliano, interim chair at NHS Brighton and Hove CCG.

Gill said: “I first came across compassionate leadership in a coaching environment. As a coach you’re trained to be empathetic – to understand how people are feeling and then take that forward in your coaching. Compassion isn’t taking on people’s feelings yourself but understanding them and then taking that forward in your coaching to help them find solutions. Good thing to bear in mind for resilience – you’re helping people to find solutions.

“Most people come to a coach because they have problems. Compassionate leadership is about listening to them, talking through their situation, thinking about what they need, what needs to change for them to progress, what resources they have to do that and what resources they might need to find to solve their problems and what positive changes will see as a result. It’s quite an iterative process.

“Coaching doesn’t need to involve long sessions. Coaching used to be more about listening to people’s emotions but now it’s more action-focused, leave your feelings behind and be more productive about solutions.

“If you look at it as part of the culture of an organisation, it’s about not coming up with reasons why you can’t do things but being more innovative, look at things from a different direction and don’t blame others. It’s a positive thing and not top-down. The culture of the NHS has always been top-down but organisations that are successful with this are those that enable people, and give them the strength and permission to be innovative. Leaders and senior managers have to give people the space they need to be innovative and to develop.

“Compassionate leadership is about helping people to find their own solutions and leaving things behind that are holding them back."

[When there is a mix of people on a board, some with compassionate leadership characteristics and some without]: “It’s about the art of chairing – setting the right tone for how the board operates. If the chair sets the right example, hopefully most people will follow. It doesn’t just happen – it needs a lot of board development. Sometimes it can take a lot of work to get a board to respect each other and value each other’s experience and knowledge. But if the chair doesn’t set the right example, no one will follow.

“Compassionate leadership takes courage, and you have to believe in it.”

Also overheard:

“I have certainly seen chairs who have both set the tone and resisted the pressures from above to be dictated to. Also the chair and CEO need to be rowing the same boat. I have seen examples where they pull apart and the impact for organisational culture can be calamitous.”

“Compassionate leadership is about empowering others and engaging staff and possibly patients to solve difficult issues/problems. Empowering others is about letting go of one’s power to some extent and ego/self in the interest of others (patients and/or staff). There are fab compassionate leaders in the NHS and then there are leaders who are arrogant, self-serving and actually will not enable transformation. In the current landscape of ICSs it’s critical to have compassionate and collaborative leaders.”

“Telling people that their conduct is not acceptable and persuading them to change – or that you and the board do not agree with their view – takes courage and power, important to understand how they might feel.”

“This is the time to transform the NHS and how care is developed, delivered and experienced. I am not sure we have all leaders with the right mindsets and behaviours to enable this transformation.”

These meetings are by invitation and are open to all NHS non-executives directors, chairs and associate non-executive directors of NHS providers. Others may attend by special invitation.

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions about these webinars, please contact: events@good-governance.org.uk