Benchmark Blog

Leaders’ Playbook – February, 2024

Feb 09, 2024
Benchmark Blog

Welcome to Leaders’ Playbook, the managers’ newsletter. We hope you find these materials informative, and please share any ideas you have for future issues with David Ross and Courtney Heiser!

Hungry, Humble, and Smart

By David Ross, Chief Operating Officer

I’ve enjoyed pondering the themes and values described in the books The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues: A Leadership Fable and H3 Leadership: Stay Hungry. Be Humble. Always Hustle. Specifically, when interviewing potential Benchmark leaders, I’ve been reflecting on mining for these three qualities: Hungry, Humble, and Smart. While we explore skills, experience, and the historical performance of would-be leaders/managers, I have found it helpful to listen for evidence of one who is eager to hustle and yet carries a sober-minded humility about oneself.

I would challenge you to hold candidates up to these three lenses:

1) Hungry – have they demonstrated upward vs lateral mobility? Have they described how they have grown a program both quantitatively and qualitatively? Have they designed systems that monitor or improve quality? Are they eager to learn (speaks to humility as well)?

2) Humble – Are they honest about weak areas or shortcomings but able to describe how they overcome them? Do their stories, posture, and tone demonstrate that they continuously learn to improve themselves? Can they explain how they have navigated through conflict with equal doses of courage and consideration for others? In other words, are they a “Win-Win” person in the interpersonal realm?

3) Smart – Are they smart/savvy? Do they know their stuff and the stuff we need them to know, or do they convincingly demonstrate a great aptitude to learn quickly? Probe beyond credentials, especially in the area of problem-solving.

In all the areas above, ask for examples or create scenarios. You can see that these three attributes position a person to be one who can be developed even if they don’t have a lot of experience. I hope that by sharing this, you will join me in using hungry, humble and smart as consistent measures for potential leaders. As I survey our most recently added crop of leaders, I see significant evidence that we already do this! Now, we can share the vernacular and approach as we continue to add to this ever-growing and ever-influential organization, Benchmark.

The Power of Involvement

By Eric Weeks, Vice President of Human Resources

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

As alluded to by Benjamin Franklin, people learn best when they are included not just lectured to during the learning process. Benchmark Human Services (Benchmark) adapted this approach by developing the Management Development Program (MDP) in 2014. The MDP and its reimaged successor, the Emerging Leaders Development Program (ELDP), was discussed in previous editions of the Leader’s Playbook. The name was changed to acknowledge those leaders who do not have management titles and the content was revised to meet the needs of the organization while developing the hard and soft skills of the company’s future leaders.

2024 ELDP Class Participants

Tangrill Varner, LCSW, GA Region 1 Clinical Supervisor
Yolanda Freeman, Clinical Supervisor, GA Support Coordination
Ben Harrison, Communication Specialist
Louis Veney, BCBA, GA Region 1 Behavior Supervisor


• Communications and Marketing
• Compliance
• Information Technology
• Accounting
• Payroll
• Human Resources
• Legal
• Health Services
• Program Tours

• Leadership Summit
• Book Review
• Projects
• Presentations (Management Rally and Senior Staff)
• Lean Six Sigma
• Staff Engagement
• Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
• Executive Meet and Greet with Program Reviews

Other Development Resources

The company’s Intranet will soon provide additional development resources for staff. All employees will have the capability to be actively involved in their professional development by utilizing educational and self – development tools. While the site is underdevelopment, check out the Professional Development tile on the HR tab of Intranet.

Please contact me with questions about the ELDP, professional development, and to make contributions to the professional development library.

Help Your Team Become AWARE

By Courtney Heiser, Chief Culture Officer

Last month, Benchmark kicked off the I Am Aware Campaign to educate staff about abuse, neglect, and exploitation (ANE) of individuals served and to reduce or, ideally, eliminate incidents of ANE within our programs. Throughout 2024, we will mandate training, distribute videos, and host webinars focused on providing respectful services, checking our triggers, understanding and knowing the people we serve, and providing care through a trauma-informed lens – and we need your help, as leaders, to ensure your team engages with these materials.

What can you do to help?

1) Ensure your staff completes the monthly frontline staff training. Beyond that, consider discussing these training topics in your staff meetings.

2) Create a culture of openness and accountability within your programs. The more comfortable your staff feels sharing their struggles at work, the better the chances we can get ahead of or identify ANE.

3) Your colleagues have made themselves vulnerable in sharing their stories through video. Share these videos with your team. Better yet, watch them together and leave time for discussion.


4) In April, Karyn Harvey, an industry leader in trauma-informed care, will host a webinar (that will also be recorded). Encourage your staff to attend the webinar or share the recording with your team members who can’t attend. (More details on time, date, etc. to come).

5) Get your swag! We have branded key chains, magnets, water bottle stickers, and t-shirts available for distribution. Contact Simon May for details.

6) Share your stories. If you have a story you would like to share related to treating people with dignity and respect, self-regulating on the job, understanding the trauma history of people you serve, how to overcome the challenge of reporting potential ANE when it involves your colleagues, etc., contact Courtney Heiser to walk through the process of creating and sharing a video.

Ultimately, the most important thing you can do as a leader is model Benchmark’s mission and values. Our ultimate goal is to ensure those who have entrusted us with their care feel safe with and respected by each Benchmark employee who enters their orbit.

Unlocking the Power of Inclusivity: Building a Vibrant Organizational Culture Together

By Antoinette N.T. Thornton, Ph.D., Chair, Benchmark Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Committee

Employee engagement is a crucial aspect of a positive work environment. It positively influences various aspects of the workplace, from individual performance and teamwork to innovation and overall company reputation.

In our commitment to fostering a positive work environment, Benchmark places high value on Emotional Intelligence (EI), as defined by Salovey & Mayer. This encompasses essential skills such as self-awareness, self-control, empathy, and sensitivity to others’ feelings. By acknowledging the diverse perspectives through which individuals perceive the world, we are cultivating an organizational culture that promotes inclusivity and belonging.

The DEIA Committee provides resources that empower employees to engage in collaborative conversations within the workforce and cultivate empathy for individuals outside their identified communities. Our commitment to DEIA is reflected in a range of resources designed to promote a culture of inclusivity and belonging, including:

1) Monthly Lunch and Learn Sessions: Engaging sessions that provide valuable insights into DEIA topics, fostering open dialogue and creating awareness.

2) Multicultural Calendar: A resource that celebrates and educates employees on various cultural events, promoting appreciation for diversity.

3) Language Guide: An inclusive tool that offers guidance on language usage to ensure respectful and inclusive conversations.

4) Employee Resource Groups: An employee resource group (ERG) is an employee-led group that fosters inclusivity and builds community. This employee group also provides personal and professional support to its members. Employees who lead and take part in ERGs share a common interest.

Benchmark’s DEIA resources play a pivotal role in improving organizational leadership and development by enhancing employee engagement, building emotional intelligence, and fostering inclusivity.

Log onto the intranet, click the DEIA tab, and explore a wealth of resources to cultivate inclusivity in the workplace. As leaders, we urge you to incorporate these resources into your trainings and staff meetings.

“We Stand Alone, We Stand Together, We Stand United Forever.”

Benchmark DNA: The Evolution of Job Coaching

By John Lovett, DSc, National Director, Clinical Development

There was a moment early in our company’s history when we realized that “thriving” goes far beyond the simple provision of a place to live and occasional activities for the individuals we serve. We saw promise in assisting the individuals we served to secure gainful employment – a job. A job provides more than the ability to earn a paycheck; it can foster a sense of individual purpose and significance. This led us to the birth of job coaching at Benchmark, a fundamental aspect of our commitment to the individuals we serve.

Coming alongside others to help them reach their full potential was, and still is, at the core of this role. Person by person, our coaches intentionally support individuals while navigating barriers and paving their paths to independence, dignity, and self-worth. Little did we know that this role, which began here nearly six decades ago, would evolve to unlock large-scale potential for state governments.

Today, we find ourselves embarking on a new chapter in the story of job coaching. Our recent collaboration with the State of Alabama marks an expansion of these concepts, focused on empowering state staff to effectively respond to the needs of individuals with IDD in crisis situations.

Building upon the success of our Active Consulting project in Alabama, the Alabama Department of Mental Health (ADMH) has entrusted us with a new mission: to “job coach” their internal teams. This strategic expansion aims to strengthen the state’s efforts to enhance its behavioral consultation and crisis support team model, thereby better-serving individuals with IDD in crisis. Much like our other job coaching activities, our Benchmark team is working closely with ADMH to help their teams navigate challenges and establish new systems to enhance their opportunities for success.

The parallels between these initiatives serve as poignant reminders of the enduring mission embedded in our Benchmark DNA – connecting people and potential. It is a testament to the resilience and adaptability that define us as a company and provides a firm foundation to build upon into the future.

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