Like many other nonprofits, La Clínica del Pueblo prioritized mission over management. At La Clínica, which provides culturally appropriate health services to low-income Latino families in Washington, DC, managers were mostly long-time staff who were promoted because of their programmatic expertise, rather than their management skills. As a result, supervision was inconsistent and employee morale was low. And senior staff—who were expected to add management responsibilities to their already full caseloads—were burned out.
That’s why Alicia Wilson, then La Clínica’s Development Director and now Executive Director, attended MAG's two-hour introductory management training workshop. It was a revelatory experience for Wilson: “I realized we needed to standardize what being a manager at La Clínica meant and give sustenance to our burnt-out managers,” she said. “Our organization always placed management as a secondary skill and viewed supervisory meetings as something that pulled them away from getting their job done. After the workshop, I realized that meeting with my staff was my job.”
So Wilson hired MAG to train La Clínica's entire management team on how to manage people well. While management or supervision training is easy to find, MAG also offered deep understanding and empathy for mission-driven nonprofits. “MAG realigned us -- we're here to serve our clients and if our staff aren't doing that, than we need to manage our staff better,” recalls Wilson. "We recognized that management is not just a personnel issue but also affects our mission.”
Wilson appreciated that MAG consultants spent time learning about the organization, listened without assumptions, and applied best practices that were modified to the organization’s unique needs. “I really appreciated how MAG is not a cookie-cutter, not one-size fits all,” said Wilson. That tailored approach enabled MAG and La Clínica to co-create strategies that were immediately useful. For example, they developed assessment tools to enable staff to track and rethink their use of time. And, through role-plays, participants learned how to appropriately approach staff performance issues, which many had been hesitant to do previously.
For Wilson, working with MAG has had a transformative impact on how she views her role as a manager. “It okayed the concept of focusing on being a manager, such as taking an afternoon to do a teambuilding exercise, telling a staff that I won't tolerate certain things, or taking time for strategic planning,” says Wilson. That perspective has, in turn, changed the culture of La Clinica: “For the first time, we gave our managers the space to be managers.” And, with effective, professional management, La Clínica is better able to do what matters most: serve its clients.