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Tips for line managing conservation teams

To start understanding about what is the best way to line manage conservation teams, you first have to understand a little bit about roles.

Project team roles for a conservation project

A role is a defined set of decision-making abilities and responsibilities that are temporarily assigned to an individual involved in the project. In some cases, multiple roles may also be assigned to the same individual. A role is, therefore, different to a job title, post, or position, which instead represents a contractual arrangement between an employer and an employee. For example, someone may have the position of Programme coordinator within their organisation but may be assigned the role of Project director for a project. Each role is managed by one or more other roles. A full description of all project team roles can be found in the Project Management for Wildlife Conservation best practice.

Line management of project team roles

Ideally, each team member, however many roles they have, should only have one line manager.

Having multiple line managers for a single role can be confusing for the team member carrying out that role with respect to how they manage their own work and whom they go to when a decision needs to be made. Likewise, it can be difficult for the line manager if they are managing someone who is also being managed by someone else, because the line manager will not be in full control over what that team member is doing. However, it may not be possible to avoid multiple line managers in all circumstances.

Although it is advised that any individual staff member has only one line manager, this may not be possible in all circumstances, e.g. if one person has the role of Project manager for 2 different projects with 2 different Executives. In such instances, the person with multiple line managers needs to work with their line managers to develop a shared, agreed-upon set of boundaries with respect to how they will split their time between the 2 projects. It may be advantageous to assign specific time slots for each project, e.g. Mondays and Wednesdays for project 1 and Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays for project.

Also, as a general rule, any team member should not line manage more than 6 other team members. This is because, in order to be effective, each team member requires direction, quality control, and problem-solving support from their line manager. The more team members a line manager is overseeing, the less time they can give to each team member individually.

If you found this advise interesting, you may like the advice on Principles of Project Management for Wildlife Conservation.

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