Wales and West Housing, Finalist 2015, The Direct Line Group Best for Line Managers Award

Wales and West Housing (WWH) demonstrated that it was really thinking about the role of the line manager in establishing culture and performance, essential for implementing effective flexible working, by embarking on a journey called ‘Developing heroes to make a difference’. This is a bespoke employee development programme which includes ‘Development Conversations’ training for all staff and a five-day leadership programme for all line managers based around WWH’s own leadership model.  WWH wanted to bring leadership to the top of the agenda in its drive to achieve excellence for its residents and staff.

To inspire managers to support, enable and develop their people WWH created a ‘WWH hero’, ‘making a difference a life at a time, a contact at a time’. Leadership at WWH is not about the job title, position, level or status – it’s about behaviour, skills and attitude. The organisation is investing in its leaders to develop their thinking and actions to build great relationships and enable effective conversations on all topics. At the opening session of the programme, the CEO introduces the leadership model and training programme and participants go on to learn a number of practical skills and tools to apply immediately. These all relate directly to WWH’s organisational values and operating principles and include self-awareness; the different values that drive people’s behaviour; the impact that they can have on others; communication and coaching skills; and tools to manage change more effectively. All line managers, whether a head of service or a part-time scheme manager, must attend each of the seven days’ training. Fairness is one of WWH’s five values and it invests equally in all staff regardless of their working pattern, personal circumstances or gender.

WWH assesses leadership strengths, not just operational performance. An individual’s responsibility for delivering great leadership is an explicit part of their role profile and is assessed during recruitment and as a specific part of ‘Development Conversations’ held throughout the year.

Managers now have better conversations on a wide variety of topics, from discussions around work–life balance and workloads to issues of performance or conduct. These open conversations provide a greater opportunity to understand and support their teams in a way that matters to them.

So far 123 managers have completed the programme, including 19 part-time managers.

Having listened to feedback from managers, WWH is designing an additional suite of development events to further enable managers to have effective conversations. These are likely to include skills and tools around communication; managing personal biases; and being assertive in the right way.