I'd been keen to take a qualification in leadership and management for a while. My MA in Library and Information Studies included a module on management, but that was only one module, so it had to cover a lot, and I felt like I could do with more of a grounding in theory and chance to reflect on practice now that I've been working in a variety of professional posts. Fortunately the chance came up through staff development where I work, to take a qualification through the Institute of Leadership and Management (part of City and Guilds), over the course of about six months. There were five one day training courses, and five coursework assignments to be completed. A group of us from across the university took it, and it was a great opportunity to get to know how other parts of the university work. The units were chosen by staff development, reflecting the needs expressed within the university.
Unit 1: Solving problems and making decisions
We looked at how to define a problem and different methods of finding a solution to it. The coursework involved defining a problem within our own workplace and then examining ways to solve it. In advance, I'd thought this was going to be relatively straightforward - I was just amused that I was going to have a whole day's training on making decisions(!) - but it turned out to be really thorough and included learning some useful techniques: such as making sure you've defined the problem before you get started on trying to find a solution, collecting all the data you need to help you find a solution, and then applying problem solving techniques such as brainstorming, mind mapping and using SWOT analysis. We had a go at various techniques to find out what worked best for each of us. I also found that the decision making checklist useful, as not only do you have to make a decision, you then have to communicate it to others successfully, set SMART objectives to make sure it is achieved and follow up to make sure that progress is as you expected. The course also looked at interpreting and presenting data.
Unit 2: Understanding innovation and change in an organisation
This unit was to develop knowledge and understanding of innovation and change within our own institution. The coursework focussed on outlining the benefits to change and what any barriers could be, as well as what could be done to overcome the barriers. Then we looked at what planning and review techniques could be used to manage change and innovation. This really helped me to put things into context, as a couple of organisations I have worked for have either restructured just before I arrived, or restructured whilst I've been in my role, and this unit helped me to see the bigger picture, and also how reactions to it are to be expected. What was definitely essential to take on board were that innovation and change are definitely going to happen and aren't something to be feared!
Unit 3: Understand how to establish an effective team
The year before I'd already done a staff development one day course on effective team management, so this reiterated a lot of what I'd learnt then. It was useful to revise what I'd learnt, learn a bit more and talk about what had worked in practice. We talked about developing trust in the workplace, and how it relates to building a team, and then how to develop that team. I found some parts hard to relate to practical work though - looking at the average composition of a team (60% backbone/reliable producers, 20% developing, 10% fairly new and progressing well and 10% either very new, inexperienced or inadequate), I'm not sure how that relates to the often very small teams of people who work in a Special Collections environment?! Again, I'd looked at team roles using Belbin in a couple of jobs, and found it useful for the insights it offers into how some teams work, and how teams can be helped to work.
Unit 4: Understanding organising and delegating in the workplace
This unit was to develop knowledge and understanding of how to organise and delegate. The coursework again needed us to use examples from our own workplace. We had to show that we understood how to organise people to achieve objectives and how to delegate in order to achieve them. There was some reiteration of techniques learnt in the earlier solving problems and making decisions module, as well as effective team management. Obviously, good delegation requires planning well in advance and being organised, skills we'd already looked at in some detail earlier on. I found this module helped me clarify what I understood about delegation - who is responsible for what, and what the guidelines are for successful delegation to take place. Again though, as with the previous module, some of this seemed to be aimed at large teams of people, rather than the much smaller teams typically found in Special Collections.
Unit 5: Understand how to lead effective meetings
This unit covered what makes a meeting effective and the procedures and
planning to put in place to ensure that this happens. The coursework
required us to demonstrate that we knew how to prepare, plan and manage a
meeting. In advance I thought this would be pretty straightforward - who, after all, hasn't been to hundreds of meetings and thought of ways they could be improved?! It was actually really helpful: covering such things as defining the purpose of the meeting (otherwise, what is the point of having it?), the roles and responsibilities of everyone at the meeting (if you don't have a role or a responsibility, then why are you there?), practicalities (checking everything is in place in advance of your meeting), taking minutes and how to chair effectively. It was good to know that it's sensible and more productive to include breaks in the agenda of longer meetings (every 45-60 minutes is recommended), even if those don't necessarily involve having another cup of tea! And I particularly appreciated the hints to help the meeting flow smoothly, such as not allowing Any Other Business to be included, but instead making sure all topics to be discussed are on the agenda in advance.
The course also included an introductory workshop on writing the coursework assignments, something I benefitted from as this was a very different style of writing to the one I'm used to, and a final work-place implementation meeting, where we discussed what had worked for us on the course, and what hadn't.
Although it was a struggle at times fitting the coursework in, I am very glad that I had the opportunity to take this course and that I completed it. I feel like I have learnt a lot, and brought new skills away. I would recommend it to others thinking of taking a leadership and management qualification.