“Rather, in humility value others above yourself.” – Philippians 2:3
Maybe it is a function of a new year and establishing some personal resolutions, but I have been taking stock of how I have been working and trying to make adjustments based on the ever-changing circumstances. Making adjustments, especially in this climate, is absolutely critical if we are going to be successful.
In her report to our board of directors last month, Toko Thompson (Vice President and Chief Financial Officer) amplified the critical fact that going into 2021, we will not be able to operate with the same margin for error. She shared how she had used all the “tricks” she had at her disposal over the past 10 months, such as contract renegotiation and deferment of certain expenses. This alone changes our approach and the decisions we can make, though in some ways, making adjustments based on the availability of resources is somewhat easy; it is defined for you, or rather, “it is what it is” (pardon the cliché).
The challenge for me, however, comes with respect to my approach to all of you. Today marks day 302 of our sojourn. I know how difficult this has been, both professionally and personally, for each of us. We have been pressing hard to have an impact, looking to create ways to keep our members actively involved and our Y afloat – AND WE HAVE, AND WE ARE! It is incredible what all of you have accomplished. I mean that – those words are not just lip service. I am in awe watching what you are accomplishing and how you are doing it.
There are so many great examples of our team in action. Just last week, Cassandra Soria (Youth Director, Mel Korum Family YMCA) and her team worked to find every possible way to offer gymnastics to youth – whether by providing outdoor training or offering indoor workouts before youth go to school, allowing gym space to be utilized for more gymnasts later in the day. Lynn Wilmot-Stenehjem (Association Director of Arts) and her team have been leading the way for our association in testing the boundaries of the virtual platform, continuously exploring new ways to keep our members engaged in arts programming. Under the new guidelines, arts will be provided in a combination of in-person services and virtually, on a week-to-week rotation (the participants will rotate from virtual to in-person). Experimenting with different ways to keep people engaged is powerful thinking. Lynn is also working with the childcare team to explore ways to incorporate virtual arts into the program delivery at our childcare sites. This will open an entirely new way of working across departments that will cultivate our programs in a way that utilizes our amazing talent more efficiently and effectively.
This is exciting; in fact, it is groundbreaking. When I think about reimagining our Y, this is a big part of it – working across departments and capitalizing on our talent and resources. It changes our Y; we become a much more powerful operation. We begin to break down the silos and truly see ourselves as one Y. When camp became part of our membership model, it opened up new options for our members – but that was just the beginning. Sharing ideas and working together is what will propel us forward. I get energized when I see this in action, and I continuously try to push us in this direction; this is where I am challenged. Changing a culture does not happen overnight, especially when we are still fighting to survive.
Last week, the state released new guidelines allowing us to offer indoor services once again. Brian Flattum (Vice President and Chief Operating Officer) and the operations team responded immediately with a plan that provides our members with both indoor and outdoor classes and the ability to exercise safely. The response from the team was “other-worldly,” operating as a cohesive machine (as if they have been there many times before). Stephanie Roberts (Executive Director, Gordon Family YMCA) and the aquatics team (Danielle Behr, Bev Eredia, Sandi Rose, Amanda Collins, Yasuko Conyer, Denise Landis, Michael Guill, Brenda Wilkes, Tyler Yurina, Houston Schafer, Chalen Brown, Nina Stauffer, and Hannah Martinson) have been working furiously to understand the guidelines and prepare for over 1,000 youth in swim lessons. Back in December, they called 4,000+ members to gauge interest, though we were not entirely sure the state would permit us to offer swim lessons. When we learned last Tuesday that we could offer the program, the team jumped into action and began re-engaging staff so they could be ready to operate by Monday. It was a heroic effort, momentous actually, as evidenced by Brian’s emotional response as he described it in the Staying Connected call last Friday.
I recognize how hard everyone is working to move our Y forward – and you are doing incredible things – and yet I continue to press us to evolve and reimagine ourselves. We just do not know how much longer this pandemic will last or how the world is going to respond once a more normal existence returns. As a result, we have to scrape to discover new ways to engage our community. We have to live in this state of fluidity, constantly assessing and adjusting, exploring new methods of work. This past week, amidst this “Herculean” lift by the team, I found myself continuing to press, fearing we still needed to climb. I also realize this is not an easy message to receive, especially when you are giving everything you have. It is important to acknowledge the great effort you are giving; I definitely do not want to send the message that our team is not doing enough.
This has been an incredible lift by our team and we are meeting the challenge head-on. I realize we are learning as we go, adapting to an uncertain world. Your effort has been inspiring and it gives me confidence that we will succeed. You are an awesome team and I truly am honored to be on it with you.