Monday, 13 February 2012

Social Care Leadership: Visions, Targets & Goals

"Where there is no vision the people perish." — Proverbs 29:18

One of the hallmarks of leadership is vision. Vision encompasses everything that the leader wants to accomplish in the long term in order to achieve success in whichever field they are in. So in film, for example, the director has a vision of the completed film, in sport the athlete has the vision of winning major accolades, in business the CEO has the vision of successful business with high profitability etc. The leader’s vision becomes the focus of the whole team and marks the way forward to success.

One of the problems facing social care leaders may be defining that essential vision. The present system is a fragmented and diverse one which can lead to vision being eclipsed by the demands made on the service.

There is much ambiguity facing social care providers, those who receive frontline care services are not necessarily those who pay for it, therefore Local Authorities and the NHS are also customers (service users) as are families who pay for care services. In addition many of the terms of the service provided are dictated by Government policy and regulation, with all the bureaucratic involvement in social care it is easily forgotten that front line services are provided, in most cases, by the private and voluntary sector.

It is essential that, as businesses, social care providers have leadership and vision. Where do you want to be in five years time? What do you want your business to achieve? In the present climate of financial cuts and uncertainty about the future having a vision for the future is vitally important.

Vision inspires and motivates people. Vision allows businesses, teams and individuals to move forward. Vision brings success.

But a vision without action is little more than a dream or wishful thinking.

So how do you set out to achieve your vision, by setting targets and goals.

While a vision is the ultimate aim, targets and goals are the pathway that needs to be trodden to get there. Take your vision and ask yourself, what are the smaller things that need to be done in order to achieve this? This is, perhaps, the more difficult process but it is the essential part of good leadership skills. So, for example, if your vision was to be the best care provider in your district you would need to identify the elements that are preventing this from being true now, what actions you need to take improve those elements, how this can be done within budgets and limits on time etc.

From this you can begin to build a plan with targets and goals at key points in your timescale. You should always try to follow the S.M.A.R.T. principles when planning to ensure your plan is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.

Once the leader has their plan in place they can roll it out to the team, yet one of the important aspects of leadership that is often overlooked is presenting the plan of targets and goals without also presenting the vision behind it. We all have a natural reluctance to have targets imposed on us but if those targets and goals are part of the wider vision then people are much more likely to feel a part of that vision and be motivated to achieve the steps needed to achieve it.

The other important thing about setting targets and goals is that it allows the leader to regularly assess the road to success. By reviewing the achievement of targets and goals it is possible to make any necessary adjustments sooner rather than later, after all it would be devastating to learn that you had failed in one area when you were close to the time you had set to achieve your vision. It would be much better to be able to tweak and adjust your plan on a regular basis to ensure success.

Vision is the key to success but only if that vision is backed up with action and marked along the way with targets and goals.

Social care is no different from other businesses in needing vision to achieve long term success and it is something that every leader in social care should take the time to think about.