In my work of helping agencies transform from facility-based services to community-based services I’ve noticed that there are certain skills and strengths that staff have that can be used in the transition. While these profiles are vast generalizations, it is my hope that as you read them, you are able to identify some of these characteristics in your staff and will encourage them to bring them forward, celebrate them and have them join you on this journey.
Michelle The Millennial
Ahhh, Millennials! They get such a bad rap, but I’m here to proclaim their goodness! Millennials ooze inclusion. They grew up with people with disabilities in their classes, as their friends and on their sports teams. When it comes to Millennials, there is no convincing needed that people with disabilities can be out in the community, living a life similar to themselves. They are employees motivated by purpose and if this transformation isn’t purposeful work, I don’t know what is. Don’t let their passion go unused. Help them become advocates and allow them to spread the word about people with disabilities and how they can add value in community spaces.
Support her by introducing them to the boundaries and making sure they know the why and how of the rules that are in place. One misstep that comes to mind most is photo consents and social media. Selfies are natural in Michelle’s life and she may just include an individual or two.
We all know a Patrick. We anticipate his questions, think about the answers and prepare for a team meeting. But by golly, if he doesn’t surprise us with a new question or problem that we weren’t anticipating. Patrick is someone that wants to do his job correctly, doesn’t want to get caught doing something wrong and is going to ask as many questions as it takes to feel like he has the answers he needs. Patrick brings infinite value to your team by helping you think through the missing pieces and scenarios that may arise. Community-based services bring a whole new way of doing business and that means Patrick is going to have a lot of questions. Why not ask Patrick to help you in the process?
Support him by asking Patrick to join you before going into a team meeting. Present the ideas and new processes to him and ask him to find the holes. Encourage Patrick to begin thinking of the issues that might arise and what he might do in that situation. How great would it be if Patrick showed up with a problem and a solution?!
Calvin The Connector
Calvin is a man around town! He is crucial to supporting your team in transformation because relationships are golden! He’s well connected in the local rotary group, owned his own business and knows someone that can help with every problem you’re trying to solve. Calvin reads the local papers, knows what’s going on over the weekend and generally enjoys connecting with other people. Calvin is a natural conversationalist, he likes to listen to others, asks really good questions and draws connections between people, places and things. He can help you get someone in the door for a volunteer experience, bring in a new musician for a music class and he knows about the cool fair happening next weekend.
Support him by celebrating Calvin' strength! Ask Calvin to create a resource map of all the people he knows and how they might benefit the individuals you’re serving. Pick the top three connections and make some action steps on how to evolve these relationships. Ask Calvin to share his knowledge of community happenings with the group and teach others how to build relationships and find the information they need. Consider having Calvin work in a Job Developer role, securing employment opportunities for the individuals you’re serving.
Wanda’s got it going on! She’s all about the Zumba, healthy eating and wellness activities that bring strength and peace to body and mind. Wanda likes to walk on her lunch break, always has a healthy salad and cut up fruit at lunch and enjoys going to the town’s yoga studio a couple days per week. Wanda’s noticed that the individuals she’s serving have a lot of health-related issues that could be prevented by some lifestyle changes. Helping people connect with others and their community is much easier when someone is feeling healthy and active. Let Wanda help with that!
Support her by letting Wanda know that you would love to have her share her passion and knowledge with the individuals and team members. If she’s open, ask Wanda if she would be willing to start a walking group or provide another fitness offering to the group. Are their cooking classes she would be willing to teach? Which individuals does she see that might have an interest in participating in these types of activities? How else could she see helping the team?
Poor Debbie, she always gets labeled a downer, but we could easily use anyone who is facing drastic changes and operating from a place of fear. Ask any agency leader and they can name the people who will grumble at the change, faster than they can list those who will embrace and celebrate it. From a leader’s perspective these people make our jobs harder and we can dread interactions with them and how they can be toxic additions to a team who is undergoing stress and change. BUT, these people hold a special gift. They are brave enough to voice things that others may be feeling, particularly families and individuals. It isn’t worth the effort to challenge them in public, instead listen through the grumbling and get to the fear they’re experiencing. Are they afraid they don’t have what it takes? Are they afraid they’ll mess up? Are they worried about 74 year old Joe and what these new services mean for him?
Support her by privately letting Debbie know that you’re here to support her and everyone else through the challenges that lie ahead. You appreciate her concerns and you’re sure others are experiencing similar fears. Ask her to share her fears with you and collaborate to think through how you can support her and others. Bottom line, support her how you can, but spend the majority of your efforts building something new, celebrating the staff who are supporting and Debbie will come along in her own time.