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23 June 2022

Kakoli: the difference between being a leader and a manager

On the Pathways programme, Kakoli discovered she was a leader, not just a social work manager.

The Firstline programme* made me realise I was a leader – before this point I saw myself as a social work manager and it was through Firstline that I realised there was a difference between the two.”

I was able to take skills such as public narrative and feedback to communicate with my team more effectively. For example, there had been a high staff sickness across the service and my team had seen their workload increase significantly and I could sense that they were struggling with this. So I took my learnings from Firstline and I wrote to them, to let them know I knew how difficult things were at that time for the team and to explore how we could improve things. This had a positive reception from my team and some of them wrote back to me to share how we could do things differently going forward. 

Small gestures like this make all the difference; for me communication is key and something I wanted to develop at the start of the programme. I wanted to express my emotions better when under pressure and Firstline helped me with this. I’m now more comforting and inviting with my language and use this skill to influence and create change. This is just one example of a change, but the impact has been significant. When I started in the role staff turnover was very high, with 15 to 20 social workers leaving the role in a year. This has now changed with only three social workers leaving the team in the last year.

The programme also enabled me to change the way we, as a team, worked with families.”

For example, we made changes to our assessments, sharing assessments with families and asking them to take a look and let us know what they thought about it and if there was anything they would like us to think through again with them. This has strengthened our relationships with families, and virtually eliminated any complaints – only two in the last year (which is a significant decrease) and even more it has actually resulted in children and families writing to us with compliments and positive feedback, which is amazing. It has also decreased the number of re-referrals (children referred to children’s services more than once) we receive, going from 20% when I started to between 12 to 15% now. 

I’m proud I did the Firstline programme, I’m a better manager because of it and more in tune with both my workers and the children and families they support. I believe people become social workers to create change for children and families in need of support. 

*The Firstline and Headline programmes ended in 2022 and have since been replaced by the Pathways programme.