Graham Hopkins introduces a new column on practical
guidance for front-line managers, which will run fortnightly from
Being a manager is easy, isn’t it? A pushover, a piece of
cake. A no-sweat doddle.
A trawl of advertisements in a recent copy of Community Care
shows that all you need is a few abilities and skills, while
demonstrating a couple of desirable personal qualities. The
ability, that is, to think strategically, to motivate and enthuse,
to create new and innovative ways of working, to build confidence
with local stake-holders, to shape and deliver organisational
change, to lead and develop, to broker deals and to network
internally and externally – and at all points in between, no doubt.
As for skills, you can get by with having excellent organisational,
outstanding interpersonal and exceptional presentational ones.
Also, you will need to demonstrate that you are a dynamic
self-starter and an effective negotiator showing imagination,
creativity, resourcefulness and vision, infused with inspirational
thinking with an eye on the bigger picture, while providing project
management expertise in multi-agency contexts as you develop
innovative solutions to problems.
Incidentally, your knowledge must be in-depth and your track
record proven. An ability to walk on water and turn said water into
wine is preferred but not essential.
And then you might get short-listed.
There can be little doubt that a good team or service is usually
good because of (rather than despite) the manager or management.
Indeed, a 1999 National Institute of Social Work report on
management practice concludes that although it is possible to find
poor practice in a good team, it is very difficult for a good
practitioner to work well in a poor team with poor management.
The people and organisations that help shape social care policy
and practice are not only singing from the same hymn sheet on this,
but are doing so remarkably in tune. Health secretary Alan Milburn
says: “Good management makes or breaks any organisation”, adding
that staff and service users deserve nothing less than “brilliant”
The chief inspector of the Social Services Inspectorate, Denise
Platt, believes there is a powerful link between excellent
performance, and strong leadership and good management.
In her 1999 annual report she says: “What makes a significant
difference to the performance of an organisation is the quality and
competence of front-line managers.” They, she continues, “manage
the primary tasks and activities of the organisation. They have a
key role in determining whether standards of practice are
consistently maintained, in supporting staff engaged in complex,
personally demanding practice, and ensuring that staff are
continually developed in knowledge-based practice.”
John Bolton, director of Joint Reviews, agrees that improving
the management of staff will unquestionably improve services. And
the Training Organisation for the Personal Social Services (Topss)
believes that: “Delivering high-quality social care services
requires strategic leadership and clear operational
And as such great pressure and expectation can ride roughshod on
the shoulders of managers. It’s an untested generalisation,
but one must suspect that more front-line (and thus usually
first-time) managers struggle with their tasks rather than
confidently warm to them.
Perhaps this is because excellent and experienced practitioners
have only one avenue of career progression – into management;
unlike nurses, say, who have career practitioner grades. And
clearly there’s no guarantee that a brilliant practitioner
will evolve into a brilliant manager. Indeed, some may suggest too
many are simply set up to fail.
So, this is where our new series, Managementality, pops its head
around the door. We will look to provide down-to-earth practical
advice, ideas and guidance on social care management. We’ll
take an everyday management task and tackle it from behind, studs
showing. We’ll point out pitfalls and rummage around tips to
help you become a better manager.
Management is all about getting things done with people. So,
there’ll be no platitudes (apart from the last sentence,
approach, and definitely no “visioning-the-future” management-speak
What we hope to provide is a guide to the all the stuff they
won’t teach you at the Harvard Business School – or the
Harlow Technical College, for that matter. This is hardcore
Our pool of experts who aim to help you keep your head
chief executive, Anchor Housing Trust
regional manager, National Care Standards Commission
executive director of community services, London Borough of
programme manager, Children’s Society
director of social services, London Borough of Camden
director of social services, East Riding
chief executive, Elizabeth FitzRoy Support
director, BUPA partnerships
head of policy, Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health
director of social services and housing, Bracknell Forest Vijay
independent consultant, voluntary sector
policy, planning and performance manager,
North Lincolnshire social services
purchasing manager, Gloucestershire social services
director, Voice UK
director, Avenue Consulting
Programme director, Institute of Local Government Studies,
CAN WE HELP?
Losing track of time management? Vacant about managing empty
posts? Can’t see a way through supervision? Unsure when to be
Is there a management subject you’d like us to cover? Have
you got a particular management problem that you’d like some
Maybe we can help.
Send your management questions or problems to
CAN YOU HELP?
Have you got practical ideas or tips on any aspect of management
that work? Want to share them with us? Or want to find out more
about Managementality? Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Some of the management subjects we intend to cover
Managing for equality
Managing commissioning and contracting