how to become a social work manager

How to become a social work manager

By Gemma Raw

We recruit every level of social work manager you can think of. Both through Sanctuary Social Care and our Executive service. 

Here, we’ve brought together some advice from our candidates and employers as to what makes a great social work manager. You’ll find this particularly useful if you are looking at moving into a more senior social work role or if you are preparing for interview. 

You never know, it may give you the confidence to know you have the skills to be a senior practitioner or team leader. 

1. Communication skills

Communication is key for all social work managers. Not only will you have to share plans and directives from senior managers, but you will also need to make sure that frontline practitioners are clear about what they are working towards. 

Danielle from Birmingham suggests that communication is imperative for social workers to feel valued. She says that good managers should “be honest and transparent, especially around lack of resources and the impact this has on budget approvals – managers who do not explain this may leave a worker feeling their assessment is inadequate.” ​

2. Leadership skills

​Whilst this may seem an obvious skill required for all social work managers, leadership is more than just being able to allocate tasks. It’s about having the ability to respond to a variety of issues, being able to keep a team calm during a moment of crisis whilst also setting high standards and working to ensure that each team member can meet those required standards. 

Linda from London believes that “Managers should not tolerate poor practice but have the emotional intelligence and/or social skills to challenge in a constructive way.” 

This is something which is true of Social Work Awards winner Leanne Baines. In her winning entry for the Children’s Team Leader of the year prize, her colleagues noted that not only did Leanne “manages difficult conversations, in difficult times, fantastically" but she also put the needs of her team first and made sure that “her phone is never switched off until she knows everybody has finished safely for the day" 

3. Confidence

Good managers need to feel confident – not just in their own ability, knowledge and understanding of social work, but also feel confident that they are able to provide support and guidance to those working underneath them. 

A good social manager should feel confident in challenging decisions and advocating for their service users – they should be able to make difficult decisions without any hesitation.

Leanne Baines was praised by the judging panel for being a manager who was not only “driven to implement policy and practice changes within the organisation but is not afraid to challenge so that the best outcomes are achieved.” 

Jacqui from London suggests that this confidence and the “belief and strength in character can be passed down to social workers, helping them to develop their own independent thinking”.​

4. Ability to remain calm under pressure

​Social work is a pressurised career path, so it is vital that social work managers can always remain calm – not just for their own personal self but also to keep the team around them calm. 

Nicky Skinner, the Adult Team Leader of the Year at the 2017 Social Work Awards was notable in her award entry for her “notable calm demeaner” with Chief Social Worker Lyn Romeo making it clear that Nicky’s ability to “manage volume and support her team” was a key element to her receiving the award. 

If you have these skills, then it may be time to take the next step in your social work career. 

You can find details of our latest social work job vacancies here – we have a wide range of opportunities for both permanent and locum social work practitioners.

To move your career in the right direction, register with us today!We have also written a selection of pieces around navigating your social work career.