Kansas Certified Public Manager Graduation Speech: Barney Hubert

Comments Delivered By Barney Hubert, Superintendent, Kansas Neurological Institute (KNI)
On November 16, 2012

Congratulations on your success in completing the CPM program!

I was pleased to see such a diverse group of public servants in this year’s class:

  • 13 from several different county governments
  • 26 from several different city governments
  • 24 from several different state agencies
  • 2 from state universities
  • 3 from federal agencies
  • 2 from private industry

There is also a great deal of diversity in the types of work you do within your organizations!

As Charles mentioned in my introduction, I participated in the CPM program in 1999. At that time a much larger percentage of the group came from State agencies. It’s wonderful to see the increasing diversity in the composition of the class.

I trust participation in the CPM program has been a great learning and networking experience for you. During the past week I asked a number of people who have graduated from the CPM program over the past 15 years to share their memories of the program. Many people mentioned the networking opportunities associated with the program, the chance to get a glimpse into the work of other governmental agencies, and specific instructors, class topics and classmates who made a positive and lasting impression on them. Others mentioned the hard work they did, their Capstone Projects and the fact that participation in the CPM program provided a start for them in their desire to work toward a Master’s of Public Administration degree. Still others talked about the fact that participation in the CPM program gave them an opportunity to share their love of the work they do with others, to gain a greater appreciation for the important purpose of their work as public servants, and to help others understand the importance of the mission of their organization.

In the 13 years since I graduated from the program it has been interesting for me watch the contributions a number of my classmates have made as they’ve continued their careers as public servants, or moved on to positions in the private sector. In years to come I’m sure you will see great things from many of your classmates too! I continue to use the core of my capstone project in my work today, and I hope many of you, and your employers, will see lasting value in the work you’ve put into your capstone projects into the next decade.

I was honored when Terri asked me to speak to you at this year’s graduation ceremony. I also found the request to be a bit daunting. Keynote speakers are supposed to inspire and motivate. As Charles mentioned when he introduced me, I’ve spent nearly my entire career in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities. I’ve never felt I was the smartest person in the room, or the most visionary person in my field, or the best clinician, or the most inspirational person. When I reflected on what I have to offer a group like this, I realized that some of the most important things I’ve learned during my career in the disabilities field have a great deal of application to the work of all public servants:

In the field I work in, a respected researcher named Connie Lyle O’Brien found that “the most important factor influencing peoples’ satisfaction with the services they receive is the relationship they have with the people who provide direct support to them”—the people they come into contact with on a daily basis. I’ve learned how true this is in the field of disabilities. In our work at KNI, this makes it important for those of us who are managers, instructors, professionals and support staff to keep in mind that our role is to equip our frontline workers—those who have sustained daily contact with our customers (for us, the people who live at KNI)—to have the skills, resources, and understanding of our mission they need to provide high-quality services to the people we support.

In reflecting on Connie’s research findings, I realize the principle included in this quote is true for all public servants. Whether we work in law enforcement, accounting, public works, economic development, or social services, it’s important that we understand the mission our agencies are working to fulfill and our role in providing high-quality services to the end users—the primary customers–of the services provided by our organizations. A key responsibility of all of us who provide leadership within our organizations or who supervise, mentor and provide direction to other staff members is to be sure we equip those who have direct contact with our customers with the resources they need to be responsive to our customers and to provide excellent service to them.

Years ago, a coworker I admired greatly convinced me that in absolutely the most basic terms, “QUALITY IS RESPONSIVENESS.” She sold me on the idea that the more we are attentive to our customers and strive to be responsive to them, the more they will appreciate us and value and support us and the services we provide. If they see us doing our best to be responsive, and know this is our goal, they will also be more willing to forgive us when we make mistakes.

Several years ago, I met a gentleman who talked about his experience preparing to teach a college class for students who were learning to support people with disabilities. Before the class began, this person met with a friend who has a disability and asked him, “What are the most important things I need to teach people who will go into this field?” His friend told him, “Teach them to respect me for who I am, as I am, and teach them to listen to me.”

Again, I think this lesson extends beyond the context of services for people with disabilities and has tremendous application for all of us who are public servants. Whoever we come into contact with in our work, we need to “Respect people for who they are, as they are. We need to listen to people.” Given the different fields in which we work, this will be different for each one of us, but the core lesson is critically important for all of us.

A final lesson I want to share comes from an educator and author named Haim Ginott who wrote extensively about the relationships between teachers and students and between parents and children. One of his most famous quotes is titled, “I Am the Decisive Element,” and I’ve adapted it slightly for this audience:


I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element.
It is my personal approach that creates the climate.
It is my daily mood that makes the weather.
I possess a tremendous power to make the lives of others miserable or joyous.
I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.
I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.
In all situations, it is my response that determines whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, whether those around me will be humanized or de-humanized, whether a person’s life will be interesting or boring, comfortable or miserable, productive or pointless. I am the decisive element.

All of you in the jobs you do, as well as in your personal lives, have tremendous influence over the lives of others. As you take the lessons you’ve learned in the CPM program and apply them in your work and personal lives, I hope you will look for opportunities to humor, humanize and heal those you serve, those you work alongside, those you interact with in your personal lives and those you love. I urge you to honor and support those within your organizations—those you supervise, those you work alongside, and those you serve. I urge you to accept others for who they are, as they are. I urge you to listen to those around you and to learn from them.

Thank you for giving me the honor of speaking to you today, congratulations, and best of luck in all your future endeavors!

Speaker’s Bio: Barney Hubert began work for the State of Kansas in 1976 after earning a Bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies at the University of Kansas. After spending a year as a Correctional Officer he accepted his first position supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Over the past 34 years Barney has held a variety of positions in the disability field, starting with direct service positions and progressing into a variety of leadership roles.

He completed a Master’s degree in the School of Education at the University of Kansas in 1988 and is a 1999 graduate of the Kansas Certified Public Manager program. He has been Superintendent of the Kansas Neurological Institute, one of the two state-operated facilities in Kansas that provide support to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, for six years.

For the past 18 years he has also been an occasional Quality Enhancement Specialist for The Council on Quality and Leadership in Supports for People with Disabilities, an international quality enhancement and accrediting organization based in Towson, Maryland. Barney serves as a volunteer guardian through the Kansas Guardianship Program and is a long-time member of the board of directors for The Arc of Douglas County, an advocacy organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.