In the middle - It's socks law for male managers

26th September 2008 at 01:00

Forgive me for asking, but are you a man or a woman in a middle leadership role? Being a woman, I know I have an inherent weakness that my male counterparts don't seem to suffer from so critically.

Before you start frowning and moving on to a different column, reluctant to read the ramblings of someone stuck in the middle leadership Dark Ages, ask yourself this: are you any good at resisting the tasks that you think need doing, or those tasks that could be done by another member of your team with just a few minutes explanation or tactful request?

As an eager new second-in-department, I remember once being given a task and mutually agreeing a three-day deadline for its completion. I didn't want to look too keen and so planned the task on evening one of my assignment, leaving day two to perfect and present it. Imagine how disgruntled I felt when my chance to prove my stripes was removed when the head of department arrived in school on day two, with her finished version already typed up and ready to go.

Annoying at the time, it was a salutary tale for me as a future middle leader. Delegation is one of the best ways to build ownership, respect and loyalty within a team. By showing a colleague that you value their input, that their contribution is worthy of team status, you are building a capacity in your team that will pay significant dividends.

But be warned that however good you become at delegating, the same doesn't work at home. Setting a three-day, mutually agreed deadline for the removal of dirty socks from the bedroom floor just isn't the same as waiting for a scheme of work to be written. But then our male peers have worked this out. Their delegation skills still take a lot of beating.

Josephine Smith, Deputy head, Long Field High, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire.

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