Harnessing the power within to lead

A selection of chairs in a boardroom all faced around a remote device sitting in the middle of a desk.

Harnessing the power within to lead

A selection of chairs in a boardroom all faced around a remote device sitting in the middle of a desk.

When looking to engineer growth in your human capital, the importance of leadership development cannot be underestimated. One enterprise in South East Queensland is using its learned experiences to retain staff and build capacity.

In order to retain and motivate its high-quality physiotherapist and administration workforce, the management team at Active Rehabilitation Physiotherapy knew it had to act.

The practice had grown from a sole practitioner business in 1986 to employing more than 100 team members, who provide over 80,000 occasions of service annually across hospital and outpatient clinical practice, so staff retention became a top priority.

At the heart was a need to provide its people with a clearly defined path to leadership and career progression.

Speaking at the recent FOCUS 2022 physiotherapy conference in Melbourne, Active Rehabilitation Physiotherapy executive team member and physiotherapist Anthea Goslin APAM described the business’s multilevel framework, which has addressed career progression and leadership aspirations internally while simultaneously helping with recruitment and staff retention and building an exceptional workplace culture.

‘Physios are, by and large, ambitious people as are the high-calibre administration team members we employ.

'We need to recognise and respond to this. So what we’ve tried to do is create multiple opportunities for career progression and useful skill development through our business framework,’ Anthea says.

‘This has involved vertical and horizontal leadership opportunities and has been designed to give people those opportunities and a sense that there’s some way to move within the organisation.

‘As a business we faced a particularly substantial period of change in 2015–16, with a significant increase in headcount and business activity.

'At that time, we undertook a strategic planning process. We redefined our organisational structure, looked at our values and designed a strategic plan.

'One of the cornerstones of that new strategic plan was the recognition of the importance of leadership development because we knew that we’d need to get our leadership team ready to take on this new environment for the business.’

Embarking on the creation of a leadership development program, as Active Rehabilitation Physiotherapy did in 2018, is by no means an easy task, Anthea says.

The process began with asking what the leadership training program would achieve, how it would be delivered and how it would incorporate the organisational values and strategic plan.

During the fact-finding phase of the program’s creation, the team investigated outsourcing the formal training aspect and hosting it external to the business. However, after careful consideration, they decided to look internally and to build a program that would tick all the boxes.

‘We were looking for high-quality contextualised leadership development. We wanted our team to have the opportunity to interact and learn together while simultaneously building and shaping our organisational culture as part of the program delivery,’ Anthea says.

The result was an in-house leadership training program that drew from theoretical frameworks, from other previously attended external leadership training programs and from the team’s collective learned experiences.

‘One of our team attended a seven-month women in leadership program, and they learned a lot from that. Another team member contributed lots of thoughts and ideas about leadership development based on their experience in the Australian Army Reserves,’ Anthea says.

‘We also have an executive team who collectively has many years of experience. There’s a lot to be said for learned experience.’

After identifying which team members would be invited to attend the leadership program, the first of the three-hour module sessions began.

Held on a Monday evening, commencing with dinner provided by the business. 

Each module delivery was preceded by preparation material sent to attendees to complete prior to the session. 

This comprised of reading material, video and podcast instruction as well as standardised tests and self-reflection, posted via the organisation’s project management software program in a portal accessible only to leadership training program attendees.

‘The contents for each session were prepared mostly by our executive team; however, some of our aspirational leaders were also invited to participate in planning and sessions and presentations,’ Anthea says.

‘We aimed to make the in-sessions as interactive as possible, being a combination of didactic teaching, videos, podcasts, small group work and open forum sessions.’

Attendees were invited to participate in an online discussion after each session via the organisation’s project management software program, which Anthea says was a fantastic tool for encouraging discussion and collaboration outside of the structured sessions and to facilitate ongoing learning.

‘To be honest, it’s not quick pulling these things together. We would allow ourselves at least six weeks of lead time in terms to prepare for each of the sessions,’ Anthea says.

‘We’d start off by addressing a need or focus from within the organisation, then each topic would pass through the filter of our vision, values and strategy to ensure alignment. We’d always try to keep the topics meaningful and practically applicable in our context.’

She says the content for the leadership training program included material drawn from external sources such as the work of motivational and inspirational speakers and world-renowned organisational health and leadership, authors and presenters on topics such as conflict resolution and teamwork as well as the real-life experiences of
members of the Active Rehabilitation Physiotherapy executive team.

‘The trick is to discern what you actually want taught.

'We were very up-front with our team at the beginning, saying, “We’re not necessarily experts in this”, but we do have that significant lived experience and we felt like we were able to share our lived experience with the team,’ Anthea says.

The program took a temporary hiatus during parts of the COVID-19 pandemic but was reinstated due to demand from the team to recommence.

Its success, Anthea says, can be counted in the sense of trust and safety that participants report experiencing and in their willingness to step up to take on more leadership roles within the organisation.

‘While the program has been quite costly to run and it takes time, we really do feel as though it has been instrumental in helping our leaders build our business,’ Anthea says.

‘Years of experience have taught us that to retain and motivate a high-quality workforce, we have to actively provide opportunities and support for leadership and career development pathways that allow for growth and development.

'We continue to reap the benefits of our comprehensive, nuanced and customised in-house approach.’

Readers are leaders

External resources recommended to Active Rehabilitation Physiotherapy leadership training program attendees include:

•    Simon Sinek’s Start with Why
•    Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton’s
The Carrot Principle
•    Michael Bungay Stanier’s
The Coaching Habit
•    Patrick M. Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
•    Rachael Robertson’s No Triangles 
•    The ladder of inference here


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