“Toni is a great coach because she never gives you the answers,” says Steve Jobin, President and CEO of the Raritan Bay Area YMCA in Perth Amboy, New Jersey and a member of the Healthier Perth Amboy Consortium. He’s also quick to admit that it can also be frustrating. That’s no accident, according to County Health Rankings & Roadmaps Community Coach for New Jersey, Toni Lewis. “I don’t give Steve or his fellow coalition members the answers because I know they have them,” she says. “As a coach, I don’t know what it’s like to be in his shoes. It’s my role to bring up the things I’ve noticed and let others determine the direction for themselves. At the end of the day, Steve and this coalition are going to make a difference in Perth Amboy, not me.”
How do we get people to think about their business as part of the larger community and communicate how what they’re doing impacts the community for good?
Healthier Perth Amboy is one of 20 community coalitions across New Jersey supported by New Jersey Health Initiatives’ (NJHI) Building a Culture of Health – Communities Moving to Action initiative. NJHI is the statewide grantmaking program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Support from this initiative also enables Toni to dedicate her coaching support exclusively to the state of New Jersey.
When Steve and Toni started planning a breakout session for the HERO Forum, a conference advancing workplace health, they looked to this coaching model to turn the traditional conference presentation on its head. Instead of planning a lecture from the podium, they wanted to let participants determine the direction and impact of their experience. Steve was confident that this would be a prime opportunity to take advantage of the enthusiasm in the room and to get participants thinking and talking about how wellness expands beyond the bounds of the workplace. As Steve puts it, they wanted to answer the questions: “How do we get people to think about their business as part of the larger community and communicate how what they’re doing impacts the community for good?” Participants were split into groups and asked to create public service announcements (PSAs) highlighting ways business could demonstrate their community values and impact. But would it work?
It was a success! Their PSAs were creative and compelling. Each team successfully worked together to demonstrate effective strategies that businesses could use to communicate their integration with and support for the community. And it did more than turn the experience for participants on its head. Planning and executing this workshop was an opportunity for Steve to take on Toni’s usual role as coach, asking guiding questions to help participants navigate the process of articulating their thoughts and trusting that those doing the work know more than they may even realize. For Toni, it was an opportunity to see her coachee grow. She hopes that with experiences like this, Steve will continue to move not only the Raritan Bay Area YMCA and Healthier Perth Amboy Coalition forward, but will continue to use innovative leadership and convening strategies to guide his community forward, whatever challenges and opportunities may come their way.