Focus: People Management - Search is on for the nation's best boss

Graham Willgoss

Voluntary sector staff are being urged to put their leaders' names forward.

Voluntary sector managers are as good as their private and public sector counterparts, according to Maggy Meade-King, head of services and communications at Working Families.

Meade-King is urging more charities to get involved in Working Families' Britain's Best Boss competition this year. "A charity hasn't won the award yet, but we're sure there are some excellent bosses out there in the voluntary sector," she says.

The competition, which is in its seventh year, encourages employees to nominate their boss if they believe they have made a difference to their working lives, are supportive and encouraging, and take a practical and understanding approach to work-life balance.

Entries are judged on criteria such as effective communication, staff motivation and how bosses deal with disciplinary issues.

"A lot of people in the sector are employed here because they genuinely care about what they do, so there can be a tendency to work until the job is done," says Meade-King. "But that can apply equally to staff in the NHS or the police. A good boss makes sure that, if this is the case, it is not a regular occurrence. They get the work-life balance right."

The competition originally targeted small businesses, but organisations from other sectors became interested.

"When a public sector entrant won it for the first time, we had a flurry of entries from the public sector the following year," says Meade-King.

"I hope the same thing will happen with the voluntary sector."

An award is given for the best boss, and special commendations are awarded to managers for exceptional practice in specific areas.

The voluntary sector has had only one special commendation since the competition began - Julie Spencer Cingoz, chief executive of the British Institute of Brain Injured Children in 2001.

She won for introducing a programme to improve resources and raise staff morale.

Spencer Cingoz says: "I stress to all that there remains a need to balance.

I examine my own values and motivations. As a working mother, and having worked for others who made employees play the guilt games of career versus family and 'long hours equal success', I try hard to avoid this by using a team approach to person-friendly policy creation.

"If you have a policy in place, you have to see it through via managers and your own behaviour. I make clear statements that this is not just about parents or special cases - we're not so much family-friendly as person-friendly."

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