As the promise of 2022 looms on the horizon, most people are anxious to close the books on what is likely the most unsettling year — from the pandemic to politics to supply chain shortages — we will ever experience. Strong leadership has never been more essential than it is today. To share their best leadership practices, Az Business magazine sat down with Arizona business leaders to watch in 2022, including Steven Sheets, president and CEO of Southwest Behavioral & Health Services.

READ ALSO: Ranking Arizona: Top 10 behavioral rehabilitation firms for 2021

Highlights of Steven  Sheets interview

IMPACT OF PANDEMIC: “The pandemic has had major implications,
not just on the therapist line but also on our technician line. Our entry-level positions have really been impacted. Recruitment has been a really hard thing when you can go to another industry and make more money for doing a less mentally taxing job, or just doing something that’s not related to human services. I think human services pulls on our mental capacities in so many different ways that what we’re going through is really COVID fatigue. We’ve always had compassion fatigue or burnout, but now it’s just getting bigger because we used to have some breaks where we could have some chat time with our colleagues, but we don’t get that anymore if we’re doing remote work.”

SOURCES OF PRIDE: “We didn’t shut down. That gives me a lot of pride. We stayed engaged with our staff. That gives me a lot of pride, too. We acted fast and it helped our employees know that we had their safety at the first decision point of our brain, and they could tell we cared about their safety in general. We tried to become — it’s harder sometimes in a virtual world — more responsive to those who had concerns. Even moving into this next year, engagement with our staff is our No. 1 goal.”

FUTURE OF INDUSTRY: “I think it’s probably going to be a new normal. I think hybrid work is good. I think it actually does a lot of great things for those who possibly weren’t able to work, but now they can in their home. I think that hybrid work is here to stay, but I don’t think we’ll ever lose the need for physical space where people come in and be a part of a session, a medical appointment or a psychiatric appointment. There’s too much value to see people face-to-face and to actually engage with them. I can’t see that going away completely.”

IMPACT ON NEED: “I think the pandemic already has created a greater need for our services. I also think that we’re able to see people more effectively through different means. I believe that people are becoming more comfortable with expressing how they’re truly feeling when they’re in times of stress or times of uncomfortableness, and I think that is going to continue to grow.”