These last six years have been the most fulfilling of my life. Leading the life-changing work that happens at Flying Horse Farms has been a joy and a gift.
Now, after much consideration — and with absolute certainty that our team is on fire to keep pushing camp forward — I decided to retire from Flying Horse Farms in early 2018, and find what’s next for me. Although I’m excited about my own journey, the key now is to empower the FHF team.
So how, exactly, does a leader help to best transition his or her team for the organization’s next leader? I’ve spent the last few months aiming to do just that. Here’s what’s working for us.
Prioritize — and shift your thinking
I realized that in this new phase, I needed to think differently. My most important job is no longer to carry camp into the future; it’s to put this team in the best possible position to carry camp into the future.
I identified two ways to accomplish that:
- Raise the funds we need to operate camp so we can serve more campers than ever. Fundraising is not a solo effort, but our team is focused and ready for a strong end of year.
- Step back. It’s a weaning of sorts — for my team and for me, too. If done well, everyone wins. This leads me to the next point.
Let go — and empower your team
Let’s face it: Letting go of anything can be tough for most leaders, myself included. Everything is our business. We are accountable. We should be, and we want to be.
One of camp’s core values is “With trust comes relief.” As I prepare to leave, I’ve embraced this value in a very real way. I haven’t stopped attending meetings, for example, but I’ve begun allowing others to make final calls. What a joy it has been to watch our team question, think and thrive. I’m thrilled that this team will be at its strongest when the next leader walks into our big red barn.
Embrace the now — and celebrate your successes
Leaders are future-thinkers. We’re constantly forecasting about finances, about growth, about staffing, about strategic shifts.
Sometimes, without us knowing it, our visions put pressure on our teams that we don’t realize they feel.
These past few months have given me a beautiful opportunity to take stock of all we have accomplished and enjoy exactly where we are at this very moment in time. We’re doing work that campers tell us changes them and, in some cases, even saves them. That’s big stuff. Can it get better? Yes. Will it? Absolutely.
But celebrating today has not only impacted me in a positive way, it’s also impacted our team in a positive way, too. Nobody is resting on their laurels, either. On the contrary, we all are strong, energized and ready for what’s next — and we’ve made time for happy dances.
Mimi Dane is the CEO of Flying Horse Farms, a camp for children with serious illnesses. Located in Mt. Gilead, the camp serves hundreds of children each year — free of charge. The camp is a member of the SeriousFun Children’s Network, the world’s largest family of camps for children with serious illnesses, which was founded in 1988 by Ohio native Paul Newman.