Two-Day Prisons Leadership Training Exceeds Expectations

Mohr speaking on stage
Friday, February 22, 2019 - 4:57pm

Gary Mohr had high expectations prior to leading the two-day Prisons Leadership Development Workshop on Feb. 18-19. He knew he had an audience hungry to receive skills they could take back to their facilities, and he had the morsels to provide the nutritional needs.

Following the workshop, Mohr was extremely happy not only with what he saw from the group but his vision of where the North Carolina prison system is heading.

“In two days, I saw staff aspiring to do things they hadn’t planned on doing,” said Mohr, the DPS senior executive advisor for prisons and the president of the America Correctional Association. “In our business, you have to maximize the influence and take risks on people. You want to get professionals to take a good look at themselves and stretch their performance. I think that’s going to happen in North Carolina.

“I feel great about this. I think these correctional professionals will take what they learned earnestly and seriously. They’ll take time for self-reflection and make the North Carolina system better.  This state will be a leader in corrections.”

Mohr, who has more than 44 years of correctional experience in Ohio corrections, led the “North Carolina Leadership: Designing Our Future” workshop using tips from the 2010 book The Leader Who Had No Title by Robin Sharma, one of the top speakers on leadership who’s worked with Nike, General Electric and Microsoft. 

Mohr broke the workshop into four “leadership conversations” – You Need No Title to be a Leader; Turbulent Times Build Great Leaders; The Deeper Your Relationships, The Stronger Your Leadership; and To Be a Great Leader, First Be a Great Person. Each “conversation” had five rules to live by in order to be successful, with the ultimate goal of empowering the prison leaders to confidently communicate and engage with staff.

“Staff need to know your mission and values,” Mohr said. “Look to hire coaches and not referees. A person’s characteristics are more important than time of service. One of the most important things you do is to hire and promote staff. You need to be at the last interview … and where you spend your time during the day reflects your priorities.

“Working through critical incidents is difficult to do. People who criticize us could not walk one step in our shoes. Tell your story. Do not give speeches. Speak from the heart about our profession.”

Mohr told the group they should work hard to know their employees, , and recognize them for birthdays and other areas. His five rules for success were: Helpfulness, understand, mingle, amuse and nurture – with the first letters of each word spelling out “human.”

“When your staff see you as a competent, affable human being, you will be acknowledged as their leader,” Mohr said.

Mohr closed the workshop by stressing the ability to become a good person. That includes spending time with family.

“You can’t fake this stuff,” Mohr said. “Who are we looking at strategically in our system to lead in the future? There must be succession planning. You need to identify the folks who will be our future leaders. The people you think about the most are those you inspired lifted up.”

The workshop included the four regions presenting issues they felt were important to change in the prison environment and potential solutions. And, for the first time in several years, Prisons recognized staff as Employees of the Year in several categories.

Director of Prisons Kenneth Lassiter described the two-day workshop as “awesome.”

“It was well received by staff,” he said. “We have to be instruments of change. I’m inspired by the leadership in the room. Our bench is heavy and is ready to go.”

Facility heads appreciated the presentations and challenges presented by Mohr.

“It’s always a pleasure to be amongst your colleagues,” said Johnny Hawkins, administrator of Polk Correctional Institution. “It really showed me how far we have come along and there was some outside-of-the-box training. This will really help prepare the workforce of the future.”

Jerry Higgins