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2020 Supervisor of the Year – Shawn Handel

2020 Supervisor of the Year – Shawn Handel

As a Supervisor Shawn takes a coaching approach when working with employees on performance concerns. She takes time to listen to what the employee has to say and digs into the details of why errors occurred. She does this is such a way that her employees feel her investment in their success and they feel valued.  She has taken everything she has learned though peer support and the mentoring group and has applied it to her managing style.

This year Shawn was challenged with a several employees that were struggling with performance issues. Shawn once again rose to the occasion, understood each person as an individual and tailored each issue as a learning opportunity for professional growth and continuous improvement. She interacted with them by demonstrating different ways to think about how to complete the task, look at challenges in a different way, and learn to move forward. She was able to utilize outside the box tools to assist in correcting their performance.  She took the time to listen, observe, question, and then recommend.  The processes took considerable dedication from Shawn.  The workload associated was intensive. From dedicated live observation time, to call reviews, to consistent feedback and documentation, the process was time consuming.  Shawn never wavered on her dedication to helping the employee improve their performance. Some might have reasoned this was too much effort to attempt to save an employee not meant for the job.  That is not Shawn’s philosophy.  While she agrees not everyone is meant for the job, she is adamant that every employee be provided the opportunity to improve.  Shawn is dedicated to helping employees succeed and she has been successful in turning around employees performance.  

Shawn is an expert in all our various tools and workflows. She freely shares her knowledge and skills with encouragement. She is consistent in her contacts, reinforcement, availability, and role modeling. The result has been engaged employees who are happy, have a sense of community and strive for excellence.

An employee expressed appreciation for Shawn as a great supervisor, reporting Shawn always checking on them and providing feedback and help when needed. 

Another employee noted:

Shawn Handel was very effective in the way she assisted me when I needed help. I feel like I could go to her with things even outside the workplace. I knew feedback given was for good reason and was just to assist me and getting better.

No matter the size of the challenge whether it be person or project, Shawn executes with precision, professionalism, compassion, kindness, and leadership.

Shawn has an emotional intelligence about her that sets her above the bar. When faced with a challenge, she is able to break down the situation, review each element, and make quick, effective decisions.  She understand the big picture and does not get caught up in the drama that often surrounds challenging situations.

Shawn’s character is exceptional. Shawn is out for the good of our center and our employees.  She is devoted to helping others any way that she can.   Shawn is passionate and dedicated to Kitsap 911.  She goes above and beyond what is expected EVERY DAY. 

Her consistent communication is “How can I help?” She would be aghast to hear someone say, “That is not my job” let alone utter such words herself.   That is just not Shawn. She is inspirational and motivates her employees to push themselves and believe in themselves.  She is everyone’s cheerleader without coming across as fake or disingenuous. 

            Shawn received the following accolades from employees:

  • “I appreciate her knowledge of CENCOM and use her as a resource on a daily basis when we are working together. “
  • Shawn promotes a professional and positive attitude. 

Shawn is always willing to provide assistance for whatever is needed. Most recent was an update to our TTY process. Shawn is not involved in the tech committee but saw a need to jump in and help where needed. She was able to get our TTY project quickly into production with little to no assistance. Shawn received a Kudos from the Technical Service department that she was quick, efficient, and pleasant to work with.

Shawn also volunteered to be the facilitator of Kitsap 911’s Observation video for the new hire process. Normally new hire applicants would come into the dispatch center and observe call receivers and dispatchers to gain a better understanding of what the job entails.  With COVID limiting our facility to employees only, Kitsap 911 had to come up with a different option quickly. We did not want to lose the observation portion of our hiring process so we shifted to a video presentation.  When we asked for a volunteer, Shawn immediately stepped up.  She drafted a script based on what was occurring in the videos we had taken, adding additional information on specific pieces of the job.  Throughout the past year, Shawn has delivered this presentation numerous times to different applicant groups. During the Directors interviews portion of our process, several candidates mentioned while in the virtual observations Shawn had answered all their questions already and how valuable they found the experience. 

One of our fire agencies requested assistance with putting together a chain of survival video. Shawn immediately agreed to assist.  Shawn planned and conducted a mock 911 call and dispatch. She received KUDOS for her efficient and professional help but also her enthusiasm that made the project much more fun.

Shawn received KUDOS for her ability to think outside the box from a lieutenant at our local sheriff’s office.  Several agencies were staffing a special emphasis for an expected influx of motorcycle club members attending a funeral in our county. A week was spent on planning the details      including the communication element.  On the day of the event, the lieutenant discovered a problem with the communication plan. He contacted the supervisor, who happened to be Shawn and explained the situation. The current plan allowed Kitsap 911 staff to view all units assigned to the emphasis, however due to the setup of mobile computers, those in the field could only see their agency units. This was a problem because no information was to be communicated over the radio. Shawn took a moment to figure out how to deal with the issue and still fulfill the needs of both the field units and Kitsap 911. Shawn was able to orchestrate a solution that worked perfectly.  The lieutenant sent KUDOS thanking Shawn for her willingness to be flexible and work in partnership with law enforcement to make a successful outcome.

Shawn volunteered to be an instructor at one of our recent quarterly training days.  She developed and presented Wellness training to Kitsap 911 staff.  She received KUDOS for the training being enlightening, but also fun.

Shawn has received KUDOS for going above and beyond on numerous occasions. In October 2020, a fire chief complimented Shawn for her thorough and easily understood documentation during a structure fire event.  She provided them information they needed in a workable fashion for responders trying to manage a structure fire scene.

            Shawn received the following KUDOS from our Deputy Director for her willingness to consistently help wherever needed. During her career Shawn has always been one to step up to take things on and consistently ask what she could do to help. In the last few months, Shawn has managed to increase her efforts even more. Shawn has asked me every few days if there was something she could do for me, even on days she is not feeling her best. When I ask Shawn for assistance, she jumps right in. Shawn has volunteered to handle projects, chair committees, and assist with disseminating information. I am thankful for             Shawn’s initiative, knowledge, and spirit. Shawn has always been a leader at Kitsap 911 who consistently rises up for new challenges and improvements, often taking initiative on her own no matter the increase of her heavy workload. She is an integral part of our core values and continuous improvement culture.

A supervisor, by definition, is a person who supervises workers or the work done by others. While Shawn’s title is Public Safety Communication Supervisor, she is far more than that in our organization.  While some supervisors act as managers and tell people how to do their work, Shawn works as part of the team and supervises with respect, loyalty and a positivity. Often the small characteristics define a good and enjoyable supervisor. Shawn has all the qualities of a good supervisor. She serves as an inspiration and provides guidance for hardworking employees.

Shawn is a true mentor.  Her ability and willingness to connect with employees and develop trust and respect are rare.  Her ability to listen to what is being said along with what is not being said made her an excellent 911 call receiver, but this makes her an even better supervisor. Shawn can quickly identify when an issue is occurring or may be on the cusp of occurring. Her intuition is beyond belief. She steps into situations rather than shies away.  She openly shares her experiences to help employees learn from her past performance. Shawn is trusted resource, counselor, and cheerleader for all of our employees.  

            Great leaders consistently possess the following essential characteristics:

  • Integrity – Shawn demonstrates integrity by taking responsibility for her actions, standing up for what is right, and leading by example.
  • Effective communication – Shawn is an effective communicator at every level. She is comfortable discussing issues with employees, co-workers, management, and member agencies. She does so in an open, honest manner. 
  • Learning agility – Shawn excels in unfamiliar circumstances. She makes quick, effective decisions. 
  • Influence – Shawn has the capacity to communicate an issue in a way that is easy understood and convincing. Her passion and energy are key elements to her success in this area.
  • Empathy – Shawn is able understand what others are feeling. People seek her out to talk through issues at work and in their personal life. 
  • Courage – Shawn demonstrates a willingness to step into difficult situations when others shy away. 
  • Respect – Respect is more than the absence of disrespect. Shawn makes the effort to display respect for every employee at Kitsap 911. Something as simple as stopping at an employee’s desk to say “Hi” and acknowledge they are there makes a huge difference in a busy, stressful workplace.

Shawn encompasses all of these qualities and demonstrates them over and over in her daily job performance. She is a true leader, helping develop and guide employees, processes, polices, and the successful path of Kitsap 911.  It is our honor to submit Shawn Handel as Kitsap 911’s nominee for WA APCO/NENA Supervisor of the Year.

Shawn has been with Kitsap 911 for over 13 years. She has been a Supervisor for 6 years. She is involved with several groups and committees within Kitsap 911 that are outside of her job description such as:

  • Public Education Committee – This committee is responsible for educating the community on the proper use of 9-1-1, when to call, and new technology related to 911.  On average, the committee does 2 events a month talking to civic, service, scouting, and school groups. The Kitsap County Fair is one of the largest events the group is involved in along with at least three other safety fairs throughout the year.
  • Wellness Committee – Chair –The mission of this committee is to promote financial, physical, mental, social, and family life wellness. At Kitsap 911, we want to help everyone to reach his or her individual wellness goals. 
  • Training Group – Shawn is a classroom Instructor for our Primary Call Receiving Academy.  Her instruction is in an easy-to-understand format and is relative to the task at hand. She received recognition from the facilitator of the academy for her encouraging nature and ability to keep even the driest topic fun. Shawn takes each trainees learning style in to account when instructing. Her strong investment in successful learning is evident in everything she does.
  • Peer Support Team – The Peer Support Program is designed to utilize trained and trusted individuals as a crisis intervention resource to assist in dealing with a critical incident, personal issues, and/or issues stemming from work place situations.  
  • Mentor Group – Chair – The responsibility of a mentor is to build and maintain partnerships with newly signed-off employees, employees who wish to improve their skills/performance, and those employees who have been assigned a mentor to improve performance. A mentor will be available as a resource to any employee, from any division within CENCOM, in need of mentoring while on-shift.

Kitsap 911 (CENCOM) is the primary PSAP for Kitsap County. We handle approximately 347,000 calls for service annually between Law Enforcement, Fire, and EMS events. We serve as the only provider of dispatch services for 7 Law Enforcement agencies, 6 Fire Departments running both fire and medical calls for service, and dispatch for Port Gamble Natural Resources and Kitsap Animal Control.

We provide mutual aid services to Washington State Patrol, Jefferson, Mason, and Pierce counties, as well as three military bases (Naval Base Kitsap Bangor, Naval Base Kitsap Bremerton, and Naval Base Kitsap Keyport.)

The communications center is a second home to approximately 78 employees; this includes Information Services Technicians, Radio Technicians, Administration, and we collaborate with the Department of Emergency Management, which shares our facility.

At any given time, there are 2-3 Primary Call Receivers, 3-4 Law Enforcement dispatchers, 2-3 Fire & EMS dispatchers, an Assistant Supervisor, and a Shift Supervisor working the operations floor.

Public Safety Communications Supervisors are responsible for the overall daily operations on the dispatch floor. They ensure orderly and efficient operation with high quality service. Supervisors maintain awareness and knowledge of all activities taking place within the center during their assigned shift and are ultimately responsible for the outcome of those activities.  They monitor and evaluate performance of Assistant Supervisors, Lead telecommunicators, Dispatchers, and Call Receivers. Supervisors provide in the moment feedback and mentoring to promote the best possible performance from all operations employees.  They handle investigations of errors and numerous other performance issues. Supervisors complete quarterly and annual evaluations on our employees, and complete quality assurance reviews for each employee numerous times per quarter. They are responsible for maintaining the operations schedule, by documenting all changes with the appropriate coding and filling necessary vacancies following a DETAILED bargained process.