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Leadership Lab online learning resources module descriptions


Published: 30 September 2021

Version: 1.1 - January 2022

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We provide a suite of online learning resources to support NIHR Academy Members who wish to enhance their leadership and management skills. The modules are also available to health and care researchers within the NIHR.

The Leadership Lab resources are delivered as individual modules. You can work through the modules as a series, as standalone topics, or use them as flexible resources to dip into as and when you need them.

Each module includes practical activities to reinforce your learning and encourage reflection, with additional resources and further reading being signposted throughout each module.

To access the Leadership Lab modules, log into the NIHR’s online learning platform NIHR Learn where you will also find additional leadership resources to explore. If you have not used NIHR Learn before, please visit Accessing NIHR Learn

NIHR Leadership Lab modules

Module 1: Collaborating across organisational boundaries

Excellence in research requires you to work with a diverse and often geographically dispersed group of people from different organisations. This can often bring challenges in being able to achieve your desired results. 

Are you working in a collaborative group that doesn’t feel like a team? Do you avoid admitting mistakes or not knowing the answer? Do you avoid conflict or see colleagues being able to underperform without sanction from the team leader? Do you feel like everyone is working to their own objective and not the greater goal? 

In this module you will:

  1. Increase your awareness of some best practice models, tools and techniques to help you collaborate more effectively.
  2. Increase your confidence to test and experiment with tools and techniques within your collaborative groups.
  3. Refresh and further develop your skills to help you create the right conditions for effective collaboration with colleagues, patients and the public.

Complete this module on NIHR Learn.

Module 2: Courageous and compelling conversations

Effective research that will make a difference to people’s lives can only be achieved through harnessing challenges to nurture the best ideas and options, then accelerating them into plans. This requires us to work with a diverse group of stakeholders from within, and outside of, our own work environment. 

Do you find yourself working with difficult people who have different agendas and objectives?  Do you put off or avoid having challenging conversations with your colleagues or leaders?  Do you struggle to influence your colleagues to support you in delivering your objectives?  

In this module you will:

  1. Increase your understanding of your own preferred approach to difficult conversations. 
  2. Learn how to plan and flex your style even more effectively to create positive outcomes. 
  3. Get the opportunity to practice and experiment with some of the tools and techniques that can be applied in the workplace.

Complete this module on NIHR Learn.

Module 3: Building resilience to navigate complexity and change

We are living in an increasingly complex and fast-paced world and this module will help you further increase your flexibility and adaptability to navigate the challenges that this brings us.

Do you feel exhausted all the time? Is this working environment impacting your confidence and ability to bounce back? Do you find it difficult to identify where you can make your biggest impact and end up trying to do everything?

In this module you will:

  1. Have a clear definition of “resilience” and consider how you can use it to further improve your professional life     
  2. Have the option to self-assess yourself against the key components of resilience and identify areas for further development   
  3.  Have a set of strategies to help you build your own resilience and resilience in others.

Complete this module on NIHR Learn.

Module 4: Empowerment and motivation

A great research culture underpins great research and better outcomes for patients. Achieving a successful research culture requires collective responsibility at all levels and research culture is best when it is creative, supportive and collaborative. Empowerment is a key driver of a great research culture.

Do you feel empowered and motivated in your work to deliver great research? As a leader do you often struggle to let go and empower your team to do their jobs? As a team member, do you often feel micromanaged by your leader?

In this module you will:

  1. Recognise the benefits of empowerment to motivate and inspire excellence in yourself      
  2. Be able to identify the cultural conditions required to empower teams   
  3. Understand the concept of intrinsic motivation and how it can inspire others to action.

Complete this module on NIHR Learn. 

Module 5: Creative problem solving

Creativity could be described as the single-most important skill we need.  Without creativity there would be no progress and no improvement.  Driven by automation, organisations need humans to apply their creativity to solve complex problems in original ways. Creative thinking is a skill that can be learned and like any skill, the more you practice, the better you get.

Do you struggle finding solutions for complex problems? Do you find it difficult to be creative in your problem solving and come up with new solutions? Does conventional thinking get in the way of your problem solving? Do you struggle finding new perspectives and fresh insights? Do the same problems keep occurring that require different thinking? Are your problem solving sessions fun and engaging?   

In this module you will:

  1. Understand how creative problem solving can drive innovation and change     
  2. Identify the mindset required to approach problems creatively     
  3. Explore a range of tools and techniques to offer a variety of approaches to creative problem solving.

Complete this module on NIHR Learn.

Module 6: Leader as coach

In our increasingly fast paced, virtual and complex organisational environments, coaching has become an essential approach for leaders to motivate people to achieve their objectives through empowerment and the balance of support and stretch.

Do you feel that you might not have the skills to be a coach? Fear uncovering something that you won’t be able to manage? Not sure how coaching can help you and your team?

In this module you will:

  1. Appreciate what coaching is and is not      
  2. Understand how a coaching style of leadership can support, stretch, empower and develop others to deliver great outcomes      
  3. Develop and improve the skills required for a coaching style of leadership.

Complete this module on NIHR Learn.

Module 7: My leadership brand

Research tells us that people generally want to be fully engaged and committed to what they're doing. They want to feel as if their work matters and they want to believe in their leaders. Authentic leaders inspire those they lead because they are self-aware, develop open and transparent relationships, stay true to their values and behave with integrity. Developing an authentic leadership brand is key to practising authentic leadership. In this module, we will explore what authentic leadership is and, through a series of activities, enable you to build your authentic leadership brand.

Are you concerned that your team may not see you as being genuine in your interactions with them? Do you struggle engaging your team? Would you like to get better at articulating what you stand for?

In this module you will:

  1. Understand the principles of authentic leadership and why it's important to be an authentic leader
  2. Identify your purpose, personal values and strengths and how they align to the organisation in the work that you do
  3. Develop a leadership profile and vision to help you become a more authentic leader.

Complete this module on NIHR Learn.

Module 8: Compassionate and inclusive leadership

As our world is becoming increasingly more complex and more diverse, this is driving the need for inclusion. Compassionate leadership builds connection across boundaries, ensuring that all are heard in the process of delivering research. Nurturing a culture of compassion and inclusivity helps build motivation, a sense of belonging and a feeling of being included in achieving a collective mission. Building a compassionate and inclusive culture requires leaders to embody compassion and inclusion in their leadership.

Do you find yourself being abrupt with your colleagues when under pressure? Do you find your mind wandering when in conversations and find it difficult to be fully focused on the other person? How safe do you feel sharing your fears and mistakes with others? Do you find yourself discounting others' ideas in favour of your own? Do you avoid difficult people?

In this module you will:

  1. Understand the principles of inclusive and compassionate leadership
  2. Identify the benefits of leading with inclusivity and compassion
  3. Develop and improve your inclusive and compassionate leadership style.

Complete this module on NIHR Learn.

Module 9: Building an effective network

As leaders we need to ensure that we build effective networks to welcome collaboration from peers, partners, industry and the public ourselves, whilst also creating the environment for our teams to collaborate effectively. Effective networking is also critical for continuing professional development and career planning, not only for yourselves, but when succession planning and sponsoring others.

Do you look at your contacts list and feel very unconnected? Do you lack the confidence to proactively reach out to people you don’t know? Are you struggling with knowing where to start with networking? Do you feel that you don’t really know anyone of interest?

In this module you will be introduced to tools and techniques to help you:  

  1. Identify your network system and potential collaborations     
  2. Identify your desired network contacts and plan your networking strategy     
  3. Build more effective networks.

Complete this module on NIHR Learn.

Module 10: Building strength in my team

The highest-performing teams have one condition in common; psychological safety. This is the belief that you won’t be punished when you make a mistake. Once we have created the conditions of trust and psychological safety for our teams,  we can supercharge performance by focusing on working with strengths.

Do you avoid being open about admitting mistakes for fear of negative consequences? Is ambiguity around your role and responsibilities impacting your ability to perform at your best? Do your or your colleagues avoid conflict and difficult conversations? Could your team’s performance be improved by creating an environment of openness and honesty?

In this module you will:     

  1. Identify the conditions required for building trust and psychological safety to enable great performance in your team   
  2. Recognise the benefits of working with strengths for individual and team performance     
  3. Identify individual and collective strengths in your team and use a framework to help optimise them.

Complete this module on NIHR Learn.

Module 11: Optimising development

In our increasingly complex environment, the ability to unlock human potential for ourselves and our team members is critical for success. It requires us to think differently about development, taking a strengths-based approach to energise and motivate learning.  

We need to think about professional and personal development; skills, expertise and behaviours that will be needed in the future.  

Do you find 1-2-1s and team meetings focus on tasks and activities, rather than development and learning? Do you adapt and personalise your approach to develop your team members? Are you able to empower your team members to take accountability for their own development? Do you feel you and your team get maximum impact from the investment in development?  

In this module you will: 

  1. get into the mindset and using learning styles productively 
  2. identify how you and your team members are intrinsically motivated
  3. learn how to use a strengths-based approach to engage and energise development
  4. develop talent and succession planning.

Complete this module on NIHR Learn.

Module 12: Leading change and innovation

 In our increasingly fast paced and complex environment, the ability to think strategically and identify opportunities for change and innovation is critical.  

 Do you find it difficult to plan thinking time into your work?  Do you find it challenging to remove yourself from the day-to-day activity to think more about the medium and long term strategy for you and your team?  Are you able to identify improvement, innovation and make change happen effectively?

 In this module you will:

  1.  invest thinking time into strategy and planning
  2. engage and support others to embed change successfully
  3. build a culture where change is embraced to ensure improvement and innovation.

Complete this module on NIHR Learn.