Maisie Chin believes that supervision can be transformative. As Executive Director/Co-Founder of CADRE, transformation is what their organization is all about. Since 2001 CADRE has been working with parents to transform education by ending and replacing the school to prison pipeline with healthy, restorative school climates. As a result of their work with parents the past 16 years, there have been major policy changes in the LA school district which resulted in a 90% reduction in suspensions and alternative, more positive interventions for behavior.
Maisie sees her work as a supervisor primarily as a facilitator. She works to bring out people’s best. That was not the case with some of her own supervisors. In particular, she learned what NOT to do from one previous supervisor. Maisie learned how disruptive it was when a supervisor acted inconsistently and did not keep her word. Her former boss would treat her staff erratically based on her own good or bad moods. Maisie learned how important it was to follow through on commitments and to act consistently.
The mission of CADRE is what drives Maisie’s work. She understands that to make real changes in the community, people have to make real changes in their own lives. It is not enough to tell an employee to stop doing ineffective work. It is not enough to have them do routine tasks if those tasks are not done in a purposeful manner that supports the mission of the organization. Therefore, Maisie recognizes the importance of helping her staff understand how their beliefs and actions are impacting the work when she sees that happening. For instance, “If staff are resistant to feedback and that gets in the way of their work, just telling them what to do is not enough,” says Maisie. “We have to find out why they’re resistant, how it impacts the fulfillment of their role and potential, and whether that approach is really their choice.”
Direct feedback becomes a critical part of the facilitation of a supervisor. “I know I respond better to immediate feedback,” Maisie says, “and so I give immediate feedback. If the feedback is not immediate, the wrong actions might be repeated and then it becomes harder to change. I’d rather risk hurting your feelings now by teaching you the right way to do it.”
Maisie has trained and practiced as a coach and she brings her coaching approach to her supervision. She helps her staff develop personal awareness and skills for work and for life. Skills like self-reflection and understanding how their past shows up in their work and reactions. She mentors her staff to work intentionally, in alignment with the mission. Occasionally staff don’t want that kind of supervision. They just want to be told what to do or to work transactionally. In those cases, they resist the coaching or simply tell Maisie what they think she wants to hear. That doesn’t work. Those staff members eventually choose to leave.
When staff work with her, the transformation is powerful – and then they can carry on the power of transformation into their work with parents and their own goals. “It is a privilege to do social justice work, so I have high standards of being in alignment and acting with integrity. I expect my staff to honor the privilege and the community by doing that also. Everything I do is about the work and how we do our work – because it equals how we treat our community of parents, which is what will be remembered the most.”
Maisie’s work with CADRE is an example of effective supervision aligned with and in support of a powerful mission. It makes a huge difference. Supervision matters!