You must have had this happen to you? Someone says something that knocks you back on your heels, that really takes the wind out of your sails. Then, on the way home, or even a minute later, you think of the perfect response? It happened to me recently, and my only redress is here! I’m just hoping the person involved will see this.
I was at a seminar organised by a blogger who writes about the NHS (I have mentioned Roy Lilley before). It was a tremendously full evening session, with lots of thought provoking discussion with a senior NHS leader. Most of the audience were either medics or administrators. Some were from the private sector, who were bidding for various contracts in the NHS.
I was chatting to the person I had sat next to, and when we broke for ‘networking’ I offered my business card. “What makes you think I am important enough to have one of your cards” he said. Now, you can’t feel the tranche of sarcasm that was ladled into this sentence. I faltered slightly and then said, “Well, as you asked a question about management within paediatric services, I thought you might be interested to know that is the sort of thing I am involved with – I run workshops that help people to lead more effectively. “Oh? Why? Isn’t it just because we aren’t picking the right people in the first place. We just need to employ the real leaders – those who have got it already. You can’t train leadership…”
I moved on, nonplussed. When I had formulated the right reply, he had gone. I wanted to say “So, if we wanted better paediatric surgeons, then we just need to employ the people who feel they could be good at it? I assume you just woke up one morning and thought “I’d like to help kids with serious heart conditions”. You didn’t go to college for 7 years, then served 5 years as an apprentice before climbing your hierarchy? Thought not. Why do you think leadership is different?”
Look – I feel better now. I would have felt a lot better if I’d said it then. And that is what I learnt then – a holding comment would have kept him there – “That sounds pretty arrogant” may have given me some thinking time!