• Tara Humphrey

The 6 Skill Sets of a Successful PCN Manager

Updated: Dec 13, 2021

I am often asked what skills complement the PCN Clinical Director in leading a primary care network.

The job of a PCN Manager requires both hard and soft skills in this fast paced operational and strategic role.

I believe there are 6 core skills and areas that a Clinical Director should look for in a PCN Manager which may not be found on the typical #PCNManager job description.

Many PCN Managers will not have every skill at the level you require, however every area on this list can be coached or training can be provided.

If you're a PCN Manager reading this, these skill set areas can act as a development list for your own progression and success in your role.

A Master Facilitator

The role of a PCN Manager requires the individual to be a master facilitator.

They are the person that the clinical lead will look to for support and guidance. They interpret the needs and actions to make things happen so that the clinical lead is not trying to do everything themselves.

A PCN Manager may find themselves chairing a meeting, negotiating payments and managing tensions between network staff. This means they need to be a confident communicator, effective in gaining consensus and leading people to an outcome. The PCN Manager also needs to be able to get to the bottom of the things that are not being communicated!


The PCN Manager is there to drive things forward and to develop solutions.

If the network spends too long in an area on a moot point, people will become frustrated and disengage.

The Manager must always be thinking:

  • What can we do?

  • What resources can I pull on? Which connections can help me?

  • What quick wins can we point people towards to buy a bit of time before a more long term solution?

There will always be something that can be accomplished or progressed.

Also my friend Ben Gowland who hosts the General Practice Podcast often describes the role of the PCN Manager, as somebody that's good at turning vague ideas and pieces bits of information into something great without anybody telling them to do it.

Your Manager needs to be good at proactively listening, clarifying their understanding, identifying the need, building processes and relationships.

An Intrapreneurial Spirit

It will often feel like there will never be enough time or resources within networks because the system is under so much demand. Because of this, it is productive to look at things through an intrapreneurial lens:

  • What resources can be utilised?

  • What business development opportunities can we capitalise on?

  • What strategic partnerships could we create?

  • How can we make things more efficient?

The term intrapreneurship refers to a system that allows an employee to act like an entrepreneur within a company or other organisation. Intrapreneurs are self-motivated, proactive, and action-oriented people who take the initiative to pursue an innovative product or service.


I wasn't sure whether I should keep this section in this blog, but I would be dishonest to omit it.

With so many people in the network, there may be varying levels of understanding of the value that a PCN manager can bring; you may experience some crap days. Let's not sugar coat it! Every job does.

When you experience a knock:

  • Seek to understand their point of view

  • Take a breath and create some space

  • Review your actions and see if there is any room for improvement

  • Move forward

And a note to Clinical Directors…support and protect your Manager!

A Strong Desire to Learn

I read so many business books. Here are some of my personal favourites that have helped me in my role as a PCN Manager:

  • Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

  • The HBR Guide to Leading Teams

  • The Creator's Code by Amy Wilkinson

  • Smart Collaboration by Heidi K Gardner

  • Traction by Gino Wickman

The HBR podcasts feature authors, academics and business people who share their work. I get A LOT of ideas from this podcast.

I'm also a subscriber to the Institute of Healthcare Management and currently completing a short course on population health.

There are so many entrepreneurial and leadership lessons, change management approaches, quality improvement techniques, and productivity tools created by people with more or different experience than ourselves.

Without being rude, my mind boggles when I ask other managers, what you are reading? What are you listening to? And they say nothing.

You obviously do not fall into this category as you are reading my blog and hopefully a listener of my podcast, The Business of Healthcare!

I truly believe that in the long run, you can’t reach optimal success without investing in your own professional development.

An Understanding of how to execute a boundary spanning role

There is an academic paper titled, "We are all boundary spanners now" published by Cardiff, Metropolitan University, School of Management. When I read this paper, I was working as a Business Development Manager at a University in the Faculty of Health, studying for my MBA.

This paper PERFECTLY describes the skills required for a PCN Manager and for anyone leading across multiple organisations or departments.

The paper talks about:

  • The need to secure political and social legitimacy.

  • The role of a reticulist, which is somebody that possesses skills in creating services and manipulating communication networks. They are astute at identifying, where in an organisation a decision it needs to be made.

  • The importance of managing relationships between different sources of power using diplomacy.

  • Promoting consensus seeking behaviour.

If you are a primary care network manager, PCN Clinical Director, PLEASE read this paper. If you have trouble accessing it, please email me and I’ll share it directly with you.

How I Can Help You

If you are newly in post as a PCN Manager, we have got a masterclass coming up called How to Navigate Multiple Practices with Confidence coming up on Thursday, the 27th of May, from 13:00 - 15:30. It is a virtual workshop that costs £197 plus VAT. Delegates will also get a free one-to-one coaching session with me.

Click here for more details: https://www.thcprimarycare.co.uk/pcn-manager-masterclass

Why work with me?

With the experience and expertise of leading 11 Training Hubs, supporting 18 Primary Care Networks and 3 GP Federations, I understand and appreciate the complexity of healthcare and what it takes to deliver projects across multiple practices.

I have taken this experience and created over 200 blogs and practical PCN resources. I’m also the host the Business of Healthcare Podcast which to date has over 127 episodes to share lessons learned and provide frameworks for you to follow.

This workshop is created for YOU by a PCN Manager. I know how challenging the role can be at times and what to put in place to support positive growth.

If you liked this paper, please check our PCN Resources Page for my practical advice to support the role of the PCN Manager.