August 27, 2019 | Spotlight

DBHDD, Institute help emerging leaders develop management skills

Members of the DBHDD Management Academy’s tenth cohort gather for a group photo with lead instructor David Key, far right, at the start of the six-month professional development program.

Writer: Roger Nielsen

Since 2014, the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) has stressed the importance of professional growth through a management academy that it established with the Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

Nearly 250 current or emerging leaders have completed the DBHDD Management Academy since then and, as 2015 graduate Adell Flowers says, professional development has become embedded in the department’s culture.

Flowers, workforce development manager with DBHDD’s Office of Children, Young Adults & Families, says she continues to share tips and ideas with other Management Academy alumni and support colleagues who are selected to attend the six-month training course.

“I had a great Management Academy experience and often share this with colleagues, including two who are in the current cohort. I make sure they know it’s not just another training program, that it’s focused on how to develop you as a professional and as an individual,” she said.

The Institute of Government partnered with DBHDD’s Office of Learning and Organizational Development to create the Management Academy five years ago and recently recognized the tenth cohort to successfully complete coursework.

“DBHDD executives identified a need to provide emerging leaders in their organization with an opportunity to enhance their skills and asked the Institute of Government to help them create a professional development program,” according to Institute faculty member Beverly Johnson, who served on the academy’s curriculum design team. “Since it debuted in 2014, several Management Academy graduates have taken on significant leadership roles with DBHDD.”

DBHDD Commissioners Judy Fitzgerald actively worked to create the Management Academy when she was serving as deputy commissioner and graduated with the academy’s inaugural cohort.Those rising leaders include DBHDD Commissioner Judy Fitzgerald, who was an outspoken advocate for creating the academy when she served as the department’s deputy commissioner and graduated with the first cohort.

“The academy provides participants with an experience which can be leveraged in both their professional and personal lives,” Fitzgerald said. “It also brings cohort members from across the department closer together, allowing staff to meet, work and network in a manner/environment they would have otherwise not done.”

The curriculum is designed to address needs and challenges specific to the department, especially through group capstone projects, according to Institute faculty member David Key, the Management Academy’s lead instructor. DBHDD executives select five critical issues for each cohort to explore through the group projects.

“The capstone projects explore solutions to high-priority issues identified by DBHDD leaders and also help the individuals learn to work together better,” Key said.

In addition to helping DBHDD address department-wide issues, Management Academy graduates like Debbie Atkins, director of the Office of Crisis Coordination, gain leadership skills they use every day.

“It really helped my management skills. It changed me from a manager to a leader,” Atkins said.