|Imagine!'s Director of Public Relations Fred Hobbs|
working at an Imagine! booth at a recent event.
It is always a little intimidating to start a new position at a new company. It can be even more intimidating when many of your new colleagues are seasoned veterans with lengthy tenures at the organization, while you are brand new to the field.
That is exactly the situation I found myself in eight years ago when I joined the Imagine! administrative team. As I got to know my fellow employees, I was both impressed and a little overwhelmed to learn that many of them had been with the company for ten, twenty, even thirty years! And not having any experience in the field of services and supports for individuals with intellectual disabilities, I frequently found myself lost as I tried to understand the depth and breadth of Imagine!’s services and the complex system that guides services in our state.
I did my best to handle the situation with humor, self-identifying as the “new guy” and saying things like “I’m just here to learn” when asked my opinion on challenging issues that I didn’t feel qualified to answer. Hidden beneath the humor was some truth, however. I was learning a great deal about Imagine! and what makes it so special. I learned that Imagine!’s reputation, locally, state-wide, nationally, and even internationally as an innovator in the field was absolutely justified. And I learned at least one secret as to why.
Here’s the secret: the culture at Imagine! encourages everyone to question everything. It is ok to challenge the status quo, or to ask “how can we do this better?” We push each other, but we push each other in respectful ways that lead to results instead of anger and resentment. Ranks and titles are irrelevant when it comes to figuring out how we can improve on what we do.
It is perfectly normal to sit in a meeting at Imagine! and hear two co-workers go back and forth on an issue, each vehemently arguing that his/her position is the correct one, only to see them again two hours later laughing and enjoying each other’s company. The disagreements are never personal, and there is an underlying understanding behind the debates – everybody wants Imagine! to be in the best position possible to ensure that the people we serve have as many opportunities as possible to engage in their communities. We may not always agree on how to get there, but we do agree on where we want to go.
Imagine!’s culture has led to some pretty amazing accomplishments over the past 50 years. Descriptions of Imagine!’s programs often include phrases like “unique,” “first of its kind,” or “only one in the country.” I have been privileged to be part of this forward-thinking organization for the past eight years, and I am inspired every day to push beyond where we are and look to where we could be.
Perhaps one day I may even be able to shed the title of “new guy.”
Are you interested in sharing your story for “50 Years, 50 Stories?” If so, contact Caroline Siegfried at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-926-6405. We’d love to hear from you!