If you are a person in a social worker job looking to become a manager, here is an insight into the role and the issues faced by senior team leaders and social care managers in developing, building, maintaining and managing teams of staff.

Teamwork is essential in ensuring a quality service for service users or clients. This is achieved through leadership and management; consistency and coherence as well as mutual support.

Basic pre-requisites for managers and people seeking social work team manager jobs, are:

•    good, strong leadership based on good communication
•    good team development skills and knowledge to sustain an effective team
•    management capabilities: coordinating decision-making and actions
•    effective decision-making
•    time and space for the team to meet regularly. Meetings often turn into ‘information giving’ sessions, but time needs to be spent on exploring how the members can work together to create effective and enjoyable working relationships.
•    role-modelling best practice: walking the talk, to set an example.

Management style

While a team leader needs to lead people strongly, few respect a dictator. The best leaders are approachable and instill a sense of sharing.

Effective leaders know how to get the best out of all members of the team, and have a leadership style that is flexible and appropriate. They know when and how to delegate, and provide appropriate training opportunities and support to create effective outcomes.

Good team leaders are authentic and true to themselves, clear about what they want to achieve, receptive to other people’s points of view, encourage the development of others, and are a positive role-model.

Open & Honest

Good teamwork requires a culture of openness and honesty. If difficult issues are avoided and not addressed, or people are critical behind people’s backs rather than constructively critical to their face, teamwork will suffer, or not exist.

To develop open and honest communication, and the ability to deal with difficult issues, teams should receive training and support in constructive use of conflict, active listening and giving and receiving feedback.

Indeed, there are many aspects of work that need to be shared and agreed together to establish quality and improve performance.

Managing a team of social workers fosters team collaboration, leading to improved performance, through:

  • An agreed understanding of the team’s purpose and principles and the essential nature of the service they provide. To be effective, people need to know what they are doing and why. Without a shared sense of purpose and ways of working, staff may be simply a group of individuals working independently rather than working together as a team.
  • Clear objectives and agreed goals. If team members are to be committed to achieving objectives, they need to feel some ownership of them.
  • Have a process in place whereby objectives and goals are discussed and agreed by all team members.
  • It is also helpful if each team member is involved in making decisions about their own areas of responsibility and their own objectives – to fit the team plan or service plan.
  • Clear action plans include what is to be done, by when, by whom, with a date for review – and these are relevant both for the team and for individual members – for example in their Personal Development Plans during appraisals or annual performance reviews.
  • Shared values: a shared sense of what is important and how people should be treated
  • Shared approaches for working with people – which includes both agreed formal procedures and ethos (for example, of respect, dignity, user-centred focus, personalisation)
  • Recruitment practices that filter candidates for appropriate skills and qualities to ensure that new members fit the existing team.
  • Regular reflective reviews of practice; including team reflection & individual service user reflections;
  • Regular, planned team meetings
  • Planned shift handover meetings
  • Appropriate supervision, annual appraisal and performance reviews
  • Opportunity for 360-degree supervision and reflection
  • Clear care planning objectives and pathway plans understood by all team members and clients (where capable).
  • An ethos of continuous learning
  • Avoidance of ‘blame culture,’ with support given to anyone accused of wrongdoing until investigations are complete and the situation is resolved.

The integrity and authenticity of all team members is important – qualities they have to work on individually, championed and role-modelled by an effective team leader.

A high level of trust within a team creates a supportive environment, which enhances mutual learning and the achievement of team goals and objectives. The individual’s performance and the team performance improve the quality of the entire service.