Leading from Afar

At this moment I am sitting at my laptop in my hotel room in Banff having just finished day two of the Banff Management Course with the management team of SERC MB (Sexuality Education Resource Centre), feeling much gratitude that we are able to participate in this awesome team building and training exercise. Being in the role of Executive Director of two organizations has many amazing synergies and challenges that I have spent a great deal of time thinking about over the last year.   One of those pieces is recognizing and supporting the differing needs of each of these organizations in a manner that feels respectful and equitable.  This can be no small task when you work with two organizations that have many shared values but very different services, structures, and resources.

Much of our discussions over the last few days have focused on leadership and communications style and how these things fit within a team.   What do I bring to a team? What do you bring? How can we leverage our various skills to make our team stronger?

These conversations have led me to think about my last two weeks and how teams work across not only large organizations, but different geographical locations- and in our case- different cities with multiple sites and mandates.

Last week I visited both our Klinic and SERC offices in Brandon, MB for roughly the 5th time since I joined both organizations.

Our website describes SERC Brandon as: In Brandon, we’re best known as an agency where people can come for information about sexuality, LGBT* awareness, and other sexual health resources. We participate in many sexual health-related events and activities in the community.  Our goal is to inform and educate people about sexuality and SERC’s services.

To further this goal and our connections in community SERC Brandon annually holds an open house which I was able to attend during my visit for the second year in a row.   I love this event as it is an awesome opportunity to see the team of SERC Brandon coming together and engaging with their community, and did they ever! There were 47 folks that attended the open house and in talking with many of them it is clear that this team has made deep connections in the community.  I am sure that their strategic give away draws may help attendance, along with some great local food!   See pic below of SERC Brandon team member Rune putting together gift packages for draws.
Rune One of the things that I really enjoy about going to Brandon is getting to connect with staff members in person in a way that can be challenging when working across geographical distances.   Every time I go I am struck by what I learn about what we are doing, who we are working with, and how we get the work done.

What I heard often in those first trips was that we have people who are passionate about this work, but sometimes feel the distance from Winnipeg in how they feel a part of the larger team SERC.

This is what I have been thinking about a lot this week. We have been working together to develop more opportunities for discussions, trying to use technology better, and creating times when we can all come together; however, what I have really learned from these folks is that I need to go there, to be there. I have no doubt that if I did not go there with some regularity I would not be able to properly understand the day to day successes and challenges in a way that makes me better able to support the work.

Here are some things I learned from SERC Brandon last week:

  1. We went through 6000 condoms in a very short period this fall and that it’s important to them and the community that we keep them in steady supply
  2. The Brandon team has recently run several Facebook campaigns with United Way Brandon support that are really building our profile on social media (Note- Like SERC on Facebook and check out our contest!)
  3. The amount of community requests for training are often more than we can meet and the team works exceptionally hard to do it all, and needs our support in the back end so they can concentrate on this
  4. The team recently partnered with a group that put on a community play about coming out experiences that were both heart breaking and inspiring, and that we need to do this kind of thing as much as we can
  5. That community partnerships in Brandon are critical to our success as an organizations

Though it is possible I would have learned some of these things in other manners I don’t think that I would really get the richness of conversation that comes from being there, being present. I am grateful for these reminders of the importance of just showing up (evidence of such in pic below of myself with SERC Brandon staff: Kaitlyn, Amanda, and Kerri).SERC Brandon

The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Stay tuned for the second half of my Brandon excursion- The Klinic Manitoba Farm, Rural and Northern Stress Line, and my day in the room.