I am employed by the a Policy & Planning Manager within the Fitness to Practise Directorate to an Assistant Director. In my annual appraisal last year, my line manager raised concerns regarding my communication skills, specifically around tone and political sensitivity, which were regarded as impacting on my ability to build effective relationships. As a result, I have chosen to use this exercise as an opportunity to develop an up-to-date picture of my relationship building skills within the hierarchical and collaborative working culture of the . To this end, I developed a Personal Effectiveness Questionnaire, which I circulated to a range of senior colleagues with whom I have regular contact in a one-to-one and group context.
To increase the response rate to the questionnaire ( a copy which is included as supporting evidence), and in recognition of the fact my target audience are bombarded with electronic information and are therefore likely to ignore an email, I chose to circulate this confidentially, through the internal mail. Respondents were asked to complete the questionnaire and return to me anonymously. I also invited respondents who felt they had issues that they would like to discuss further, to contact me to arrange a confidential chat, however nobody took up this opportunity, which may be an indicator either of their workload, or my approachability.
I also used a variety of other investigation methods, including Myers Briggs and Belbin’s team role questionnaires, self-assessment, and reflection on a range of management model reading materials supplied by the CMI website, to understand how this might be applied to interpret my own behaviour and management style. I also reflected on my notes from previous appraisal meetings, informal and formal feedback from my manager and Professional Insight coach over the past twelve months.
2.Presentation slides (please see enclosed)
3.Presentation notes (2, 200 words)
3a.Range of skills
(i)Leadership & Management Style (150 words)
To get an overview of my preferred leadership and management style, I considered the results of a Myers Briggs assessment which I completed during a recent Change Management course. The results of this showed my self-assessed type to be INTJ and my reported type to be ESTJ. I thought that it was interesting that the personality traits that were most consistently featured, were Thinking and Judging. I think that this reflects the fact that a strong tendency towards planning and critical thinking underpins my management style.
I also found interesting that when I circulated the personal effectiveness questionnaire, a number of colleagues independently volunteered remarks in the free text comments box at the bottom of the questionnaire, to the effect that I had a reputation for ‘getting things done.’ I feel that this observation, given in a free and unprompted context, is of particular significance as it is therefore likely to reflect their true opinion of me. An ability to ‘see things through to completion’ and to be a driving force within projects, is something which I have also identified through self-assessment, to be a definitive characteristic of my management style.
This focus on the timely completion of projects is in line with Belbin’s team role, Completer/Finisher. I was interested to find that I also identified with the weaknesses of this ‘team role’ as defined in CMI management theory summary, as I have observed that my tendency to worry can be an annoyance to colleagues. I recognize that one of my key development goals should be to be more measured in my approach to escalating and communicating risks or outstanding tasks.
(ii). Team Management (300 words)
Blake & Moulton identified two drivers of managerial behaviour: concern for getting the job done and concern for the people involved. These factors influence the manager’s style. I have undertaken a self-assessment using Blake’s managerial grid and have identified the ‘Team Management’ approach as my preferred style. This involves high level of concern for the task and low for people, which is seen by some organisations as very effective. However, I also realise that this may not be in step with the culture of my present employer, which in certain contexts promotes a more collegiate style of working.
I have identified two management styles which I think are more commonly exhibited within the culture of this organisation:
‘Authority-Obedience’ – high levels of concern for both task and people. This represents quite a controlling style, but runs the risk of damaging relationships.
‘Country Club Leadership’ – high levels of concern for people and low for task. This is seen as accommodating – it may create a warm and friendly working environment but a the cost of getting the job done effectively.
I do not have the positional power to exert an ‘authority-obedience’ managerial style, though I am working within a culture which sometimes draws upon this. As there is an expectation of me to get jobs done reasonably efficiently, with the involvement and co-operation of other people, I realise that it would probably be more effective to strive for a management approach that is more ‘Middle of the Road.’
Middle of the Road involves a moderate level of concern for task and people. ‘Adequate performance is achieved by balancing the necessity of getting work done with maintaining morale at a satisfactory level.’
(iii)Managing your time and workload (400 words)
Research by Francis-Smythe & Robertson (1996) shows that individual preferences about how we deal with five aspects of time, defines our own unique ‘time personality’. These five categories are: planning, punctuality, impatience, time awareness and polychronicity (multi-tasking). I decided to explore this theory by using it to categorise and self-access my own preferred behaviours, to help me better understand my strengths and weaknesses in this area.
Planning – I think I have a strong preference for planning ahead. I write to-do lists every day before I leave work, in order of priority, to remind me what I need to do as soon as I get in the next day. This helps me to manage stress, by avoiding a last minute panic. It would be helpful for me to develop better strategies for coping with events that occur off-plan, or when deadlines are missed or rushed.
Punctuality – I have a tendency to be late. I prefer to work flexibly, and I am more effective if I feel in control of my day. I feel very stressed if I am late for something important. I try to manage this by avoiding early morning meetings.
Polychronicity – I prefer to have lots of tasks on the go at the same time, keeping everything moving forwards in small, manageable stages. I am good at prioritising and multi-tasking.
Time-awareness – I have a high awareness of the time. However, sometimes when I am focusing on a ‘thinking’ task – I lose track.
Impatience – I recognize that given that many of the tasks in which I am involved are dependent on input or timely decisions by other people my impatience sometimes manifests itself in a visible irritation which can impact on building effective relationships.
(iv)Building effective relationships (200 words)
I circulated a personal effectiveness questionnaire to colleagues which focused on my communication skills, as I recognize that these are the foundation stone to an effective leadership & management style. In general, there was a wide range of views regarding my sensitivity to the political nuances of the organization and awareness of the structural hierarchy. There was also a fairly wide range of views regarding whether my tone is considered to be in step with the culture of the organization.
I understand that my ability to build and maintain effective relationships in the workplace is dependent on my ability to understand of the culture of the organization. I found it helpful to apply Johnson and Scholes’ cultural web to understand the factors (stories & myths, symbols, power structures, organization structures, control systems, ritual and routines) which influence the organizational values of my employer. When I thought about it from this perspective, I was surprised to recognize the power of stories and myths within my workplace, and the barrier this often presents to my ability to develop effective relationships, since many of my colleagues have been in post for over twenty years, and therefore steeped in a shared organizational memory which I, as a fairly recent recruit, have limited knowledge and understanding of.
(v)Giving and receiving feedback (300 words)
I circulated an anonymous personal effectiveness questionnaire to a range of colleagues, and received six responses. Half of the respondents felt I was very good at responding to constructive criticism in a one-to-one situation. One colleague had some concern in this area. Three-quarters of the respondents felt I was excellent, or very good, at responding to other people’s ideas in a one-to-one situation. Two colleagues had some concern. I felt that, in general, it is reasonable to assume that colleagues are likely to err on the side of being fairly generous in their assessment of others. Therefore, the high incidence of close colleagues reporting concern around my ability to give and receive feedback is likely to highlight a significant area for development.
When I circulated the questionnaire, I included in the cover letter, the invitation to colleagues who had any concerns that they would like to discuss, to arrange a face to face meeting. Despite the high number of colleagues who clearly had some concern about my interaction with them, nobody too up this suggestion. Although I do realise that colleagues are busy, I feel that the significant reluctance of people to speak to me about their concerns directly, is in itself evidence of real concern about how I might react to feedback.
I also self-assessed my own ability to give feedback that is specific, timely and effective in achieving the desired change in performance. I identified two specific scenarios in which I discussed with my manager. Firstly, I provided feedback to Document Services staff in relation to the timely preparation of the Fitness to Practise Reference Group papers which resulted in significantly improved communication and higher standards of performance. I also provided feedback to several paper authors, intended to manage expectations around the stages of preparing the papers for submission to Council, which had a marked and immediate impact on the tendency of authors to stick to the schedule.
3b.Learning style and process (300 words)
My most memorable learning experience to date was learning to scuba dive in the Red Sea. This is because it was very a practical, hands-on course. The experience of scuba diving results in a very striking, multi-sensory memories; the smell of the sea and the equipment, the image and feel of fish swimming next to you, the sound of the boat above. This is in line with a preference for learning through kinetic experience (N. Fleming, VARK methodology – ‘Teaching and Learning Strategies’.
During the course seminar, we completed a learning styles questionnaire which investigated our preferences for activist, reflector, theorist or pragmatist types. This exercise indicated that I had a moderate preference for theorist, compared to the other learning types. I think this reflects the fact that I also tend to learn effectively through independent reading and listening. I am interested in abstract concepts and theories, which I think may be partly the result of conditioning through the preferred teaching styles of successive teachers and university tutors.
Throughout my career, in the workplace I have acquired many new skills and strengths through practical experience. For example, I have a strong ability to prioritise my work and meet deadlines, which has developed out of necessity through my experience as a bid-writer responding to invitations to tender. In that situation, missing a deadline would have had significant financial consequences. Similarly, I have developed strong active listening skills as a helpline worker for a children’s charity, as we were provided with specific training to develop open communication and trust. The inability to gain the trust of callers would have had significant consequences for child safety.
3c.Development plan, including justification and resources
To improve awareness of internal hierarchy and political nuances and appropriate risk escalationMentoring with Assistant Director of Legal ServicesAugust 2010 – January 2011 To improve skills chairing meetings and improve ability to be inclusive of other people’s ideasOne day training house programmeSeptember 2011
To develop effective relationships across directoratesSix month secondmentJanuary 2011 To develop strategies for managing stress (expected to improve communication with colleagues)GP advice and weekly counselling Cognitive Behaviour TherapyAssessment by West London Mental Health Trust August 2011
To monitor progress and review development planMonthly personal development with line-manager to focus on communication skillsFrom August 2011
3d.Future Direction (100 words)
I recognize that my weaknesses around communication skills, particularly within a group setting or chairing meetings, currently presents an obstacle to leading projects at the highest level. In terms of future direction, I would like to visualize myself having sufficient political sensitivity and nuanced communication style, to chair Project Board meetings, line-manage other members of staff, and blend into the culture of the organization. In particular, I would like to improve my ability to manage stress and work flexibly to cope with unexpected events. I believe that the successful completion of my development plan will help to equip me to position myself for future promotion and to operate at a more senior level.
4.Personal Review (500 words)
I chose to give a presentation exploring my management style to my line-manager. in a confidential one-to-one basis, as I considered that this would facilitate honest feedback and constructive critical evaluation. In terms of my presentation style, felt that I achieved an appropriate balance between credibility as a presenter in a professional context, with an informality and approachability most suitable to the one-to-one format. She felt that in terms of the content of my presentation, I demonstrated a significant level of insight into own strengths and weaknesses in terms of my personal management style, and how that supports me in delivering the requirements of my role and dovetails with the preferred management style and culture of the organization.
In particular, the presentation proved to be a very effective mechanism for opening up a debate and honest exchange of views around our different management styles which provided a platform for rebuilding a relationship that had recently been in danger of breaking down.
We discussed the development plan, which felt to contain achievable and relevant activities. In terms of building effective relationships, we identified that difficulties around this tend to arise where my line-manager is on leave and I lack the positional power to manage risks effectively. In recognition of this, has made arrangements for the Assistant Director of Legal to act as my mentor and provide additional senior cover to enable me to escalate risks appropriately. We also had a useful conversation around the power dynamics of seeking senior cover for risk management from other Assistant Directors, where departmental agendas may be in conflict with achieving the goals of the organization.
We also had a very constructive discussion around learning styles, which enabled me to articulate my preference for ‘auditory’ learning, and draw attention to my active listening skills in telephone contact with distressed clients, in both past and present roles. This rather helpfully distilled what may be an unusual emphasis on the content and tone of speech, rather than body language, which sometimes leads to differences of perception of the mood of face-to-face communication, and its impact on effective relationships.
I think it was helpful to arrive at a shared understanding of this with my line-manager, and we discussed a variety of strategies for ‘damage limitation’ of this in meetings and improve my personal development in this area. She has also offered to seek funding for six additional sessions of Professional Insight coaching from an external provider, which can be added to my development plan.
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