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Behind every great team is a great leader. Some leaders are born with the right drive and passion, while some learn over time to develop and grow their skills. Amanda Fall, the executive director of the Central Branch YMCA in Fort Wayne, Indiana, places a great deal of importance on developing leadership qualities in her staff.

The staff at the Central Branch YMCA is made up of 95 percent part-time employees. Because of this, they are constantly on the look-out for employees who can move into a more permanent position with more responsibilities. When found, employees are recommended to take part in a six-week leadership training institute, hosted and created by the association, intended to develop staffers into better leaders.

“Staff must apply to go through the training courses, as well as have a director’s recommendation,” said Fall. “The group meets monthly to learn about leadership and has off-site projects to complete, and at the end of the six months, they receive financial compensation if they have attended all of the classes. Investing in our part-time staff, encouraging them to take trainings, develop skills in other departments, and ensuring they not only believe in our mission, but practice it in all they do in their time at the Y, are all ways we work to develop leaders within our organization.”

But in order to receive a director’s recommendation, employees must do work that makes them stand out from the crowd. The Central Branch YMCA is a mid-sized location, with 12,000 members and around 100 employees, which makes it easier for directors to spend time with each employee to see where they excel. Fall makes it a point as the executive director to help out in each position to get to know her staff.

“I like to go to the basement and fold towels with the towel guys, talk to the lifeguards about college, and get to know the Group X instructors,” said Fall. “It’s important to leave your office and work with your staff. I sign up members, I work the membership desk and I clean the machines. All of my full-time staff operate in the same manner. By working alongside our part-time staff, it is easy to identify their strengths.”

As the directors work with each employee, they are evaluating them for key characteristics, one being they are mission driven. The mission, as Fall explained, is “to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build a healthy spirit, mind and body for all.”

“If a staff member is using our mission and our core values of honesty, caring, respect and responsibility to guide their decision making, to guide their interactions with members, and to develop programs to impact our community, they can’t go wrong,” said Fall. “The YMCA is such a unique place where all walks of life come together to do so many different things, from exercise to volunteering to taking CPR classes to learning English. Because of this, as a leader, our staff must embrace the ‘for all’ in our mission. If you aren’t ‘for all,’ then you aren’t for the Y. You can teach other leadership traits, but none of that matters if the love and passion for the mission and core values are not there.”

Working to develop and grow leaders at your community recreation center should be constant. People move, retire or take a new job, and it is important to have staff you trust and are assured can handle the job, no matter what sort of turnover you experience.

“As community recreation professionals, we have to be diligent in constantly developing new leaders and ensuring knowledge is spread throughout the organization, not just kept with the person running the program,” said Fall. “Also, we must all be self-aware in that we each have areas to develop and improve in. We should each be constantly evaluating not only the leadership qualities of our staff, but also of ourselves, so we can all strive to be better. Everyone, from the top down, should have someone they meet with consistently who challenges them to be better. Everyone should want to be better, and a true leader realizes this.”

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