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7 Questions with Sabrina Walker Hernandez
helps you in your leadership.
7 Questions with Sabrina Walker Hernandez
Name: Sabrina Walker Hernandez
Current title: President/CEO
Current organisation: Supporting World Hope
Sabrina is a certified consultant, coach, & facilitator that helps small nonprofit Staff & Board build relationships that convert into more donations. She has over 25 years of experience in nonprofit management, fundraising, and leadership. Among Sabrina’s successes is that she increased operation revenue from $750,000 to $2.5M and completed a $12M comprehensive capital campaign in the 3rd poorest county in the United States. She has facilitated numerous workshops with hundreds of nonprofit professionals. Sabrina is certified in Nonprofit Management by Harvard Business School. She is an active community leader and volunteer in Edinburg, Texas where she is based.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
What I found most challenging as a CEO is meeting people where they are. Basically understanding assessing the strength and weakness of each team member and working with them to ensure they are playing the right position on the team. Not only that, really understanding their strengths and the pros and cons that come with that strength.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
So, initially, I started off wanting to be a lawyer. I majored in political science. As a part of my degree, I took on an internship with the Advocacy Resource Center for Housing (ARCH). This allowed me to mediate between landlords and tenants but it also allowed me to work with a number of attorneys. I soon realized I did not want to be an attorney. What I fell in love with was the nonprofit business world. I decided to get my MPA. Once I graduated I knew I wanted to work for the Boys & Girls Club. I sought a position in the organization and started out in direct services within 1 year I was promoted to VP of Operations. I held that position for 5 years and was groomed and mentored by the sitting CEO as their successor. I thank God every day that I had a mentor who invested time and resources into my development.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
Well, let me start by saying that I am a night owl. So I tend to stay up late. My creative juices start to flow about 10 pm - 2 am at night. So with that in mind, my day generally starts at about 9 am. I start each day by working on my things-to-do list over breakfast. I prioritize what has to get done that day. I use time blocking to ensure that I work on at least one thing that will move the business forward. From there it's office time till 6 pm. Now what I mean by office time is usually back-to-back meetings. After 6 pm I spend time with my husband and then at 10 pm the work begins.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
One of the most important leadership lessons I have learned is to execute excellence. People may discriminate against you because you are a woman or a person of color but when you execute excellence that begins to matter less to them and it eventually fades. What your brand becomes is the person who gets the job done and often exceeds expectations. People like success and will follow you if you are successful.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
The book that has had a profound impact on my leadership is Tom Neff and Jim Citrin, "You are in Charge, Now What?" This book helped me when I transitioned into my first CEO position. The book provides an eight-point plan to show you how to lay the groundwork for long-term momentum and great performance in a new role. I often recommend this book to many first-time CEOs or executive positions.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
You have to create a culture of a learning organization. You have to invest in your people and ensure that they are provided professional development opportunities. Oftentimes you have to push them out of the comfort zone and allow them moments to shine. Give your people the opportunity to facilitate a meeting, making a presentation to the board, or being team lead on a project.
You also have to be a leader that is willing to get in the trenches with your people. My motto is I would never ask someone to do something I am not willing to do.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
I want people to learn from my story. Remember to provide time for self-care. In 2018 I was diagnosed with not one cancer but two. When you get diagnosed with cancer you start to look at your lifestyle. Stress was a direct contributing factor to the cancers that I had. So I want you to remember that life is about balance. You have to take time to eat right, work out and find your joy outside of work. I know it is hard for some of us because for most in this position, including myself, the work brings you joy. But remember it also brings you stress. Stress can lead to a number of health issues so for the sake of yourself and your family you must find balance.