Gouri Shanker Chandel is a Senior Project Manager at NHS Digital based in Leeds. He has developed his coaching practice since 2009, and has accessed over 15 CPD events and masterclasses at Yorkshire and the Humber Leadership Academy over the past several years.
Gouri first made contact with the Yorkshire and the Humber Leadership Academy after learning about the workshops and masterclasses available through Eventbrite. Hoping that YHLA could support his goals to keep skilled up with the latest techniques and tools and develop his leadership capability, Gouri attended his first workshop in 2017.
‘The Leadership Academy was particularly attractive for my individual career goals, as I always want to upskill and stay on top of developments in leadership and coaching practice. My initial expectations were to learn new ways of communicating and presenting information to others, but I ended up benefiting from much more than just the learning content available at CPD sessions. After meeting Beverley Powell, Development Manager at YHLA, and other team members and facilitators, I started to learn about the wide variety of resources and support available to us as participants. While I originally had a specific idea of the skills I wanted to develop, I wasn’t aware of the opportunities for professional development outside of training within my organisation which focuses on our individual roles, so this was new and exciting to me.’
Gouri credits the YHLA with providing a valuable space to not only develop soft skills and effective management techniques, but also to reflect on the future direction of his overall role and the implementation of service improvements in his organisation.
‘These skills don’t just help us to become more efficient organisational employees; they support us as human beings, as managers, as colleagues and as friends. I have definitely changed as a leader since attending my first CPD session; it has helped me to think about how I can manage my staff better and ensure I am maintaining a good balance of communication and support, drawing on my coaching skills and techniques to improve my interactions with my team. I now focus on providing those who I lead with the space to grow beyond their day to day duties in the office, which improves the dynamics of the team and helps us to work together better. The staff I lead are more driven to learn, and have fed back that they feel positive about setting their goals more clearly.’
While Gouri perceived this progress over a two-year period, he has also had other indicators of the impact of his leadership skills on his work.
‘Every year, my organisation reviews performance as part of its talent management strategy; staff performing at the top end of their band within this framework are considered to be excelling in their role and going above and beyond. Every individual that I managed achieved the very top of their band in the past year, demonstrating high performance, which was acknowledged by my senior managers; I also received 360 degree feedback on the positive impact of my management, which is very rewarding. I encourage my team to consider the direction of their own leadership journeys - often by suggesting that they identify opportunities offered by the Leadership Academy which inspire or interest them - as I believe that everyone should have the chance to keep up with the leading edge of research on tools and techniques which will help them progress in their roles. I am also keen that my staff understand that they are able to try different things, make mistakes and learn from them in a supportive environment, so the learning on offer at the Leadership Academy has helped me to refine this balanced leadership style.’
During this period, Gouri accessed YHLA’s online coaching platform My E-Coach and found his own coach, as well as beginning to use it to coach others from across the system.
‘I have worked in management roles since 2011 and have coached family, friends and colleagues since 2009, but this is quite different to the experience of coaching and leading within the context of the NHS, so My E-Coach was an opportunity for me to consolidate the skills and knowledge I have developed over this period. We all work in a world where digital services are very important, and I have found the Leadership Academy’s digital coaching platform to be brilliant. It is easy to use, easy to follow, and the content is very good. We receive reminders about coaching sessions and can use the notes and other tools provided on the website, which makes it very easy to connect to and approach others. In the same way, face-to-face events at YHLA are delivered and managed in a very accessible and organised manner; networking is a major benefit of these sessions, as it is one of the only places I am able to connect with others from outside my specific area of work. I don’t really get the chance to meet those working in different services and specialisms, such as clinicians, and understand what their world looks like - but this broader perspective is extremely useful to understand how the wider NHS works and what key changes are happening which will impact the services that our patients engage with. The way workshops and masterclasses are facilitated enables me to network effectively, and this is another strong reason for me to continue to attend YHLA interventions, beyond the concrete learning that is available at each session.’
Although Gouri’s work is not directly patient facing, his long term goal is to focus more closely on deploying his coaching skills to support those working in patient-facing services to understand the perspective and experience of the patient.
‘The greater contact I have had with those working across the system via YHLA has provided me with different angles of how patients access and react to services - this is an area where I believe we can improve. For instance, I have come to understand that when major digital changes are implemented, if we communicate the details of these changes to patients at the earliest possible stage, we can give people the opportunity to adapt to these changes. In this way, our day-to-day work is not changing, but we can make a significant difference to the experience of patients and service users by changing our culture of communication.’
Reflecting on the direction of his leadership journey, Gouri plans to continue to draw on the resources and support available at YHLA to underpin his own long term goals and the objectives of his organisation.
‘My experience from day one at YHLA has been brilliant but I see the need for them to continue supporting my journey, and I know other participants who feel similarly. YHLA performs a crucial function in improving our mental wellbeing by developing our ability to deal with the constantly changing environment of the NHS. It helps us to become better at working with others, understanding the positive impact of good leadership behaviours, and it provides us with the opportunity to keep up to date with what’s happening elsewhere within the NHS. I feel that it is highly important to continue this work as we need an organisation which is dedicated to providing us with the tools to develop beyond the parameters of our immediate roles. When we attend YHLA interventions, we gain the much-needed time to identify how we can contribute to excellent patient care through our work. I would simply say to please continue to keep up this great work, as I see a strong need for YHLA’s support going forward.’