Programmatic “Guiding Stars”

For six months between December, 2014 and May, 2015, the deputy director of Community Chest met with each of the departments within the organization. Through facilitated conversations, the teams were able to identify salient characteristics of their programs that were as important to them — like stars in the sky by which they guide their work.

Counseling & Adult Development Guiding Stars

1.  General flexibility – what works for one person doesn’t work for another, individualized, not cookie cutter
2.  Flexibility of hours…match service delivery to clients’ needs, real-time
3.  Provide truthful and accurate information, not false hope – “All information we provide is correct.”
4.  Hope still…can still be there with them and offer support, makes a difference even if we can’t provide/find a service at the moment – “Not an office of promise but an office of hope.”
5.  Communicate a sense of equality
6.  Need to decide line of “enabling” and stay on the right side of it

One question that helps us to know if we are on the right track – Are other agencies wanting what we have? Are they making referrals? If the answers are “yes,” then chances are that we are on the right track.

What is it that you are trying to accomplish through your program(s)?
–Education   –Success    –Stability –Self-efficacy    –Growth     –Change    –Confidence
–Health(physical & emotional)   –Happiness   –Hope   –Hospitality   –Independency
–Self-determination   –Drug-free    –Self-worth   –Sustainability  –Healthy family   –Community
–Connected   –Collaborative    –Self-esteem   –Creativity in life and work   –Hospitality   –Unity
–Independence   –Belongingness   –Skills   –Employment   –Trust   –Purpose
–Feel stronger   –Get their their essence/mojo back   –Resiliency

COW Bus Recipe

COW Bus teachers = Master Chefs
3 cups patience
½ cup understanding
1 cup compassion
½ cup commitment
Dash of smiles as needed
Stir in fun and attention
Pinch of hugs and “atta-boys”
3 bushels of flexibility
Withhold judgment
Fold together easily
Add/vary ingredients depending on days needs

Remember the following when cooking…er, teaching:

Be genuine – “kids can tell”
Model excitement, motivation, passion, compassion
Use questions with kids in a way to help them learn
Give them the reason why
Have a sense of imagination / creativity / play
Be honest
Focus on shaping behavior by stating the affirmative – i.e., “We only cut paper.”
Give kids opportunity to lead / direct play
Rather than singling a student out, direct lessons to entire class
Give kids choices
Maintain an experimental orientation
Expect things from kids
Tell parents what was done in class so they can build on it at home

Lessons Learned by Master Chefs…otherwise known as COW Bus Teachers

  • “Never assume anything about a family.”
  • Used to send work home and give instructions to kids to work with their parents. Little boy replied, “I don’t have a mommy or daddy.” This was a punch to gut; loss of words. Now I say “Have someone who loves you (not necessarily mom or dad) to help you.” Family is defined broadly.
  • “Every day is a brand new day.”
  • “We only have 2 ½ hours to make a difference in kids’ life.”
  • “I try to learn something from a child daily.”


Youth Programs “Guiding Stars”

1.  Having strong staff is essential

  • Want to encourage ownership of programs, “If something needs to be done, I want them to take the initiative to do it.”
  • “We are all responsible.”
  • Pay attention to how feeling as a staff.

2.  Listen to the kids

  • Lots of “little judges” running around
  • “Try to see things from the kids’ perspectives.”
  • “Interact with the kids in creative ways so that they are engaged.”
  • Check-in with kids – ask if they are bored
  • “The kids are the bosses…” Remembering this increases the kids’ ownership in the program

3.  How we work with the kids

  • Key message: We are family…take care of each other at the program and anywhere outside the program (i.e., in school).
  • Reinforce from a positive perspective – i.e., “Don’t have flying cars yet…

4.  Youth development principles

  • Positive reinforcement – want the kids to respect us not just because we are authority figures; in how we talk with the kids and the relationships we develop.
  • Get to do stuff with kids that isn’t necessarily reinforced at school – i.e., manners, creative engagements…can wait 5 minutes until a student says “please.”
  • Start every day fresh – kids will be loved/regarded no matter what they’ve done previously (it is sometimes a challenged for staff to remember to treat kids as they are today, now how they were yesterday).
  • Utilize same day consequences – more effective and helps the kids learn the power of their current choices.

5.  Build community between kids and with adults/parents

  • Make sure that all kids have an identity and are seen – “No one is invisible.”
  • We view what we do as a program, not as a babysitting service
  • Family Night(s) have helped parents to understand that their involvement is wanted.

Long-term goal: for kids to grow up to be happy and healthy adults

Short-term goals of program:
–Increase self-confidence   –Learn importance of school   –Increase social skills  –Place to feel safe  –Adults to trust   –Learn healthy life choices   –Adult-kid interaction   -Positive role models –Mistakes are OK  –Instill a service ethic   –Take ownership of actions    –Help to develop a positive sense of identity   –Sensitivity to others’ perspectives    –Learn that there aren’t bad kids, only bad choices  –Open eyes to new experiences/ideas

CCI Management Gold Nuggets

We should always be a culture of “yes”
–Find a way
–That’s the way folks thrive the most…permission to explore the possibilities
–Takes time for staff to accept their own personal possibilities and overcome previously learned behavior
–“Open Door Policy” of management

We serve a higher horizon
–Can’t always see or know/define it
–Pushing out beyond what we can see to make it all work
–Lay foundation so all can succeed in their roles to relate to horizon
–Translators of journey

We support each other to be comfortable with the unknowns that we live and work in
–Makes it hard for employees to be autonomous
–We are modeling autonomy and permission to make decisions independently
–Teaching all to be leaders
–Push staff to redefine what they do

We understand that possibility arises from the unknown
–The horizon is undefinablelike surf churning”
–Becoming comfortable with being in churn; if not, resist energy/transformation
–Innovation is found in the churn
Opposite of all this is complacency, a type of death

We are always evolving
–Risk to lead without a net
Staff have embraced their roles as change agents
–Entrepreneurial spirits
–Scrappy, don’t have it in the bag, never solved puzzle
Risk is fundamental to this enterprise – “Lead without a net”

We give staff time and space to grow
–Recognizing where people are at developmentally and help people find personal success where they are at now
–Serves a purpose for leaders, too – learn to teach
–Come from a place of both serving and leading staff
–Would feel hollow if we didn’t risk with employees, as though we weren’t walking our own walk
–Comes down to fear – teaching/mentoring/helping others

We hold staff accountable
We must remember we operate/live in a very gray world, otherwise we are just an agency/place
Very careful…some folks not ready
–Have to figure out who connects…who disconnects…we have to monitor and stay on top of
Internal/external leader/teacher/mentor
–Intentional conversation aka “parenting”
–Intervene when staff don’t live up to potential

CCI is not exempt from the same cyclical ebbs and flows of human relationships, and will have to practice what it preaches.

There is a need to provide opportunities and support so that staff can carry the CCI narrative, and can lead/discern the nuances of servant-based leadership.

CCI management must help/support staff to resist “usual” ways of handling interpersonal tensions, and encourage more complete engagements with one another.

“Ownership” is meant in the collective sense, not the possessive sense.