MANAGEMENT: Leadership Lessons from Ex-cons
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Running a business with hardened criminals as volunteer employees is not an easy task, but one that has been successfully undertaken by a US organisation, the Delancey Street Foundation. The Foundation has been highlighted by organisational performance company VitalSmarts as a shining example of leadership and influence in imperfect conditions.
VitalSmarts coach and renowned author Joseph Grenny says, “Over the years, I’ve heard leaders around the world complain that the people they lead are especially challenging to influence. I’ve heard if from management who were stumped about how to influence recalcitrant union employees or from union leaders trying to get more consideration from management. I’ve heard complaints about how tough it is to change school systems, physicians, independent selling agents, long-tenured government employees, or even political systems. But I give the prize to the Delancey Street Foundation – a grouping of top performing businesses built with employees who average sixteen felonies each.”
Dr. Mimi Silbert is Founder and CEO of the Delancey Street Foundation, a residential self-help community for substance abusers and ex-convicts. The remarkable thing about Delancey Street is that it is self-funding, there are no guards, no therapists or other professional staff, yet they manage to turn hardened criminals into productive citizens with a relapse success rate of over 90%. Through reinforcement, intrinsic and carefully selected extrinsic rewards they create a sense of self-worth by instilling two values with supporting behaviours, namely:
1. “Each One, Teach One” or simply – help each other
2. “Hold each other Accountable” – or if someone is not following the agreed ground rules to let them know, in a respectful manner, of your concern.
The aim is to change “The Code of The Street” to one of caring, directly confronting inappropriate behaviour and taking responsibility and accountability for one’s behaviour. As Dr Silbert says about caring – “Caring changes your life, but it is people needing you that makes you proud of your caring”.
VitalSmarts is represented in South Africa by The Human Edge. Helene Vermaak, Director at The Human Edge says that there are eight leadership lessons that can be learnt from the Delancey Street Foundation:
1. Never try to change someone who doesn’t want to change
2. Your influence is never stronger than on Day 1. Design it in detail.
3. If you want someone to grow, give them a job to grow into
4. Crucial conversations are the ‘ground game’ of leadership – do not shy away from talking to employees about tough issues. It is important to be transparent during the conversation, to create an environment where all participants feel safe and to treat employees as equals, it is then that issues will surface and together a resolution can be found that everyone can commit to.
5. The average lag time between identifying and discussion problems determines the health of an organisation
6. Make a memorable spectacle out of symbolic moments
7. Rigorous accountability – top down, bottom up and most importantly peer to peer is the hallmark of trustworthy leadership
8. People are the purpose – work on creating meaning in their lives.
Business News Sector Tags: Management|