NHS

The Accidental NHS Leader – Women Behind The Network-Julie Fulea – Female Leaders at 50

I am reflecting on my leadership experience writing this blog for @femaleleadersat50andbeyond a network of woman with wonderful experiences, skills and knowledge that I appreciate being part of. 

I think of myself as an accidental leader in fact most meaningful events in life are accidental or happenstance. I came into nursing over 30 years ago based on a bet, I ended up working in Romania instead of Albania because of a civil war and met my husband. I took a job in Oxford because a church nearby had a tenuous link to somewhere, I had lived in the North East, obviously a done deal then! 

I think it is more than fair to say I am not naturally aplanner with clear goals and actions to get there, assuming I know where there is. 

Today I am a senior matron supporting staff and those who use our services for older adult mental health. In a year tested us all in so many different ways here a few if things I have learnt about myself or have held on to throughout 2020.

1. “What is it like to be on the receiving end of me?”  

A lecturer on a course said this on one or our first sessions. He shared many other valuable nuggets of learning but it is this that has reasonated with me most. 

I am may not see myself as important or special but for some of those I work with I am THE SENIOR MATRON. That can be scary to some people and to be honest there are times that is not always a bad thing but it does mean the impact of what you say or do can for some affect them hugely.  The smallest interaction and acknowledgement really do matter and if I get it right I see the positive benefit. Those moments when I have not been on form, perhaps sharper than intended If I catch it I say Sorry, say sorry there and then or as soon as I can. I make sure they know its not their fault or problem and definitely no excuses.  No one cares that at the time you were contemplating inflicting pain on your husband for eating your packed lunch as a midnight snack and made you late. If someone is hurt or worried by your interaction that us all they can focus on, that is their experience and should be the centre of your apology.

2. My leadership Skills 

Over the last few months of things I have learnt about myself is I make people feel safe and this has been a year to excel at this ability. I think at times I have been the safety net that has allowed my colleagues to be the high wire artists knowing there is something soft to land on and keep them grounded. Its a part of my role that I love seeing people develop and be bold knowing that I have had a part to play in their development and success.

I notice their relief when you make a tough decision reminding them they had the answer all along and just needed support to get there. Or simply saying “I don’t know let’s see if we can work it out”.  I love all our dynamic and energetic leaders I need their challenge and drive it inspires me. We do need to celebrate those whose talent is to be the steadying hand encouraging those to believe that their “not good enough” is actually often verging on brilliant dedication and care. 

3. Find your Joy

Lastly find time for fun, be silly and enjoy bring silly. One of our housekeepers has a joke of the day. They are always silly make me laugh, set me up for the day and I appreciate it. I miss it when she’s not around. 

I probably irritate most of my colleagues but I can find something funny in most situations. I have used humour to take the heat out of difficult meetings and get them back into a more civil arena, to make my point about issues that are completely exasperating to me and to be honest it probably has prevented me from having high blood pressure. My latest drive is to have musical anthems to end meetings I chair. I like to laugh at work and if they create a matron for finding joy at work I’m applying.

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