What priorities govern agency Management?

Adhering to the guiding principles is essential for achieving agency excellence. The Management Team is responsible for agency Management, i.e., for assuring the successful functioning of the internal eco system. Members of the Team implement the policies, rules, and guidelines promulgated by Authorizers and Implementers as well as manage the day-to-day functioning of the agency. Their Management activities reflect a thorough understanding of and acceptance of each of the guiding principles. Team members also understand and accept the priorities discussed below in order to better assure the successful functioning of the internal eco system. Hannagan 1995 page 37-69 in his discussion of leadership styles, organizational culture, and associated patterns of accomplishing necessary work asserts, “In order for any group to operate effectively, both tasks and problem solving functions have to be performed, and at the same time, group maintenance for social functions. It can be argued that any group of people need to have leadership in both functions so that on the one hand, decisions are made and on the other hand, the ideas and feelings of the whole group are considered.” page 48 Keep this dual focus in mind when considering these priorities. …


The Management Team

Taken from Ecological Human Services Management

Shift focus now to consider human services agency excellence from a Management Perspective. Earlier, we saw the agency is not a static entity with fixed relationships to other entities and elements. It is more like an organism whose survival and success are interdependent with the survival and success of many other organisms and elements in the incorporating environment. As we consider internal agency functioning, the organic analogy applies just as it does within the Helping Triangle.

The people — agency staff — associated with the internal operation of the agency are not static entities with fixed relationships to other entities. Rather, they are separate, autonomous organisms dynamically associating to form the internal portion of the agency’s eco system. I refer to this as the internal eco system. Taking the analogy a step further, the purpose of agency Management is to establish, support, and sustain the internal eco system.

There is an underlying point here that is somewhat counter-intuitive. The purpose of agency Management is not to manage people. The purpose is to establish, support, and sustain the internal eco system. Agency Managers do not manage people. They manage the internal eco system or aspects of the eco system. Agency staff function as self-managing organisms within the internal eco system. De Pree (2004, page 15-17) When talking about organizational leaders advised us in part that leaders owe the organization’s people a clear statement of the values of the organization; a new reference point for what caring, purposeful, committed people can be in the institutional setting; maturity as a sense of self worth, a sense of belonging, a sense of expectancy, a sense of responsibility, a sense of accountability, a sense of equality; rationality valuing trust, human dignity, and self fulfillment; and space to grow and exercise diversity. As managers manage the internal eco system, they must keep this covenant with everyone associated with the agency. …


Leaders Are Never Pushy

Where and When are Leadership Connections Initiated

As Figure 3 in Ecological Human Services Management shows, leadership connections can be planned or unplanned, as represented in the left column of the figure. Additionally, they can be Leadership Team member initiated or stakeholder initiated, as represented in the middle and right columns of the figure. The result is leadership connections that are planned and member initiated, planned and stakeholder initiated, unplanned and member initiated, and unplanned and stakeholder initiated. If the Leadership Team restricts its membership to people who do well on the earlier Leadership Team membership assessment, the four types of connection initiations shown in Figure Three are manageable for the members. They are comfortable with all four types.

Let’s expand on the four initiation types. Planned initiations are those where either the member or the stakeholder decides ahead of time to initiate a connection and then pursues the connection. This may start with a letter or phone call, but may as commonly start with either the member or stakeholder planning ahead of time to introduce himself or herself at a meeting or other gathering.

A few cautions are in order when considering planned connections. The Leadership Team member should initiate the connection personally. If possible, do not have someone else make the arrangements. For example, do not have a secretary, co-worker, or another stakeholder arrange for the first meeting. If initiating the connection by letter or phone, do not ask the stakeholder to contact you. For example, if you leave a message on voice mail, let the person know who you are, briefly why you are calling, and that you will try again at another time. You can leave your number at the end, letting the person know returning the call is fine if they prefer. Just do not give any hint you expect them to call you. €“ When calling anyone, take a minute to decide before you place the call exactly what you will say, if you need to leave a voice message. Do not wait until you hear the beep to think about what you want to say.

Additionally, never initiate a connection by email. In general, avoid emails with stakeholders all together, unless the other person sends an email to you. Even then, a phone call is better and a face-to-face contact is better yet. Email is just too impersonal for leadership connections. Also, do not stop by someone’s home or office without an appointment, expecting the person to meet with you. This is both rude and inconsiderate. …


Ecological Human Services Management: Internal Transactions

The following Internal Transactions activity is adapted from Leadership In Child Protection; Schneider, Crow, & Burtnett, 2000, page 56-57 and is one you may want to add to your management tools when working with employees and especially when working with Leadership Team members. It is a quick way of assessing the quality of employees’ interactions at a specific point in time. More importantly, it is a strategy to improve their interactions with each other over time. This serves not only to improve their interactions with each other but serves to improve their interactions with other agency stakeholders. Additionally, it clearly lets employees know what you value and what you expect from them as they interact with each other and with agency stakeholders.

Interpersonal excellence starts inside your agency. The success of your Leadership Team depends, in part, on relationships, people interacting with people. Think about a single transaction, one person interacting with another. This elementary transaction is the smallest unit or building block from which connections with stakeholders develop.

Your agency’s Leadership Connections can be no stronger than the cumulative strength of the thousands and thousands of transactions in which your staff participate over time. What’s more, you should assume the quality of your staff’s external transactions, interactions with stakeholders, is the same as you see in their internal transactions, interactions with each other. Assume they relate to stakeholders as well or as badly as they relate to each other.

Below is a list of transaction elements you can use to assess your agency’s internal, interpersonal environment. You do this by rating your staff’s typical functioning on each of the ten elements. Rate your staff “5” on the element if it is most always present in your staff members’ transactions with each other. Use “4” for usually, “3” for much of the time, “2” for sometimes, and “1” for usually not. …


Pause to Consider: Leadership and Ethics

You are a member of your agency’s Leadership Team. Consider these brief scenarios and how you would handle them?

You are a program manager with a neighborhood center providing a variety of services for neighborhood residents. Jerry is an adolescent client who was expelled from your after school tutoring program due to an incident where he was caught passing small green pills to another student. Jerry’s father €“ who also is an agency Board member €“ calls to tell you Jerry will not pass this year and may not graduate on time if he does not continue tutoring. Jerry has not been in trouble before and was just doing a favor for a friend, according to his father. He is a good kid and being expelled from your program is too severe. Jerry’s father goes on to say, I don’t want to take advantage of being a Board member but think you should make an exception for Jerry.

Your agency provides foster care services for abused and neglected children. Bob and Harold are a gay couple who have been working for many years with children exhibiting difficult behavior issues. They ask to adopt one of the girls they have been fostering for a year or so. The Executive Director of your agency’s primary authorizing entity hears about this and privately asks you to stop the adoption process, since she thinks some of her Board members may be unhappy about it. She tells you, I don’t want you to think I have a problem with this but I have a couple of Board members€¦. …


Leadership Banking

The leadership connection is a give and take relationshipage Think of each interaction between the Leadership Team member and a stakeholder as a transaction. The connection is an accumulation of transactions over time. During each transaction, the Team member T and the stakeholder S benefit from the interpersonal contact. This adds a little to the leadership bank account of each. They each have a little credit with the other person. If T notices an opportunity to do something for S and does it, then T’s account with S increases a little giving T a positive balance with S. Keeping a positive balance is a desirable situation for T; but it is important not to get the accounts too far out of balance. Either too much positive or too much negative balance causes people to become uncomfortable. This can fairly quickly cause one or both of them to avoid transactions with each other and may jeopardize the connection. Be aware of the relative balances and keep them close.

This is especially important if the stakeholder’s balance is the one significantly more positive than the Team member’s. The stakeholder keeps giving more than he or she gets and his positive balance keeps increasing. Since leadership connections are what are called a 0 sum game, any shift toward a positive balance for one participant in the connection results in a corresponding shift toward the negative for the other. If S gets a point by doing something for T, not only does S get a point, T also loses a point. For each positive addition to one person’s balance, there is a corresponding negative subtraction from the other person’s balance. If the stakeholder’s positive balance keeps increasing, the Team member’s balance keeps getting more negative. It is common for people to say it does not matter since no one is keeping score; but the fact is everyone keeps score, every time. For a Leadership Team member to ever think this is not true within any leadership connection is a critical error in judgment.


Why Connect?

In the last chapter, we saw a successful leadership connection supports and furthers the mutual interests of the agency and the person with whom the connection is made. For a successful connection, the agency has to be very clear about what its interests are. Why? is not for the sake of yesterday. We never use leadership connections to complain or whine about things that have already happened. We may report past events for the sake of the record or to make it clear we are disappointed or unhappy; but if we do, we are cautious, understanding such actions and behavior seldom accomplish anything useful. They definitely do not serve to positively reinforce our leadership connections. Criticizing, blaming, accusing, threatening, or any other version of finger pointing is counterproductive. It is seldom if ever in the agency’s best interest. There is an old saying that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. This is occasionally true; but equally true is the fact if it keeps squeaking; sooner or later it simply gets removed from the wagon.

Leadership connections serve multiple agency interests, but those interests are in the future. The connections are for the sake of future events, situations, and circumstances. This includes providing and receiving information about areas of mutual interest, along with staying current on happenings within the agency and within the stakeholder’s area. It includes a continuing opportunity to influence each other in ways working to the advantage of the agency and the stakeholder. Each connection serves to improve the odds for future success of both participants.

Reciprocity is a key feature of successful leadership connections. There is and should be a good measure of give and take in every leadership connection. The point that may not be obvious is a fair degree of equity in that give and take is essential. From the agency’s point of view, however, the balance stays tipped away from the agency in favor of the stakeholder. On average, the stakeholder gets a little more out of the relationship than the agency. When the time comes when the agency receives significantly more than it gives and that time will come the agency will have a sufficient balance with the stakeholder to handle the temporary inequity without jeopardizing the connection. The underlying concept here may be thought of as Leadership Banking.


Successful Leadership Connections – Audio TidBits Podcast

Successfully establishing and maintaining the leadership connections identified in Chapter Two require answering several questions.

Who connects with whom?

What is the content of the connection?

Where does the connection occur?

When do the people connect?

Why do they invest the time and energy required to connect?

How is the connection initiated and sustained?

Consider these questions with the goal of enabling members of the Leadership Team to establish and maintain the array of connections needed to assure the agency’s leadership perspective is in place and clearly focused.

When considering the questions, it helps to keep in mind these points made by Neukrug 2008 when discussing community change, “A number of strategies for changing the community have been suggested over the years. However, today it is clear that whatever intervention one makes, it should be taken with an attitude of respect and collaboration with community members.” page 176-177

Neukrug goes on to suggest six steps for implementing community change: accurately define your problem, collaborate with community members, respect community members, collaboratively develop strategies for change, implement change strategies, and assess effectiveness.

Neukrug’s six-step strategy definitely applies to successful leadership connections as much as to community change in general. As the questions translate into action, the wisdom of Gunderson 1997 also deserves inclusion in the journey. “Only a fool would say, ‘Follow me, I have the answer,’ or perhaps only a fool would follow.” (page 55) Rather, we move toward one another in humility, challenged by the opportunity for making progress and needing each other in order to see progress achieved.

You cannot respect something you do not understand.

You cannot understand someone to whom you have not listened.

You cannot listen to someone with whom you have not spent time.


The Helping Triangle: Summary & Conclusion – Audio TidBits Podcast

Once the Leadership Team completes the steps and activities discussed earlier, it has a Leadership Perspective from which it can successfully participate within the agency’s incorporating environment. Through its Initiators and Authorizers, the agency develops and sustains sufficient resources and auspices to continue operations. Through its Implementers and agency Management, it assures services are in place to serve its clients and that those services and agency operations conform to accepted regulations, standards, and guidelines. Through the agency’s services structure and its Providers, the agency works to assure the help it provides is the help its clients need and deserve. Through its connection with and attention to potential clients and to those who may refer potential clients to the agency, the likelihood people in need will be better able to cope with their needs, problems, and vulnerabilities down the road increases. Further, everyone associated with the agency is better able to contribute to the success of other people and organizations in ways far beyond the agency’s narrow responsibilities. Only when all participants in the human services community succeed can an individual human services agency make a difference consistent with its full potential.

I hope the point has been made the Management Perspective and the Leadership Perspective are not the same and they both are required for agency excellence. I also hope the point is clear neither is more or less important than the other. Both are essential perspectives from which to pursue agency excellence. Let me reiterate one other critical point here.

Help is only helpful if it helps. Everything we do should support and further the success of our stakeholders in general and our clients in particular. Nothing we do should jeopardize their success or serve any other purpose. As I said in Chapter One, the point of developing a human services agency is to help people cope with the needs, problems, and vulnerabilities in their lives. Everything we do should further this outcome and nothing we do should interfere with achieving the outcome.

The standard is simple. Do the right things right, the first time, on time, every time, one client at a time. What is the right thing? This is also simple. Make sure the help we provide is help that truly helps. …

The posts in this series are excerpted from Ecological Human Services Management: An Organic Model For Practice.


Responsibilities Of The Leadership Team

At a broad level, the Leadership Team’s responsibilities are not complex. The team identifies, establishes, and maintains the array of leadership connections best serving the agency’s interests and those of its stakeholders. Embedded here is a critical concept. Each connection is two-way and has to be mutually beneficial. Part of what sustains the connection is the What’s in it for me? factor. The connection benefits the agency but also benefits the stakeholder. Of course, the agency’s interests are furthered. It is equally important each connection also furthers the interests of the stakeholder.

A good starting point for developing the Leadership Perspective is to think about what connections should be established for the specific agency. Some caution is important here. It is very easy to get this step so complicated no one actually takes it in a thoughtful and systematic way. My experience tells me, if this happens, the step is simply skipped. The result then is a more or less haphazard approach to leadership, with the agency never quite achieving the Leadership Perspective. With this caution in mind, consider how to identify the connections best serving the agency’s interests.

Start with connections within the local Helping Triangle and specifically with 0-A connections with potential clients. Before identifying people, two questions have to be asked and answered. What is the agency’s interest in establishing connections with these stakeholders? We have to know why we want to make the connections before investing the time and resources required to establish and maintain them. A somewhat subtle point is important here. Our focus is on outcomes and not on input. The value of the connections is in the future, not today. For example, the agency is interested in providing more responsive, more appropriate services as time goes on. The connections are expected to support this outcome. The agency’s interest is in getting better and better at getting better and better; and solid connections with potential clients help achieve this end.

With a clear sense of why the agency wants to establish the connections in mind, there is a second question to ask and answer. What is each stakeholder’s interest in establishing a connection with the agency? More specifically, what’s in it for a potential client? Focus is again on output, not input. How will the potential client be better off tomorrow as a result of investing time and energy in the connection today? – Keep in mind this is a Leadership Connection and not the same as receiving or providing agency services and supports. It is important to refrain from pursuing the connection until we have seriously thought about the question and have an answer. For example, a payment or other reward might be appropriate in some situations, while not in others. Others might value helping people they know by contributing to increased availability of better services. Some may appreciate the opportunity to call attention to something they do not like about the agency or its services. Still others may be eager to share their ideas about what they think would really be helpful to people who are experiencing the types of issues and challenges for which the agency exists. Each person has his or her perspective and interests. This step requires learning what those perspectives and interests are and assuring the connection conforms with and supports those perspectives and interests. …


The Leadership Perspective

With the central importance of maintaining the Management Perspective in mind, let’s shift our attention to point “0” within the Helping Triangle. At this position, there are a myriad of web-like connecting lines going out in all directions. We are focusing here only on the six lines within the local Helping Triangle, starting with the connection between points “0” and “A” between point “0” and potential clients.

At a minimum, this connection passes along to potential clients information about the agency and its services. It also passes along information from potential clients about their needs and interests that may be served by the agency. The connection influences potential clients to access agency services and influences the agency to adjust its services to better fit with the needs and interests of potential clients. The 0-A connection does much more but the simple point here is the connection is definitely necessary. The agency cannot succeed without it.

There are two questions to ask and answer for this and each of the other connections with point “0.” If the connection is successful, what will the outcome be? We have to know why we need the connection and how we know when it is working. If the connection is not successful, what will the outcome be? We have to know the potential effect and cost of not establishing and maintaining the connection. For the 0-A connection, not having it would likely mean the agency would not have any clients in the future; and without clients…. I’m sure you can fill in the missing details here. Clearly, not having the 0-A connection is unacceptable.

Turning focus to the 0-1 connection point “0” with the Initiators it is important to understand initiation is not a one-time activity. Although the First Mover may or may not continue his or her activities within the Helping Triangle, the Initiators stay at least available even if not continuously active. The 0-1 connection keeps the Initiators current with agency activities, plans, resource requirements, and effectiveness with clients. Moreover, the connection keeps the agency current with the views and interests of the Initiators and their constituents. We can likely think of other tasks only accomplished through this connection; but the key point here is careful and continuing attention to the 0-1 connection is essential for long-term agency success. To neglect it is to risk not having capacity external to the agency to initiate renewed support from the authorizing entity and additional support from other authorizing entities. …


Leadership Without Management | Management Without Leadership

It is tempting to think we have to choose between the Management Perspective and the Leadership Perspective. An agency should have one or the other but not both. The easy conclusion is it should have the Leadership Perspective. Leadership certainly has more pizzazz than Management. Given the choice between being a leader and being a Manager, most people choose being a leader every time.

This is the problem with such a simplistic view. Although having the Leadership Perspective is important, so is having the Management Perspective. An agency cannot function adequately and certainly cannot excel without highly competent Management. As pointed out in Chapter One, some type of regulatory mechanism is required to transfer and account for the expenditure of the financial and other resources. This requires people who do the fiscal work of the agency. There is
a governing mechanism maintaining the agency’s connection with the authorizing entity. This requires people who manage this connection. There is a
management mechanism to develop and oversee local policies and implementing procedures for day-to-day operations. This requires people who develop, implement, and oversee those policies and procedures. There are qualified
staff and appropriate facilities to do the work of the agency and to deliver the supports and services for which the agency exists. This requires people to manage these personnel and operations functions. There are
mechanisms in place through which the agency reports to the authorizing entity, maintains accountability, and provides other required data and information. This requires people who assure the systems and processes are in place to accomplish these tasks. …


The Management Perspective

Traditionally, we understand management as a set of functions along the right side of the Helping Triangle. The agency Board functions as the bridge between the agency and the authorizing entity or more typically, the Board and its CEO share this function. In turn, the CEO is responsible for the agency’s internal structure and connects the agency with the Board and authorizing entity. Within the agency, the CEO is in charge of and accountable for all internal activities and functions. He or she may delegate most of those functions and activities to subordinate staff members; but the CEO is the internal governing authority.

Let me clarify three terms I use in this and later chapters. The terms are accountability, responsibility, and authority. All accountability, responsibility, and authority within a human services agency are vested in the agency Board. The Board is accountable to the Authorizers. This means the Board is answerable to the Authorizers for whatever the agency does or does not do. The Board is obligated to do that for which it has been authorized and to refrain from any actions or activities for which it has not been authorized or that violate law or other generally accepted conventions for human services agencies. Its accountability is explicit or at least implicit in its agreements with its Authorizers. It is accountable. “Accountability refers to the obligation that is created when a person accepts duties and responsibilities from higher management. The delegate is responsible to the next higher level to carry them out effectively. Accountability flows upward in an organization.” Mosley, Megginson, & Pietri, 2007, page 128

Responsibilities are that for which the Board is accountable. They are the tasks and associated outcomes reasonably expected of the agency. The job of the agency is to…. The tasks and activities completing the statement are the Board’s responsibilities. Authority is, then, the right or ability to access resources, organize and manage the agency eco system, and to take whatever additional, reasonable actions necessary to carry out the Board’s responsibilities. We discuss these concepts later in relation to delegation and policy development; but suffice it to say accountability, responsibility, and authority collectively represent the auspices delegated to the Board by the Authorizers. – Note human services agencies typically have multiple Authorizers to which they are accountable, including the primary authorizing entity as well as governmental, oversight, and regulatory entities. …


Outcome Drift

How can we better understand Outcome Drift?

On the surface, the Helping Triangle suggests a static model where the elements remain constant over time. Were this the case, containing outcome drift would be a very complex but less daunting process than it actually is. The reality is the elements of the model are not static and the interaction among the elements is also not static. They are, in fact, dynamic and more or less unstable.

If we focus on potential clients, at least two factors change over time. First, the coping difficulties potential clients are experiencing change. Their circumstances and situations change as does their ability to adequately cope. This combined change leads to minor to significant change in the problems needing supports and services. Additionally, the specific people in the potential client group change over time. This adds to the dynamic nature of the issues needing attention. The people being helped today are not the same people who will need help tomorrow. What they need today is not quite the same as what they will need tomorrow. Services appearing to be a good fit today may fit less well tomorrow. …


Agency Creation: Iteration Two

In Iteration One, we saw human services agencies are the end product of a complex process, starting with the action of the First Mover who sees people potential clients experiencing difficulty coping with their day-to-day circumstances. The First Mover recruits the Initiators who pursue auspices and associated resources through the Authorizers. The Implementers then develop the elements needed to create a human services agency where appropriate supports and services are available to the people who need them. The Providers then encourage use of the services by appropriate clients. If all goes well, potential clients are reclassified as clients, service provision proceeds, and the Helping Triangle is closed.

The First Mover and the potential client are at point “A” on the Helping Triangle. If developing a human services agency were not the preferred outcome, the First Mover could simply talk with the potential client and then do something they both thought might help. Instead, the First Mover turns away to enlist the assistance of the Initiators shown along the left side of the triangle. Even if potential clients participate in the Initiator group, and they frequently do not, there is a serious, potential misfit between the person/problem and the problem/solution. …