With Leadership and Love a Leader Can Create a Team of Highly Skilled People

Denene & Crew

Denene and her crew. Back row: Patrick, Denene, Ryan, Jamie.

Front row: Colleen, Cory, Larry, Kristen

Denene Robinson started at Semiahmoo House Society in 2005 and a year later she landed the position as Support Worker for Janitorial Services, a subset of the Employment, Training and Support Program at Semiahmoo House Society. In her role, Denene trains new comers to the program and supervises the crew who provide cleaning services to The Treehouse.

In addition to teaching participants about janitorial work and safe practices, she is resolute on coaching them as individuals based on their personal needs and preferences. Denene is a big believer in the person-centered approach and she integrates the philosophy in everything she does. This means assisting each of her team members to pursue their passion.

Denene says, “Here, we offer an environment where people chose the work they prefer to do and we train them to do it at their own pace. When the opportunity presents itself, they have the flexibility to try a new training program. We have many participants who follow a diversified schedule allowing them to work a few days a week in Janitorial and a day or two in Catering and Landscaping.”

“That being said, I don’t coddle them,” admits Denene. “This way, participants have a greater chance at becoming successful and working independently. Sure, they make mistakes—we all do, but we all view these as great opportunities to learn and grow. Further, we have no expiry date. People continue to learn once they become part of the work crew. No one is penalized for continuing to learn.”

Denene is purposeful in developing a good team atmosphere and coaches her workers on the importance of teamwork and learning from each other. “In order for them to be successful, they need to feel part of a team. When things are not as sharp as they should be, we talk about that as a team prior to beginning a new shift. They know when they haven’t done as good as a job as they could have and they know what to do resolve the issues. These are very, very skilled people. They know their jobs well.”

As I spoke with Denene, it became evident that she is also very, very skilled at her job. Not only has she been working in the field for 18 years, she possesses great leadership attributes coupled with authentic love and caring for the people she supports. She has taken the time to understand them individually and what makes them function well collectively. Further, Denene has grown up in a household where her mother provided care for three people with developmental disabilities, in addition to her own autistic brother.

Teresa Randle, Program Co-ordinator of the Employment Training & Support Program, says, “Denene’s dedication and commitment to the people she supports shines through and creates a fun and enthusiastic atmosphere for the team.”

In her parting words, Denene concludes, “I am just as much as part of the team. I don’t consider myself their teacher or their boss, although these roles are clearly part of my function. We’re all equal. We enjoy each other and, very importantly, we have fun at what we do.”

Larry Shareski who has worked in janitorial services at SHS for many years testifies:
“Denene is a good supervisor. She’s organized and loveable. Her personality, ah!
She’s kind and beautiful. Nothing negative about her. She laughs with me. She
even helps me with Facebook. If she ever left here, she would be missed.”

By Louise Tremblay, The Semiahmoo Foundation

Semiahmoo House Society, a non-profit organization located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to provide quality services and supports to people with disabilities and their families in the community. 

The Semiahmoo Foundation, located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to fund, support and enhance the programs and services delivered by Semiahmoo House Society.

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