Why Focus on Professional Development, An Interview with Mark Ware, MHMR of Tarrant County.

#behavioralhealth #leadership #professionaldevelopment #BH365# #mentalhealth Employee turnover and employee satisfaction are big issues for many behavioral health organizations, and while everyone agrees they’re important, not all organizations have a dedicated plan to promote a positive work environment, support employees, and encourage professional development. Deciding where to focus limited resources can be a daunting task for management. I recently spoke with Mark J. Ware, Senior Director of Crisis Services at MHMR of Tarrant County, to learn how he was able to successfully focus on professional development with his team. In the following interview you’ll discover which strategies he’s taken and three ideas to try with your team. Mark, can you set the stage for how you came to invest time and resources into the professional development of your team? I will be celebrating my 23rd anniversary with the agency this summer. I have always had a passion for making a difference in the lives of the people we serve at MHMR of Tarrant County. Ten years ago, the state funded a redesign of our crisis services system. We now have a full continuum of care to complement traditional inpatient and community behavioral health care services including a 24/7/365 call center, 24/7/365 mobile crisis teams, crisis stabilization, crisis residential/respite programs, crisis residential, co-located hospitals, and co-location/coordination with law enforcement/911. The Crisis Services division alone at MHMR of Tarrant County is a $10 million program, serving more than 100,000 annually, with 150 employees. Over the past 10 years I have had the privilege of moving up into various management roles, which began to change my focus from directly impacting the people we serve to influencing our staff. A turning point for me was attending the National Council for Behavioral Health’s Middle Management Academy 5-6 years ago where I was introduced to Strengths Finder along with other leadership materials that have impacted my life and motivated me to focus on my own development and that of our team. Until I became intentional about scheduling time for personal development and the development of my staff, I never seemed to make any meaningful progress. As I began reading John Maxwell’s material, I reached out to his organization to explore what services they provide. After a few years of ongoing discussions with my supervisor and peers, we budgeted and contracted with the Maxwell organization to provide monthly consultation and face-to-face trainings. Given the breadth of changes occurring in healthcare organizations these days, why did you feel the need to focus on professional development as opposed to a clinical or programmatic program? Were you addressing a specific problem (staff turnover, etc.)? Crisis services historically has one of the highest staff turnover rates in our organization. It’s a high-stress, demanding job and “burnout” is common. For this reason, along with the desire to keep experienced staff in management positions, I knew that I needed to start investing time in them. I began by reorganizing my management structure. This allowed me to delegate more of the day-to-day activities and to spend individual time monthly with my management staff. This has also prepared us for succession planning, which is often overlooked. What are some of the outcomes (measurable and intangible) that have resulted from the investment in professional development? I currently have 13 staff on my management team. Except for one new staff that was hired into a new program, the other ten have been here more than four years and the average length of employment is six years. Only one manager has left the agency during the past two years. We have trained our management teams on approaches outlined in Hiring for Attitude by Mark Murphy. This has significantly improved our hiring of qualified applicants. Through the group and individual investment with the management teams, we have seen significant improvement in the trust, transparency, and collaboration of the staff. Staff feel more valued and engaged in their job. This is in part due to learning staff’s strengths and weaknesses and making sure they are doing what they enjoy doing. Any surprises or barriers that you had to overcome? It took longer than I expected to influence the culture inside my programs and our division. It was almost two years before we were able to budget and begin coaching by our consultant. For the past two years we have been intentional in the leadership development of my management team, my peers, and our supervisor. I have learned that everyone is in a different place and moves or develops at a different pace. I had some resistance the first year from some of my managers who were disappointed that they would no longer be reporting directly to me. Two years later they have adjusted to the reorganization and have more one-on-one time than ever before. What prompted you to invest in consultants to help you achieve your goals instead of doing it all in-house? It was my belief that most of the management team already had more than they could handle. Hiring someone from outside the agency, with a proven plan, would be the best option for impactful changes within our division. We have applied the ideas and lessons learned and are now working internally to implement monthly coaching for our teams. What advice do you have for other leaders that are interested in doing something similar in their organization? You need someone with passion to improve the current practice in their organization and to influence their supervisor of the need and benefits of leadership development and succession planning. If an agency can afford to invest in an outside expert in providing a specialized plan for them, then I would recommend they do so. If they cannot afford it at this time, they can begin the process of growing themselves and influencing others to do the same. If I had to start over, I would begin by investing in the following resources and activities: 1. Strengths Finder by Tom Rath is an online assessment that will help everyone identify their top five strengths. Utilize this information to influence as many individuals, groups or teams as soon as possible. Discuss in each meeting someone’s top strengths and provide examples on how they see them using that talent in the organization. 2. John Maxwell’s book, The 360 Degree Leader. Lead a small group through each chapter on a monthly schedule to learn how to Lead Down, Lead Across, and Lead Up. 3. Hiring for Attitude by Mark Murphy. Have someone read the book and prepare a presentation for all management staff to be trained in. This will teach managers to hire for attitude and not just for skill.


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