It is clear from the spiraling negative statistics of child abuse, neglect and violence in our country that we have a great deal of work to do in order to meet the needs of our children and families. While some help can be provided through family members, we must understand that we need seasoned professionals who know how to empower their clients to care for their children and to provide therapy and resources for children who have experienced significant trauma.
Fail to equip our leaders and fail to solve our issues?
Without strong, equipped leadership, how can we expect to resolve the many issues faced by our children and their families?
Sadly, our society tends to place the valuable professionals who assist children and families very low on the priority list in training, support, funding and financial compensation. For these reasons we need to build organizations and agencies that are focused, committed and diligent to strengthen their staff and equip them to deal with complex and extremely difficult human circumstances.
Extraordinary care requires extraordinary demands
Professionals who consistently assist children in crisis face extraordinary demands; thus, they tend to have high incidences of burn-out. This means that after a time, they become emotionally and relationally exhausted to the point that they cannot continue providing quality care. It is unfair and irresponsible to assume that these professionals can endure such a high stress environment without being effectively equipped, supported and nurtured in their job.
Rather than adding more cases and perpetuating endless challenging situations, we really should be helping them discover how to find fulfillment. We should provide them with a sense of personal growth and development. Because they have been emotionally and relationally depleted, they need to be replenished to again provide quality care, the care demanded by their commitment and profession. Building their strengths as leaders is one way to nurture them.
How to discover and maximize one’s strength?
Emotionally healthy leadership helps people discover their ideal self through their strengths. I often find that finding one’s ideal self is a low priority in most health and human services organizations. However, as we have attempted to encourage leadership within Lakeside, we have found that this activity is a key to understanding not only how we build future leaders, but also how they might be best deployed within the scope of our mission.
We tend to think that our strengths equal what we are good at–what we might call our talents. For example, someone else in the organization may struggle to perform the task that we find easy, or vice versa. However, strengths can best be defined as what we do naturally, with an ease of effort that most energizes us.
Because we find our strengths natural to do, we are often are not aware of what they actually might be.
Using helpful tools
Once we discover our strengths, and we are placed in positions where our strengths can be maximized, we create an energizing, fulfilling work environment. It follows, then, that a strengths-based environment would help the professionals who hold vital positions in caring for our children.
We advocate using a very reliable tool, Strength Finders 2.0, as a way to discover and validate the top strengths of our leaders at Lakeside. I believe everyone should buy this book and take the accompanying, simple online test. When finished, a report is immediately generated that describes in detail your top 5 strengths.
Knowing one’s strengths can boost self-esteem as well, and it is truly exciting to help leaders discover theirs. In fact, at Lakeside, we also process an exercise in which others affirm our leaders’ positive impact on peers and families. This exercise further encourages them to pursue and expand their strengths. Further, they are most gratified to be in a role that maximizes their strengths, particularly when those strengths are used to help children and families in need.
When our philosophy truly honors the leaders of our children and families, I believe we can encourage them to enjoy their challenging work and avoid burn-out. We can help them provide the quality of care we desperately need for children and families in this world rampant with tragedies.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network