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Strong leaders get results

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Good leaders make brave decisions about their staff and aren’t afraid to say “no”, says Caroline Shaw.

To be a successful leader you need to enable all staff to deliver excellence – whether they are nurses, doctors, cleaners, researchers, managers or teachers. Just as importantly, you need to enable effective teamwork, without which nothing is possible.

There are times, however, when you need to be firm, and nurses find this tricky because they often want to be everyone’s friend and tend to be “people pleasers”. Even so, it’s important to be able to say no to your team. And don’t be afraid of it.

As a manager, especially if you are a new manager, it can be tempting to say “maybe” to everyone. You tend to opt for a shade of grey rather than saying a definite “yes” or definite “no”. But you should not be afraid to say “no”. People actually quite like it.

My staff tell me they know where they are when I say no – they get the justification about why I am turning down their request straight away and we discuss it. I think saying “maybe” just leaves your team in limbo and unclear what is happening. So try to feel confident about saying no.

You also need to be brave about making staff decisions.

When I was working at a different hospital I had a complaint from a patient’s relative about a nurse not seeming to care or show any empathy for the patient – she was just going through the motions.

Of course, you have to be sympathetic about what may be going on in a person’s life, but sometimes you have to be brave and address that this role may just not be right for them. You have to be honest with yourself and others.

That said, you should be great at backing up stars in your organisation. Empower, support and develop them. I always recruit people who are better than me – you should never be afraid to do that. I want them to achieve things that I cannot and do better and greater things than I can. I learnt that as a ward sister.

When you find those people, reward them and develop them. We have a great school of oncology here at The Christie, with fantastic development programmes.

Do not underestimate the power of giving nurses and other staff power. In hospitals, where there are problems it is usually because there is no clear leadership and no one is accountable or responsible – no one is really sure who is in charge. You need a hierarchy, you need to do more than just giving advice – you should be willing to be accountable and responsible.

The Christie is seeking views on its 2020 vision. To take part, log on to christie.nhs.ukby 31 March 2012.

Caroline Shaw is the chief executive of The Christie in Manchester, a post she has held since 2005, and for which she has won several business awards. She has over 25 years’ experience in the NHS, joining as a midwife. She has been working for the Department of Health to take charge of the development of NHS provider services in the North West and advising on national NHS policy.

Tips for instilling strong leadership values in team

● Ensure there is a clear hierarchy and people know who is accountable and responsible

● Make people responsible by setting out a clear budget and giving nurses power to influence and change it to make service redesign more efficient and better for patients

● Support staff through any change and develop them with new skills

● Be brave enough to employ people who are better than you

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