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Martin Plackard’s top tips for making a difference in 2020


Blog headlines

  • Social distancing the Longstay way
    27 March 2020

    We asked Sir Trevor Longstay, chief executive of the NHS Blithering University Hospitals Foundation Trust and commander-in-chief of the Blithering Covid-19 Taskforce to give us some practical tips on social distancing. Here he shares some of the lessons learned over four decades of leadership – not all of them relevant or epidemiologically sound

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    12 March 2020

    The government has issued a stark warning that stocks of paradigms and other basic supplies could soon run out if NHS managers continue panic-buying.

  • Matt Hancock’s diary – a week of levelling up
    27 February 2020

    Taking personal charge of global pandemics is one of the perks of this job. I’m referring to coronavirus, of course, and I’m booked to appear on Sky News to talk about it.

  • Exceeding your expectations: the Blithering staff survey
    20 February 2020

    Staff at NHS Blithering feel listened to “at least once a year” and report that their expectations of taking part in surveys have been “met” or “exceeded” in the past 12 months.

  • Martin Plackard’s week: Tuesday
    7 February 2020

    The second in our series of privileged insights to the working life of Martin Plackard, the NHS’s most gifted communicator

  • Martin Plackard’s week: Monday
    30 January 2020

    First in an occasional series of glimpses into a typical week in the life of Martin Plackard, the NHS's most influential strategic communicator

  • A quick guide to quick guides
    24 January 2020

    Few of us have time for long documents that take ages to read or a lot of expertise to put together. That’s where quick guides come in.

  • Towards people and impact
    17 January 2020

    This week the Royal Pharmaceutical Society advertised for a head of engagement and belonging. Such titles can be controversial – but not for Martin Plackard, whose CV features a number of leadership roles in the fields of impact, euphemism management and talent delivery.

  • National log-in reset will change everything
    9 January 2020

    This week the Department of Health and Social Care announced a £40m investment to make it easier to log-in to NHS computers. It’s a laudable aim, akin to fitting a keyless entry system to a Ford Anglia to make it go faster.

  • Martin Plackard’s top tips for making a difference in 2020
    3 January 2020

    NHS Blithering’s Martin Plackard MBE was recognised in the new year honours list for services to strategic communications and meaningful engagement. Here he gives his top tips for others who hope to make a very real difference to people, communities and their own career prospects in 2020.

  • My amazing Twitter year – by Matt Hancock
    20 December 2019

    It's been a fantastic year on social media for the secretary of state for health and the other thing. Here it is in very nearly his own words

  • Sustainability and transformation parties: mandatory guidance
    5 December 2019

    As Christmas fast approaches, system leaders are getting ready for so-called sustainability and transformation parties, the highlight of the year for those who enjoy kinky integration with strangers.

  • All the latest health policy news from the general **** campaign
    29 November 2019

    Because purdah is still in force, this week’s **** has been heavily redacted. Here are the main parties’ plans for government as set out in their manifestos. A full unexpurgated version can be obtained from **** Party HQ.

  • New outfit more splendidly integrated than ever
    21 November 2019

    The emperor has announced plans for yet another new outfit, amid claims that this one will be even more splendid than the last.

  • Purdah – guidance for professionals
    15 November 2019

    After Christmas and the HSJ Awards, purdah is Martin Plackard’s favourite time of year.

  • Tools honoured in Blithering awards
    8 November 2019

    The Blithering Celebrating Success Awards are always eagerly anticipated. Every November, they recognise the commitment and dedication of people who put other people at the heart of everything they do before going the extra mile in their shoes. They also reflect the passionate belief of the organisers, Spume Media, in an awards-led approach to healthcare improvement science.

  • Provisional findings of the interim report
    31 October 2019

    The programme delivery group at One Blithering, the emergent NHS Blithering integrated care system, has published an interim report containing the provisional findings of a year-long strategic review.

  • Toast
    25 October 2019

    "The biggest complaint about the NHS which is beloved by everyone is about the food, and the biggest complaint about the food is about the lack of toast.”

  • Plackard’s misdirection and a victory for old power
    17 October 2019

    In which no one can find Plackard's signposting event, an old foe returns from his past and Sir Trevor Longstay loses interest in compassion

  • Sir Trevor defends revolving door
    4 October 2019

    Sir Trevor Longstay has hit out at proposals designed to make it harder for failed NHS directors to get new jobs with no questions asked.

Friday, 3 January 2020

Martin Plackard’s top tips for making a difference in 2020

NHS Blithering’s Martin Plackard MBE was recognised in the new year honours list for services to strategic communications and meaningful engagement. Here he gives his top tips for others who hope to make a very real difference to people, communities and their own career prospects in 2020.

Virtue, they say, is its own reward. I question if that’s really true. Gone are the days when people who did good works quietly kept their achievements to themselves – and it’s less true than ever in an age of social media.

What wood looks like

“If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” The answer, of course, is “Who cares?”

Whether or not it made a sound, the tree will have made an impact – damaging other trees, killing squirrels or injuring ordinary people innocently enjoying a nature ramble – and that’s the real point. It’s not how much noise it makes that matters, but how it lands.

Besides, as we face a global environmental crisis shouldn’t we also be asking why did the tree fall, could we have stopped it, and who’s going to plant two new trees in its place?

Giving something back

Here are some examples of how I made an impact like a falling tree in the past month or so.

  • Took time out on Christmas Eve to record a video to say a big thank you to incredible NHS staff on duty throughout the holiday period. Let them know how grateful I am that they’re working to keep people safe and well while I have a much-needed couple of weeks off from the pressures of frontline communications.
  • Dropped into the homeless centre for half an hour to help serve Christmas dinner to the clients. “These are the lucky ones,” I post later, with a picture of yours truly doling out stuffing and pigs in blankets.
  • Proud and humble to have run my third annual Shuttlecock Bootcamp where we give young people from deprived backgrounds the opportunity to acquire badminton skills as an alternative to a life of petty crime and substance abuse. I am photographed in shorts making a heroic return from a difficult angle. Am I embarrassed to describe myself as a role model for these young people? No, I’m proud and more than a little humble.  

The authentic leader

There is no greater tool in the compassionate leader’s box than humility. Showing that you can not only talk to junior staff, but that you also respect their contribution, however modest, is the mark of a true leader.  Here is a fine example – a conversation between a hospital porter and the eminent surgeon Professor Sir Stephen Longstay.

Porter: You save people’s lives, Sir Stephen, and yet still you have time to stop and talk to me. That’s amazing.

Sir Stephen: But you wheel those people around the hospital. Without you they would have to wheel themselves. Some would die in the attempt or simply give up. You do a fantastic job.

Porter (welling up): No doctor has ever said that to me. Thank you.

Sir Stephen (embracing him warmly): No, thank you. It’s a team effort.

Fortunately I was there to capture this moving scene and reimagine it for use on social media. A cynic might call it shameless humblebragging or question if it “actually” happened. It’s just this kind of negativity that authentic leaders fight to overcome every day.

Crash course in selflessness

I’d like to leave you with an anecdote about the other famous Longstay, Sir Stephen’s brother and my inspirational boss, Sir Trevor.

Once en route from a long and important lunch he knocked down a woman who stepped onto a pedestrian crossing without looking. With no thought for himself or his freshly pressed suit he made the woman comfortable and waited with her until he knew that an ambulance was on its way.

Anyone else might have opted to take the credit or to post a picture of himself on Twitter giving CPR at the scene. Not Sir Trevor, who modestly chose anonymity and declined either to involve the police or his insurance company, despite the damage to his Mercedes. 

For Sir Trevor it’s not about glory or personal gain, it’s all about selfless devotion to duty. We could all learn something from his example. 

Editor: Julian Patterson