As the Executive Director of Komen Charlotte, Tami Simmons is on a mission to save lives by providing much-needed funding and research for the fight against breast cancer. Today she talks with us about the foundation, the best leadership skill someone can possess, her best piece of advice and more. We’re honored to introduce you to today’s FACE of Charlotte, Tami Simmons!
After many years at Wells Fargo, what led you to Susan G. Komen?
I had a great 20-year career with First Union, Wachovia, and Wells Fargo. In 2012 my position was eliminated, and I was lucky enough to find myself working at Komen Charlotte. What a gift!
What’s your favorite part of the job?
Our mission at Komen is to save lives and end breast cancer. I realize that’s a bold goal … everyone in the Komen system does, but it’s a goal I fully get behind every day, and when we hear from people in our community who have been able to receive the breast health care they need and deserve because of Komen Charlotte’s work and partnerships, that’s a really great part of the job! The commitment of our volunteers, board and donors is amazing as well. It’s really a community wrapping itself around this major health risk. It’s really good to be part of the movement.
How do you start each day?
Depends on what day of the week it is! Some days begin with one-on-one meetings with staff. During Race for the Cure season, it could be on the phone with sponsors or the City of Charlotte to talk about planning for that mammoth event. Team meetings are every Wednesday morning, and I value that time with the staff above all. It’s our time to get grounded on everyone’s priorities, common goals and what is ahead for the week. I’m here early, and most days I’m here late, and there’s always something important to get done. Non-profit professionals work very hard … 24/7.
What’s the most important message you hope people take away from the Komen Foundation?
There are a couple of critical messages. First, breast cancer is really many cancers. It will take multiple cures to address the different types of breast cancer that plague so many people in our community and world. All of us must continue to support research and treatment to serve a very diverse universe of people affected by the disease. Second, Komen Charlotte is putting your contributions to work every day. Working in partnership with community health organizations, hospitals and others serving the needs of breast cancer patients and women’s health in general, we are responsible stewards of every donation you make. Every day, women (and men) who could not otherwise afford potentially lifesaving mammograms or diagnostic tests are receiving them because of what you and Komen Charlotte do together.
What’s the best leadership skill someone can have?
I wish there were one! Leadership is situational, not one size fits all. Whether it’s board members, staff or donors, everyone needs to feel heard, appreciated for their contributions, and you have to meet them where they are in the process. I don’t think you ever stop learning leadership skills. For me it’s an ongoing and many times uncertain journey.
What’s a strategy you use to stay focused when there’s a lot going on?
I don’t believe you can over-communicate. When there’s a lot going on it’s critical to “circle the wagons” periodically and check in with people/the team. While I get that online communication is the most efficient and immediate, there’s nothing like dialogue to get close to issues and clear on how people are doing when there are multiple competing priorities. That describes the environment at Komen Charlotte most of the time!
What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?
That’s always a tough question for me because I’m a totally open book. I’d be interested to know who doesn’t know something about me!
Best piece of advice?
Treat people the way you’d like to be treated.
What inspires you?
I’m a true extrovert, so people and teams and energy around an issue, common goals or a common journey … I’m hooked!
How do you like to relax and unwind?
I’m in heaven with a good mystery novel and my cat (Madison-Belle) on my lap.
Favorite part about living in Charlotte?
I love Charlotte! There’s nothing like the shared commitment to excellence that exists here. Whether in the non-profit sector or corporate and educational systems, we are ALL looking to make Charlotte great and people genuinely love our city.
What are three things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends?
Pets, movies and my morning coffee!
Thank you Tami for your time! Thank you also to Piper Warlick of Piper Warlick Photography for the amazing pictures.
To read about more inspiring women in Charlotte, check out our FACES archives.
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