Day in the Life: Matt Walsh

An etching of a falcon or kestrel and one of its tail feathers
Credit: A falcon or kestrel and one of its tail feathers. Etching by Eliza D. (Wellcome Collection)

What have you been doing today? 

Today I have been out on my bike. It is almost a year ago since I made a commitment to myself to go out for a ride every day that I possibly could, and to write something about what I discovered on my ride. The same ride, a different journey, every day, for a year. 

Dec 13th 2021 

There's a fire in the sky
Setting the moor aglow
With red and amber tint
A Kestrel hovers
Into the wind 
Over the blaze
Fanning the flames of the day
Five geese circle,
Answer the call of my squeaky brake,
And two hundred gulls rise to greet me
As I hurry home 

Then I spent a day facilitating a virtual leadership development programme with a group of Healthcare Scientists in Leeds. We talked about change, about deepening the relationships within and between teams. It was a great way to spend a day. I brought images of wild flowers, and Turner's Fighting Temeraire and the still image of Billy Elliot leaping into the final scene of the film as the White Swan. We talked about joy, resilience and purpose.

Is that a typical day for you? 

I am blessed to have a variety to my days at the moment. Some days are busy, with the board development work I am doing for the Inspiring Leaders Network, along with coaching and mentoring. I'm coming to the end of a coaching qualification, and am spending a lot of time worrying about my final assignment, and less time actually doing it. Some days are quiet, and I can take longer thinking about my poems and playing my piano. 

When did you start working with culture, health and wellbeing, and how? 

That is a hard one. I don't know the answer to it. I think in some senses I have always worked between these two worlds. In my role as a GP I often found both inspiration and solace for myself and through the discovery of shared interests and passions with the people I was there to help, I found art and poetry and literature and music as keys that helped to unlock a new approach or a different way to think. In terms of a more formal 'leadership' relationship to this work, I think that my work with others in Calderdale to establish an approach to arts, health and wellbeing is when I really woke up to the potential here. 

What was the last project you came across that inspired you?

I think that it is people, and their energy and their hope that really inspires me. An old friend of mine invited me to join an online choir during lockdown and I was completely blown away by the power of the connection that I was able to make to the music and to the group, and how it brought back to life in me something that I thought I had lost. 


About Matt

Prior to establishing his consultancy business, Matt worked in the NHS for 33 years and he has learned something new every day. He believes that what he has learned boils down to this; alongside our technical competencies, we only have five things. We have our words, the words we choose to use and the words that we choose to hear. We have our ability to create maintain and deepen relationships. We have our choices and what we learn from making them, and we have our courage - the courage to be the best version of ourselves. Finally, and importantly, we have our willingness and capability to support and develop others.

He was Chief Executive at NHS Calderdale CCG for 7 years and prior to that he had several years’ experience as deputy CEO, Acting CEO and Executive Director roles in various organisations across West Yorkshire. Alongside that he has undertaken NHS leadership roles at regional and national level. He is a clinician, a doctor, a reflective practitioner. His foundation is a 25-year career as a General Practitioner and GP trainer. He believes that most of the time, we have the answers to our most challenging questions within us, and what we need is the time, space and support to find them. He practiced that way as a doctor, and he practices that way as a leader.

He is a published poet and an accomplished musician.

portrait of Matt Walsh