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Jon Kidwell is a leadership and business coach who helps leaders in mission-driven organizations succeed. This is the first article in a six-part series devoted to helping you lead, build, care for, and navigate impending issues that will impact the future of your team and your organization. In Part One, we address the neglected community. 

The community you neglected is your next crisis. And, that crisis is here. It’s happening right now. I have no doubt you’re feeling it. The question is, are you finally choosing to see it? And how will you choose to respond?

What is the neglected community? It’s the group of people you call staff, the employees of your organization, your team and the first level of community in your care as a leader.

Surprised? Then one of two things is occurring. You’re a leader who prioritizes the mission, your people, and creates a culture that honors and strengthens both at the same time. So now you and your team are boggled by The Great Resignation. Well done! Or, you are feeling the full weight of your best people leaving, physically or just mentally, and attribute it to COVID fatigue, better opportunities and offers they couldn’t refuse. Not to mention the struggle you’re facing to fill open positions. You’re not alone.

For Such a Time as This

It is an extremely challenging time to be a leader. We are in the middle of intersecting crises – health, societal and economic. And sadly, like many other places in our lives, we neglect the people close to us as we try to manage and fulfill all our other duties and commitments. For nearly two years you’ve felt this burden and wrestled with what to do. Often feeling paralyzed, as a leader, because there is no one right way. Beyond that, it feels as though your every word and action is being dissected, scrutinized and judged. It’s an awful feeling, and it’s not right.

And yet, if you remain silent and do nothing, nothing will improve for you, your people or your organization. It will get worse. The community you serve and your staff will get what they need by going elsewhere. As a result, this burden will increase, not decrease. And the organization will suffer, and perhaps face a Blockbusteresque like extinction. Blockbuster had the brand, real estate, market share and people. When they faced a growing problem in their community (convenience) and chose to do nothing, for too long, that community went elsewhere. Blockbuster is bankrupt and the entertainment community grew nearly $1 TRILLION since.

No, I think you’ve come to your role as a leader for such a time as this. It doesn’t matter if you’re CEO, ED, team leader or any position in between, it’s up to you. A community is less about what one person can do for everyone. It is more about what each of us can do for one another. And the need for community, a group of people united together around a shared purpose, is more apparent now than ever. Whatever your role is in the organization, the responsibility to act and lead falls to you. And that means starting to positively influence change wherever you lead because leadership is influencing others in pursuit of a shared purpose. Don’t go the way of Blockbuster because you neglect to honor and strengthen the first level of community around you – no longer staff but team members.

What’s in a Name?

Think about it. There are members, board members, program members and community members. And then there’s the staff. Like the word employee, staff furthers an us versus them mentality inside the organization and creates an unnecessary divide between a leader, or leadership, and the team. Most importantly, any of us in the community rec space know ‘staff’ is a bacteria commonly found in the men’s locker room (actually spelled staph).

On the other hand, a team is a group of people that come together to achieve a common goal. And how great a goal that would be to build stronger, healthier communities by starting with the team whose mission it is to do just that.

Will changing the name from ‘staff’ to ‘team members’ solve team member engagement, retention, remote work, customer service, hiring and compensation? No, let’s not tint our glasses that rosy. And still, it may just be the keystone action that indicates the heart of the change that is to come. This is a great place to start because where your heart is, is where what you value lives.

Because the team isn’t feeling it, and they need to or they will leave. Learn what’s going on and what will make them feel valued in the next article.

Jon Kidwell

Jon Kidwell coaches leaders in mission-driven organizations. He helps leaders develop the leadership and business skills they need to succeed with a mission-driven, people-centered approach to getting results and growing impact. For over 15 years Jon worked in nonprofits, 11 with the YMCA, most recently as vice president of innovation and operations for the YMCA of Greater Houston. Jon is the founder and president of The Kidwell Team and teaches Organizational Leadership at Concordia University Irvine. Connect with Jon by email at jon@jonkidwell.com, on LinkedIn, or visit his website jonkidwell.com.

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