Housing Officers have always been at the forefront of tackling diverse and difficult problems, working with deprived communities. Recently safe-guarding, anti-social behaviour management, and welfare reform have increased the challenges, whilst reinforcing the importance of the ‘social’ aspect of social housing.
Philip runs a Housing Association in the North-East of England and has seen how the role of the Housing Officer has changed over the years. National housing policy changes provide further impetus to develop the holistic, person-centred role of the Housing Officer.
The promised ‘lighter touch’ regulation and less emphasis on centralised targets and inspection will help to reduce some of the fear, bureaucracy and standardisation which have recently stifled creativity and ownership.
Philip has led his organisation through a major leadership development programme recently and believes this has paid great dividends in developing a positive and performing culture. The leaders in the organisation are the role models and what they say and do every day sets the tone: their written, verbal and non-verbal messages need to reinforce the vision and values of the organisation. They are encouraged to recruit new housing staff with the right competences – particularly communication, empathy, resilience and organisation, and follow through with a comprehensive induction.
Creating a positive,achieving culture must start from the top, and at the beginning.
But it doesn’t stop there. There are job challenges and external pressures that need to be constantly managed to counter the negative effects of too much bureaucracy, a public sector tendency towards command and control, and an emphasis on prescriptive standards and processes rather than purpose and outcomes. In this environment, staff can feel hard done by and undervalued, become disillusioned, lose motivation and get ‘written off’.
Philip thinks his housing staff are of high-calibre and that their motivation, performance and job satisfaction can be maintained by paying attention to a few key leadership responsibilities:
- Communication of a shared vision throughout the organisation, so that everyone knows what they are doing and why
- Strong focus on purpose and ensuring that ‘form follows function’ (and not the other way around)
- Delegation and trust to make decisions
- Give people the tools they need to do their job
- Positive and constant feedback about progress and achievements, focussing on outcomes for the customers
- Being proud of what we do and sharing our successes with our colleagues, partners and communities
- Visibility and presence – staff out and about in their communities, and leaders out and about with their staff
- Commitment to learning and self-development
- Valuing and respecting each other
- Encouraging creativity and trying new ideas – allowing failure without blame.
This case study is one in a series with the Mindful Leadership Foundation, which explores why some people in the social and caring professions become miserable doing what they love, and how their leaders can prevent burnout, and nurture resilient and compassionate teams. If any of these is familiar to you, please share your story and your ideas.