Hello and welcome to the knowing self knowing others podcast, the fortnightly podcast that explores self awareness, leader effectiveness and leadership at all levels. Join me your host Nia Thomas, as we talk to today’s knowing self knowing others guest
today I have with me, Tracy Myhill. I’m so delighted to have Tracy here our you’ve certainly watched Tracy’s career over the last probably 20 years. She was a director in an organisation that I worked in many, many years ago. So I’m absolutely delighted that she’s been able to find time to join me in a conversation about self awareness. Tracy, I will hand over to you to introduce yourself.
Thank you, thank you very much. I’m delighted to join you. So I am Tracy, my Hill, very pleased to talk about self awareness and its link with leadership on the basis that I’ve been in leadership positions for many, many years, 36 years, within the NHS, I started as a clerical officer ended up as a chief executive, many, many jobs along the way, including an HR director for for many years as well. And now in Portfolio stage of my career, so some non executive roles chair role, and providing mentoring, support through my own small company. So I’m working with the NHS, with leaders in the public sector and the NHS to support them in their leadership journey. So self awareness and leadership has been part of my whole career so far. So I’m delighted to contribute to your
How do you define self awareness?
So very simply, to me, the definition of self awareness is understanding your own strengths, your own weaknesses, and particularly the impact you have on those around you. You know, so if you know how you change how you behave, if you’re stressed, how you behave, if you’re under pressure, how you behave, if things are going well, how you show up, I guess, at your best, and how you show up at your worst. And I think being conscious of that is what self awareness is. To me.
I’m aware that your chief executive roles have really seen you take organisations through some difficult times, and you will have seen leaders at their best and leaders at their worst. So I think when you mentioned the word stress related to leadership, that that is something that certainly when I was doing my research was one of those barriers to self awareness. So I don’t know if that’s something that you have identified when you’ve got people who are going through very critical situations and challenging situations in though in the workplace, does that change their self awareness to people who are very often self aware, become less self aware during that time? What are your reflections on that?
I certainly think when people are stressed that they probably do show up at their worst, so their behaviours change, including my own, over the years, you know, so so if you’re if you’re conscious of how things affect you, how stress affects your pressure affects you how you become stressed by behaviours of other people, sometimes lots of things that cause us to get more stressed if people are disingenuous, or, you know, there’s lots of behaviours, as well as it’s just workload that makes people stressed. And then for me, my experience that I’ve seen is when people are stressed if they have not been open about themselves, if they’re not self aware, if they’ve not engaged their people to get honest and open feedback along the way, if they don’t have a culture where somebody can say, hey, Tracy, I can see your behaviour changing, then I think that’s, that’s negative a negative position. So absolutely. I think the more stressed people are, they go to their worst, if they were engaging, they become closed. You know, for me, I became more directional. I became less open, less open, less engaging, less tolerant, because because I’m stressed, when I’m less stressed and very engaging. Very open, I hide away a little bit more when I’m more stressed. I guess I’m aware of it. And because I’m aware of it, and that’s why it’s really good for leaders to be self aware. And as I say, to have team members will say, Tracy, you haven’t been out of the office yet today. That’s not you. What’s going on? So absolutely, it does affect people’s behaviour and their self awareness, which is why you need people around them that they can trust who can help them realise they’re going down a rabbit hole may be
interesting. There’s something definitely about authenticity in there.
Do you think this is a relationship between self awareness and leader effectiveness?
So yes, I absolutely think there’s a relationship between self awareness and leader effectiveness. And that goes back to my strong belief that if you know the impact you have on people, if you are self aware, then you will be able to get the best out of your team. If you don’t know the impact on people, if you don’t know whether your behaviour is empowering them, for example, then you can lose people. You know, you do that we do lose people, I think people who leave people rather than organisations necessarily quite often you talk to people throughout their careers, all the people, a lot of the people anyway, I mentor now, quite often people want to leave because of their boss, because of the environment, it’s not always about the job and the pressure of job. So if we can be the most self aware leaders, then I think we will be more effective as leaders and we won’t lose people, because we’re not enabling them to be the best that they can be. And people are attracted to people as well. You know, so if you’ve got a reputation of being a leader, who’s self aware, who knows when they’re on it knows when they need support, knows when they need help, and, you know, knows, actively seeks that feedback, then people will hear about that, and they’ll want to come work for you. So you get the best people working for you, you don’t lose the good people, because of the way that you show up because you’re not aware or you don’t care about the impact you have on them, then you will be less effective. Absolutely. And also, I think, you know, if you are self aware, so if I know what my weaknesses are, I know where when I go to my worst places, and you then can balanced team around you, with people who’ve got strengths that you haven’t got, if don’t take an interest in what your own development needs and strengths and weaknesses are, you wouldn’t try to do that. So by counterbalancing, your negative traits, maybe with people in your team who are good at the things you’re not good at, you’ll be more effective as a team, and you will then you will deliver, deliver more, the most. The saddest thing you see is when you lose people in you lose really good skills, really good skilled people, and you lose them through blissful ignorance, because you had no idea of the impact you’re having on them, which actually forced them to go somewhere else. And it’s usually too late by the time you for you understand that?
There’s there’s a lot to be said for the reputation that your self awareness creates in terms of creating that team and being able to maintain that team in that case.
Do you think effective leaders can be found at all levels of organisations?
Yes, I do. I don’t think effective leaders are only at the most senior levels in organisations. In fact, quite often, the best leaders can be found in in middle management levels and junior leadership roles, but also leaders who aren’t in leadership roles. You know, just because you’ve got the title, the leader or director or senior manager, or there are leaders everywhere. And in the public sector, which is obviously where I’ve spent most of my working life and still do now I see leaders everywhere, at all levels, whether they’ve got the title or not. So I absolutely think effective leaders can be found everywhere. And sometimes, as I say, more effective leaders than at the most senior levels, just because you got the job title of Chief Executive, or director or something senior doesn’t mean you’re good, effective leader, does it.
Isolate the degree? Have you seen examples? I will certainly when I’m thinking about leaders at different levels of organisations, there are a couple of people that my mind always goes to and my my memory always takes me to, are they people in your three to six years within the NHS, where you can think that somebody I watched and this is how they behaved? What what did it look like when you when you think of those people who are not in leadership positions,
there’s loads of them, there’s loads of them out there. And what what I see in that is people who trust the people around them, trust the people in the team that they’re in, they’re open. They are engaged in, they look out for people in the team, you know, their spots, they’ll spot people who are maybe stressed, maybe people who are struggling, they’ll support people, they’ll they’ll help people. They may suggest people in their in their team, their colleagues, they don’t have to be as I say, leading them or supervising them or managing them. But they will suggest development opportunities to them. Even to their their senior that to their own leaders, they will be honest with them. So they will give them honest feedback, they’ll be honest with their colleagues. And for me, it’s the people with the connection. You know, it’s the people who can connect to the real people, and try to understand their people. What as I say, whether their colleagues, their bosses, or their man, or they’re leading them, for me leadership, it really is about connection. And if they understand the people around them, it’s amazing what can be delivered. And another word that we hear more and more of lately, I guess, is about care, care for their team members care for their colleagues. They’re collaborative, not competitive, they don’t want to succeed at somebody else’s expense. They want everybody to succeed. I mean, there’s some amazing leadership qualities out there that I see from people who aren’t in haven’t got the job title on the door.
Have you rated and reviewed the knowing self knowing others podcast yet? Here are some things people are already saying. I listened to the Sarah Metcalf one. So thought provoking. In particular, the point towards the end about vulnerability got me thinking about how you must have self awareness before you can be vulnerable. I’m really enjoying it. So far, the scientist in me is really enjoying the set structure, and seeing how different people respond to it. I just listened to the first of your podcasts, I thought it was great. You have a very good interviewing style, the topics were very relevant. And the guest speaker was very clear and engaging. Love the take on self awareness, ie, needing to think about how people will react to you. I don’t do that enough. So it really struck me such an interesting first episode and another already live. Every rate, and every review helps to know itself knowing this podcast, extend its reach to new listeners. So thank you for your support.
Our next question, and this is one that I’m I’m hoping that you will draw from your experience as well as your observation of others. Do you think leaders at the most strategic level of organisations have greater self awareness than leaders at every levels of organisations?
I don’t think so. Not necessarily. Other people might say, Yes, of course, because they’ve got more experience, and they’re into more senior jobs. But I don’t think just because you’re in the most strategic level of an organisation that you have greater self awareness, I have worked with people run in organisations with no self awareness. And I’ve worked with people who run organisations were amazing in terms of their self awareness. So I don’t necessarily think it means the more senior you are, the more strategic role you’re in, the more self aware you are, I think it is individual difference. So some leaders in very senior strategic roles work really hard to understand what they’re good at what they’re not so good at, they do 360 degree appraisals with their teams regularly with their seniors and their colleagues and the teams that they lead. So they get out full rounded view of them, what they’re good at what they’re not so good at what they need to develop how they connect with people have they got strategic vision to the take the organisation forward, all these things that are really important in leadership positions, some people have never done anything like that. And then in top jobs, they don’t actively seek feedback. Feedback is a gift, it really is a gift, if you are prepared to be open to receive it. Now, as I’m sounding quite negative, there are lots of wonderful leaders out there who do this really well, who really want to know and want that feedback and therefore are more self aware. Because they constantly ask for it. Maybe after every meeting, they chair, they may say to be focused on the right issues there. Did I get the best out of everyone there? Did everyone get an opportunity to comment? Is there anything I could have done differently? Is there anything we could do differently to be better? The next time we consider this issue? That that’s that’s about self awareness as a leader as well, isn’t it?
And I think if you’re new to a senior role, it is really worth listening back to that part of the podcast so that you can hear what Tracy saying about how you might be able to seek that feedback in a really constructive way. Tracy, you mentioned earlier that there are some leaders in organisations who have no self awareness. One of my big questions is How do these people get to these very senior roles if they don’t have that self awareness?
I think that’s a million dollar question. In terms of how people get into senior positions without self awareness, I think people get into senior positions not from All sorts of roots, don’t they? You know, and I think it depends on the organisation depends on, you know, the service that you’re providing people will get into senior roles because they’ve got expertise, because they’ve got qualifications, because they understand the business, maybe they might be specialist area, medicine, finance. So they, they, you know, they’ve got the skills, they’ve got the experience, they worked in lots of different areas. So they’ve got that breadth of knowledge. I think, in the latter years, there has been much more of a concentration on, it’s not just what you know. And it’s not just the experience you’ve had, it’s how you show up and how you lead, and how you behave, and how you use all of that knowledge. So I think it’s changed over the years, I think now, it’s, I’d be a lot less likely, I think, to get to those very senior positions, if you don’t focus on values, behaviours, awareness, as well as technical knowledge and expertise, I think it’s shifted. So I think there will be some people in senior jobs now who come up, where you got promoted on technical expertise and experience and there was a lot less focus on the type of leader you are the type of self awareness, you’ve got, that that’s changed. I think passionate leadership is much more at the forefront, understanding your people. I think we’re in a different era than we were.
Do you think that COVID has changed that and certainly the rhetoric during COVID, is that we were thinking about staff wellbeing in a way that we hadn’t before. We were talking about caring for our members of staff like we hadn’t before. How do you see that that has changed the demands on leaders?
I think it’s been very obviously traumatic, very stressful, very difficult journey. COVID still is actually, it’s not actually gone yet, is it completely, but particularly if you think of the first wave of COVID, there were no vaccines, the whole, everyone was worried about themselves, their families, and for leaders trying to lead people in a very, very, very difficult time. What I found really fascinating Legion in organisations without first phase of the pandemic, which was when we were building field hospitals within weeks, you know, when we didn’t have the vaccines when our own staff were dying from COVID, that first wave, what I found really interesting was it didn’t matter how much experience you had, how long you’d been around what you’re done, which relates to our earlier conversation about experience and technical knowledge, we were all all of a sudden in a position where nobody had been in this position before. And that’s where the leadership styles, the agility in leadership, the ability to be, to have humility, to say, I don’t know, to engage people to be aware that, you know, we’re all on a path year that we’ve not been on before. And the ways to do is to look after each other, care for each other, listen to each other, be open. I think it brought the best out of our leaders in lots of ways. And it certainly brought leaders to the fore, who you never believed were leaders. I saw some wonderful leadership skills coming through in my organisation that from people who were hidden before leading the development of a field hospital with a speech therapist and a podiatrist, all of a sudden in charge of enabling us to build that hospital. They were amazing. Absolutely amazing. So I think it’s hard as it’s been, it has brought the best out in lots of people, including employees who stepped up and did roles they’ve never done before. We had 1000 people step into roles that they had not done working on COVID wards with patients, when they were normally receptionists, all sorts of amazing leadership at all levels, I think was shown through the pandemic.
That’s really quite amazing that COVID change that leadership landscapes so dramatic.
Do you think effective leaders have more self awareness than ineffective leaders?
So you won’t be surprised to know my answer to whether effective leaders have more self awareness than ineffective leaders is yes, they absolutely do. And that goes back to a point I have made, which is effectively there’s no the impact that they have, because they work hard to understand the impact that they have on those around them. And they therefore adjust their behaviours to get the best from their people. That’s, that’s where the people with self awareness are better. Absolutely. No doubt about it. If you’ve got trusted people around you, who can say to you, you’re losing it or go for a walk. You’re really taking this completely out of perspective, you know, where people are tired, and they don’t realise they’re tired when they’re stressed. And they don’t quite know that they’re stressed if they’re not aware, but they, they are so goodly as leaders that they are happy for people to tell them to make sure they are aware, then I think everybody wins. So there’s back to it is about that open culture, it’s about getting feedback, directly, anonymously through whatever means you can get and treasuring that feedback, because that’s how you will get the best from your people. Yeah, the people, you know, the people who are the ones who are aware and will say, I’m really not good at this. So I need you to support me in this years ago, I think people would not say that, because they think it was a weakness, I can’t possibly, I can’t possibly say I’m not comfortable in this environment, because I’m a leader, and I and I have to be comfortable. And even if I’m not, I’m not going to say it, I think the world is changing. So that’s where I can see a difference. And that’s where I can see examples of the self aware leaders being welcomed by their staff, as opposed to criticise, and I’ve done it myself, where I will have many a time I’ll be in a clinical area maybe that I feel a bit uncomfortable about or with a group of, I don’t know, 30 or 40 staff who are really not happy about something, and I’m going to hear it, which is absolutely fine. I’m feeling confident and able to say, I don’t know if I can solve that. I certainly don’t know if I can solve it tomorrow. But let me understand more. Tell me more about it, let’s see what’s possible. Or I’ve had no experience of that. So help me I think the leaders have got to bring out the best in their people because we are masters of nothing, jack of all trades, master of nothing. So if we can’t bring out those skills and ideas from our staff, we will never make progress. Those are the best leaders in my eyes. You know, if you’re a leader, I went in, I ran the Welsh ambulance service, as chief executive of the Welsh ambulance service, I’d had a lot of experience in the NHS but and then in ambulance services. When I arrived, people would ask me, what what do you want us to focus on? What what do you think the priorities are? How do you think we should solve this, and I would say, I think you need to advise me, I need you to help me, I need you to give me your options, I need you to advise me on what the priorities should be. Because you know, better than I ever will know, because you face this day in day out. And that’s where the leaders who are prepared to be aware and accept what they don’t know, as much as what they do know, will then will be much more effective and motivate their people, you know, we completely change the way we run the ambulance service with the support of our people. And it wouldn’t be for me tracing my head to decide how to change the response model to 999 calls. That would be dangerous because I am not a clinician. I am not out there. Apart from going out there with my staff. I needed clinicians and others to advise me, the experts to advise me, and then for me to help steer us through to those improvements. That’s what the leadership’s about in my view.
chasing my health, thank you so much for such an enlightening conversation. From your perspective as a chief executive for many years, I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have Tracy Myhill. Thank you very much. My pleasure. Thank you.
Thank you for joining me your host Nia Thomas at the knowing self knowing others podcast. If you’d like to know more about self awareness, leader effectiveness and leadership at all levels. Please take a look at my website knowing self knowing others.co.uk You can also join me on YouTube, LinkedIn or Twitter. Make sure you bookmark the knowing self knowing others podcast and tune into the next episode in two weeks time. I look forward to having you on my learning journey.
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