The miracle of a year…A love letter to my team.

Recently my leadership team went to a 3 day leadership planning session “up north” in lake country.  The goal of our time together was to reflect on the last year and plan for the next year.  The bonus was that we’d get to spend time together connecting, sharing ideas and (hopefully) having fun.  I was anxious and excited for our time together.

As bit of context, last year, we had a similar 3 day session, only last year our goal was to break down barriers, build trust and figure out how to engage in healthy conflict. The bonus was that we’d get to know each other at a deeper level, be vulnerable and grow as a team.  EVERYONE was anxious and I know for a fact that I was the only one that was excited.

To be honest, last years session was brutal; there were tears, defensiveness, shame and pure emotional exhaustion. And, there was also connection, honesty, empathy and pure silly fun (bonfire burning). It was truly the turning point for our team, our culture and my role as their leader.

This years session was intellectually challenging; there was frustration, persistence, productivity and mental exhaustion.  And, we built on the connections, authenticity and pure silly fun (poop emoji’s) that we started last year. It was the building block for our future as an organization and my teams role as leaders.

Which 3 day session would you have wanted to go on? 😉

Unfortunately it’s not an either or answer. We couldn’t have had the productive dialog and planning without the connection.  We couldn’t have shared in each others accomplishments without honoring each others strengths and struggles.  We couldn’t have put the organization and people we support at the forefront of our decisions without having confidence in each other as leaders.

It made me realize….  Even though, on a day to day basis, I don’t always see the progress, it IS there.  Despite the challenges we faced (hospice and death of a few well loved clients, a very real direct care staff shortage, undeniably low wages and accelerating changes in regulatory and licensing requirements) we WERE making progress.  Progress in how we delivered our services, progress in our we treated our team, progress in shifting the culture to one of more transparency and authenticity.  What does that look like?

~ Opening a new model for supporting kids with mental health challenges in the metro area with a 4 bedroom transition home. This will (hopefully) prevent hospitalization or rehabilitation and get kids home and stabilized more quickly.

~ Being the 1st social services organization to partner with DEED on an apprenticeship program for our direct care staff. This is HUGE!  We have an accredited program that no one else in MN has (yet).

~ Flattening our organizational structure, balancing workload and creating cross training in key areas.  This has helped reduce stress and increase our ability to be flexible with how the work gets done.

~ Hosting our 1st Residential Leadership Summit (next week) with our mid-level leaders so that they can experience what we did a year ago (so proud of my senior leadership team for planning and facilitating this summit next week!  They have never done anything like this before, it’s daunting and they are killing it!)

~ Creating a Senior Leadership culture that understands and supports what each other does.  How did we measure that?  Simple, at the session this year we asked each leader to leave the room, one at a time. Then, the rest of the leaders discussed the accomplishments that leader and their team had in the last year. We invited the leader back, shared with them our recognition and validated if we had captured their accomplishments accurately. It was amazing!  The team was not only aware of each others work, but they were proud of each others work. What a feeling!

This is an important reminder for me.  I can get dragged down by the day to day challenges. And, sometimes I think I need to do it all myself. Plus, its hard for me to trust that the seeds I am planting as a leader are germinating when I can’t see physical proof.  I need to lift my head up more often, look around and celebrate our progress.  This is my motivation going into next year and I CAN’T.WAIT. to see what we accomplish this year!

A huge squeezy hug and thanks to my team for being brave in going on this journey with me and showing me that persistence and grit does pay off.