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DMH's Focus up for award

JACKSON — The Mississippi Department of Mental Health’s (DMH’s) accelerated leadership development program, Focus, has been selected as one of eight regional finalists for the 2009 Council of State Government (CSG) Innovations Award. DMH will present the program to the Southern Regional Innovations Selection Committee Aug. 17.

In 2007, DMH developed the Focus program to offer employees an opportunity to hone their skills to greater and higher personal performance and self-awareness. The program is designed to develop leaders from within.

There is a critical need to develop a pipeline of leaders in DMH to create bench strength with depth. Within DMH, 57 percent of employees in management positions are currently eligible for retirement and 15 percent will be eligible within three to five years. The goal of this program is to have the right people, with the right skills, in the right place, at the right time.

Throughout the program, participants learn about conflict management, human resources, fiscal management and other topics. To date, 90 DMH employees have participated in the program. Participants are selected from a blind, competitive process.

“This program is pure magic,” said Ann Thames, director of workforce development at DMH. “Not only is it doing everything it was designed to do, it has had the added benefit of revitalizing more senior employees who had been considering retirement. It is a wonderful thing to be able to give back the experience and knowledge gained over a lifetime of work to the next generation.”

Focus is a partnership with The Whitten Group, which has previous experience in developing and implementing leadership programs with state agencies.  DMH will began this fall absorbing the program into the agency with a “train the trainer” activity designed to prepare recent focus graduate to teach the Focus classes in the future.

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