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Dianne Mack, MS, LCSW, Executive Consultant for Creative Social Solutions LCSW Services

DIANNE MACK, MS, LCSW is the Executive Consultant for Creative Social Solutions LCSW Services, a training, consulting and clinical group specializing in agency advocacy and personal/professional development for social and human service professionals, organizations, individuals, families, and communities. She serves as the Senior Consultant and Lead Catalyst for Sustainable Parents Institute & Network (SPIN), an advocacy and support project with a mission to support parents, strengthen families, and promotes family and community wellbeing.  Dianne is an adjunct professor at Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service, an experienced nonprofit administrator, and a social work leader who is dedicated to the encouragement and growth of others through kind and strategic leadership serving as a coach, mentor, and trainer of community leaders, advocates, professionals, and social work students.  She chairs the New York City Chapter of The Network for Social Work Management, has a certificate in African-Centered Social Work and is certified in Mental Health First Aid for Adults and Youth.  As a doctoral student at NYU Silver School of Social Work, her research interests are diverse and is primarily focused on foster parent retention and recruitment. Dianne is actively involved in community services and nonprofit leadership and serves on the boards of The Havens Relief Fund Society and The Neighborhood Women’s Collective, and as NYC Chapter Chair and Program Chair of the 28th Annual Conference (2017) for The Network for Social Work Management.


Number of years in management: More than 10 years.

Degree/Institution: MS – Columbia University & Fordham University

Tell us about your path to management:
In some ways, I can say I have been groomed for management and leadership most of my life. As an adolescent I was actively involved in youth and community activities, in leadership roles, that were shaped by dedicated leaders who believed in and were committed to youth development. However, as a young adult, I earned a Bachelor’s in Business Administration with the intention first to become a systems analyst and subsequently to enter the financial services industry.

Shortly after graduation, I was given the opportunity to work with one of my mentors and quickly advanced to a supervisory role. This began my path to management and I’ve served in management and leadership capacities since then. Under her tutelage, I learned to write proposals, manage grants, supervise staff, and more. She was a mentor and leader that was not afraid to share her skills and she groomed me to handle organizational tasks that were beyond my title and my peers.

Later, I pursued my master’s degree in social work because I was really fascinated about the impact of organizational culture on employee morale, employee performance and client service. I wanted to learn about managing in a manner that promoted positive employee morale and increased employee performance. My best model for the relationship between employee morale and performance is the one I was exposed to in the early years of my professional development and career. My successful application of this management style led to multiple management and leadership opportunities in diverse environments.

Recently, I decided it was time to move towards an executive level of leadership and began to strategically reshape my career path and reorder my professional development priorities. I recently earned a second master’s in nonprofit leadership in an effort to meld my academic, personal and professional experiences into a redefined personal brand. As a result, I am taking a non-traditional approach to advancing to the next executive level.

What leadership qualities do you find to be the most effective in reaching your organizational or career? 
The leadership qualities that I find most effective are active listening, effective communication, kindness, respect and competence. There are a few messages that I received early in my childhood and my career that significantly influence the way I practice as a social work manager and a leader. These qualities have been the most effective in reaching my past goals and are proving to be the same as I strive towards attaining new goals.

If I were to prioritize the qualities, the first would be RESPECT. I was taught by my parents, my father essentially, that if I wanted to respect I had to earn it, it wasn’t a given. Kindness would be next, a lesson from my mother, as people do not hear you when you are mean or unkind– they spend more time thinking about how to thwart you or plan revenge – directly or indirectly.

For me, active listening and effective communication go hand-in-hand. They are a team – without either one of them, your level of efficacy is negatively impacted.  Last for this list, but not in practice, is competence. I approach every task seeking to gain a high level of skill or expertise. I love to learn, overcome challenges, master skills and provide solutions thus I approach every job or task like a student – seeking new knowledge and skill acquisition. I value being a team member that can deliver on skills and talents and people who work with me know that they can count on me to do so, excellently.

How do you motivate your team members?  
I motivate my team members through encouragement, engaging their strengths, supporting their desires for personal and professional growth, providing solutions and advocacy.  I approach leading or participating in a team by offering the best of me and supporting the whole individual. I “pull my own weight’ and many times the weight of others, especially, if the other members are putting their best efforts forward. Everything I ask of them, I can do or will do, also.

A team is made of people with different strengths, needs, and skill sets. If I am the team leader, it is essential and important to me that the team knows they can count on me to lead them to success, however, success is defined. If I am not leading the team, I motivate by modeling, encouraging others and completing assigned, promised or accepted tasks. Most importantly, regardless of the organizational culture or team structure, I create, design and provide opportunities for achieving success and then we achieve it. Achieving success, especially, when everyone believes you can’t or won’t is often the best motivator for the team – individually and collectively.

Is there a leader or mentor who has inspired or assisted you along your professional journey? 
Absolutely! There are many. My first mentors met me as a teenager and we are still connected, decades later. They were nonprofit social service leaders, visionaries and experts in the fields of youth and workforce development. Others I have met along the way, throughout my career and more recently. My most recent mentors have skill sets that I seek to acquire or strengthen and most importantly, they are willing to share truths about me or the work. I have an intentional plan for cultivating mentoring and leadership relationships and my mentors help me develop as a mentor to others, too.

How has networking impacted your career?
The last few years I have experienced the greatest impact from networking. It has provided me with opportunities to explore career options, conduct informational interviews, and to have expansive conversations on key leadership, management and change.

Until my involvement with The Network, I did not have a true understanding of the role, value, or importance of networking. My current role as Chair of the NYC Chapter happened as a result of a deepened relationship with the immediate past chair of the NYC Chapter. While we had worked together professionally for a brief time, it wasn’t until we reconnected that I became aware of and involved with The Network. After completing a chapter project, he stated to me, “you have great people in your network.”  His statement made me realized that I had been treating my contacts more like a directory or database and that I needed to work on developing higher quality relationships with my connections.

The changes that I have made to my attitude about networking and the way I network resulted from my interactions and involvement with the Network. Networking is continually elevating my level of confidence, increasing the volume, quality and diversity of my personal and professional relationships.  Networking has given me opportunities to approach new challenges with input and support from individuals with socially distinct perspectives.

What are you reading and/or following now (e.g. book, blog, social media groups, etc.)?
In the limited time that I have to read, I tend to read books or blogs that promote personal or transformational development, and organizational leadership.

The two books open on my Amazon Kindle Cloud Reader are:

Leading with Kindness: How Good People Consistently Get Superior Results by William E. Baker, Ph.D. and Michael O’Malley, Ph.D. This book focuses on the way kindness is defined and practiced in the context of business. It also shares the attributes and practices of kind AND successful leaders.

Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School by John Medina. This author writes about how brain sciences influenced the way we live, work, and learn, while sharing ideas that can transform how we manage our daily lives.

My social medial engagement is primarily focused on LinkedIn and the groups or blogs are follow related to the workplace and leadership such as: The Energy Project, Human Workplace, Bridgespan, Stanford Social Innovation, Harvard Business Review, and Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy.

What advice do you have for those beginning their professional journey or who are already in leadership positions?
Wherever one is on their journey, these are my suggestions:

1) Be a continuous learner. It’s important to learn from those that are great, as well as, those that are not. Learn from those you lead and those you lead you.

2) Commit to professional and personal development, even if you have to pay for it. No one will think you are worth spending money on you, if you don’t. YOU ARE WORTH IT!!

3)Find opportunities to serve (paid or volunteer) with respect, dignity and mutual benefit.

4) Regardless of the type of relationship: If it is not the right fit, leave! Go. Find the right fit. Be thoughtful when separating but don’t hang around thinking people or situations will change or you will change them. Take charge of the changes you desire and actively work to make them happen for yourself.

5) Listen to words, as well as, silences, more importantly, pay attention to actions. Some of the most valuable lessons you will learn will never be spoken.

Do you have an initiative or project you would like to tell our readers about?
Sustainable Parents Institute and Network
I currently serve as a founding member and co-Lead Catalyst for SPIN which was conceived in 2014 as a network of child welfare advocates and providers with a mission to significantly increase the supply and retention of caring, safe and well-trained families who are highly-qualified and competent to care for children in need. SPIN promotes supportive practices that nurture individuals who choose to parent vulnerable children and youth who have been abused or neglected. Additionally, our mission is focused on parental support and advocacy as a means of supporting parents, strengthening families and stabilizing communities.

In collaboration with Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service, we launched a management focused continuing educational and professional development day on October 23, 2015, SOCIAL WORK MANAGERS: PRIMED FOR LEADERSHIP. Licensed NYS social workers were able to earn up to seven (7) continuing education credits.

This year we will offer the conference again at Fordham University – Lincoln Center, tentatively scheduled for October 2016.  MORE INFORMATION TO FOLLOW.

What do you wish you had known before you started your career?
I wish I had known that in some instances, despite competence and quality, even when you are the best choice for the project or job, you may not be selected because of others’ insecurities, lack of competence, nepotism and cronyism. This has been the most difficult lesson to learn and accept.

However, if I had known this before I started, I would have spent a lot less time cultivating relationships that were limited or inconsequential, I would have left certain jobs earlier, and I would have spent more time developing other key skills, serving in positive work environments on projects or in roles that would have had greater impact.

Now that I know, I strive to be a more efficient and efficacious decision maker and coach or mentor others in an effort to accelerate their personal and professional growth.

What advice do you have for those beginning their professional journey or who are already in leadership positions?
I would encourage to people to not settle on their laurels and to develop practices that continually foster positive learning and growth.  I would remind people to operate from their strengths, talents, and skills with a willingness to identify areas that are in need of improvement, personally and professionally – and then work on those areas becoming strengths, too.  Be a constant learner and have fun doing it! Strive for excellence and if they are not already, become concise thinkers and be a decision maker.

Lastly, BE YOU.  During my career, my interests and passion for entrepreneurialism, leadership, management, computer programming or finances have waxed and waned, but, they’ve never dissipated.  My eclectic and sometimes seemingly and diametrically opposed interests have integrated into a unique compilation of skills that are infused with intense levels of passion and compassion.  I am known as one who is decisive, tactful and one who positively embraces change. I learned early in my career, that organizational change happens in the hands, hearts and brains of those who lead and that is who I chose to be – one who leads. I choose to be among the influencers, the visionaries and the change-makers. DEFINE YOURSELF. REDEFINE YOURSELF. BE YOU.

The views expressed herein are those solely of the author and not necessarily endorsed by the Network for Social Work Management.

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