Hello, and welcome to the Voice of Counseling from the American Counseling Association. I'm Emily St. Amant with the ACA and my cohost today is Christa Butler.
Today's guest is the ACA's new CEO, Shawn Boynes. And we are so excited for you all to get to know him today. He's coming to us with over 25 years of association management experience. He has a Bachelor's of Business Administration degree with a concentration in marketing from Howard University. He's previously served as Executive Director at the American Association for Anatomy in Rockville, Maryland for nine years, where he's successfully partnered with volunteer leadership to rebrand and transform the 134 year old organization into a thriving society, committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as leading impactful change in the scientific community. Prior to joining the AAA, he served as Senior Director of Education for Association for Professionals and Infection Control in Epidemiology. During his career, he's worked for a broad variety of other associations, including the Minority Corporate Council Association, Greater Washington Society of Association Executives, American Trucking Associations, and the Association of Corporate Council.
Shawn is very active with the American Society of Association Executives, having served on its board of directors in 2014, through 2017, as well as a variety of other committees. Shawn was named an ASAE Fellow in 2017 and is currently Chair of the as ASAE Fellows Program. He is also a diversity executive leadership program scholar. During his career, he has developed a true appreciation for continuous learning and the value that mission driven associations bring to the world, which has undoubtedly shaped who he is today as a leader, focus on influencing positive change. Thank you so much for joining us today, Shawn, how are you?
I am great Emily. Thank you and Christa for having me today, I look forward to having our discussion and hopefully people will learn more about me.
Yeah, we are so excited as well. And just to get us started, you want to tell us a little bit about yourself?
Sure. I can get a little personal here and just share that I am the youngest of five children. There's a significant age difference between me and my siblings. The oldest is 20 years older than I am, so I kind of grew up like an only child because they were all out of the house when I was growing up and had a very different parenting experience than they did. And they do not let me forget about that easily. I moved to the Washington DC Metro area, about 33 years ago. It's been a very long time, to attend college, to go to Howard University. And that decision alone changed the trajectory of my life. And I've worked in the association management space for pretty much my entire career, first job out of college, and stuck with it and it's what I love to do. And I enjoy working for mission driven organizations and supporting the professionals who lead the work of those organizations, of course, along with the staff team.
Thank you so much for sharing that Shawn. One of the things that I heard you say is that you love to support mission driven organizations. I'm really curious about your mission and how that may have informed some of the roles that you've had over your 30 plus year career?
Absolutely great question Christa. I think, for most of us, we embark on careers because it's something that we're passionate about, whether it's accounting or it could be engineering, or it could be legal. And I think we have to be able to get up every day and enjoy the work that we're doing if we're going to be the most effective at what we do. And for me, while I may not come from the profession of the organization that I may be working for, it's something rewarding about being able to make a small contribution to moving the needle, if you will, in the contributions that those professionals make to their professions, as well as to society.
And I think the world that we're living in now, speaks to that. We need to be a little more open hearted. We need to be a little more giving. We need to do as much as we possibly can to just bring goodness to the world. And I think a lot of associations are in that space. Unfortunately they're not as recognized as they probably should be, but for me, that's what gets me up every day and keeps me going.
Wow. That's amazing to hear. ACA is lucky to have you.
Yeah, we really are, so. And I think that's a great tie in there to tell us a little bit more about, what drew you to the ACA? What interested you in joining the leadership team and leading the association?
Yeah, I think, timing is everything. Over the past couple of years there's been a lot that has happened in the United States and especially after the murder of George Floyd and how many people, just in this COVID environment, have struggled with some sort of mental health issue. And that for me hit home personally, my mother suffered from a mental illness. Unfortunately she passed away eight years ago. And it's interesting because I think in the Black community, we have not always talked about mental health in a very positive way, or just talked about it at all.
So when this opportunity came up, I was like, "Oh my gosh, I would have an opportunity to work with amazing professionals that do the hard work at the front lines of engaging with clients to help make people better." And certainly that's something that's very rewarding. And I wanted to be part of that. ACA is an organization that is well known in the association space and I've known people that have worked at ACA of course. And everyone has spoken positively about the organization and the work that ACA members do. So I wanted to be part of that.
Yeah, we are so thankful that you have.
Absolutely. So Shawn, that brings us to our next question. I think this is a great lead in from what you were just sharing in terms of the African American community and mental health and everything that you shared with our last question. And so we're curious here, so what ideas do you have about the work that you like to do with at ACA?
There's a lot that I have to learn, of course, and there's a steep learning curve. And as I've been telling my colleagues and friends and family, I was like, "I know I'm going to be drinking from the fire hose for probably the first six months on the job." And as I embark on what I will call my listening tour, listening to staff team members, listening to longstanding ACA members, listening to other key stakeholders and trying to gather as much information as I possibly can to hopefully lay out some sort of a picture for me, for what the priorities are, what they should be, and being able to get my hands around all of that, to figure out how to really tap into the expertise at the staff team level, as well as the volunteer leadership level to move the organization forward.
So that's where I intend to sink my teeth into early on. I think there's an amazing opportunity though, for ACA to amplify the work of professional counselors in a way that it hasn't done previously. The moment's now. If you think about what's being done and what's being talked about around mental health, I think the entire community, is prime for doing more to make it a little more commonplace for us to talk about mental health in this country, as well as to stomp The Hill and engage with our legislators around trying to get more support for counselors. I know there's the Counseling Compact that's been worked on and all the many issues that impact, not just counselors, but the clients that they serve.
I know we're so excited just hearing everything that you just said. I mean, listening, amplifying, destigmatizing and advocating, those are some of the most important tenants of what it means to be a counselor, what it means to be a professional in this space. And so it's really exciting to hear you share that your goal is to come in and to continue to do really good work in each of those areas that you named.
Yeah. And I think so what are some of the hopes that you have for the professional counseling? Yeah, not just the association, but for counselors, like you said, on the ground level, who are actually doing the work to make a difference in people's lives?
Well, getting a sense of what support counselors need? When you are in a profession that you give so much of yourself, people tend to forget that you need to be taken care of as well. And I'd like to get a better sense of where those needs are so that the association could hopefully provide better support or greater support to professional counselors. And then if you think longer term, quite frankly, if we are on this journey and as more and more people raise their hand or come forward and ask for help in the mental health space and they need counselors to do that, you're going to need more counselors.
So how are we as an organization and as a profession, preparing for that next generation or making sure that people proactively choose professional counseling as a career choice? Because you want to make sure that there's adequate services available to people who need them, but that can only happen if you have the counselors that are providing the services. So that's something that I would want to pay close attention to as well, to make sure that there is a nice pathway into this profession for many who may be interested in and in participating with us.
Yeah. And I think that's so important and I think, Christa and I've experienced, being in the field and it's not an easy job. So I would think, speak to how are we supporting and advocating for the people that are here. Because I think that with the pandemic, burnout has become a pretty big problem in healthcare, just in general and mental health is health. And so the people that work in treatment settings and provide care, aren't immune to the impact of broader societal challenges and events and the workplace occupational hazards that come along with that as well. So, I think, do you have experience with that or what are your thoughts on just supporting healthcare providers in general?
Well, I think it's figuring out where there's the greatest need? Certainly you can't be all things to all people and try to tackle everything at once. I mean there are limited resources from the organization standpoint, of course. There are limited resources from the staff perspective, there are limited resources... Organizations like this don't exist without members and volunteers. And I always like to say, for staff, this is our job. For volunteers, they have full-time jobs and then they also commit time and energy to make sure that the organization is able to do all that it does. So I think it's just really figuring out where's the greatest need and then rallying the troops to come up with the appropriate resources. And even if that means getting support at the state level, not necessarily just always on the national level. I think sometimes we forget that where the rubber hits the road, is at the local level. So what is it that we need to do to support people in their current environments and make it easy for them to access those resources whenever they need them?
Could you tell us about what self-care means to you and what you do to practice self-care?
Yeah, so those who know me and know me well know that I am Mr. Self-Care. I tend to make that a priority in my life. Self-care for me means making sure that you are your best self mentally, physically, and emotionally, and finding your prescription, that's going to help you achieve all of those. And I say prescription, because I think it's going to vary for every person. My prescription for being my best self is, I love fresh flowers. So I buy myself fresh flowers every week. And what's important there is, with flowers, you have to enjoy them for as long as they last. So it's not like it's something that you can tuck away in the corner. You want to have them because they bring joy to your life. At least they bring joy to my life.
The other thing I love to do is listen to music. That helps de-stress me. And it depends on the kind of day that I'm having. It could range from '80s music, which I love '80s music. I am a child of the '70s. So '80s was my formative years and it just takes me back to a place in life where things were so simple and I was so innocent and that just makes me happy. And if I'm really feeling it, I'll have a Tom Cruise dance around my house, with clothes on, I will say. And just kind of get some exercise in that way too, right?
And I also make time to just be quiet and meditate. I meditate twice a day, first thing in the morning and at the end of the day. And during both of those times, I reflect on, "How do I want to show up today?" And then at the end of the day, I assess, "Did you show up the way you wanted to show up and what could you have done better? And what could you have done differently?" And then I would say on the indulgent side, I go to the spa once a month and treat myself to just some relaxation and me time. And that makes me happy.
Because I think as counselors, sometimes we are very selfless and we do tend to forget about taking care of ourselves, advocating for ourselves. So, I think that it's great that you have that priority in your life and how do you see that influencing your work with counselors and with the association?
I will say Emily, it's taken time. This has not been something that has happened overnight and it's a combination of those things. I think for me, the other part that is critically important and I didn't mention this before, but I work out regularly. And I try my best to ensure that that's part of my physical wellbeing. And doing so also helps relieve some stress for me. I tend to internalize stress and it manifests in aches and pains and things that I don't necessarily want to feel if I don't have to. And I think for any profession, it's important for people to be as healthy as they possibly can be, and that's going to be different for each person. So once you define what that looks like for you, or you can identify that, I would say, just map out whatever that plan needs to be and start small and then build from there.
I was working out regularly prior to the pandemic and like most people, when the pandemic hit and we all had to work from home, it totally flipped everything for me. So I had to rebuild, starting about a year and a half ago and working out with a personal trainer to help me be as effective as I possibly could be, but it was intentional. So there has to be some degree of you not waiting until you get to a point where you're physically exhausted or broken down and recognizing, just like you have to eat every day to sustain yourself with nutrients, you should focus on the other aspect of that, the physical part. And even if it's just walking. Getting outdoors is always something that I enjoy doing because you can be mindful in those moments, listen to the birds, if the weather is good, enjoy whatever your surroundings are to make the most of it.
Absolutely. It sounds like you take a very holistic perspective to developing your prescription for self-care.
Yes. And I also read a lot of self-help books, so that has helped me. I am that person. Yes. I read self-help books and try to get some nuggets from them as well. And just putting some of that stuff to practice.
Absolutely. Yeah, because you touched on the mind body perspective to it and the having an awareness to how stress impacts your body. And so yeah, you've touched on so many helpful things that I think counselors need to be reminded of in terms of practicing self-care and how it needs to be intentional and preventative and how the importance of it being something that you do for your mental health, your physical health and just your emotional health and just thinking about all of your needs from a holistic perspective. I'm curious, what are some of those books that you've read? Some of your self-help books that you've read that you might recommend?
So I am a huge, I would consider myself a groupie, of Brene Brown. So any of her books and I'm sure in this space, many have heard of Brene Brown. I'm actually reading two books right now, her latest book, Atlas of the Heart. And I've been slowly working my way through that, because I've been trying to, as I'm reading it, trying to apply that to aspects of my day-to-day life. And then the other book that I'm reading is The Power of Regret by Dan Pink. And that's just a fantastic book.
But one of the ones that I would say over the past couple years that had the most powerful impact on me, is a book titled Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff. It just moved me unlike any other book that I had read previously and I had it dog eared pages and highlights and little sticky notes that I put in it, because it hit me in a way that I knew that I needed to focus on just offering myself that compassion. I tend to be overly driven and beating myself up over the littlest thing.
So that book came at the right time in my life and a friend recommended it to me because he knew that, what I was dealing with at the time around George Floyd's murder and everything that the Black community was struggling with related to that and then the pandemic and it was just chaos in the world. So that book grounded me in self-compassion and I've recommended it to lots of other people as well.
Thank you for those recommendations.
Yeah. I think that a lot of our audience will probably be bookworms as well. So I was very glad to hear about that. Is there any other, maybe a person that you look up to that's been a mentor or just maybe a celebrity, some sort of public figure that really inspired you? If you would like to share that with us too.
This is going to sound corny and it's not meant to be, because I know a lot of people look up to her, but Oprah Winfrey has been someone that, when you look at her journey... I'm of an age when, I remember coming home from school and my mom would have on the Oprah Winfrey Show. And the whole talk show phenom was building at that point. But to see where she was then and to see where she is now, certainly she has publicly gone through things that many of us would never be able to do, so I would say gracefully. And certainly her life is not perfect, but I think she is purposeful and intentional about how she shows up and how she tries to give back in many different ways through, just all of the different channels that she serves up Oprah stuff. And that's inspiring to me. So, I look up to her in a way that's, if we all contribute good to the world in some capacity, the power of that could be everlasting.
Yeah. Those ripple effects, right? We don't know, just a kind word or a simple gesture, could go so far. So I think that's a great reminder as well. And we are about to run out of time here. So, I just wanted to see if there's anything else that you wanted to share with our audience, ACA members? Anything else that you would like to share today, Shawn?
No, I would just say, I am pretty open to getting feedback. One of my mantras is that, feedback is a gift. I encourage ACA members and others to connect with me on social media, specifically Twitter. I'm getting ready to change over my handle so that it no longer reads that I am the Executive Director of the American Association for Anatomy, but that I am the CEO of the American Counseling Association. And I enjoy engaging with members, however they choose to engage with me. It's a great way to stay connected and make myself accessible to the community.
Yeah. Thank you so much. Thank you for being on our podcast today and for joining the ACA. We are so thankful to have you in this new leadership role and we are so excited to see what you do. And we want to thank our audience today for joining in. This has been an episode of the Voice of Counseling from the American Counseling Association. Have a great day everybody
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