You may remember my post, Leadership at All Levels: Continental Airlines. Leadership at All Levels is going to be a regular feature at LeaderTalk, a place where I can celebrate people I meet who are great leaders in their organizations.
The Chicago Park District, in my opinion, is one of the best features of life in Chicago. Chicago has the largest municipally-managed park district in the nation with over 7,600 acres of green space. They offer a dizzying array of programs at 570 parks. Chicago residents — and tourists — can enjoy playgrounds, beaches, pools, museums, harbors, skating rinks, golf courses, gardens, conservatories, lagoons, and more.
Throughout the year, the Park District presents countless special programs and events including festivals (ever heard of Lollapalooza?), concerts, theater in the park, and craft mobiles — all at low or no cost to Chicago’s families. The scope of offerings is immense.
General Superintendent and CEO Timothy J. Mitchell oversees a budget that tops $390 million and a work force of over 1500 employees. In 2008, he was elected World Commissioner of the International Federation of Parks and Recreation. If Chicago wins the bid to host the 2016 Olympics, his impact and influence will be expanded even further.
However, any great organization needs effective leaders at all levels. From the executive office to the lakefront beach, each employee at the Chicago Park Districts contributes to the organization’s success.
In my experience, Jessica Patrick is one of Chicago Park District’s finest employees. She is the lead coach for the gymnastics program at Broadway Armory. “Miss Jessica,” who has worked for the Chicago Park District for 8 years, is well loved by both parents and kids. All three of my daughters have been involved in camps or classes led by Jessica.
Here’s what they have to say about her:
“I want to go to my mom and tot!” M., age 2.
“Nice!” N., age 5.
“I like her, she’s my favorite teacher.” C., age 8.
My daughters are always enthusiastic about heading to the gym because Jessica knows how to teach fitness and skills in a fun way. She also knows how to encourage each child, whatever their ability level. She celebrates their success while pushing them to achieve more.
One day during camp I stayed longer than usual, chatting with another parent. This is what I saw: Jessica approached each child individually. She reminded each one of a skill they would attempt that day. To my eldest, she said, “You’re going to get your flip-flop today, with a spot.” With a high-five and a smile, she gave Cami the encouragement she needed to do her best.
Jessica also excels at her job of mentoring younger employees. Each summer, she has interns working with her in the programs she teaches. Along the way, she entrusts them with various components of the class, from warmups to bars.She respects and supports them, allowing them to develop leadership skills of their own.
Because of Jessica’s guidance and encouragement, my girls are already looking forward to their gymnastics classes in the fall. Until then, you can find us at the beach.
This post was originally published at Mountain State University Leadertalk and is republished here with permission.