The Prerequisite Qualities of a Food Safety Leader
I want to start this month's blog by telling you a short story about a Technical role I was approached about a few years back. The offer was quite tempting and it was a similar role to the one I was in so shouldn’t have been too challenging (I thought to myself). I asked for more details regarding the role and I received a detailed job description. As I read through the job description it contained an endless list of responsibilities and I could see all the problems the company was having, it was clear that whoever wrote the description was expecting to recruit one person to solve all of the problems in this company. I declined the offer and told them that they weren't looking for a Technical Manager, they were looking for divine intervention.
On the IFSQN forums we do see discussion about what qualifications and experience you need to be a Quality Manager/Quality Assurance Manager/Food Safety Manager/Technical Manager etc.
So looking at the key requirements for such a position in no particular order I see them as:
- Technical Expertise/Product Knowledge
- Attitude/Strong Will/Ability to keep calm when the doo doo hits the fan
Like life experience is invaluable, typically a person in this role will have experience in:
- Developing HACCP plans and food quality and safety systems
- Hosting and managing audits
- In dealing with authorities and customers
- Leading, managing and influencing teams
- Major multiple retailer experience
- Managing budgets
- The typical ideal qualifications for this type of role include:
- HACCP – Advanced
- Food Hygiene (CIEH) - Advance
- Lead Auditor
- Degree in Food Technology or a related discipline
The required technical expertise will vary with the risk of the product and the complexity of the operation/process. Typically expertise in the following is required:
- Knowledge of quality systems
- Knowledge of food safety procedures/systems
- Knowledge of food safety standards
- Knowledge of relevant legislation
- Knowledge of auditing techniques
- Product & process knowledge
- Management - ability to lead, mentor, motivate, manage and organise people/teams
- Strong interpersonal skills
- Communication - strong communicator, ability to communicate at all levels throughout the organisation, with customers and with authorities
- Analytical - able to analyse, summarise and present information in a logical manner
- Able to organise and prioritise workloads
- Excellent attention to detail
- Problem solving - able to problem solve/troubleshoot and deal with issues in a timely effective manner (the CSI of food safety and quality)
- Ability to delegate when necessary
- Ability to build and maintain relationships with customers
- Commercial awareness - able to understand the difference between a food safety issue and something that is a ‘commercial decision’
- Able to work under pressure and to tight deadlines
- Able to withstand pressure to ‘make the wrong decision’
- Able to be assertive when necessary
- Able to communicate effectively, make logical decisions and work through things in a methodical manner when in a crisis situation
- Can make change happen
- Being fair and consistent
One of the most important aspects of any management role is knowing how to manage your boss, if you can influence your boss then you will be more effective in your role. So a weekly review with my boss would go along these lines:
- Everything is hunky dory, no out of spec. products last week, no complaints etc. and we got grade A such and such audit.
- Here are all the things you asked me to do last week which I have completed.
- I have also done x, y & z that you didn’t ask me to do but I knew that we needed to get on with (Proactivity and brownie points)
- Oh and by there are one or two issues that I want to discuss with you that I think you may be able to help me with……….
- “This place falls apart without me"
- “This is the way we have always done it"
- “You’re lucky to have a job…"
- "If I had my way, things would change"
- "You need to think about where your priorities lie"
*From 5 Things Only Bad Bosses Say, written by Pree Sarkar on linkedin.com