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Blog: 'I need to be more strategic and tactical'

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Liz Darlison enjoys some emotional but ultimately rewarding experiences on module 2 of the Cancer Leadership Programme.

I mistakenly flew to Scotland early on the first day of module 2 of the Cancer Leadership Programme. A 4.30am start meant that by mid-afternoon I was flagging dreadfully and spent most of my time trying to keep awake and alert. The plentiful supply of tea and Scottish shortbread helped, but they weren’t going to help with my aim to lose a stone. Most of the group had traveled up the night before - a good move that I will definitely follow for the next module.

The module was held at the Peebles Hydro, a four-star hotel set in 30 acres of grounds in the Scottish Borders.

Almost everyone found the first day quite emotional and heavy. Not only did we receive personal feedback, but we mapped out our life lines, depicting major highs and lows in our careers. We looked in depth at the LEA process and how to use our personal results and feed back. Most of us were awash with anticipation, eagerly awaiting our individual feedback. Once distributed Sarah slowly and diligently talked us through the extensive cross-referencing required. The whole group took their collective first steps toward getting to know ourselves and how others see us. It was a real journey of discovery, quite bizarre and very thought provoking.

On completion of the LEA questionnaire it is impossible to see the implications of your response. At the time I completed mine I recall wondering how on earth they were going to make sense of all of this. And then, bingo, there it is in black and white: my strengths and weaknesses as a leader all summed up in my own personal feedback book, and its accuracy was quite chilling.

What was even more uncanny was the personal interview that followed on day two. The group was split in two. Half had a personal one-to-one with Jane, and the other half with Sarah. Sarah clearly understands the LEA process well and could flip back and forth between behavior feedbacks with ease; she also had great insight into me as an individual, and could demonstrate and rationalize my results on a personal level quite comfortably.

It is fair to say I was very impressed, the feedback is given in such a constructive way, with lots of information about how to temper some behaviors whilst bolstering others. Even though I felt very exposed, I was positive about my weaker behaviors because I now knew what they were, and there was lots of suggestions for how to deal with them.

Thoughout day 2 we worked through our feedback, mostly in private, with the aim of identifying three behaviors that we wanted to change. My most obvious area for improvement was structuring. All of my colleagues, boss, peers and those that report to me scored me low on being structured. I scored myself low, so it wasn’t as if I didn’t know.

I also picked out strategy as being something for me to work on. I need to be more strategic; plan ahead a little more. Finally, I need to become more tactical, I need to integrate more into my directorate and the organisation as a whole. Focusing on tactical aspects also buffers my high outgoing, excitement and innovation scores. In fact they were way too high, and there is truth in the saying that you can have too much of a good thing.

Day two finished with an excellent uplifting session from independent consultant Frances McGeoch. Frances talked about looking after ourselves. She helped us put the LEA feedback into the context of our very busy lives and encouraged us to get the most out of all of ourselves and life in general. She gave us a much needed reality check because, in truth, while we were all consumed with our LEA feedback, leadership and health care is just part of who we are - and it was a good time to be reminded of that.

All in all, days one and two were long and grueling. It was great to be in such a breathtaking setting. I managed a short run along the banks of the River Tweed on the second afternoon. Fly fishermen were dotted all the way along the river bank and it was a lovely experience. Towards the end of the day several of us walked into Peebles, an attractive small town with a strong community spirit and nice shops, coffee shops and pubs through the town centre, I would recommend a visit.

We had beautiful meals on both evenings and, on the first evening after dinner, we interviewed Sarah and Jane about their own leadership highs and lows. They were remarkably honest and a real inspiration for the group. On the second evening we were split into two teams, 'The Tatties' and 'The Nips'. Quiz master Sarah then relayed leadership quiz questions that she and Jane and each group had prepared for the other. I think The ‘Nips pipped The Tatties to the post by the skin of their teeth, mostly thanks to Steve Scholts expertise!

We finished module two on day three with an outdoor experience with Venture Scotland: a short and slightly rugged walk to a nearby bothy (a basic shelter, usually left unlocked and available for anyone to use) where we engaged in a variety of teambuilding and leadership exercises.

Nothing was beyond any of us, and we learned some great lessons in trust and team building, particularly when we had to throw ourselves from a height into the outstretched arms of our team!

It was an invigorating and light-hearted end to a busy and quite heavy module 2. We left fired up to meet our mentors and develop an action plan to address three of the behaviors needing attention, identified from our personal feedback. We really got to know each during this module. It was a great team building module and a wonderful few days.

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