How do organizations thrive? Patience Ferguson knows. She’s the Chief Human Resources Officer of the City of Minneapolis. If you attend the Good Leadership Breakfast this week, you will understand what makes the City of Lakes thrive. Will you join us?
“Our leadership philosophy at the City of Minneapolis bubbled up from our collective family values, and the values we all want in our neighborhoods,” Patience explained to me. “It comes from the positive role models we’ve seen in our families, our churches, our schools and the hundreds of businesses that make this city great. I love my work!”
I first met Patience Ferguson when she participated in the Good Leadership Conference our firm produced in 2012. Her charisma and clarity of purpose made a strong, lasting impression on me.
Patience grew up in a working class neighborhood in Oklahoma City. It was a strong, predominantly African American community thriving with arts and good schools – during the heights of the Civil Rights movement. “My life was formed in a high achieving culture, where we were held accountable for actions and behaviors by the people who lived around us,” she said with pride.
Like many good leaders we know, her strongest role models were her parents. Her mother was a high school drop out who went to work in a uniform, with white shoes to clean wealthy people’s homes. Her father was a minister and a cab driver. “What really formed me was watching my mom & dad live a good life in the face of disparities. We had stability in our own family, but as we watched the neighborhood change, we shopped in neighborhoods outside of our community to get better food. And my parents moved me at age 13 to a school system that was better for me. They helped me see that my life could be different – that I had possibilities beyond what I saw in the eyes of the kids around me,” she reflected.
Those experiences gave Patience a really strong connection to the challenges and values of the City of Minneapolis. After a Masters degree at the University of Minnesota, she learned the culture of Minneapolis through a number of stimulating jobs. As the HR leader at the YWCA of Minneapolis, she won a “Best of Show” award from the Greater Twin Cities United Way for her employee engagement strategy.
Today, she is applying a lifetime of positive momentum to the challenges of our city. She is responsible for 3800 employees – 92% of whom are represented by a Union. She guides everything from recruitment to Diversity & Inclusion, to Organizational Development/Leadership Development to Benefits & Compensation. It’s a job where every hiccup is played out on the evening television news.
Faith at work
The job is so big, and the responsibility so huge that she relies on a strong spiritual foundation to stay fresh, resilient and focused. “I find music in my life to be restorative, rejuvenating and spiritually fulfilling. I find live music every week for fun, and I really enjoy singing!” she beamed.
Maybe I’ll ask her to serenade us at the Good Leadership Breakfast this Friday. Wouldn’t that be fun?
Good leaders thrive because they lead from the values of positive role models. And they help people believe in what’s possible.
Please share with me: what role models shaped you?