Marco Damiani’s breakfast meetings began anew in a virtual forum on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. The CEO of AHRC New York City hosted dozens of employees from all of the agency’s departments on Zoom as he provided updates on current events and encouraged discussion on a number of important topics.

The most essential things we can do together are to be creative, to be innovative, and to be comfortable talking about your ideas and concerns,” said Marco.

Confronting Unprecedented Challenges

Marco reflected that AHRC NYC has gone through “unprecedented challenges” over the past five months, confronting a pandemic, an economic crisis, and the largest racial justice movement in 50 years.

We need to get to a place where we learn even more about each other while learning how we can do better in the world around us,” Marco said. “We must build even greater self-confidence and expect to acquire new skills and grow in a satisfactory manner. All of this can only happen if we work together, build strong teams, and your supervisor or manager believes in what I’m talking about right now. A great organization is only great if it’s dynamic.

Marco acknowledged that AHRC NYC must be more dynamic in confronting racism. He said that a recent listening session with Professor Tawara Goode from the National Center for Cultural Competence at Georgetown University provided a chance for employees to lend a voice to their experiences with racism inside and outside of work. “We can’t work with people with DD if our workforce doesn’t feel supported and listened to,” Marco said. “We owe it to our colleagues to be as accepting, progressive, and equitable as possible.”

Expectations from Leadership

In opening up the meeting to a general discussion, Marco asked attendees: “What do you expect of me?”

Alexandra Santiago, an Employment Service and Community Manager with Employment and Business Services said that she expects the CEO to have a good understanding of how each department works on every level. “I feel that as people move up to higher positions they lose sight of how it is for people in entry-level positions,” she said.

Sarah Hatcher, a Psychologist with Adult Day Services, isn’t looking for a micromanager but instead for a leader who “gets to know employees and advocates for their needs as well as the people we support in the most creative ways possible.

Christina Muccioli, Vice President for Education, summed up what she looks for in three simple words: “Vision, integrity, and access.

Feedback from Employees

AHRC NYC staff members were grateful for the opportunity to directly interface with the agency’s leader. “I was pleasantly surprised at how down-to-earth and relatable Marco was during the meeting,” Alexandra said. “From the way Marco interacted with the staff and the questions he asked, I got the sense that he genuinely wanted to know what it was like for everyone during this difficult time and his concerns felt sincere- it was refreshing.

Alicia Archer-Roberts, Community Support Supervisor at Walter and Evelyn Redfield Center, spoke up multiple times during the meeting. “How often do you have a CEO dedicate himself to not only excel in what he does but also bring the people who up make that organization with him?” she said. “I was honored to be asked to be a part of Mornings with Marco because I knew I would be able to share my views and they would be heard. We were able to share our own issues, and also be the voice for other team members who weren’t in attendance. I am confident that Marco and his team will do their best to address these issues, and I can’t wait to see the results.