I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on what it means to be resilient. Certainly, our personal and organizational resilience is being tested this year. When I moved into the role of Executive Director at Two Wheel View a little over three years ago, I became extremely interested in how organizations build and maintain really great cultures that inspire and support passionate people to move the mission forward. To me, there is a strong connection between culture and resilience, each a pedal of the same bike, each supporting each other while moving forward. Strong cultures build resilient organizations and the building blocks of resilience contribute to a great culture.
I know there will be many more lessons and reflections along this adventure but here are a few of what the first half of 2020 has taught me:
Build trust and allow for authenticity
The development of trust starts on day 1, WAAAY before its ever tested. It’s about being consistent and doing what you are saying what you are going to do. It’s about genuinely caring about people and listening closely to know when someone is hurting or stressed or struggling. It’s about being able to trust that when you bring your full self to the workplace, that your team members see you and support you. The TWV team shifted from delivering programs in 9 communities all over Calgary and filling our shop with laughter and logistics, to having programs cancelled and working from home, essentially overnight. I wholeheartedly believe this would have been so much harder if we hadn’t cultivated a high level of trust and genuine authenticity with one another.
Create a 'people first' environment
We prioritized taking care of our team and our youth participants. We quickly ensured everyone had what they needed to work from home and shared resources that members of our team might find useful as they adjust to a new situation while managing mental and physical stresses. We kept our facilitator team informed about what was happening and redistributed their efforts to other projects since they couldn’t be working directly with the youth. We gathered resources and consulted experts to ensure we were making the best decisions possible for our team members. I’m proud that we were able to redeploy our front-line team to other projects, keeping them employed and connected during the early months of pandemic.
ABL: Always Be Learning
We asked a lot of questions and did a lot of listening. What can we learn from this? How can we make programs better? What do we need to build our resilience? What does our team and our community need from us right now? What will programs look in the future? There are always more questions than answers but having an always learning/always improving culture has helped us to see these questions as opportunity and not get paralyzed by uncertainty.
Look for what you do have control over
We know that because of the current circumstance, donations that organizations like ours depend on, will undoubtedly be fewer going forward. We can’t control that. What we can control is what we pour our energy into, the items we have available in our shop and how we help those in our community by filling our unique role. Growing forward, you’ll see more from our social enterprise bike shop as not only a great place to find your next new-to-you bike but also as an empowering place of learning, opportunity and employment for our youth and more opportunities for our volunteers to get in on the action.
Be flexible. Look at the time as an opportunity
Right from the outset we decided to look at the quarantine as a gift of time. We considered the items on our strategic plan that required time, focus and dedicated energy and started working on those. Since the middle of March, we’ve started using a new people management system to help us better communicate with and support our participants, donors and volunteers. We worked with a consulting group to develop a business plan for our social enterprise bike shop. We finished our 2019 Impact Report and celebrated our successes. We worked alongside a consultant to help us with our fund development planning for the future and the board has been working on developing and updating of some policy and procedures at their table too. The facilitator team recorded stories from their programs, made program improvements and created new learning materials. These are a lot of behind-the-scenes projects that would have taken a lot longer had we not had this time to invest in the work and TWV will be a lot stronger for it.
“Look for the helpers” ~Mister Rogers
We had so many of our wonderful volunteers reach out to check on us and offer their support when the time was right. We had several volunteers fixing bikes at home to help us finish up Bike Club, get ahead of the high demand in the shop and keep our spirits high. The helpers are there, even when we can’t be face-to-face. We cannot thank these individuals enough for being in our corner right now.
The organizations that will survive and thrive in the next phase of this adventure will simultaneously build culture and resilience. Each of these lessons and opportunities is a result of many people who believe in our culture and our ability to be resilient. As I look forward to what the future might hold for Two Wheel View, I know there will be many more lessons but from my time in the saddle, I know that if you push those pedals enough times, over and over, eventually you’ll end up where you want to go.