Posted tagged ‘manager’

Nobody’s Perfect

July 28, 2011

Who will make sure you are going the right way?At a recent job interview I found myself faced with the dreaded question: what are your areas for development?  Essentially the inquisition interview panel were asking me “what things are you really bad at that will make us think twice about employing you?”

Of course in such a situation the worst thing to do would be to tell the truth.  “I have a terrible memory”, “I sometimes say offensive things in the hope of starting conversations”, “I actually don’t understand most of the financial regulations so just bumble my way through them” – all of these may be true but are not going to help get the job.

I refused also to say the standard, tired response of “I’m a bit of a perfectionist”; that’s BS of the very lowest degree in most cases and simply screams out ‘I’M NOT CREATIVE ENOUGH TO COME UP WITH AN ORIGINAL RESPONSE’.  In the end I went for my willingness to JFDI – Just-Flowering-Do-It (you can replace Flowering with other more suitable words should you feel the need to).  This sometimes means I’m halfway through an exciting project before I remember that my line manager might just be interested in finding out what I’m up to.

Why do I bring this up now?  Well, at a recent Senior Management Team meeting one of our Service Heads stood up to talk about the review she had conducted on her service.  She went into detail about some of the things that had gone well, but then also detailed some of the things which, to put it bluntly, had gone really badly. (more…)

Manager without portfolio

July 26, 2011

Mandy: A model for Local Government?

In 1997 Tony Blair named Peter Mandelson as the Minister without Portfolio within his cabinet. At the time people thought this was an excuse to give Mr Mandelson a Cabinet position without actually giving him a job.

My guess is that the stated aim of bringing in someone with the soul job of ‘co-ordinating within government’ was probably more or less correct, and if so is something we could learn from in Local Government.

In fact, I would like to advocate that councils start thinking about appointing managers without portfolio.

In general in Local Government we appoint managers first and foremost to manage their teams. We then gather these individual managers, each appointed to manage their teams, and put them together into a management team. We expect this management team to provide the strategic lead for the council (or for the department they work in), to manage their staff and budgets, to mange projects and programmes, to co-ordinate work with other departments and to look after all manner of complex work.

Despite this requirement at the management team level we still appoint our managers based on their ability to manage their own teams and hope that they will be generalists and therefore able to handle all of the other responsibilities.

However, I think this is perhaps a mistake. I know a lot of people in Local Government and many of them are managers and a few of the people I think should be managers are not. Some of these people are fantastic people mangers, some are brilliant strategists, some are ideas people, some are the people I’d most trust with shepherding complex projects through the organisation and others are the networkers, people who join everything together and are constantly finding ways of making our work more efficient and effective.

But rarely are the combination of skills listed above all present in a management team. In part this is because we value the ability to manage the service above all else when appointing our middle and senior managers.

It is for this reason that I strongly advocate the introduction of managers without portfolio. These people would not be laden with the management of individual teams. In fact they might not even be that good at people management and may have been passed over for exactly that reason. However, due to their lack of service management responsibilities these people would be responsible for doing a lot of work for the department or council; developing strategy, delivering projects and co-ordinating all of the good work that is going on.

Surely this is a role we could welcome in Local Government?

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You want me to do what?!

June 10, 2011

Surely typing is a little more legible?Yep, you guessed it – it’s another guest post which has been sent in to us, and trust us when we say it’s a doosie!  If you have your own amusing anecdote or serious point to make about local government or life within it you can send it to us at – especially if it’s anything like this…

A few weeks ago my service head asked me to put together a Powerpoint presentation which covered everything that’s gone on in the department over the last year: our achievements, savings programmes, what projects we’re leading on, what is going to happen next year, and so on. Of course, this request came in at the last-minute – why would I need any time to research it properly and speak to the many people I needed information from? But that isn’t where the fun begins.

Nor does it begin when her only comments on the first draft I sent through read ‘more positive survey results info please’ (pretty much those exact words), or even when she actually did give me proper feedback and it consisted mainly of requests for information that she knew full well didn’t exist.

No, the fun really began when I showed her the final draft the day before the presentation, and was told ‘this is great, but what I want is for the notes to be hand-written’. (more…)

Competency killed the Council

January 10, 2011

Well, if we're honest no; it makes you look like an idiot!

A new year and another guest post. We received a few over the Christmas period and will put them up over the next few weeks. This one discussed the problems that can come when members of staff are ‘too’ competent.

After some mediocre school results I made a pact with myself to aim higher and strive for bigger and better things. I pledged never to pass up an opportunity and to toss my name into the hat and see where it gets me. This commitment is not all altruistic; at the same time I was an ambitious individual, keen to move up within the organisation and assume some genuine responsibility in the not too distant future.

Well to date, it’s got me a place on the most hated team within my Council, having to meet the challenge of next year’s budget cuts, working a 50 hour week on a junior salary. Sitting here now I am left with the conclusion that (both metaphorically and financially speaking) I am playing the long game.

The lesson I have learnt is that competency is both a blessing and a curse in Local Government.