Author Archives: Charles Elvin

In a nutshell: 5 tips for being an effective manager

Here are five tops tips intended to help you become as effective a manager as you can be.
1. Say thank you
Recognition is hugely important. Simply saying ‘thank you’ is an extraordinarily powerful thing to do and is very rarely used to full effect.

2. Check information sources
If someone gives you a piece of information that doesn’t quite feel right or doesn’t quite resonate, always check it.

3. Trust your employees and your team
People talk a lot about staff trusting their leaders, but it’s just as important for leaders to trust their teams too.

4. Be fair
Sometimes it’s very difficult to be fair. People are naturally drawn to one side of an argument over another and you need to resist that.

5. Adapt
Take risks. If you fail, make sure that you survive the failure and try again – and adapt what you do. It’s important to take risks, but you have to accept that sometimes you will fail. People are far too risk-averse, but you’ve got to be prepared to take a decision.

Effective change management in the public sector during tough economic times

Public sector managers are undergoing a period of dramatic change. Over the last decade, they have seen public spending almost double from £389bn to £703bn and become used to an ever-expanding service. With cuts to services now finally starting to bite, they are finding themselves managing during a period of contraction for the first time.

Although this presents a set of new challenges, managers can contend with the changes brought about by contraction by applying leadership and management skills they developed during growth in the public sector.

Public sector managers have been concerned about the effect of budget cuts for a number of years. In 2010 our research report Leading Change in the Public Sector investigated public sector managers’ readiness to respond to the challenges brought about the recession. While their number one issue was work pressure, they said that their top concern for the future was budget restraints. Two years on the challenges for managers remain the same.

Despite these challenges, the research identified a strong sense of optimism and opportunity. Nearly half the managers had a positive outlook. A majority also recognised that opportunities existed to innovate and introduce new business processes, improve performance at work, develop creative solutions, improve teamwork and communication, and improve staff morale and motivation.

Leaders who want to drive change should capitalise on this spirit of optimism, and empower managers to develop innovative responses to budget cuts that will improve efficiency, introduce more effective back office services and improve frontline delivery.

For effective change management to happen, managers need to be made clear what the purpose of the changes is and be given consistent goals. New government legislation and initiatives, changing strategic objectives can make this problematic. A key issue for senior managers and policy makers is how well they prepare managers to address them.

Considerable leadership and managerial skills will be required to deal effectively with the challenges brought on by the ongoing changes to the public sector.

Managers can be supported in delivering better services by moving away from a top-down target-setting culture and instead using targets more constructively. For example, they could set realistic localised targets rather than having uniform targets imposed without consultation, which is in line with best practice in leadership and management.

Public sector managers need to be better equipped with the skills and knowledge in areas such as change management, innovation and communication. Yet the one area likely to be hardest hit by spending cuts is training and development. This is an essential tool to support the kind of radical change needed, as it equips managers and their teams with the skills to make it happen. At a time when the public sector needs to maintain the highest levels of performance, the availability of ongoing support and development for managers is critical.

By Charles Elvin, Chief Executive of the Institute of Leadership & Management.

This article was first published in HR & Training Journal Issue 12, June 2012.


The NHS needs strong leadership at all levels

Skilled and confident leaders are vital in helping the NHS overcome the challenges it faces. 

Last year’s inaugural NHS Leadership and Management Summit launched the concept of ‘No more heroes’, a style of distributed leadership that promotes strong leadership at all levels and departs from the idea of the all-powerful chief executive.

This model of leadership is essential to the success of the NHS at a time of unprecedented challenges and organisational transition. The qualities that make a good leader – confidence, adaptability and the ability to motivate others – cannot be confined to those at the top, but should be present across all levels in the organisation, from those that manage the very smallest teams to those that are responsible for a number of teams. In order to develop and improve as leaders, individuals must think of themselves as leaders and have the confidence to use and practice their leadership skills.

The focus of this year’s summit – leadership for engagement – builds on this concept of distributed leadership. The NHS is a vast, multi-faceted organisation with a great network of employees and stakeholders. It is vital that everyone within the organisation understands the goals they are working towards, and, just as importantly, feel motivated to do so.

Leaders within the NHS are ultimately responsible for this. With so many relationships to negotiate and maintain (patients, members of the public, staff, boards and partner organisations), it is necessary that there are people at every level, who are able to engage with and inspire the people they work alongside. It is also crucial that leaders have a clear vision of their goals and sets of values, and communicate these clearly to those around them.

In order to achieve this, leaders must be able to recognise themselves as such; one of the difficulties within the NHS is that people do not identify themselves as leaders or managers, but rather in terms of their professional capability. With the lack of awareness or the skills and confidence to assume a leadership role, engagement fails and organisational goals can prove to be difficult to achieve.  

An effective tool for developing leaders, and encouraging them to see themselves as such, is through coaching.  Rather than simply advising or providing answers, coaching is a facilitative process that allows people to formulate their own ideas and solutions.

Coaching is one of the single most cost-effective development investments the NHS can make as this learning naturally spreads across the workplace. True coaching – by trained coaches – ensures staff work out their own solutions and approach, rather than being given a moment in time solution. Building a coaching culture involves proactively equipping managers through training and development. Investing in formal coaching qualification will achieve this as well as helping to demonstrate the organisation’s commitment to coaching as an on-going management practise. Ultimately, it will help staff across the NHS work at their optimum level.

A shift in perceptions of leaders in the NHS is crucial and ties in to the ‘No more heroes’ idea introduced at last year’s Leadership and Management Summit. This is not something that can happen over night. Leadership development is not a one-off, or even a short learning event, rather it needs to be embedded over time and is crucial to the long term, sustainable success of the NHS.

By Charles Elvin, Chief Executive of the Institute of Leadership & Management

This article was first published in Health Service Journal May 2012.