June 05, 2015

Program Secret Sauce

Wendy Yardley is the grant administrator for three successful school based programs in Beaver County. When approached with the question: “Wendy, you have such good programs down here. What is your “Secret Sauce?” She replied with some great advice. We liked her response so much that we wanted to share it with you.

Thank you! We have really great staff! There is one thing that I have noticed that makes a really big difference is whether the staff are just there to do a job or whether they are excited and passionate about it,


Letting them have control of their program (as a team) and making decisions about how they meet the criteria of the grant. I am sure you have noticed that the logistics of each program is a little different. I give them the guidelines that they have to meet and then let them brainstorm for plans on how to meet the guidelines. I also encourage each person to take charge of something that they are specifically responsible for. For example, the sign in/out sheet or paperwork for the snack program. They can switch it each month or keep it that way throughout the year, whatever they decide as a team.


The real key is to encourage them to work as a TEAM so that everyone feels their input is valued. They are also encouraged to take turns doing the life/social skills lessons, as this allows them to be individually creative. It also lets them realize what it takes to be in charge of the lesson, which makes them more supportive when it is another staff member’s turn. If the site leader or myself are just dictating how everything is done, you definitely lose the creativity and buy-in from the staff.


Also, I strongly encourage my staff to attend the Jumpstart Conference as it makes a huge difference in them building their relationships with each other and in being invested in their team/program.


One thing to be aware of: I had a staff member that was extremely uncomfortable giving the lessons in front of the class, as she does not like being the focus of attention. Even though she did great in all other areas, she came to me and told me that she needed to quit because her anxiety was high when it was her turn to lead the lessons. She didn’t feel like it was fair to the other staff if she didn’t take a turn, so she felt the best solution was for her to quit. Through talking with her, I found out that she did not mind asking community members to come into the program and do presentations on her behalf. I knew that the other staff did not like to do that, so I put her in charge of that. She has excelled at it while still feeling like she is doing her part and the other staff love that she takes care of it. I guess my point is, you need to be aware of individual personalities and their strengths/weaknesses while trying to give them opportunities to grow in the areas they struggle, but be aware of their limitations.