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YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka: Creating An Organizational Culture to Serve Our Communities

Since becoming CEO of the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka in June, I’ve enjoyed spending time with staff, reaching out connecting with the various communities we serve, and meeting more than 450 staff, volunteers and key leaders in our communities. As a result of these outreach initiatives, three areas have emerged that need to be considered as we move forward with a new strategic plan for 2012-2017: culture; operational excellence and communication.

In my next few blog posts, I am going to address each of these themes in a series, beginning with culture.

Building Strong Communities

Your YMCA has roots that go back more than a century. Now more than 60,000 people in 25 diverse communities in the County of Simcoe, the District of Muskoka and Parry Sound, each with their own culture and individualized needs are part of your Y. This diversity creates a unique set of challenges.

Your Y should be recognized as a community leader in lifelong health and personal growth. In fact, our Mission Statement affirms that goal; “The YMCA is a charity that excels in strengthening our communities by providing opportunities for all to grow in Spirit, Mind and Body.”

YMCA Organizational Culture

From my outreach and meetings, I heard and observed that we have to focus more efforts on building our culture. I am committed to creating an organizational culture that understands its role in our communities that is mindful of who we are, and who we are serving. It is a culture that embraces our values of honesty, respect, caring, responsibility and inclusiveness. It is open and transparent for all.

Although we are very proud of our accomplishments our culture needs to be less about telling people about our accomplishments and more about listening to people share their story about how the YMCA has made a difference in their lives. One of the first steps in changing our culture is to listen more and give more people a chance to engage in conversation with us. With listening, we begin to get more of an “outside-in” perspective and a better idea of how we are perceived and the roles we might play in a community.

We will continue to work hard to develop an organizational culture that understands and serves our communities. We will strive to make our YMCA leaders more visible and accessible within all of the diverse segments of the communities we serve. We will work hard to connect, adapt, communicate and grow our culture to build strong communities.

Your feedback and ideas are a valuable source of insight into how the Y can create an organizational culture to serve our communities. I welcome your thoughts and comments as we work together to focus on this initiative.

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Strengthsquest - self assessment

• Identify your top 5 talents
• Learn the power behind your talents and how to intentionally apply them daily
• The benefits and power of a strengths based approach
• The tools to begin your StrengthsQuest journey and establish a strengths based culture

Leadership Communication

• Identify your communication style
• Gain awareness about the impact you have on others based on how you communicate
• Learn techniques and the awareness needed to be a truly great communicator

Transformational Leadership

• Defining leadership throughout the ages
• Learn to differentiate between trending concepts on leadership to those that are proven, relevant and applicable today
• Learn to identify what leadership styles have influenced you and what leadership style and the characteristics you would most like to exemplify. What form of leadership is your team or organization led by? Which style would have the most impact?

Strategic Planning

• Why is it important?
• How does one get started?
• What makes a good strategic plan? – learn the essentials

Team Effectiveness - Stages of Development

• Be provided with the tools needed to assess at what level of performance your team is working at
• Learn to kick start and transition your team to one that is highly performing

Mindfulness - Group Approach

• Strategies, techniques & its importance towards attaining a work/life balance

Strengthsquest - Motivation and Engagement

• Learn to manage your talents and those of your team as an interactive process
• You will be able to assess if you are in the right role and determine if managing people is the right fit for you? Are you developing or damaging your teams?

Managing Performance

• Tried and true tools perfect for staff evaluations
• You will be able to differentiate between critical behaviour needing intervention versus behaviour that can be coached
• You will be provided with the tools on how to address staff behaviour & coach your teams


• Learn the science, physiological & psychological responses that impact decision making and personal interaction
• You will be able to look at the work environment through a different lens noting its impact on potential employee performance and learning the means to intervene and influence for better results

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership Resiliency

• Provides additional insights on how you are perceived and how that awareness can lead to greater impact as a leader

Change Management

• Examines the impact change has throughout an organization and provides you with the tools and understanding of how to navigate through change with the least collateral & cultural damage

Conflict Resolution

• Learn the tools needed to be able to find the common ground needed to move beyond an impasse

The Art of Persuasion

• Realize the weight of your words and actions and how to put that knowledge to the best use
• Where do you fit within the political milieu?

Strengthsquest - followership and leadership

• Move beyond what your individual talents contribute to a team and start to learn to intentionally aim & maximize the talents of others
• With this understanding you will be able to address and provide what your team members need from you as their leader

Principled-Centre Leadership

• You will learn to appreciate and consider the weight of responsibility that comes as you evolve as a leader
• You will examine ethical dilemmas and the means to address them, as well as the consequences those decisions may have

Philanthropic Leadership

• Learn a strategic approach to philanthropic visioning for your organization. As the funding landscape changes so too must our approach to philanthropy
• You will examine your readiness to adapt to these changes and how to instill a framework and culture of philanthropy that can be sustained for the long term

Board Governance

• Learn the importance of Governance and the essential role it plays as part of any organization
• Learn to assess at what stage of Governance your board operates at and how to move their level of engagement should your organization be ready for the shift
• You will be given the tools to fully understand & implement best practices of governance into your organization

Collaboration and Strategic Partnerships

• You will be provided with the tools in order to assess the readiness of your organization and your board to collaborate or partner with another organization
• We will discuss and examine what governing practices need to be in place in order for collaboration to not only occur but also succeed

Unconscious Bias

• Everyone is biased. With that understanding and acceptance you will learn how to make decisions that acknowledges the role bias can often play within that process
• You will discuss best practices and be provided with the tools needed to implement them

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