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Nonprofit Profile: Kirby Wohlander

Kirby Wohlander is executive director of Toward Maximum Independence (TMI), a nonprofit that enables adults with developmental and other disabilities to achieve their highest level of independence through job services, home supports and more. It also provides foster homes for children with disabilities. Since joining TMI in 2008, Wohlander has improved TMI’s efficiency, expanded services to Riverside, and weathered significant state funding cuts while maintaining profitability and building a large reserve.

RESUME

Name: Kirby Wohlander.

Organization: Toward Maximum Independence Inc. (TMI), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.

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Title: Executive Director.

Number of Employees: 210.

Year Founded: 1981.

Organization’s works: Taking a unique, individualized approach, we help people with disabilities achieve independence through job placement, living assistance and other services.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in psychology, University of California Los Angeles; master’s degree in social work and MBA, San Diego State University.

Birthplace: Brooklyn.

Age: 62.

Current residence: San Diego.

Family: Wife, Barbara Wohlander, (psychotherapist in private practice); daughters, Rachel Wohlander; Jessica Wohlander.

PROFESSIONAL PHILOSOPHY

Essential professional philosophy: Vision and leadership combined with good listening skills, openness to change, and an ongoing commitment to both profitability and “servant leadership”.

Best way to keep a competitive edge: Know what your organization is good at, and grow in that direction. Listen to your stakeholders and take action on what they say. Work continuously to adapt, improve, enhance, and expand what we do and how we do it.

Guiding principles: Excellence is no accident.

Yardsticks of success: In what ways have we become more skilled, more efficient, or just better at what we do?

Goals yet to be achieved: Providing more innovative services to new segments of the community. Enhancing our revenue stream through fundraising, development and social ventures like our first TMI 5k for Independence taking place June 29.

JUDGMENT CALLS

Best professional decision: Deciding to move into executive management in midlife, and then getting an MBA in midcareer to help make that happen.

Toughest professional decision: Firing an employee who is hardworking and dedicated, but only good at part of his or her job.

Mentor: My guidance over the years has come from peers, the supervisors along my career path, and reading.

Word that describes you:

Professional.

What you like best about your job: I’ve been in the human service field for many years, worked my way up, and often know intuitively what will work and what won’t. I have learned from every supervisor I’ve ever had — learning either what to do or what not to do. The result is that now I know I’m good at my job. I’ve seen the results that prove it.

What you like least about your job: Dealing with arbitrary government funding cuts.

Pet peeves: Running out of supplies.

Most important lesson learned: Communicate to people at every level that you care about them, and do it.

People most interested in meeting: Moses, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Three greatest passions: My family, hiking in nature, making the world a more compassionate place.

First choice for a new career: Writer and political commentator.

PREDILECTIONS

Favorite quote: “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality,” — Dante Alighieri, “Inferno.”

Most influential book: “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values” by Robert M. Pirsig.

Favorite status symbol: Seriously? I drive a Honda. I’m not interested in the superficial symbols of success. My satisfaction comes from my small contribution to making the world a better place.

Favorite restaurant: Indigo Grill in Little Italy.

Favorite place for business meetings: Toward Maximum Independence.

Favorite vacation spot: Someplace I have never been.

Favorite way to spend time: Hiking in the mountains.

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