Apprenticeships, Management, News

The importance of a situational approach

12 February 2021 by Isla Lightfoot

Applying a situational approach to problems is a core Corndel value. Sean Williams, Corndel’s CEO, inducts every new employee within days of their arrival and talks them through the ten Corndel principles. The first of which is routed in situation ethics – right or wrong in any given situation.  

What does it mean and why is it so important to Corndel?

Situation ethics cite that there are no universal moral rules or rights. Right or wrong is governed by an individual situation. Application of a situational approach means that there are no prescriptive rules or prefabricated decisions.  Decisions should follow flexible guidelines and be taken on a case-by-case basis.

A situational approach enables you to put the wellbeing of people first, rather than a love of principles. As a value it crosses several more commonly used phrases including empowerment, doing the right thing, and customer centricity.

In practice this situational approach gives the Corndel team the flexibility to deliver brilliant training that suits the individual needs of their learners. Training is flexed to suit the situation of each learner, in each coaching session. This has particularly come into its own since the Pandemic outbreak, when Professional Development Experts have had full autonomy to adapt to learners needs, while still ensuring that the ‘target’ of EPA is met.

How has it become embedded into our delivery of brilliant leadership training?

We introduce the concept of this situational approach into our Leadership and Management programmes. Gemma Storer, Team Manager at the NSPCC, and Corndel Diploma in Management graduate explains how useful she has found this situational approach. “My team work in a range of different child-based settings. There are relationship aspects to our role that require soft skills, coupled with compliance requirements, paperwork and deadline driven activities. As the manager of this team I find that inevitably some of my team feel less confident in some situations than others, and therefore my management style has to change.

“When you are dealing with  a crisis-driven situation, such as child sexual exploitation, and you don’t feel confident or well supported, problems such as closed thinking and bias start to creep in. As a manager of this team, I have to be able to identify the strengths of my team and work out how I adjust my management style to suit the situation.”

Gemma believes that the skills she learnt on the Corndel Diploma have helped her to put into practice, this situational approach. “There are countless areas of the course that enable you to develop the skills to apply a situational approach to management. Communication was a key module – thinking and reflecting on communication styles, and being mindful of how messages are received, is a really important aspect. If you are trying to be supportive, but are coming across as directive, this prevents you from being able to demonstrate a situational approach to your team members. I am currently applying the situational approach to a team skills audit and development plan. The framework has helped me to identify the range of confidence in my team.”

Gemma manages a team of eight in the social work area, and there are countless examples of when she has had to apply a situational approach. “I have had people in my team who are excellent at building relationships with young people. They require a very reflective style of management and need to be given the autonomy to develop relationships in the most effective way. But conversely, they might struggle with compliance aspects of the work and deadline related things, so I find myself being a more prescriptive and directive manager when I know these tasks need to be completed. I will set up regular meetings, ensure deadlines are being met and work very closely with them, until I’m confident that they have developed systems and routines. Effectively I apply two different management styles to the same person, but in different contexts. This is really what taking a situational approach is all about – context.”

Gemma has observed that it’s easy to interpret the situational approach as a way to put people into boxes, when in fact it’s the opposite: “Used as it’s intended, I can see no disadvantages to this style of management, but it’s important to remember it’s not just about the person, it’s about the context. Just because you generally apply a coaching style of management or a directive style of management to someone, doesn’t mean you should always do this.”

Often organisations themselves have to be prescriptive, particularly when it comes to meeting KPIs, however there can always be a degree of flexibility. “At NSPCC, we have a KPI that states we must see a child we are working with, face-to-face, at least every 28 days,” explains Gemma. “However these visits by their nature have to be child driven, and if a child would rather see someone else who is also part of their welfare plan, then we need the flexibility to still ensure we are meeting their welfare needs, but not necessarily having this evidenced as a face-to-face meeting. We have now adapted this KPI so that if we are evidencing that we have the child’s wellbeing at heart and we are overseeing their welfare and the plan, this is considered as meeting that target.”

Corndel Leadership and Management Diplomas cover a range of leadership models and the pros and cons are workshopped and discussed in one-to-ones with Professional Development Experts.

Find out more about Corndel’s diplomas in Leadership and Management
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