Setting standards, soliciting feedback, and achieving your goals: Breakfast of Champions with Jennifer Ford Reedy

What I love most about YNPs – what makes us so wonderful, and so unique, is just how excited we all become when talking about nonprofits. Whether the topic is fair pay, mission-based work, fundraising techniques or leadership development, we YNPs are enthusiastic. Then add the opportunity to interface with a well-known local CEO, and we reach a whole new level of excitement. This past month we gathered with Jennifer Ford Reedy, President and CEO of the Bush Foundation for our Breakfast of Champions event to hear the story of her career journey.

Photo by Marie Ketring

Apart from her short-lived dream of being a Harlem globetrotter, Jennifer Ford Reedy was always interested in working towards the public good. She took on leadership roles in the community from a young age: before graduating college, Jennifer was a city council member and also on her local United Way board. As someone has frequently been the youngest in the room throughout her career, Jennifer relates well to us as YNPs and the morning was jam-packed with excellent pieces of advice:

Don't let the drive to be good slip into the desire to be liked. Be confident in your standards for decision-making. You have control over how you behave, but not how you are perceived. Jennifer openly admitted that she tried too hard for a while to be liked – this is something I can also attest to struggling with. The solution? Define for yourself what it means to be a good person, and have confidence in your assessment. Aim to live up to that standard, not to anyone else’s definition of good.

I want to be good at this job; I don’t want to believe I am good at this job. Can we all look in the mirror and say this? Are we truly seeking honest feedback so that we can improve, or do we look to supervisors, managers and colleagues for that pat on the back? Jennifer spent 9 years at McKinsey, a place where she acknowledges she was able to stretch and grow in many ways because people felt that giving feedback was the caring thing to do. How can you put this into practice? Ask a trusted friend to watch you in a meeting and let you know how you appear.

Work/life balance can exist but it will look very different for everyone. Find time for something you care about. Have a bell weather to determine if you are adequately balancing the priorities in your life. Ask yourself, “Am I making time for x?” Jennifer knows that if she is making time for tennis, things in her life are pretty balanced. For me, I know that if I am not making time for running, something’s got to give. Identifying the x in your life that can be your bell weather will help you with work/life balance.

Don't ask, "What job do I want?” Ask, "What do I want to do, and where can I do it?Early on in her career, Jennifer was able to articulate that she wanted to be the CEO and President of the Bush Foundation. And then she made it happen. Talk about an achievement! Yet what Jennifer explained to us was that she took the time to think long and hard about exactly what she wanted to do (be a free-range community problem solver), and then was able to identify a place where she could do that work (the Bush Foundation). It didn’t happen overnight, but through hard work and determination she was able to reach her goal.

The Breakfast of Champions series is sponsored by Pollen (, and is held once a month (check the YNPN Twin Cities calendar for more information). Do you know an Executive Director that would be the perfect guest for this event? Contact Lindsay Marcil at [email protected].

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