'Don’t believe there are any glass ceilings, in my experience there genuinely aren’t'

Former radiographer now CEO Teresa Cope shares her career experience for International Women's Day

Published: 08 March 2021 People

Teresa Cope is chief executive for Manx Care, a new organisation for the Isle of Man that will be responsible for the delivery of health and care services from April 2021. She began her career as a qualified diagnostic radiographer in 1993. Since then she has held various positions in healthcare, management and senior management across different health sectors including mental health. 

For International Women’s Day, SoR spoke to Teresa to get an idea of what it’s like in her shoes. We asked a number of questions that we hope inspires other radiographers who are interested in health roles outside of the department, and to showcase how as Teresa says don’t believe there are any glass ceilings – there aren’t.

1)   What are the most important skills you've used as a CEO?

Listening! It’s really important that as a CEO you take the time to listen to your staff, patients, service users and other partner stakeholders. It’s important as a CEO that you always remain connected to staff, are accessible to them and have visibility across all services.  It’s a significant time commitment to do this well but it is one of the most important aspects of any senior leadership role. A CEO who I worked for, and I greatly admired, ‘walked the floor every day’ and staff really valued his visibility and interest. He was authentic and genuinely cared about staff wellbeing and I saw the positive impact that had on staff morale.  As CEO for Manx Care, I am committed to ensuring we are constantly in listening mode and acting on what we hear.

2)   What is the biggest myth about being a CEO?

I am not sure it’s a myth but I genuinely think that anyone from any professional background can be a CEO, and I would particularly like to see more individuals from Allied Health Professional backgrounds become CEOs.

3)   Has your background in radiography helped you and if so how?

Yes, I think so. I am hugely proud of my professional background and what I achieved as a radiographer. I was a qualified reporting radiographer and taught on a number of undergraduate and postgraduates programmes. I have found it a real advantage to be able to ‘talk clinical’ as a manager with clinical colleagues – it tends to break down some of the managerial to clinician barriers that can sometimes exist.  

4)   What is your biggest challenge as CEO?

The step up from Executive Director to CEO is a big step –– I am 4 months in so no expert, but one of the biggest challenges so far has been ensuring I don’t get too immersed in the operational detail. As a former Executive Chief Operating Officer, that has been quite hard for me. You have to be disciplined and ensure you delegate appropriately and hold people to account for delivery. You have to ensure you maintain the ability to horizon scan and set clear direction across your Executive Team.

5)   What would you advise other radiographers who are interested in a senior position?

Don’t be afraid to take a side-ways move to gain experience outside of Imaging and Radiography and don’t fear taking what you think may be a career risk.  The chances are it will work out really well. Equally don’t believe there are any glass ceilings, in my experience there genuinely aren’t.

6)   If you could go back to your early days as a clinical radiographer, what would your advice be? 

Enjoy and value the sense of team that often exists when you are working clinically – that does erode as you climb the ladder and senior management can be lonely at times.

7)   Who has most inspired you in your life and career?

I have had the benefit of working with some truly inspirational leaders throughout my career who I have learned a huge amount from. Those that have inspired me the most have been those who have great authenticity and integrity, who will make a clear stand in the best interests of patient care and patient safety, often putting their head above the parapet when necessary. Being a CEO is a highly privileged position where you can have great influence. Its important you use that positively and wisely. Many of those leaders that have inspired me have used their influence to challenge and shift thinking which has led to positive and lasting change for patients and service users.  

8)   Does it matter to you that you're a woman in a senior position and why?

It shouldn’t – I should be judged on my ability to the job but I hope it continues to demonstrate that women can be a CEO, a wife and a mother and be successful. It demonstrates we are great multi-taskers if nothing else.

9)   What do you like to do outside of work, and is it important to you?

Outside of work it is all about family life, having quality time together and getting out in the fresh air either cycling or walking. I love having a goal and have cycled the Coast to Coast three times, but I am not sure there will be 4th time. My work is incredibly important to me but ensuring I take time to care for myself is equally important.