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Staff Leadership and Management / Storytellers

Leading with Heart

heart balloons floating in a blue sky

I come from a family of immigrants, a fact that I will always take pride in. When my mom first immigrated to the US from the Philippines in 1978, she came as a nurse and settled in Chicago before ending up in Los Angeles. She spent over 30 years in the healthcare field as an RN here in LA at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and absolutely loved her job — it was her calling — until she retired a few years ago.

girl playing with a doll while her caregiver works on a laptop in the background

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

It was her cousin, my Uncle Vic’s calling too. He followed the same pattern, ending up on the opposite coast in New Jersey as the Assistant Director of Nursing at a care facility for seniors. And just like my mom, he had a knack for making sure everyone around him was well fed, well rested, and taken care of. Phrases like, “Have you eaten yet? Let’s fix you a plate,” were quite common as soon as you saw him. But their difference in age meant that Uncle Vic was one year from retirement when the COVID-19 crisis hit and he succumbed to the virus after doing what he loved: taking care of patients.

All of this to say, in the scramble for businesses to adjust to this new normal, and with the consequences of the crisis hitting close to home, I am reminded of the bigger picture.

window flag reading Together We Will See It Through

Photo by Taylor Vick on Unsplash

The pandemic is challenging us in many different ways. Essential workers on the front lines are putting themselves at risk every day. Those of us with the privilege to be able to work from home are dealing with the mental burden of being cooped up at home for what will be two months, maybe longer if necessary.

We are doing our best to keep our businesses running in these times. It is unfortunate that many have had to lay off staff or close doors, or worse, have taken advantage of the crisis.

At arc, the after school organization where I serve as the Communication Design Manager, we have kept staff on our payroll. The HR department has shared free resources and benefits for staff in need and has made themselves available to assist with any needs, work-related or otherwise. Brad, our President and CEO, has held weekly check-ins to update our team with news and he answers any and all questions from staff, from the line to senior managers. During these uncertain times, it is comforting to hear from a leader regularly, to be assured that no question is a bad question, and that sometimes, we may not have all the answers.

All of these actions have been taken with the recognition that yes, we are trying to keep a business afloat. But a business is nothing without its people, and that their wellbeing comes first. One of arc’s company values is “We are humble, kind, hopeful, and joyful.” I take pride in knowing that our leaders live those values, as demonstrated over the last few weeks.

Poster reading Be Kind. Let's Look Out For One Another.

Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

At the end of the day, it isn’t the seemingly endless Zoom calls nor the mountains of projects that will be remembered. What matters is the kindness we extended, that the humanity of our colleagues took priority.

It is during challenging times when the cracks show. But it is also during times like these when we are given an opportunity. When we move past all the finger pointing and regrets of what we could have done, let us consider: what are we doing at this moment in time – so that when the dust settles, our future selves can be proud of what we’ve done? Are we going to crumble, or will we reinforce the pieces with gold to come out more beautiful and vibrant than before? We can choose to bury our heads and say every person for themselves, or we can choose to be like the Uncle Vics of the world and lead with humility and heart.

I vote for the latter.

For breakfast, I had greek yogurt with granola and fresh strawberries. 

Author: @stephanie

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