Sunday, August 19, 2007

You Say Goodbye and I Say Hello

You say goodbye and I say hello
Hello, hello
I don't why you say goodbye, I say hello
Hello, hello
I don't why you say goodbye, I say hello.
These are the famous lines from Hello, Goodbye written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney and performed by the Beatles in 1967. These timeless lyrics are resonating with me lately.
This past year, I have said "goodbye" to three of my closest colleagues who together had logged more than 60 years of professional service to Rise, Incorporated. All three had contributed significantly to our organization's mission and success. And all three have now moved forward in their careers to continue the cause in other venues. As McCartney once wrote "The Long and Winding Road" has lead these three leaders to other doors. And all three will be missed.
These three leaders are Melinda Shamp, Becky Fink, and Tony Gantenbein.
After leaving her job as Rise’s Mental Health Professional and Director of our Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS) several months ago, Melinda Shamp accepted a position to direct the State of Minnesota’s ARMHS program initiative. Melinda was a strong advocate of supported employment for adults with serious mental illnesses (SMI) and her considerable expertise in staff development and training helped Rise to receive an exemplary rating in our last national accreditation survey. Melinda’s passion for promoting evidence-based supported employment practices and high fidelity standards for adults with SMI helped to galvanize a new direction for our programs in the Twin Cities Metro and Central Minnesota regions.
Becky Fink’s role in developing affordable housing and supported living services for adults with SMI in Anoka County is legendary. Our organization moved into the housing arena by default more than 20 years ago when we realized that our efforts to promote successful employment and career outcomes for people weighed heavily on accessibility to stable, affordable, and safe housing options. Becky was a pioneer in developing transitional and permanent housing options with associated mental health supports for homeless individuals, homeless families with children, and at-risk adults with SMI. Becky recently accepted a new management position with Mary T, Inc. and will assist in corporate level staff training, policy compliance, and assisting with the company’s foundation. In addition, Becky has political aspirations and intends to run for public office to improve our community and promote policies that she believes so strongly in.
On August 24, 2007, Tony Gantenbein will be leaving Rise after 23 years of service as a direct service professional and manager in our organization. Tony recently accepted a position at the State of Minnesota as a Program Consultant and he will focus his energies on managing policies and providing technical assistance to agencies pertaining to evidence-based practices in supported employment (EBP–SE) for adults with SMI. This new job is a great match to Tony’s skills and career preparation. During his tenure with Rise, Tony managed numerous programs leading to competitive and supported employment outcomes for adults with significant disabilities. He specifically honed his skills in the delivery of EBP–SE through his managerial involvements with Rise’s national Mental Health Treatment Study (MHTS) and numerous employment service demonstrations in support of adults with SMI.
I know what you’re thinking. How does an organization deal with the loss of three key leaders in a span of one year? Panic must be setting in, right? Well actually, no. Truly!
To fully grasp my reaction, I guess you need to understand our management philosophy. Just how does Rise replace these "rocks" who spent so many years representing us? Well, simply said, by bringing in some boulders to address our ambitous goals. Let me explain.
Unplanned change can indeed be disruptive at least temporarily. However, with any personnel change comes enormous opportunities. When an organization is driven by a clear vision, progressive values, and demanding performance goals, it’s a matter of recruiting the right strengths that are needed to achieve desired results. And the specific strengths an organization needs does indeed change over time. The upside of personnel change is that it gives us an opportunity to reassess our needs and reload. And it’s a big part of my job to recruit, reconfigure, and blend the talent we need today and tomorrow to continue in our pursuit of service excellence.
I recently heard corporate management consultant Marcus Buckingham say it this way: "Most companies like to say their employees are their greatest asset. However, what they are really mean is their company’s greatest asset is their employees’ strengths. It’s combined strengths that drive organizational excellence." I agree with Buckingham and have lots of testimony to back it up.
When Melinda Shamp left Rise several months ago, we recruited a talented psychologist named Chuck Loban. In only a short period of time, Chuck has already brought fresh ideas including many new strengths and skill sets we had been lacking in the organization. When Becky Fink left two months ago, it created an opportunity for her long-time protégée’ Kim Bailey to take the reigns and lead our mental health housing department. Kim has also brought her own perspective to the job and Rise is already planning new ventures that will strengthen and diversify our mental health housing programs in the future.
When Tony Gantenbein shared his news with me, I took the opportunity to meet individually with each of his direct reports to discuss our future plans. This is a stellar group of program managers and there wasn’t a hint of panic in any of them. To the contrary, these managers were fully engaged in their jobs and energized by the performance directions we are headed. They were delighted to share their ideas with me and each offered frank advice about what he or she needed most to get us to where we want to be.
Mike Harper, manager for our Chisago Lakes Area programs, summed up the attitude best– "Don, we are doing just fine here. The last thing I need for you do right now is hire someone that is going to micro-manage our programs and get in the way." With a quiet confidence, Mike went on to tell me exactly what he needed from me and our organization to reach his goals. And I intend to follow up right away on his request.
You know, I work in an organization that is blessed with a lot of talent and we are poised to pursue our future goals no matter who is in charge. Of course, we will greatly miss our long-time colleagues Melinda, Becky, and Tony. We are proud of their individual accomplishments and will always revere them as cherished Rise alumni. And it’s very likely our paths will cross again with each of them as these leaders embark on their exciting new careers.
With that said, Rise won’t allow the loss of these individuals to distract us from our important mission. I am grateful there are other talented professionals who share our progressive vision and are willing to contribute their unique strengths to support our worthy cause. The way I see it, Rise is not only going to be alright, we are going to get better. And we have a blueprint to get there.
The Beatles wrote and performed another favorite of mine called Revolution and its lyrics are also befitting of our current situation. A part of the song goes like this...
You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We'd all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We're doing what we can.
Yep, we're all doing what we can indeed. At Rise, our revolution is creating customized employment, affordable housing, and independent living outcomes for adults with significant disabilities. Our revolution goes forward with new faces and talents at the front line. And I say "Hello" to these emerging leaders of tomorrow.


Anonymous Connie Moore said...

Don, well said. As an old believer in a similar philiosophy about company change and a sometimes practioner of the "Who moved my cheese?" wisdoms I second your anticipation of what the future holds for Rise. Great reflection on the contributions of those that have lead Rise to where it is now - on the threshold of seeing "Employment Now" come to fruition!

9:35 PM  
Blogger Don Lavin said...

Thanks Connie. You know, I have worked at Rise for more than 31 years now and I think a little bit of me leaves with outgoing people who are moving forward to greener pastures but have contributed so richly to our past. With that said, there is an excitement and rebirth when new people come and bring their ideas and energy to our organization. I just love it. Every organization needs some renewal to remain healthy in the long run. And I think we happen to be among many that are rebuilding with a maturing and mobile workforce.

11:05 PM  

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