The Center for Leadership and Management (CLM) is extending its reach. After receiving a grant from the New Jersey Department of Human Services, Division of Family Development, CLM is partnering with county welfare agencies (CWAs) across New Jersey to discover, assess, analyze, and help to enhance leadership practices. These 21 agencies throughout the state provide services including general assistance, food stamps, emergency housing assistance and welfare.
“They work with some of the most vulnerable populations in New Jersey,” says Andy Germak, MBA, MSW, LSW, executive director, Center for Leadership and Management and professor of Professional Practice, School of Social Work. “People who are experiencing extreme poverty, new immigrant populations, people who have various disabilities, both physical and mental.”
Germak’s team was asked to work with the leadership teams within each CWA in order to learn how they operate, and how to improve the leadership practices across the board. The team began the project by working with an external leadership consulting organization to develop a leadership assessment survey. The survey includes about 50 quantitative questions, as well as open-ended questions for supervisors, directors and other leaders within each CWA.
In addition, Germak and his team are conducting in-depth, face-to-face interviews with the directors, as well as with the top leadership personnel, and are gathering more qualitative data through these interviews.
“We are taking this data and analyzing it for various themes that emerge,” Germak said. Then, the team will compile the data into reports to show them the results. From there, Germak’s team will make recommendations for the best leadership practices based on the data. Each CWA may take the data forth and implement the suggestions over time.
“What we are hoping is that through helping leadership teams enhance their leadership practices, that this will create a more optimal culture in these county welfare agencies that will then inform and enhance the services to clients,” Germak said. It will not be an overnight transformation, but his team is already noticing various themes and patterns of leadership within the county welfare agencies they have visited.
Each new set of data has also helped the team to brainstorm different future projects. For example, CLM is considering developing training programs for employees in transition for a promotion, or projects involving lessons on strategic planning. They have also begun coaching and training leadership staff on more effective communication methods, in the hopes that these practices will help to enhance services for clients. For many of these CWA teams, it is the first time they are taking an in-depth look into their own practices, and learning from them. This project has also shed light onto some of the impressive things that are already happening within the CWA teams. “We are also finding many positive leadership practices that these counties are already doing. We are highlighting these practices so they can learn and continue to use them.”