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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Notes on an achievement- Ciara Moore

I’ve just completed a 50k.

I trained but I didn’t train as hard or as much as I had planned or hoped. While I had hoped to run all of it, I ran half of it and walked the remainder.

What was brilliant about that crazy run/walk was it was done at my pace under my terms and as a result I felt wonderful for it.

I wanted to finish as strong as I started and I did. This became my mantra.

However, I’m already telling you about the tip of the iceberg when I should be telling you about the bottom of it and all that preparation to get to the tip to that sweet moment of success.

With the Covid pandemic and working in a busy NHS role training did go out the window Due to long days on virtual meetings. My walks or runs at weekends became sacred due to lockdown.

The focus on the 50 K helped me remain focused on something else during the pandemic. It was going to be a point in time to celebrate my daughters 16th birthday. With the race happening in Windsor at Easter. However due to the pandemic this was cancelled. The date now a day working in the hospital. An Easter Saturday weekend.

I really wanted to mark the day. In my imagined parallel universe I was completing that race . I wanted some positivity to come out of the spiralling pandemic that we were in. I sent a tweet to the world asking them to walk or run 1k for for me and tweet a picture of themselves running with their mileage.and it responded. I imagined I would probably get a few people responding the response was overwhelming. The response predominantly came due to Running Man Jones who through his followers helped create a wave of positivity on that day.. I even had a hash tag #1KforCiara.

I came out of work after that long day my Twitter feed was full. Full of wonderful messages, heartfelt and sincere with pictures of these wonderful people who had run 1 km from me. I cried as I read them with pride, for all of them and that positivity that they had created this wonderful thing. Over 500 km was clocked up and it truly was a worldwide event with posts from America, India, Australia, New Zealand and all over Europe.

The event by now was rescheduled, set for 12th of September which is my sons birthday. Sadly, again, cancelled. This time I wasn’t going to be working at the on the date and as I was raising money for charity I decided I would do the 50 K by myself around my normal running routes in Cambridge.

In the last month my training really picked up mainly as I had this date looming ahead and a target!. I was out running or training at least every other day for two hours at a time.

Oddly, the treadmill became my best friend and the treadclimber a close second. This second machine allowed me train for longer but with less effort on my joints. Helping me maintain that mantra finish as strong as you start.

I’m also conscious I’m 51 and body and bones are not as strong as they were in my 20s.

However I felt strong and that is what was really, really important.

But where to run and how to keep it interesting? I normally just go off running up through the fens but I was conscious that out on my own I had no back up and I need access to people in case anything happens. I started to map old routes and new around the city and the fens and cycling or walking miles, testing the distance.

Close to the day I still had not decided on tne exact route. I did a 32 km walk with my faithful hound Conall took my time as we paced out a route, got scared by several cows (twice) and delightedly realised I was ready for the following week.

The morning of the run before the sun rose my kit ready I got ready, ate a hasty breakfast and left the house. Not before passing the hound looking at me reproachfully for not taking him, past the pile of birthday presents for my son who was under strict instructions not to open them till I returned. My aim was to be home for lunch, and likely only an hour or so after the household woke up. I wasn’t going to be missed.

I started off taking the pace easy, enjoying the fresh cool morning and I ran steadily, each 5K I clocked up my heart excitedly flipping with joy. I managed my longest run of 25 km after thinking I could never do that distance in my life.

However it was never going to be a challenge without being challenging and so between 25k and 30k I struggled to keep running. By this time I was out on the fen trying to steady myself on the uneven ground, my legs wobbly.

Rather than force myself to keep running I reverted to jog, walk jog walk with the mantra in my head finish as strong as you started.

Stupidly, I didn’t bring sufficient water and started to dehydrate at about 35K. This slowed me down distracting me as hydration then became my focus.

A local pub in Fen Ditton kindly filled my bottle with orange juice and lemonade. I think I can honestly say it was the best drink I have had all year.

I finally completed the distance in my village, my legs tired but no injuries. I took a picture of my finishing point looking out across a field towards Wandlebury and I remember thinking now what? I felt almost a little lost.

I walked slowly home.

On arriving home I was straight back into celebrating a birthday with my boy. My race seen by the family as no more than my usual Saturday exercise. No celebrations, no balloons no medal, though I did afford myself one glass of champagne.

If I had allowed it I could have seen the end of the race as an anti-climax. If anything it has made me realise how capable our bodies are of doing things even when we are older that we don’t think we are capable of. It was the first time I didn’t stress myself out about being fast or slow or “ploddy.” The only person I was competing with was myself. I listened to my body, trusted my training and kept to my mantra “finish as strong as you start.” This didn’t necessarily mean run the whole 50 K (now that would’ve been amazing) It meant to finish in a positive, happy frame of mind. It meant being able to walk later in the day to celebrate a birthday with no aches and pains so as not detract attention from the birthday boy and it meant being able to go for a long walk the next day with my hound.

On a positive note I haven’t let up my training regime which I usually drop immediately after an event. I walk as much as I can and now the gyms are open I am finding new machines that will help me with sustaining and improving my stamina. It is difficult to know what to sign up for as a challenge next when all the challenges seem to be cancelled. However, what I will do in a few weeks time is test myself again on gently running 25K. Who knows I may even get to 30k …..finishing as strong as I start.

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The Greatest Gift – Liz Needleman BT Group Regional Director – Women Behind The Network Female Leaders At 50

Liz Needleman : BT Group Regional Director North

Getting older has never bothered me, aside from a minor blip when I was about to turn 40.  Happily it disappeared on the morning of my 40th birthday, which turned out to be a surprisingly pleasant anti-climax.  Fifty was an excuse for numerous parties and despite Facebook sending me funeral ads, I didn’t really bat an eyelid.

I put this down to a number of factors: my husband is 9 years older than me, meaning I am a perpetual Spring chicken, relatively speaking; a group of wonderful life-long friends who both remind me of some of the idiocy of my youth as well as making sure we relive parts of it on a regular basis; and adult children who refuse to let me take myself too seriously.

There is one element to being over 50 however of which I am increasingly conscious : time speeds up.

By that I don’t mean ‘Gosh, hasn’t this year flown by?’ (although it has).  I mean that I realise that time is an increasingly precious commodity. I am much more aware of having to actively carve out time for the things that I want to do, otherwise days and weeks just sort of…go.

I was in my last organisation for a long time, and while I didundoubtedly learn and grow professionally, and enjoyed many happy years, I think it’s fair to say that my rate of development slowed down.  I felt very comfortable, and stopped thinking about the next step.  I was frenetically busy and dealing with multiple issues and challenges but stopped feeling any particular sense of achievement.  One month followed the next.

Joining BT last year, after 15 years out of the sector, has been very good for me.  It put me on a steep learning curve. I regained a sense of awareness of how much I had to learn, and a sense of wanting to make each day count.  I know that sounds pompous and I don’t mean it to – I suppose it’s just that going through a significant change professionally has refocused me.

This has bled into my personal life as well, helped partly I think by the experience of lockdown.  The first few months went by in a blur, and while I never subscribed to the belief that we should all take the opportunity to better ourselves by learning to paint or speak Chinese, I did feel I should use the time to do something.

The something ended up being the Couch to 5k.  My body is not a temple.  I like a glass of wine in the evening, followed by another, and the first few weeks were a far from joyful experience.  I plodded on however, both literally and metaphorically, and having completed it am still hauling myself round the park about 4 times a week.  (Gosh, you must have lost weight, I hear you all think – nope, not at all).  I do, however, very occasionally and for some fleeting moments, not completely hate it.

Where am I going with this?  My experience has not been unique and I have no blinding insights to astound you with, but I do feel that doing something new is increasingly important.  As much as anything else it stops you thinking that you can’t.

So in conclusion I would suggest you guard your time ferociously. Recognise it as the greatest gift you can give to someone or something, and be unapologetically selective. Bythe same token acknowledge and appreciate the time that people choose to share with you. And if you want to stay where you are in life because it suits you, then good for you, and I hope you do so happily and as an active choice. In my experience, it’s worth taking some of your valuable time to think about it.