Shift Happenings with George Suess
Welcome to Delarc's blog. Here you will find insights relating to our proactive philosophy and positive approach. CEO, George Suess, keeps you up to date on our most recent lessons learned and our consulting and training experiences. Check back regularly for updates. Comments and questions are encouraged.

Friday, April 1, 2011

5 agency project

On Monday we will be presenting our People Power Leadership seminar to Executive Teams from 5 nearby agencies looking to become more positive and proactive. These organizations have sent many of their employees here over the last 6 months to learn more and generate support for change. The great majority (actually I think it has been unanimous) have commented on the enthusiasm and competence of our staff. They also mention how well people communicate and relate to each other. They are very interested in our philosophy and approach and we always get excited about helping people do a better job of helping others. We're bringing a great team of four people and are looking forward to giving them new information, sharing our innovations with them but mostly about having the opportunity to inspire and support improvements. I'm looking forward to it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

You never know.

Hi, Last Friday we had two visitors from another county experience Vantage Point. At 5:15 or so a couple of our staff and I had a conversation. They were interested in my take on the visitors since they seemed distant at times and communication was not as free flowing as is usual.

At the debrief I found the same to be true and was ready to say good-bye at 3:30 but, of course I didn't. I kept the conversation going even though they were short on questions.

One of the folks had about 11 years of experience in the filed and one, a fellow I will call Brian, only about a year. He was a truck driver who got laid off and need a job. Looked to me like he was in his early 40's.

I kept the conversation going until we struck on a matter Brian could relate to. How to address serious behavior problems, assaults, though positive action. I explained our approach and gave a couple of examples and I saw the lights went on a bit, wasn't sure how bright they were, for him.

Overall my feedback was that while they were more quiet and not as enthusiastic as visitors usually are, I thought they did get something out of the visit. That it wasn't a complete disappointment to them . Then on Saturday I received the following.

My conclusion is twofold. First, you never really know how people will react, what will sink in and what will hit home. Secondly, our stuff is so good that everyone can get something out of a visit. As always the challenge to us is finding the piece that makes sense to each person.

From: Brian
to: georges
03/19/2011 10:56 AM

Dear George
Thank you for the magnificent and life changing experience the folks you serve, you and your staff shared with me yesterday! There are to many wonderful thoughts
and ideas running around my mind to express in this email. I've started reading Shift Happens. There is no doubt it will change the way I deal with all the people in my life.
I too, wish I had learned this info much earlier in my life. Looking forward to visiting with you and hopefully working with you in the future.
May this spark in our hearts be fanned into a raging fire of compassion that consumes the whole world !!!
Thanks Again !
Brian / DSP

Friday, March 18, 2011

The U. S. Constitution and Shift Happens

Recently I watched "Thurgood" a one man performance with Larry Fishburn as Thurgood Marshall. If you don't know who he is you owe it to yourself to learn about him. Former Supreme Court Justice and the person, earlier in his career, who presented and won the Supreme Court case now known as "Brown vs. the board of Education" which is the basis of racial integration which was also used to force the education system to educate all children with or without disabilities.

At one point Fishburn stated the following and it made me think of our field, our agency and Shift Happens. I wonder if it strikes the same cord with you? Take a look, give it some thought and let me know.

“The basic thrust of the U.S. Constitution is people to people.

Strike them and they will cry.
Cut them and they will bleed.
Starve them and they will wither away and die.
But treat them with respect and decency,
give them equal access to levels of power,
attend to their aspirations and to their grievances
and they will flourish and grow
and they will join together to form a perfect union.
We recognize how far we have come and how far we have to go.”

Thurgood Marshall

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Arc US rebranding 3 emails

Three emails follow.

The first arrived from The Arc US on May 7. Delarc, Director of Community Relations and I participated in the webinar referred ot in the first paragraph which was held on April 28.

I responded to the very simple survey but also decided to weigh in with a more substantial response which I did on May 11 (email # 2).

She then responded to that (email #3).

I hope you will find them interesting, thought provoking and enjoyable. I have the changed names that appear in various places.

Email # 1:

Dear Chapter Leader,
The Arc’s rebranding initiative is continuing to move ahead and right on schedule. CoreBrand, the agency we hired to assist us with our rebranding; has completed its interviews with key stakeholders. Last week, we hosted two conference calls/webinars that allowed many of you to participate as a “group interview”. Along with sharing your comments, CoreBrand has been looking to define the real “essence” of The Arc.
These conversations yielded a number of key words, terms and phrase. CoreBrand is analyzing them to identify the heart of our “Brand Platform”, which will become the building block for our new Brand Identity.
Just as the collection of our chapter logos was informative, CoreBrand recommended that gathering the taglines that many of you use to give meaning to your chapter’s identity in your communities could be similarly helpful. Therefore, we are asking you to provide us with any current taglines that you already use to help us define The Arc at the State and local level.
Simply click on the link below, which will take you to a two question survey. We want to know, 1) if you regularly use a tag line (i.e. Nike, “Just Do It”; UNCF, “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste”); 2) the name of your chapter, and 3) The tag line. This survey will be open between now, and Wednesday, May 18th.
Thank You.

Email # 2

Hi Jan, I wanted to follow up with you regarding the issue of rebranding and tag lines. First off to say thank you for the webinar on April 28th. A great way to keep people involved and learning from each other. The second is to share a little more detail about our perspective on the matter. I understand how difficult this process is and will be. Highly charged for some, of little or no interest to others (until you ask them to do something differently) and lots of people in between.

Here in Delaware County, NY we went with ARC for most of our existence but changed to The Arc of Delaware County and Delarc over the last few years. But most people outside the organization and some within it, including Board and staff still refer to us as ARC. A little frustrating but understandable. In some ways the thought of another name change is difficult to imagine, at the same time though, thinking in the long term, I think our board would be OK with another name change, if others agreed. So, overall I guess that might put us in the position of supporting a new name.

But I think many others will not be as willing. I can think of two or three other chapters in NY who have invested a lot of time and money into completely different names over the last few years, and after witnessing their campaigns I find it hard to believe they would be as willing to go for another name change. So I think the idea of a common tag line and a common logo may be the best way to move us forward.

I think I mentioned in the webinar that within the last few weeks one of our newest staff members and I were talking about this dilemma and she said, "When I see a puzzle piece, I think autism and when I see a pink ribbon, I think breast cancer awareness. So maybe a good logo is all we need." I told her she might really have something there. Promote a common, well designed logo (spare no expense, it will have to be good, to generate support) with a powerful tag line would move us to a place where a common name might be more acceptable down the road (if we are willing to wait that long?).

As I have been thinking more and more about the tag line and the common thread that weaves through all Chapters I keep coming back to "Caring about People with Disabilities." It truly is what we all do. Large or small, service providers or solely advocates, we all care.

I ask myself, when I am out in public and people ask what do you do? Or where do you work? I say Delarc or The Arc of Dealware County and they say, "What's that?" And I say we used to be ARC. Some know us but many say, "What's that?" and then I say, We use to be the Association For Retarded Children, but we aren't any more and then after three or four exchanges, they finally say "Oh. OK" Like so many others in this field I'm tired of talking about what we used to be, but aren't any more, but kind of still are.

I also think we need to make sure it would be about caring "about" and not caring "for". Caring "for" can stir up thoughts of custodial care and that certainly would be terrible. But caring "about" is the common thread. We care, simple, clear and yet open to a multitude of local definition (we advocate, we provide x, y, or z services, we serve adults, we serve children, we serve only people with ID, we serve people with any DD.)

A little more about caring. If you check our website, or talk to Jinny Doe you will find out Delarc is pretty special. In New York we are the only Chapter, indeed the only one of over 700 approved service providers with a written Board of Directors' policy prohibiting the use of physical intervention or restraint of any type. And the policy has been in place for over 30 years. And we serve people with exceptionally challenging behaviors. We don't turn anyone down.

This commitment has resulted in our developing a proactive philosophy and positive approach that has gained a national reputation for effectiveness. The heart of that success has been our ability to systematize caring. We know that everyone says they care and to a large extent, they do. But we have developed systems that take caring beyond the realm of individuals and has woven into our recruitment, orientation, supervisory, coaching, performance review and even our time management practices too generate a culture that is distinctive, and again, highly effective.

We have learned that deep and genuine caring is not only the key to behavior change, it is also the key to effective teaching / skill development. It is not the only element but it is the most important. Without genuine caring, learning and behavior change is incredibly slow to achieve. With it, results are amazing.

I sent Jack a copy of one of our books, Shift Happens ... Making the Shift to Proactive Behavior Management. Borrow it and read the first couple of sections and you will see what I mean. In fact, we are in discussions to determine if Delarc and The Arc can partner to bring our positive message and accomplishments to The Arc family. I will forward the email I sent Jack and Jinny a couple of weeks ago, to give you a little more background.

Last point, not from a rehab perspective but from a marketing one is look around and you will see how the word "caring" is working its way into the marketing world. Watch a professional basketball game on TV and you will see their new tag line, "The NBA Cares". Not only is caring important, marketing people are starting to capture the power it conveys. Thinking in even bigger terms, there is far too little caring in the world and it seems like less so all the time. The Arc, through a common tag line in hundreds of communities across the country has the opportunity to refocus America, and help it start caring again.

"What do you do?"

" I work for The Arc."

" Oh, you're the folks who care about people with disabilities. I like what you do."

Cool, huh?

Please don't hesitate to call if you would like to discuss any of this further.

Thanks for the opportunity to share our perspective.

Regards, George Suess,

Email # 3:


What a thoughtful, comprehensive and enlightened response. If this is the kind of effort you put into serving our community – I can absolutely believe you have a particularly special chapter.

Jinny Doe came over quite enthused a couple weeks ago to tell me about your book and the consideration you and Peter may put into including it as part of our best practices strategy – I am sure if they want my involvement – they will ask – and I will be happy to help make this happen. To say the least, I hope I get to meet you soon (NCE?) so we can chat further. I did receive the partnership email. Thank you for keeping me in the loop

I am also copying Jack, Jane from our Board, as well as our friends from CoreBrand on this response so they too will understand your position. I am glad you are so receptive to the change we are looking to make. I can tell you that should we make the determination that a name change is not in our respective best interests, it will be done with a great deal of thought to give us the full tool kit we need to get past concerns about the prior acronym, about the “R” word and will most certainly include a tag line.

Thanks again.

Webinar update and questions from Kansas

Yesterday we concluded the series of Webinars we conducted for members of InterHab of Kansas. 14 member agencies and over 200 employees participated in the series. The series consisted of four different topics over four consecutive Thursdays.

From all accounts they were successful. During them we invited attendees to email us with questions, etc. What follows are three such emails. They will give you an idea of the things that are on people’s minds.

I have removed or changed names. (It was simpler than contacting everyone and asking them for permission to use their names.)

The first one starts out Dr. Suess. For the record I do not possess that degree and I subsequently and gently clarified that with the sender.

Email # 1

Dr. Suess, I work for ABC Organization in Kansas and have participated in the last three Thursdays. My name is John Doe and I have enjoyed the sessions. The discussions have reinforced concepts we have been practicing as well as providing different strategies for working with unique individuals. Your basic assessment and development tool has many of the same indicators we use in staff evaluations and I can see the training from last week enhancing that process.

My questions for you have to do with something you and your staff touched on during last week's discussion. It was stated that staff's personal values need to be set aside and the personal values of the person served should be the focus. I agree with this statement, however, I also know this is an area that we have struggled with for years - how did your organization get staff to set aside their personal values when planning with persons served? How did you make the shift to keep the personal values of staff, family, friends, guardians etc. from infringing on the choices of persons served? How did you convince colleagues to make this change and accept choices of persons served that they may not agree with or disapprove of?

I do not know if this is something you could touch on tomorrow or not - I would appreciate hearing from you regardless.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

We were able to spend a few moments discussing this during yesterday’s webinar. We made the point that we see this as an important, and regrettably common, problem. The initial key point for us lies not in the staff person’s values, nor even the consumer’s but rather in the organization’s values. If these are not clear and affirmed we won’t get very far. Most organizations have a value statement that goes something like “the people we support come first.” That’s good but the questions become: Do we mean it? Do staff know we mean it? How do we know? How much time do we spend defining and explaining what this means to each of us in our daily actions.

Truly believing the other person comes first is the first step in dealing with such values conflicts. That’s why we spend so much time in the interview process trying to determine if people truly do share our values of if they are just looking for a pay check. Our interviews are extensive, 3 interviews, 3 hours each, in 3 settings with at least 3 different people involved at each interval.

This extensive process results in hiring people who start the job with similar values. That makes all the difference in the world. We firmly believe in the adage: hire for values, train for skills. We also invited the person to contact us if (s)he wanted more information on this topic.

Email # 2

Hi George,

You may not remember me. We shared a very nice conversation over a beer (just 1?) at the InterHab Conference in Wichita last October. Although I was unable personally to attend the follow up sessions last November, I was pleased that our trusted colleague, Jane Doe, was able to participate. Of course, as you know, she was thrilled with the experience and has been sharing with the rest of us. I arranged to have about 22 folks (including myself) to participate in the Webinar series. I certainly understand your reaction to the lack of direct feedback to your presentations. While I can speculate that much of that is due to the great job you and your colleagues have done (thus, limited questions), it also feels a bit awkward at our end in the Webinar format. That’s not a good excuse for remaining silent, but perhaps a realistic explanation. I was pleased with the positive comment at the end of yesterday’s session from the person at XYZ Organization, and regretted that I did not do the same. For that, I apologize.

After our experiences with you at the InterHab Conference and the follow up in Wichita, we at QRX Organization (Executive Leadership Team) decided that we wanted to follow up with you regarding our own initiative to positively impact our support culture in our day and residential service settings, as well as with our service coordination and clinical support staff. My “plan” was to participate in the Webinar series first in order to help us better define what we might want to discuss with you. While budgets are tight (no surprise, huh), we do have a small donation fund allocated to support our Direct Support Professionals. We thought what better support than to make “Shift Happen” for them and their support recipients! That said, you can anticipate hearing back from us within a month or so to explore how we might best benefit from a collaboration. Since I want to be a personal participant, the delay is due in part to our scheduled contract discussions with the state of Kansas.

All of us at QRX are looking forward to the final session of the Webinar Series, and certainly the next steps of our shift. We will be back in touch with you soon.

Regards, Joe Doe

I responded that I was very pleased to hear from them and will be ready when they are.

Email # 3


I have been a participant in your Shift Happens through LMNOP County the past three weeks. I have thoroughly enjoyed the different topics, I wish I had service providers in my area that share your beliefs and values. As you can see I am a social worker, but more importantly I am the mother of a special needs adult son. He is autistic, non-verbal, and has seizures, and I have a question. I am in the unique position of helping an agency that is also taking part in Shift Happens, HIJ Organization (hopefully learning as they go), in building a day program that would best serve my sons needs as well as the other residents participating in the day program.

My question, as we are moving through this process, is it possible to secure a conference call with your staff to brain storm ideas and starting points for the program and revisit as we progress through the process, drawing on you and your staff for resources through e-mail contacts. I would love to have a chance to talk with you and your staff and learn how to best develop a new program.

Thank you for your time, look forward to hearing from you soon,

I responded that we would be glad to participate in such a conference call and to assist in any way we can.

These exchanges are wonderful. It’s so good to be involved with people who take their responsibilities so seriously. Please join them and send us your questions or requests.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Webinar Update

Hey there, I need to correct the record. I last wrote that 20 agencies and nearly 250 people participated in our first webinar last week. We learned there 14 agencies and just over 200 people who participated. Still solid numbers. The folks at Interhab tell us they are the best attended webinars they have sponsored. Very promising indeed.

We also learned that while agencies could have registered for any of the four webinars individually all 14 organizations registered for the full series of four.

The sponsoring organization, Interhab of Kansas, is conducting a brief survey we hope people will respond to. We and the folks at Interhab think they are going well. But it would be good to hear directly from those who participated.

It sure is different speaking into a webcam and not being able to see, read or get feedback from the audience, but I shuck it off and think I adjusted well. Hopefully, the survey will tell us they agree.

In webinar #2 eight spectacular Delarc staff joined in with live examples of how they have used the Caring Chain with real people to make a real difference in those people’s lives. All eight did us proud with very thoughtful and effective examples. Again, we hope the surveys confirm this.

Our focus now becomes next week’s webinar Assessing Caring Relationships on May 6. We think this will be a winner. We have developed a form and process for people to use to assess caring in individual staff members. The form is user friendly and people usually like that. And the process is good too. Based on direct observation; not hear say, in several situations; not about a one time mistake. Supervisors will be asked to provide feedback on a number of indicators in 5 key areas including: Language, Interactions / Attentiveness, Promotes Independence, Projects the Attitude and Body Language of Caring, Uses Time Well.

We tested this form with one of our departments and it went very well. We based it on a number of other tools we have developed over the years.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Moving Mountains

In addtion to moving into the world of webinars (see prior entry) another exciting development is we have been notified Delarc’s Life and Career Model has been selected as a winner of the Moving Mountains Best Practice Award. This prestigious award is presented by National Association for Direct Support Professionals ( for Delarc’s significant achievement in workforce development.

Award winners are expected to participate in a case study process. On June 14 and 15 a team from the University of Minnesota’s Research and Training Center on Community Living will be visiting Delarc to begin the case study process.

The award will be presented at NADSP’s 2010 Reinventing Quality Conference in August.