It’s difficult to predict who will make a good manager. Past performance in your chosen profession is no guide. Who would have thought that the strident, bolshie young social worker, the bane of management as a trade union rep would go on to be a director and then a chief executive. Everyone seemed to think the outstanding practitioner would make an excellent manager but their first experience of management was not a happy one they never felt able to square their professional values with budget cuts and efficiency initiatives. Then there was the surprise who really shouldn’t have been. An officer in charge of an elderly persons home who went on to be a social work manager even though they have never been a social worker. It shouldn’t have been a surprise because the role of officer in charge with its responsibility for managing a budget and more significantly managing staff is a more relevant background for management, especially when as in this case the role involved changing the service from one that was run to suit the convenience of staff to one run for the benefit service users. After all modern management is all about budgets and changing the way things are done. As this manager said they got a lot of experience working with HR and the unions to overcome resistance to change, very useful experience for a future senior management.
Twenty years ago it would have been unusual for a director of social services not to have a back ground in social work, today the director may have a professional background in education or housing. The writing was on the wall even before then. I was working as a social worker in one of the biggest social work departments in the country when the director left and her temporary replacement was the Director of libraries! These days that sentence would not warrant an exclamation mark.
Some people just take to management and it really doesn’t matter what they are managing if it involves managing people and budgets. Others never feel truly comfortable in the role.
Blair McPherson former director, author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk