Jacqueline Kronk discusses leadership, inspiration, and family
Tim Leman: Have you ever felt like you're on the edge of something great? You've put in the work, you've done the hard stuff most people aren't willing to do and now you can just sense a magical run lies ahead. On this podcast, we talk about what separates those special teams. The kind, if we're lucky, we get to be a part of maybe three or four times in our life, from the more ordinary experiences. I'm your host, Tim Leman and let's discuss leading on The Edge. Welcome to The Edge podcast. I'm your host, Tim Leman. On this episode, we have my friend Jacqueline Kronk. Jacqueline is CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of St. Joe County in Indiana. I've known Jacqueline for about a decade, count her as a friend, a peer and somebody I'm always learning from. Welcome to the show, Jacqueline.
Jacqueline Kronk: Thanks for having me, Tim. Excited to be here.
Tim Leman: I think a lot of us out there probably have an idea of the Boys and Girls Club or we know the logo, we know the hands, but I think in different geographies around the country, BGCs do different things. Tell us about the club in South Bend, Indiana area.
Jacqueline Kronk: The club here, our mission is to inspire, enable all young people to become the best version of themselves. And we're humbled and proud to be able to do that every day. We serve just over 1, 500 kids in St. Joseph County at 12 different sites. And again, it's just a remarkable mission and one that's worthy of our time and investment.
Tim Leman: Talk about your role as CEO also. What does that entail? What's a week in the life of Jacqueline look like?
Jacqueline Kronk: My job is wonderful in that it varies every day and I love that about it. One day we can be diving in and hosting event for foster kids and ways to support them better, the next I can be out asking for someone to make a significant investment in us and then the next I walk in and there's a dance party in the hallway. It's a lively place. It's a fun place and I think the favorite part of what I do is I get to invest not only in our kids, but in our staff and our people and see them thrive.
Tim Leman: You mentioned serving 1, 500 kids. What's that been like over the last year with the pandemic?
Jacqueline Kronk: What you fail to mention is that I took over this role in January, so right before the pandemic hit. And I think at that point, I really believed that the club could be one of the best in the country with our resources here, with the universities and higher academic institutions in town and with the team that we were forming, I thought we really, we can and we should be the best Boys and Girls Club in the nation. And for us, the pandemic came and was an opportunity. And I think at that point we realized it could either set us back and close us or we could lean into it. And I'm really proud of our team for doing the latter. I think at a time where a lot of places were shutting down, we doubled down on our kids and said," Hey, not only are we going to be there for you, we're going to expand our hours. We're going to go full- time instead of just afterschool." And we're going to expand our sites and we're going to do all that we can to make sure that our kids have their hierarchy of needs being met. And that include far beyond just our kids, the entire family nucleus, how could we be present to them and make this an outstanding year?
Tim Leman: Yeah. I get kind of court side seats for a lot of this and really remarkable. What has been maybe a couple of those difference makers? You mentioned the word, putting your team together and so on what's been the things or people or whatever that have been able to help you in the club achieve what you have?
Jacqueline Kronk: Yeah, I think I've been blessed in my career to be surrounded by really, really talented people. And we had a lot of intentionality when I took this role. I knew that that was going to be kind of the cornerstone and the lifeblood of what we do is how good are the people around me? And so heavily recruited a lot of people. We have a new COO Duane Wilson, who is a rockstar. Just hired a director of development, Lindahl Chase. And I think one of the things that nonprofits are guilty of is playing the well, we're just a nonprofit, we're a small little shop. Can't really afford good talent. And I reject that notion. And I think we needed to go out and find the absolute best people who have dozens of years of experience in this industry and outside of this industry and how can we bring their talents to further our mission? And I think we've done just that. And then our site directors are incredible people and found a way to connect with our kids at a very human level when disconnection was all around us.
Tim Leman: That site director role is so key. I had an opportunity to witness some of that over the years and when the moms and dads are coming to pick up the kids at the club at night, that site director's one of the most important people in their lives, they know them. It's a personal relationship. It's where I think a lot of their comfort comes from and such an important role.
Jacqueline Kronk: It really is. And for us, one of the things we talk about at our leadership team level is high trust, high reward. And that goes for interaction with your colleagues. It goes for interaction with your peers. It goes for interaction with our club kids. If our kids trust you, they are willing to open up and you can develop that relationship and that allows you to go to depths that you might not have otherwise been able to. And when you go to those depths, you can really drive in and hone in on what makes a kid tick or what challenges a child is battling. How can we then assist that individual in overcoming those obstacles? I really believe that high trust high reward has to be again, a huge aspect of our culture and our site directors exemplify that better than anyone in how they interact with their kids.
Tim Leman: Jacqueline, you talked about recruiting this team. You're somebody that always felt like had just a really high degree of confidence in yourself and in your abilities and not suggesting you had the no plan plan, but I just, I recall some of these hires you wanted to make and adding to the talent, it was like, we'll find a way, but it doesn't matter. We need the person and we'll find a way to get the revenue to pay for them. What gives you that confidence? What helps you feel that way that it'll just come together?
Jacqueline Kronk: I think that's something that my parents instilled for me at an early age. My father is one of eight, my mom is one of six. My father came from a very modest background and he often I think has a mindset when there's a will there's a way. And I think that's transferred over to my brothers and I in why not be the best at something? Why not explore this? Or why not have 12 sites instead of eight? Why not serve 1, 500 kids instead of a 1, 000? And I think dreaming big and bold coupled with what we call in our household, the GSD, the get shit done variable. If you can walk the walk, it's extraordinary what kind of things can happen. And I think at a leadership level, if your leadership team exemplifies that, the rest of your staff buys into it and then you're looking at problems as opportunities to knock it out of the park. And how else can we shine here? How else can we rise to the occasion as opposed to wilting? And I think if you go at it with that, honestly, that aggression and that attitude and almost you need that swagger, I think that allows you to achieve things you didn't think possible before. And I really like that that, I can see that trickling down to our club kids. That excites me more than anything, because when our club kids can look at their socioeconomic background, they can look at the situation they find themselves in and say," I don't need to do this. I don't need to be this. I can be beyond what my neighborhood is telling me I'm worthy of." And so I think the Boys and Girls Club can have that influence there, as a leadership team we are continuing to exemplify that.
Tim Leman: So many great things in there what you just said. I think as much as anything, you're someone who takes action and action over planning. And again, not that you're not a planner, a longterm thinker, but people can sit around and plan and replan and plan again and better off just getting going on something and figuring out along the way, how to get it done.
Jacqueline Kronk: Yeah, I also believe in speaking things into existence. That's a real thing, too. If you believe that you can get it done, you can. I had a leadership course in undergrad that was actually, my grandfather was professor at the time. And he had this exercise where he would have four football players come up and try to lift a student with just their pointer fingers. And the first time he said," Okay, try to do it." And they would get up there and they would fail instantly. And then the second time they would get up there and he said," Now I want you all to close your eyes and visualize success, visualize yourselves lifting this individual up." And every single time it worked. And I think the power of belief and confidence in oneself really enables you to achieve things that you didn't think possible.
Tim Leman: Jacqueline, you've mentioned your grandfather quite a bit over the years. Having a mentor like that, that's a family member, it's got to be a huge, huge advantage in life. Maybe talk about him a little bit.
Jacqueline Kronk: Yeah, my grandfather is one of a kind. He was in charge of development at the University of Notre Dame for 30 plus years. He was actually appointed to that role the day I was born and so it made really interesting my birth announcement, if you flip it over, it's his announcement of his position in the newspaper. And my grandfather has been an integral part of my life. I would say all of my cousins and my family members would say he is, he's a remarkable human being. I'll get emotional talking about him, but he instilled in us and demonstrated to us the idea of dreaming big. He raised over a billion dollars at the university and made the university this spectacular place. Was a huge part of it. He would never say he made it. That was me inserting my thoughts onto him, but he did so with grace and integrity and he taught me the art and science of fundraising and the value of building a relationship. And it's evident, my grandfather is in his eighties now and he hears from the benefactors that he worked alongside all the time. And he also surrounded himself with really good people. And he had the amazing privilege of working alongside Father Hesburgh for so long and to watch him thrive and then to get to have him as a professor and continue to have him a part of our lives. Adam and I actually live with my grandparents. We moved back from Cambodia for about a year.
Tim Leman: Oh wow.
Jacqueline Kronk: Yeah. He and my grandmother both are just a wonderful example. They've been married for over 50 years and really proud of them.
Tim Leman: Okay. You talked about Adam, I think I knew Adam, your husband before I knew you and maybe before you guys were married, actually. Tell us a little about what Adam does. And then I think people would really love to hear, you got four little ones, how you both do the roles that you do and pull all this stuff off.
Jacqueline Kronk: Yeah. Adam is the head of school at La Lumiere. It's a boarding school, just down the road and La Porte, Indiana. It's an international school. They have about 200 kids from all over the world and it's a magical place to live. Our four children, I've got three boys and a little girl. They are two, four, six, and eight. They keep us busy and it really is a special place for them to grow up. Everybody knows their names. My kids are inviting just strangers over to our house because they think that's normal. Our home is always filled with students or staff or faculty and it really is a special place and we're grateful to be part of that community as well.
Tim Leman: How do you guys unwind and take a breather, recharge, whatever?
Jacqueline Kronk: Oh wow. I think we unwind in different ways. I am a extremely competitive spirit. I like to do so. I play in an all girls women's soccer league on Sunday nights and I play competitive tennis. I coach basketball. I think that's a great way to unwind. I coach a girls team at La Lumiere. I think Adam would be more, he loves doing a puzzle, reading a book kind of spending time I think with the kids is definitely a way he would say to unwind. He plays dad's the monster out in the playground all the time. And I feel like, get him cold beverage and go play Dad's a monster outside and he's good then.
Tim Leman: He's the dad, are you invited to be the monster?
Jacqueline Kronk: Oh no. Dad is the monster in that game. He chases them around and they scream and they run. Our goal is to get all the energy out before bedtime, which is not always successful.
Tim Leman: I bet. As a fellow hard charger, I can relate to all that. Are there moments and times and as you've been a leader that you maybe overcharged on your teams or people you're with or your teammates couldn't keep up with you or the pace?
Jacqueline Kronk: Yeah, I'd say absolutely. I think we all had our moments during the pandemic where you either hit a wall or you realized you're pushing everyone around you too hard. And I think the thing that I value the most about my leadership team here at the club, they'll tell me and they articulate that and we are able to have kind of productive dialogue of," Hey listen, I think we got to either check out for the weekend or the team needs, we got to get together and do something that's a little bit more lighthearted." And they help guide and channel that energy in a good way. I am a pusher, I'm a driver. I'm fully aware of that. I believe in the mindset, I've got a sign here in my office, sometimes you win and sometimes you learn. I think we always have to be identifying ways that we can improve. And I'm sure for the people that I work with sometimes that gets old, but I think that is also, they would also say that that's what makes us unique right now is that we are constantly striving to be the best versions and that excellence should be what we're striving for every day.
Tim Leman: You've mentioned the word team multiple times. And one of the things I'm really interested in right now is talking to people about maybe the greatest team that they've ever been on and get a wide variety of answers from current situation. Maybe going back to their sixth grade kickball team. What's the greatest team and it doesn't mean other teams aren't great teams you've been on, but what's the greatest team memory you have?
Jacqueline Kronk: Wow. Mine would absolutely have to be my experience coaching this La Lumiere girls' basketball team. La Lumiere is known for their men's basketball program, but we also have a female program and we are not known for that. We have struggled over the years. And when I took the reigns, we lost every single game but our last game of the season, one game of the season, we lost by 70 points. And I can tell you that that was one of the least fun experiences I've had on a competitive field. That was really tough. It was tough to take that one. And I can remember just being really angry. One, they drove up the score and they shouldn't have, but two is that we took it on the chin that day, but what makes it my favorite team is their ability to be resilient despite that season. We came back the next season and won a state championship. That same crew came back, went from a one win season, worked their tails off, we drove down into fundamentals, we got good, they got hungry and they won and went on to win a state championship. And watching that progression and that flipped because we talked about it earlier, that belief in themselves, that was remarkable. It was such a joy and a privilege to be a part of that group with them.
Tim Leman: Tell me about more about the team and what made them a great team. We talked about resiliency being one of the criteria there. What else about them made them great?
Jacqueline Kronk: There are several team members that experienced a great deal of adversity. You know what? My two captains lost their mother in the summer before the season and I think this team really, not only did they rally around them, but I think it brought them together at a very, very deep level. High school sports can be intense and inspiring, but when you make it real like that and you realize how much you depend and rely on each other, I think that was a turning point for them. I also think that they didn't think it possible before because we hadn't been good for so long. And we are often overshadowed by the boys' team who is remarkable in their own right. But now all of a sudden they have people who are telling them that you are worthy of this and you can do this and if you put in the work here is the recipe for success. And they took it and to their credit, they worked for it and earned it. And the other remarkable part about that team is there was no ego. There was no ego whatsoever. And you can tell that by our stats, it was spread out. It was even. Everybody played their role. And it was again, it was magical to see it come to fruition that way.
Tim Leman: That's fantastic. And I have been around you and know that you do hate to lose and two stories on that. One is one of your brothers coaches college basketball so I remember during that one win season or maybe it was the season following is when you decided to bet him of who would have more victories for the year.
Jacqueline Kronk: Yeah. At that point we were both undefeated. He had had a good run and as did we and we outlasted him on that front. I'm glad to hold that title. My whole family, the competitiveness again is part of our DNA and it is being passed on. My eight year old is about as competitive as they come. I think he'd race you up the stairs every day if he could. But that's who we are and we embrace it. And we also don't mind putting a little wagers on things here and there. I can tell you my eight year old owes me a lot of money right now on pig.
Tim Leman: Keep track of that.
Jacqueline Kronk: He's slowly earning that back off with some chores.
Tim Leman: Jacqueline, when would be the other time I experienced a losing streak firsthand with you?
Jacqueline Kronk: You're going to go there, huh? We can talk about the time that Tim rigged a team at an after hours event, while partaking in adult beverages. But we won't get into the details on that because I still think it was rigged.
Tim Leman: Yeah. I just liked lots of ping pong and pool and other things and we just kept trying to find a way to get you a win in the whole process and all that stuff. But yeah, I was grateful that our friendship recovered after that night.
Jacqueline Kronk: You tell me when we can go again and I'm there.
Tim Leman: Now it's time for my favorite part of the podcast, rapid fire. We'll start easy. What's your favorite color?
Jacqueline Kronk: Black.
Tim Leman: All right. You know what? That might be a first I've heard that. That's great. What was your first car?
Jacqueline Kronk: Mazda MX- 3. I called it the Spider, also black.
Tim Leman: Wow. And arguably, did you get a better first car than your brothers did? Or not?
Jacqueline Kronk: No, not even close. In fact, my brothers totaled my first car. Yeah, no.
Tim Leman: Good learning opportunity.
Jacqueline Kronk: Yeah.
Tim Leman: What's the most memorable concert you've been to?
Jacqueline Kronk: Rod Stewart.
Tim Leman: Oh, yeah, you were a big Rod Stewart fan. President of the local fan club, I believe.
Jacqueline Kronk: I am the president for sure. At that concert, I was eight months pregnant and he kicks out the soccer balls during Hot Legs, one of his most famous songs and I boxed out two older gentlemen for that soccer ball and it is right behind me in my office.
Tim Leman: Oh wow. Proper basketball, box out technique?
Jacqueline Kronk: For sure, pregnant.
Tim Leman: Absolutely. And pregnant, that's awesome. You talked about dancing sometimes at the Boys and Girls Club and sports and otherwise what's your walkup song, if you had one? Or your favorite groove in song?
Jacqueline Kronk: My friends would all razz me and they would say it's Flo Rida, the one, the song with the boots with the fur, because they tease me about that. I jumped around. Any nineties, old school rap song would be great. I'm the mom who all my kids know DMX and all of the oldies, but goodies.
Tim Leman: You do lay off of Rod Stewart for a bit when it comes to dance and that and getting down and then go back to your Rod Stewart playlist.
Jacqueline Kronk: I've got eclectic taste there, Tim.
Tim Leman: Yeah. I like it. What's something about you that very few people know?
Jacqueline Kronk: I competed for Miss Crystal Lake when I was in high school and I did so off of a bet. My girlfriend bet me that I wouldn't do it and I cannot lose a bet. And so I went through that whole pageant experience.
Tim Leman: Crystal Lake up in Michigan?
Jacqueline Kronk: Yeah, where I went to high school. It was actually in Illinois. Those poor people just had to hate me. Let me just tell you, so we had to give a speech at the end, in my speech I stood on a chair and gave the Rudy, the Knute Rockne speech in a full gown in front of an auditorium of people. Needless to say, I did not win Miss Crystal Lake.
Tim Leman: Was there a congeniality component to it?
Jacqueline Kronk: I did win first runner up and I will take that and run with it. And my dad, till this day says it's rigged. It was rigged, but I still get teased by that from my friends. I think the Miss Crystal Lake trophy is still rotating around one of my friends' houses.
Tim Leman: That's hilarious. And also you kind of exposed your kryptonite out there to everyone. If you want Jacqueline to do something just bet her. She can't and it'll happen. You've had a lot of experience with this, working from home, work at the office, some of both, what do you like?
Jacqueline Kronk: I think it's a hard one. I like a mix of both. I think working at home allows me to kind of some Zen time to get centered. I like my physical space really organized. And so I can do so at home and when my kids are not there. I have very few times when I don't have children around asking me for something constantly. When I am able to be at home by myself, that's huge. But I actually really do, I'm an extrovert. I like working with people so I like being in the building.
Tim Leman: What are you streaming right now? If I looked in your movies, TV, whatever.
Jacqueline Kronk: Right now, Adam and I are watching The Heist. It's a new documentary about that Boston art museum.
Tim Leman: Oh yeah.
Jacqueline Kronk: It's really good.
Tim Leman: My daughter was watching that this weekend and so we actually then put on the Thomas Crown Affair and watched that whole movie, but didn't realize we needed earmuffs and eye muffs and everything. There was a few parts in there. But anyway, she loved it. She was telling me how smart the criminals were in that Boston heist thing. What actor would play you in a movie?
Jacqueline Kronk: What actor would play me in a movie? Your gut says, does it have to be a blonde? I suppose? Maybe?
Tim Leman: Think we could always dye their hair too, if we needed to.
Jacqueline Kronk: Yeah. Okay. I think, oh, what's her name? I think she's really funny. Jennifer Lawrence.
Tim Leman: Oh yeah.
Jacqueline Kronk: She's edgy.
Tim Leman: That's good. I was going to go with Charlize Theron or Theron, whatever her name is too. I could see that as a backup. Very good. Jennifer Lawrence. Three people you'd like to have dinner with.
Jacqueline Kronk: Margaret Thatcher, she was a bad- ass. I would say Michael Jordan. And then I would put my great- grandmother, my Grandma Opal.
Tim Leman: Okay. Did you know her?
Jacqueline Kronk: I did. She actually, she got to meet my oldest Soren, but she grew up in survived the Great Depression. She lost her father when she was a young girl and she just had this grit and determination that she was going to thrive and succeed. Had she had been born in a different era, she would have been just unstoppable in the workforce and I just always loved how she carried herself.
Tim Leman: Awesome. Okay. Last one here. Something big you want to do before it's all over. I'll be happy to share this with Adam for a future anniversary present or something too if it's like that.
Jacqueline Kronk: We've got big travel bugs. That, I think traveling would be a huge aspect. I think traveling with my children grown, traveling Europe with them or if we had the liberty to travel the world together with them and their spouses for a year, my God, that'd remarkable. Sail the world. I think something like that would be incredible.
Tim Leman: That's awesome. Well, hey Jacqueline, thanks so much. This has been a ton of fun, lots of rich takeaways here too, with everything. Really appreciate you spending time with us.
Jacqueline Kronk: Well, thank you for allowing me to be a part of it.
Tim Leman: Jacqueline, it was great having you on the show today. Your competitive mentality, coupled with the ability to believe in a dream and not back down, that's your edge and what an asset it is to our community. Thank you for tuning in today. I'm Tim Leman and remember to own your edge. Remember to subscribe to The Edge podcast on Apple, Google and Spotify.
Jacqueline Kronk, CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Joseph County in Indiana, is this episode's guest. The Club's mission is to inspire and enable all young people to become the best version of themselves and she talks about how she can do just that, by investing in their kids and staff. Listen now and hear how Jacqueline inspires others, works hard, is a mother of four, and may be a tad competitive.