5.1.17

How to lead, care for, and inspire great work in a social work team. (hint-probably works for all teams!)

A recent Social Work Essay was invited by the Recruitment Company-Liquid Personnel with a £1000 first prize so I entered.  I was not shortlisted but here are some of my less bizarre thoughts on the subject below.
“The average ‘career lifespan’ of a social worker is just 8 years.  What can be done to increase engagement among social workers and keep them in the profession for longer?”
My title is:
How to lead, care for, and inspire great work in a social work team.

Mirror a loving family under pressure.
Train, support, develop, stretch, and trust.
Use authority with great care and sparingly.
Continually recognise and celebrate good work and achievements.
Make lots of space for laughter.  Share food a lot.
Make lots of space to meet and share.
Continually emphasise-service-to service users and each other.
Resist cultures of overwork and presenteeism.
Always accompany a negative criticism with a positive solution.
Insist that negative feelings are shared and talked through.
Continually emphasise personal and professional safety.
Grow and invest in your workers over time.
Be clear about the team’s Mission Statement.
Have whiteboards everywhere-magnetic ones!
Encourage familiarity and pleasure in research.
Create the practice of always cascading training.
Insist upon loyalty to the team as a basic expectation.
Sometimes play music in the office.
Shared lunch is positive but never obligatory.
Encourage your social workers to take breaks and go for walks.
Have regular group supervisions on complex cases.
Train your social workers to be at ease with authority in safeguarding cases and to project it with confidence but also with compassion and understanding.
Make supervision an exciting, challenging but ultimately affirming experience.
Be a leader-servant.
Encourage the keeping of a professional journal and file-including all training, qualifications and Continued Professional Development hours.
Treat all bullying and disrespect, racism, sexism and oppression as if it were a disease from whatever source.
Have Friday lunch together in the pub regularly.
Treat all students as custodians of the future of the profession.
Create gold stars and Employee of the Week Awards but with much humour and laughter while subversively celebrating outstanding work.
Stand up for Social Work as a profession for heroes and wounded healers.
Have at least one suit for court-the best you can buy-Navy blue is best.
Teach yourself and your team to become the best possible writers.
Read and critique each other’s written work.  Remember the best writers are always the best readers.
Always, always carry a notebook and pen.
Learn to be and teach everyone to become, great note takers.
Become expert in using technology.
Use Evernote.  Scrivenor.  Devonthink.  Ulysses.  Todoist.  Wunderlist.  Word.  Mindjet.  Pages.  Powerpoint.  Keynote.  Excel.
Always ask for the other point of view, likewise advice.  One of the most common things to hear in a social work office should be ‘what do you think?’  Director or Social Worker-No matter what your role.
Meditate every day.
Physically exercise and take care of your body through fitness and nutrition.
Every social worker of eight years experience should be a highly trained and confident-
·     Meetings chair
·     Minute-taker
·     Report writer
·     Counsellor and therapist-Child or adult or both
·     Events organiser
·     Coach
·     Trainer
·     Presentations specialist
·     Theoretician
·     Self-organiser
·     Possessor of brilliantly developed interpersonal skills
·     Court Expert
·     Mediator and negotiator
Pessimism is not a good mind-set for a Social Worker.
Practice the facial expressionism of a good actor so that from the back of a Court you leave a judge in no doubt of your feelings.
A successfully managed worker is one who is excited about coming to work in the morning.
Be proud of being a Social Worker.  Encourage pride in the profession.
Consider your Senior Leadership Team as having the best of motives.  Understand the hugely difficult decisions they must make in this time of Austerity.
Senior managers!  You need to communicate Austerity much more effectively.
Be a master and mistress of Email courtesy.
Too high caseloads mean low quality work-understand it is an inevitable equation that will lead to the loss of good people.
Review all your professional priorities at least weekly.
In order for doing to be effective it must be preceded by thinking and planning.
Never sign your name to anything you don’t believe in.
If anyone ever tells you Social Work is about covering your arse, they don’t understand it.
Regard vulnerable children and adults as priceless works of art are regarded by museums.  Not problems but the reason for your professional existence.
Avoid management-speak like the plague.  Use language to be clearly understood.  Avoid acronyms and abbreviations.
Social work skills are gradually accrued over years of practice and study.  At about eight years a social worker is coming into their power to make excellent independent decisions.  If they leave the profession at this point you lose not only them but all the knowledge that is in their heads when they walk out the door including the mysterious value of their intuition.  It is irreplaceable and to lose it is to fail as an organisation and as a profession.  Staff retention needs the profession’s best minds. NOTE: staff retention needs a better title more descriptive of its various elements.  How about- ‘The joy in the job Project?’
Social Work is not about processing forms-it is about transforming lives.
Regard an Ofsted Inspection as an opportunity to show off!  Celebrate it!  There’s nothing worse for social workers than to be contaminated with the fear of a Senior Management Team on the brink of an Ofsted visit!
Let us articulate as a whole profession what we see as our future role in our society.  Let’s be a bit more pushy about it!
Join the British Association of Social Workers (BASW).  Get involved!
We don’t do this bizarre and wonderful job for the money.  Certainly not for the prestige.  Not for the popular acclaim!
Maybe we just want to do something valuable and worthwhile? To give back something?  Maybe we love humanity?  Maybe we have traces of brokenness in our own lives that spurred us on?
A myriad of reasons and maybe no reason we can articulate yet.
But it’s a damn fine thing to do, this Social Work!  We should be proud of ourselves!  We should be proud of each other!
Quite simply, when we speak the truth of what we do, that is how we will keep on doing it. 
Go well, and shine brightly!

Anthony Dougan 
December 2016
heartofbalance@gmail.com














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