By Phil Valentine
Many years ago, Carol Kardas, my executive coach asked me three powerful questions that permanently altered my leadership style.
- “What type of environment would you, Phil, like to work in?”
- “What would that culture look and feel like?”
- “How would you know if you were in it?”
Over the last several years, in response to those questions, the CCAR Leadership Team has focused on a culture of recovery and leadership. Today, CCAR is a desirable work environment where people thrive. How do I know?
- Greetings are warm and friendly.
- Laughter resonates during full staff meetings.
- People share openly with me when we have breakfast together.
- People consistently discuss solutions.
- People are comfortable with their different nicknames for me – Mr. Phil, Uncle Phil, Right Click, Boss Man... I respond to them all.
I’ve put together some aspects of the leadership style I have been a part of developing here at CCAR. But first, a few disclaimers… I am not an expert. I am still learning, still trying to figure it out as we go.
- Coaching Culture. We coach each other. That is our culture. We actively listen to one another. We ask good questions. We work to manage our own stuff. We treat each other as resources. CCAR is a Recovery Community Organization, an RCO. I think we are moving to a slightly different connotation for RCO, a Recovery Coaching Organization.
- Faith. Not Fear. I choose to operate from a place of faith. For me, it’s definitely a choice. I do my best to avoid leadership decisions rooted in fear. I have faith in God, myself and others. I believe in God’s purpose for my life. If God leads me to it, God will lead me through it. I have faith in my ability to recognize open doors and walk CCAR through them. I have faith in the people around me. They know what they’re doing.
- Trust. I trust the people employed at CCAR. I do. It’s not a statement I make lightly. And for me to trust, I have to be trustworthy. It’s about personal integrity. Integrity is a key component of recovery. Remember the GRIT inside inteGRITy.
- Leadership Development. At this stage in my career, I believe the ultimate purpose of leadership is to develop other leaders. CCAR has embraced this idea throughout our organization. We pass this on to all we come in contact with. Often we ask recoverees, “Do you want to live your life? Or would you like to lead it?”
- Treat People as Resources. When CCAR hires someone, we have a comprehensive job description for the individual. This is discussed during the interview process. When onboarding, it is reviewed again. The Duties and Responsibilities section provides the framework. Within our culture of coaching, we encourage employees to take initiative. We support creative freedom. We want to position people to succeed.
- Focus on What We Do. And Do It Well. CCAR founder Bob Savage is masterful at start-up operations; building programs from scratch. When CCAR was just beginning, he made sure CCAR was not spread too thin. We focused on a couple of projects and poured ourselves into them. The first walk for recovery – Recovery Walks! in 1999 – was one of these. So far we have avoided “mission drift”; sometimes called “chasing the money”. His legacy still lives on 20 years later.
- Team. I grew up playing all kinds of team sports. Some games were organized, but mostly I played neighborhood pick up games. I lived across from an elementary school where we played baseball, basketball and football. I learned a lot about team dynamics in this setting. Using a football analogy, I may be playing quarterback right now, but it’s no more “important” than any other position. I have deep respect for every role we have within CCAR, staff and volunteers alike. Each one is vital to the success of the team.
- Honesty. Another lynchpin of recovery, we expect honesty from everyone in the team. Dishonesty destroys. Honesty builds. Honesty transforms. Transformed people transform people.
- Joy, Humor, Fun. I didn't get into recovery to be miserable. I’ve been there. It is possible to balance the joy and goodness of life with the significance of the work we do.
- Gratitude. Finally, gratitude is the lens through which I view all of the above. I am truly grateful. Every single day, I make the decision to be grateful. I realize how blessed I am. I am still alive after bouts with addiction and cancer. Those battles left their scars – physical, emotional and spiritual. Leadership within the recovery community has left me with a few scars too – physical, emotional and spiritual. I am grateful for these scars. They are part of my journey. My family - parents, wife, children, relatives – have been with me every step of the way. And now, at CCAR, I have an amazing, gifted, trustworthy, dedicated team of recovery warriors around me. I am privileged to be in their midst.
How could I be anything but grateful?
In 2015, I finished a thruhike of the entire Appalachian Trail, a trek of 2,189.2 miles. It took 189 days and 6 pairs of boots. During all that time alone with my Creator, my purpose in life became more precisely defined. I am, simply, to coach recovery. Recovery saved me from an early demise and brought purpose to my tattered life. I have learned that I’m a coach to my very core. I am blessed to put the two together. I started work at the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR) in 1999. I became the Executive Director of this recovery community organization in 2004. I have trained the CCAR Recovery Coach Academy© dozens of times and have a hand in modifying, improving and adapting various recovery coach curricula. I’m old enough now to start considering my legacy. This is a way for me to share things I have learned in my recovery, in my role as Executive Director and a trainer. I find that when I speak I present the same messages over and over. It’s time to write them down.
Phil “Right Click” Valentine
Recovery established 12.28.87