Trauma-Informed Leadership in Business Helps Clients, Staff

by Margo Willis, Family Engagement Specialist VISTA, Casa Grande Alliance

Business leaders wear many hats and possess many skills. At the end of the day, leadership in business is about building safe, supportive and trusting relationships.

In our community, we have found that some of the most successful business leaders have adopted and practice a trauma-informed approach. Trauma is defined as the result of an event or series of events experienced by an individual as harmful or life-threatening. Trauma can have a lasting adverse impact on an individual’s mental, physical, social, emotional or spiritual well-being.

While the words “trauma-informed leadership” may sound lofty and unattainable, a simple definition from the USC Price School of Public Policy suggests: “Trauma-Informed Leadership is a way of understating or appreciating that there is an emotional world of experiences rumbling around beneath the surface for most individuals.”

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, trauma-informed leaders realize the widespread impact of trauma, recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients and staff, respond by fully and thoughtfully integrating knowledge and appreciation about trauma into business policies and practices. They seek to actively resist re-traumatizing those being served.

Lacey Morse, Career Development Specialist at Goodwill Industries of Southern Arizona in Casa Grande, practices trauma-informed leadership with diligence. Luckily for us, Lacey has shared a few of her best practices.

  1. Recognize that many of those we serve can have significant trauma in their past that can be easily triggered by stressful interactions and experiences.
  2. Endeavor to create a warm, inviting, supportive and safe environment.
  3. Provide clear, complete communication, checking frequently for understanding and for questions.
  4. Maintain a positive, friendly attitude at all times.
  5. Involve others in making decisions. Think inclusively about those most impacted by the decisions being made.
  6. Gently invite people to share their thoughts, feelings, and needs.
  7. Shut the office door when it is necessary to sit down one-on-one with upset clients.
  8. Practice empathy. Remember the people we encounter can be fighting tough, daily personal battles.
  9. Practice self-regulation: Eat right, exercise, get plenty of sleep, relax and most importantly spend time planning and reflecting on each day.

For community presentations or staff training on overcoming adversity, adverse childhood experiences, using the protective factors as a helpful framework, and/or on building resilience, please call the Casa Grande Alliance at 520-836-5022 or stop by the office at 280 W. McMurray Blvd.