What you can learn from the Messenger Review to succeed in NHS leadership

Back in June, the findings of the Messenger Review of NHS Leadership were released, and their recommendations put forward. Some of the key points were expected and necessary, a reflection of what NHS staff have already suggested, and the resulting action points will likely be welcomed across leadership teams. Whilst tackling some of the concerns will require centralised action and input, here are 4 takeaways that current managers in the NHS can implement from the Messenger Review now.

1. Tackling blame culture & bad behaviours – The stress placed on NHS workers is undeniable, and with many roles being particularly demanding, bad behaviours can set in with challenging conditions. The report hones in on the impact good leadership can have not just on the delivery of care, but the development of culture, and similarly how hiring and progressing those incentivised by different priorities can have a negative impact on culture, which is what the NHS has seen historically.
The review underlines that encouraging a collaborative and open environment that allows for learning and growth would see a shift away from a fragmented way of working to a more collaborative partnership between teams and departments. As a leader, you could start to shift your team’s mentality by being open about your own challenges and talking about perceived ‘failure’, reframing it as a learning opportunity. Encourage your staff to see your efforts as a group rather than working in silo, and in team meetings be sure to highlight achievements and successes. The reframing of language and perception can have a big impact in tackling a blame culture or learned bad behaviours.

2. Career pathways and clear structure – The review has shown there is a severe lack of clarity over career progression and recommends setting transparent and achievable pathways from enrolment through to mid-career and beyond for those working in the NHS. Part of implementing better career development strategies includes management standards for managers and regular appraisals. Progression doesn’t have to be complicated to embed into your current teams as a leader and could be as straightforward as offering regular one-to-ones, understanding your team’s aspirations, and making sure that there is time away from the desk for your team members to undertake professional development and training. What used to be a ‘learning on the job’ approach, should shift to intentional activity to allow staff members to grow and develop.

  1. Diversity and inclusion – The report touched on the lack of diversity in leadership roles across the NHS and emphasized that staff from ethnic minority backgrounds are still not being provided with the support they need to progress to leadership roles. This requires substantial action to see a tangible change across the organisation as a whole, but teams can start to build their own inclusive teams by keeping D&I at the forefront of their thoughts when it comes to the hiring process. You can start by changing how you source candidates, encouraging your diverse employees to refer connections, or auditing your job adverts for exclusionary language or restrictive requirements.
  2. Welling, mental health, and work/life balance – A point the review board heard regularly from the staff members they interviewed was that chief executives are not given the time, support, and incentives they need to succeed when facing severe systemic challenges. Quality leadership makes a stark difference when delivering excellent care, and by improving the package of support and incentives in place, the NHS will enable the best leaders and managers to take on some of the most difficult roles. Of course, the outcomes of the report focus more on executive-level support, but there are key learnings to be had at all levels.

How MLC can help support our clients with these efforts?

We appreciate that when you are a leader of a busy team, it is not always possible to focus on driving initiatives to support change. By partnering with MLC on your recruitment efforts we can help you:

  • Tackle poor culture: When delivering a recruitment campaign, we look at soft skills and team fit as well as technical expertise, and our initial interviews assess emotional intelligence as well as workplace capabilities, to ensure those on our shortlist are not just professional and experienced, but empathetic and passionate team players.
  • Drive diversity: D&I is a core value for MLC Partners and as such we are committed to providing diverse and varied shortlists, working with clients on offering benefits that work for a range of people and we have built, and continue to build, a pipeline of diverse junior to mid-level employees who we support as they progress through their career.
  • Deliver training: At MLC, we encourage all of our clients to partake in development plans, and we regularly support training initiatives, from hosting events to providing market insight on competitors. As part of our partnership, we can help your team with their requirements.
  • Improve work/life balance – We advocate strongly for employee wellbeing with our clients. We believe that when people feel nourished, rested, and content that they perform better at work, and we encourage our clients to offer support and incentives to allow for a good work/life balance. If you work with us, we can talk to you about alternative benefits, job share schemes, flexible working, and positive culture influences.

If you’d like to learn more about working with MLC Partners, feel free to get in touch – I’d love to understand more about what your team is looking for in their next hire.