Become a mentor. One of the most powerful acts of kindness we can do is show someone the inner workings of our operation. A mentor is a lifelong commitment. A mentor allows an individual access into spaces they may feel they don’t belong or even have access to.
I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Dr. Lanetta Greer.
Dr. Lanetta Greer has served as the director of Home 4 the Heart, Inc. since she started the nonprofit organization in October 2007. She earned her doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and a bachelor’s and master’s in social work from Washington University in St. Louis. She has worked as a social worker, psychotherapist, educator, trainer, author and activist. Dr. Greer has co-written and volume on multicultural learning and teaching for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her facility, Home 4 the Heart, Inc. has been selected two years in a row for the 2020 Best of Milwaukee Award for Social Services Organization and now qualifies for the Milwaukee Business Hall of Fame. She is engaged and lives in Milwaukee and has one beautiful daughter, Klayton Grace.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
On May 12, 2006, my life forever changed. My father, who had survived cancer, passed away. At the time, I worked for Catholic Charities in a dual role as a psychotherapist and school social worker. And I was a doctoral student at UW-Milwaukee; completing my final semester of course work, before moving onto prelims.
My father was described as humble, generous and hilarious. I remember coming home after work and finding random children sitting on the porch chatting with him. They would leave with a few coins of change, a good laugh and some stern words of encouragement to stay out of trouble. My father not only planted seeds of wisdom in the words he spoke, but he also had a green thumb. Every year family and friends would come by our home to pick collard greens, turnip greens, tomatoes, cucumbers and green onions from the garden. His passing had a huge impact on my family and community, initially making it difficult for my mom and me to remain in the family home. We decided to put our childhood home up for sale. Our community responded. We had become apart of so many families in this neighborhood; watching each other’s children and grandchildren grow up.
It was my brother, Charles, who initially came up with the idea to open a group foster home for teenagers. Charles had worked within the Child Welfare System for over 25 years. Charles saw firsthand the needs of children and families and suggested that I would be the perfect person to fill those needs (especially for teenage girls). I knew my brother and I had received so much love and support from our parents in this home and our community in this neighborhood growing up; which would make it ideal for my girls at Home 4 the Heart, Inc. My hope was that the village (who had played such an important and crucial role in my upbringing) would also show up to steer My Girls at Home 4 the Heart, Inc. in a positive direction.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I believe the most interesting story I can share is when a young woman returned to Home 4 the Heart, Inc., after aging out of our care. It was truly an eye-opening experience. It was enlightening to hear about how she had maneuvered through life after leaving the system. She told me about the other girls (from our program) that she remains in contact with as well as some caregivers too. We laughed about funny behavior challenges we overcame while she was in our care. She shared photos of her children. This made it all worthwhile. It renewed my faith and hope in just how much of a difference Home 4 the Heart, Inc. was making (and could make). What I didn’t know is this would be the first of MANY girls who would return and share similar stories.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I made when I was first starting out involved a partnership with UW-Milwaukee where students were able to complete their Internships at Home 4 the Heart, Inc. Up until this point, I had only hired caregivers to work at Home 4 the Heart, Inc. I had a routine and systematic approach to organizing personnel files for state compliance. Why would these files (or staff for that matter) be any different? Well, I found out there is a huge difference between caregivers and volunteer students (which is essentially what they were in this position as an intern). The first difference in staff and volunteers is working alone; volunteers must always work alongside a regular staff. The second difference was volunteer file requirements; which were nowhere near as exhaustive as a regular caregiver personnel file.
I learned it is important to not make more work for yourself. There was a big difference in state requirements for caregiver files versus volunteer files. And having a second person on-site could prove to be promising for our girls in care (i.e. de-escalating crisis, sharing job duties). This lesson learned would eventually allow Home 4 the Heart, Inc. to be recognized by the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare. Concordia College Mequon partnered with Home 4 the Heart, Inc. and sent social work students to complete their internships too.
Can you share three reasons with our readers about why it’s important for a business to have a diverse executive team?
A diverse executive team gives your business an advantage. A diverse team can bring new ideas, a broad understanding of client needs and innovative skill sets to the table.
More broadly can you describe how this can have an effect on our culture?
A diverse team can influence our culture because most professionals who may have previously felt like they didn’t belong, now feel heard, respected and appreciated for what they bring to the table.
Can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do help address the root of the diversity issues in executive leadership?
- Become a mentor. One of the most powerful acts of kindness we can do is show someone the inner workings of our operation. A mentor is a lifelong commitment. A mentor allows an individual access into spaces they may feel they don’t belong or even have access to.
- Allow people of color a seat at the BIG table. The goal is to have diversity from the bottom to the top of the corporate ladder. Once given an opportunity inside, people of color must be allowed to create, lead and direct. Their voices must be valued. They must be given the tools and support needed to accomplish professional goals.
- Create partnerships. Celebrate others’ successes. Find ways to build business relationships and healthy partnerships. Networking is an excellent way to establish professional connections.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is…..keeping a level-head, instilling hope, being physically/emotionally available, being a mentor, finding the bright side of things, talking your staff off the “ledge”, sharing a smile/laugh, and most important of all, loving what you do!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- The girl’s behavior challenges come from a history of trauma and often have nothing to do with you, even though you are on the receiving end of it.
- You can’t please everybody. However, you can listen and take their feelings into consideration.
- A problem will not be solved overnight, but it can be solved. The key to problem-solving is learning the lesson.
- You will pay people/entities that don’t necessarily show up to work. Businesses pay taxes, insurance and accountants none of which work a shift at the business.
- Our girls may not understand the rules that you have in place now; however, when they become young adults, they grow to appreciate the skills and lessons you were trying to teach them.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I want to purchase a building and create a resource center for current and former foster youth. The resource center will offer education, employment and housing assistance. The resource center will have a health and wellness focus. We would maintain a food pantry and offer hot meals throughout the month. We can partner with local medical professionals to come and offer free/reduced dental, physical and mental health services. This resource center can be replicated in other cities.
I would create a national network of former foster youth. These now adults (who had previously been in out-of-home care) could mentor, support, link and nurture relationships with current foster youth. This resource center would be run (staffed) with former foster youth (allowing volunteer opportunities for current foster youth).
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
If you can see her, you can be her! So many of our girls can’t see past their current circumstances. They find it virtually impossible to see a life outside of the system. They often feel hopeless. I want every girl to know they can become anything! I want girls to know that any goal they have is attainable with hard work, dedication and patience (especially through the hard times). And most of all never lose hope that the good you are putting into your life, will eventually pay off BIG!
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Tiffany Haddish! Tiffany Haddish has used her platform to educate the world about life in the system. Tiffany openly talks about life and lessons learned in various places she has lived in. She shares her insecurities, strength and resilience. I purchase her books and give them to my girls at Home 4 the Heart, Inc. I want my girls at Home 4 the Heart, Inc. to explore their unique gifts and talents and know they can accomplish great things in life too.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Facebook Profile: Lanetta Greer — https://www.facebook.com/lanetta.greer
Facebook Page: Dr. Lanetta N. Greer — https://www.facebook.com/Dr-Lanetta-N-Greer-106475347797721/
Linkedln: Dr. Lanetta Greer — https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-lanetta-greer-3872a113/
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!