Monday, February 6, 2017

Recommending 'The Four Elements of Success'

By Marisa Geitner, President and C.E.O.

Leadership development is important for all of us as we grow within our work and gain alignment with what fuels us. One of my favorite leadership reads is The Four Elements of Success written in 2005 by Laurie Beth Jones. Despite its age, it remains a relevant resource. It is grounded in the realization that throughout our worldly existence we have an innate need to form teams and bond with others, while acknowledging the good, bad and ugly that comes through the human dynamic of relationships. 

The book groups behavioral tendencies into understandable terms we can remember by using the elements of nature: Earth, Wind, Water and Fire. The definitions, matched with the elements as we know them, makes the tendencies more understandable and easy to discuss. For example, we can easily think of the qualities of fire -- hot, unpredictable, smoldering, fast moving, brilliant, colorful, mesmerizing, forging, etc. Perhaps we can also easily draw association to those whose behavioral tendencies lean toward that element. We can then draw correlations related to the interaction between elements -- fire is fed by wind, cooled by water, etc. We can understand the strengths and challenges among elements just as we see the dynamics among human tendencies. 

Our team at Heritage Christian studied this book in early 2006. It allowed us a safe and comfortable way to discuss our dynamics as a team. We learned so much about one another and how to better work alongside each other. I even remember some of my colleagues who lean toward predictability, stability and planning (Earth) would post signs on their doors during busier times of the month that said "No Wind Zone." It was a fun and safe way to suggest to their somewhat relentless, unpredictable, more impulsive coworkers that this wasn't a good time to pop in and brainstorm. Our experience was so successful through the book study that we welcomed Laurie Beth Jones in for a deeper dive into the concepts. To this day many of us still identify with the elements when digesting team dynamic and working to appreciate the needs of those around us. 

It is a quick, enjoyable read for teams, and it's just over 250 pages. If you give it a try, I don't think that you'll be disappointed. This leadership resource stands the test of time.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Son of HCS founding family remembered

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." 
-- 2 Timothy 4:7

Robert "Bob" Pieters -- a man who influenced thousands of lives by inspiring his parents to help create one of the largest nonprofits in Rochester -- died Tuesday. He was 54.

Bob and his sister Karen were born with developmental disabilities and medical challenges that prompted their parents, Robert and Marie Pieters, to join two other families in founding what is now known as Heritage Christian Services. Today, the agency serves people with disabilities, children and older adults in 13 counties. Its state-of-the-art health and wellness center, the Pieters Family Life Center, is also named in honor of the family's contributions to HCS.

Throughout his life, Bob loved traveling and being near the water.  He went twice to Disney World and once to Dollywood, the theme park of his favorite country singer.  He also enjoyed simply being outside, fishing and cooking s'mores on the fire pit outside his home. He never turned down the chance to have a hotdog or garbage plate, especially on his birthday -- which he shared with his dad. He loved being an uncle, riding around and exploring the Rochester community and hosting driveway parties for the neighborhood, family and friends.

"Bob leaves behind an incredible legacy and his life serves as a powerful reminder that we all have a purpose, that we all matter," said Marisa Geitner, president and C.E.O. of Heritage Christian Services.  "We are thankful for the important role he played in our founding and for the honor of having known him."

Bob is survived by his parents, former president and C.E.O. Robert and Marie Pieters; brothers Dan (Raynae) Pieters and John (Gaye) Pieters; sisters Karen Pieters and Kim (Tim) Clark; and nieces and nephews.

Calling hours will be from 3 to 7 p.m. Friday at Anthony Funeral Chapels, 2305 Monroe Ave. in Brighton. A celebration of life service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Pieters Family Life Center, 1025 Commons Way in Henrietta. A reception will follow. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Listening for the truth

Written by Marisa Geitner, president and C.E.O.

"But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light..." John 3:21

Sometimes the truth is hard to find -- and hard to hear -- but it is always worth seeking. Anything less means narrow perspective and guaranteed misalignment.  You're building on an unstable foundation, one that will crumble when changes and difficult times come.

Right now we are facing steep challenges as an agency and as an industry and the only way to succeed is to listen to one another share our truth and that means listening with an active ear, seeking to understand all perspectives. Some of our truths are pleasant. They are things that we celebrate, like reaching more people in need of support through our community support programs and the opening of a new Expressive Beginnings Child Care. We celebrate those we have been able to welcome into our residential and day programs and all those we are supporting in seeking employment.  How blessed we are to partner with over 100 different employers!  We are also sharing education and best practices across the country through the Center for Human Service Education.  Certainly much to be thankful for, but some of our truths are tough because they threaten our ability to serve, like securing the resources to pay our support professionals a higher wage.  In addition, the demand for our support continues to grow and the funding necessary to offer equal access for those with more complex needs, remains insufficient.

If we listen, we can work together to figure out how to live out our mission. Some of the key places we're starting:
  • ·         We are advocating for a liveable wage for support staff so we can attract and retain high quality employees. New York state is increasing the minimum wage in the Rochester and Buffalo areas to $12.50 an hour by 2021 with the goal of reaching $15 an hour shortly thereafter. Today, if we were to pay people a minimum wage of $15 an hour, it would impact almost 80 percent of our current employees. We project it would cost our organization – including our child care and  community services businesses – $8.3 million a year. 
  • ·         We are expanding our emerging services such as community habilitation, brokerage, employment and fiscal intermediary services in both the Rochester  and Buffalo areas.  We will also continue to work toward offering a variety of housing options including certified settings, customized settings and other affordable housing options.
  • ·         We will continue to differentiate our employee  recruitment and engagement strategies in order to introduce dedicated, diverse support professionals  to those who choose our supports.
  • ·         We are working to offer the people closest to us the chance to recognize support staff with a note of thanks or encouragement electronically, and we are again offering educational opportunities for managers and directors. For example, we'll use a $100,000 award from the New York State Department of Labor for managers and emerging leaders to participate in leadership training during 2017.

Truth be told, we need your help. We need your commitment of time and talent and treasure. We need to listen to one another so that together we can be guided by the Truth and prioritize our efforts and ensure a powerful impact -- to ensure that the service experience people expect can be met.
We move forward into 2017 with grateful hearts for  the richness of our blessings while working together to fulfill our mission.

May you have a blessed 2017.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

How to learn from each other

By: Torey Richardson, Health Support Professional

 Working at HCS has put numerous things into perspective, but most importantly made me realize how blessed I truly am. Often times we take the simplest things for granted without giving it much thought. Imagine not being able to verbally communicate your wants and needs -- and imagine the communication barrier that can create.
While many people are fortunate to have friends or family call and visit or even go home for the holidays, others for various reasons are not as fortunate. This is why forming relationships with the people who choose our services, and also helping foster relationships is crucial. By making these connections we are able to better support individuals by not only learning how they communicate, but also teaching others how to communicate with them. This results in limitless possibilities. Individuals are able to join groups within their communities, socialize with their neighbors, and much more. I believe it is our responsibility to change the stigma that ignorantly implies that if a person cannot verbally communicate, then they cannot communicate at all. There is so much that we can learn from each other, if we know how and if we are willing to try.
For people recently hired and for people interested in getting to know someone who communicates differently, there are many options to help you be successful:

·         Find out what the person likes. It is always easy to engage someone in a conversation about common interests.

·         Learn American Sign Language or other ways of communicating. (Heritage Christian offers classes that teach staff how to use sign language.)

·         Ask senior staff. They were once in the position that you may be in, finding it difficult to communicate with someone. They may have useful tips that can help.

·         AND GIVE IT TIME! A lot of the individuals that we support see many different staff members come and go. The person may just be shy so give it time and eventually they may come around.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

How to find direction

By Marisa Geitner, President and C.E.O.

We might say that the first step to citizenship is to have control over our own life, but the second is to give that life direction. - Simon Duffy
Control without direction can be a risky combination. We have all found ourselves there from time to time as we work hard to gain authority over our own decisions and life, only to find we aren't quite certain what direction we'd like to head. We are just certain that we don't want others deciding for us. That's when we take a breath and remind ourselves that understanding our goals and purpose is a journey not a destination. It’s the discovery along the way that makes life so interesting.

When it comes to contemplating purpose or direction, I find perspective means everything. A healthy balance of what was and what will be should be considered. Sounds simple enough. Although you know, it's likely we spend too much time looking backward -- consuming so much of our energy on what was, retrospectively turning over our experiences time and time again in order to shape our direction, our next step. While that is an essential ingredient in healthy self-awareness it doesn't alone get us where we need to go.

To shift to a prospective view we need to ask questions. Where have we been? What have we learned? What would we do differently? What outcome do we hope to see?  What is the next step?

Purpose is like any other innovative process, it doesn't follow a straight line and it's rarely predictable. It ebbs and flows with the twists and turns of the dynamic world we live in. And yes, I know where those twist and turns take us can be very disorienting. We all get lost from time to time. That's where perspective again saves the day, just ask the questions.

As our purpose and direction take shape, we need to exercise our leadership skills as well. Why? Because we don't succeed alone. We need to encourage others, those close to us, to come along with us. We need to take hold and lead others in the direction that nurtures and respects our unique purpose and contribution, while also being thoughtful of theirs. We need the support of our natural networks to enhance our discovery along the way. Those we share time with are influential on our journey.

Balance experience of the past with hope for the future. Welcome others into your direction and aspirations. Enjoy the journey as your purpose is revealed!  Happy travels.

Friday, September 2, 2016

A focus on friendships

By Marisa Geitner, President & C.E.O.
A recent study published in the Psychology Bulletin suggests that the older we get the fewer and fewer friends we have. They go on to explain that while our social circles generally expand into adulthood, friendships actually peak and begin to decrease as early as our 20s! In addition, sociologist Gerald Mollenhorst found that we tend to lose half of our closest friends every seven years and replace them with new relationships.

I guess it stands to reason with life changes in adulthood like heading off to college, changing jobs, moving, beginning a family, etc. that our friendships frequently drift apart, even when we work hard to make them a priority.

Despite this somewhat grim realization, friendships and allies remain an essential ingredient in successfully navigating the adult world, so how do adults make new friends?  How do we build professional networks of allies? Well, adult lives can get a bit routine, so first we need to hop out of the proverbial box. We need to step out of our day-to-day routine and places of comfort and put ourselves in a position to cross paths with new and different people from time to time. If we do this we will have plenty of choice and likely connect with others who are the best match for us.

Next, we have to adjust our time. Notice I didn't say make time. Without being able to add another minute to the day, often where we need to focus is in adjusting how we are spending our time in order to better include others. I have begun inviting a friend along as I run errands; company and conversation certainly make that trip much more fun.  I also exchange help with tasks that are daunting alone; asking a colleague to help me finish up a big project by its due date, knowing that I will make myself available to assist them with their next big task.  It never hurts to invite others. Don't be afraid to ask and don't assume they are too busy! Just ask.

So why am I taking your time and attention to speak of friendship?  It’s essential in our personal lives and in our business success.  Our friends help us navigate adult decisions.  Allies, when welcomed into our conversation, help us achieve the collective impact we are hoping to have.  We are serving in transformative times alongside a very transformative organization- Heritage Christian Services.  It is our relationships and the experiences we have together as a result of those relationships that make this organization different.  We welcome others to help us achieve great results! 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Citizenship: The opportunity to serve a greater purpose

For the last few years, Heritage Christian has focused on the idea of citizenship -- the idea of honoring and respecting the rights and responsibilities that we all have. We've invited Anna Skinner, associate director of day programs in the Buffalo area, to share her thoughts. Anna...

I continue to try and wrap my head around the definition of citizenship and how it applies to our everyday life. I’ve also stepped outside of looking at it from a personal perspective and have tried applying it to a person who may have an intellectual disability. My outcome...there is no difference.

Citizenship applies to all people: In my eyes the definition is very complex but at the same time can be looked at as very simple. This involves building connections with people who have a common purpose and interest. It's a give-and-take relationship and for most people being an engaged citizen provides a strong sense of self worth, belonging and contribution.

A big question is, "How do we welcome people as equals?" This too can be very complex or looked at with a very simple answer: Be the person that welcomes people with open arms. Provide your time, talent and treasures and allow people to share theirs as well.

Think back to when you were finally able to get a job. The thought of earning your own money and having the freedom to spend it on whatever you wanted was awesome! The scary part of this journey was not having the experience, which is what we face in every step that we take in life. Experience helps you gain knowledge and skills. When people have the opportunity to gain experience and are exposed to new things this will ultimately build up our community and provide others with the opportunity to serve a greater purpose in life.