Practices and Principles that Guide us in Face of Adversity: Collective Reflections from Skills Society Leadership

This past year, Skills undertook the journey to refresh its value statements in order to reflect the unique and effective approach we take in delivering our services. This collaborative process involved the Skills Board of Directors, staff and the voices of those we support, along with their families. As the year unfolded, and the COVID crisis emerged and then deepened, it became clear that these new values – who we are and why it matters – reflected Skills at its very best. A resilient organization with a commitment to adapting and thinking creatively about its challenges.

Why it Matters

In the past, people with disabilities were left out of important conversations that affected their lives. We believe that our planning, policies, procedures, and pathways are more effective when they are informed by and responsive to the needs of the people whose lives they impact.

Operating Principles

  • We focus our services around the lived experiences of the people we support
  • We plan our services in creative and engaging ways in order to make them meaningful and relevant
  • We ensure our solutions are the most empowering, least intrusive and safest for the people affected
  • We build and strengthen healthy relationships in everything we do
  • We work equally to solve big picture problems and on-the-ground needs

Why it Matters

We believe that real social change comes from collective effort. By sharing resources and working closely with other like-minded organizations, we raise the voice of the disability community and take a leading role in building more inclusive communities.

Operating Principles

  • We treat invitations to collaborate as opportunities to help achieve our vision and mission
  • We use the Action Lab and other initiatives to open up relationships and spur innovative ideas
  • We look beyond our organization for new and different ways to achieve our vision
  • We place trust at the centre of any relationship – because that’s what enables collaboration
  • We embrace the sometimes slower nature of collaborative work when it is necessary

Why it Matters

In order to become better problem solvers, we work hard to learn through our actions and study excellence in others. We are committed to trying new ideas, seeking input on our work, and building a learning organization each and every day.

Operating Principles

  • We actively seek out new knowledge and view continuous learning as essential to our role as leaders
  • We learn through reflecting on our actions and studying the work of others
  • We strive to mix solutions that are old, new and sometimes surprising
  • We generously share what we build and learn with others

Why it Matters

Helping people with disabilities live fulfilling lives is not an easy, straightforward road. It is complex work – from the needs of the people we serve to the interconnected policies that shape their world. Rather than shy away from these challenges, we meet them head-on with creativity, determination and collective effort.

Operating Principles

  • We experiment with multiple ways to address tough issues in order to improve the chances we find a solution
  • We embrace ambiguity, difficulty and tension as opportunities for creative thinking and innovative responses
  • We are comfortable knowing that measuring success in our work is not an exact science with clear answers
  • We are relentless but patient in our efforts to navigate and make progress on tough issues

Why it Matters

Life is full of change. We know that if our strategies and systems are too rigid and static, we risk our services becoming less useful or relevant. Instead, we are stronger when we are more agile in responding to changing contexts and uncertain times.

Operating Principles

  • We stay razor focused on our vision and mission yet flexible in how we pursue them
  • We constantly scan our world – inside and out – to identify opportunities and barriers for our work
  • We boldly seek out new insights – even failures – and adapt our work to reflect our learning
  • We promote clear and constant communication to enable us to pivot quickly if required
  • We adjust and revisit decisions when new information is presented or as political, social, and environmental contexts shift
  • We remain open to new solutions in the face of changing times
  • A collective piece written by the Leadership of Skills Society

    The Covid crisis has produced a great deal of uncertainty in all our lives. As we navigate this uncertainty together, we often fall back on certain core principles or practices that provide us comfort, give us hope, or anchor us. Taking time to reflect on these principles and practices can be a helpful tool in the face of adversity.

    The leadership at Skills took some time to reflect and name the practices and principles that have helped them navigate these uncertain times. We share these with you in hopes that some may resonate with you. What practices and principles have helped you in these uncertain times?

    Finding Strength in Community

    “My mom once told me that you should “let your friends help you” and I have been thinking about that a lot these days and putting it into practice!”

    – Karen, Senior Manager of Human Resources


    “Relationships based on trust, respect, and strong communication have been key and help everyone feel safer and well supported in this difficult time.”

    – Jan, Manager of Community Supports

    “Every person we support, every employee, and all families and guardians have worked together to navigate these uncertain times and find the best solutions to keep us all as well informed and safe as can be. Skills Society personifies the mantra “we are all in this together.”

    – Bev, Senior Manager of Community Supports and Direct Operations


    “I work with some of the best humans on a daily basis. I knew together we would be resilient through this crisis. Teams have hunkered down and together we have stayed strong and united!”

    – Lori, Manager of Community Supports

    Remembering Purpose

    “By dedicating myself daily, I have found purpose. This purpose has fuelled a drive, and a commitment to serve, persevere, and re-design personal and professional goals.”

    – Pawel, Manager of Community Supports

    “I have found that providing even the smallest kind gesture to others has helped me feel more connected and givenme purpose.”

    – Lisa, Coordinator

    Finding Creative Ways to Stay Connected

    “I have found that checking in with everyone..staff, families, and people we support, on a regular basis has helped. FaceTiming with the people we serve has been a fun way to connect, helps alleviate some of the disconnect, and lets them know that their support is very much valued at this time.”

    – Colleen, Manager of Community Supports


    “I love that I have been able to stay connected with family, friends, peers, and neighbors through things like driveway visits and online game nights, birthday celebrations, workout challenges, and recipe swaps. I have found that I am reaching out more and taking the time to stay connected to the people I care about.”

    – Lizzamarie, Recruitment Coordinator

    Focusing on What You Can Control

    “I am working on letting go of the things I can’t control and remembering we are in this together!”

    – Pauline, Coordinator


    Cultivating Gratitude

    “Taking a moment to look how others are stepping up and expressing gratitude to them makes a lot of things better. It really shifts your mindset and strengthens community.”

    – Ben, Executive Director


    Finding Hope

    “I hold onto hope, hope that things will come back together, that we will once again be able to hug our family members and socialize with friends (without masks and being 2 meters apart).”

    – Linda, Senior Manager of Office Administration


    Making New Routines

    “Set even a basic routine and stick to it everyday!”

    – Ed, Health and Safety Coordinator


    Building Trust

    “Trusting my colleagues and team members to continue providing awesome supports, trusting leadership to provide guidance through uncertainty, trusting that we are all doing everything we can and working together to achieve greatness despite added challenges and trust that this too will end and we will all be stronger and more prepared in our lives because of it.”

    – Erin, Coordinator

    Seeking out Information

    “Accessing clear, concise and relevant information helps keep everyone safe – people we support and staff.”

    – Midge, Manager of Community Supports


    Using Empathy

    “As both a Senior Management and a Management team we have been hyper aware of how our decisions have real impact on people and have used empathy to acknowledge these and other impacts on the people we serve, families, and staff.”

    – Matt, Senior Manager of Community Supports

  • We listen deeply to understand what is really going on and what is needed