Click below to listen to a Podcast about a successful team experience at a social service agency. Happy Listening!
I love to lead staff.
I really enjoy building relationships where staff who are working begin to be able to do more and more on their own.
I also enjoy meeting with staff for what I usually call individual supervision where we (the verb) ‘staff’, which means discussing the people they are working with and working to improve the skills the employee has, while at the same time I hear their perspectives on things that are going well and ideas they have to help the families make change to reduce the stresses in their own lives.
A few years ago, I had what I commonly refer to as ‘a really strong team’.
We were a group who enjoyed each other, which her its own perks and drawbacks, but for this team, it was a perk.
We had a group staff meeting each month.
At that staff meeting, I pre-printed an agenda which had pertinent information on it, such as processes that were changing or being updated, upcoming events where they had the opportunity to work at, and we staffed clients.
One of my staff referred to the staff meetings as a gathering where all of the kids come home.
For this group, we covered 4 counties in Indiana. One of the counties, Hamilton, has a huge number of people living in it, and 7 public school districts in it. Four of those are among the highest populated schools in the state, and one of them is among one of the most rural areas of the state where the closest grocery store is a 15 minute drive from the center of town.
The other 3 counties were very individualized as well. Madison County has one of the highest number of people in poverty and using illegal/non-prescribed drugs both in the state and nationwide.
Hancock is what is commonly referred to as a ‘bedroom’ community, with 4 school systems of its own ranging from just outside of Indianapolis (Marion County) to quite rural communities as well.
The final county in our area, where I was brought up, is Tipton. Tipton is historically a farm community with some of the richest soil in the nation where many of us who grew up there in the 80’s detassled corn.
So on these staff meetings, the 6 staff who served the 4 counties, our administrative assistant, and our safe sleep coordinator gathered with me to discuss upcoming events, things going well, and things to work on.
Recently, one of my staff from that time period posted a picture where she and her co-worker dressed as our male co-worker in his football jerseys.
Anytime you have a group that is cohesive and works well together, I think it is important to look back at what went well to try to re-create it.
For this group, I am listing below some of our strengths and areas that creative a positive work environment:
1. The job in and of itself is a hopeful job that allowed us to help people. We worked in prevention, which allowed us to work with families on a voluntary basis.
2. There was a whole lot of trust.
Three of the staff primarily worked in Madison County, and they developed a very close friendship with each other. They had a group chat where they were able to bounce ideas off of each other as they worked with some families in some extreme poverty.
3. Availability of office space.Three of the 4 counties had offices in them, which allowed the workers to have a place to land and decompress. The most isolated person was definitely based out of our Hancock County office, which was two rooms in a building with several other individual offices in there. This allowed her to get to know the services in the community on a closer level as she spent time in her office.
4. Each person who worked in the community cared about their community. Tipton, having about 16,000 people in the county and about 5,000 people who live in the town of Tipton, was always the hardest to hire for. Since I grew up, went to high school, and have worked in the community for most of my professional career I was able to help that along.
Each of the other counties had staff who worked in them who either lived in or near the community, which helped with the driving around the county and with their own sense of community.
5 Those staff meetings we loved? We ate at them. We started with having a bagel breakfast at our 10:00 meeting, but eventually switched to an 11-1 meeting time with lunch included and paid for by the agency to allow us to eat lunch. This allowed the staff to see clients prior to the meeting if they wanted, and it also gave us some casual, get your food time to discuss some of the ‘softer’ skills of their work.
6. It was a great team with great staff. I had hired, with the help of the VP above me, well and had a group that was skilled in many areas and helped each other.
The take-away from this article is this: think about how can you work well together with your team.
What can you do, that you have control of, to improve your work environment?
As in all situations, things evolve and change, and people who work in entry level positions who are pretty skilled in their role sometimes want to move up or move on.
How can you help staff who are in a place where they are ready for more challenges incorporate those new challenges or ideas into their role or be able to incorporate those skills into their next role?
As an employee, what can you do, in your role, to improve morale with your own behavior?
Recapping, my success story is not about one employee. It is about a work environment based on trust, workability, and good humor.
I hope you find some fun in your tasks today! It is sunny here, which always starts my day off a little better.
Click Below for a podcast about parenting with fierceness, including allowing our kids to receive some natural consequences. Based on an article of a similar name. Happy listening!
One of my favorite roles as a professional has been teaching a class for first-time substance users who were teenagers.
The program occured in Clinton County, Indiana and was funded through the Probation Department to help educate youth about substance use and abuse in order to help prevent future under-age/illegal use.
One of the phrases I used in that role was ‘raise the bottom’.
I have found, as a therapist working primarly with teens and youth, that encouraging the adults who are helping to provide teens with structure and consequences to ‘raise the bottom’ to be somewhat of an ambiguous term that at times needs an explanation.
When I think of this term, I also think of ‘failing small’.
Failing small is when we allow those in our lives, or in our care, to fail so that they experience some failure which can help motivate them to make some changes based on the consequences they receive.
For my own children, one of the tactics we used as parents was to state ‘That’s one consequence’ in the middle of a 4 year old’s temper tantrum.
Continue with the tantrum? That’s two consequences.
The actual consequences were discussed and determined later, when both the child and the parents had a clearer head.
I know, for myself, if I had followed the urge to hand out a consequence at the time it would have sounded something like ‘you are never going to leave your room again!!’ or ‘time out, no movie, no gameboy, and no television for the rest of the night!’
For children in the heat of anger and tantruming, this can sound very much like a challenge they will try to win.
During my sons’ middle school years, I supervised a Pregnant and Parenting Teen program. The program was staffed in 8 hour shifts.
The staff frequently became very frustrated with the residents in our care. At the time I supervised this program, my own children were in middle school.
In addition, I have quite a stubborn streak, which can help me in guiding those who are dealing with people who like to be persistent. Those working to connect and motivate frequently experience an amount of frustration.
“If you decide to go toe-to-toe with a teenager, they will win”
“They are better and more locked into winning this battle, so as stubborn and persistant as you feel you may be, they are still going to get the better of you due to their super-power ability in this area”
Those are some phrases I said consistently when supervising staff who were having some frustrations.
We then worked together to problem solve some trauma-informed, natural consequences to attempt to motivate our teens who were pregnant or parenting.
Now let’s think of this area in terms of parenting your own children:
When we raise the bottom, we allow our children to experience a natural consequence to their choice.
An example of this could be wearing shorts on a cold day. The child/teen will be cold if they do not dress appropriately for the temperature. That is a consequence of dressing for summer in the winter.
If you do not turn in your homework, your grade will reflect that. A ‘0’ score brings down a percentage much more quickly than a score of even 50%, so turning in your homework will help your grades if you are motivated by grades.
These get tricky, because we as parents tend to remember all of the things we wish we would have known when we were teenagers, and can recognize that lecturing and informing our child about this will certainly motivate them.
Which it probably will, it just may not motivate them in the way you are seeking.
If they are self motivated, they may not need much guidance in terms of completing their homework. If they are high achievers, the grades or feedback themselves generally motivate them.
As we think about what areas we want to work on as parents or employers, I encourge you to think of 1-2 things you’d really like to focus on.
I encourage parents to tackle one area at a time with a child in their life who is generating some frustration.
When I am meeting with teens or pre-teens, I encourage them to learn to recognize what the consequences are for their choices before they do the act of whatever thing they may be choosing to do at that time.
Learning to recognize their feelings about conseuqneces and whether or not they are motivated to change their behaviors based on the potential consequences is another area for teens and parents to think about as they make choices and consequences to them.
Utilizing In Your Life.
I would like you to think about something you’d like to focus on with someone who is in your life at this time.
What behavior would you like to spend less time focusing on talking about or dealing with, and how would you like to allow your child to spend more time allowing your child to experience that natural or prescribed consequence?
Some sources of frustration might be related to spending money on meals, movies, etc; working on grades/homework; or anything that is causing you frustration as you and your child interact.
Now I encourage you to set aside a time to meet with the person who you are having some frustrations with, and talk about some ways to handle this differently.
Maybe you check their grades less often, or you monitor their spending a little bit less, or maybe you give them less access to funds.
Now that you have thought of what to talk about, and thought of a time that might work for a conversation, I encourage you to talk during a peaceful time.
This time could be in the car on the way to somewhere, it could be during a meal, or it could be a scheduled time where you take into consideration their schedule and how they will respond at that time of day.
It could be at a time that just ‘pops up’. We call these teachable moments, and you as the adult or other participant in the relationship can work look for opportunities as they arise naturally.
One time that I will discourage you from choosing, when dealing with teens, is right when they wake up. Clearly, though, that is up to you.
‘Raising the Bottom’ means letting the person in your life experience real consequences to their behavior to help motivate them to make change vs. saving them/protecting them from all consequences.
I hope you can experience a little less frustration in an area that has been frustrating for you.
Thanks for reading!
I was so excited the day in 1997 when our obstetrician told us we were having twins.
We had waited for them for just a little bit longer than some people do, as fertility was something that I had to work a little harder at than some other things I had set to accomplish in my our 25 and 26 years of life.
We found out at about 20 weeks gestation that they were both boys, so from then on we set to naming them.
As many can imagine, parenting them (let’s face it, being pregnant with them) has had its own set of challenges and rewards.
14 lbs is really too much baby for a uterus, and chasing two 18 month olds was enough to keep anyone on their toes.
I’m not even going to go into potty training two toddlers at once or teaching two of them to drive at the same time.
For today, let’s focus on game playing.
One thing I was never able to completely do was to parent them in a way where one of them was able to consistently ‘win’ at games we played together.
We played a lot of board games (or ‘bored’ games as my husband and one of my sons tend to call them) as they were growing up. The person who won the game was always the person who ‘actually’ won the game.
In Uno, we each tried our hardest to be the one to run out of cards first. In Monopoly Jr., the goal had something to do with Mickey Mouse, so that effort was put forth to win applied to that game as well.
When they were about 4 years old, we got together with a childhood friend of mine whose son is about 6 months younger than they are.
As we were playing, she got a confused look on her face.
‘How do you decide which one is going to win?’
I looked at her with an equally confused look, since the person who won was the person who got the joy of winning.
She went on ‘Well, I tend to let my son win, so if you have two the same age, how do you decide which one wins each time?’
At that moment, I realized how another facet of having and raising twins is different than raising singletons.
My children have never individually been my ‘one and only’. They have always each been one of my ones and only, but they have also had each other for as long as they have had their dad and me.
Parenting using a Zone Defense
Another incident that comes to mind from around the same age occurred when I took them to a playground with a childhood friend whose son is a little over 2 years younger than they are.
We went to a park in Fishers, Indiana, where she lived at the time.
There was a very large playground there, where we watched our children from far enough back to be able to catch them if any of them got too far away or hurt themselves.
We experienced some frustrations because some of the other parents (or ‘those Fishers parents’ as we called them at the time) watched their children from such a close distance that if their child ran quickly through the playground, the parents had to either book it to the other side of the playground set or jump up and go through the obstacles themselves.
Kind of like a zone defense vs. man to man in basketball. We utilized the zone defense, the one to one parents really put in a lot more legwork.
We were both amused when parents were on the playgroud itself. They had to do some interesting gymnastics to try to keep up with their child as they skirted out of arms reach.
These children, who we have now raised into twenty somethings and now have peers in college and in the workforce, are now much, much bigger than they were at 4 and 2 years of age.
The takeaway from this article is thinking about how, as we parent, are in relationships, and supervise others, are we providing that balance of support and autonomy.
We want our children to stay safe.
Those big giant heads help us to do that as we understand that they cannot meet their own needs.
As we are in relationships where we want our children to grow and become more automonous, how do we provide that support while also enabling them to have some small failures and to be independent in the process?
As someone who has supervised 20 something staff for many years, I started to hear ‘you are just like my mom!’ several years ago.
I have talked with staff about how their parents encouraged their independence, as I encouraged them to separate from their parents in ways that would help them to become adults who are able to work independently and productively.
This task, for me as a supervisor, is much easier than the task is for me as a parent.
As my children moved to Bloomington as 18 year old ‘adults’, I thought of all of the things my husband I had done to encourage their confidence and independence, and all of the things we have done that has allowed them to continue to rely on us.
Putting Into Practice
As you think about the people in your life who you are trying to help become successful, independent, good-enough decision-making adults, what are some areas that you feel you have success in?
What is one specific area that you can look at about what you have done, whether that is with a friend, a spouse, an employee, or a child you have a role in raising, that you can look back on and think
‘I am doing a pretty good job at that task’?
What areas can you think of where you are helpful to someone else?
Now I encourage you to think of an area where you have what I call ‘room for growth’.
As you think about that area, what is something that you think about that you can be doing presently to help yourself, someone close to you, or a future relationship you hope to have?
When you think about that area you have room for improvement in, what is one specific thing you can think about that you will try to be better about?
For me, I encourage myself to remember that 21 year olds have a lot of independence and a lot of questions about how to maintain that independence.
The next task: identify something you’ll do, make a note of it in some way that you’ll remember, then make an effort and do it.
Now decide by when….
Happy Friday! It’s definitely my favorite day of the week!