Introducing… The Barry Letts Scale

Neither success or failure today…

I’m going to start with an excerpt from a memoir that I read recently written by the late great Doctor Who producer, Barry Letts, who was in charge of the show when Jon Pertwee was the Doctor:

“You the producer , if you’re doing your job properly, have to find the balance between leaving everything to sort itself out (if you’re lucky), having a creative input yourself, and being a control freak who never delegates. You need to give everyone the freedom to do their job as part of the whole enterprise but at the same time steer everyone in the right direction, keeping as light a hand on the reins as possible. Also be The Big Daddy to whom everybody looks for stability, inspiration and help. Quite a job.”
pg 112 in Letts, B., Who and Me: the memoir of Doctor Who producer Barry Letts, Fantom Publishing

As a manager of what is now a very complex service, reading this paragraph really struck a chord with me, particularly its description of the careful balancing act.  It gave me in a nutshell more useful guidance than I’d received at countless management development sessions. And of course, it led me to question where I am on the scale.

Well it’s not exactly a closely-guarded secret that I am a bit of a control freak, although I do like to make out that I’m worse than I actually am as it entertains me. I certainly don’t leave everyone to sort themselves out, unless the person in question has proved to me that its appropriate for me to do so in that instance. I have to say that I am finding delegating easier than I ever have before and that I’m worrying less when something goes out/is done that I don’t like (although I have to say to my BLA colleagues before they all comment to the contrary, that I probably had too tight a control of the reins in that instance, but then I had put so much of my energy and ideas into that I just couldn’t help myself – definitely was time to move on!) I absolutely recognise the need to offer  freedom, but at the same time I do have a very firm steering hand.

As to ‘Big Daddy’ and what Barry described that as comprising… Stability: Don’t come to me for stability – I’m not happy unless I’m changing something, partly because I always believe things can be better. It’s a minor miracle that I’ve actually used some of the same PPT slides as last year in this year’s teaching programme! Plus I do show my stress and I’m guessing that’s not very stabilising. Inspiration: I hope so, I certainly have a lot of ideas and am – I think – pretty encouraging. And finally Help: Yes I can say that I am helpful without fear of contradiction.

If you don’t know who the person is on the left then you are Impossibly Young. Find out more about this legend of the Seventies here. See this blog IS educational.

So in conclusion, I’m probably at around 78/100 on the scale and at least halfway to ‘Big Daddy’. BTW I don’t think Barry was directly referring to THE Big Daddy that would just be weird.

If you manage or supervise, where are you on the Barry Letts scale? I’d love to know. Please take The All New Barry Letts survey – powered by Qualtrics TM and I’ll collate the stats (anonymously natch) for a future post.

N.B. Before any of you begin to worry about my number of posts of late… the wife is away, I’ve been desperate to blog for weeks, and I assure you I won’t keep up this level of productivity any longer.


3 thoughts on “Introducing… The Barry Letts Scale

  1. Celine says:

    I found this very interesting. I would say I used to be more of a … well I wouldn’t call it control freak, I would say “perfectionist” which meant I always wanted to have a hand in everything. However, that has slowly changed over time so now I’m better at delegating and trusting people to come to me if they need help rather than hovering to offer it. Not sure how far on the scale I have managed to move though.

    I filled in your survey but was speaking to my (non-librarian) husband about it and he claims that your management style/delegation rate should depend on the people you have on your team. Some people need more support (and possibly more micro-management) than others.

    I did point out that this wasn’t an option on your survey and he should stop being so awkward… but I wonder if this is true. I do a lot of 1-2-1 hands-on training with people and have in all my jobs, and in that role you realise peole learn at different speeds, learn in different ways and probably do need different levels/modes of support.


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