Monday, December 7, 2015

A holiday wish for peace and mercy

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

Fear and conflict have such a significant way of overshadowing the values that should define us. In the wake of the attacks in Paris, San Bernardino and elsewhere I found myself wanting to abandon all logic and act out by attacking those who threaten us. In those moments, acting on fear alone, I lost my bearings.

Thankfully, it was my faith community that swiftly brought me back into focus and reminded me that peace begins with me and how I treat people. I heard the reminder loud and clear – that I chose a faith defined by peace and mercy. Peace was the gift given to me.

Peace does not mean passive. My heart hurts from all of the violence, and I need to do something. Seeking peace is very active, a vision, a choice, a way to approach each interaction, each day. In the weeks since the attacks I have kept peace and mercy my vision. No matter the conflict that arises, large or small, I center myself on the vision of peaceful resolution.  

It has helped me to be thoughtful and honest with my words and to seek to understand others’ perspectives in order to find common ground in our solutions. Most importantly it has helped me identify when fear and anxiety rises in me and clouds my vision and threatens my values.

As we continue through this season of thanksgiving, celebration and renewal, I wish you a vision for peace and a passion for demonstrating mercy to all. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

How are you building community?

Photo credit: Shawn Dowd, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
By: Marisa Geitner, President and C.E.O.

The work of Heritage Christian is about community, community as a place and community as a relationship.  It is about empowerment, acceptance, personal growth and responsibility to one another.  It is about the reciprocity that comes through relationships and shared experiences.  This commitment to one another defines us. 

This commitment was illustrated symbolically when we unveiled Stronger Together on June 24, 2009 in front of the Pieters Family Life Center.  As the artist’s statement illustrates, "The columns do not stand alone but rather exist symbiotically – in a relationship where the two depend upon and receive reinforcement from each other." The artist Juan Carlos Caballero- Perez then goes on to reference the importance of his very own citizenship and relationships.

It is our passion for community that drives us to ensure that everyone – including children, older adults and people with developmental disabilities – feels valued and respected and has opportunities to do what matters most in life.

What are you doing to help build community?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Celebrating ethics

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

On Sept. 28, Heritage Christian Services was awarded the 2015 Ethie Award in the large company division. What a nice recognition for the love and dedication that goes into each and every day of support to our mission.

A show of confidence for those who choose our supports and services. Trusting us as a guide as they lead the way to the outcomes that are most important in their lives.

A testament to our families and their patient support from the time of our founding. Welcoming others into a trusting relationship and supporting them as they navigate the way alongside their beloved family member. 

An honor for our employees who choose every day to serve with excellence. Approaching each interaction with an openness and creativity. Differentiating themselves by the relationships they achieve with those they support.

Demonstrating social responsibility is important for any company but it is essential for a company who supports people. Ethical behavior can't simply be well laid out on paper or achieved through steadfast policy, it must be lived out through every interaction.

The journey to do what is right is also just that, a journey. We haven't arrived, there is much more to be done. We continue to learn how all people can be more present within their communities, have their own voice and exercise greater authority over their own lives – and we continue to see community as a place and as a relationship.

Thank you to all who are on this journey with us.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Value of Relationships

By: Marisa Geitner, President and C.E.O.
I have been reminded recently just how hard it is to say goodbye. No matter what may be driving the change, when someone’s presence in your life changes it can really sting.

Imagine how that is magnified for a person who welcomes others into her life for her most personal care and support needs. Imagine how that compounds when you lend your time to nurture and develop a new support relationship only to have it interrupted by change. Imagine if you are one tasked with consistently finding and hiring new talent to serve our important mission. Each time we say goodbye to a colleague we have enjoyed and invested in, our hearts naturally harden a bit. As our loss compounds it begins to impact the way in which we welcome others into the relationships and the work that means so much to us.

At Heritage Christian we are proud to surpass national rates for direct support retention but it is never good enough. Not only does it have a significant impact on those we support, it is wearing on those who we serve alongside.

As we stretch to meet individual needs in new and diverse ways our need for dedicated employees is immense. We have ongoing, aggressive recruitment efforts in place and we are always honing our investment to attract the best candidates. Even so, with such high hiring standards, we only offer employment to about 22 percent of the people we meet. Therefore we need to continue to meet many people who may be inspired to serve our Christian mission. Each of you can have an active role in introducing us to caring, compassionate people. We appreciate the support.

In addition, each of us who continue to experience loss when someone's role in our lives change, will continue to prayerfully find ways to open our hearts so that  each and every time we demonstrate the welcoming culture that has defined Heritage Christian. Amazing people will be directed and attracted to this great mission as we continue to let the light shine!

Monday, August 3, 2015

The importance of nurturing individual success

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

We are so proud of the programs and services we have been able to offer to our community throughout the last 30 years. We know they have been essential in creating the right atmosphere for relationships to blossom and experiences to shape learning and development. That's when we really see amazing results.

You see, organizations don't achieve personal change, people do. Our role is a guide, a well-educated, dedicated guide. But the true influence Heritage Christian aims to have can only come through personal achievement, one person at a time. We won't see sustainable impact without nurturing individual success.

We are committed to the social change necessary for our community to thrive. We support individual growth through good listening and supportive action. We also know this kind of community impact takes a strong network of allies. It helps us to inform our choices and gain a common vision. Done right these community networks may be invisible to those choosing our services, but they will be among the most powerful forces we can channel for the greater good of our mission.

That's what makes our work day to day so vital. Every day we need to be at our best, nurturing just the right experience that will support personal growth. This defines the difference between good work and true impact

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Gift of Millennials

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

Many often hear me repeat a quote born out of research based on the Pygmalion Effect. It goes something like this, "Treat a person as they could be and should be and they will become as they could be and should be, treat them as they are and they will remain as they are."

It’s the first thing that comes to mind when I hear the seemingly nonstop criticism of the Millennial generation, which by the way is the largest and most researched cohort to date. I'm referencing those born between 1980 and 1999. Those who represent, according to the US Census Bureau, more than 80 million people in today’s workforce across this country. They represent 1,110 members of our Heritage Christian Services workforce. That's 62 percent of our total workforce today! In terms of those we support, 50 percent are Millennials.

I'd like to share some general facts that keep me encouraged about our present and future workforce. Despite the national tragedies that have filled their upbringing, they are largely known as optimists. As a widely diverse generation, they demonstrate tolerance of race and they demand equality. They can be masters of self-expression. Nurtured right, this can be a method of developing awareness at a young age. They know themselves and that helps them plot their own opportunities and development. They have demonstrated care for others in need, and they get involved. Their self esteem allows them to be assertive and they have high expectations. It's not a corporation that earns their loyalty, but a good supervisor and team. They value relationships. Did you know they will often rely more on the feedback of those they trust than on the plethora of research they have at the tip of their fingers? They watch and listen to learn.

Is it any wonder Millennials have such an impact at Heritage Christian Services?  It’s a value match right from the get-go. Our culture fuels the entrepreneurial spirit in them, and they appreciate the freedom to develop strong relationships with those they support and those they work with. They are encouraged by the ability to share experiences that help others (and themselves) navigate what matters most. They appreciate diversity in their work sometimes even more than advancement. They want to have an impact when they invest time. They appreciate life as a journey and they don't mind a wild ride.

I’m thankful for people of all ages who work here because all those generations are making sure we’re able to serve future generations.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The importance of wisdom

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

"Practical wisdom is the combination of moral will and moral skill."- Aristotle 

I would imagine every business would suggest it aims to hire employees who demonstrate moral will,  that is, those who demonstrate a consistent desire to do what is right.  I'm also certain that companies would admit that those same employees don't always demonstrate the day to day ability to use that desire to do what's right to navigate very colorful and unpredictable workplace scenarios, otherwise known as moral skill.  Aristotle suggests the disconnect is due to the lack of practical wisdom.

What does practical wisdom look like at work? At Heritage Christian Services, wise people navigate and prioritize assigned job responsibilities in a manner that ensures service to others is always the top priority.  Wise people master improvisation, they know how to meet the expected outcomes of the work while creating an experience that ebbs and flows with the dynamics of the day.  A wise person knows how to use his or her moral skills to support the true intention of the work they are there to do. Not just the tasks they are assigned to do. Wisdom is an earned gift, it takes time.  Wisdom isn't born, it's gained.

Wisdom doesn't come with age alone or just any old experience. It takes time with the right experience.  We each need time to understand the result that our work can have. Time to understand those who we are supporting and what it is that they truly want from their experience with us.  We need to learn in an environment that allows us to improvise, to try new things and yes- occasionally "come up short" and learn from our mistakes.  We also need to seek and learn from mentors who are wise teachers.  

Who in your work environment do you consider practically wise?  Watch them, ask them questions and thank them for the model they set for service to others.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Passive consumers versus active customers

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

It was the early 2000s when I first remember the use of the term "consumer" being confronted in the human service arena. Dr. Tom Pomeranz, a nationally known advocate for Universal Enhancement, shared that the word has had spotted past – a past associated with terms like squander and waste. From that day forward that word was not used to describe those who chose the supports and services of Heritage Christian Services. Like other misused or antiquated language, hearing that word was like nails on a chalkboard.

While the word is used less and less, I wonder whether the human service industry has truly made the transition. Do we respect those who choose our services knowing they have authority over their decision making? Authority in the investment of their resources? Are we accountable to meeting their individual outcomes? Do we fear that without innovative, broader support options, we may no longer offer what individuals want? Will they therefore take their business elsewhere?

I believe human service, of any kind, shifts when we see active customers versus passive consumers. Far too often, particularly with those with intellectual disabilities, we believe we know best.

Let’s be sure we are active along with our customers.  Let’s be sure we are bringing our expertise to meet them where they are, not where we believe they should be, and offering the support for them to direct and achieve what matters most to them.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Create the job you love, in a system you can influence

By: Marisa Geitner, president and C.E.O. at Heritage Christian Services

Create the job you love, in a system you know you can influence.

That's what I heard the day I offered my resignation from Heritage Christian in 1996. It got my attention!

When I began working relief at Heritage Christian, it had never been my plan to remain beyond my degree. You see, I specialized in my graduate studies with the goal of working in healthcare. When that first offer came from an area hospital, I knew I would love the job because I had been doing it part-time and it was all I'd hoped for. It was time to move on, even though I loved the work I was doing at Heritage Christian. I knew I would always serve the agency in some way, even if not a paid employee.

But the "system you know you can influence" kept me thinking – and kept me here. It was a challenge that was hard to ignore.

Now I find myself serving in my third year as president and C.E.O. I'm quite confident I have held more unique job titles than anyone else in the history of the company to date (although there is plenty of time for someone to beat me). What a ride it has been. As to my influence, I'll leave that to my Maker to decide someday, but no one can argue that I was given the opportunity to influence.

It's that promise I believe we seek to offer each and every employee to this day. Opportunity to influence. To make this the job and the heartfelt work you need it to be. A chance to find fulfillmentmaybe not every single day because we all have our ups and downs, but fulfillment collectively. It's the heart of our FutureYou commitment and it is mission right: Respectful experiences. Opportunity to learn, to mature and to grow. A life of dignity, worth and expression to which all are entitled. 

Embrace the challenge!  What's holding you back? How are you being called to serve? Who do you trust to support you along the way? 

Here are a few tips to get you started: 
·         Be open to honest feedback – Ask for it. Brace yourself and listen. It's a hard thing to do but it gets easier with experience.
·         Differentiate yourself by excelling at something others seem to shy away from – Set yourself apart through service. 
·         Have fun – Suggest a new job title that reflects what you believe you bring to your work. The more creative the better!

You are working within a company you can influence. Enjoy it!