Food for Thought from Santa Barbara

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By Jennifer Carreiro, Customer Relations Specialist & Guest Contrbutor Erik Talkin, Executive Director, Foodbank of Santa Barbara County

At Vantage Point, we're all about leadership. It's front and centre in our mission, and we’ve been thinking lately about how effective we are at communicating our culture of leadership to those we engage as internal and external talent. So, when we came across a post on this topic from our friends at the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, we had to share. This excerpt from the Foodbank of Santa Barbara's blog is a letter their executive director, Erik Talkin, gives all new hires. It is a great example of how this organization communicates its unique culture and leadership attributes.

Advice for Emerging Leaders at the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County

1. We’re not really interested in telling you what to do. We have more effective things to do with our time. We want you to be coming forward with your thought-through ideas about how to move the organization forward towards achieving our mission. How will your plan help us achieve the goals in our strategic plan? We want to say ‘Yes’ to your every suggestion, you just just have to help us make that possible.

2. You need to be able to communicate successfully in all media to be able to sell your ideas, both internally and externally. That means you might need to pitch the same idea differently in North County than in South, or differently to internal or external stakeholders. You need to be aware of their ‘listening’ more than your ‘speaking.’

3. The desire for continuous improvement has to be in your blood, because ‘good enough’ is never good enough. You have to be curious about what innovations and best practices are out there, locally and nationally both from those doing similar things to you, and others doing completely different things.

4. You have to be a coalition builder, able to step outside your day-to-day contacts to identify those stakeholders in the community who can invigorate what we are doing. We know it is hard work and easier to do everything yourself, but you can’t really solve things this way. Find out who out there has shared interests and objectives. Could we give up a little of our power or self-importance to partner in a meaningful way?

5. It doesn’t matter whether you are in the development department or not, a large part of your job is resource acquisition for our organization. Money, people, food, services – it is all out there, and you are coming into contact with it every day. Be mindful of tapping into it and directing it through the organization. You’re doing the person a favor by introducing them to our wonderful work.

6. You have to be able to inspire and lead all different kinds of people. Not just staff members, but community volunteers, interns, those who are much younger or older than you. This is a different kind of leadership from the old top down stuff.

7. Find your mentors wherever you can, inside the organization and without. There are people who will be inspired by your energy and ideas, and will want to advise you how best to make them work. Someone who is telling you all the time how things can’t be done is not a mentor. Someone prepared to take a stand for your excellence is a mentor

8. We believe our mission demands a certain urgency in its execution. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible for you to have an obscene amount of fun with large parts of your ‘job.’


How do you communicate your organization’s culture of leadership to your internal and external talent team? Is this example something you would consider adopting?


Thank you to Erik Talkin for permission to share. The full post can be read here.

About the Author

After moving to Vancouver in 2012, Jenn joined Vantage Point as Customer Relations Specialist and has since moved into a shared services role as Vantage Point Online Content Specialist and lead of Corporate Social Responsibility at SAP Vancouver. Jenn is responsible for various communications...

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