I believe that a range of leadership styles are necessary to meet the requirements of both the organisation and the team members working for that organisation. There are a number of leadership theories and I will utilise two, the Hersey-Blanchard situation leadership model and Peter Drucker’s ‘management by objectives’ in order to illustrate my leadership style.
The Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership theory understands that leadership style must be varied, dependent upon both the ‘level of maturity’ of the team members, and the task itself. To Hersey and Blanchard, leadership styles stem from four basic behaviours, designated with a letter-number combination:
• S-1 Telling, where the leader directs the team, telling people what to do and how to do it.
• S-2 Selling, where the leader provides information and direction to the team, in effect ‘selling’ the message in order to ensure that the team will be on board with the task requirement, and providing support as necessary.
• S-3 Participating, here the leader works with the team, sharing decision making responsibilities.
• S-4 Delegating, where the leader will pass on most of the responsibility for the task required to the individual or the team, monitoring progress where required.
As the maturity level of the team increases, focus is more on the relationship with the team/individual, and less on direction, resulting in the leader expending less effort, for more effective results. However, this is linked to the maturity level of the tam.
Four maturity levels of the group are defined by Hersey and Blanchard as follows:
• M-1: basic incompetence or unwillingness in doing the task
• M-2: inability to do the task but willing to do so
• M-3: competent to do the task but do not think they can
• M-4: the group is ready, willing, and able to do the task.
According to this theory, ability level and willingness to do work can be encouraged and increased by a good leader who raises the level of expectations.
This is relevant to my role as I have overall responsibility for the delivery of high quality case work for The Property Ombudsman, a non-profit making, redress scheme considering complaints from consumers primarily about the actions of estate agents or letting agents. We have approximately 30 members of staff who seek to resolve the disputes and these staff are divided between two team, both managed by an Adjudicator Manager. I have overall leadership of the teams and, under the prescribed delegated authority, I must sign off any cases where we are making a compensatory award of more than £1,000. This means that I must ensure that all staff are aware of our approach to ensure consistent and correct decision making.
The Adjudicators in each team deal with complex cases. In the past each Adjudicator was allocated the next case in the queue of cases, all dealt with in strict time order. However, this did not seem to be the best approach and I introduced a system, at the beginning of 2017, whereby both the Adjudicators and cases are graded. Adjudicators are graded level 1 to 4, depending on skill and ability levels, and the Adjudicator Managers are tasked with grading the cases according to complexity, again on a 1 to 4 level. We now require an Adjudicator to work on cases of the appropriate level, i.e. a level 1 Adjudicator, those with least experience will deal with level one cases, those deemed to be the least complex.
Any Adjudicator, or their Manager, will discuss cases with me if they are unsure about the outcome or award. The skills level of the Adjudicators varies considerably, with those at level one generally showing a maturity level 2 under the Hersey and Blanchard model, in that they are willing to consider the case, and want to make the correct decision, but lack the confidence to do so, often unsure about our approach as they have not come across that type of case before. In such cases, my leadership approach will mirror that of S2, in affect I will make the decision but ‘sell’ the reasoning in that I provide information and direction. I need the Adjudicator to understand why we make the decision that we do, and I need to ensure that they accept the logic, in effect that they are on board with the task requirement, and providing support as necessary.
However, I will take a different approach to level 4 Adjudicators. These Adjudicators are experienced individuals, who are tasked to write the most complex cases. I will ensure that the cases are allocated to them, and will monitor progress in that I ensure monthly that they are meeting target number, but I will only interview if my specific assistance is requested Should a level 4 Adjudicator raise a query, I will take on board that they have the necessary expertise and skills to carefully consider a case, and assistance will only be sought for a very complex cases, that they will have thought through carefully and generally they will be seeking confirmation of their approach. On such a query, we will discuss together and work together constructively to ensure that we have considered all points to arrive at the correct decision. I am fully aware that the level 4 Adjudicators prefer to work independently, and are able to do so, and are committed to ensuring that they cases are correct, only seeking guidance as required. I am comfortable to pass the reasonability for completing the cases onto these individuals, and will monitor progress as necessary.
The organisation has dealt with over 3,500 complex complaints in 2017, an increase form 3,000 in 2016 and I consider that the introduction of grading both the individual Adjudicators and the cases, has allowed me to focus on those at the lower end of the Hersey and Blanchard maturity levels, to enable me to fulfil the leadership and management role of leading the teams on a successful manner, ensure that I target my leadership style in an appropriate way to allow the careful consideration of cases by those with the requisite expertise.
Another management style is that of Peter Drucker’s ‘management by objectives’. This is a performance management approach in which a balance is sought between the objectives of employees and the objectives of an organisation. Setting challenging but attainable objectives promotes motivation and empowerment of employees. By increasing commitment, managers are given the opportunity to focus on new ideas and innovation that contribute to the development and objectives of organisations.
In Autumn 2017 I was tasked with introducing Quality Assurance to the organisation. I considered this to be imperative for two reasons. First, the Adjudicators have differing authority to sign off cases themselves, depending on their level, for example, level 4 Adjudicators may send out cases where the compensatory award is less that £1,000, level 3 Adjudicators where the award is less than £500, level 2 Adjudicators for those cases where the award is less than £250 (level 1 Adjudicators are required to have all their cases signed off by a Manager).and hence some cases are sent out without being seen by a manager. It was considered important, in accordance with good governance, to be able to evidence that quality controls checks were in place.
Secondly, having introduced the grading of Adjudicators into levels, dependent on ability, I also wanted to implement an evidence based approach to progression, with Adjudicators able to demonstrate, from a selection of their work, that they were exceeding the demands of their current level.
I was aware that some Adjudicators were going to struggle with the idea of Quality Assurance, and hence I made the decision that I would speak to the whole team in November 2017 to introduce the idea, explaining that we would work together to develop the objectives throughout 2018. All Adjudicators are award, from their job description and key performance indicators, that their role is to produce quality decision to the target number agreed, but, in the past, we have not set out what is meant by ‘quality’. I spoke to the team to explain why we were introducing Quality Assurance, reminding them that our Vision and values refer to provide a fair and impartial resolution service and we need to be able to evidence this. Once we had talked this through, and I had explained why this was necessary, I moved on to how we would cover this. This was to be by way of a random sampling of cases on a quarterly basis, each case being graded against 12 objectives. I provided the list of objectives and took on board the Adjudicators comments, to fine tune and agree the list. I placed great emphasis on the point that in the first trial year Quality Assurance would be utilised to identify training needs, and facilitate evidence based progression, explaining that we were likely to develop this model further to score cases, which would lead to a requirement of a certain score being achieved to work at each level. Feedback obtained was very positive; most Adjudicators expressed satisfaction that the 12 objectives were clear and attainable, albeit challenging and they expressed the view that knowing clearly what was required on every case was motivational and empowering, understanding that career progression would now be factually demonstrated by them, rather than at a manager’s discretion.
I consider that the above demonstrates that I have successfully used Peter Drucker’s ‘management by objectives’ given that I have set objectives for the Adjudicators, that is quality decision, together with setting out the actions required for achieving them, by way of the 12 factors. I communicated this by way of a team meeting, with follow up notes, to all those Adjudicators. Although the Quality Assurance will not be put into effect until 2018, I am confident that I have clearly set out the objectives and managed the introduction of the model in such a way that I have motivated the team and clarified to them how their performance will be assessed. From this. I conclude that I have developed a range of leadership styles that enable me to effectively manage a team who are striving to produce quality resolution decisions.