“What makes a good boss is what makes a good parent in many ways,” says Laura B. Schwartz, LMSW, ACSW, executive director of the Child Abuse Prevention Center of NY in White Plains, which runs programs—from parent groups to home visits—that reach hundreds of families in Westchester.
Her employees feel that familial vibe, too. “Her flexible and understanding attitude has helped create a family environment that we work so hard to establish with our own clients and their families,” says Linda Paver, LCSW-R, assistant executive director, speaking on behalf of the entire staff of five.
One thing that helped Schwartz become a good boss was learning how she didn’t want to lead. “I had a boss who wanted us to account for every 15 minutes we were working,” she says. “That made me less productive—I was more worried about filling my time than doing the work. Flexibility gives people more desire to work and hold themselves accountable.”
While that logic flies in the face of a predecessor who advised her that “good fences make good supervisors,” Schwartz has found she’s gotten much more out of her employees by leading her way. “Six years ago, we had a really big flood, and then they found asbestos,” she says. “We moved to a different building with the shirts on our backs—we couldn’t take anything with us. For six months, we were trying to maintain the agency. A few months after, at a business meeting, I got pressured into going skydiving. When I came back, everyone was saying, ‘I can’t believe how brave you are! You must be so proud.’ I jumped out of an airplane—big deal. What I was really proud of was that the agency stayed open, my staff made sure they saw their clients, and they loved coming to work enough that they did it in the worst circumstances. That made me proud to be a boss.”