Non-Profit Leadership: Celebration, Through the Lens of the CEO

people sitting on benches

As I posted several weeks ago, I feel it is important to celebrate with our staff on their achievements throughout the year. Particularly while working with difficult clients it is significant to acknowledge how challenging this intensely important work is to our clients and their families.

Today we had that kind of day at Lakeside. We invite our entire staff to our largest campus and bring in food trucks for lunch. I with my associates take the role of serving drinks to the staff so I can see and great each one of them. We also acknowledge the accomplishments of certain staff who have had decades of tenure with special gifts while the entire staff cheers and congratulates them on their awards. It is a great way to have some relaxing time together, which allows the networking of all our programs with each other, and we end our school year on a positive culminating note.

people under a tent

Throughout the day as the CEO of Lakeside I realized that my lens was constantly reflecting and changing throughout the day. At first as I was serving drinks, I recognized the importance of doing the little things for staff that made them feel honored. Just the simple reality of having a lot of variety of drinks to choose from created fun, excitement and a special sense of being valued. The appreciation for all that we gave them was tangible and so many expressed it to me throughout the day.

people standing near food truck

The energy as they networked together was palpable. We used music, food and a great outdoor atmosphere to create an environment where they could sit together on a beautiful day, enjoy the beauty of our well-landscaped grounds and step into each other’s worlds to get to appreciate the depth, character and encouragement of each other. It created a sense of connection that really could not happen throughout the year since we have so many locations in which we operate our programs for students and training.

When we gathered and everyone was in our gymnasium my mind went to a place of stewardship. I realized how important our administration was to support all of this amazing staff and their families. Their salaries, benefits, work conditions, and all the tools needed for them to function were so important to recognize. It added some stress to my perspective but also a significant sense of purpose to my role as well as other leader’s roles to ensure that our staff was always fully equipped.

3 people standing
(LTR: Bob Finley, Ivenette LaCount, and Delana Woodward)

I also learned the importance of staff joining to celebrate each other. As we honored years of tenure and 3 retirees who had all put in 30 to 40 years each to our mission, the enthusiasm was energizing and so very meaningful. It was incredibly synergizing for staff to cheer each other on as we celebrated the impact they have had over all those years. 

Finally, it struck me how important it is that non-profits continue to do their work. We have been hearing tragedy after tragedy in the news about what is happening to our children and teens in mental health episodes, with suicide, drug use and gun violence.  These one-to-one encounters with thousands of students is irreplaceable to prevent these kinds of consequences.  If we are to mitigate this social crisis, we as a group of caregivers need to be in the lives of our kids to help them get the help they need and provide life skills and tools to them so they will be equipped to make better choices and build healthier lives.

people standing inside building

In a single day of bringing a staff together, the CEO lens can see so much and realize how our leadership is so meaningful, significant, dynamic and full of potential and hope. That kind of day is important for all of us who are leading non-profits!

Gerry Vassar


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