by Lorraine Gillies, Chief Officer of SCSN & Neighbourhood Watch Scotland

The Scottish Community Safety Network team go to and put on a lot of meetings and events.  I was at one the other day when someone said something that struck me.  “I’m only allowed to go to every other meeting”.  This from a professional lady who works in a large authority who has a role that means she must stay on top of what’s happening in her field.

Let’s stick with that lady, we will call her Jan.  Jan is gregarious, clearly enjoys the debate, has a lot to give others in terms of her knowledge and experience, still can learn loads in the same way, is passionate about her work and committed to her organisation.  She has had to make the case for coming to that meeting and can only commit to attending every other one.  Will she thrive under that management style?  Will her organisation get the best from her?  How does she learn? How will they?  What does that mean for the rest of the attenders and organisers of ‘the meeting’?

As I said, we run a lot of events, sessions, masterclasses, roundtables, and discussions – it’s a huge part of our role in connecting, supporting and informing community safety partnerships and the wider world. We have seen this before and are increasingly concerned that this is the norm.

In these times, when money and resources are tight, it’s easy to make decisions that, on the surface, make savings.  Introducing policies and procedures which limit staff time to participate in external meetings and events might make sense in terms of cost savings and I can see that the public purse has never been under such scrutiny.  But we all want good public services don’t we? And these will have to be informed by learning, testing, trialling and by damn good staff who are able to make the right decisions with the most effective support.

Of course, we want to see people being able to come to our sessions and were are in the fortunate positions of most of our stuff being ‘sell outs’.  We think that’s because the events we put on are highly relevant and include sessions like ‘working in complex systems’, participation etc.. – http://www.safer-communities-scotland.local/events/.  BUT, we need to have a good cross section of folks attending to make these useful.  If everyone is desk bound, we are in trouble.

So, we must make the case for why Leaders should enable staff teams to get out and about and participate in discussions and attend events that are relevant and high quality.

Corporate Rebels is worth a look at – They have identified that ‘one of the 8 main trends of progressive organizations is the move from directive to supportive leadership’.  Following this approach would mean that Jan would be deciding what style of information exchange suits her, she might be making her own decisions about what learning and interaction she needs and she would be able to access the support she needs to do her job as effectively as she can.  That’s alright in small organisations, I hear the cry…  Check out this example of how  the Belgian Ministry of Social Security in Brussels, Belgium has managed to free its staff up to be more effective.  Yes, that’s right. A government organization. In Belgium.

So c’mon leaders, stop the micro-managing, trust your staff and see what happens when they go out into the big world and bring back loads of interesting stuff…

Click on some of these links to see what we have been doing..