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Internal Leadership Development:

Adaptive leaders know that building the agency’s operational capacity to do the work of protecting children is a critical dimension of their ability to lead. As defined in the Introduction, operational capacity refers to both the internal and external resources required to fuel the agency’s work. For example, in terms of internal resources, does the staff have the needed skills and knowledge to confront their environment and tasks? Does the staff understand the mission and values of the agency and have the ability to communicate those through their work with children and families? Does the agency, as a whole, know the perceived value and quality of its work based on citizens’, clients’, and families’ perceptions and experiences? All of this contributes to what is collectively known as the internal capacity of the organization to do its work.

Note the evaluation questions: does the staff have the needed skills and knowledge…; does the staff understand the mission and values… and have the ability to communicate those through their work…; does the agency, as a whole, know the perceived value and quality of its work…? LCCS asked these questions and answered, “Yes and no.” More specifically, for some staff, the answers were, “Yes,” for others they were, “No,” and for many the fact was that no one knew the answers. As for perceived value and quality of agency work as perceived by others, everyone had opinions but no one knew for sure.

An important strategy for agency self-evaluation and other initiatives is to develop a partnership with your local community college or area university. Throughout the United States, community colleges have decades of experience in responding to local workforce needs, including leadership development. In 1997, LCCS began a partnership with Lorain County Community College (LCCC) to evaluate and increase the level of understanding and acceptance of the agency’s primary values and beliefs. LCCC is unique among community colleges because it has a division, the Public Services Institute (which contains a research unit), dedicated specifically to serving the nonprofit and local government sectors through educational programming and research. While your local college may not have a particular division dedicated to local government partnerships, you can often access these types of services through the business and industry divisions.

Early in 1997, LCCS and PSI formed an educational partnership that became an integral part of the agency’s reengineering and continuous improvement processes. After initial discussions, PSI and LCCS concluded that the partnership would include two components leading to enhanced internal operating capacity: staff leadership development and a research-based continuous improvement information process.

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