Ours is a regulated industry. And rightly so. We are pivotal players in the development and advancement of new therapeutic agents. We should be regulated in each of the jurisdictions in which we operate. The good news then is that we are regularly, and thoroughly, inspected by government bodies across the world to ensure we operate to necessary standards of safety, quality and performance.
We are also audited by our partners who seek to assess and confirm against the same criteria. Seldom a week goes by without one of our locations being visited by a partner auditor or a government inspector. But that’s good. Safety, quality and performance are really important.
Of course the same requirement for safety, quality and performance applies to many other public or private institutions…with education being one of the most obvious. Apparently, the three most important policies for any politician are education, education and education. And inspectors play a key role – rightly so – in assessing and improving safety, quality and performance of our schools.
The number one focus for a school inspector is the children. Whenever they visit, an inspector will seek opinions from parents and teachers, but above all they talk to pupils – the substrate and the output of the school.
And school inspectors have a favourite question they always ask …what is the ethos of your school?
An intriguing question to ask children – many adults would struggle to define ethos let alone teenagers. Ethos: disposition that describes guiding beliefs that characterize a community.
This definition helps indicate why ‘school ethos’ is such a valuable dimension of any inspection – there is so much to learn from the responses. Consider a school where the most common answer is ‘mutual respect’ or ‘acquire knowledge’. Compare that to one the most common answer is ‘I have no idea’ or where there is no consistency in response or where pupils give a different answer to teaching staff!
Both the quality, and degree of alignment, of response to the school ethos question gives inspectors massive amounts of data and information about the school, how its run, and its likely performance.
But if quality and alignment of answer were the only focus then any slightly obscure question would surely work just as well. And – of course – there are several reasons why ethos matters so much.
Being and feeling part of a community that shares a common ethos gives us a sense of belonging and a feeling of trust for those around us. And over any period of time, in any community, behaviours will adjust to reflect a well understood and well role-modelled ethos. Accepted behaviours can be obvious or subtle…explicit or implicit… but once we are clear on the ethos of our community…then everything that happens will follow.
Knowing that ethos and behaviour are inexorably connected offers us a way forward. A change in accepted and expected behaviour – by everyone in a community – will change ethos. And although it’s undoubtedly true that everyone in a community shares responsibility for ethos, most data indicates that leaders – senior leaders especially, but leaders at any level – are ultimately accountable for living, breathing and symbolising an ethos.
Leaders are capable of effecting change in any community provided we create a consistent experience – an experience that is reflective of our values and our beliefs – for everyone within, and interacting with, our community.
Almost by definition, leaders need to demonstrate a strong and visible presence. We need to watch and to talk; to be seen and to listen. Leaders need to embody both leadership and ethos to all.