Getting Unstuck: Nourishing Organizational Purpose – an Interview with Tom Parker, Director of HR for Make-A-Wish America

How does your organization approach change? Where do ideas for change come from? How do you assess for change readiness? How do you develop and maintain a culture – and especially the talent within it – where change is seen as a vital part of the organization’s ability to achieve its desired outcomes and impact?

In this wide-ranging interview, we hear from Tom Parker how the highly respected not-for profit, Make-A-Wish America wrestles with these and other related questions. Tom is currently serving as the organization’s Director of Human Resources. Make-A-Wish America, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to granting the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions – to enrich their and their family’s experience with hope, strength and joy.

Jeff’s nephew, Graham, an avid cyclist and cancer survivor taking ownership of his brand new bike, which was part of the Wish he received. Graham attributes a significant part of his remission to the emotional boost he received from the Wish Make-A-Wish America granted.

Jeff’s nephew, Graham, an avid cyclist and cancer survivor taking ownership of his brand new bike, which was part of the Wish he received. Graham attributes a significant part of his remission to the emotional boost he received from the Wish Make-A-Wish America granted.

Listen for:

• Three areas where Make-A-Wish is focusing its internal energy.

• Where Tom talks about passive vs active talent-seeking; i.e., finding the right person for the right role even if there isn’t yet a job opening.

• The importance of hiring for competencies vs experiences, and the critical alignment of competencies (behaviors) with actions and results.

• How the internal cultural environment, e.g., the central office itself, reflects and drives the larger mission and results, and keeps itself motivated to support the mission of providing hope.

• The importance of having a “To be” list vs a “To Do” list.

• The four considerations required for navigating change.

• The use of stories to activate listeners’ support and cultivate relationships.

After listening to the episode:

One area that Tom talked a great about was the importance of collaboration on bringing about effective change:

  1. It builds awareness of the reasons behind and for change.

  2. It speaks to the impact of the change; if you’re not collaborating, you can’t really demonstrate the change itself.

  3. It builds individual knowledge: what does it mean to me, the team, my job?

  4. It supports providing tools and resources.

  5. It leads to the reinforcement of organization purpose.

Where in your organization is collaboration proving to be as powerful as it is for Make-A-Wish America?

For more information:

About Make-A-Wish

  • Mission: Together, we create life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses.

  • Research shows children who have wishes granted build the physical and emotional strength needed to fight a critical illness.

  • Children who are eligible for a wish are not necessarily terminal. Make-A-Wish grants the wishes of children with critical illnesses.

 By the Numbers

  • Make-A-Wish has granted more than 315,000 wishes for children with critical illnesses in the U.S. since 1980 – nearly16,000 wishes last year alone.

  • Together, generous donors, supporters, staff and nearly 40,000 volunteers across the U.S. are critical to making these wishes come true.

  • To help make life-changing wishes possible, visit wish.org/donate.

Jeff Ikler