Tim O’Neal

Q: What most notably stands out about your leadership style or what is an example of leadership success you can share with our readers?

I have been called a visionary business and social innovation leader because I have dedicated my career to creating programs and services that help underserved people thrive. My personal vision is to build bridges that uplift entire communities.

But when it comes to leading a team, I am inspired by the great work of servant leaders, especially in building a positive culture for our team members. 

When I took over as president and CEO of Goodwill of Central and Northern Arizona in January 2015, we immediately dedicated ourselves to implementing a culture change because we recognized the organization’s departments were operating in silos. Top leaders were not consistently working together to achieve their goals, and some of them had never even met before, despite working in the same building.

Together, we embarked on a comprehensive journey to change the way we interacted with each other, relying in those early days on the teachings of Patrick Lencioni’s book The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team.

We focused on building trust, engaging in healthy conflict, committing to decisions together, then keeping each other accountable in order to deliver top-notch results for our community.

Thanks to this important work, we grew the organization from one that had 15 retail stores when I first started in 1999, to more than 100 stores here today, enabling us to serve more people in the community than ever before.

As a team, we are dedicated to Ending Poverty Through the Power of Work, and if my role as a leader can enable us to do that at a greater scale, I consider it a privilege to serve.

What impact has COVID-19 or the disruptions of the past 18 months had on you as a leader?

The pandemic solidified many things for us as an organization and for me as a leader. We knew it was imperative to keep our doors open, not only to offer affordable goods to families in need during a difficult time, but also so we could continue offering our no-cost career development, training and education services to laid-off Arizonans who needed new jobs. People were scared and at a loss for resources when other agencies closed their doors.

It wasn’t easy, but we worked with the Governor’s office to be declared an essential business, so after a few weeks we were able to reopen our doors and continue serving the community.

As an organization, we had to pivot our operations. Whether it was implementing all the safety precautions in our stores, offering our skills trainings virtually, or holding multi-employer hiring events over Zoom, it showed me as a leader that when you give your team the freedom to think creatively, they come up with amazing solutions to complicated — and complex — issues.

What do you feel we can be doing as a business community to empower economic growth here?

I believe the business community has a responsibility to better utilize the most important resources available to us in Arizona: its people. 

Arizona currently suffers from an $8 billion economic gap due to an under-skilled workforce. If businesses can come together with the nonprofit community to upskill the individuals who are here to fill jobs, we can stimulate economic growth, attract more businesses to Arizona, and reduce poverty in our state on a massive scale.

Together, it’s time for us to think radically differently about how we solve poverty to stimulate economic growth. And we can do it together.

What is new and notable for your company’s near future that will impact our economy?

Goodwill is celebrating its 75th anniversary in Arizona. In September, we opened the doors to our state’s first Excel Center, an adult high school that gives individuals 18 years old and over the career development, training and education they need to gain their high school diplomas. Beyond academics, The Excel Center offers students access to life coaching, child care, transportation assistance, flexible scheduling, college credits and industry-recognized certifications, preparing them for life after graduation. 

Preparing them to fill positions that will stimulate economic growth in Arizona — all at no cost to them.

The school in Maryvale was our first, but we plan to expand the model to 25 schools across Arizona to serve the more than 700,000 working-age adults in the state without a high school diploma. 

Arizona is one step closer to Ending Poverty Through the Power of Work.

Name of Leader: Tim O’Neal
Position of Leader: CEO
Organization Name: Goodwill of Central and Northern Arizona
No. of Years with Organization: 23
Main Local Office Address: 2626 W. Beryl Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85021
Phone: (602) 535-4000
Website: goodwillaz.org
Number of offices in Greater Phoenix:1 corporate center, and more than 80 stores in Phoenix metro
Year Established Locally: 1947


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