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The Steven Neary Guide To Interviewing Health Trust CEOs

April 25, 2014

Another day. Another car crash Katrina Pearcey interview.

Yesterday, the award winning Southern Health CEO was interviewed by BBC Oxford following the latest CQC inspection failing another of the Trust’s facilities. Over the past few months, KP has set the bar very high (or very low) in absolute nonsense contempt speak but yesterday she delivered a double whammy – two statements of award winning claptrap.

“No, we have the right people doing the wrong jobs”.

Is that like having a fully qualified experienced team of chiropodists employed to service the engines of Concorde? Right people for feet – wrong people for aeroplanes. And then ……

“It’s not about neglect. It’s about operating in the modern way”.

It’s such a definitive statement. It’s not “a” modern way – it’s “the” modern way. What is the modern way? The modern way for what? Have all their failings been down to operating in an old fashioned way? What is the relationship between neglect and the modern way? Do the two halves of that statement go together. She might have well have said, “I think Arsenal will win the cup because Christopher Biggins likes Maltesers”.

Not a single word of this makes sense. But I don’t think it’s meant to. That’s not the point of her words – to have a meaning. We should know the form by now. In every political interview, the politician will deliver a long statement along KP’s lines. The more confident interviewer might ask: “So what exactly do you mean?” To which the politician will reply – ” Let me make myself absolutely clear”, and then, word for word, say exactly the same thing all over again. It’s checkmate. Interviewer closed off.

We need to get off the idea that when the likes of KP give an interview, they are actually there to say something. That’s old fashioned – not the modern way. KP’s words are not about communication. It’s about making an appearance, to give the appearance of concern, of action, of a dialogue. The words, whether we understand them or not, are an irrelevance. The trouble is, even if we can accept that the modern way is about appearance rather than content, we are still left with the rage that we have just been treated with utter contempt. To deal with our rage, we need to fire a shot across KP’s bow. Here’s my tip:

Steven has developed something brilliant in the last year or so. In the past, if he didn’t understand what was being said to him it would trigger off echolalia and if the person persisted, it could lead to a rather messy meltdown. Phrases like: “I don’t understand what you’re saying”, or “what do you mean”? don’t come naturally to him. Occassionally he might say, “X is doing silly talking” but that’s as far as it went. More recently though, he’s adopted the dialogue from Fawlty Towers and that wonderful scene between Basil and Bernard Cribbens where Cribbens wants to “reserve thee BBC2 channel for the duration of this televisual feast”.

So now if Steven is not understanding what the other person is saying to him, he will interrupt with – “Why Don’t You Talk Properly”. To the point. Accurate if a trifle brusque. It won’t change the KPs of this world and it certainly won’t change their dreadful language. But it might just bring a moment’s satisfaction in an exposing the king has got no clothes on kind of way.

In the most modern way, of course

From → Social Care

  1. Shirley Buckley permalink

    Mark I need to borrow Steven for a week or two

  2. When my brother’s health had deteriorated quite badly due to his dementia he still enjoyed going to the day centre to see his friends. He was in a wheelchair by this time as his mobility was poor, but he was still able to communicate well. One day a lady from social services was visiting and she bent down to speak to him in veeery caaarefully eeextended words and using Makaton signs. He sat politely smiling at her for some time and then turned to my husband and said, ‘What is she talking to me like that for?’. My husband was left trying desperately to stifle a fit of laughter and the lady moved on to ‘chat’ with someone else! I wish we could all just say what we mean! It would save such a lot of time!

  3. Ditto everyone!!

  4. Pauline Thomas permalink

    Very very funny Mark. It would be hilarious if it was not so tragic. I wonder if KP was explaining her failures to someone more powerful than her or a high ranking dignitry whether she would talk down to them like she talks down to everyone else she deems to be less important than her?

  5. Weary Mother permalink


    ‘Ermintrude’ day 40 in 107 days for LB. I have tried to attach a link and could not.

    I have been reading every contribution, every day, and all are beyond excellent, all are moving and all are communication at it’s very best and all are totally inclusive and accessible.

    Today ‘Ermintrude’, spoke for me and to me directly. I wish I could have written it. . If we parents wanted to send solid help in how to communicate to CE’s and their team’s everywhere, ‘Ermintrude’s’ contribution today is THE way: totally brilliant communication; informed, fluent, warm and empathetic and totally balanced writing,

    I would have written the content, but cannot, though for years I earned my living communicating and writing as she clearly has…. As a former SW professional, and many other up and onwards stuff, I too have seen and done as she has. But: my son was dreadfully neglected and abused for years despite my careful conciliating and pleading (and all my experience and education etc )……I could not protect him. His life and mine is changed for ever. I live with guilt and anger and no justice for him, and it has changed me and blunted me no matter how I try.

    Many of us parents live with the outrageous injustices done/being done to our son or daughter; no route to redress. and no respect from the people paid to prevent it. It is impossible, (for we are human,and deserve so much better, from these people whose huge pay we fund and who have failed us so massively.) to keep the ongoing fear, hurt, grief and our ongoing anger out of our communication. This barrier makes it easier for us, at best, to be ignored and labelled by those who should be on bended knee.

    ‘Ermintrude’ ……………….thank you………. should be posted to the BBC?

    • It’s fabulous isn’t it – Ermintrude is one of the good guys. Made me feel quite excited at the thought that honest change could actually happen.

      • Weary Mother permalink

        What a contrast between the two? KP and E?

        I researched for appraisal and recruitment – values, language and behaviour – for leaders in the NHS and LA’s and other places, as an independent in my last day job.

        One of the most often used words, (a required essential always) was INTEGRITY. I used to ask the people recruiting. ”what does it look like’ and I would hear lots of powerful and ambitious descriptions and promises. The I would ask ”what would I see now”. ‘Describe it”,

        ”Do you mean now and then or all the time ‘integrity’ or ”just when it suit’s integrity”.

        For I believe that integrity is an absolute? Fail to do it just once and you don’t have any?


  6. Sally permalink

    Mark, KP should not be allowed to get away with such appalling contempt. Is there any forum, any way, she can be made to explain what exactly is meant by “right people/wrong jobs” or “the modern way?”

    The first is astounding. She is suggesting her staff are terrific just somehow, ah, life is mysterious, ended up doing the wrong jobs.Now, if a staff member is doing a job badly it is irrelevant whatever else they do well, either connected to work (eg a good social worker being given payroll duties) or not (a terrible social wroker who is really great at ballroom dancing.) Its irrelevant. They are doing the job badly. If they would do better elsewhere its for thier manager to reorganise. If their manager can’t/won’t its for..KP to sort it out.And she didn’t.

    “The modern way” is a revolting get-out. Again, what did she mean? Under that, any current (therefore modern, its happening now) terrible practice is excused and you are a Luddite to question it.

    Stephen is right. She needs to be asked why exactly she is speaking like that.
    Winston Churchill cared so much about language being clear he commissioned a book ‘Plain Words’ for all Civil servants to follow. The author, Ernest Gowers’ most famous slogan was: “Be short, be simple, be human”
    The book has just been reissued and looks pretty good. Perhaps we could insist that KP follow the slogan in any further communications?

  7. Lizzie D permalink

    “The modern way” – all surface, no substance?

    Important people doing important jobs should not be troubled by the little people?

    It would be really interesting to know a lot more about “the modern way”.

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