In the Army here in Australia all leaders no matter their rank are taught that a good relationship with their team is critical for success. However if the lines get blurred because the relationship becomes more than that of a team and becomes a friendship things can get very messy. to combat this many of the leaders are taught the mantra “be firm, fair, friendly; but never familiar”. this little saying is the first way I balance my answers to those sticky situations. My young people are people not just clients! If I expect them to trust me and give me straight answers then I should show them the same respect. This doesn’t mean give them your home address and take them to your favourite watering hole. But within reason engage them in meaningful conversation as you would anyone else. Let your practice wisdom guide you but do not be afraid to share. I have spoken to sex offenders about my two little girls, told young people which suburb I live in (its a big place and I would be hard to find as I am not listed in the phone book) and even spoke about some of my failings (Yes, even we at the Ultimate Youth Worker have failed). The key to this is emotional intelligence. No more than you are comfortable with and as obscure as necessary for safety. For example, with some young people in residential care who had an affinity of following staff home I would often only say I lived in a particular local government area. With other young people I have no issue saying which housing estate I live in in my particular suburb.
The second one comes from my Christian youth work days and a bible passage which always spoke to me in this case. In 1 Corinthians 8 it talks about not letting your actions cause a brother to sin. This may be hard for some of our readers but I have found it to be a great help. In sharing with the above mentioned sex offenders that I had children I was pressed for details of their physical appearance. I had a split second to answer and in that time I believed that due to the nature of their offending and a knowledge of where their rehabilitation was at it would cause more harm than good to answer this question directly. I instead provided a half answer, “They look like me only shorter”. It was enough of a non answer for the young person to not follow up with more questions. When I worked in drug and alcohol rehab I was often confronted with the question “How would you know what its like”? As a manager I often had a suit and tie on which set me apart from the other staff who were jeans and t-shirt kind of people. Often I would just let it go by and not worry. However on one occasion I shared about my background growing up in a broken home in a rough neighbourhood in Melbourne. I shared that as a late teen I had a problem with alcohol and that one of my friends had supported me to reign it in. This led to a stronger relationship with that particular group but also many more questions which I had to fend off or minimise as I believed the answers would not have helped their recovery. One particular young man would ask incessantly how it felt to get drunk. As a person with a history of failed attempts at kicking the bottle I would often retort that it was a “painful experience for all involved”.
Here are our top seven tips for working with people with DOMINANCE behaviour traits:
Communicate briefly and as to the point as you can. If you are writing an email and its more than four sentences kill it or cut it down. If you call them and it lasts much more than a minute they will start to wrap it up. If you are chatting with them… Ha Ha I made a funny. They would never chat.
Respect their need for independence. Do not impose upon them unnecessarily. Use your role power sparingly if you have it and if you don’t have any then only stand up against them when it is absolutely required.
Be clear about rules and expectations. Whether in a team meeting or a group be clear about what is and is not allowed. Be unmistakable about the outcomes expected and how to achieve them.
Let them take the lead. They usually have innate leadership ability so where possible let them have it. They will probably try to take it anyway.
Show your competence. High D’s respect clarity and results. If you stuff around and then do not achieve you are painting a sign on your back. Do your tasks, lead the group whatever you do; do it to the best of your ability.
Stick to the topic. One thought at a time and if possible no sub points. Do not go off on tangents and for the love of God do not do a Grandpa Simpson.
Show independence. Stand up for what you believe and do not be afraid to express your opinion. Be more forceful. You will think you are arguing. They will think that they are finally having a worthy conversation.
Here are just a few people you might have seen on a tv that have DOMINANCE in their behavioural style.
The four behavioural types are Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness.
This graphic illustrates this more effectively.
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???
Reflective practice is by no means a new idea in the field but it is one that is not widely implemented. Reasons for this are wide and varied but are mostly end up being because people do not know how to do it or what it would look like. In university courses there is often discussion about being critically reflective and aware of your work however when a student becomes a staff member the critical thinking is left behind an ever growing wall of bureaucracy and paperwork. This often leads to frustration on the part of the staff member and in more extreme cases a complete break down in effective service delivery.
When I was a young youth worker I completed an internship with a small organisation that trained youth workers to work in schools. One of the most interesting aspects of the internship (and the one I most struggled with) was a forced weekly journalling session. Some of my best reflections on where I was at as a youth worker, what I needed to work on and how I practiced came during this time. However, I struggled with the exercise because I was not given a reason to do it. I struggled because I was not given a format or template to do it. But most of all I struggled because critical reflection was not something that had been instilled in me as a youth worker either in practice or study.
- To deepen the quality of learning, in the form of critical thinking or developing a questioning attitude
- To enable learners to understand their own learning process
- To increase active involvement in learning and personal ownership of learning
- To enhance professional practice or the professional self in practice
- To enhance the personal valuing of the self towards self-empowerment
- To enhance creativity by making better use of intuitive understanding
- To free-up writing and the representation of learning
- To provide an alternative ‘voice’ for those not good at expressing themselves
- To foster reflective and creative interaction in a group
Journaling provides a great base for the individual worker to begin to develop their reflective practice. Here is one template i have come accross that has worked over the years to help me reflect on my practice.
- Identify and describe the experience/issue/ decision/incident
Identify your strengths as a practitioner
Identify your feelings thoughts; values, feelings and thoughts of others involved
Identify external and internal factors; including structural/oppressive factors etc
Identify factors you have influence or control over and those you don’t ( do others?)
- Identify knowledge used:
Develop an action plan: what do I need to do first, second and third and so on