21 Women Making An Impact: Christie Lewandoski, Resource Development Director, United Way Of Cass-Clay

Written by: Brady Drake
  • United Way Investor and Advocate
  • Member of the United Way of Cass-Clay Leadership Team
  • United Way Emerging Leader

The last year really changed how businesses approach building culture – what are some of the best examples you have seen when it comes to creating culture in new ways?

No matter how our world and workplace changes, one thing that will never change is the desire for people to make a difference. As many workplaces transitioned to working remotely, giving back to the community was a way for teams to still feel connected. The thing that brought teams together was a shared purpose. For many companies, helping people in need became a shared goal and a reason for employees to connect and focus on something bigger than themselves. We saw companies get creative with moving their events virtually, and United Way was there to help them turn their traditional events into online experiences. In many cases, this opened the door for even more employees to participate, as you could participate from anywhere. When faced with a crisis like our current pandemic, employee morale is more important than ever. This was especially true for grocery store workers who were vital to bringing supplies to our community. We were so impressed and inspired by Hornbacher’s this year – their team at the Village West location set out to have some fun and created a “fast and furious theme” for their United Way campaign with a goal of raising $17,000 to help our neighbors in need. The incentive to their team was if they achieved it, two of their coworkers would get “Vin Diesel makeovers” and shave their heads. After more than $19,000 was raised, the trimmers came out! This is a great example of how banding together, being bold, and having some fun not only lifted the spirits of a team but also helped neighbors in need when they needed it most. For many businesses, their United Way campaign was a bright spot, and a positive part of their workplace that brought people together, which was needed this year not only by our neighbors in need but our employees around our community who embraced a reason to rally together with their coworkers.

What advice do you have for women looking to build their professional careers?

Raise your hand to volunteer in your community! No matter what stage you are at in your career, it’s a fulfilling and fantastic way to grow. Prior to joining the United Way team, I served as the United Way Employee Campaign Coordinator at my company. It provided me the opportunity to build my leadership skills, make new connections and grow both professionally and personally as I got serve as an ambassador in my workplace, plan events, and inspire and encourage our team to get involved and give back. Volunteering in this role gives people the opportunity to serve in a leadership role, no matter their role at their company. These volunteers work with different people across departments within the company and often times work directly with the leadership team or CEO, which opens up so many new opportunities for learning and new experiences. Volunteering also gives people the opportunity to get out of their comfort zone. This helps build confidence, makes us more adaptable to change, challenges us to be creative, and builds strength and resilience – which are all good qualities of a leader. Next time there is an opportunity to volunteer, step forward. Take the initiative to use the talents you have to make a difference, and you will see those skills grow exponentially. If you would like ideas, you can always check out unitedwaycassclay.org and click on “Get Involved” to see all the ways United Way has for you to volunteer.

There are so many different types of businesses in our community that you get to work with – what is a common thread?

On a typical workday, I get to work with CEO’s, to human resources leaders, to people who lead teams and work on the floor of a manufacturing facility, and they are all very much alike. At the core of each individual, regardless of their title or industry, is a desire to be a part of positive change that makes our community a better place. Another common thread I see is when company leadership is active and vocal about their own desire to give back, employees often adopt that same positive behavior and join in supporting our community. When leadership sets the example, it becomes the culture of the company and has a positive ripple effect throughout an entire team of employees. In addition, businesses that support their employee in volunteering see positive impacts to their culture, their bottom line and success of a business – no matter what type of business it is.

Share This Article
Brady is the Editorial Director at Spotlight Media in Fargo, ND.