Doing things Differently in Cheshire and Merseyside; A system leadership approach

“Inspired leadership requires vulnerability; do we have the courage to show up, be seen, take risks, ask for help, own our mistakes, learn from failure, lean into joy, and can we support the people around us to do the same?” Brene Brown

The Importance of System Leadership
Leadership skills and behaviours, both at individual and collective level, set the tone for the cultures we create across our collaborative and partnership working. This is never more important than when we are experiencing times of challenge and crisis such as those that our health and care systems are facing right now.

Exploring effective system leadership skills has been the focus of the first cohort of the C&M HCP Doing things Differently programme, which launched in February 2020.

Over fifty people from different sectors across the system have come together in nine Place teams to enhance their leadership skills whilst collaborating on the C&M HCP strategic aim of reducing Cardiovascular Disease (CVD).

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Designing for Doing things Differently
The programme design comprises of three workshop days followed by virtual coaching sessions for each Place team and is structured around the ‘Discover, Design, Do’ approach. Place teams also undertake a live system project to apply their leadership learning to practical challenges at Place level.

Lisa Gresty (Talent, Leadership and Organisational Development Lead for the C&M HCP) explains the purpose of this programme design; “We wanted to engage leaders in a programme that produces real actions and outcomes in terms of improving patient care/service user experience whilst developing their leadership skills and building relationships across the nine Places in C&M.

“These system leaders’ behaviours and networks will be pivotal to the success of the whole health and care system as without them we are likely to stay stuck within organisational silos and constraints that will not improve health outcomes for the populations we serve”.

Participants were identified through a nominations process via Place Leads. The design and delivery team would like to extend their thanks to Place and Programme colleagues for their time and commitment in identifying and supporting individuals to come along and take part in the programme.

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What’s happened so far?
Workshop days one and two have now taken place; Day one was opened by Dave Sweeney, Implementation Director at the C&M HCP and executive lead for the programme who reflected; “This is something very close to my heart and I will be part of each cohort to kick off and update colleagues on our journey to becoming an ICS”.

Participants explored the current reality for CVD across C&M and as Place teams, began to consider the ‘system’ they are working in as well as the drivers across that system, identifying key relationships and stakeholders related to the CVD agenda.

Participants also explored connection and collaboration as Place ‘teams’ and reflected on their own leadership styles in system working; "It was good to connect with other people in the system; we got time to know each other"

"(We) started to look at the local system in a different way, using some of the models discussed on the day"

Day 2 had an energetic start, considering ways in which we make space for innovation, creativity and collaboration in systems. Participants were joined by facilitators from Liverpool Comedy Improv who invited them to experiment with experiencing failure in a positive way and developing a ‘Yes, and…’ mindset.

Participants reflected that "It was high energy and enjoyable” and that they "enjoyed the interaction, energy and innovative way of thinking about leadership differently". Participants also took part in a group discussion with members of the community, hearing their lived experience of CVD related illness and care in the system, which created valued insights into how the system might be improved. Participants ended the day using design thinking to create ‘problem statements’ for the project they will work on as the programme progresses.  

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Working with a collaborative team

The programme is being funded by NHSE/I and the C&M HCP is working with a collaborative of four development support agencies, the Innovation Agency, AQuA, NHS North West Leadership Academy and North West Employers, to design and deliver the programme.

Helen Kilgannon (Associate Director at AQuA) and Juliette Kumar (Associate Director at the Innovation Agency) reflected on the joint working across the partners; “Doing things differently is an ethos that extends to the partners who are designing and delivering this innovative programme. Our agencies are working together, bringing our collective expertise in innovation, improvement and change management to the programme.”  

They found that, just like collaborating in Health and Public services, they have had to learn to work in a very different way. The first step to working together has been recognising that all agencies have talents to share, being brave whilst navigating the new collaboration and showing vulnerability when things don’t go quite according to plan; “It has been great to see how the people in each place based system have come together to learn how to improve services for people living with CVD.  Leaders are developing productive relationships, building networks and applying whole system thinking, not just looking at problems as a single organisation or service issue”.

What next?

Due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, workshop day three will not be taking place as a face to face session as planned, but instead a virtual space will be convened for those that can, to come together and connect. We are excited to see how the cohort progresses, and to continue learning with such motivated and innovative colleagues across the system.

Recruitment for Cohort 2 is also currently underway, via Place and Programme leads and will focus on mental health and the strategic aim of zero suicide across Cheshire and Merseyside. If you would like to know more about this programme please get in touch with This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Talent, Leadership and Organisational Development lead, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Organisational Development and Leadership Associate.

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