5 Minute Snapshots:
Judi Apte and Grace Leotta talk about Leadership and Management in Community Services and Health

Hi Grace, what do you think are some of the key factors that have enabled some non-government services to do well over the last 2 years, despite the impacts of COVID?

Grace:

I have been pleased to hear staff and frontline managers speak about how supportive senior managers and Board members have been, particularly through the pandemic. This support has been experienced as increased opportunities to engage and be consulted about work practice and way to support staff as they continue to provide support to communities. 

People to whom I have spoken feel optimistic that staff engagement and two-way communication, and flexible work practices will continue in their organisation.

 

Judi: 

I have been so impressed by their flexibility and the way that some new managers took on the role and its responsibilities online before they met people in person. I have particularly noticed those agencies, managers and teams that held fast to their commitment to do whatever it takes to continue providing service.

Some managers had rarely used technology before and moved over quickly to adapt their leadership approach to mixed mode or online supervision. Teams designed fun and innovative ways to keep in contact. 

But there have been significant pressures and some people are very tired: “do not talk to me anymore about ‘flexing’!”

 

We both started work as social workers in the disability sector when there was that key change internationally to focusing on human rights of people with a disability…   do you think the things you learned at the time still hold up today?

 

Grace:

They definitely do. I started working at a time when the rights of people who participated in our services was at the centre of our thinking, and this resulted in having to redesign services, so they were more what today we refer to as ‘person centred’ or ‘community centred’. We also realised we needed to work with people with disability and with advocates to required facilitate inclusive communities.

We spoke about people being involved in decision making at every level - the work with the support team, the running of the organisation such as, hiring staff, and governance and management, such as, participating on the Board and on advisory committees. This is an area that I hope will continue to expand and I see codesign and coproduction as ways of people who participate in our services being genuine decision makers in those services.

Judi: 

Definitely. Because we were a brand new service, we were designing new service models all the time. And innovation was welcomed and supported. Things weren’t always clear at all; we just had the principles and a commitment to listen to and respond to the needs and expectations of the client group. Co-design from my beginnings! 

But I also look back with some regrets because there were some serious issues in families that I could not assist with – and these issues could be addressed now by a more highly skilled workforce and interagency collaborations.

 

What capabilities do you think are particularly important for leaders and managers at this point of time?

Grace:

Facilitating genuine engagement with people who use participate in our services, with communities, and with staff to develop real strategies to responding to a complex and changing environment.

Adaptability and supporting positive adaptability and resilience in staff and teams

Collaborative leadership with other organisations and community members to bring the best of each to our current situation and to take us into the future.

Mentoring and supporting emerging leaders including among people who participate in our services.

 

Judi:

Flexibility and responsiveness. 

Honest conversations in teams about whether the service is really meeting current client needs and expectations.

Acceptance of our limits as people and services.

 

What do you wish Boards of community organisations paid more attention to?

 

Grace:

Thinking and planning strategically, that is, thinking ‘big picture’ - where the organisation is going, how well it is engaging with the community, how it can work with other organisations and groups to innovate and meet unmet/undermet needs and respond to people's aspirations.

The results the organisation is achieving for people who participate in their service (this includes prospective users of the service), and their experience of the service, to ensure that is the main focus of the organisation.

Ensure that the voices of people who participate in its services and members of the community are constantly heard and listened to at all levels of the organisation.

Diversity and inclusion is reflected in all levels of the organisation, and that the Board itself reflects the diversity of the community.

Positively influencing workplace culture so that it supports quality support and service delivery, and staff wellbeing, and that everyday practice is in line with the organisations purpose and values.

Resources for ongoing support and development of staff and management at all levels.

 

Judi:

Greater awareness of the complexity of some of the work and acknowledgement of great client-centred innovation when it happens.

More appropriate professional supervision for experienced staff.

Focus on organisational congruence – asking, “do some of our structures or management practices contradict our stated ethos”?