Behaviour not personality = Great youth work.

We have all heard the saying “the road to hell is paved with good intentions“. No more have I seen this than in the human services. Hopefully we have all come into the sector with a passion to work with broken individuals. Sometimes however, this passion gets in the way of our reason and we take on more projects than we can deliver on. For me there have been many times where I have accepted a spot on a committee, group or panel with the best intentions of delivering amazing results for them. However, when push comes to shove and the work with my young people begins to suffer I have to step aside. Usually having caused a major issue for the group, panel or committee. I see this happen in my personal life too. Because I commit to being on a board or committee it takes time from my family and causes strain on my resources and relationships. Are my intentions noble and just??? Of course! But what about my behaviours???
In youth work we all to often reward our young people for setting a goal or agreeing to attend a meeting. We do it with our colleagues as well. How many times have you seen a youth worker take a hit for the team only to have to deal with the issue again at a later date. You know the situation… you are in a team meeting and the boss says that you need to report to a funding body on your progress. No one wants to do the data collection and a noble colleague says they will do it. Two weeks later the team is thrown into chaos because the worker did not get around to it because of some other more pressing concern. When that happens we never judge them on their intentions… She was so noble and she really wanted to get it done. We judge them on their behaviour… She left it to the last minute and now I have to do it anyway.


All too often we judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviour. Guess what they judge you on your behaviour. When issues then arise in the team we hear about the work pressures or family issues or hear those dreaded words… It’s just who they are. Many organisations bring in Psychologists to deal with issues of personality (If I have to do another Myers-Briggs I may kill someone!) as that is seen as the overarching issue. Lets be clear!!! It is not their personality that is the issue, it is their behaviour! Or more specifically their lack of behaviour.

What we recommend at Ultimate Youth Worker is that we move towards a behaviourist approach to dealing with people. Whether the young people we work with, our colleagues or others we may work with along the way we should develop a lens of behaviour through which to judge our interactions.  Don’t get us wrong, the Myers-Briggs and other personality profiles are a great tools. But for us to be effective in running groups, providing support to our young people or dealing with colleagues means understanding their behaviours and how to work with them to utilise their strengths.

Over the coming weeks we will begin to look at how to develop a behavioural lens to work from. A lens that will help you understand peoples strengths and weaknesses, how to speak to them in a way that will help you develop your relationship with them and ultimately strengthen your work with everyone you come across.

In the meantime… Stay Frosty.

What are your thoughts???

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Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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