Leaders of child protection agencies must steer their organizations through an increasingly competitive and collaborative environment. For many years, these organizations’ direction was largely set by public mandates. Though never static, their worlds had a certain level of predetermination. In recent years, dramatic changes have transformed most all areas of agency operations. Budgets have to be sustainable, services must be cost-effective, technology has altered every facet of service delivery, and competitors arise from unlikely quarters including for profit businesses. The demand for partnering and collaborating has shattered the concept of a self-directed organization. Stakeholders want to see results in black and white and all of this has transpired under a new and much more intense media scrutiny.
An essential new skill required of all leaders in the child protection arena is the ability to strategically communicate with a wide variety of audiences. To be even minimally effective, leaders must be able to:
· Clearly articulate the value they create.
· Influence key stakeholders to grant the authority and resources they must have.
· Assure the internal and external capacity required to accomplish their mission, including increasing the safety of children.
Successful leaders must, of course, communicate skillfully on a macro level, providing information on general policies and procedures as well as aggregate data demonstrating need and accountability. Concurrently, they must communicate on a micro level, assuring individual stakeholders that the agency and staff are continuously doing the right things right, the first time, on time, every time, one child at a time. Whats more, communication must, at both levels, be accurate, thorough, responsive, and dependable in order to develop the levels of trust required to sustain effective strategic communications over time.
To achieve these communication goals, leadership must be externally oriented, mission focused, and opportunity seeking. The leader must be willing to take the lid off of the organization, allow stakeholders to peer in, and freely interpret what they see. This requires openness and honesty in all facets of communication. Stakeholders are encouraged to examine the agency from every angle, assess its effectiveness, and decide for themselves whether it is operating in an efficient manner. The external environment demands this openness and accountability from its public agencies and effective leaders demand it of themselves.