Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Getting Down to Business: Local Leaders Turn to the Long Island Red Cross

By Joe Spaccarelli

It’s a typical cold winter Wednesday morning for most business executives with the exception of a small intimate group of CEOs gathering for The Hauppauge Industrial Association’s (HIA-LI) CEO roundtable event. A special session where local leaders gather to share success stories, insights, philosophies and network.

The event’s featured speaker is John Miller, CEO, Long Island Red Cross.

As leaders and attendees arrive, coffee in hand, networking prior to the main presentation, inquiring minds already want to know what a humanitarian relief volunteer organization has in common with their respective businesses. The answers, as they would soon come to find out, will be surprising to many.

John warmed up the crowd by providing a brief overview of the Red Cross lines of service and described our local footprint here on Long Island followed by a personal recount of Superstorm Sandy and the extraordinary impact that it had here locally.

John then took the group through an interactive presentation that was peppered with inquisitive questions from many of the thought leaders trying to seize the golden nuggets of wisdom drawn from John’s field tested strategies, tactics and years of experience.

The centerpiece of the discussion was the transformation of the local chapters of the Red Cross (Nassau, Suffolk and Shelter Island) into a single organization under a unified leadership structure. The transformation encompassed the Chapters, Board of Directors, leadership team, staff and even volunteers. It was done with compassion and respect for the individual at every level. Transparent to those in need, our responses continued as the organization took shape. It’s something that could be akin to building an airplane in flight.

John covered a multitude of topics and issues that most organizations struggle with such as Leadership development, succession planning, board development, revenue generation, and employee (and volunteer) engagement. With each topic came a rapid-fire inquisition from the highly engaged audience.

At the conclusion of the event, engaged participants found the answers to their lingering question from earlier that morning; Running an organization designed to provide relief efforts to “unscheduled” catastrophic events with little or no warning, utilizing the power of volunteers and donors resources at a moment’s notice is no small feat. It takes guts, precision planning, leadership, organization, financial and human resources, collaboration, coordination, role and goal clarity, concise communications, preparedness and processes just to name a few.

Leading the effort is a leadership team that is aligned, supportive, transparent and open to continuous improvement. But the single most important ingredient that makes this model work is the desire, drive, willingness and passion of the donors and volunteer all aligned and focused on how to make a difference in the lives of those impacted.

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