Nonprofit on the Rocks - Shelby Williams-Gonzalez
Season 3, Episode 10
“[Arts organizations] are vital because it makes the space for someone to discover something about themselves that is purely unique. It is theirs. And so not only is there that creative journey, but there's that ownership. And every person—whether a child or an adult, should have that moment where you have ownership about what you're doing.”
Matt talks to Shelby Williams-Gonzalez, President and CEO of Inner-City Arts in downtown Los Angeles, an organization that believes in the transformational power of the arts, and whose mission is to engage young people in the creative process in order to shape a society of creative, confident and collaborative individuals.
The pair discuss the transition from artist to executive; how to build a strong team; the delicate balance a good leader strikes between delegation and ownership; and, most importantly, from where the term “shitfaced” is derived.
What advice can you give people when they're interviewing?
I think that you have to use your own personal resources, right? Like I think, you know, in presenting to all the panels throughout the interview process, I was reflecting on, on things that I had done and I could easily say, like, here's something that worked.
Here's something that didn't like. That's okay. That's that moment that you are your best resource, right. And your experiences. But not doing it in a boastful way. Just like this is what I know, you know? And I remember that, like there a question came up. , I think actually when I met with the executive team and they asked me if I had any experience with, and I'm going to blank on the term. Okay. When somebody dies and you get that by giving the plan giving. Okay. Okay. So with that, right. , and I was like, I mean, I've only had minimal, you know, I D I wasn't seeking people out. Honestly, it just appeared.
So, if you're looking for plan giving is like a strategy. I don't have a strength in that, but it was like, I'm just going to be honest, you know, I'm not going to pretend like I know that section. And I think you actually gave me really good advice. , you know, and just feedback in general, you were like, You can't be everything to everyone. So be you. And I was like, okay, that I can do.
Here's the thing that every recruiter, every interviewer, every board member who's interviewing you, here's the thing you have to remember as an applicant that if you don't know the answer, there's no kind of bullshit. You're going to be able to give us that we're not going to know the answer.
Right. And not spin it so that we don't know. Cause we know. So, if you don't know what we want to hear as honesty, like if you don't know, tell us, you don't know that's okay. We want to know that because at the end of the day, just like you said, Shelby, not one person knows everything. That's what your team is for. So be honest because we're hiring the per the actual person, not the bullshit you're trying to spin. So, thank you.
In terms of interviewing for your position at Inner-City Arts, is there a question that you can tell applicants that they should ask before they take a job?
Yes. In meeting with the staff, I remember asking them, look, I know it's not always rainbows and sprinkles, so what's going on, what's top of mind that what's the problem you need to solve for now, and just to hear everybody's response--and it was a myriad of responses--like, you know, obviously dealing with COVID personnel issues.
That's what I wanted to know because yeah, no places like aperfect Disney movie. Right. And understanding it's a large organization. So that's what was really important. And I loved that. They were just as honest with me as I was with them. And that was that moment. I think that I was just like, yeah, I really liked these guys.