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" I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're doing something."
- Neil Gaiman, Author

Last week, I joined a delegation of girls and adults representing Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida at the 54th Convention of Girl Scouts of the USA in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to having the opportunity to learn from my colleagues across the country and be inspired by speakers who epitomize the ideals of G.I.R.L. (Go Getters, Innovators, Risk Takers and Leaders), it was also an ideal time to reflect on my first year as CEO of Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida. I want to share some of those reflections with you.

365 days go by way faster than they used to. I can remember the days when I was a child and was just wishing for the years to go by... I wanted to hurry it along so that I could be a teenager, get my license, and register to vote...always in a hurry looking at the next thing. Those years seemed to take forever. Fast forward to parenthood, and I realized that if I could have a super power, it would be to stop time. My boys grew into young men in what seems like the blink of an eye. But this year has been, by far, the fastest one yet; it has also been the best one yet.

We have the most amazing volunteers on the planet (and likely any other planet, too). Over the last year, I have had the opportunity to talk with so many of you. I have visited with the leadership teams and volunteers from more than a dozen service units through your 100% membership lunches and your year-end holiday celebrations. Even on the couple of occasions where I apparently neglected to RSVP my plans to attend, you all welcomed me. I have also spoken with many of you one-on-one, both in person and over the phone. Your feedback, even when challenging to hear, has been helpful and constructive. I asked you to share with me when we fall short on customer service-and you have. But you have also been very complimentary about improvements that you have seen and there has been no shortage of positive Shout-outs to members of our staff team.
 
Our staff team is small, but mighty. With just one staff member for every 103 registered volunteers and 219 girls, I can assure you that this small team is working incredibly hard to meet the needs of our membership and those families we haven't met yet. And as we continue to work toward improved external customer service, we are working internally as well. Customer Service Excellence has been a topic at every staff meeting for the last year and we have brought in experts on the topic to expand our knowledge and our efforts in this area.

I am not a runner-not even close. This will only be news to you if you did not attend one of our three Thin Mint Sprint events last spring. "Let's make an 'I Beat the CEO' patch," I said. "It will be fun, I said." What on earth was I thinking? Except for completing three 5K races over two weekends with absolutely no training, it was pretty fun. It was a great way to engage with our girls and our volunteers. And one volunteer became my personal, on-site coach, pushing me to beat my time at each consecutive race and reach my goal on race 3. I couldn't have done it without you Tracey Eller. And yes, I would do it again.  
 
Sometimes you have to go slow to go fast. This has always been a tough one for me, because when I can see where we need to go, I just want to hurry up and get there. And, if I am honest with myself, I would have to admit that the ability to slow down and truly consider all of the options and implications is really a gift. At our meeting last week, a speaker who talked about strategic transformation shared something that really resonated with me. She said that organizations truly committed to growth and strategic change must be prepared to do four things:
  1. Continuous Reconfiguration. We have to be choosy about what stays stable and aggressive about what changes.
  2. Healthy Disengagement. We must be open to fresh opportunities and also have the ability to let things go.
  3. Deft Resource Allocation. We have to get our limited resources where they need to go and put our best talent, both staff and volunteer, on opportunities.
  4. Innovation Proficiency. We must be ready to innovate as old practices and activities lose effectiveness.
Each of these requires patience and diligence. But they also require collaboration and cooperation. It will take all of us, working together, to make a significant difference. There is no doubt in my mind about what is possible.
 
We really have accomplished a lot in just a year. When I think about what we have been able to do in just 52 short weeks, it makes me very proud. Here is just a sampling:
  • We completed a new 3-year strategic plan that will take us through 2020.
  • We had our largest Cookie Sale in Council history, with over 1.5 million boxes sold.
  • We celebrated one year live on our new membership database and Volunteer Toolkit.
  • We purchased a new building to serve as the Administrative Headquarters for Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida, fulfilling a recommendation made in 2008 and reaffirmed in 2015.
  • Interviewing is underway for the Outdoor Education and Program Manager role to fulfill our commitment to reinvigorating this core element of Girl Scouts and getting girls outside.
Membership is at the heart of our Mission. We ended 2017 with 10,719 girls and 5,023 adults. Our recruitment for this year was going very well...and then came Hurricane Irma. With schools closed across our jurisdiction, some for as many as 7 days, our recruitment efforts were severely impacted. More than 40 recruitment events had to be cancelled and we are still working to get them rescheduled. This is an area where we could really use your help. If you can support a recruitment event, please do. If you can encourage another adult to join us as a leader, please do. And if you are already a leader, please consider adding girls to your troop. There are girls out there just waiting for the opportunity to join Girl Scouts. Let's remove the barriers where we can.
 
We are just getting started. There are so many amazing things happening around our Council-and I cannot wait to see what the next year brings. Here are just a few more things I want you to know:
  • We are just a few short weeks away from our new Administrative Headquarters being completed and are looking to move in mid-December. This will be the first time in our Council's history that all in-based staff will work in the same building. This will bring collaboration and communication to new heights, and we are very excited.
  • We are planning a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony and Open House for Saturday, February 17. We have some very special surprises in store for that day, so please Save the Date.
  • Weight Watchers is very hard to stick to when you represent Girl Scouts at as many meetings and events as I now do. Not super relevant to this communication, but just a fun fact.
  • I genuinely enjoy the time I spend with our girls and volunteers. I appreciate the amazing invitations to Service Unit programs, holiday celebrations, Year-end recognition events, and more. I love when you invite me to things and appreciate your understanding that, while I will get to as many as I can, I could not possible attend everything. If you do want me to attend something, please email me at ljohnson@gssef.org and copy Suzanne Canter, our Executive Administrator at scanter@gssef.org. I love being friends with so many of you on Facebook, but please do not invite me to things via Facebook, as these invitations are often missed.
  • In an effort to be in more regular communication with our membership, I am planning to start an Empower Hour in the next couple of months. Most will be Webinar-based and open to our volunteers, girls and their families. Each will have a brief opening presentation of about 15 minutes on a topic relevant to what's happening in our organization. The remaining time is intended to be Q&A and, when possible, discussion about the topic or whatever else the audience would like to talk about. More information about this will be coming soon via Trefoil Talk and Linking Leaders.
I read somewhere recently that as long as you are doing something because you love it, it can never be the wrong choice. While some of the last 365 days have been amazing and others more challenging, I wouldn't change a single one. And as I contemplate the next 365, I will be grateful for each one, but might still hope that they slow down just a bit.

As always, find out more about what's happening at GSSEF on Twitter or Facebook @GSSEF and on Instagram @gssefcouncil.
 


Yours in Girl Scouting,
 
Chief Executive Officer
Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida