Sustained Growth

 

Climb Wyoming received a federal grant several years ago to expand from one service site to six, the non profit organization kicked into high gear. Suddenly, there was a huge opportunity to serve vastly more single mothers, helping them climb out of poverty and into higher-paying jobs. Executive Director Ray Fleming Dinneen and her small staff got right to it – with gusto.

The rapid expansion was exciting and demanding, but it left little time to focus on other elements critical to sustaining the growth over time, such as leadership structure and department integration.

“It’s not as if we were having trouble as a team, as much as just really wanting to improve our skills.” said Dinneen, who founded the nonprofit in 1986. “We had just been so focused on getting services out to the women, especially during our expansion years, that we were out of balance as a leadership team.”

To help achieve that balance, they turned to Steven Chen, whose background in psychology, organizational leadership and group facilitation was the ideal combination for Climb Wyoming, which sought to retain its values while maturing as a business.

Chen had the perfect tool for the job in his consultant’s toolkit: the Highlands Ability Battery. The program evaluates individuals and teams exclusively on abilities, not interests or skills or career development, and strives to ensure that staff members are in the right place, using their natural abilities and not stressing or over working.

Chen had been performing these abilities assessments with staff members at the various sites for a year and a half when Dinneen approached him to work with Climb’s six-member home office leadership team. The team was composed of Dinneen and those in charge of Climb Wyoming’s communications, accounting, development, operations and programs.

“Sometimes, you know, the team’s operating but it’s not quite working and you don’t know why. Steven really helped us look at why this was happening.”

The leadership team, which had been individually assessed in advance, met together with Chen for a day-long workshop to explore how the team could be more effective. What resulted from the workshop, Dinneen said, was an “amazing” restructuring of job descriptions. Tasks and responsibilities shifted among the existing team, allowing the organization to move forward into its strategic vision.

Dinneen also noted, “It helped me understand who I need to hire because I have certain strengths, and I need to make sure that my weaknesses are filled by strong individuals.”

She said Chen’s facilitation skills, expertise and organizational experience helped energize the Climb leadership team. “It’s helped us look toward the future and move to the next level in our growth,” Dinneen said. “It makes it really exciting. It’s like we’ve grown up.”