If you are a leader or manager of any organisation, one of your key roles is to lead its culture. Safe cultures are vital for staff and organisational performance, and achieving goals, as well as wellbeing and welfare. Get your culture right, by investing time in its management, and success will follow.
It’s hard to believe it has been 10 years since unsafe culture was discovered at Little Ted’s nursery in Plymouth. In this high profile serious case review it was reported staff felt unsafe to report concerns and challenge the practice of colleagues not following policies and procedures. Professional and personal boundaries had become blurred, recruitment procedures were not evidenced, and Vanessa George’s change in behaviour was not challenged or changed. Sadly, the result was a culture that allowed many children to become seriously unsafe under her supervision.
Cultural leadership is clearly vital for safeguarding children, that said, it also extends much wider across all aspects of an organisation. Consider this question for a moment: How do you lead the culture in your organisation? Did you reach a quick answer, or are you asking some of the following questions? What is culture? How do you lead culture? Is culture too difficult to define, describe and recognise?
Well, I think it is important straight away to say that leaders must, should and always develop, demonstrate and protect organisational culture. Here are what I consider to be the key aspects of cultural leadership we should be adopting:
- Effective staff supervision by a manager, colleagues and peers, and one-to-one opportunities regularly taken.
- Everyone being professional at all times in the workplace and beyond.
- Professional and personal boundaries protected and not blurred.
- Everyone clear about their roles and the roles of others.
- Everyone knows how the organisation is managed and its legal structure, and how decisions are made.
- Everyone knows who to talk to safely about concerns or complaints.
- People raising concerns or complaints should be thanked, valued and supported.
- The culture of concerns and complaints to be confirmed in policies including a whistleblowing policy (a whistleblower is a person who exposes misconduct, alleged dishonest or illegal activity occurring in an organisation).
- Agreeing codes of conduct or behaviour for all staff and management, to which everyone is accountable to everyone.
- Rigorous implementation of policies and procedures – that everyone should follow, with good quality open discussion about policies at staff meetings and training.
- Confidence in policies and procedures, with regular training.
As leaders, we should have no choice but to have a culture of safety, openness, teamwork, and partnership. We cannot realistically operate without one, I hope this list offers some useful suggestions.