Note: This post is for those who want to know my philosophy on leading systems change, for those who are wondering why I left Hope Services and what my plans for the future are, or for those who are curious about how I find inspiration when feeling terrified about not being in control of every-single-aspect of life.
Since 2015, I have had the great privilege of leading an outstanding team of professionals at Hope Services Hawaii. When I came on board, our island was realizing an upward trajectory in homelessness year upon year. Then in January of 2017, the data showed that our island had experienced a sharp decline and reduced homelessness by 32% - leading the State of Hawaii in ending homelessness and achieving the lowest rate of recidivism. How did a team of 50 individuals accomplish so much in just 12 months?
It started with honest, challenging internal conversations about social service vs. social control. These conversations were followed up on with internal system changes in policy and procedures to reflect what we believed. Next, our external communication to stakeholders and the community changed. We no longer tried to be the agency who could "solve everything a person experiencing poverty faces". We focused on our goal - to end homelessness. We let employment experts be the experts on employment, and legal experts be the experts on legal issues. We let mental health and substance use providers be the experts on their subject matter expertise and we focused our time and energy on doing everything we could to end homelessness.
Throughout, my focus was on the team - providing resources they needed to be more effective, and listening so I could identify what was taking their time and focus away from what mattered most. I spent time with them and saw their strengths and created more opportunities for them to succeed, and I worked to provide more training when I saw areas of weakness - or - take tasks off their plate and reassign it to someone who excelled in that area (data entry - LOL). If the job of the team was to help a person experiencing homelessness succeed in reaching their housing goals, then it was my job to do everything I could to help my team to realize that success.
At the end of my second year, the leaders of the team began saying with confidence and excitement in their eyes, "I can do this. I want to be given more responsibility. I want to grow."
And I thought, "Oh my gosh. This is the moment."
The NannyMcPhee-LaoTsu-LightningMcQueen moment of leadership.
Cue Boys II Men It's So Hard To Say Goodbye.
Let me explain.
Nanny McPhee - "When you need me, but do not want me, then I have to stay. When you want me , but no longer need me, then I have to go."
Lao Tsu - “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”
Yes - it was the right time for me to step aside. Friday, September 14th was my last day at Hope Services.
People have asked if my leaving was bitter-sweet. Honestly - I've totally had the Lightning McQueen ending. It's all sweet. It's all celebration because of the growth I've witnessed in all the "Cruz Ramirez" program staff that will continue to race toward big wins to end homelessness.
And so, what's next?
I've joked with D and asked if he was gonna throw me a retirement party.
He just laughed.
So plan B is to step toward long-time goals I've had on hold. In no particular order:
Drink more water than coffee. And when I do drink coffee, drink it from a mug at a table and not a traveling cup in my car.
Complete my PhD. I am currently enrolled in the Doctoral Program of Leadership Studies at Gonzaga University. Leadership Studies is a mix between Human Resource Management/Communication/Personal-Professional-Organizational Development.
Write. Write. Write. Write for fun. Write for publications. Copywriting. Ghostwriting. All.
Teach. Aside from birthing babies and writing, this is my jam. I am so excited to be leading a workshop at the upcoming Women's Leadership Summit. (Register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2018-hawaii-island-womens-leadership-summit-tickets-50032775378)
Connect people with ideas to people who are smart about that idea and can help move that idea forward. I can do this all day.
Stay curious for the next right answer. Remain in positive expectation and anticipation and confidence for certain things to happen. In a nutshell - live with hope.
A few weeks ago, as I prepared to let my team know about my decision to leave, I remembered a conversation I had with several friends in late 2015 - about hope.
"I don't believe in hope", I said.
"I believe if I want something to happen, I work hard to make it happen. But I won't waste my time or my heart on hope."
I know right.... The Universe immediately sent me on a 3-year immersion experience of hope.
Many, many lives have been touched, changed, transformed, even saved - by the team at Hope Services - and one of those lives is mine.
Forever, thank you.
Dewitt Jones is my all-time-favorite-inspirational teacher on leadership and creativity. He speaks about how vision and perception create reality. He speaks about leaving behind a mindset of scarcity and fear and embracing possibility and abundance and seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary. He speaks about finding the next right answer, and a thousand different ways to come at a challenge to find that extraordinary view. And although he never says the word, he speaks about hope.
Desire with expectation.
My dear team, you are worth more than all the cupcakes and balloons and confetti the world could ever offer.