Tami’s Blog: Why I “Re-Interview” for My Job Every Year

Behind the Scenes at RMHC-KC: Why I “Re-Interview” for My Job Every Year

I joined RMHC-KC as CEO in the summer of 2015. Prior to starting, I prepared by reading the leadership book The First 90 Days, because while I wanted to make sure I came up to speed at my new job quickly, I also knew I wasn’t the kind of leader to walk in with all the answers. The book introduced me to an indispensable learning strategy—one I still use today, seven years later: I call them “listening sessions.”

Our Associate Director of Individual Giving, Charles Brown, as we begin his listening session.

These sessions are set up as one-on-one meetings with me and every employee working at RMHC-KC. That first year, I kept the questions basic (like “What advice do you have for me?”) and took reams and reams of notes. It was such valuable time with our individual team members that I made a commitment to do it every year.

Annual listening sessions have turned into one of the single most effective ways I’ve been able to learn from—and spend valuable time with—every single one of our employees here at RMHC-KC.

To me, these conversations serve two purposes: retention and connection. 

I think of them as “stay interviews”: a way of asking each employee, “what keeps you here, so that we can make sure you stay?” I also want to ensure that our team members stay connected to me; that they know me and trust me. As the saying goes, people don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses. 

Our listening sessions are casual, with comfy chairs and questions sent ahead of time. Team members tell me that they look forward to them every year, and I know I do, too. Sometimes new staff members will be a little nervous before their first one: someone once asked if she was “re-interviewing” for her job—and I explained that no, it’s more like I’m
“re-interviewing” for mine! It’s my chance to demonstrate my commitment to the mission, hear ideas and advice from across the organization, and strengthen mutual trust with staff, year after year.

After the sessions, I synthesize all my notes and report my findings back to the staff. I’ve learned so much over the years—we’ve talked through issues both big and small; and I’ve heard so many valuable suggestions of how to enhance our work. As a result, we’ve done things like change shifts for part-time staff, improve organizational communication, and increase paid time off and other benefits. Ultimately, I look at these listening sessions as a way to make absolutely sure that we’re taking care of our staff, because if our staff is taken care of, then I know that our guest families and their children will be, too. 

The questions I ask range from basic to thought-provoking. In 2020, the responses I got to the simple question “how are you?” were deep and authentic. Our team needed a chance to be heard, and to express some of the grief and anxiety that were so raw at that time. That same year, I asked “how can we better demonstrate our commitment to inclusion?” and our staff identified ideas that we are continuing to implement today.  

At the time of writing this, I have just finished my 48th listening session of the summer. And let me tell you, every one of them fills my tank. I’ve never wanted to be one of those CEOs who doesn’t come out of their office—I want to spend one-on-one time with everyone and hear their answers to questions like, “what keeps you here?” I really do think of it as “re-interviewing” for my job—keeping a fresh perspective, staying open, and always learning.

With listening sessions, I can ensure that our interior workplace culture matches our exterior mission and brand. I believe that by keeping RMHC-KC staff close, we will do our best work to keep families with sick children close, too.