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Blog: Post-holiday blues and inspirational leaders

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NT Award-winner Liz Darlison is back from the holidays, and back in the thick of the Cancer Leadership Programme

My goodness where did the summer go? One minute I am writing about module two, feeling fired up to get my action plan together and meet with my mentor for the first time. Now, early September and feeling full of Autumn, I contentedly look back at the seven-week school summer break we have just had; relaxed mornings, no dreaded school run, long evenings, packing and unpacking for holidays. Great!

But boy have I got some catching up to do!

I did meet with my mentor for the first time in mid July. I flew up to Edinburgh for a few hours on a 6am flight, where I met Gillian Knowles, Nurse Consultant in Cancer at Edinburgh Cancer Centre, in the lobby of an airport lounge.

I first met Gillian a year ago when as recipient of the 2007 Cancer Nurse Leader of the Year award I was invited to dinner to meet the last National Cancer Leadership Programme members.

Despite meeting 15 people that evening, I remember thinking I must create an opportunity for myself to spend some time with Gillian as, like me, she is a Nurse Consultant. Although at that time she was seconded to the NHS Scotland practicing in a particularly strategic post with what seemed to be a broad area of influence.

I discussed my thoughts with programme leader Sarah Lister, who wholeheartedly supported my choice of mentor.

I read a variety literature about mentoring relationships and about being a mentor and mentee. I worked out a plan in my own head of how I thought Gillian and I could maximize our experience and satisfaction from our relationship.

At our first meeting we introduced ourselves, our background, career to date, professional hopes, aspirations, values etc and then quickly discussed our vision for our mentoring relationship.

Thankfully we had similar ideas; both of us considered that we should have clear objectives relating to my LEA 360° feedback and should aim to meet up to four times over the next 18 months with plenty of email and telephone contact in between. It quickly became clear that Gillian’s experience of being on the programme and strategic position were going to be invaluable in supporting me through the coming months.

I was really impressed with my 360° feedback and, before meeting Gillian, I sketched out ideas for my action plan. We discussed them individually and Gillian helped me realise that being more focused, narrowing down exactly what I wanted to achieve to enhance particular attributes would be far more satisfying, achievable and beneficial. Gillian briefly described the action plan she worked to during the programme and how she managed to narrow down her action plan to SMART goals.

Despite the post holiday mire of work from my day job, I am now piecing together a meaningful action plan that reflects my LEA feedback. I am looking forward to meeting up with the other delegates next week for module 3. Scanar, the Royal Marsden’s on line education facility enables us to keep in touch in between modules but nothing quite compares to meeting in person, and despite an excellent and well-planned programme the informal break time and evening discussion are often priceless.

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