The youth work supervision environment: importance of neutrality

The supervision environment is important to staff uptake

All to often I hear from youth workers that they don’t want to do supervision sessions. The concerns range from the classic ‘it would breach confidentiality‘ to the obscure, ‘it doesn’t fit well with my existential philosophy‘. The main reason we hear is that staff don’t feel comfortable. Whether meeting with their manager or an external provider the staff member must feel comfortable with the supervision environment. 

Many staff feel that supervision sessions with their manager are really uncomfortable. The meetings are usually had in the managers office with all the managers stuff on the desk and a mountain of paperwork which needs to be dealt with beside the computer. The manager says they are 100% engaged in the session while looking over the pile of paperwork and listen to their staff intently while the email toast pops up on their computer screen.

In the case of external supervisors if they come to your office to work with you or your staff, using the store room as a spare office does not make anyone feel like this is a worthwhile session. If you go out from the office you have issues of privacy and confidentiality. If you go to the external supervisors office they should have a space which is dedicated to sessions like this.

Your environment for the supervision session is really important! If the staff member does not feel comfortable then they will not be open to challenge and change. It needs to be an area that does not have too many distracting qualities and gives the person attending a feeling of safety and warmth.

A bad supervision environment
Would you prefer this?
A good supervision environment
or this?

 

UltimateYouthWorker

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 and son Ezra.

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8 tips for amazing youth work external supervision.

External supervision

Two years ago when Ultimate Youth Worker began we started as a small external supervision service for youth workers. We started this because we saw the lack of supervision given to our friends and colleagues as well as the lack of qualified youth workers providing external supervision. We wanted to see youth workers supported by youth workers to develop their youth work practice. Over the past two years we have supported dozens of youth workers to do just that. However, we still hear of people offering supervision to youth workers which cause more trouble than support. These well meaning people, often social workers and psychologists, do not understand the intricacies of youth work theory and practice. They begin to make their supervisees more like them.
Youth workers deserve better. We deserve supervisors who understand youth work theory and practice and how they interweave. We deserve the best possible support to do the work we do.
So what should we look for when choosing an external supervisor. Here are a few thoughts we have on the expectations of a good youth work supervisor:
  1. They must have a youth work background. It should not come as a surprise but many other professions do not work with young people. There are also issues which youth workers face which are not covered by other professions. I have heard of social workers, psychologists, OT’s and nurses supervising youth workers when they have never worked with young people. A great external supervisor will have extensive youth work experience… at least five years direct practice is a minimum.
  2. They must be qualified. They must hold a qualification in youth work. Minimum of a diploma level however we recommend the degree. They must also have some qualification in supervision. The minimum standard should be one of the five day courses available by many professional associations.
  3. They must have an articulated best practice framework of supervision. If they cannot articulate the framework they use and why then do not hire them. They must address how they will work with you and the areas they will cover with you.
  4. They must have a track record of other clients. If it is the first time they have supervised people you don’t want to pay to be a guinea pig. If they are genuine they will have a record of staff they have supervised.
  5. They must be a member of a professional body. Whether it is a youth work professional association, a peak body or another professional body. You want to know that they are being kept accountable for the work they are doing within the youth sector.
  6. They must be accessing supervision themselves. Good supervisors have to talk things through too. They need to make sure they are supervising well and ethically. They need to unload the traumas they hear as much as their supervisees.
  7. They must hold professional indemnity insurance. While you should never need it, if you get advice and you use it and something goes wrong you need to be aware that they are insured.
  8. They must be a fit and a challenge. This one takes time and why we recommend a review after the first few sessions. They must fit you personally. Your personality and where you want to be going. And, they must be able to challenge you. to help you step outside yourself and try more.
If you ask your potential external supervisor these questions then you will be assured to have a great supervisor to help you trek through the ups and downs of youth work. If you want a supervisor who ticks all these boxes contact us and we will point you in the right direction.

UltimateYouthWorker

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 and son Ezra.

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Observe the I in DISC for youth worker’s

Last Thursday we began a looking at the individual quadrants within the DISC behavioural profiling system with “Observe the D in DISC for youth worker’s“. We are half way through our overview series and hope that you have been able torecognise some DOMINANCE behavioural styles in those around you. In this blog we continue the series with an overview of the INFLUENCE behavioural style.
One of the most exciting behavioural style to be around (and it is my secondary behavioural style) is that of INFLUENCE. The social butterfly or life of the party, people with thisbehavioural type often have large networks and seem to draw people to themselves. They are talkative, they over communicate, are born performers, are style setters, in teams they are the idea generators and they are very quick-witted. They are the most enthusiastic and active people you will ever meet and develop relationships quickly. They are fast starters and begin project with gusto. All of these positive adjectives are often linked to a person who is exhibiting a INFLUENCEbehavioural trait. On the other hand you have probably seen their negative behaviours as well. They work off intuition without reason. They can be highly emotional. They are sporadic and scattered. They start fast but rarely finish. They have too many projects on the go. If they were a slogan they would be Nokia: Connecting People.
 

 

A person with a high level of INFLUENCE in their behaviour speaks in a way that about 75% of us struggle to keep up with. They sell ideas with an inspiring style. They talk a lot at the 50,000 foot view but struggle to get down in the grass. They avoid bringing up difficult subjects but give good constructive feedback. They enjoy interaction and focus on the feelings of their subject intently. They get enthusiastically involved in discussions and often talk too much. They may not assess what is being said and can loseconcentration and get sidetracked easily. They speak in stories and anecdotes often from personal experience. They are prone to exaggeration and when excited they speak really fast and approachyou closely using lots of facial expression.
 
Most of us struggle to get a word in edgeways with a High I and we are confronted at the speed and tangential thinking present in their conversation… but we do enjoy their conversation. They do respect a smile, a pat on the back and seven conversations at once. So how do we work with these people when their excitement is off the charts and you are not really sure which conversation you are having with them?
 

 

Here are our top six tips for working with people with INFLUENCE behaviour traits:

  1. Approach them informally. These guys and girls hate feeling constrained. A meeting in an office with suits and ties and a policy document may just make them explode. A brief chat on the way to lunch or even a confab at their desk is the best way to get them on side. Do not start with facts and stats or a policy document it will make them throw a toddler tantrum.  
  2. Be relaxed and sociable. Even if you need to pull them into line be chilled out. These guys take their reputation seriously and if you are not sociable they will take it as a sign that you hate them.
  3. Let them tell you how they feel and how awesome they are. Yes the sun doth shine from their backside and you would do well to acknowledge this with a hearty nod of the head. They are the centre of attention and you are a tool for propping up their ego. Whilst they care about people it is hard to notice them through their haze of awesomeness.
  4. Keep the conversation light. Remember, they are up there in the clouds in the land of big dreams. It is a place where balloons pop very easily. You want to be a fluffy cloud and sharp grass. Details are the enemy. There is no pressure here. It should be like a trip to Tahiti.
  5. Provide written details to focus their attention. As those with INFLUENCE behaviours can be flighty and forgetful write things down and get them to take notes. It also helps when they begin to go on a tangent if their KPI’s are written down as you can steer them back on course.
  6. Use humour. Everything has a funny side… even paperwork!!! Try to lighten the mood by making a joke or finding a humourous take on the situation. If all else fails steal a Robin Williams skit. It will diffuse any tension and let them see you have a pulse.
Here are just a few people you might have seen on a TV that have INFLUENCE in their behavioural style.
 

Bill Clinton

 
Oprah Winfrey
 
Richard Branson
 
Dolly Parton
 
Robin Williams
 
Shane Warne (Cricketer)
 
Hamish Blake (Australian TV and Radio Personality)
 
Han Solo
 
Ellen DeGeneres

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UltimateYouthWorker

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 and son Ezra.

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Relational youth work

The importance of good professional supervision

Over the course of my career I have had over a dozen supervisors throughout half a dozen or so specialities. Some of these supervisors were Youth Workers, some Social Workers, some Pastors and some drug and alcohol workers. Their qualifications had ranged from Diploma level to Masters degrees and one had no formal welfare qualifications at all. Not an unknown factor to those of us in the youth sector.
In Australia there is no requirement for a supervisor to have a professional qualifications. As a Degree qualified Youth Worker and soon to be Masters qualified Social Worker I have never attended a class on supervision, i have never heard a lecture on what constitutes good supervision practice and i have never had a supervisor who had either. At best my supervisors had attended a 2 day course in supervision and at worse my supervisors had less than a year more experience in the field than i had. So if there are only a few courses for supervisors and mostof these less than a week long, how do you become a good supervisor???
The best supervisors I have had came from both ends of the spectrum. One was a qualified Social Worker with over a decade of experience who regularly attended courses on supervision. The other was a Youth Worker who had no qualifications but was an avid reader of supervision texts and attended every professional development opportunity focussed on supervision. The skill set that both of these supervisors had in common was and eager appetite to better their own practice as supervisors and a great ability to listen. The styles they used were different, the theoretical focus wide and varied and the outcomes specific to the needs of myself and my clients.
Maidment & Beddoe (2012) believe that supervision must be placed at the core of professional development for staff, “We want to place supervision at the heart of professional development, which is career-long and where, via diverse learning activities, practitioners refine and augment their knowledge, develop skills, and undertake supervision to enhance critically reflective practice“.
Do your supervisors support your development? If not you might be in the market for an external supervisor! What ever your situation if you want longevity in the sector studies show that you need a good supervisor.

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UltimateYouthWorker

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 and son Ezra.

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