02 Jul 2020
From steelworks CEO to NHS Trust Chair: Tony Pedder’s OutsideIn Story
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With extensive management and operational experience in and previously Chief Executive of Corus plc, Tony Pedder OBE is of many who have successfully made the move into a board-level career in healthcare. He joined the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Trust as Chairman in January 2012 and previously served as Chairman of NHS Sheffield and the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Cluster of NHS Primary Care Trusts. He tells us about making the move.
A new challenge
When Tony finished as CEO with Corus, he never considered moving into the public sector. He wanted to do some NED work but didn’t think the NHS would fit his plans. However, he was asked fairly early on to chair the Sheffield PCT.
“It sounded like a classic public sector job, almost mission impossible, very ill-defined, but when I dug in a little more, I felt it could be rewarding. They had four PCTs at the time in Sheffield and wanted to merge them all into one. Therefore, the role was not just presiding over a continuity, but being part of a change mechanism.”
“We became a top PCT and that was all very good. It got me into the public sector in a way and made me realise that because I wasn’t chasing money (you don’t do jobs for the money in this sector!) it was about interest, enjoyment and trying to make a difference. It was also about taking on challenges that I hadn’t had before.”
Beyond the numbers
Tony has a few clear insights into the rewards, and some cautionary notes too, about the challenge of NHS NED positions.
“I don’t think you can do Chair jobs when in full-time executive employment. But you can do NED jobs. If you do, you’ll find a very different management challenge from the executive challenge. For anyone who has time, and who is not chasing money or status, you will find it rewarding and you can definitely add value.”
“I found that the outside perception was that the board was just about managing the status quo and unlikely to change such a big monolith. But I found you do have the ability to change some things. You can change the way people behave, how they promote the organisation, the values too; there are some strategic things you can think about.”
Enjoying it all
What are the enjoyments of doing a job like Tony’s? Clearly, it’s very much about people.
“I like the contact with people. The job of a chair is about being part of the team that motivates the whole team, right across the organisation. It’s presiding over things like the thank-you’s and long service awards, walking the wards, encouraging staff – all of that is fantastic – and it’s at a level you don’t usually operate at in other sectors. With 17000 people, getting around and encouraging people to do a great job is really rewarding.”
A mind for the customer
When it comes to what skills it takes to succeed, Tony stresses mindset as much as skillset.
“Of course, you have to be on top of the governance stuff, ensuring that when you present yourself, you have thought through the complexity of it all. For me, being able to think through the link from a shop floor to a boardroom has been helpful.”
“If you come with a customer-focused mindset and staff/people mindset, you’re in good shape. The people who work here are the greatest asset by a mile, so a focus on how they can enjoy their work in tough conditions, it will help.
“Really focus on important things. Of course, there are things like finance, but finances are replicable in other sectors. Governance is somewhat more complex because of different layers of management, but if you come with a good feel for the customer it will make all the difference.”
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A few considerations
Finally, Tony offers his thoughts on what to keep in mind if you’re thinking of a NED position in the NHS.
“I definitely think that if the current tendency towards partnership working remains, it’ll be useful having people who can give you a perspective from other health and social care backgrounds, and a track record of bringing partners together more cohesively will be helpful.
“We will have to find those bridges and have that understanding going forward.
“Really try and go for quality – you need the right conversations, the right challenge at board level. Certainly, I’ve been lucky at Sheffield, as it's a big Trust.”