I talked in my first blog post about our decision to create a simple image embedded in our DNA and the results suggest we achieved this. Leaders’ comments and questionnaire responses confirm that the most common things people like about it are its simplicity and the clear and visual link to our values. The questionnaire asked about actions people have taken and are planning as a result of the Leadership DNA and some of the quotes at the start of the article come from these responses. 

Some common themes

There were some common themes: lots of people have already started to celebrate more; most of us feel really awkward sharing our achievements, but despite that, feeling you have permission to shout out about achievements, for example via the MacIntyre Everyone Everywhere stories helps us all to keep that motivation high. As someone in the focus group said:

It lifts people. I think it just makes you feel really good.

The most common planned actions were related to taking more of a coaching approach and to connecting, both externally, but also with a peer support network of other MacIntyre leaders.

I want to connect with peers to increase my own learning so I can better support others.

Rating scales also showed positive changes in people’s perceptions about how important it is to spend time being a best practice leader and their motivation to lead in this way – making time to coach others is working its way up people’s busy priority list! Here are a few examples:

  • "Making time to be a practice leader is more important to me than some other parts of my job" 32% before, 46% after
  • "Of all parts of my job I think this is the most important" 12% before, 19% after
  • "My level of motivation to be an inspiring leader has increased a little" 52%, "...has increased a lot" 8%

Exploring the barriers

But not everyone took part in the questionnaire and one person in the focus group observed that ‘we’re quite a long way from it being fully embedded and impacting for everyone’. The group suggested ‘we need to hit every channel’. We need to make it mandatory for Line Managers in their induction and appraisal, but also encourage people to get into the habit of reflecting and talking about it regularly. Get that language stuck in your head.

A couple of people’s feedback, you won’t be surprised to hear, also threw up some barriers and the focus group discussed these further. The main ones were busy-ness, conflicting priorities and an ever expanding number of responsibilities for managers. Within this context, the Leadership DNA has felt, to some, like ‘yet another thing’. 

But someone in the focus group said this:

I think we have to embrace things because we're moving forward all the time. Not just in care, but everything: technology, education. Everything's continuously evolving. It's not always easy, but it’s just the way it is, isn't it? It's just so easy to be negative. As leaders we have to be positive. We have to have that passion.

Leadership DNA as part of the solution

There is a job to do to grow that passion and positivity right across MacIntyre and some people have begun to use the Leadership DNA as part of the solution: as a coaching tool to help them keep getting better at grappling with the complexities of their roles and finding positive ways forward that are in line with their own and MacIntyre’s values. Where people have also found one, or more, real-life coaches to reflect alongside then this seems to work even better and having strong role models who lead ‘in the MacIntyre way’ makes a massive difference as one person explained:

I think because we've worked for MacIntyre for such a long, long time that you're just used to reflecting at every opportunity. So I think when you are having a bit more of a serious conversation, you're still doing it in that reflective, no-blame way. I think we're really, really lucky to work for an organisation that has given us the skills to do that.

But this isn’t the case everywhere in MacIntyre. Not yet. Not everyone is lucky enough to work in a stable, long standing team like this and not all managers who join us from other organisations will have experienced our style of leadership. Someone else said:

Some new managers are a little bit more ‘boom, boom, boom’. The coaching element maybe doesn’t come as naturally. [Now we can say], this is MacIntyre, this is MacIntyre’s Leadership DNA. It gives you a really good starting point to explain how MacIntyre is expecting their leaders to lead.

Honest conversations

I heard during the focus group that the Leadership DNA has been helping some senior managers and central support team members to coach leaders in places where relationships need work. It has been opening the door to honest conversations about leadership styles and supporting people to reflect and make changes. For me that’s really worth celebrating!

Sharing responsibility

Another key message from this work has been the realisation that we rely a lot on frontline staff to work together and lead as a team and to show new staff the way, and that this is best practice leadership too. Where everyone in a team has been introduced to the leadership DNA image and it has been made clear that it is not just for certain job titles, things are changing for the better. Things are also changing where managers are looking at their team members’ gifts, skills and passions and are sharing responsibilities and opportunities. Given opportunities, people are growing in confidence and skills and feeling more valued. And as a bonus, by sharing responsibility across the team and empowering people to make decisions, the time pressures on the manager are reduced. Administrators, Central staff and Staff Council reps were also recognised by managers as essential best practice leaders. As one person said:

We need to change that thinking and give that permission for anyone to be a best practice leader in MacIntyre.

Getting hooked on coaching

I’d like to finish on a personal note because alongside lots of theoretical learning about best practice leadership through creating the Leadership DNA and listening to managers, I have also been working on my own practice. And when you get coaching right, and rather than it firing up a negative response, you get to see someone flourish, wow that feels good! I believe that the more we see and feel the value and impact of leading in this way, the more motivated we will all be to carve out time from our busy days to coach others. So try it yourself and create those opportunities for other possible leaders in your team to try it too and see you if can get more people hooked on coaching!

Visual representation of MacIntyre's Leadership DNA

This is the fourth of a series of blog posts based on the MacIntyre Leadership DNA. You can read the first here the second here and the third here.

Photo of Belinda Bradley

About Belinda Bradley

Belinda is a qualified teacher with several decades of experience across education and social care with autistic people and people with learning disabilities. Belinda has worked for MacIntyre for 10 years, starting as Principal of one of our schools and children’s homes then going on to establish our Positive Behaviour Support approach and currently leading our Best Practice team.

This role includes supporting our whole organisation to be values-led and purpose-driven through embedding our MacIntyre DNA and purpose statement into all aspects of our work.

Belinda is also passionate about the outdoors, in particular mountain environments, both personally and as a place for learning and growth for everyone.