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Chris King
March 26, 2019

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Chris King is a Delivery Lead, overseeing the redevelopment of the NHS Jobs service in partnership with NHS Business Services Authority. Here he introduces the first in a series of Leadership blogs from our Delivery Leads — where we find out how his family were key to unlocking his leadership potential.

The biggest challenge I had to overcome when starting out on the leadership trail, was knowing when to step in.

To weigh in with my view.

At first, I wanted to do it all the time. I was too desperate to justify my existence — my place in the team — that I would find answers to problems that didn’t necessarily exist. My voice was foremost, to the point it was the only one I heard.

To resolve this, I went to the opposite end of the extreme; I became standoffish. Abruptly so. I left the team to their own devices. Waiting for them to come to me. Content that if they didn’t, all was well. All was hardly ever well.

Then I had children.

Now I am not for one minute suggesting that my teams behave like kids. They are not that predictable. But what having children taught me is that you need to offer support and guidance, but rarely answers. If you do, it’s all they will expect.

What do you want for dinner today? Dunno!

Where do you want to go this afternoon? Dunno!

If you keep asking the same question, you’ll keep getting the same answers.

So reframe the questions. Challenge your leadership* style.

Our current delivery — working with the NHSBSA to deliver a new NHS Jobs platform — is a great service to work on. But as with anything where an outcome is required against a backdrop of commercial contracts and high expectations, the odd challenge and tension can bubble up to the surface.

In the main, we are a friendly, supportive and encouraging team to work with. Though occasionally there is a need to address the decisions we make or the direction we are taking. So when an individual quietly approaches and asks to speak to me, I know it is time to think back on my time as a leader — even as a parent — and find a way of asking the right question.

“What would you like me to do?”

I don’t ask that because I don’t have the answer, I ask that because I want us to agree on how to manage the situation. To listen to what the issue might be, to find out what approach has already been taken and to decide how best to proceed. More so when not everyone concerned is in the room.

I also want to make sure that we don’t find ourselves in this situation again. As often it is too late to do something that would have reduced the impact — frustration — that brought us to this point.

I still want to be the person with all of the answers, but it is far more rewarding when individuals come to you with a suggestion, and we enact it together. We work through a problem before it becomes a situation.

It doesn’t always work. I still have to choose what we are having for lunch or what we do on a rainy day — in the same way; I will still have to step in and gently nudge the team in a different direction.

Finding the balance is a lifelong commitment to being the leader I hope I will become one day. For now, I will ask the questions, lend an ear and be there for the times when the solution isn’t always clear — doesn’t always work out how we hoped it would.

(* Don’t let anyone fool you that they are the leader in their own home)

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Written by Chris King Difrent Delivery Lead @NorthernWrites

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