Leadership Interview #1 with Joan Onwiler

Welcome to the first leadership interview of 2017! This year I am so excited to be interviewing Christian women who are in different leadership roles. All of us have influence over others. May we learn and grow in our sphere of influence as we read the words of those who have been there and done that. My first interview was with my friend and mentor, Joan Onwiler. I first met Joan when I was a teacher at a private Christian school, and she was my principal. I am thankful for her influence on my life.
Joan is currently serving on her church board and has been in this position for seven years. She is also the head of the board’s Celebration Committee and the treasurer for her adult Sunday School class; she is in charge of using collected funds to meet needs. In the past, she was the preschool music teacher responsible for putting on six performances a year (Wow!! said Tena), Lectionary and Hymn coordinator for the church, and Hymn Coordinator and Choir Director for her church’s Sunday Evening Service. In addition, she was a principal for eight years and teacher of 5-8 grades for eight years.

Joan and I met for tea (her) and hot chocolate (me) at a Dunkin Donuts where we discussed her answers to these questions. I found most of these thought-provoking questions at
1. Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader?
My dad, John Quirke, has had a tremendous impact on my life.
The youngest of eight, he emigrated to America when he was eighteen.
While in Ireland, he took the “Abstinence Pledge” where he vowed to abstain from alcohol, a vow which he honored all of his life.
My dad believed in education. He was an avid reader which enabled him to work his way to the top engineer at the Sears plant on Homan and Arthington in Chicago.
A man of faith and integrity, he modeled these character traits at home and at work. His example, demonstrated in actions rather than words, influenced my life.
I have endeavored to imitate the lessons I learned by attentively observing my dad.
I sincerely hope I am able to pass down a legacy such as he has left me.
2. What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization?
Hiring the right people for key positions
3. As an organization gets larger there can be a tendency for the “institution” to dampen the “inspiration.” How do you keep this from happening?
Have mini retreats to brainstorm, take inventory, and bond (team building).
4. How do you encourage creative thinking within your organization?
Actively ask for ideas and study other-like companies and their techniques
5. Where do the great ideas come from in your organization?
People finding solutions to problems
6. Which is most important to your organization—mission, core values or vision?
Mission-without it the other two are meaningless
7. How do you or other leaders in your organization communicate the “core values”?
Lead by example. Reinforce the behavior of those who are demonstrating the core values. Preach about it often.
8. How do you encourage others in your organization to communicate the “core values”?
Orient them/train them/demonstrate them.
9. Do you set aside specific times to cast vision to your employees and other leaders?
Our church just had a meeting for all of the 400 volunteers to cast vision for the next 2 years.
Then there will be a four week series on the vision.
10. How do you ensure your organization and its activities are aligned with your “core values”?
Talk about it with leaders every Sunday or before events.
11. How do you help a new employee understand the culture of your organization?
The new hire should have values that align with the values of the organization.
12. What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?
13. What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?
Leading and managing change effectively
14. What is one mistake you witness leaders making more frequently than others?
Not communicating
15. What is the one behavior or trait that you have seen derail more leaders’ careers?
The inability to take/handle constructive criticism
16. Can you explain the impact, if any, that social networking has made on your organization or you personally?
We post events on Facebook. We stream our services online. We share our experiences on Facebook.
17. What are a few resources you would recommend to someone looking to gain insight into becoming a better leader?
Attend the Global Leadership Summit(GLS) by Willow Creek Church in Barrington; sign up for their catalyst updates; buy the books of the speakers who moved you in their presentation.
18. What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
Interview seasoned leaders and ask if they would be an accountability partner (just one).
19. What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?
See #17
20. What do you like to ask other leaders when you get the chance?
I ask other leaders if they see things the way I do and if not, Why?
21. How do handle doubt when it plagues your mind?
Give myself space and time-try to remember the good times-quote scripture-pray
22. When insecurities pop up, how do counter them?
Have faith in God’s plan for me. Jeremiah 29:11
23. What ways have worked for you do deal with worries?
I quote verses and play uplifting music 
24. How do deal with feeling overwhelmed when it occurs?
Take it a little at a time. Overwhelming is fretting about the future and not in the moment. I am learning to truly live in the moment.
25. Do you schedule time off to avoid exhaustion? If yes, what does your scheduled time off look like?
Play games, go to the movies, read a book, workout, hang out with friends and family.
26. Do you have a friend or group of friends to help you when you feel discouraged? How do they help?
I have a good friend who knows me very well. She listens, asks questions, and then helps me sort out the issues.
27. What would you say to your younger self if you could?
I would say: Relax, God is in control!!!
*My practice for 2017 is being present in the moment and not going into the future.
My verse for 2017 is Deuteronomy 7:9- “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.”
My word for 2017 is HOPE.
Thank you, Joan, for taking the time to answer these questions! It was a pleasure to chat with you about leadership! Tena

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