Please complete this sentence: I didn’t get where I am today without… learning to listen carefully to service users and staff – they usually know what has to be done and how to do it. Acting on this takes courage and determination.
Who has most inspired you in your career?
Peter Wood, chair of Huddersfield Health Authority, who combined passion for improvement with a practical vision for vulnerable people. He led the way on whole systems thinking and made it possible for health and social services to work together creatively.
How would you like to be remembered?
As a professional explorer, prototyping new models of service alongside service users and building bridges between health, housing, social care and the voluntary sector.
What has been your worst mistake?
To allow a blind spot to develop in relation to some child care staff who abused the trust placed in them. Their betrayal underlined why open communication with service users is so important.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I lead in an inclusive and reflective way and try hard to show respect for all members of the team. I also expect high standards.
What motivates you most?
A profound sense of injustice in relation to diminished lives. The early part of my career was concerned with helping vulnerable people have active lives outside institutional settings. Now it is about promoting quality and choice in the community.
How do you get your own way?
By helping others to realise their dreams – power is most useful when it is applied with a light touch.
What’s the secret of leading change in a major organisation?
It requires courage, passionate communication and careful analysis, design and implementation – always expect the unexpected.
What’s the single biggest danger facing social care?
Social care is not in danger despite all the debates going on, because the values at the heart of social care are driving modernisation across health, education, housing and neighbourhood renewal as well as youth work, children’s services and adult social care.