Thanks to the coronavirus and “social distancing”, we are all getting creative in just about every area of our lives.  At the individual level, we are thinking about meal times differently, planning our grocery shopping strategically, and working ever more remotely.  And, owing to the advances in technology, we are meeting virtually and collaborating online.

The non-profits in our community and beyond are postponing gatherings, rescheduling meetings, and cancelling events wholesale.  I’ve been on conference calls and Zoom meetings over the last couple of weeks to decide on venue changes, to confirm speakers for the fall, and to decide on whether to offer breakfast.  No doubt that one effect of this pandemic will be how we share meals together.

The very creative crew at United Way of Miami-Dade elected to take their signature Women United Breakfast online.  Originally scheduled for Thursday, March 12th, with a planned attendance over 1,000 women, the Breakfast could not continue as planned.  Too many people in close quarters given the recent CDC guidelines on group gatherings.  So, the team came together to produce the event as a video.  After watching the entire program, I offer my congratulations to the entire team, including several former colleagues.  I can hear Maggie Cayon’s voice in the script, and I can envision Roberta Silva’s direction behind the scenes.  I can feel the love that the Farras have for each other and for Miami.  I met Big Nelly more than ten years ago as I interviewed her and her husband, Mike, for a Loyal Contributor feature. I learned then how much education, especially early education and community college meant to them both.  Seeing her and her daughters, Nelly and Josefina, together as the leaders of this event is so beautiful.

My friend and business collaborator, Soledad Picon, is the current chair of Women United and deserves our thanks for her tireless advocacy for United Way of Miami-Dade, her commitment to advancing women, and her love for her community in Miami and Argentina.

Leslie Miller Saiontz is an exceptional community leader and social impact investor who is charting her own course while paying tribute to her trail-blazing mother, the inimitable Sue Miller.  Leslie interviewed the Women United Breakfast Key note speaker and former US Women’s National Soccer team coach, Jill Ellis.  The entire video link follows and is worth watching start to finish.

My takeaways from Leslie’s and Jill’s conversation:

  1. Jill advises all women leaders to choose passion over a paycheck.  “When you follow what’s inside of you, good things happen.”
  2. Leadership is a responsibility.  “When you are on the front foot of change, you are challenging perceptions and boundaries.”; “Once you have a platform, it’s your responsibility to use your voice.”
  3. She notes that her best memories are not always about the good times or the high achievements.  “I’m not going to remember the medals or the matches.  I’m going to remember the moments that made me feel alive. Those aren’t always good.  The moments that stung, that were hard, were as valuable to me because they were such an experience.”
  4. Lean into and celebrate the diversity of our teams. “Value everybody, not just the starters.  I called the others the ‘game changers’ instead of ‘subs’ or ‘reserves’.
  5. The leader sets the narrative.  “In the press, my messages were always about the 23 players needed to win the World Cup.”
  6. Everybody on the team is crucial to our collective success–and they want to feel valued.  Jill shared a story about a fellow coach early in her career, “Lon Krueger, he knew the janitors name, he knew the secretary’s name, he knew my name. If you can recognize that everybody around you has a role in the success of the team then everybody feels invested and connected.  It helps.”  Jill’s anecdote reminded me of Tony Argiz, the United Way of Miami-Dade 2007-2009 board chair.  Whenever Tony arrived somewhere, everyone wanted to talk to him.  CEOs.  Accounting Firm Managing Partners.  Law Firm Managing Partners. The Mayor.  The School Superintendent.  Everybody.  Tony always made it a point to begin his rounds of a room with thanking the catering staff and the servers for their help.  Be like Lon.  Be like Tony.
  7. Top performers need to be consistently challenged. And, elite, is not a term we should use in the pejorative. “Elite is someone who’s always aspiring to grow and evolve.”; “Remind them that there is always a challenge ahead.  Even if you are on the right track, if you sit still you will get run over.”; “If you have the right people around you, you can harness anyone’s energy.”
  8. We need to own our errors collectively.  Jill shared her approach to debriefing on goals allowed.  While the goalie is clearly the last person the ball gets past, everyone on the field shares the responsibility for giving up the score.  She shows the video from the perspective of the goalie, so all players, in every position can see what they might have changed to prevent the opponent’s score.

When I was the staff person at United Way of Miami-Dade responsible for the Women United Breakfast, we had cancellations due to a Hurricane in Miami and a snow storm in our speakers’ hometown.  Communicating with 1,000 women about a change of plans, engaging with financial sponsors about a change in exposure, and negotiating with a venue about a change of date is not fun.  But, the team always made it happen.  That’s the beauty of a team.  Everyone has their role in making it happen.  Congratulations to the current team at United Way of Miami-Dade for making the 2020 Women United Breakfast a special one!