This May, the first cohort of our brand new course for aspiring and current social work and social care leaders commences. In this video interview, social worker and senior lecturer Jo Williams and organisational consultant Jennie McShannon discuss their motivations for developing the programme, why it is so needed in the current climate and what participants can expect from the course, and how the systems-psychodynamic approach to leadership can help social work leaders to foster diverse teams. Watch the video below and scroll to read our summary of their conversation about Social work and social care: Leadership development programme.
Social work and social care: Leadership development programme is a new collaboration between the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust’s social care leadership and management experts and Tavistock Consulting, developed by Jo Williams and Jennie McShannon. During the programme, comprising six fortnightly one-day modules, newly appointed or aspiring social work leaders will learn how to apply a systems-psychodynamic approach to their leadership style. The key areas of Self, Team, System, Change, Diversity and Learning will shape the sessions, and participants will be encouraged to think deeply about their role as a leader.
Why is this course needed now?
“Never before has there been a more crucial time for a course like this for people in the social work sector,” says Jo. “The pressures of the pandemic, the new hybrid ways of working that we are trying to navigate have thrown up lots of opportunity to explore what it does when we throw uncertainty into the mix of practice.” The course gives participants a space to consider their learning and development in the current context of complexity, and offers ways to look at their practice through “different lenses”.
What can participants expect to experience on the course?
Throughout the course, participants will develop a strong understanding of theory and concepts relating to leadership, team dynamics and groups, and will spend time considering themselves and how their history and biography influence what they bring to their role. In the first session, participants are introduced to what Jo and Jennie refer to as the ‘lifeline exercise’.
“We invite them to think about significant people, situations, events from their past,” explains Jo. “Whether that’s through growing up in their family, through being at school or in the workplace, and how that shaped them into who they are and what they bring to their role. So, things such as their relationship with authority and power, and how that might manifest itself.” Participants will also analyse themselves using the Social GGRRAAACCEEESSS Model, to think about “who they are, and what that means for privilege and power from their position of Self, but [also] what that might mean in relation to Other.”
Although participants are provided ample space to learn and think about these concepts and ideas, Jennie stresses that the programme is “not all chalk and talk”. “Participants have an experience that it is very relatable to their real life work context… and the work that they hope to do,” says Jennie. “The course is very experiential.”
Participants will not only study group dynamics, but be able to apply theory and concepts in real time by examining the course group itself. The cohort will “simulate” a team dynamic, to help participants “think and reflect, and then connect with how [the dynamic] is in their work circumstances.”
How can the course help leaders to support diversity?
Another key focus of the programme is building diverse teams and support anti-racist, anti-discrimination and anti-oppressive social work practices. “Social work teams often reflect the diversity of our society and the communities in which we work,” says Jennie. “This course bears that in mind: [how do we] model working inclusively with diverse teams in a way that promotes inclusion and participation?”
“We know from the research that diverse teams perform better,” says Jo. “But as people progress through their career, people from particular groups are less represented in leadership roles.” To combat this, the course helps participants consider how they can embed inclusive values centrally within their organisation, and what is needed at the levels of team, organisation, wider community and society as a whole, to foster workplace diversity.