In the Interim (part 3) aka, Champagne on a Sunday

Why are contracts so rarely on your doorstep?  I’ve worked from Guernsey to Great Yarmouth, from Lisbon to Brighton.  Oh the joys of the weekly commute.  The interim’s organisational skills start here.

I have a very independent partner who, I suspect, (after kissing my tear stained face and waving me goodbye) does a one man conga up the drive to settle down to a week of beer, pizza and Sky Sports.  For me, it’s the start of a 3-4 hour drive in a sweet wrapper strewn car.

 So, following on from my Freelancer’s Guide to working on the road (In the Interim part 2), here are my top tips for weekly commute.

 Packing.  Look at the BBC weather website for the week ahead, then take an umbrella and raincoat anyway.  Don’t forget your “down time” clothes, gym kit, trainers, jeans.  Chargers for mobiles etc.  Sat Nav.  Obviously work wear appropriate for your host organisation, bearing in mind that you are representing your agency/your own company.  Oh, and take a bit extra in case you end up wearing your dinner.

 Accommodation.  Research is the key.  Use Trip Advisor reviews, use Google Maps to “virtually” walk the area.  When you book somewhere test the water for the first week to see if it really is suitable and don’t be afraid to move on if it isn’t.  Recently I booked what appeared to be a decent, quiet hotel but £60 a night bought you a room with peeling orange wallpaper and bare light bulbs, plus a chain on the door, always a sign of a classy joint.  Needless to say, I looked elsewhere and I now have an off-season holiday flat with its own terrace overlooking the sea.  If you are happy with your accommodation, negotiate a rate for a longer term booking.  Is it safe, does it have free parking, does it have work space, decent wardrobe space, does it have an en-suite bathroom?  If your host organisation has an accommodation office, use it, if only for a bit of local knowledge.  And then, sometimes, it just all works out….when I arrived at my current digs last Sunday evening, my new week day neighbours invited me into their home with the words “we’ve just opened a bottle of champagne”  You don’t have to ask me twice.  Being a bit merry by 6.00pm on champagne on a Sunday is all part of the contractor experience, after all!

 Your new neighbourhood.  Talk to your new colleagues, put your trainers on and walk the “patch”.  Find a gym, a bar, the local cinema or theatre.  You don’t want to look back on a contract and say “yes, apparently it’s a lovely place but I didn’t see anything of it!”  Consider walking to and from work each day to your digs; the exercise will do you good, give you a breather from work and give you the chance to actually see where you are temporarily working and living.  When I worked in Great Yarmouth (for the James Paget Hospital), my day started and finished with a mile and a half walk along the sea front; it was perfect.

Getting Away (aka The Great Escape).  As interims we often work 5.00-9.00; make sure you get away at a decent hour on a Friday especially if you have to negotiate the M25 or public transport.  At the very outset of your contract, try to negotiate a Friday working from home or an early departure.  This is sometimes promised by agents only to be snatched away by the host organisation when you sign the contract.  Know your worth.

 And finally……Take some basic stationery with you to create an office wherever you happen to hot-desk.  Notepad, pens, post-its.  A USB stick still has its uses.  Keep a note of mileage, subsistence, start and finish times of your working day (yes really), and all your receipts.  Keep a supply of your business cards with you.  Keep a note of taxi phone numbers, train times and bus times.  Buy or download a local map.

 Find your own way to celebrate the end of each week – that great feeling of driving home.  Put your favourite music on, have a bag of sweets (essential; very therapeutic); when I worked in Guernsey a trip to the airport’s duty free shop was part of my Friday evening routine – I can thoroughly recommend the local gin, Blue Bottle.

 Enjoy your weekend – it’ll soon be Monday.

In the interim (part two)

Now, let me say at the get go, I LOVE being a freelancer.  Love it.  I love the freedom, I love the opportunities, I love the variety, I love the ‘thank you’ cards from my clients, I love the glow of a job well done, the differences I make, the friends I make, the amazing things I learn. But take a look at this image – this came up when I Googled “freelancer”. A man, on a beach, martini in one hand, laptop in the other.  My office is, more often than not, my faithful Mazda 6 gently roasting in the corner of a romantically lit multi-storey car park with an even hotter (in the temperature sense) freelance healthcare manager inside.  So here are my top tips for independent spirits everywhere on how to manage your day and your workload.  These tips aren’t rocket science, but they do work. Make Google Maps your best friend.  “Virtually” walk the area you’re going to before meeting a new client for the first time.  Check out the best car parks too.  Do an AA Route Master first, before you set the sat nav.  Oh, and leave at least an extra 30 minutes more than you think you’ll need. If the gods are smiling on you and you arrive early, use that extra time to take and make calls, review your scheduler, do a media trawl, write your blog. Take emergency supplies. Always, not just in the winter months.  Last week, I had a meeting in Brighton scheduled for the morning, and a conference call for the afternoon; these two appointments had a safe distance between them in terms of timings – 10.45am for Brighton, 4.00pm for the call.  I left Brighton at 12.20pm and (according to my second best friend – my sat nav) should have been home for 2.20pm in plenty of time for my call.  The reality was, thanks to two accidents on the A27 and monsoon like conditions, I had to pull off the road and go into a car park at 3.45pm in order to take my conference call.  Thankfully, I had a large bottle of water, something wholesome and filling to eat, my notepad to hand.  In my early days as a freelancer, I used to survive on peppermints and whatever I found under the car seat.  Now I am organised and all the better for it.  I did, however, gaze longingly over at Marks & Spencer while I took my call. You do research your prospective client – don’t you?  Take an interest, a real interest.  Google them, read their annual report, if you are in healthcare like me, read their CQC report.  Read decent articles about them (please be discerning though!)  I recently heard of someone who was up for a job, but when asked what research they had done, they replied “nothing, I was waiting to see the outcome of the interview”.  Guess the outcome. Invest in a “bible” – whatever works for you – to be your one-stop scheduler, where you keep your to do list, your contact details etc.  This may well be electronic but even in this paperless world, there is something about committing pen to paper that I just love.  I use a Daily Greatness Business Planner which I find works perfectly for me. That To Do list which I just threw in there?  Write it now.  Add dates and times – blocks of times if necessary.  Prioritise that list. Commit to it. Having a difficult day?  Take that To Do list and do just one thing.  Anything.  One email, one invoice, one phone call.  But do something constructive and positive for yourself and your business. If you are into your social media like me, find a free app to ensure your synchronise your posts. Now, write your To Do list for tomorrow.   Jan Lawry is Director of J Lawry Healthcare Management Ltd; she has over 20 years business experience in programme management and is a service review expert, business coach and mentor.  More details on her work can be found on her website https://jlawryhealthcare.com/ Recent work has included a major report  into mental health services for West Hampshire and highly successful business coaching helping to launch a new healthcare consultancy and training organisation. To gain the edge on your hard earned business, invest in business coaching with Jan Lawry.  Book your free Discovery Call here:  https://calendly.com/jlawrycoaching/discoverycall    

In the interim…..

The subject of interim management has had fresh impetus on LinkedIn recently, with a variety of opinions which focus on their cost effectiveness.  So, thinking of my own specialist area, healthcare management, let me throw my opinion into the ring based on my experience in both the provider and commissioner setting. These are, shall we say, "interesting" times to be an interim.  Price caps are making so many Trusts think twice before recruiting interims right now, but think about what we can add.  "Value" in financial terms? Undoubtedly.  By our very nature, we interims hit the ground running, build strong relationships quickly and can see straight to the real heart of the issue.  But value means so much more.  A good interim brings real experience, knowledge and skills, we work with real focus and dedication because we are driven by successful delivery, by providing tangible improvements and by being adept at balancing the needs of business, clinicians, and Politicians while ensuring that the patient and their family comes first. And THAT is value!   It is actually ADDING value to the organisation. My own company provides continuous service improvement, programme and project management in the acute sector in the UK and Channel Islands. Identifying areas requiring development, as an interim I can quickly implement change and translate that change in a way that improves outcomes and experiences for patients and their families.  As a service review specialist, I quickly get to the heart of the matter, bypassing office politics (and not taking a month to find out how the photocopier works) and  understand the needs of my fellow healthcare professionals to build robust, lasting working relationships and produce detailed meaningful reports and recommendations. All that, and the organisation in question doesn’t have to worry about holiday pay, sickness, appraisals etc etc.  Trust me, we interims perform, we add value on every level and we deliver.    

The Art of the Science of Project Management

Some years ago, at an interview for an interim contract, I was asked to do a 10 minute presentation on the subject “Project Management – art or science”.  Once I had got over the ‘death by PowerPoint’ dilemma, I set about the subject matter. A number of project managers arrive from a technical background and training – they know that one day their PRINCE2® will come, they are Agile and relish a Scrum (sorry, couldn’t resist), they will spend days creating elaborate gantt charts and spreadsheets and highlight reports and…….but just don’t ask them to actually engage with human beings.  In common with other industries, healthcare management projects are becoming larger and more complex and the art of engagement is becoming more of a necessity. Today’s project manager needs to be both technician and diplomat.  Faced with the response that this is “just another project” they need to be adept an inspiring and motivating their colleagues in the PMO as well as their stakeholder groups.  So in the “art or science” arena – I would cite the art of inspiration first and foremost.  That means the PM must have integrity – they need to believe in the project and its goals and outcomes.  If you have that, you are part way towards being able to motivate your team and your stakeholders.  So, how are your communication skills?  The PM needs to “sell” the project goals, as well as communicate progress, risks and challenge delays. Of course the technical skills are vital; I’m the proud owner of a range of project management certificates from PRINCE2® to P3O.  You MUST be able to present your project’s progress in a concise manner – and that means using your status reports, your plan on a page, your risk and issues log.  While you may not be a project analyst, and use the skills of an informatics specialist, you need to have an analytical thought process – but the art is being able to communicate that!  Project Managers need to think on their feet and be prepared to adopt new principles, and I speak as someone who was thrown (without warning) into Jack Welch’s Workout programme!   Today, while  PRINCE2® remains the standard MSP and P3O qualifications are taking precedent.  The PM must also know that those technical guidelines are merely that – a framework – and they must be able to body swerve if priorities change in the business while still achieving the end goal.  And that is an art. By the way, I got the contract!      

Pitch Perfect

Monday morning, you’re standing by the elevators – maybe cappuccino in hand – mulling over the start of another week.  There’s something else on your mind too, that idea that has been burning away in your brain for months now.  The business idea that is going to transform the way you work and the life you want to live.  If only you could pitch that idea to the CEO. Wait.  Who is that standing beside you?  A surreptitious glance sideways.  Yep.  It’s the CEO.  The gods are smiling, the planets are aligning.  This is your chance.  The elevator arrives, you both walk in.  You press the button for the CEO’s floor and your own.  The perfect captive audience. You have 60 seconds to pitch your business idea. Go. But what’s happening now?  Blushing?  Stammering and stuttering? Want to know how to make the perfect 60 second pitch? My business and career coaching sessions are tailor made to give you the edge – from building a business from scratch to making that 60 second pitch when it really matters. Do you ever stop and think:

  • Why does my business exist?
  • What do I want to accomplish in my business, or my career?
  • What behaviours do I value in my business and in my professional life?
  • How will I achieve my goals?
  • What promise does my brand deliver?
From successful company directors, to NHS managers, and business consultants, I have led my clients to business and career success, helping them achieve their goals, reach their aspirations and turn their career dreams into reality.  I make sure that they understand the foundations of building their business, how to make sure they have full control at any given time in their company’s timeline and how to both protect and promote their work going forward.  My career clients are given the tools to elevate their professional lives and attain the promotions and goals they aspire to. Would you like to experience the same success?  Because now  it’s your turn. ARE YOU ASKING YOURSELF:
  • Why has my business or career hit a plateau?
  • How can I make a life changing career transition?
  • How can I create an action plan?
  • How can I make a lasting impression?
  • Why aren’t I making the right connections?
  • How can I be the “go to” person in my industry?
  • How can I upskill effectively?
Then let’s travel together and expand your horizons; let’s work on revealing your talents and skills to give you the confidence and tools for business success. WHY WORK WITH ME? I have walked your path and been where you are now so, trust me, I get it! I have built robust networks and connections and can show you how to do the same. I have invested in my own training and coaching to ensure you have up to date information and skill sets. I have the insider knowledge that will give you the edge. I will make you focus and hold you accountable! Take the first step to investing in your business and your career.  Book your free Discovery Call here https://calendly.com/jlawrycoaching/discoverycall and let’s work to create a future with no limits.  Remember, someone investing in your business not only invests in your idea, they also invest in YOU.  So, join me today for some stellar business and career coaching.  When you walk into that elevator, you’ll be pitch perfect.