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A Conversation with Chris Talton

Posted by Goodwill Staff on April 2, 2021

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When you speak with Chris Talton, you will undoubtedly open your mind to new thoughts and ideas about a variety of topics. As a person who thinks about the bigger picture, he also doesn’t bypass the small details.

During his time at Goodwill over the past 12 years, Chris has become an advocate for individuals with disabilities and disadvantages. He has seen firsthand the limited resources many people have and knows that the work being done across the organization is always going to be in demand. He shared, “We have a perpetual workload, which can feel overwhelming. The lesson I’ve learned is that we can’t do this work half-heartedly, there is too much need.”

Chris has led teams in retail operations and at Goodwill Great Lakes and was recently promoted to vice president of operations at Goodwill Great Lakes. He is grateful for the opportunities he’s had at Goodwill and is approaching his new leadership role with the mindset that effective leaders need to support their employees in whichever ways lead them to achieving their goals. Because an employee’s success is the organization’s success.

A self-proclaimed talkative person, he shared more of his thoughts on leadership, career growth, why he volunteers his time and what’s truly important below.



Describe yourself in three words.

Talkative, grounded and intense.



Have those words changed as you progressed your career at Goodwill?

I would say they have been the same. However, what they look like in practice has changed and matured over time. Whether ten years ago or last week, my colleagues would still say, “That Chris sure talks a lot!” But that said, I try not to take myself too seriously.



What motivates you?

Personally, inside and outside of work I’m always trying to figure out how to maximize and balance the level of impact I have on my family, friends, community and work. I’m extremely motivated and I hold myself to a high standard. Naturally, I tend to be hard on myself when I don’t feel like I’m living up to those standards. As I watch my kids grow up, I think a lot about the people they are becoming and how I can positively influence their lives. I believe the greatest impact a person can have is to raise constructive, caring human beings who will contribute to society.



What was the biggest challenge you faced in 2020?

During this past year, I tried to focus on the idea of keeping spirits high – both at home and at work. It was a challenging year for everyone; the global pandemic, social unrest and so many other circumstances contributed to a range of emotions for me personally. As part of keeping spirits high, I had to be very deliberate about being present. At work I made sure our team remained motivated and had a positive work experience. When I was home, I spent quality time together with my family.



What advice would you share with people in the early stages of their career?

It’s important to have patience. Time and time again, I’ve seen high performing employees leave organizations because the growth and promotions aren’t coming fast enough for them. If you’re lucky enough to work at a strong organization, have a supportive manager and be in a role that is a good fit which you’re exceeding in, the opportunities will come. Don’t let frustration set in – evaluate how you can grow and develop and keep moving forward. That’s an example that I try to set.



How are you using your experiences to affect positive change?

Have the challenges you faced in 2020 made that harder? I continued to be part of many community-based initiatives last year, both inside and outside of work. At Goodwill I am part of our Milwaukee Community Relations Council (CRC) which supports mission impact, social impact and employee engagement. I’m also working with our team to lay the groundwork for our Boys & Men of Color Initiatives including an internal multi-cultural impact program that will mentor and grow rising leaders. I’m so proud of the work we’re doing and the DEI journey that we are on.

I also had a great opportunity to participate in the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee’s Lubar Multi-Cultural Mentoring Program (MMP) and spend time volunteering and participating in activities at my children’s school. My wife and I believe in the phrase, ‘be the change you want to see.’

Working through the challenges I faced last year made me realize just how important it is to be involved and contribute to supporting others. It helped reaffirm that the effort I’m putting in is truly helping make a difference. If you look at the bigger picture and how vast a population is, every person by themselves may seem insignificant. However, as a society we are very much interconnected whether we realize it or not and the choices we make can impact people’s lives in ways we don’t even realize. We should try to take the focus off ourselves and allow that bigger picture to guide our choices and decisions.


What’s your wish for the future?

I don’t know that I have wishes as much as aspirations for how I want to show up at work and at home and be the person I want my family and close friends to know me as. It’s okay to know that I don’t always measure up to that. I’m working every day to close the gap between where I am now and where I’m going – completing that journey is my ultimate wish for the future.


Written by Goodwill Staff

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