I've been HR Director in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office for almost 3 years. During this time I’ve thought a lot about line management - for myself, my team, my directorate, and across the FCO global network. I'd like to share a few thoughts on what I’ve learned and some ideas around the concept of the ‘Manager as Developer’.
Learn from your manager
First of all, I learned from my line manager – Matthew Rycroft, our COO until earlier this month. I often say he’s the best line manager I’ve ever had, and have been reflecting on what made it so.
Three things, I think: his positive affirmation and warm encouragement, particularly in my early days in the job, that I was doing OK; his support for flexible working - vital to me as a Mum of 3: I work from home for a day each week and take frequent breaks (weekends, holidays) with my Blackberry off. And his encouragement to invest in myself and my team through regular learning and development.
Learn from your mistakes
I have also learned from my mistakes as well as the things I think I’ve done well. I’ve tried to ‘be a Matthew’ to my immediate team as far as possible, but at the start I didn’t prioritise their needs enough. My job was big, new and exciting and at times I forgot to make time for myself and others.
At one point, I got some tough feedback from my team which made me stop, pause and re-calibrate my approach, with the support of my coach. It was an important lesson – whatever the pressures, always take time to invest in the well-being, capabilities and development of the staff you manage.
Learn from your job
Finally, I’ve learned from doing my job: trying to improve the standard of line management across our global network. We have developed a set of Global People Principles which set out expectations around performance management, working culture, and learning and development for our 14,000 staff – from Outer Mongolia to New York City!
These principles are supported by our ‘Good Line Management’ campaign. This recognises that given the demands and pressure on our staff, we need to keep our processes simple, and invest in our people as managers as well as diplomats.
I’m passionate about Good Line Management: it’s the key to unlocking so many other issues around staff morale, motivation and engagement. But it requires constant care and attention by each of us to know our staff, understand what makes them tick, and invest in them. I’m still working at it, and hope you are too.