Teaching Staff to be Effective Incident Leaders

Leadership and teamwork are key components to de-escalating any behavioral crisis. Having staff that communicate and coordinate effectively during crisis contributes to the overall safety of a crisis situation. Unfortunately, many staff try to avoid the leader role during crises. Staff may be hesitant to take on the responsibility due to concerns about injury to consumer, self, or others. Being the leader may have been punished in the past, through social disapproval over the way the situation was handled or corrective feedback delivered from supervisors. Oftentimes, staff are not adequately trained for leadership in a crisis.

Anyone can become an effective leader in a behavioral crisis, but it goes beyond just training staff to know a consumer’s behavior plan. We have to teach staff the skills to become effective leaders during crisis.

In our behavioral brief Teaching Staff to be Effective Incident Leaders, we discuss why staff avoid the leader role and how we can increase effectiveness as the leader using several different teaching strategies.

In a behavioral crisis, the leader has a significant role in establishing and maintaining everyone’s safety. It is the leader’s responsibility to communicate to all staff, determine how to intervene, delegate staff roles, and begin the de-escalation process. Therefore, it is hardly a surprise that many staff do not want to take on this duty.

There are many reasons staff may avoid the leader role during a behavioral incident. Staff may not be confident in their skill set as the leader. Some staff may have experienced social disapproval from their coworkers over how they handled a situation in the past. Other staff may have found their behavior was punished, perhaps through corrective feedback delivered from supervisors or administrators. Other staff might be concerned about their responsibility for injuries caused to the consumer, themselves, or their coworkers. Regardless, all staff should be adequately prepared to step in and assume the leader role if and when a crisis occurs.

There are many strategies for increasing staff effectiveness as the leader including, but not limited to, establishing supportive staff environments, reinforcing staff attempts at leadership, and in-the-moment support through modeling or prompting procedures. We may need to explicitly teach staff how to be a leader and even to recognize when the lead role should be switched (i.e. if the leader is getting into a power struggle with the consumer). Not only is establishing this skill important, but maintaining skills over time, even if behavioral crises do not often occur, will allow for quick and safe intervention in any crisis or behavioral incident.

View our 15-minute webinar on Teaching Staff to be Effective Incident Leaders to find out more on the leader’s role in a behavioral crisis, why staff avoid the lead role, and how to teach staff to become an effective leader.