Thursday, November 26, 2009

Jennifer Goodin:
Executive Director, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Cincinnati

Jennifer Goodin
Jennifer has been Executive Director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Cincinnati – a “home away from home” for families with hospitalized children – for the past nine years. In 2006, Ronald McDonald House received the Non-Profit of the Year award from the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber as well as the Torch Award from the Better Business Bureau. Jennifer has also served as Grants Manager at Welcome House and Administration and Development Director at First Step Home. During her 14 years in not-for-profit administration, she has helped to raise over $30 million.
Jennifer is a volunteer with Josh Cares, the Wyoming Junior Women’s Club and with ProKids, where she is a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) working with abused and neglected children. Jennifer attended Miami University and earned Master’s degrees in journalism and health education from The Ohio State University. She is a member of Leadership Cincinnati Class XXX. She and her husband, Steve, both former Peace Corps volunteers, have two young daughters, Hadley and Beatrice.

FCL: How would you define a leader?
Jennifer: Leaders are people with a clear vision for the future who involve the right people, share their passion, help shape the work ahead, answer questions along the way, and recognize and appreciate everyone’s contributions.

FCL: Who are your biggest influences as a leader?
Jennifer: I’m lucky to benefit from the ideas and support of some wonderful peers – including Tracy Cook from ProKids, Ron Hitzler from Shriner’s Hospital and my fellow executive directors from other Ronald McDonald Houses in the Midwest. I am also influenced by the leaders at our partner in care, Cincinnati Children’s. Their leadership staff is incredibly talented, driven and passionate about their work.

FCL: What gives you the greatest joy in being a leader?
Jennifer: My greatest joy is that each member of our team loves coming to work each day, as we all have a shared appreciation of working together for the greater good. There’s nothing more rewarding than loving your job, knowing it makes a difference and enjoying your colleagues.

FCL: What is your biggest pet peeve as a leader?
Jennifer: Without a doubt, it’s poor writing skills and not making sure one’s work is perfect before sending it out. I think every piece of communication we send – even emails – reflects our mission and our professionalism. As a former copy editor, nothing drives me crazier than seeing “it’s” when it should be “its” or “there” when it should be “their.” My other pet peeve is weak handshakes.

FCL: What is your biggest challenge as a leader?
Jennifer: It’s finding enough time in the day to get to everything. Before I had kids I used to work more hours, but now the work/life balance is more important to me. I try to prioritize daily and realize I’ll never even come close to crossing out everything on my to-do list.

FCL: Who has impacted you the most in your life as a leader?
Jennifer: My husband, Steve. He’s a great sounding board and problem solver. I also admire how he can address any conflict immediately and directly. I tend to be conflict-averse, but he helps me to realize how conflict can be productive.

FCL: What are your favorite books and what are you currently reading?
Jennifer: Right now I’m reading “About Alice” by Calvin Trillin, a writer for The New Yorker. It’s a short, loving memoir of his wife. Since time constraints make it hard for me to devour long novels, my favorite books are the ones I read with my daughters at bedtime – “Goodnight Moon,” “I Lost My Bear” and “Love You Forever” are a few of our favorites.

FCL: What is your vision for business and community leadership in Cincinnati?
Jennifer: My hope is that we continue to work together to help those less fortunate, question what doesn’t feel right and appreciate the joys of our city. I also think that if you’re going to gripe about a problem, you should be willing to do your part to help address it.

FCL: Where do you see yourself five years from today?
Jennifer: I can see myself still leading Ronald McDonald House, but hopefully also doing more writing on the side and taking more frequent vacations!

Closing remarks (from Herman): Wow! There are lots of superb nuggets in this interview. Lots of leaders experience a variety of challenges in work/life balance, particularly prioritizing activities. As an Economics student in college I learnt about an Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that 80% of income in Italy went to 20% of the population. His observation has now been applied to productivity by many management thinkers, who say that 80% of our productivity comes from 20% of our activities. Leaders, therefore, should focus on the 20% that brings in the most reward. In other words, we should do more of the right things. To assist us in doing this many of us create to-do lists. But I think we also need stop-doing lists. To-do lists allow us to pursue that which we desire. Stop-doing lists allow us to cut-out activities that are unproductive. Thanks Jennifer. I'm rooting for you to do more writing and take more vacations over the next five years.