Cultivating leadership in yourself and others is such a journey.
I have been at Penn-Mar for 26 years – supervising people for 24 of those years – but I can say with all honesty that I still don’t have the leadership piece all figured out.
I know there are so many more things that all of us can do to continually lead the way by improving what we do, and how we do it, in order to provide the best outcomes for the people we support at Penn-Mar.
When I first joined Penn-Mar, I had no intention of staying here more than three years. I wanted to be a collegiate volleyball coach. I had very little experience working with people with disabilities and I really thought my legacy would involve coaching.
And strangely enough, my professional career has indeed evolved around coaching, just not in the sports world.
In all the time I’ve worked at Penn-Mar I have never thought about “climbing that ladder.” I’ve always been very happy and engaged with what I was doing because I always found opportunities to grow in ways that mattered to me.
We talk about “transforming life into living” for the individuals we support and my time at Penn-Mar has been about transforming my personal and career life in ways that I could never have imagined 26 years ago.
The human services industry is evolving at a staggering rate. There are so many positive advances being made every day in how we support people but there are many challenges, too, particularly attracting and retaining good employees.
The legacy that we as leaders are living is about the people we support and the Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) who are with them every day. That’s where the rubber meets the road in terms of what our lives need to be about.
It is very important to our CEO Greg Miller that our leadership team is continually evolving to stay ahead of the changes around us. A few years back he recommended that we all read a book called The Effective Manager, by Mark Horstman. The author defines a leader as someone who gets results and keeps people. The book outlined tools and principles we could use to help us achieve that ultimate leadership goal.
I found myself going back to his writing for principles and philosophies, the most important being “get to know the people you supervise.”
To learn how to do that better, our team committed to having weekly meetings with each person they supervise to find out, first-and-foremost, what’s on their mind, using the sessions to offer support and guidance where needed. It’s a paradigm shift from when meetings were about top-down agendas. Now it’s about taking a weekly one-on-one approach to build effective relationships with the team members we are charged with supporting.
In my new role as Chief Operating Officer, I am working to ensure that there is “One Penn-Mar” by establishing a consistency to the way our supervisors are managing and leading their people, no matter where they work, regardless of what they do. We want everyone to have same kind of experience, goals and success.
That’s the leadership journey we’re traveling now as we strive to become better leaders to get better results and keep good people on our team. With that mindset, we can ensure that the individuals with disabilities who we support will have better lives.