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Beverley Smith Leadership Testimonial

Unable to sleep one night, I filled out an online survey…… I ended up on the Radar Leadership Programme, and it has opened up a world of possibilities for me.

Having completed the survey in 2009, Nisha from Radar emailed me about a joint Radar/Appointments Commission event, ‘Future Leaders in the NHS’. Being edgy about new contacts at the time, I phoned to check it all out. I’d heard of Radar, “They do toilet keys”.

My mental and physical health had taken a hammering in the previous couple of years. Eventually I made difficult decisions to protect my health and family life. One of these was quitting my paid job.

Knowing that I didn’t appear a good prospect as an employee, appearing as a disabled, over-weight, middle aged woman, who was finding it hard at times to string a logical sentence together, I set up my own business. I was determined not to become unemployed. I didn’t want to go back to being a statistic. I have achieved too much for that.

I knew I had to get out of myself, and meet new people. I needed to discover new opportunities. I needed to keep going and to fight my Gremlins. I eagerly grasped this opportunity with both hands: leadership in the NHS.

This event was truly breathtaking. I had no idea that someone like me could apply for jobs like that. I was motivated by the skills base clearly evident across the delegate group: all very skilled people, leading ordinary lives in what are sometimes extraordinary circumstances.

The speakers mentioned Radar’s Leadership Programme, and someone called David Stocks. I rooted him out, and after enough arm bending and charm (by me), he agreed to send me an application form which I completed and returned the same day. They accepted me onto the programme. I celebrated this achievement with a mental lap of honour around the garden, a virtual tea towel held scarf like above my head, listening to a virtual crowd of supporters cheering me on from the stand.

In my dual state of ‘outside Bev’ (smiles, handshakes, eye contact and chat) and ‘inside Bev’ (the dark side – worries, fear, panic and self loathing), the both of us found ourselves travelling to Birmingham and Manchester for some well delivered short burst training sessions. There were also very good inspirational speeches which really made me know that I am not alone. And I met people. Lots of people. We exchanged email addresses, talked about what we do for a living, and where we want to be.

In what almost seems to be another life now, at one point a very long time ago, I was a bit of a high flyer. The leadership course recovered for me some long forgotten skills and also armed me with new ones.

The trainers and speakers are all people with disabilities; all experts in their own field and experts of life experiences. So, we all of us have the tee shirt.

I met my coach, Nicole. She must have wondered what had hit her as before I’d even sat down I unleashed my aspirations like an uncoiling spring. I’m one of those people whose brain and ideas burst like a rather impressive firework; and I want to do all the fizzing, banging, popping, colours and sparkles – all at once. Then I went and burst into tears about the previous couple of years. How embarrassing for us both.

Nicole (always positive) taught me the importance of focus, and we decided that I’d be best off working on a really clipped C.V. to “Get me through the door” to interview. She believes that my passion, knowledge, skills and enthusiasm would win the day.

So, when not on a training programme day or working, I worked on my C.V. With Nicole’s help it changed from a lengthy rambling auto-biography, into what is now a clipped, professional short document that prospective employers will actually read and understand! This wasn’t an easy or quick task, but probably one of the best time investments I’ve made for a long time.

There are many things which have stayed with me from the Leadership Programme. I can’t cite them all here, but here are some tasters:

The session on influencing skills that was a winner for me. An inspirational speech and session on overcoming the ‘Inadequacy’ Gremlin, a close cousin of another of my own particular brand of Gremlins the panic and “Make an excuse at the last minute to cop-out” one was another winner. I learned about being slower in my approach and being less task focussed. This slower and less direct approach will get you to where you want to go, without having to re-open doors that you just slammed shut in your own face. I definitely had pangs of guilt-ridden self-awareness with that one. I learned, and re-learned so much.

Importantly, I learned to surround myself with ‘Yay Sayers’. Now my self-confidence is re-emerging very nicely thank you. Often nowadays ‘outside Bev’ is quite genuine!

Empowered and equipped by the Leadership Programme, I have applied for two NHS Non-Executive Director roles. One I didn’t get called for interview, but asked for specific feedback. I have an experience gap that I need to fill. The other position has been put on hold until the huge changes currently mooted for the NHS are decided upon.

I’d been quite miffed that I’d not been called for interview for that NHS role, and emailed David Stocks, Empowerment Manager at Radar about it. He emailed back wise words, “If the cap doesn’t fit, make it.” Rather.

I am reminded that doing the training and having the ability will not necessarily get you the job! Lots of people fit the criteria; you have to keep on trying. I will, and I will get there.

Amongst other applications, I applied for a Radar Trustee vacancy. This time I was called for interview. Although the appointment panel decided not to progress my application further this time, I received some very good feedback, which will help me to better express my own access needs. From the feedback, I also talked to a couple of health professionals, and a couple of pals, and I now have they have some very handy tips to help me help myself in interviews. Watch out for next year’s application!

Overall, focus is key to success for me; a convenient tool for us all to have in the armoury.

Radar, “They do toilet keys”; Radar needs a motto, perhaps, “Radar – Doing Convenience Differently”.

Don’t underestimate the motivational effect that other people’s wisdom, achievements and successes can have on you. Remember the Radar/Appointments Commission joint event I spoke about? I have one of the delegates (Alistair) wisdom printed on a poster in my study, and I offer this to you:

“There is no failure in life,

Apart from a failure to try.”

Keep trying!