Managing with Trust: A Success Story

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.

Podcast 3: Parenting Protectively and Fiercely: A story of parenting twins, staff, and encouraging autonomy

Podcast: Motivation, Growing Up and Enjoying It

Here’s a podcast I completed today, based on my article about Growing Up. Take a listen if you can!

10 Ways to Build Confidence When You’re Doubting Yourself

Below is an article I was able to contribute to through the Thrive Global weekly prompt.  It is about about boosting confidence, and there are several other contributors in the article..

Sometimes, you just need a little confidence boost. Hope you get one today!

Click below on the link to read:


Live to Dance

a pictures of Cinceraria flowers with

Let’s Have a Dance-Off!

I love dancing.

I spent some time with one of my nieces this weekend, who also loves to dance.

She suggested that we have a dance-off.  It is important to note that she has been taking dance classes for 4 years or so, maybe even longer.  Also, she’s about 7 and a half. As you can imagine, she’s a pretty good dancer.

She’s full of energy, she’s fun, and she dances when she hears a beat.  

That beat she hears (imagine: 5,6,7,8!) keeps her on beat, whether the beat is coming from the radio or from the song in her head.

Now, I ask you to imagine her Aunt Terri.

I am older than 7 by about 4 decades. I also have high energy, am fun, and move my body ‘just a titch’ if I hear a beat.

One guess who won the dance-off. Actually, it depends who you ask. I say I did and she says she did.  

She tried to get her grandma (my mom) to be the judge, but Grandma was busy trying to ignore our antics; therefore, she was unable to declare a winner.

The issue for today: What drives us.

As I have mentioned in previous aricles, I have some unreliable ligaments. 

I have a habit of testing their limits, and since I am also very, very competitive, I wanted to win that dance contest.

I had to remember that even though I wanted to win and show that little girl what a ‘real’ dancer could do, her skills were well above mine.

She is currently in dance class each week, is talented in dancing skills and she is self-confident.

We have a mutual love of each other.

Later, when we were done with dancing (or during one of our many breaks where I was lying on the floor) we made a video on my phone.

In that video, she commented that I was the ‘worst aunt ever’.

I took it as the compliment that was intended.

No matter whether we are cooperating or coordinating with people who have similar traits to us, sometimes it works well to work together.

Sometimes it does not work as well and it causes stress and barriers.

Sometimes, what we like best in ourself becomes a frustration for us when we find the same characteristic in someone else.

The same can be true of someone with whom we share much less in common.  

A person who really likes to talk (guilty) frequently spends a lot of time with people who talk much less.

The compatibility of people who have opposite strengths can really work well together.

Imagine a couple who works well together with one who is more interested in big ideas and another who is more interested in the detail work.

Another example occurs with employees in a business who cooperate well together.  

I envision that some of those employees like to have decisions made for them, and some of the people working like to be decision makers.  

There are also people who have the role of middle managers, who prefer to have a balance of decision making and following decisions of others .

In a business, the leader, known as President or CEO or Executive Director, makes some of the final decisions.

The second in command might be shared by several people, or just one or two.  The seconds in commands, knowns as Vice Presidents, Executive Team, or Directors, tend to work well with their leaders when things are going well.

Some people in this position can be the people in charge of raising money for the organization (Development), the person in charge of making sure the organization run smoothly (Operations) and the person who is in charge of the quality of the work (Clinical).

A third group in the scenario are what are commonly referred to in the social service field as Direct Care workers, or front line staff.  Sometimes this group is referred to as ‘the people who do the work’.

This group includes the people who have the role of conducting the work that is the ‘meat’ of the business. Other terms for this role are ‘agents’ or ‘entry level’ positions.

The final group in this scenario is one of my other favorites, which is the person who has the title ‘Assistant’ in their job description.  An assistant’s role is to assist with what is needed.  

Their role can include helping the leader disperse information clearly and be prepared for meetings, answering the phone, and returning messages when the phone is not answered immediately.  

I refer to assistants as those who ‘keep the wheels running smoothly’.

When you have the chance to do something you love to do, or something which drives you and something you enjoy doing, I encourage you to find a way to do it.

I encourage you to work toward getting to the place where you have the opportunity to do things you enjoy, even if it is difficult.

I love to dance. The way that I meet that need is by listening to music, singing along, and moving my body a little bit.

Here’s a couple of final questions for this article:

What can you find to do today, this week, or within the month that is something you think about, that helps drive you?

How can you include the things that motivate you with the things that do not motivate you as much?

Have fun!

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