Last month the Center kicked-off a training for a consortium of homeless service agency leaders in Northern California. The training, which will take place over the course of six months, serves two primary functions. First, to strengthen the leadership capacity and skills of the participants. Second, to facilitate collaboration between leaders using a project that addresses a topic significant to the group.

John Sheehy, an experienced organizational leadership trainer, will work with ten representatives from a total of seven homeless service agencies located in the North Bay area of California. John is president of a consulting firm that helps organizations transition from crisis management to change management through team building, goal setting, and implementing innovative new strategies, and he has extensive experience facilitating executive retreats and leadership workshops. A former health care and publishing CEO, John has trained with Peter Senge’s Innovation Associates and with Fred Kofman at the Authentic Leadership Program at Naropa University.

Participants in the training are from the following organizations: Buckelew Programs, the Committee on the Shelterless, Community Support Network, the Napa County Health and Human Services Agency, Homeward Bound of Marin, Catholic Charities (Santa Rosa), and the Ritter Center.

The training program is structured around an integral model of three spheres: authentic presence (personal development), skillful communication (team building), and effective action (task achievement). It is hoped that the training will enhance the participants’ self-awareness, confidence, insight, and effectiveness as leaders in guiding their agencies toward the goal of developing and implementing services that meet the needs of the populations they serve.

Further, the training will strengthen their ability to keep their staffs—including managers, frontline staff, and peer support providers—aligned, resilient, and creative in the face of new challenges and opportunities. Homeless services leaders are stretched thin with many management challenges that demand a wide range of skills, such as the ability to:

  • clarify and monitor agency goals;
  • identify and capitalize on opportunities to strengthen services;
  • understand and collaborate with multiple systems;
  • efficiently plan and budget using limited resources;
  • create and maintain an organizational culture that supports the agency’s staff and clients;
  • support staff with diverse backgrounds and prevent staff burnout.

However, there is currently little understanding of how best to provide leadership support for homeless services directors. Specifically, support is needed to help them develop an ability to influence, motivate, enable, and align others to contribute toward organizational success in an authentic manner that resonates with the values of a mission-driven organization, and to focus on identifying and capitalizing on opportunities that strengthen services in the long term. This training is one way that the Center hopes to begin filling this gap.

The Center is evaluating this training to assess its impact and the perceptions of participants. If the model is successful, the Center hopes to replicate it in other parts of the country.

Blog Post Author: Amanda Aykanian, Research and Project Lead at the National Center

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