EFY director’s cool-headed leadership empowers employees

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J.D. Hucks' cool-headed leadership helps his employees become their best selves.
J.D. Hucks’ cool-headed leadership helps his employees become their best selves.

He said he always knew his purpose and loved that he was making a difference, but he didn’t imagine he could stay with Especially For Youth for that long.

J.D. Hucks began working at Especially for Youth 23 years ago as a counselor. Now as the program’s director, he said he’s grateful he still works at a place where helping others drives everything.

“From my days as a counselor I knew the purpose of the program was to help young people keep their commitments to the gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said. “If we can help in some way that’s a huge thing for me.”

Hucks became the EFY director just over a year ago. His employees said he handles the management with a cool-headed leadership style and humor they admire. Shawn Fielding, a former EFY coordinator, said Hucks’ personality makes him as much of a friend to those who work for him as he is a boss.

“I appreciate the fact that he always kind of laughs at himself,” Fielding said. “He’s never above the position or above the people he works with, and that is very evident because of his humor. He makes himself one of us.”

His co-workers said his leadership style and demeanor never make them feel intimidated. Todd Willey is an administrator at EFY and has worked with Hucks for more than 20 years. He said one of Hucks’ best qualities is the ability to make everyone feel comfortable.

“I think the best way to describe what it is like working with J.D. would be the words ‘at ease,'” he said. “He seems at ease with those around him, and in turn I feel at ease with him.”

Many who have sat in his office said he never makes them feel small or acts like he has no time for them. He gives their ideas the attention they deserve and makes everyone feel appreciated.

Phyllis Nielsen, another administrator at EFY, said working with Hucks is a good experience.

“He’s got a great sense of humor,” she said. “He has an open-door policy; he is easily accessible, so you can always talk to him if you need to discuss something.”

Hucks is known for giving enough freedom to allow others to accomplish a task while still giving enough advice. His employees said they appreciate the consideration Hucks gives their thoughts and opinions.

Hucks said it’s important to him to trust the people around him and to give them the opportunity to do it themselves.

“I don’t micromanage,” he said. “I want them to feel ownership in things; I want them to feel the empowerment that they can make the decisions. … You surround yourself with good people, and great things will happen.”

Those who have worked under him have noticed.

“He is willing to hear others’ thoughts and opinions before making a decision,” Nielson said. “J.D. has confidence in our skills and talents and allows us to use our best judgment to administer in our individual responsibilities.”

Molly Miner is a coordinator at EFY who has worked under Hucks for three summers. She agreed with Nielsen and added that feeling trusted to make decisions is huge for her.

“J.D. gives us just enough rope to be able to accomplish things on our own and learn through the process,” she said. “I appreciate that he allows us to accomplish our tasks on our own.”

Adam Durfee, an EFY coordinator, said although his job is high-pressure, Hucks brings out the best in all his employees.

“J.D. is one of the best employers I’ve ever worked for,” he said. “He has managed to figure out how to accomplish high-stake tasks by bringing out the most in all of us and empowering us to problem solve.”

Though his job is a step removed from the youth, Hucks said he feels blessed to work in a program that makes a difference in so many young lives.

“I guess I feel kind of lucky that I found something fairly early in my career that I just love, and I have a passion for it,” he said. “I feel like hopefully I’m making a difference with the thousands of youth that come, and that’s one main reason I love it.”

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