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Follow the leader
By Brandon Rogel
Published: 05/05/2008

Istock 000003502506xsmall Editor’s note: This story is being shared with us by the International Association of Correctional Training Personnel, an international professional association of professionals representing all aspects of the adult and juvenile justice field. . From time to time, Corrections.com will publish articles from the IACTP newsletter, The Correctional Trainer.

IACTP Editor’s Note: Clearly, not all professional partnerships are identical. Some are local and short -lived. Other associations span many years and large land masses.

They may even delve into complex concepts that twist the best minds and confound standard cognition. Can you imagine a seven year transcontinental conceptual discussion between two corrections practitioners? I have an example.

Following is some quick background regarding the ongoing discussion and brainstorming between Brandon Rogel and myself about corrections professional conduct. In 2001, Brandon contacted me in Michigan from Washington State.

He read an article that was featured in The Corrections Professional about staff relations. We spoke again in early 2005 about the personal and professional responsibilities of all corrections staff. Later in the year, he included me as part of his two day program on that topic.

Let’s fast forward two years to West Virginia and the IACTP conference. While seated on a WVDOC bus, he and I exchanged many ideas that stemmed from our original contact. As we toured the beautiful country- side, he introduced me to the idea of Followership written by Robert E. Kelley from his 1992 book “The Power of Followership.” Here is part of what Brandon shared with me:

I think we can all agree to the value of endorsing and maintaining a job performance standard. It is what keeps us all working towards the same goal; it organizes our efforts to do the job.

It should also serve as a means to define personal performance. The standards of conduct and the mission of an agency also provide a primary source of guidance to shaping professionalism.

Trainers, administrators and individuals must consider the following: How can you take the agency mission and make it your own?

You need to acquire a Personal Professional Standard which does not come easily. It requires hard work, dedication, and training.

The employee who just puts in time to collect a wage, abuses sick leave, or becomes bitter, ignores the path to success based on professional achievement while increasing the risk of damaging their career from consequences of unprofessional conduct. Their actions affect others.

In a real sense, if they don’t perform to proper standards it doesn’t occur in isolation, their poor decisions affect all the other people they work with. They negatively impact the achievement of the primary goals of any agency: safety, security, and risk management.

Those engaged in the development of positive professional standards are constantly faced with the examples of peer un-professional conduct. In that way, it would be easier to “become like the company you keep," falling prey to the way of letting standards slip and justification of poor conduct.

If any staff member wants to do the right thing but feels inhibited by their agency due to a culture of misconduct, the personal choices become complicated by loyalty issues: being loyal to those that are not professional versus “doing the right thing” and risk being isolated by their peers.

In a sense, having the choice between joining those in misconduct or risk being ostracized by their peers for making the right choice based on following agency policy and procedures.

What I’m really talking is the idea of Follow- ership as defined by Robert E. Kelley from his 1992 book “The Power of Followership.” He defines it this way:

“Exemplary followers are those people who know what to do without being told- the people who act with intelligence, courage, and a strong sense of ethics.” <

So often we focus on leadership and miss the key idea that early in our careers we need to learn how to be led.

Developing positive professional conduct is constantly challenging and takes engagement at the highest level of ability: a daily self- evaluation, re-orientation to goals, and the purpose of serving a higher calling to be ethi- cal, moral and values-centered.

And so I give you suggestions on methods to be an exemplary follower:
    I encourage you to learn what it means to take direction in a positive way.

    Follow the guidance of those teaching to do the right thing and properly con- front those that are not.

    Understand your job and the skills nec- essary to perform it.

    Seek feedback from leaders and peers about your performance and USE IT!

    Remember, YOU CONTROL YOU!
I leave you with a quote from the famous anthropologist Margaret Mead who said;

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. In- deed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Brandon Rogel is a Northwest Native, raised in the local Seattle metropolitan area. Since 1994, Rogel has served the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission as an Instructor, Training Coordinator and, since 1999, as a Program Supervisor. Prior to working at CJTC, he developed and supervised education and treatment programs in a variety of social service settings.

He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech Communications from Western Washington University and was a certified Chemical Dependency counselor for more than a decade. He currently supervises the Corrections Academies Supervisor.

He is a CJTC Certified Instructor for core classes in the Corrections Officers Academy and holds a Mid-Management certificate. He is the vice President of the Washington State Jail Association.

Contact Brandon Rogel, Corrections Academies Supervisor 206/835-7349 or brogel@cjtc.state.wa.us Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, 19010 1st Ave. South Burien, WA. 98148


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