I have been reflecting on the fact that there are no easy guides out there for aspiring directors of adult social care, no tips and practical advice, no inside information that potential candidates can access. Of course you can network with the real thing, but having something to read that could assist your development and build your confidence would be helpful.
Having been a director of adult social care and public health for more than 11 years and in five London boroughs to date, plus the second city’s executive director (yes Manchester City, sorry Birmingham); I might just be the person to put this right. So, I offer some snippets to get you started, particularly if the New Year and near end of the financial year is making you plan for a new job. What does it take to get there, survive and thrive?
Getting there takes focus, commitment to learn and develop, honed interview skills and masses of research and preparation on the council and place you are about to apply to. I am constantly amazed by candidates who provide poor CVs, don’t research and don’t rehearse interview presentations. So, my first question to an aspiring director is: how hard are you prepared to work to get there?
Are you willing to research in detail the place, the leader and Cabinet member, the chief executive? Are you willing to flex your plans for the interview timetable? It pays off – I was willing to work very hard and, in doing so, secured each director job I applied for.
Once you have made it to the role, do you have a set of criteria or a framework by which to ensure you quickly assess the starting point of the department and services you are taking on?
I always found developing a simple framework that included people and partnerships (including a whole range of people relationships, internal and external); finance and resources, performance and quality, strategy and plans, risks and overall profile, gave me very quickly an overview and baseline.
From the framework I could develop a 100 day plan with clear deliverables and evaluation.
Part of survival is leadership and support of the senior team very early on, checking if any of them had been candidates for the director role you have successfully landed, any unhappy people in your team and how you support and enable your direct reports and, very importantly, how you work at the next level down.
Build a senior leadership team around you at tier three and four.
It’s also developing a great relationship with the chief executive and your council leader and lead members. As a director your line manager is much more than the head of paid staff!
Early on you have to learn to work closely on your plans and proposals with the lead members and facilitate their decision-making. Lead members become your support and an alliance if you work in this way.
Thriving comes from the satisfaction and pride in delivering successfully, enabling your lead members, improving the offer to residents, and in turn their outcomes and experience of care.
Thriving comes from the enjoyment of taking the budgets to balance or under-spending despite the financial challenges, taking your borough to the top of London for key performance indicators (KPIs) – Richmond upon Thames is top in London for three out five KPIs –Increasing diversity in your teams (48% of my workforce is now Black, Asian and minority ethnic), winning bids like the workforce race equality standards and seeing your assistant directors develop and get promotion under your watch.
There’s an energy that comes from thriving which makes the role of director of adult social care very enjoyable, even in a global pandemic.
These simple tips and pieces of advice might just help aspiring directors.
Liz Bruce is director of adult social services and public health for Richmond RLBC and Wandsworth LBC