After the Webinar: 15 Proven Ways to Improve Staff Morale at No Additional Cost. Q&A with John Shuford

Webinar presenter John Shuford answered a number of your questions after his presentation, 15 Proven Ways to Improve Staff Morale at No Additional Cost. Here are just a few of his responses.


Audience Question:While input is always welcome, when your subordinates constantly expect you to explain the why, how do you prevent them from developing an expectation that their supervisor has to get their approval before being able to follow through a decision on a course of action?

John Shuford: That is a good question. I don’t have a pat answer for that. For me, I think I would say, “I’m interested in your input, not your approval. We will talk about this, get the information, it’s my final decision. We’re not doing this by consensus, but, I want to have your input so we can have the best decision, but the decision is mine to make.” I think that, to me personally, validate them that their input is extremely important because they have a perspective that I don’t have, and I need to have that perspective, but the decision rests with me.


Audience Question: I think we all want to spend more time and effort and innovation, the trick is actually being able to accomplish all the tasks required of us in only 35% of the workweek. Do you have suggestions?

John Shuford: When we’ve got a certain amount of work to do, how did we do innovation? I think just being creative. You have to be creative. Any time you bring in innovation, you have to be creative. Getting together, one of the things is, instead of going over the same old, same old, SSDD, same stuff different day. Instead of in your meetings going over that, maybe incorporate, how can we do things differently, any suggestions. You make a staff meeting once a month where you say, “Hey, we have a half an hour. Any ideas of how we can improve things?” And then do the research on your own, outside of work and bring it in with justification. These are some research that has been done, and it has worked very effectively in other agencies, and maybe we could do it here. So, make that a conscious focus. You’d be amazed how the time can be, you can actually create an opportunity to share innovations that occur, that you want to have happen within the work setting.


Audience Question: Could you give some examples of growth opportunities supervisors could give staff? 

John Shuford: Encourage them to take trainings. Look for one emotional intelligence training. Talk to your agency about having an Emotional Intelligence training in the agency. For example, I provide a two day. It’s only two days, and you saw the results of it and how staff really valued it, and how it changed staff. So, it doesn’t take that much.

Taking courses outside of work. Not everything has to be in work, you know, some people say, “Well, I’m not going to do that, I’m not paid for it.” Well, if they’re motivated to make some changes, and you have a positive attitude within the agency, I mean that’s what I have done. I’ve done all my reading, and research has been outside of the actual job. So that’s, that’s what I would suggest.


Audience Question: We meet mostly, but everyone sits silently, how do I get the staff to speak up about complaints? 

John Shuford: Maybe, if you start not just asking for complaints, but asking for positive input and positive changes, you might find out what those complaints are when they say, we need positive changes. For example, at one agency, at the check-in point going into the prison, they had to stand while everybody got frisked, etc. going through. And what the staff said is, we need to have a cover over where we stand because we get rained on before we come into work. So, maybe asking, “Hey, what are positive suggestions do you have?” And be honest with the folks, “Look, we’re not perfect, I know there are some issues.” Just get out and wander around and talk to them. They may not be willing to do it. If there’s no trust within your team, then they may not want to risk because they know, they know they’re going to catch it from the other staff members. But if you are walking around and you see individual staff on their job, you talk with them. And you might find out, “Hey, how can I make your job better?” What would make your job here better? You go to the control booth, and you talk with them, you know, in terms of movement, etc. What would make things better for you? That’s the best way to find out, finding out in a meeting if there’s respect and trust. If there isn’t that which is often the case, then walk around and see what’s happened. Talk to them. And if you know, I knew an elementary school teacher who knew every single student’s name, and their family members’ names, and the activities they were getting involved in. If one of your staff member has a kid, that’s on a baseball team, ask how did the kid do. But show that you care about them. Supervisors who show they care about their team and the members have much higher morale, much higher job satisfaction. That’s why that one comment, I don’t know if it’s a correctional officer, sergeant, whatever, it said, “I shared more in these two days that I have in 20 years on the job.” That’s where the transformation comes, when I can share of myself, because when that happens, then I feel investment and it’s really important. So, I would say, if not in the meeting, then walk around and get the input that way.

Host: Jennifer, who is on our audience, suggested that we ask people, “What’s getting in your way?” “What’s keeping you up at night?” and then look for ideas to improve. Thank you, Jennifer, so much for those suggestions


Audience Question: How do you increase and improve the morale of your management? 

John Shuford: That is a very good question. Because we look at the staff and their morale. I would think introducing some positive changes. If say you’re a lieutenant and you incorporate some positive changes, that may filter up. And it’s amazing, you know, literally when you walk by somebody on the street, you literally pick up their vibration and it literally affects you. So, it’s something called managing up. Give positive feedback and I would say, if you make your changes then that may shift upwards, I don’t know that I can go to the warden or to the Chief of Police and say, “Hey, you need to change your attitude,” because you know where that’s going to go. But by demonstrating and showing the positive change, and if your unit works better with higher morale that very much could affect. And there are some administrators that are old school, and without therapy, that’s just where they’re going to be. And you may not be able to do it, but you can change your unit. You know what, I do the staff training. I say, you can change your unit, and you say, “But I can’t change the prison,” but that’s not the point. You can change your unit, and if others change a unit, know, they say something called critical mass. When 30% of the staff change their behavior, it just immediately affects the whole universe, in other words, the whole prison. Making a difference in your area. That’s really the key. That’s really the key.

Host: Stacey has suggested a book the title is  Leading Up: How to Lead Your Boss So You Both Win by Michael Useem, is great on this topic. We’ll get that added to the resource page, and thank you so much


Audience Question: Have you offered your training to non-first responder organizations and correctional institutions such as Department of Human Resources? 

John Shuford: Yes, I have in Delaware, I did most of the Department of Social Services.

I’ve done teachers, educators. This works human to human, so it does not matter. I just happened to be focusing on corrections, because I was involved with the Alternatives to Violence Project, which went in and work with inmates for many, many, many years. So, I could see what was happening in the corrections. But the workforce in general in this country does not have high morale. And so, any agency it would work, because we’re basically talking about emotional intelligence skills, how people relate to people, and how people relate to themselves. That’s even more important. If I can see myself in a more positive light, which is what this training does, then I see others in the positive light. So, for the person who said, how do we train? How do we change the administration? One way that I saw in several institutions, was when I did the emotional intelligence training, I had the warden down to a correctional officer, I had dietary, I had medical, I had social services, all together in the training. And you could see everybody’s attitude change, including administration. And in all the trainings I’ve done in 30 years, I’ve had one warden who would not change, and basically could not get out of her own way, and she could not be addressed in any way other than warden. So that’s one way to answer to that.



Click Here to Watch a Recording of 15 Proven Ways to Improve Staff Morale at No Additional Cost. 



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