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Doctors at Work Podcast.

Episode #57

How to be a good role model

Mat Daniel


Most of us will remember role models (good and bad) that have heavily influenced who we are today. Sue Carr tells me that actually everyone of us is a role model to someone, we need to remember that and be aware of the shadow that we cast. Her top tips are to know yourself, and to show up day after and display consistently good values and behaviours such as compassion, listening and generosity.

Professor Sue Carr is the Deputy Medical Director of the General Medical Council. She continues to practice as a Consultant Nephrologist in Leicester where she is also an Honorary Professor of Medical Education at University of Leicester. She was previously, Director of Clinical Education and an Associate Medical Director at the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust for 9 years and prior to that Associate Postgraduate Dean & Foundation School Director in the East Midlands Deanery. She is a Senior Fellow of the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management and a Fellow of the UK Academy of Medical Educators. She has previously held several national roles in medical education including as Chair of the UK Renal Association Education and Training committee, member of National Association of Clinical Tutors Council, and she was an elected Councillor of the Royal College of Physicians.

Role modelling is important for us all, and GMC’s Good Medical Practice document makes specific reference to it. You may also be interested in reading the Caring for Doctors – Caring for Patients report, or look at the King’s Fund and Health Foundation‘s work on compassionate leadership. The Stoneygate Empathy Centre also has a number of publications / courses.

Podcast Transcript

[00:00:00] Mat: Welcome to Doctors at Work. My name is Mat Daniel and this podcast is about doctors’ careers. Today I’m having a conversation with Sue Carr and we talk about how you can be a good role model. Now most of us will remember role models, good ones and bad ones, that have heavily influenced who we are today.

And Sue Carr tells me that actually everybody is a role model to somebody else, and we need to remember that and be aware of the shadow that we cast. Her top tips are to know yourself and to show up day after day and display consistent good values and behaviours such as compassion, listening, and generosity.

I hope that the podcast is


Welcome Sue, tell me a little bit about yourself.

[00:00:54] Sue: Hello, Mat. Thank you for asking me to do this podcast with you this morning. Yeah, my name is Sue Carr and I’m a consultant renal physician and I work at a large trust in the Midlands in Leicester. And as I’ve been doing that role for quite a long time now I started there in 1995, and I thoroughly enjoy it always have.

And, but I guess the other thing about me is I’ve always had. And I think that’s two sort of aspects to my career. So whilst I’ve been an NHS consultant throughout the years, I’ve always engaged in either an education role or a leadership role right from fairly early on in my consultant career.

So I got interested in education as quite a new consultant when an opportunity came up to be a college tutor in medicine. And so I took on that role and got a sort of passion for developing education, but also in the sort of leadership and management side of it. And that led me on a journey, which wasn’t particularly planned, just evolved really.

And so I started doing different roles in education, worked as a program director and in. found in my own specialty and for SHOs at the time. And then I got a great opportunity to do a sabbatical in education. Somebody wanted a job done to do with SHO training. And so they said, do you want to take a bit of time to do this?

So I thought, okay. So I did that and began to think, if I’m getting into education, I should get some qualifications. So I did a, I started to do at the beginnings of a master’s in education, I guess I started off doing the certificate to underpin that knowledge. And then over the years, I’ve worked through various roles in program directing and I set up the foundation programs in my region, then I became an associate dean.

Did that for quite a few years and was foundation school director and thoroughly enjoyed that. And I alongside that did a lot of work. I’m a physician, so in the College of Physicians. They got quite into assessment and joined the MRCP assessment work on the part one board and things and really enjoyed those college roles as well that gave me a lot of knowledge and expertise that I wouldn’t have got anywhere else really.

And then I did a bit of a sideways manoeuvre then and I became a director of clinical education for Leicester hospitals, and an associate medical director, and did that for nine years, and absolutely loved that job. And so I was responsible for. All doctors in training, students and doctors who worked in the trust who weren’t in training at the time.

So all are locally employed and doctors as well. Yeah. And then I said, I moved to work and in a role at GMC lastly, about four years ago. And I say the other part of my career is I work as the deputy medical director at the GMC. Which again wasn’t, I didn’t draw a line that was a career trajectory, it just evolved organically really.

Yeah, that’s my work life. The other side of life about me. I’d say I have a lovely husband and two daughters who are grown up now. And I like playing tennis and doing a bit of Pilates and things that keeps me busy along. We’ve got a couple of dogs as well. So that’s me doing that. Yeah.

[00:04:31] Mat: What’s an amazing career you had. So it feels like I should have asked you to talk about portfolio careers, but actually we met. In around the discussion about role modelling and the importance that senior doctors and maybe the duty that senior doctors have in order to role model things for people that are early on in their careers.

Maybe if I start by asking, what would you say are the qualities of a good role model?

Thanks Mat, yeah. I think, as Senior doctors and as not so senior doctors it’s really important that we have good role models, I still remember now the people who were role models for me, and, you remember your role models at school don’t you and you remember your role models at university and I still remember my medical role models who were critical really in supporting me and formulating my ideas about what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be like really I think that’s the thing, isn’t it.

[00:05:28] Sue: So you see good role models and role models who you think aren’t very good. And you can learn what qualities you want to take on and which ones you don’t find positive so I think we all have a responsibility to be role models. So even if you’re a doctor who’s recently qualified, you’re a role model to the students, aren’t you?

You’re the doctor that they see. And I think as senior doctors, it’s even more important because you have influence over more people. Not just doctors either, other members of staff. So I think it’s important to be a good role model because as senior doctors, we have such an important role in creating the culture of their patients.

of the areas that we work in. if A senior doctor has a sort of positive collaborative, inclusive approach to, to work in the team and is a good team player, et cetera, then it sets a good culture. But if you have somebody who, is. Is none of those things who’s autocratic and sometimes in not very civil, et cetera.

It sets a different culture. So I think a role model has a real. important role to set the culture and say to make sure it’s inclusive and collaborative and everybody’s supporting the team. And to make sure that as a role model, you have your own values. And I think it’s really important that you lift those values at work.

Whatever your values are and just, to share mine. I think as I said, I think, I find it incredibly important to be collaborative. I’m, we all of us, we’re nothing on our own, are we, we work in Med Sum as part of a team, so being collaborative, if your team’s not very good, you are not going to be very good either.

It’s critical. I think being compassionate and, caring about the people you work with. And that extends to your patients as well, but in this context, the people you work with. But I think the other thing that’s important for me is you have to be authentic and credible to the people you work with that there’s no point, talking the talk if you’re not seen to walk the walk sort of thing.

So I think, you have to be seen to do what you say you’re going to do and to show up and do it every day, even on a bad day, you have to do what you said you were going to do. And some days you might not do it as enthusiastically, but it still has to be there. So I think you have to be consistent and committed and that people see that really.

So I, so I. I, I think that’s important in a role model. The other things I think are important in a role model is to know yourself and what your strengths and limits are. And we all have our strengths and limits so know what they are. And don’t be afraid to admit or ask questions when you don’t know.

And I think Sometimes people are afraid of that, aren’t they? But, I will still say today I’m sorry. I, can you tell me more about that? If I don’t know, I will ask. And I think that’s important in role models that you’ve seen as courageous enough to speak up and.

Say what you don’t know. And I guess one other thing just before we move on I think listening to people, making sure that you’re listening and you hear, there’s a difference between listening and hearing isn’t there. So listening, and that you hear what people say to you and if you don’t understand what they’re telling you, again, have the courage to ask them and, say, can you tell me a bit more about that?

I’m interested. I’m curious to know what you’re talking about. Yeah, so they’re some of my thoughts on policies of the role


[00:09:11] Mat: It’s interesting. Maybe if I go right back to the beginning about the importance of it, because probably same as yourself, I can think of people that have very much influenced my career trajectory.

Again, both good role models and bad ones and how they’ve shaped who I am and who I’ve become and how I’ve developed. If I from the other side, I wonder do we do, we always realize how important our actions, our behaviours, our role modelling is, do it really like your idea that, even to somebody very early on in the career their role model.

I wonder if I said somebody to early on in the career, say you’re a role model, would they realize it? Or even if you invited and talked to other senior doctors, would they realize that? the impact that they have on others or how much they realize how much they impact others. What would be your thoughts?

[00:10:04] Sue: I think that’s a really good point, Mat. I think in, whether you’re a sort of junior role model or a senior role model, it is really important to understand. That and somebody said to me once in it, and it stuck with me really. And because I think, especially when we’re working on depression, you need to be very self-aware of how you project to other people don’t you in that way.

Someone once said to me beware the shadow you cast. And I think that’s really important because in a, as a role model in a senior role. you have a huge amount of influence over people’s daily life and, And if you’re having a bad day, that shadow that you cast can go a heck of a long way.

And you always have to remember that, I think, and make sure that you’re conscious of it. So if you are having a bad day, Be self-aware and try and be conscious of that and don’t cast a black shadow, over the area that you’re in. So I think that shadow is not always verbal as well. It can be non-verbal.

So your behaviours can be. You can demonstrate closed behaviours, can’t you? It’s not always a verbal shadow. And I think even being conscious of being conscious to say hello to people and acknowledge people as they walk past you and things. So if you’re having a bad day, don’t get your head down and ignore everybody, make that extra effort to say, hello, did you have a nice holiday?

Even if you don’t feel. In that mood that day, I think, that moment of blanking somebody or behaving badly has a big shadow when you have a senior responsibility or even, with the medical students, imagine What you’re conveying to them if you’re stomping around the ward, with a face like thunder, not being very civil to people.

It doesn’t, it casts a bad shadow, doesn’t it? So I think that’s a saying that stuck with me about being a role model.

[00:12:12] Mat: I’m interested in this idea that, so the shadow might come from something That, that somebody would actively do, somebody would actively be unpleasant, somebody would actively throw things around and complain and shout.

But the shadow can also come from a lack of the kind of social niceties that would form part of normal human communication.

[00:12:32] Sue: I think so. It’s not based on any science or anything but I think so. I think, those nonverbal things are sometimes pretty powerful as well, and I don’t know how you feel about it, but I know if I walk down the corridor and somebody I know ignores me, I feel a bit put out really.

And I think you know that their role modelling to me then is not very good.

[00:12:55] Mat: Yeah, certainly if I think on the receiving end, I definitely recognize that. Absolutely. And I guess the context where I might see some of that would be probably in theatre. And that, the theatre team might say, Oh, we were here late yesterday.

And, and so it was really grumpy. And that’s, and that’s still, that is still there the following day. And it was yesterday’s theatre list that finished late and people were grumpy. And that’s still going on about it. The next day people are still talking about it. I hope you’re enjoying the show.

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Thank you. Now on with the show. And equally, if a day goes well and people have, we, we work hard, but we have a good time then hopefully that leaves people better, but I suppose you I should, we should be interviewing the people that work with me, Sue, rather than my version, because they might be able to take all of these weird ideas, all this team working thing, I wish you’d just put them away.

[00:14:14] Sue: Yeah, I think that’s why, yeah, me too, Mat, but I think because you say those, sometimes, not sometimes, the tendency is for our, are poorer behaviours to come out when you’re under pressure, isn’t it? And I think that’s when you most need to be conscious that you are a role model and to keep it under control.

[00:14:31] Mat: How have you seen people manage that? When the pressure comes on and yes, we become the worst version of ourselves often, don’t we? So in your experience, how have you seen people manage that well?

Yeah seeing people manage it well and badly, really. So I think people who are self-aware.

[00:14:50] Sue: Manage it better. So they know what their triggers are. They know when they’re going to get into a difficult place. So I see that in people. And I think, taking yourself away, stepping back, really. I think that’s certainly what I do is try and take a step back when you feel like, going when your natural tendency would be to go into battle, take a step back and It’s like sending an email in a fit of pique, isn’t it?

So I think, I would say, if you type an angry email, never send it, leave it, sleep on it, reconsider it the next day. And you’d hardly ever send it, sometimes it’s cathartic to write it, isn’t it? But take a step back whether that’s virtually or in person, take a step back, reflect on it, and re-engage, being aware that you’re in a bit of a dangerous place for yourself and keep it under control.

and like your example in theatre, it doesn’t help anybody if you start. Getting angry, you just put other people under pressure then, and then they’re more likely to make a mistake, aren’t they? So I think keep calm, and keep it under control, and even, sometimes that’s incredibly difficult, isn’t it?

And sometimes, if you can, I’ll say, go make a cup of coffee and take five, say, let’s have a break and come back in a minute. I know you can’t do that in the middle of theatre, but there’s always different ways to defuse a situation, isn’t it? I’ve seen people managing that sort of situation well, if you can, anticipating when it’s going to happen.

I think that’s what I’ve seen people do as well. And, if you can anticipate. stress on the horizon, try and proactively control that. I always find that useful. So yeah, I’ve seen lots of people and I think that handling that sort of role modelling good behaviour under stress as a junior doctor and as a senior doctor, and I guess you take on board that don’t you and think, yeah they could have they could have behaved very differently there and they didn’t, they took a deep breath, they stepped away, they calmed their tone and they carried on.

[00:17:07] Mat: There’s irony there that, if we want to get something done, the reality is that we’re much more likely to achieve that if we behave in a collaborative manner. But we might be tempted to shout and send that email. Yeah, but the reality is that’s quite counterproductive, isn’t it?

Because actually, you want something, you send that strop email, you’re probably not going to get it or not in the long term, or you won’t get anything big and substantial. You offloaded. But if you want to make change happen, then that isn’t how you make change happen.

[00:17:41] Sue: Exactly.

That’s how you just Yeah. Thank you. As you just described, I think change happens from working collaboratively with people being, listening to what people say, acting reasonably, trying to find the best way forward. And if you send that angry email, you just annoy somebody and then you’re less likely.

And, sometimes you know, you might think you’ve got what you want, but you probably didn’t get as much as you would have got if you’d behaved reasonably.

[00:18:09] Mat: I’m interested in this idea of self-awareness because we talked about, it’s times of stress. You need to be self-aware. You need to know your triggers.

You need to know your values. You need to know your strengths. You need to know your weaknesses. So a lot of that is about. knowing yourself really well. And how does that knowing yourself, where does that come from? How does that develop? Is it some people just have it and others don’t?

[00:18:32] Sue: But I think, I think some, like all skills, really, some people have it, but we can all learn it, can’t they?

So I think some people have it more than others, but everyone can learn that, can’t they? And I think we can all become More self-aware. Some, you can go on courses to do that, can’t you? Some people, there’s a lot of teaching around self-awareness on leadership courses, and some people engage in coaching and often having a good mentor can help you become self-aware.

But I think just, reflecting on situations that happen to you makes you more self-aware as well. If you, if something’s happened, if you think through and learn what, think if I’ve done that differently, what might’ve happened? I think it gradually develops, but I found some really, certainly, over the years.

And I learned a lot about myself through 60 degree appraisals when people have told me what you know what I could be better at. And also doing things like Myers Briggs and other types of analysis type. Which a lot of people listening to this may have done. Even if you don’t naturally enjoy that sort of thing, it does give you some indicators to aspects of your personality that you might not have been very sighted to before.

And when I’ve done that with me, it’s always shown me that I’ve forgotten the name of the one, but we did one with different coloured boxes recently. And red, blue, yellow and green. I think it’s the young one. And I was very much in the green box, which is compassion and empathy, and, but in some of the other boxes, and I was a bit lacking, and they, it showed me that there was some areas where I need to, just like proactively work harder to make sure that I, have those skills. Whereas others come a bit more naturally and we’re all like that, aren’t we? So I think, learning through reflection and engaging in different types of learning activities. does help you become self-aware. And other people telling you feedback through 60s, through appraisal through any, any other ARCPs, whatever you’re engaging in, that feedback is so important to make, to developing that self-awareness.

That’s where we learn, I think,

[00:21:01] Mat: so

the key thing for me, there is that some people just are more or less and of course there might be different facets to it and you might be great at some facets and not in others, but perhaps the real important thing is. Is to have an interest in growing and developing yourself.

Yeah. Who knows where your starting point is and where my starting point and which colours we have enough of or not enough of, that’s it doesn’t really matter. It’s not interesting. We are where we are. The thing is that irrespective of where you are. Is if you’re interested in making a difference, if you’re interested in developing yourself, if you’re interested in growing yourself being a role model, that’s the app.

There’s an attitude behind that. It distinguishes sort of somebody who is on a journey of development versus somebody who isn’t a good role model, somebody who has bad behaviours. And that person isn’t progressing because they don’t clock that this matters. Exactly, exactly.

[00:21:58] Sue: I think you’ve summarized it beautifully there. I think then, no matter how senior you are, there’s always more to learn and more to develop, you can always develop along those lines, and there’s always more to understand and there’s always areas you can improve in, and you have to be open to that.

[00:22:18] Mat: Okay. You mentioned about the importance of values, knowing what your values are, being credible and being authentic and bringing those values to work and linking that to behaviours. Can you tell me a little bit more about, what does that look like? Let’s imagine I do a questionnaire and says, these are your values.

How does that translate into workplace behaviour and role models?

[00:22:41] Sue: I think those values that we all have. They’re absolutely fundamental to and they need to come into how we behave at work. So I think, if you’re valuable is, sorry, one of your value, value is to be credible and, consistently committed sort of thing.

It has to be visible in what you do. Every week people have to see that, when the going gets tough, you keep going. And that you demonstrate those behaviours day in, day out. So they, I would hope they would say, oh she’ll get the job done, so people know that you will get the job done. That’s been. Credible and committed and consistent isn’t it that people have that faith. And so I think you have to be able to demonstrate the values and, So compassionate inclusivity and, would be other important values. So people have to see you in, in at work, acting compassionately with others, listening to what people say and hearing when they speak and recognizing what people do, demons and including everyone being fair with the opportunities that you have to give people actively.

Including all the people in the team, and so I think it’s about. Whatever your values are being seen to deliver them on, not in a dramatic fashion, but in a day in day out fashion that people know that you’re going to show up and what they’re going to get is that set of values with the work that you do.

[00:24:17] Mat: It’s interesting because you might think that I’m going to go in and these are my values, the world is going to be swamped with it. That is good. But actually what you’re saying, there’s not some kind of, dramatic epiphany. It’s just about day in, day out, I’m turning up and I’m doing.

The same thing.

[00:24:35] Sue: I think so. I think, I think that is for me, that is right. It’s not that, drama, whirlwind type thing. It’s just that, you show up and they know they’re going to get a person who’s compassionate, authentic to themselves, credible. They’re going to get the job done.

And they’re going to get that every day and it might not be, everybody has a bad day, but on a bad day, it’ll just be a slightly less version. It won’t be a zero version because you’ll be actively trying to control and keep delivering those values. And even though we all, none of us are perfect.

[00:25:12] Mat: I think one of the things that I sometimes, if I’m having a bad day for whatever reason. I often tell people, I don’t know, is that sort of a good, I just I come to theatre and say I’m having a really crappy day. So I don’t know, is that a good, what message does that send?

[00:25:30] Sue: Yeah, I think that’s, I think one other thing that I think is quite interesting is I think within, within, within limits, I think it is helpful to share with people some of the, I say, I think it’s really important that it is within limits, but I think there’s no harm saying to people, look, I’m having a bit of a tough time at the moment, so bear with me today, thing.

So I think there’s no harm in that. And then it does encourage the people around you to, role model their best values and not to trigger, be compassionate and be kind to you on that day and think we know he’s having a bad day. So let’s not go into the place where we know it.

It can wind him up a bit. So it influences other people’s behaviours then, doesn’t it? If you’re warning them really that you’re working hard on keeping things together today. So I think for me, I think that’s fine. And I think, it just makes me think of something else there, Mat, that I think one of the other things is that always struck me role models who I respected was having that bit of humility and being willing to share experiences that they’ve had when it’s appropriate to let people know when you’ve had a setback or you’re having a problem not to overshare, but I think that’s a good quality and it helps other people respond to you then.

[00:26:50] Mat: And it sounds like this is then all about the team because there might be other times when somebody else is having a difficult time and I might be there in a more supportive role and because I think we certainly if I think, in theatre teams and probably anybody else who works. in the largest teams.

Chances are, there’s always going to be at least one person who’s having a tough time of

[00:27:10] Sue: it. Always isn’t there. And I think, people have complicated lives, don’t they? And I think you’re right. There’s always something that’s going on for somebody every day. So it’s really important to be aware of.

And that’s part of being compassionate, isn’t it? I think if you don’t know, you Some of those things, not at a deep level, but you know that if you don’t know those things about your team, then that’s, that says something about the team, doesn’t it? If you don’t know that somebody’s having a difficult time then you can’t support them.

But it also says that the team aren’t really, they’re not really listening to each other. And sometimes listening isn’t. It’s not just about words, is it? It’s those non-verbal things as well. Because as a role model or a team member, you can say, Are you okay? Are you okay today? Do you want to go for coffee?

Just support people. Everybody needs that support sometimes, don’t they?

[00:28:09] Mat: And I guess a really useful practical question for people to ask themselves is how much do I know about the people that I work with? And if I know nothing about people that I work with, and I assume that everybody’s fine, then, that’s likely to be a problem because probably are not all fine.

[00:28:27] Sue: Exactly. I think that’s a really good point. I think you; I think it’s a I think it’s a strange team that knows nothing about one another, really, and they’re not going to work most effectively together because they’re not going to know what make one another tick. They’re not going to know what one another’s weaknesses are or strengths and they’re not going to support each other when something’s happened in somebody else’s life.

[00:28:54] Mat: What if somebody sees bad role modelling, bad behaviours. And what should people do with that?

[00:29:01] Sue: I think that’s something that’s incredibly important, isn’t it? And we’ve all heard and read recently about bad behaviours where people have not been working fairly or inclusively or harassment and bullying type behaviours.

And I think it’s really important that as role models. That, that we call those well, not as role models, but as people that we call those things out that we speak up. And I think when you talk about the role model that we’re, that we listen, that we hear those things that we don’t just walk on by.

So everybody’s role in that context is different, isn’t it? If you’re quite a junior doctor, clearly you might not be able to solve those problems, but you can speak up and tell someone what’s going on. And I think that’s absolutely vital. We have to speak up ourselves and we have to listen and hear people who are speaking up.

And even if sometimes. Things are painful to hear, aren’t they? But you have to hear them. And if you don’t know what someone’s to say to someone, I’m listening, can you tell me more about that? Otherwise, that’s when bad cultures develop that are not inclusive and that have attended, but bullying and harassment can happen then.

[00:30:19] Mat: Okay, maybe I’ll bring us to our final question, Sue, then what would be your top tips for doctors at work?

[00:30:26] Sue: Yes. Top tips? I think all the things we’ve been saying, really, I think everyone remembering everybody’s a, you are all role models. As a doctor, you’re a role model to someone, maybe a student or another doctor, maybe another member of the team, but you are a doc, you are a role model to someone.

So I think remembering, having a think about what your values are and making sure you demonstrate those every day. Being self-aware. about your weaknesses. And I think two of the top tips, I think as role models, be compassionate, show some humility at work listen to other people, and be generous.

I always think be generous in recognizing. other people’s efforts. I think that’s really key. So even on sometimes a routine thing, just say thank you to someone, just say thank you for checking that whatever it is, that’s really helpful. Thank you. And just demonstrate those things as a role model and remember the shadow that you cast and just be conscious of the influence that you have on other people.

[00:31:31] Mat: Wonderful. Thank you very much, Sue.

[00:31:34] Sue: Thanks, Mat.

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