Home TOC Previous Next

Who should be on the Management

A successful Management Team
member accepts and closely adheres to the guiding principles discussed above.
Additionally, he (or she) exemplifies cooperation, loyalty,
caring, sharing, respect, trust, and integrity
in everything he does
both professionally and personally. Beyond these essential characteristics, the
following questions are useful when assessing the functioning of Management
Team members and others who want to join the Team.

  1. Does he (or she) understand
    and value the agency’s mission?
    It is important to emphasize
    an agency’s mission relates to a future state. If there is a mission
    statement, but the statement does not specifically relate to a future
    state, the agency does not have a viable mission. There is nothing for
    Team members to usefully understand or value.

Further, the mission specifically commits the agency and the
people associated with it to affecting a narrow outcome, i.e., improving the capacity of clients to cope with the needs,
problems, and vulnerabilities in their lives. The current state focuses on
clients who are not adequately coping, for whatever reason. The future state
focuses on clients who are coping better, as a result of agency intervention.
The agency mission is to enable clients to transition from the current state
where they are not coping adequately to the future state where they are coping
more adequately. However the transition is stated, Management Team members must
both understand and value this outcome, this mission.

An additional point related to the agency’s mission requires
careful and specific attention. In order for a Management Team member to
understand and value the agency’s mission, he must be absolutely clear about
who the client is. The client transitions from less adequately coping to more
adequately coping and any confusion about who the client is quickly results in
outcome drift that frequently goes unrecognized. For example, services intended
to enable handicapped people to function more
adequately can easily drift toward efforts to placate family members. Services
are adjusted to make dealing with the handicapped person more comfortable for
relatives. The result may be the handicapped person does not achieve the level
of autonomy and independence he might otherwise achieve. In child protection
settings, services intended to achieve safety, permanence, and well being for
children may shift to extended efforts to habilitate the parents who abused or
neglected the children. The result may be outcome drift emphasizing parent
habilitation and de-emphasizing child protection. These and similar types of
outcome drift are not uncommon and serve to reinforce the critical importance
of unequivocal understanding and valuing of the agency’s client-centered

  1. Does he value the people
    associated with the agency and their contributions to agency excellence?
    The significance of this
    requirement is less than obvious. It would be easy to simply nod and move
    on to the next question. Instead, we need to remember the agency staff is
    only a sub-set of the people associated with the agency. The broad agency
    eco system includes potential clients, Initiators, Authorizers,
    Implementers, and the people associated with the external entities and
    organizations connected with the agency through point “0” in the
    Helping Triangle. Team members value all agency stakeholders – internal
    and external – and their individual contributions to agency excellence.
  2. Does he see the agency’s goals
    as personal action steps?
    We can assume agency staff
    members work diligently to enable the agency to reach its goals. Were this
    not the case for individual staff members, they would no longer be part of
    the agency staff. For Management Team members, however, a higher standard
    applies. For them, simply doing what is expected to reach agency goals is
    insufficient. Team members are personally and professionally committed to
    more than merely reaching agency goals. They are committed to agency
    excellence. Doing whatever it takes to accomplish this outcome is a
    personal agenda for each Team member. Agency goals are but personal action
    steps on the way to excellence.
  3. Is he responsive to the needs
    and interests of everyone associated with the agency?
    Everyone associated with the
    agency – agency stakeholders – includes agency staff but also includes
    everyone else associated with the agency through the Helping Triangle.
    Being responsive to the needs and interests of everyone in the agency eco
    system is a daunting expectation. Nonetheless, agency excellence is
    dependent on just that. Fortunately, no single Management Team member can
    or is expected to personally respond to the needs and interests of every
    stakeholder. Rather, he assures the agency responds to each stakeholder’s
    needs and interests. No exceptions. No Excuses.

If individual Management Team members cannot respond to the
needs and interests of every stakeholder every time, how is it possible to be
responsive to the needs and interests of everyone associated with the agency?
Team members are committed to being personally responsive to every stakeholder,
every time they become aware of a stakeholder need or interest. The member
either responds personally or assures someone else associated with the agency
responds appropriately. Further, the Management Team – in conjunction with the
Leadership Team – continuously scans
the agency eco system for opportunities to be responsive to stakeholders and
assures all agency staff members do the same. This requires that this level of
stakeholder responsiveness is expected of each staff member. Anything less from
any staff member is simply unacceptable.

A cautionary note is important here. Being responsive to the
needs and interests of stakeholders does not mean agency staff members always
do whatever a stakeholder wants done. However, it does mean every agency staff
member does carefully listen to every stakeholder every time and thoughtfully
considers the stakeholder’s need or interest. Based on this consideration, the
staff member then takes appropriate action, also considering the needs and
interests of the agency. If the stakeholder need or interest is not going to
receive affirmative consideration, the stakeholder does receive a timely and
respectful explanation about why. Additionally, the Leadership Team is notified
and the Team decides the best way to proceed from there with the stakeholder.
The agency is not all things to all people but it is always responsive to

  1. Does he understand his roles
    with others, where and how he fits-in?
    This question is more complex
    than it may at first seem. No one on the agency staff is permitted to
    define his (or her) role exclusively in terms of what he perceives to be
    his primary agency function. People usually reflect this orientation by
    responding to What do you do for the agency? by saying something like I am
    They complete the statement with words like supervisor, therapist,
    secretary, day treatment worker, adoption specialist, accountant,
    Director, social worker, case aide, or receptionist. The list of such
    self-defining terms can quickly become extensive, especially for larger human
    services agencies. When people define their roles this way, the agency
    becomes internally compartmentalized and functionally segmented.

Any of us who have spent more than a few months in a human
services agency is familiar with how difficult it can be to get different
groups or departments to work cooperatively. Even in fairly small agencies, the
barriers to communication, coordinated effort, and integrated work with clients
and stakeholders are frequently all but unmanageable. A major source of these issues
is a lack of clarity, starting with members of the Management Team, with
respect to their roles with others, how and where they fit-in. The underlying
issue is agency staff members do not have a single role or function. Everyone
has multiple roles and functions. Let’s explore this a little more here.

To be an agency staff member and more particularly to be a
member of the Management Team, a successful candidate understands:

primary role is to help clients function more successfully. If he does not contribute
to this outcome, he is not needed as part of the staff.

role is to respond to the needs and interest of stakeholders. If he does not
contribute to this outcome, he is not needed as part of the staff.

role is to contribute to agency excellence. If his work is not necessary to
achieve this outcome, he is not needed as part of the agency staff.

role is to support and facilitate the work of every other staff member. If he
does not do this, he cannot remain on the agency staff.

role is to also function as a supervisor, therapist, secretary, day treatment
worker, adoption specialist, accountant, Director, social worker, case aide,
receptionist, or so on. If he does not do this successfully, he cannot be an
agency staff member.

Every staff member has multiple functions and sub-functions.
Members of the Management Team also have multiple functions and sub-functions.
Additionally, they are responsible for the meta functions required to assure
all staff members understand their multiple roles with others, how and where
they fit-in, and for assuring all staff members completely and consistently
fulfill their multiple functions. The functioning of the internal eco system is
dependent on the Management Team’s success here.

  1. Does he work within the scope
    of his responsibilities and authority?
    Management Team members not
    fully understanding and functioning consistently with the full scope of
    their responsibilities and authority are far more common issues than Team
    members exceeding or working outside of their responsibilities and
    authority. All responsibility and authority internal to the agency are
    initially vested in the agency’s CEO. This responsibility and authority
    are, in turn, partially delegated to other members of the Management Team.
    Frequently, it is not completely clear exactly what and how much
    responsibility and authority are passed along to the Team member,
    especially in relation to situations and circumstances occurring only
    occasionally. If the Team member is not certain, he (or she) tends to
    error on the side of accepting too little responsibility or exercising too
    little authority. He takes what he perceives to be the safest course.
    Within this gray area between what the CEO thinks was delegated and the
    Team member knows for sure was delegated is ample room for significant
    misunderstanding and inaction. Think of this gray area as delegation

Given the prevalence of delegation drift, determining whether
someone works within the scope of his responsibilities and authority is not necessarily
clear. It is usually clear if he is working outside of the gray area but within
the gray area itself, there is ample room for disagreement and ambiguity. Even
so, it is important for each Management Team member to function within the
scope of his responsibility and authority, accepting maximum responsibility and
exercising maximum authority with respect to what has been delegated to him.
The Team member’s immediate organizational superior must be sure his
subordinate clearly understands the scope of his responsibility and authority
and only then can the subordinate be judged in terms of whether or not he works
within the scope of his responsibility and authority.

There is an additional principle operating here. The Team member
is delegated sufficient authority to carry out his responsibilities. How he
goes about that leaves room for individual judgment and discretion. The
principle is he may use any reasonable
techniques or strategies consistent with agency policies and practices.
Further, he may use any reasonable interpretation of
the responsibilities delegated and the outcomes expected. When evaluating his
performance, the standard is not what the person who delegated the
responsibilities specifically had in mind. It is, rather, what a reasonable person with similar training
and experience
would judge to be reasonable, given the situation and

  1. Does he follow the agency’s
    policies and procedures?
    Policies and procedures are
    similar to responsibility and authority. They too are frequently not clear
    and leave room for differing interpretations and misunderstandings.
    Policies are simple statements of what the agency and its staff are
    expected to do. If they are developed as clear, declarative sentences,
    they usually do not leave much room for misunderstanding unless they
    include vague descriptors such as high quality, responsive, reasonable,
    effective, and the like. On the other hand, procedures are usually more
    equivocal. They show how policies are to be implemented. The format is a
    step-by-step, instructional guide to be followed. The steps are often
    somewhat vague, permitting some degree of professional discretion.
    Further, there are circumstances when the steps cannot be followed exactly
    or perhaps should not be followed in unanticipated situations. The result
    is an additional gray area between what is expected and what actually
    happens. This is another instance of outcome drift. – We return to policy
    development and implementation in a later chapter.

I hope fundamental aspects of the agency eco system are
gradually revealing themselves as our discussion proceeds. We see the system
tends to degrade in the absence of ongoing meta-processes to prevent or at
least control the processes. This tendency to degrade operates somewhat like
entropy. The internal eco system degrades toward internal chaos and
ineffectiveness if this type of entropy is permitted to progress. Agency
policies and procedures are merely additional areas for potential entropy.

For the above reasons, restricting Management Team membership to
people who clearly understand agency policies and the procedures related to
their responsibilities is very important. When recruiting people from outside
the agency for Management positions, assuring they understand and accept the
policies and relevant procedures is a needed step in the process. Further,
whether someone is joining the Management Team from the outside or is already a
member of the Team, adhering to the policies and following agency procedures in
his (or her) agency work are critical elements for achieving agency excellence.
All Management Team members and prospective members are carefully scrutinized
with respect to following agency policies and procedures – using the reasonable person standard mentioned
above – even when the procedures are not specifically related to their usual

  1. Does he see how his duties and
    responsibilities relate to other areas of the agency?
    It is important for all agency
    staff members to understand how their duties and responsibilities fit in
    with those of other staff members, but this level of understanding is
    critical for each member of the Management Team. The primary
    responsibility of the Management Team is to assure the internal eco system
    functions successfully in the interest of achieving the agency’s mission.
    Team members assure each member of the agency staff functions consistently
    with his (or her) assigned duties and responsibilities. In addition, Team
    members recognize and manage all aspects of the natural entropy in the
    system to minimize outcome drift and other system tendencies to degrade
    over time. Only by clearly understanding the inter-dependencies and
    interactions of all staff members can Team members fulfill this essential
  2. Does he avoid passing his
    frustrations and negative opinions along to others?
    An agency’s internal eco
    system has an exceptionally low tolerance for negative energy. This is
    generally not more or less true for one agency than for another. The
    simple reality is internal agency eco systems are fragile. Any severe or
    persisting negative energy acts like a toxin slowly poisoning the system.
    Along with this toxic affect, there is a correlative issue. The available
    energy in the system is fairly constant. If a significant portion of the
    available energy shifts in a negative direction, the available positive
    energy to do the agency’s work proportionately diminishes. The result is a
    gradual degrading of the agency’s effectiveness. Little-by-little, the
    agency becomes literally less able to achieve its mission.

We have all seen this negative process operate in agencies to
some extent. As a temporary aberration, it usually can be managed and
corrected. In some agencies, however, the toxic effect of such negative energy
develops so gradually it goes unrecognized or at least is accepted as normal.
If this goes too far, either the agency fails and closes or, if that is
unlikely as in the case of government agencies, the Authorizers replace the
Management Team in the hope agency performance improves.

If passing frustrations and negative opinions along to others is
potentially toxic, how do Management Team members handle their frustrations and
negative opinions? They understand feeling frustrated or holding negative
opinions are indications all is not well in the internal eco system. They first
identify what is prompting these perceptions and consider what is required to
alter the cause. What is the problem and what will it take to correct it? Frustrations
and negative opinions are thus converted into Management opportunities. The
Team member then pursues this Management opportunity with the Management Team
or with someone who is in a position to affect the perceived cause. Together
they develop strategies to correct the problem or issue. Anyone who either will
not or cannot manage his (or her) frustrations and negative opinions this way
is inappropriate for membership on the Management Team.

It is worth noting anyone in the internal eco system who spreads
his (or her) frustrations and negative opinions around indiscriminately, with
little to no consideration given to whether other people can or will do
anything to correct the perceived issue or problem, is a localized toxin. If he
(or she) persists with this behavior, the toxic effect spreads. Other people
parrot the behavior with a concomitant increase in generalized toxicity and
system jeopardy.

  1. Does he bring the same energy
    and commitment to the job when things are not going well as when they are?
    The point here relates to the constancy of internal eco
    system energy discussed above. If a Team member is not bringing a high
    level of energy and commitment to his (or her) work whether things are
    going well or not, the effect is the same as with overtly negative
    behavior. We all know not giving everything we do our best effort reflects
    a lack of personal integrity and is irresponsible. People who do not
    consistently give whatever they do their best effort should not be on the
    Management Team nor should they be permitted to remain as an agency staff
    member. Responsibility and personal integrity aside, the issue is even
    more problematic.

An individual has a fairly constant level of energy available to
him. Assuming he is not ill and is rested, that level of energy is available to
him while at the agency. If he is only directing part of his energy to his work
because things are not going well today, the rest of the energy supply is still
present. It is expended but as negative energy. This may be hard to see and may
be relatively invisible. Nonetheless, the negative energy is there and is
poisoning the eco system. If we carefully observe, we will see if one person is
not giving a job his best effort because things are not going well, others who
work with him tend to pick up the negative mood and attitude. Continue to
observe and the spreading toxic effect becomes easier to see. It is not
acceptable with any staff member, but is intolerable with Management Team

A related issue deserves attention here. Frequently, Managers
and Supervisors delay dealing firmly with a staff member who is not meeting
agency expectations in one way or another. They are reluctant to confront the
staff member or to escalate their response to the issues. They may continue to
talk with the staff member about their concerns but do not use their authority
to require improved performance. They want to avoid the animosity and
negativity of the staff member. As time goes on, the issues persist and perhaps
worsen. In the meantime, the poor performance of the staff member depresses the
functioning of the internal eco system and negatively affects the functioning
of other staff members. The Manager thinks the problem is limited to the
specific staff member, but it is not. Eventually, the Manager does deal with
the staff member and the issues, but by then, significant damage has already
been done. Further, the Manager’s action far exceeds what would have been
needed had he (or she) taken appropriate, sufficient action when the issues
first came up. Managers should always do today’s work today,
understanding Management procrastination is always

  1. Does he accurately understand
    and value his skills and limitations?
    Typically, people tend not to
    undervalue their skills and abilities. They usually do not see themselves
    as unable to do things they can actually do well. They may be reluctant to
    try things they have not done before, but this is more a lack of
    self-confidence than a matter of under-valuing skills they really have.
    The issue is more common in relation to people’s limitations. They think
    they are qualified to do things with which they have little to no
    experience and for which they are not qualified. This is especially seen
    in human services agencies in two areas.

First, many people think they are qualified to join the Management
Team when few people actually are. Further, people and others already on the
Management Team think they are qualified for higher-level positions in the
agency when they are not. Carefully assess anyone who wants to join the
Management Team or who aspires to a higher position in the agency. It helps to
focus on what qualifies him (or her) for the new position and not on how well
he handles the position he already has. The new position requires skills and
capacities he may or may not have. Be as sure as possible he actually has the
needed skills to handle the new position. Promote primarily based on future
potential and not exclusively on past performance.

The second area where people under-value their limitations in
human services agencies is not specifically relevant here, but deserves a
passing note. Human services Providers tend to think they can effectively work
with any client who presents at the agency for services. This is particularly
seen with clinical staff in agencies providing therapy or counseling services,
but is also seen where other types of services are provided. My point here is
simply no one can adequately provide clinical or most any other type of service
to every client who happens to appear at the agency for services. For this
reason, the Management Team needs processes and procedures to assure clients
are matched with Providers who are clearly qualified to provide the specific
help the client needs.

  1. Is he well-organized and
    prepared when handling any job?
    This is an obviously important
    qualification for Management Team membership and requires little
    elaboration. The issue is being sure all Team members and potential
    members are carefully screened with the question in mind. As part of the
    screening, note the question includes two criteria. First, the Team member
    is organized when handling any job. Second, he (or she) is prepared. This
    preparation happens before he starts the job. He does not do anything off
    the cuff, by winging it, or without adequate preparation. People sometimes
    say they could do a job in their sleep someone else might think was
    difficult. Suffice it to say, if they believe that, they should go do it
    somewhere else. The Management Team only includes people who invest the
    time and energy needed to be organized and prepared, with every job, every
  2. Does he handle tasks and
    assignments in a timely manner?
    This is an obviously important
    criterion for Management Team membership. Just be sure to include things
    like responding to phone calls and emails, arriving at and starting
    meetings on time, keeping scheduled appointments, and getting back to
    people when they expect a response. Everything counts, including the
    little things along with the bigger things such as completing projects or
    finishing assignments on schedule. Recall the simple standard from Chapter
    Two: Do the right things right, the first time, on time, every time…. If
    we remember it is on time, every time, the timeliness of tasks and
    assignments is never an issue.
  3. Does he take personal
    responsibility when he sees something needs done and no one is doing it?
    Personal responsibility is
    among the most essential characteristics of an effective Management Team
    member. We saw …agency Managers do not manage people. They manage the
    internal eco system or aspects of the eco system.
    This means
    Management Team members are not managing each other nor is any member
    being managed by someone else. Team members are self-managing organisms
    within the internal eco system. One effect of this is all members are
    equally accountable for the successful functioning of the internal eco
    system. If something needs done and no one is doing it, then each member
    of the Team is accountable for its not getting done and is personally
    responsible for assuring it is done.
  4. Does he pitch in and work a little
    harder, do a little more when necessary?
    This is a further example of
    personal responsibility. The point goes somewhat beyond this, though. Each
    Management Team member is personally responsible for the successful
    functioning of the internal eco system. He (or she) does whatever is
    needed to achieve this outcome. How much he does on any occasion or how
    hard he works depends on what is necessary to keep the system functioning

Sometimes this requires more effort, more work and sometimes less.
A Team member who always exerted the same amount of energy or did the same
amount of work would frequently be out of sync with the internal eco system and
its immediate requirements. A Team member who did not pitch in and work a
little harder, do a little more when necessary would simply be making it clear
he cannot remain on the Team. It may be tempting to think other Team members
can or should compensate for the shortcomings of one member. Occasionally this
may be temporarily true. On any regular or continuing basis,
however, some Team members compensating for other inadequately functioning
members diverts system resources and energy away from system success and agency
excellence. If the success of the internal eco system does not depend on the
best effort of each Team member, the Management Team has members who are not
needed. They should simply be removed from the Team.

  1. Does he invest most of his
    time and energy in getting the job done?
    This may seem like such an
    obvious point as to not need comment. The important phrase here is most
    of his time and energy
    . Although we infrequently do
    see people who advance to membership on a Management Team who invest
    inadequate time and energy in taking care of their duties and
    responsibilities, the more common issue is people who are investing too
    much of their available time and energy in doing what they need to do.
    Team members should invest most – but not all – of their time and energy
    in productive activities. No one can sustain functioning at full capacity
    indefinitely. People need to take a break, slow down a little, and pace
    themselves for the long-term. This includes some social time at work, time
    just to think about things, and time doing nothing. Successful Team
    members invest most but not all of their time and energy in assuring the
    success of the internal eco system.
  2. Does he focus primarily on
    what is working, on what is going well?
    Within agencies firmly
    committed to excellence, there is a heightened sensitivity to anything -
    minor to major – not working as expected or not going well. Although this
    is for the most part a strength of the Management Team, it can sometimes
    be a problem. Excessive focus on any aspect of the agency eco system, and
    especially on a negative aspect, leads to distortion in the perception of
    that aspect. Management Team members begin obsessing over the negative
    aspect at the expense of everything else working as expected. A successful
    Team focuses primarily on what is working, on what is going well. As the
    Team manages the internal eco system, things not working or going well
    only warrant the level of attention needed to understand and correct them
    and no more. Primary attention remains on the successful functioning of
    the internal eco system, on what is working well.
  3. Does he focus his and others’
    attention and energy on how to get ideas to work and away from why they
    will not work?
    There is a simple point here. When someone presents an idea
    or approach, he (or she) thinks it will work. Focusing on why it will not
    work disregards the person’s view and discounts his contribution. It is
    also a particularly arrogant response to the other person. The first
    response of effective Management Team members is always to explore what
    would be required for the new idea or suggested approach to work.
    Virtually every new idea or approach can work under some circumstances and
    in the right situation. Team members start there and then consider whether
    the needed circumstances or situation are present or should be developed.
    Only then do they judge the merit of pursuing the idea or suggestion.
  4. Does he stay open to the ideas
    and suggestions of other people?
    This is a variation on the
    last question. Not focusing on how ideas and suggestions can work has the
    same effect as ignoring the idea or suggestion. It serves to disregard and
    devalue the person contributing the idea or suggestion. Not staying open
    to the ideas and suggestions of other people has an even worse outcome. It
    limits the supply of good ideas to those already known and those developed
    by the few people whose ideas are not discounted or ignored. Effective
    Management Teams and successful Team members simply cannot afford to close
    themselves off from any potential source of fresh ideas and useful
    suggestions. When assessing people for possible membership on the
    Management Team, spend some time exploring how they come up with new
    ideas, where their best ideas come from. It is occasionally surprising to
    learn how arrogant and self-absorbed some people are as they discuss the
    origin of their knowledge and insights.
  5. Is he someone you want on your
    Management Team?
    This is the final question and becomes the bottom line once
    the other questions are carefully considered. The only caution is to
    thoughtfully consider whether any inappropriate factors are being introduced
    into the decision process, i.e.,
    any traits, characteristics, or other factors not directly related to how
    well the candidate will or will not perform the duties associated with
    joining the Management Team and functioning as a successful, contributing
    Team member.

Home TOC Previous Next