{jcomments on}Some of you who read my blog may actually know me, however, many more of you, may not. So, I will start by noting that I wandered into the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) as a young and eager college graduate in 1979 and over thirty years later, I am still here! Starting as a volunteer, I became President & CEO in 1987, and I have had quite a remarkable journey. This blog will share with you some of my many thoughts and experiences about leading a non-profit organization over more than three decades.

In many ways I think of myself as an “accidental President & CEO,” as this was not my career aspiration. As a college graduate with a liberal arts degree, I had no career aspiration other than wanting a job where I could do good work in the world by supporting those who were less fortunate. I moved to Washington, DC, wanting to “make a difference.” Looking back, I am very proud of my “baby boomer” values, as they brought me to the doorstep of LAYC.

At the end of each day, I can truly say that my work has made a tremendous difference in the lives of thousands of young people. Navigating the very complex, sometimes turbulent, too often bizarre, and occasionally crazy challenges of leading a non-profit organization committed to making a difference in the lives of youth in the Greater Washington region will be the focus of my blog.

As I write, the Brazil / Netherlands World Cup quarter final is underway. Shouts of “GOOOOOOOOOL” throughout LAYC’s anchor site building remind me of the World Cup games four years ago and a leadership lesson that I learned. Without realizing it, I had planned a full staff retreat on the opening day of the 2006 World Cup games. At LAYC, soccer is a big deal! The opening game featured Costa Rica, and one of LAYC’s most-loved staff members is from Costa Rica and a huge soccer fan. Looking around the room that morning at distracted and disappointed faces, I realized that there was no way this staff retreat was going to succeed while everyone was eager to watch the World Cup opening game.

Thinking acknowledgement of the issue would help resolve it, I said, “If we had a TV we could watch the game, but since we don’t let’s just go ahead and have our retreat.” That was when staff innovation kicked in. Our meeting was taking place in a building with no access to cable. Noticing cables running into the apartment building next door, several creative LAYC staff members went to the building and managed to convince a woman none of us knew to let us tap into her cable. Climbing in and out of windows and jerry-rigging wires into our meeting space–and the problem was solved. If I remember correctly within minutes, they had also found a TV.

A bit bothered that my well planned retreat had been hijacked by the World Cup, I quickly realized that the retreat had begun with a team-building exercise better than any I could have planned. LAYC’s ingenious staff successfully attacked a problem to the joy of all. As staff sat watching the World Cup together, I realized leadership at that moment meant letting LAYC staff have fun together and enjoy the game. No one remembers who Costa Rica played, some may remember that Costa Rica lost, but everyone remembers the cable jerry-rigging, and the story is retold by staff as an example of how LAYC encourages initiative and is a fun place to work. Staff initiative and enjoying coming to work each day: both are aspects of LAYC I value highly and have worked hard to promote. As I sign off to go watch the Brazil / Netherlands game with staff in our IT office, I leave you with this thought: May your team always be a winner.

I will look forward to hearing from you as I tell my stories and share my experiences. And I will look forward to hearing your experiences too! We share a common passion. If you have any specific topic that you would like me to write about, just let me know. To be continued…!

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