Relational youth work

Setting boundaries in youth work:How much do I share about me?

Over the past two weeks I have spoken to a number of youth workers and all of these conversations have turned at one stage or another to the topic of how much they should share about themselves with their young people. Some of the comments that I have heard were, “if I was asked I would tell them that it was a personal question and our work is not about me”, “our sector is to friendly with our clients, we need to distance ourselves”, and “how much do I share about myself when trying to build relationship with my young people”. My conclusion is that if our business is building relationships with young people then youth work educators need to spend more time on how we develop these relationships and on our identity as a profession.
 
 
When I started in youth work I too was prone to these questions. With some young people I shared about myself and with others I shut them out. I had no framework for how to deal with this and like many others I just played it by gut feeling. When I began my studies I thought I would be given some clarity on how to answer this question. low and behold I got nothing. Not even a push in the right direction. I was frustrated that there was no clear lines of accountability! If those in the academy could not help then I guessed I would have to work it out myself.
 
To build a framework I asked colleagues, mentors even my supervisors about what to do. BAD IDEA!!! For every person I spoke to I had at least one new answer. Nothing was adding up. I read books and articles on professional boundaries. Basically they said don’t sleep with your clients or do anything illegal and you will be fine. I was ready to blow up. How was I going to work this out???

 

In the end I had to come up with a framework of my own. It has formed the basis for one of the Ultimate Youth Worker pillars of practice: deep engagement. Over the years I have copped a lot of flak for my framework. Some say that I am to open with my young people. Others say I am to closed. Whichever way you will lean I have put my stake in the ground and intend to continue with this model until I find something better.
 
Before I give you the framework let me set some context. This afternoon I was chatting with a youth worker who spoke of the way his organisation teaches youth work students. They base some of their work on the work of a New Zealand based organisation who teach that youth workers need to have both professionalism and community focuses in their work. It is loosely based on the idea of ‘Hapu’ or extended family. A concept that is very much in line with Victoria’s Child Safety Commissioner Bernie Geary who believes that community has a responsibility to support and raise our young people. The balancing act of being a ‘professional’ and yet being a community focused person is difficult… but I believe it is also the key to the best outcomes for our young people.
 

 

So I have started to let the cat out of the bag. However, balancing professionalism and a community/extended family mentality is not enough. To many of our young people we fill relational holes in their lives such as those left by parent, siblings and friends. How do we keep the balance when they are striving to become our best buddy??? Two streams of thought always enter my mind and have become the basis for how I balance this conundrum.
  1. 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.
  2. 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”.
The main thing to think about on top of this is a safety issue. Is what your telling the young person going to cause you, your family or the young person undue harm or inconvenience. If the answer is yes then don’t tell them.
 
This is the bare bones of a framework that has taken me a decade to perfect. Over coming blogs we will discuss some scenario’s and further add meat to the bones.

     

    let us know how this framework might impact your practice by leaving us a comment below or posting a comment on facebook and twitter.

 

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestYouTube

Observe the D in DISC for youth worker’s

Last Thursday we began a Series looking at the DISC behavioural profiling system and discussed how DISC can help us to develop a behavioural lens to inform how we work with young people, our colleagues and other networks. Using the lens of DISC will help you understand peoples strengths and weaknesses, how to speak to them in a way that they will understand and warm to. This week we continue the series with an overview of the DOMINANCE behavioural style.
We are going to start with DOMINANCE as it is probably the easiest behaviour to spot (and it is my dominant behavioural style). You know the type. The jerk, the sore loser, Mrs self-centred, the poor listener, the steam roller, the irritated one or perhaps even Mr opinionated. All of these negative adjectives are often linked to a person who is exhibiting a DOMINANCEbehavioural trait. On the other hand you have probably seen their positive behaviours as well. They are the determined people, the strong willed, they get results when others struggle, they are fast thinker and even faster talkers, they take risks and get rewards. THEY GET THINGS DONE. If they were a slogan they would be Nike: just do it.
 
 
A person with a high level of DOMINANCE in their behaviour will often speak in a way that about three quarters of the population struggle with. They tell rather than ask. They talk more than they listen. They may be seen as pushy or even rude. They don’t beat around the bush and seek quick communication. They speak with an authoritative tone of control to assert their POWER over the situation. They are direct and forceful in their communication and impatient with pleasantries and meaningless pomp. They are focused on task and expect results. They are willing to get into trouble if it means getting thing things done in a timely fashion. People who have a dominance streak can rely on gut feelings over data and to many they are seen as mavericks.
 
Many people are scared of a confrontation with a high D. But that is the best way to deal with one. High D’s are blunt and demanding, they lack sensitivity, empathy and care even less about social interaction… They respect people who show the same qualities. So how do we work with these people when they seem so entrenched???
 
 

Here are our top seven tips for working with people with DOMINANCE behaviour traits:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6.  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.
  7. 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.

 

Donald Trump
 
Hillary Clinton
 
General Patton
 
Margaret Thatcher
 
Kerry Packer (Australian Businessman)
 
Russell Crowe (Actor)

Leave us a comment below or post a comment on facebook and twitter.

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestYouTube

Behavioural observation is the key to best practice youth work.

A few weeks ago we stated that we would look at how to develop a behavioural lensto inform how you work with young people and colleagues. 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. This week we show you the framework.

A while ago I interviewed for a managementposition. One of my interviewers was someone that if I got the role I would supervise. In the interview I was able to answer the questions and got along well with two of the three interviewers. The third interviewer was a blank slate. I couldn’t read him at all. The worst part was that he was going to be my direct. I was freaking out and needed a way to break through their blank persona.

A few years earlier I was managing a youth drug andalcohol rehab. I had a young person come to us straight from jail with a personality bigger than Ben Hur. Everyone thought he was great, the life of the party. He was a lot of fun to work with, but he was also really frustrating. He never followed through on anything!!!

These are just two people and a snapshot of their behaviour, but I am sure you can all imagine people like this that you have come across. Before I was shown this simple but most important framework people showing these behaviours were extremely difficult for me to understand or work with. Afterwards, with a little work, I have become a better judge of character and supportive youth worker.
 

DISC

 
DISC is a quadrant behavioral model based on the work of Dr. William Moulton Marston (1893–1947) to examine the behavior of individuals in their environment or within a specific situation (otherwise known as environment). It therefore focuses on the styles and preferences of such behaviour. For most, these types are seen in shades of grey rather than black or white, and within that, there is an interplay of behaviors, otherwise known as blends. The determination of such blends starts with the primary (or stronger) type, followed by the secondary (or lesser) type, although all contribute more than just purely the strength of that “signal”. Having understood the differences between these blends makes it possible to integrate individual team members with less troubleshooting. In a typical team, there are varying degrees of compatibility, not just toward tasks but interpersonal relationships as well. However, when they are identified, energy can be spent on refining the results.

 

The four behavioural types are Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness.

 
Those with Dominance and Influence behavioural types are more ASSERTIVE.
 
Those with Steadiness and Conscientiousness behavioural types are more RESERVED.
 
Those with Influence and Steadiness behavioural types are more PEOPLE focused.
 
Those with Dominance and Conscientiousness behavioural types are more TASK focused.
 

 

This graphic illustrates this more effectively.

 
Over the coming ‘Thursday Think Tanks’ we will delve more into these behavioural types and how they can help you to develop your emotional intelligence and practical wisdom.
 
In the meantime Stay Frosty!!!
 

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestYouTube

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???

Leave us a comment below or post a comment on facebook and twitter.

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestYouTube

Accountability

As I said a few weeks back the team at Ultimate Youth Worker are currently developing our “Model of Effective Youth Work Practice“, which will guide how we work as youth workers and how we teach youth work to those in the industry. We are creating this guide for the development of practice excellence for youth workers as a step towards framing good ethical practice that every youth worker can do…not just those with a qualification. Our first pillar of successful youth work that we hold to is that of reflective practice. Our Second pillar of successful youth work is Accountability.
 
Accountability has gained a bad name in the human services sector particularly over the years that the neo-managerialist approach has entered the fray. Many of us have felt the prying eyes of government agencies and funding bodies who seek to impose their ideologies and boundaries on us and our services whilst asking us to do more. We have seen our supervisors change from reflective supervisors to hamstrung managers. We have seen our multitude of practices being whittled down to be pigeon holed in best practice manuals and funding agreements.
 
Accountability in our eyes is not the boss hanging over your shoulder making sure you follow the company line. Accountability is a set of checks and balances designed to support you as a person, your practice, your clients and your longevity in the field. Accountability means being open to many people. Your boss, your organisation, your clients, your husband/wife/partner, your supervisor, your mentors etc. Accountability is the glue which holds your goals together and brings focus for the future.
 
One of the best pieces of accountability I have ever had was initially imposed on me and is now one I can’t do without. In the early days of my career a really switched on youth minister mate of mine said I should get a mentor. Someone outside of the work I do but who understands the sector. Someone that i can vent to, ask for advice and who will make sure I keep some balance in my life. The guy who mentors me knows more about me than almost anyone else and isn’t afraid to tell me how it is. Do you have a mentor??? If not get one!
 
Over this past weekend myself and two other seasoned youth workers began a think tank support group for a young youth minister in Melbourne. We spent an afternoon together getting to know each other and hearing her vision for the local community she is working in. We asked her to become accountable to a process of ongoing support and development where we will push her to become the best she can be. Accountability in this situation means trusting a group of people from different areas of practice to guide her through strength and weakness to develop her skills to support her community.
 
Not all of us have great bosses and even more importantly good supervisors. This does make it hard to trust them with accountability. However to have balance at work we must be transparent and accountable. There may be time when we need to be ‘Canny Outlaws’ however we must also work within the systems we find ourselves in. If your boss or supervisor isn’t open to accountability that is more than managerialism ask them to help you. If they still aren’t there DO IT YOURSELF!!! Start a small reflective practice group. Develop your own practical wisdom. Find a mentor. Get external supervision. try, try, try. Be open to managerialism but do not let that be the benchmark, SEEK EXCELLENCE.
 
Being accountable means being open to people probing your practice as well as your person. Just this week my supervisor asked me to think about how my personality (which can be a dominant one) comes across in meetings and service delivery. I didn’t like having my person stripped bare but I accepted the criticism and actively sought out discussion with colleagues and mentors on how I can work on this. Being accountable means being active. You cant say you are willing to work on your practice and person and then kick up a stink when people call you on it.
 
Being accountable has many facets and more discussion is necessary. Be aware of your limitations and the boundaries which are imposed on you. Be the best you can be and don’t be afraid to open your practice and your person up to ongoing development. Accountability is what sets apart great youth workers and those we all roll our eyes over.
 

If you have any questions drop us an email or chat to us on facebook and twitter.



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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestYouTube

Reflective practice: Why we should journal.

The team at Ultimate Youth Worker are currently developing our “Model of Effective Youth Work Practice” which will guide how we work as youth workers and how we teach youth work to those in the industry. We believe that excellence mean being effective and innovative and as such we are creating a guide for the development of practice excellence. One of the pillars of successful youth work we hold to is that of reflective practice.

 

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.

Now I hear some of you saying ‘yeah, but isn’t that what supervision is for?’, and quite a valid point you make. in a perfect world supervision would provide an opportunity for staff to reflect on their practice. However, the world is rarely ever perfect. Many of the youth workers we speak to rarely have a supervision session if any. Those that do have them often speak of them as robotic and machinistic, or as one youth worker told us ‘just a way for the organisation to tick another box to cover their butts‘. For the rare few there are times provided for them to think critically about their practice and its effect on them and their client and learn from their experience. We believe that critical reflection should not be a little bit tacked on to the end of a supervision session for the lucky few, but a whole of practice approach to every aspect of what we do!!!
Boud (2001) states, “Reflection involves taking the unprocessed, raw material of experience and engaging with it to make sense of what has occurred. It involves exploring often messy and confused events and focusing on the thoughts and emotions that accompany them. It can be undertaken as an informal personal activity for its own sake, or as part of a structured course“. Reflective practice comes in many shapes and formats and depending on your organisation, the resources available to you and your level of expertise this can look very different in one setting over another. Over the coming months we will discuss some of the ways individuals, organisations and the youth work sector as a whole can implement reflective practices into their daily structures. However, for today we will begin by looking at something every individual youth worker can do to develop their own reflective practice… Journaling.

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.

Moon, in her 1999 article, states the following reasons why journaling helps in the process of learning from experience:
  • 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.

  1. Identify and describe the experience/issue/ decision/incident
  2. Identify your strengths as a practitioner
  3. Identify your feelings thoughts; values, feelings and thoughts of others involved
  4. Identify external and internal factors; including structural/oppressive factors etc
  5. Identify factors you have influence or control over and those you don’t ( do others?)
  6. Identify knowledge used:
    1. factual
    2. theoretical
    3. practice
  7.  Develop an action plan: what do I need to do first, second and third and so on
 Impliment your action plan, then do it all over again.

Let us know how you go on facebook and twitter.

 

References

Boud, D. (2001). Using journal writing to enhance reflective practice. In English, L. M. and Gillen, M. A. (Eds.)Promoting Journal Writing in Adult Education. New Directions in Adult and Continuing Education No. 90. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 9-18.
Moon, J. (1999). Reflection in Learning and Professional Development. London: Kogan Page

Let us know how you go on facebook and twitter.

 

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestYouTube