I could not live without…

LOCSU leadership and training support

Clinical research optometrist, Reena Rani Anand, explains how a LOCSU-funded leadership skills course has transformed both her confidence and her career


I undertook the Leadership Skills for Optical Professionals course at Cardiff University in March 2022, funded by the Local Optical Committee Support Unit (LOCSU). I applied for the course after recently completing the LOCSU induction course and developing an interest in how to make the Walsall Local Optical Committee (LOC) more effective.

LOCSU only had 10 funded places available. I was awarded one of these after a short interview and the full cost of the course was covered. I am immensely grateful to Simone Mason at LOCSU, who organised everything, and to the Walsall LOC Chair, Aisha Jeewa, who encouraged me to apply. The course has been of great benefit.

Developing relationships

The course has been extremely valuable. It helped improve my interpersonal skills as well as leadership skills and facilitated closer working relationships with staff. I gained clarity on people’s roles within teams and understand the fundamental qualities of good leadership. I have since been able to work with others more effectively.

In the practice environment, I have found myself analysing the workplace from a different viewpoint: What type of leadership am I seeing around the practice? Is this an example of good leadership? Is this an effective work environment and do the team feel valued?

I developed a closeness with the leadership cohort through interactions online and contact days. The module instructors, Gill Brabner and Jane Gray, were exceptionally knowledgeable, friendly, and helpful. I learnt a lot through my discussions with them and the cohort.

We all met in person over two contact days in London. This was my favourite aspect of the course. The sessions involved separate workshops and fun team building exercises, where the whole team bonded. Following this, and through subsequent reflections, I felt empowered; I knew I was moving in the right direction to be the type of leader I wanted to be.

The 2022 students established a WhatsApp group, and we talk frequently. We celebrate our achievements and push each other to be better and progress further. I am so grateful to have this type of acceptance and support from fellow colleagues within the profession.

Improving confidence

I could not recommend the course enough. It helped me gain self-confidence and develop my understanding of my working environments and the positions within them.

The leadership content enables you to view things from different perspectives. You learn about topics such as the various leadership styles, influencing, and persuasion techniques.

The course required the completion of weekly reflective blogs and a final formal essay. Consequently, my writing skills improved. Before this, I had not undertaken any formal writing since graduating university. The blogs allowed me to reflect on my leadership style in a positive, non-judgemental way to determine what was going well and where improvements needed to be made. Unfortunately, in the past, negative self-talk had hindered my progress.

This reflective writing allowed me to develop my professional identity and gain focus on where I wanted my career to progress. I realised I was holding myself back through lack of confidence, and as a result, I have learnt to seize new opportunities. I even put myself forward for the West Midlands College of Optometrists Councillor in the 2023 elections.

The self-identity topic really helped with feelings of inadequacy. It is only now that I have gained confidence in myself and believe in my capabilities. I have realised that everyone is human; not everyone is great at absolutely everything, and that actually I have lots to offer.

As optometrists, our roles are constantly evolving and expanding, and self-directed lifelong learning is an important part of keeping our knowledge and skills up to date. The course has allowed me to take ownership of my learning and to discover gaps in my knowledge and address these. I am motivated to continue to learn and to further improve my practice. I am now enrolled on a glaucoma postgraduate module at Aston University.

As optometrists, our roles are constantly evolving and expanding, and self-directed lifelong learning is an important part of keeping our knowledge and skills up to date


Benefit for the LOC

For my final essay, I devised a team building exercise to improve engagement within our LOC.

I set up a team building activity, a short personality test, which was playful but also provided useful information on personal style. Ultimately, it was an opportunity to have a conversation about what our strengths were as individuals and as a team. This helped achieve the desired outcome of increased engagement and active participation among all committee members in team meetings and communications, to create a more effective LOC.

I recognised how important it is to celebrate the strengths of individuals in a team. The LOC members are all valuable, unique and have different skillsets. I now have a better understanding of group dynamics and appreciate that everyone has their own preferred ways of working.

I successfully released potential in the team members by effectively communicating and energising them, driving up higher levels of engagement. Members are now more motivated and devote more time and effort to their roles. We are far more effective and proactive now.

The course has enabled me to progress within my LOC and move to the next level in my career. I joined the LOC as the Secretary in 2021, and additionally took on the role of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Officer in 2022. I successfully delivered a peer review session at our annual general meeting and have organised two online CPD lectures. I also gained employment at Aston University as a teaching assistant and later as a clinical research optometrist.

This learning has propelled me in different directions and has made a vast difference to my career. It gave me that step up that I needed, and a set of skills that I previously didn’t have. I am happy to say that a lot has changed within the last 12 months. I learned a tremendous amount from the course; it has benefited me a great deal and I would urge others to consider leadership skills training.