5 Questions: Denny McGaughy
Question 1: You’ve been a leader in our agency since 1990. What does it mean to you that LCS Northwest is hitting the century milestone?
Denny: It’s with great pride that we’ve hit this milestone. It means the agency has repeatedly done things right. We’ve demonstrated integrity, which is something you have to work at every day. It tells us we have focused on our mission and haven’t got lost or sidetracked in the last 100 years. And it means we are competent at managing change. The last thing that speaks to me is that we’re also fiscally responsible. Congratulations Lutheran on 100 years of dedicated service.
Q2: When you started work in Spokane, we had about 35 employees in 1990. Tell us about how our work grew and evolved in the Inland Northwest?
Denny: I want to credit Roberta Nestaas, who I replaced when she took the CEO job in Oregon. And credit to Bill Hershey who was the CEO (in Washington) when I was hired. They laid a strong foundation in Spokane. Today, we have more than 80. We were ready to grow because Spokane’s community needs kept expanding.
We grew by replicating programs and avoiding programs that would lose a lot of money. The key phrase there is a lot. We weren’t afraid to lose money on some ventures as we knew those losses would be covered by other programs.
The Spokane office focused on foster care, advocacy support, clinical services and adoption. We were able to take the first two and keep modifying and expanding them. How we evolved was heavily dependent on funding sources. We hired the right staff, trained them well and gave them lots of support.
Our foster care program kept changing. We ended up taking on the toughest kids in the community. In order to do that, we succeeded because we licensed our own families and we involved them in the therapeutic process to make them part of the team. We had very little turnover.
Q3: You often speak of service to others as a leadership philosophy. What do you mean by that?
Denny: We implemented a Servant Leadership model that fits Lutheran Theology. First of all, you have to be authentic and kind. You have to be kind as often and as in many ways possible. You can’t be fake or superficial or crumble under a little stress. You’ve got to lean into it.
Another key quality is you must be patient. I’m not talking about just myself, but the whole management team. You’ve got to be good listeners, and humility is a quality we embraced. A reasonable ego, that’s sort of a paragraph in itself, but that’s important. Finally, you’ve got to be nurturing and caring. We did a good job of making sure that everybody from the receptionist to the therapists could feel we led with these qualities.
Q4: How did your Lutheran faith influence your work?
Denny: That’s a big question. I grew up Lutheran, and with most of my career being in Lutheran agencies, I’ve come to understand the Lutheran way of seeing the world. Where a Lutheran theology and a degree in social work tie in together is that you don’t see clients as different from yourself. You understand that it’s just a different process that they’ve experienced in life than what you have. What I’m really talking about is inclusivity. You don’t exclude anybody because they are different or have a different lifestyle, but rather, we are all the same. We’re all in this together. We are really one community. The Lutheran faith spoke loudly to me in how I view others..
Q5: What advice do you have for us as we enter our next 100 years?
Denny: That’s an important question because the agency is growing, is experiencing a lot of success and has a strong reputation. You want to monitor those things carefully. The key thing is to understand our heritage and how we got to be successful is what I call our agency DNA. What are our core values? What is that Lutheran makeup? It’s important to make decisions from a strong foundation. It’s not just a question of growing, the question is what are you growing?
You can listen to a conversation between Denny and Chief Development Officer Elliot Stockstad, A Legacy of Social Work and Leadership: Denny McGaughy.
Read more from the Centennial Series.