Equity and Inclusion: YoungWilliams Women Leaders Making a Difference
During the month of March, we celebrate Women’s History. March 8 has been designated International Women’s Day. This day acknowledges the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. YoungWilliams celebrates the women leaders in our company, including Pat O’Donnell, Vice President – Payment Processing, and Kelly Lamson, Regional Vice President. They recently reflected on their leadership journeys.
O’Donnell was brought in to YoungWilliams in 2018 to oversee the Kansas Payment Processing Center. She was drawn to the human services field early in her career because of a deep desire to make a difference. “I want to improve the world we live in,” said O’Donnell. “The level of need for children is so stark and vast. I learned a lot about that in my work in SNAP, WIC, and child support. It is crystal clear how much of a difference these programs make for an individual child’s growth and development. Working in human services is my way to engage in that effort and make things better for people along the way.”
To set herself up as a successful leader, she has specific habits. “I read,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons I am where I am. I read a lot of books, some fiction, some non-fiction, leadership improvement skills, articles, and white papers. I learn from each and every one and then incorporate that into what I do.”
Today’s leaders face enormous challenges and, to O’Donnell, managing the changes in society and workplace expectations is difficult. “Leaders are trying meet the needs of a bunch of different stakeholders: employees, management team, clients, and the people they serve, “ she said. “Everybody’s expectations are different, and everything is moving so fast.”
Leaders have to consider how to adapt their managements style, the organizational culture they want to create, and how to make people feel they are an integral part of the organization. According to O’Donnell, that’s quite a balance.
For those who are developing their skills, she has this advice, “Know that words matter. As a leader, your words carry more weight than you think. They have an impact on those listening, which can be positive or not positive. Make a difference. Lead by example. Have people see you doing what you are asking them to do.”
Kelly Lamson, Regional Vice President
Lamson’s start in the child support profession came from a different place. “I started with the Omaha (NE) office in 1997 as a young attorney and was surprised to find that the child support program involved so many different aspects of the law,” she said. “Moving from a staff attorney position to the Legal Director presented interesting new challenges. Working in an area of the law focused on helping families was inspiring and I discovered how much I enjoyed team collaboration.”
In addition to Nebraska, Lamson is responsible for YoungWilliams operations in Kansas, Colorado, and Wyoming. The people she works with in these states have had the greatest positive impact on her. “Just when you think you’ve dealt with every possible scenario, there’s a new challenge testing your leadership skills,” she said. “I haven’t always got it right, but I’ve learned powerful lessons along the way, always with the understanding that I have a responsibility to our clients, our employees, and the families we serve to ensure our projects succeed.”
There are many obstacles to success for leaders. “Managing projects requires curiosity, strategic thinking and the ability to execute under challenging circumstances,” she said. “It can be difficult to prioritize and effectively change course when the unexpected occurs. Leaders have to prepare for these challenges and take action far in advance.”
Effective communication has helped her navigate these tricky situations and keep her teams on course. “It is critical in inspiring your teams to work together to reach common goals,” she said. “Successful leaders bring about positive change by building a collective sense of purpose among their team.”
The theme for International Women’s Day is #EmbraceEquity. “Everyone should be invited to have a seat at the table,” said O’Donnell. “Our lives as well as our decisions are enriched by embracing and understanding our unique perspectives.”
YoungWilliams is proud of its women leaders and all of those with whom we work. #IWD2023 #EmbraceEquity