Stay in teaching, my wife suggested; become an MP my mother offered. Is this because they both think I am opinionated and like telling others what to do? Or is it that teaching and politics, in common with social work, have the desire to make a difference to people’s lives and influence the way people think?
My strength is my passion and values, my weakness is my inability to keep my mouth shut. I lost one senior management post because of this and have done myself no favours in countless other situations by telling politicians and senior managers what they did not want to hear.
So would I keep my thoughts to myself if I had my time again? Right now I would have to say no. But if you had asked me when I was pushed out of my assistant director’s post in a housing association, or overlooked for a director’s post, my answer may have been different.
The hardest times to speak out are not as a director, but as a care worker or social worker. To risk being isolated in the staff room or labelled a troublemaker by management is a real test of character. In my view, integrity, saying what you think and doing what you say, is undervalued in organisations. My aim is to help create a safe environment for service users and staff to speak out.
So what would I have done differently? I would have started my management career earlier. It took me a long time to decide what I wanted to do with my work life. I “wasted” a number of years after leaving teacher training college, having a lot of fun working in children’s homes. I would have left a couple of jobs earlier, I stayed too long. I wouldn’t have gone to work in a housing association, but then again that is where I met my wife.
I would have been less hesitant about taking secondments; the one I eventually took really expanded my horizons. I have been fortunate in working with some stimulating, enthusiastic and committed people. If I had my time again I would do more to keep in touch with them. Maybe it’s not too late – get in touch!
Blair McPherson is director of organisation development at Lancashire Council having previously been the deputy director of social services. He has worked for Lancashire CC for the last five years. Blair moved to Lancashire from Nottinghamshire where he was an assistant director