“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu
I’m excited to share that this past weekend Easter Seals Serving DC|MD|VA began an important, guided journey working with Unlocking Potential, a new nonprofit founded by Carly Fiorina. The goal of this journey is to strengthen our leadership capacity so that we can do even more for our community.
We chose to work with Unlocking Potential because its philosophy is so aligned with Easter Seals’ core values. It was founded on the leadership philosophy of its Chairman, Carly Fiorina, that leaders are made, not born; that everyone has far more potential than they realize; and that people living closest to the problems are best positioned to solve them.
It is so humbling to lead the incredible Easter Seals team. Over 50 of our team members from all levels of the organization chose to spend their weekend – in the midst of the holiday season – at a leadership workshop. Led personally by Carly Fiorina, the team worked to understand our opportunities and needs and begin the hard work of defining solutions that will position us to expand our services and impact on the community. The program was great because it balanced important, far-reaching leadership lessons with a practical, implementable focus. Amazingly, at the end of two full days of hard work (and, let me repeat, on a weekend!), the team was laughing, excited, and energized by the existing strength of our organization and the opportunity build on it to do more.
I am personally so grateful for the opportunity to learn from Carly and her team, and I wanted to share a few takeaways. Surprisingly for me, a crucial lesson was not just what Carly said, but her demonstration of true leadership behaviors. For example, she was truly present in every session and synthesizing the comments and feedback real-time – she wasn’t just delivering a planned lecture, but making her key points in the context of Easter Seals’ unique questions, comments, and position. It reminded me how important it is for me to step back and focus on the moment, no matter how many other things may need my attention – that’s living our core value of Respect.
She also reminded us that criticism is the price of leadership. Easter Seals is stepping up to innovate, and with innovation comes risk. Sometimes we might not achieve every goal, and the naysayers will be quick to say “I told you so,” but in trying we achieve a lot more for our community.
As we worked together, we identified some important opportunities for the Easter Seals team. For example, as the organization grows, we must ensure that all of our team members understand the breadth and scope of our services and their important role in our success.. We all want to speak with pride about the great things Easter Seals does, and help our community members access our services, but we can’t do that without sufficient information. This is an important opportunity for me as CEO to ensure that I communicate to every team member both what we do and how important each individual is in delivering our mission.
Frankly, there’s also some fear about the pace of change, and that’s understandable in an organization that has almost doubled in size over the last five years. I recognize that every individual who works at Easter Seals has a hard job. We are in the trenches every day delivering intensive services for the most vulnerable members of our community. That is a big responsibility. Then to say that in addition delivering an exceptional experience for every participant every day we ALSO need to innovate and change. That can be challenging, maybe even scary.
And that’s why my responsibility to our exceptional team is to ensure that they have the training and skills to take that on – to make it a little less challenging and a lot less scary – and why I’m so excited about our partnership with Unlocking Potential to build our capacity to achieve these ambitious goals.
It was a great weekend – and a great first step – on a 6-month guided journey with Unlocking Potential and a lifelong leadership journey for Easter Seals team members.