Linda Carlson equips supervisors with practical strategies for managing service teams

—by Paul M. Kubek and Matthew K. Weiland

Columbus, OH—Eleven people representing eight organizations throughout the Buckeye State attended the Ohio SE CCOE's outcomes-based management training this spring. Entitled "Client-Centered Management for Supervisors of Supported Employment (SE) Services," the event gave team leaders practical strategies for managing their service teams, for helping team members stay focused on each consumer's stated recovery goals, and for using these goals as measures for organizational outcomes.

Held at the Quest Center in Columbus, the training featured Linda Carlson, LMSW, who is the coordinator of supervisory training at the University of Kansas' School of Social Welfare. She is also consultant and trainer for SE services in the State of Kansas, which is among the nation's leaders in implementing this evidence-based practice.

The Challenge of Supervision

According to Director of Consulting and Training at the Ohio SE CCOE Mary Ann Hastings, supervisors new to SE sometimes feel unequipped to oversee or teach the core principles of the model to their team members.

"Supervisors are sometimes under the impression that they need to have all the answers for the people they are supervising, and that's just not true," says Hastings. "Linda did a really good job of basically giving people who are in those supervisory roles permission to learn along with the people that they're supervising. It revisits the whole idea that learning is an ongoing process for everybody, which is an absolute key."

Client Outcomes Are The Goal

Carlson explains that outcomes-based management is a way of working with consumers that focuses on what they identify as their needs. In other words, the personal goals that consumers express for their recovery become the outcomes that organizations use to measure progress and success. Carlson notes that some of the most common goals identified by consumers include the following:

  • Living independently outside hospitals or group-home settings
  • Obtaining a job or other meaningful activity in the community
  • Avoiding future hospitalizations
  • Pursuing or continuing education

She emphasizes that all activities of the service team should focus on achieving client goals. Furthermore, these goals and activities should be documented in the consumers' progress notes, chronicling all successes, setbacks, and strategies for continuing recovery. These notes may then be used by supervisors to help team members stay on track by keeping consumer goals at the forefront of their interactions.

The Five-Hour Per Week Supervision Technique

Being clear about and committed to each consumer's personal goals is the first important step in the supervisory process. The next step is being committed to helping team members improve their clinical skills. This involves supervisors interacting with team members, preferably out in the field in real situations with consumers.

In the supervisors training this past spring, Carlson provided a number of take-home tips, the most important being what she refers to as the five-hour per week supervision technique. "If supervisors can find five hours out of their week to do these activities, they can be all the more powerful," says Carlson. The breakdown is as follows:

  • Two hours a week of group supervision with team members, emphasizing group discussions about consumers, challenges they face, and possible interventions
  • One hour a week reviewing the quality of the tools that team members utilize (e.g. assessments, goal plans, and vocational profiles)
  • Two hours a week providing staff feedback, preferably feedback made through observations out in the field when team members are helping actual consumers in real-time situations

Paul M. Kubek, MA, is director of communications at the Center for Evidence-Based Practices at Case Western Reserve University and its Ohio Supported Employment Coordinating Center of Excellence (SE CCOE) initiative. Matthew K. Weiland, MA, is senior writer, producer, and new-media specialist.