Someone recently asked me if I believe I am a good communicator. I responded, “Yes.” He asked me, “Why?” I then shared a story that isn’t a secret, but I seldom share publicly.
I was in group therapy for 20 years. The group included a core of about 10 people from different walks of life: from employed and unemployed business professionals to teachers to social workers. And every week, we shared our stories with each other. At the time, I faced personal challenges, including some family issues that prepared me for my current work at St. Joseph the Worker, and the group provided an objective sounding board. How could I do things differently?
That laid the foundation for me on how to be a good listener for helping myself – but as importantly to be direct, transparent, and empathic when I provide feedback to others and to effect positive change. This helps me empower family, friends and colleagues to understand how they can reach beyond their own self-imposed limitations.
Then I received a follow-up question. “Do I consider myself a visionary?” How do you answer this question without sounding self-serving? So, I decided to share this story:
We aren’t all born visionaries. Sometimes, it’s a skill we discover later in life. I consider myself a late bloomer. I was once stuck in a career that often didn’t resonate with me. I earned a living, raised a family but was averse to taking risks. Then I decided to become an entrepreneur and joined the leadership team of a start-up private equity firm investing in niche assets which at the time was a cutting-edge strategy (think music publishing rights, carbon credits, farmland and patents). My colleagues and I successfully grew the organization post the economic crisis of 2008-2009 by identifying unconventional asset classes and developing ideas for raising capital and investing that most others had not tapped into.
Moving forward, it was that experience that led me to consistently re-imagine what is possible including moving my family cross-county, changing careers, connecting with new audiences – and eventually working at St. Joseph the Worker. Here, being a visionary means not only thinking about broadening our services , but also stepping back to figure out strategies for delivering our services thoughtfully and efficiently.
An effective visionary takes inventory of where an organization stands, looks into the future, leverages available resources, and deciphers what is possible consistent with the organization’s capabilities and opportunities: Its mission. Its staff. Its financials. It’s about thinking of what’s not only possible, but realistic.
So, why is any of this important? It’s common for many of us, especially as nonprofit leaders, to hear about the importance of vision and communication. We hear these concepts so frequently, sometimes it’s valuable to take a moment, reflect and ensure we are achieving these objectives and not simply checking the boxes. Towards that end, I try to keep a mental scorecard every day.
Do you feel you’re a good communicator and visionary? If so, why? What led you to achieve those important goals?
In addition to his role as COO/Acting CEO at St. Joseph the Worker, Dean Scheinert is a member of the Phoenix Business and Workforce Development Board, and chairs the Governance Committee and sits on the Investment Committee for the Arizona Public Safety Personnel Retirement System – the second largest public pension plan in Arizona. He holds an MBA from The Wharton School.