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HELP has Arrived

The Hawaii Emerging Leaders Program (HELP) brings together up-and-coming nonprofit leaders for a dynamic, seven-month, peer-centered learning experience. HELP stems from the Foundation’s Organizational Effectiveness Initiative that also includes the well established Promoting Outstanding Nonprofit Organizations (PONO) Program for nonprofit executive directors. The inaugural class of 15 senior staff leaders from nonprofit organizations in the state was formed in 2010. Participants, many of whom are second-in-command at their organization, deepen their understanding of their leadership capacity, advance their understanding and practice of leading in the nonprofit sector, and strengthen their network of colleagues.

HELP Fellow Christi Masters is the program director for Imua Family Services on Maui, which provides comprehensive early childhood development assistance to children and their families. Masters experienced some transitional challenges from providing direct services to children as a speech language pathologist at Imua, to taking on a leadership role as program director for its early intervention program. “I am thankful to have the support of HELP so that I can improve as a leader and help our agency grow as well,” said Masters.

An incredible journey for Christi Masters, program director at Imua Family Services, this summer will mark her seventh anniversary at the Maui nonprofit organization. As a participant in HELP’s inaugural class, Masters is enthusiastic about what she has learned and confident about helping to lead her organization on what she calls “an incredible journey.” Here, she shares some of her experiences with us in a Q&A conversation:

How has HELP benefited you as a leader and what has it done for your organization?
The program has helped me define my personal values and improved my confidence in how I lead. By understanding my values and aligning them with our agency’s mission and values, making difficult choices is not as overwhelming. I understand that I may not always make the “right” decision, but I am not afraid to admit my mistakes. I supervise a large group of people, so I’ve ensured that our meetings focus on our commitment to the community and our mission. I have also improved my self-awareness which has really helped me as a leader. I know that if I’m feeling stressed or worried or tired, it has an effect on the people around me, so I have been focused on improving my energy.

What has been especially helpful to you?
The most meaningful part of HELP has been meeting my cohorts in the class. It has truly gone beyond networking with others; it has become a group of friends who respect each other. I get excited for each session because I can’t wait to see my classmates and hear how each other have made changes at work based on what we’ve learned. We laugh and have fun together. We listen to each other’s struggles and accomplishments with an open heart and offer our own experiences that may help without any fear of judgment. Before the HELP program, I truly did not think there were other people who could identify with the leadership challenges that I deal with, but I have learned that is not true at all. It feels so good to know that other people have experienced the same types of things—to be able to hear how they’ve dealt with situations really opens my eyes to new approaches and gives me confidence in what I do each day.