Machelle Locsin Of Boys & Girls Clubs Of Silicon Valley On Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Uncertain & Turbulent Times
Listen: Leaders should create a culture of regular and fast feedback. This means actively seeking out feedback from team members and stakeholders and using that feedback to inform decisions.
As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Machelle Locsin.
Machelle Locsin is a seasoned non-profit executive with 24 years of experience in management, fundraising, and community relations. Throughout her career, Machelle has held leadership positions at prestigious organizations such as the American Cancer Society and Catholic Charities, and currently serves as the Chief Development Officer at Boys & Girls Clubs of Silicon Valley.
In her current role, Machelle oversees fundraising strategy and operations, leads high-performing teams, and forges strategic alliances to drive key business initiatives and achieve ambitious goals.
Outside of work, Machelle volunteers with the American Cancer Society and the Rotary Club of San Jose. She is also a proud mother of two almost-adult children and happily married to her husband, Ben Locsin. Machelle is a breast cancer survivor; her experience has deepened her appreciation for life and her passion for giving back to her community.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Thank you for having me! My career aspirations took an unexpected turn when my father was diagnosed with lung cancer. Originally, I planned to become a mechanical engineer, inspired by my brother-in-law who was in the same field; however, when my father’s diagnosis came, I found myself compelled to pursue something more meaningful. At the time, I was attending community college. I learned about an Income Development Secretary role at my local American Cancer Society and immediately applied. Fast forward twenty-four years, I’m still in the nonprofit development space, now serving as Chief Development Officer at Boys & Girls Clubs of Silicon Valley.
None of us are able to achieve success without help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Absolutely! During my 18-year tenure at the American Cancer Society, I had the privilege of working alongside many wonderful individuals. However, there is one person in particular who played a pivotal role in my career trajectory — Susan Lucas Taylor. Susan was a board member at the Society who saw my potential and helped me find the confidence to lead.
When she was appointed Chief Development Officer at Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, she reached out to me and offered me a position on her team. Although I was hesitant to leave an organization I had grown to love, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work alongside someone who had been such a strong advocate for me. Under Susan’s mentorship, I was given the freedom to take risks and be creative. It was during my time at Catholic Charities that I learned about the importance of after-school programs and became passionate about the work being done at Boys & Girls Clubs of Silicon Valley.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose-driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your organization started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
Founded in 1944, Boys & Girls Clubs of Silicon Valley’s mission is to inspire and empower all young people, especially those who need us most, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible, and caring adults.
What began seventy-nine years ago as a Club serving boys who needed a positive alternative to the streets, is now the premier youth development organization in Silicon Valley providing a safe place, caring mentors, and life changing programs. We are part of the solution to close the opportunity gap to achieve greater economic, political, and social equality among youth and the communities in which they live.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
The most challenging time of my career was undoubtedly 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Nobody had a playbook to reference, and uncertainty was the norm. However, it was also a time that brought out the very best in our communities, including the Boys & Girls Clubs community. People were eager to help, and as a leader, it was my responsibility to provide clarity, connection, and above all, compassion to both my staff team and our stakeholders.
During those trying times, I made a concerted effort to prioritize the well-being of my team and to provide them with a sense of security in a rapidly changing world. By remaining transparent and responsive to their concerns, we were able to weather the storm together. And ultimately, we were able to demonstrate the value of our organization to the community, which led to significant growth in our outreach efforts. Today, we’ve gone from serving 2,500 kids per year across thirteen Clubhouses to 5,000 kids across thirty-two Clubhouses — a testament to the resilience and determination of our team.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
Never, not once did I ever consider giving up. My motivation came from our frontline staff. Our program team and Clubhouse staff immediately started responding and adapting with two goals in mind: continue to serve the youth who need us most and prepare to support kids, teens, and their families after the crisis. We were uniquely positioned to help — we have high trust relationships with families, learning resources and curriculum, and most notably, trained and caring staff who never considered giving up on the families we serve. I followed their lead, provided resources to support their efforts, and worked to remove any obstacles.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
The most critical role of a leader during challenging times is to lead with empathy and resilience. A leader should be able to acknowledge the difficult situation, but at the same time, provide hope and inspiration to their team. They should clearly communicate the goals and objectives of the organization, as well as the steps that need to be taken to achieve them. Additionally, leaders should demonstrate their ability to take action and make difficult decisions, while remaining calm and composed.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?
During uncertain times, it’s crucial for leaders to focus on their employees as whole individuals and not just as workers. One of the best ways to boost morale is by doing regular pulse checks to understand the needs and concerns of the team. Increasing lines of communication and collaboration can also help people feel more connected and supported. Leaders can also consider being vulnerable when appropriate, as it can help build trust and create a sense of unity. Finally, celebrating “small wins” really helps provide a sense of accomplishment and progress.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
I believe the best way to communicate difficult news is to be honest and kind, to act with compassion and offer support. Be clear in your communication; clarity fosters trust.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
What’s the saying: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”? That said, a solid plan makes room for contingencies and adaptability. Make your plans with the best information available to you. Consider and plan for obstacles — and stay agile! Good leaders keep their ear to the ground, listen, and regularly seek feedback from their teams.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
Invest in and support your staff. It is the only way to sustain your people and performance.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
During turbulent times, a common mistake I have seen organizations make is thinking smaller and being dominated by fear. This results in an overall acceptance of mediocrity, and when this mindset takes root there is real damage: it impacts how you set goals, measure success, and the level to which you are able to deliver on objectives. To avoid that, stay focused and inspired on your purpose and mission, set clear stretch goals, cultivate creativity and healthy risk taking, and foster a work environment of excellence.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
I believe that there are five key things that a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times:
- Provide Inspiration: Leaders should provide a vision that inspires their team and gives them something to strive towards. During a difficult time, it’s important to keep this vision at the forefront of everyone’s minds to maintain motivation and focus.
- Provide Clarity: Leaders should provide clear and realistic expectations for their team. This includes setting priorities and goals, as well as being transparent about the challenges the organization is facing. In my experience, clarity fosters trust and helps to prevent misunderstandings.
- Create Connection: Leaders should provide a sense of connection and belonging for their team. This can include creating opportunities for team members to connect with each other and the organization’s mission. During the pandemic, we met frequently so team members felt informed, connected, and engaged.
- Increase Communication: Frequent and timely communication is crucial during uncertain times. Leaders should be transparent about what’s happening and provide updates as new information becomes available.
- Listen: Leaders should create a culture of regular and fast feedback. This means actively seeking out feedback from team members and stakeholders and using that feedback to inform decisions.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My most recent favorite life lesson quote comes from one of our teenage members at the Club: “Don’t be sorry, be better.” We often apologize for our shortcomings and mistakes, but what if we shifted our focus to becoming better versions of ourselves, rather than simply expressing remorse?
This quote reminds me that our actions have consequences, and that it is up to us to take responsibility for them and work towards making things right. At the same time, it also encourages us to look beyond our failures and focus on the potential for growth and self-improvement.
How can our readers further follow your work?
I enthusiastically invite your readers to follow Boys & Girls Clubs of Silicon Valley on LinkedIn.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
Machelle Locsin Of Boys & Girls Clubs Of Silicon Valley On Five Things You Need To Be A Highly… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.