In the best magic trick, the magician places a white rabbit on a solid table. He then covers the rabbit with a black cloth. Finally, to complete the trick, the magician waves his hands, removes the black cloth and to everyones surprise, the rabbit disappeared!
I can’t help but think that the rabbit is a little like a certified supervisor, one moment you are the responsible person with all this authority, the next moment you are not.
The law requires most services to have a responsible person on the premises at all times. During certain periods this responsibility will fall to a certified supervisor.
If the nominated supervisor is absent, the certified supervisor will be bestowed the mantle of “responsible person.” When the nominated supervisor returns, the certified supervisor is stripped of their title and the nominated supervisor once again regains the mantle of the responsible person.
Similar issues occur in OSHC, where sometimes team leaders are given non-team leader shifts. It’s an unworkable situation. It’s like Adel singing backup for Beyoncé. Image being told your in-charge for the next 3 hours, then you’re not in charge anymore, like a discarded branch, now stripped of authority.
The issues have arisen due to people assuming that responsibility and authority are the same thing. Therefore, when someone becomes the responsible person they also seem to be given extra authority. When the title is removed so is the authority.
Removing authority from people creates all sorts of issues. Roles and responsibilities become unclear, levels of motivation plummet. Miscommunication increases and there is a lack of clear leadership whilst Educators fail to thrive.
Being allocated responsible person should not mean that your level of authority increases.-Similarly, the removal of the responsible person title doesn’t mean that your level of authority decreases.
Levels of authority need to remain stable. Levels of authority should not change in the short term. Pilots and 1st officers don’t switch seats half way through the flight. Their level of authority remains the same even though their responsibilities may change during the flight.
This should be the same for the leadership team at your service. Their level of authority, (the level of power) should remain stable. Authority such as; power to command a situation, move or commit resources, give direction and expect them to be obeyed, should remain stable and not change regardless of who is the responsible person.
The “responsible person title” should be nothing more than an invisible cloak worn by one person at any time. Best practice suggests that you form a leadership team. A strong leadership team is at the core of all successful services. Leadership teams help you maintain consistency and minimize miscommunications.
The role of the leadership team is to lead and guide the staff. They decide on the direction of the service and manage special projects. Everyone on the leadership team has the same level of authority (except for the Nominated Supervisor). The invisible cloak of responsibility is passed seamlessly among the leadership team.
By creating a leadership team, with a clear level of authority, you’ll reduce miscommunications and increase mutual respect and understanding. This way, it becomes clear to staff that everyone on the leadership team has a clear amount of authority and it doesn’t change from hour to hour.
The responsible person title is a way of ensuring that one person is untimely responsible for the running of a service at any given time. Being a certified supervisor doesn’t have to be the worst job ever, but if it comes with sporadic levels of authority, then you might want to pull a Houdini and disappear in a puff of smoke!
For more information on how to manage staff like a pro, check out our upcoming workshops “Hiring, Firing and Everything in Between”
- Update – In October 2017 changes to the NQS (in most states) will remove the need for certified supervisor certificates and certified supervisors. However, they still require Approved providers to ensure that a responsible person is present at a center-based service at all times.