A picture of leadership with Lisa Marsh

Director of Financial Performance, Barnet Hospital, Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust

Question 1. Tell us about your current role (please provide your job title) and what you enjoy most about it?

I’m currently the Director of Financial Performance at Barnet hospital, which is part of the Royal Free group. Although I’m predominantly based at Barnet, which has a hot A&E department, my role covers a number of the group sites, for example, Hampstead maternity and at Chase Farm therefore this does make for a complex arrangement. My role involves setting the financial strategy for the hospital and ensuring that it links to the Group strategy.

I enjoy having autonomy in dictating how to develop the strategy and making sure we have grip and control. I love being part of the unitary board and having a role that is wider than just finance. I enjoy going out into the services and seeing what they deliver rather than just understanding in abstract, and I’ve found that people are surprised to see a finance person taking an interest. I’ve enjoyed doing on-calls as I’ve found Barnet is a safe space to learn as you have the cushion of the group board and the site board and you’re therefore never on your own.

Question 2. Can you describe your career story?

Initially I wanted to be an a flight attendant but I wasn’t tall enough. I went on to study Law (while making friends with lots of medical students) and enjoyed the practice of it but there was no certainty. I ended up moving to Australia and working in an accountancy firm and they started giving her more responsibility so did that for a year. When I came home I saw the NHS graduate scheme advert and thought I’m good at that and could work alongside my friends. I got onto scheme and never looked back.

Question 3. Were there any role models who gave you a sense of what it is to be a leader or helped you on your journey?

Caroline Clarke (Group Chief Executive at the Royal Free) was my training manager while on the graduate scheme. I found her inspirational as she breaks moulds and brings her authentic self to work .

Lorraine Robjant  would be another role model. She was the Director of Finance at Camden and Islington Health Authority. I really valued her clarity of ask, and her instincts were second to none in terms of identifying when things were going off track.

Question 4. What barriers have you faced in your career and how did you overcome them?

I’ve had a career of three thirds –commissioning, mental health and then acute. I’ve found there is a perception that you can’t understand something that you haven’t done i.e. can’t work in an acute if you haven’t done so before. I had to keep reminding myself that I could and that I should never be shy of asking any question, while utilising my network to go and test if there was something I didn’t understand.

The current barrier I’m facing is how balance being softly spoken with being assertive. I’ve been told that I’m too quiet but I believe leadership is about being friendly, chatty and personable, while being able to challenge in an authentic way.

Question 5. How have you balanced the competing needs of a modern leadership role? How would you define a modern leadership role (e.g. what skills are required)?

A modern leadership role requires a whole range of skills – the most important skill is listening, followed by compassion and clear communication. Early on in my career I was consistently been told that I didn’t speak enough, but I learnt that it is actually more important to know when to speak and when to listen. Compassionate leadership is important, because inevitably you sometimes need to give hard messages.

My role within Barnet is twofold – my specialist role is finance but I have to work with other areas when the other execs aren’t around so there are often competing needs, and a lot of that is in the messaging e.g. more activity with less resource. The consistency of message from all Board members is key, and keeping the language simple.

Question 6. The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #BreakTheBias, if you could change one thing to help achieve that objective what would it be?

I would get rid of the idea that you can’t be feminine and tough. Every stereotype that gets broken, helps.

Question 7. What advice would you give to finance staff in furthering their careers and becoming leaders?

Be curious about the sector you work in – make sure you don’t just focus on finance.  Seek out and be open to feedback and not just the ego-boosting feedback. I would recommend asking your colleagues at each performance review “what do you want more of and less of”?

Question 8: What are the top 3 behaviours you value most in a role model?

Authenticity , compassion, and clarity of purpose/approach.

Question 9: have you been interviewed/does your organisation interview explicitly use a value-based approach below executive level? 

To some extent, we use competency based interview ,t hat includes a section on trust values at all stages

Question 10. What do you enjoy doing outside of the working week?

I love watching Rugby League and I follow St. Helen’s rugby league avidly. I’m also enjoy fitness related activities  with park group exercise classes and bootcamp. I love to ski and also go to concerts – I’m off to see Abba 3D at Stratford this weekend!