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Transforming Central Texas with Care | Phyllis Snodgrass
Phyllis Snodgrass strongly believes in leading by example and showing people love and support. According to the CEO of Austin Habitat, everyone in the organization has a unique and special role to play. Still, it is easy for people who are not client-facing to lose sight of how their work fits into the bigger picture. “We spend a lot of time educating our teams and ensuring everyone feels valued and supported, “ she says. “We have created a special environment at Austin Habitat for Humanity where collaboration is a given and where servant leadership is rewarded. We are forward-thinking, always looking ahead to what’s coming and adapting to the changes taking place in the market.”
Having spent many years leading Chambers of Commerce, Phyllis has been in a position to support both male and female business owners who are working hard to establish themselves. But as a working mother and community leader, she always had a particular passion for women leaders who have families, careers, and businesses to lead.
By providing a safe place to process those challenges and sharing her lessons learned while raising children and serving in multiple leadership roles, Phyllis has tried to be honest and transparent about the challenges and the missteps made along the way. “Too often, we think we have to have it all figured out and have difficulty admitting to anyone that we don’t. Owning up to that and helping people move forward through tough times with support and encouragement is a gift we owe to each other”, adds the pioneering leader.
Phyllis thanks her brilliant, smart, capable, and driven leadership team for serving the organization’s mission. “I learned long ago that I could help people grow, but I can’t change them. So at Austin Habitat, we look for the unique gifts that each leader brings to the table and find ways to utilize those gifts for the organization’s good”, elucidates Phyllis. “When you allow people to operate from their strengths and are less concerned about job titles than talent, you can make amazing things happen!”
However, something Phyllis realized in later years was how isolated many female leaders are. “I have an extensive network of male counterparts who have for years participated in accountability groups with other male leaders. Often, as women, we have had to shoulder this on our own”, she explains. “It’s hard to find time for early morning accountability sessions when juggling leading an organization and getting your kids to school with their shoes on and lunches packed. I wish I had found a way to build those accountability groups for myself earlier in my life. We all need people in our lives that know us and can ask us hard questions.” Phyllis has genuinely transformed herself into a steadfast leader, taking the organization to new heights.
Austin Habitat for Humanity has made housing policy one of its key pillars. Phyllis has observed that people in Central Texas are experiencing an affordable housing crisis as some feel that growth is causing that problem. Unfortunately, growth is only aggravating the problems that already exist. For many years, Austin has done its best to manage and even restrain growth; restrictive housing and development policies were the primary tools. “I like to say that bad decisions can start from good intentions, which is certainly the case here. Increasing fees to support parks or protecting neighborhood character are not bad in and of themselves. But they add to the cost of housing. When you limit housing supply, you drive up prices. If we can help create better housing policies that allow more homes to be built, we can start to address some supply-side issues contributing to our housing crisis,” says Phyllis, whose team is working towards the same mission.
Phyllis is proud of how her team has carefully examined the organization’s strengths and learned how they could leverage their brand to impact affordable housing. “One of the strengths we have capitalized on is our ability to provide housing counseling for those wanting to purchase a home and the pipeline of qualified buyers we have created.” She adds, “because we cannot build our way out of this crisis, we have used our strengths to build out a wholly-owned subsidiary that is an affordable housing real estate brokerage firm. We now partner with builders and developers to put people in our home buyer pipeline into affordable homes. It’s been a great way to use the brand and create more housing opportunities in this market.” In addition, the organization was recently blessed with an $8.5 million gift from MacKenzie Scott. This transformative gift will enable Austin Habitat to invest in land for future home construction.
In February of this year, Phyllis announced to their board of directors that she would be stepping down at the end of 2022 as CEO of Austin Habitat for Humanity. “I’m extremely proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish and look forward to supporting the next CEO to take the organization to even greater heights,” says Phyllis. “As for myself, when I leave Austin Habitat for Humanity, I plan to join the C-12 Network as a leader of CEO Peer Advisory Groups. I’ve been a participant in C-12 for the past six years, and the support, insight, and accountability provided by my C-12 Chair and fellow board members have been a tremendous help to me during my time at Austin Habitat. I look forward to tapping into my years of experience and helping others build great businesses for a greater purpose.”
Austin Habitat for Humanity
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