Recruitment, restructures, and (really) difficult situations…

Let’s face it: When you’re leading and managing a team, it’s only a matter of time before you will eventually either need new recruits, have to restructure your team, deal with a situation or maybe an individual that’s perhaps making things more difficult than they need to be.

And when you’re faced with one (or more) of these situations, there’s no substitute for your own experiences. Or is there…?

As part of the Future Leaders programme we’ve been lucky enough to meet with members of the LG Comms Executive to hear their stories of the challenges they’ve faced and offer advice on how you can avoid some of the pitfalls.

Our ‘Chatham House Rule’ chat started around public sector comms recruitment, and how the current market seems to favour candidates who not only have more choice but are weighing up their next move based around the freedoms of ‘agile’ working, as much as the salary on offer.

We also looked at how recruitment exercises provide an ideal opportunity to reflect on the current shape of your team, what skills might be missing and what type of person would be a good fit – so you don’t just fill the space you’ve got, and by doing so you slot a square peg in a round hole.

That said, with the financial squeeze and maybe a recruitment freeze, many teams are having to make do with who and what they’ve got – unless someone moves on, in which case you could be left with less than what you started with.

In these cases as leaders it’s important that we do what we can to maintain team motivation through identifying opportunities for upskilling, training and development, even if it’s ‘on-the-cheap’ and through peer-to-peer sharing and learning, ensuring colleagues continue to grow and feel invested in, and are not just reacting, firefighting or ‘doing the doing’ all the time.

There are no prizes for guessing that everyone’s experiences of team restructures were tough and testing, but there were a number of positives gleaned from our discussion. This included identifying opportunities for colleagues who have untapped skills to blossom into revised roles, new ways of working that will better service the organisation, and changes that will ultimately bring greater cohesion to a team.

This shouldn’t detract from the overall sentiment that the uncertainty of such circumstances needs to be managed as sensitively as possible, and as leaders we have a duty to make sure the process is clear and always be mindful of colleagues’ wellbeing, ensuring there is the right level of support available.

Our conversation around working with ‘difficult’ situations and people followed a similar vein – no-one comes to work to do a bad job, and if things aren’t running as smoothly as they should it’s important that leaders are able to try to empathise with colleagues and respect the reasons why a problem may exist in order to support them, while identifying the right resolution for the organisation so everyone can move forward.

Our conversations were invaluable and gave us plenty of food for thought. I’m really grateful to colleagues for sharing their experiences and wisdom (although I’m sure they’re too modest to use such a term!) and I’m sure their advice will stand us in good stead as we face these scenarios in future.

One of the best lessons from our session is that leadership and management can be a lonely place, and I’m really grateful for the network of friends I’ve developed through the Future Leaders programme. We’ve had the opportunity to ask for help and support, and to share ideas too. As this year’s programme comes to a close shortly I look forward to keeping in touch with everyone, so if and when we face these challenges we can continue to support one another.

Chris Oates, Communication & Marketing Business Partner (Leeds City Council), is part of the 2022 Future Leaders cohort.


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