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DSPs Receive Leadership Development Support Through The Guild’s Program 

Submitted By: Eliza Adams, Communications Coordinator, The Guild for Human Services

Launched in 2023, The Guild’s Leadership in Direct Support (LiDS) program aims to provide frontline staff with the professional skillsets needed to advance in their careers while allowing them to build connections with senior leaders at The Guild. The LiDS curriculum covers teamwork and leadership, public speaking, communication, clinical concepts, conflict resolution skills, and other topics relevant to our programs to position employees well for a promotion in their current department or transfer to a new department. LiDS also includes a mentorship program that allows participants to learn from a professional in the field and receive ongoing guidance and support. 

The Impact Of The Leadership in Direct Support (LiDS) Program 

The LiDS program has generated positive feedback from program participants and session facilitators alike. In addressing the needs expressed by direct support professionals during an official workplace assessment, the program has boosted morale and provided pathways for growth. 

“The LiDS program was helpful, inspiring, and very instructive.”

Vilno F., Residential Assistant, The Guild for Human Services

Though the human services sector is one of the most diverse fields, people of color continue to be underrepresented in leadership roles (Kunreuther & Thomas-Breitfeld, 2020). The LiDS program seeks to increase diversity in Guild leadership by providing direct support professionals with the skills needed to move to leadership and supervisory roles. Since the program ended in June, one employee has been promoted to a leadership role, and others are well-positioned to move into lead roles within the coming months. 

The LiDS program has provided direct support professionals with a professional development opportunity tailored to their role, allowing them to develop the leadership skills necessary for a promotion. The program was designed in response to a formalized workplace needs assessment that identified a lack of mentorship opportunities and a shortage of training in supervision and management as roadblocks to direct support professionals’ success. 

LiDS addresses these needs directly, and participants report that the program has given them greater confidence in their current roles and additional communication, clinical, and management skillsets to position them for leadership roles. 

“After training, my way of providing care to the individuals totally improved.”

Immaculate D., Residential Assistant, The Guild for Human Services 

Steps To Implement A Leadership Development Program

To replicate our efforts, organizations should first survey direct support professionals to find out what specific skillsets they would like to gain from a professional development program like LiDS. These responses should be used to determine course content and objectives. Program organizers can then develop course sessions and identify who will serve as the instructor for each topic.   

After receiving applications, program organizers should choose participants and reach out to potential mentors accordingly based on participants’ interests and goals. Finally, organizers should consider whether other stakeholders (i.e. outside speakers, consultants) will be included in the sessions. 

Here are the steps The Guild took to establish its LiDS program: 

  1. Created LiDS application that required brief responses to questions and references from direct supervisor. 
  2. Identified curriculum, themes, and program objectives based on feedback from DSPs and supervisors. 
  3. In conjunction with administrative and clinical teams, created program content around teamwork and leadership, clinical careers, history of I/DD, quality assurance, culture & bias, human resources, and financial administration. 
  4. Identified potential mentors and reached out to confirm interest and availability. 
  5. Developed culminating “Telling Your Story” project of the program where DSPs shared their personal and professional journeys in a final presentation to their colleagues. 
  6. Coordinated with presenters to build weekly schedule and distributed to the cohort. 
  7. Assembled a parent panel and a Guild employee panel to share their stories with the cohort in two program sessions. 
  8. Coordinated incentives like snacks and meals for program sessions and LiDS souvenir merchandise. 

While cohort-based in-person learning is important to this model, it was challenging for all participants to arrive on time, given occasional scheduling changes and their worksite location. Efforts should be made to ensure LiDS takes place at a time and location that works for all participants, and instructors should strive to make course material accessible to those who need to arrive late. We also made sure to have meals and snacks available since sessions took place at the end of the day, and participants were paid  for all training hours. 

“The LiDS program allowed me to better understand the organization and allowed me to learn how to do my job better as a residential assistant. I’m more comfortable with my day-to-day job after the program.”

Nansen A., Lead Residential Manager, The Guild for Human Services

About The Guild for Human Services

For more than 65 years, The Guild has met the needs of vulnerable populations. The mission of The Guild for Human Services is to educate, encourage and empower individuals with intellectual disabilities so they may achieve their full potential to lead high-quality lives and participate meaningfully in society. 

Incorporated in 1952 as The Protestant Guild for the Blind, the non-profit organization initially provided religious instruction and reading services to youth with visual impairments in the Boston area. Through the years, The Guild has evolved to expand services and meet the needs of the vulnerable population it currently serves.

You can learn more about The Guild for Human Services by visiting the organization’s website:

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Since 1969, CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership has been a leader in working with human service organizations and systems to continuously define, measure, and improve quality of life and quality of services for youth, adults, and older adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and psychiatric disabilities. CQL offers accreditation, training, certification, research, and consultation services to agencies that share our vision of dignity, opportunity, and community for all people.