Waiting your turn

Are you ready to use your executive leadership skill sets to end the killing of pets in animal shelters? Have you ever felt held back from an opportunity to lead and to rise to the challenge?

Early in my career in animal services, I attended a meeting with colleagues from the metro area where I worked and lived. The goal of this meeting was to come together as a regional coalition of local animal services executives to problem solve and share strategies.

I was new to the animal services field, but not new to public service and certainly not new to strategic planning and professional excellence. I was aware at this point that I was coming into a field of differing opinions about what success looked like, how it was achieved and the pace at which we worked for change. I was also coming into a field evolving rather rapidly. Some professionals were comfortable with the changes and others not so much. It was too fast for them. 

In the beginning of the meeting the facilitator asked us all to stand up and arrange ourselves into a line based on years of experience in animal services, from the least amount of years to the greatest amount of years.

A quarter of a century in park services leadership, devoted to public service excellence and strategic change, but new to animal services, and there I stood at the end of the line. Based on my intensive research, I was inquisitive, open to learning, had some good ideas based on data and I was driven, but I had the least experience in animal services.

It was a strange moment standing there trying to understand the purpose of the exercise and then getting it. It was uncomfortable and demoralizing. I had to widen my professional circle drastically to find role models and examples of ending the killing of pets at the pace that I wanted to work at. 

Don’t wait your turn to save lives and end the killing of pets. There is no time for preening and posturing professionally. There’s no time for infighting among organizations. If we’re going to end the killing, we need to be accurate, honest, collaborative, selfless and driven and we need to care most about getting it right rather than about being right.

I experienced a similar culture in park services. A “wait your turn” culture. Prove yourself by putting in the time. Your prior professional background and aptitude did not matter as much as your years of service in that specific organization did when it came to the opportunity to lead.

The clock was ticking for thousands of pets every day who would breath their last breath before being lead to a room without windows. An urgency existed. I used my entrepreneurial background and quarter of a century in public services leadership and I got to work. The smartest thing I did was find good talent and build a team that made the lifesaving happen. We worked fast to save lives and eliminate the killing at our shelters.

Today, I am leading the nation’s first ever Executive Leadership Certification program for Best Friends Animal Society, a dream that I had from the very beginning of my career in animal services. The main purpose is to strengthen lifesaving animal services executive’s skill sets so we can end the killing of pets quickly. I welcome leadership from any profession to join me and I promise to recognize and leverage your background, skills, professionalism, aptitude and dedication as together we end the killing of pets in shelters.

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