Thursday, October 16, 2014
by Munira Syeda, volunteer contributor
For National Boss's Day, I spent some time chatting with our very own T.D. Smyers, CEO of the American Red Cross North Texas region.
T.D. was hired in January 2012, right after the first phase of Red Cross’s reorganization went into effect. Since then, one of T.D.’s biggest and toughest jobs has been to lead his team through this massive change. The nationwide reorganization aims at reducing costs and ensuring Red Cross stays within an operational budget.
T.D. says his leadership role regarding reorganization in the North Texas region has involved efforts on three fronts:
1. Frequent and open communication with staff and volunteers.
2. Encouraging a work/life balance and a positive spirit among his team members.
3. Keeping one’s eyes on the prize, in other words – where we’re going and ensuring that we come back strong.
Toward that end, one of T.D.’s instituted programs has been the Staff Council, which is comprised of several members of the North Texas Team which work to contribute to the enhancement of fun experiences and opportunities within the region. Together, members work to better understand the wants, needs and goals of regional coworkers--and from that--build meaningful programs that impact Red Crossers professionally, personally and for years to come. This way, Red Cross is not just a place to work, but a place to connect, grow, and have fun as individuals and as one united team. T.D. is whole-heartedly invested in the mission of the program and is always open to and pushing for ideas that are creative and innovative in order to make Red Cross a great place to work and connect.
T.D. has also instituted weekly phone meetings with all staff and improved the structure of these meetings. He says this regular communication has helped staff share their anxieties and worries, while allowing T.D. to comfort them and address their concerns.
T.D. is also a leader who likes to utilize his subject matter experts. He has a vision that entails understanding by pulling in key players to make important decisions means that you need to hear their voice. He asks for feedback from every staff or volunteer team member from every level to executive level and is genuinely interested in their thoughts.
The reorganization effort at the Red Cross is divided into three phases. The first phase, implemented in 2011, involved standardizing and enhancing the mission and ensuring that Red Cross services are consistent with the mission. The second phase, implemented in 2013, involved disaster re-engineering; the Red Cross streamlined its disaster cycle (disaster preparedness and response) and also aligned it with the incident command center (which is the system utilized by first responders during a crisis). The third phase, which is the most significant and difficult, involves staff reductions and enhancing volunteer engagement.
Last week, as part of the third phase, 13 paid staff were let go in the north Texas region. This included both long-time employees as well as recent hires.
As he and the Red Cross team stand ready to tackle further challenges associated with the reorganization, T.D. says, “A team that has a high morale is a team that performs better.”