from June Koegel, President and CEO, and Terry Baldwin, COO
for our VOA family
Our President and CEO, June Koegel
Someone shared with me the concept that you become like the people you spend the most time with so you should choose wisely. Of course it simply made me smile because I thought of all of you. When I think of the programs I visit and the amazing and interesting people I meet doing such great work – how can I not be thrilled with the company I am keeping. It is the employee who places their hand on the back of one of our clients to comfort them or the employee who can find a way to make a client laugh in the middle of a crisis or the employee who gives up their last dollar to buy a client a coffee. The dedication and compassion I see every day is truly humbling. It is also the support I see employees giving one another that demonstrates our ability to get more done if we work together as a strong team. When we get phone calls about new program opportunities is isn't because of something we are doing in the Brunswick office. It is because our funding sources are so impressed with what is happening on the front lines. It is because of the quality of our services and the determination of each of you. It is your creativity, joyful approach to your job and your willingness to do the tough work. People often ask me what I am most excited about. It's easy….it is the loving hands that are doing great things Every Single Day!
"We don't know what we don't know. That gap is very important. Its one of the things that I spend time thinking about."
Terry Baldwin has been sitting, actually standing, at the Chief Operating Officer's desk for six months. Unlike other COOs, Terry came to the position with some insight into our organization, first as an Advisory Council member, then as consultant. She had been on our Board of Directors for five years when the COO position became available. We asked Terry to talk about making the transition from Board Member to Senior Staff. Her response revealed much about a COO "systems" perspective, her understanding of who we are, how we operate, and how we move deliberately into the future.
"I met June and became engaged with the organization about 6 years ago. At the time, I was working as an independent consultant. I had just taken a leap of faith and had left a senior leadership role at Diversified Business Communication (a global business-to-business media company) to figure out what I wanted to be when I grow up. Working as a consultant to VOA NNE I was impressed by the organization, and the senior leadership team and I had a good connection with June. I recall listening to June give out the leadership awards at a retreat I attended – she was at the part where she appreciates something about each individual. I remember realizing how much I missed being part of a team like that. It wasn't just about the work for me, I missed feeling like I was part of something bigger and being invested, in a future-focused way, in an organization. This was a personal turning point for me and I decided to find an organization in which I could be invested. There wasn't an opportunity available at VOA at the time. When my consulting engagement finished, I joined the VOA NNE board of directors.
I was looking for my work passion when it occurred to me that healthcare was "ticking me off." I figured being frustrated with something was just a different way of thinking about passion. So I went to work for Martins Point Healthcare. I think there was divine intervention. If I had gone directly to VOA six years ago, I wouldn't have been able to contribute in the way I can now.
Martins Point was a wonderful place for me. I wanted to learn how to make a difference from inside the healthcare system, from a systems standpoint. They are very invested in "Lean Healthcare" and they have a strong focus on culture. I learned a lot at Martins Point, it was exactly the right place for me to really hone my operations skills and learn more about both the payer and delivery side of the healthcare system. In the future, our alignment with various pieces of the health care system will be really important.
Chief Operating Officer is a role that's all about how you work with (and compliment) the CEO. I recall telling my husband 6 years ago that if I ever took on a COO role it would be with a CEO like June. It's a partnership. June and I are complementary in terms of our skills and what we enjoy, and we are similar in ways that make it easy to communicate and to connect.
What has surprised me in this role so far? I might be a little surprised at how much I like this work and what a great fit it is for me. It's such a complicated organization. The work of the organization is new for me. I have not lived the experienced of our program teams and I wondered what the learning curve would be like. I underestimated how quickly I would feel connected to the people in the organization. It's hard to articulate how welcoming every one has been and how well I've been treated and made to feel like part of the team. It feels safe to take personal risks. That is letting me move faster.
One of the ways I can contribute is to help connect the day to day reality of running the programs to the broader vision and the financial picture in a tangible way. Information in the field is so important. We don't know what we don't know. That gap is very important. Its one of the things that I spend time thinking about.
We move very fast, it's in our DNA. June is very entrepreneurial and that permeates our culture from top to bottom. We are not afraid to take calculated risks. We aggressively (and enthusiastically) take on new opportunities. Inherently it's a good thing, and we need to support the positive aspects of that energy. The challenging side of operating at a fast pace is without good supporting systems, this can feel chaotic and the energy turns to stress. But it's not about dampening or slowing down. It's about awareness and being deliberate in how we work. Systems can help. My job is to make sure that when folks are working in the programs on a daily and weekly basis, they have the tools and the systems and the perspective that they need, to be confident in how to manage their work in a way that achieves what we (as an organization) are trying to achieve.
Sometimes new programs and expansion might seem more glamourous than some of the operational changes we're focused on. But both are needed. When things do not flow well, we are wasting time, wasting energy, wasting money. We all want to feel that sense of freedom that comes with having things flow smoothly. That's my goal, to increase the amount of joy and decrease the amount of frustration that our wonderful people feel doing their work. That's why I get up every morning."