Muddy Boots 2.0

Waer Muddy Boots 

Muddy Boots 2.0 Blog


Leadership Thoughts:

Wear Muddy Boots

Be Intentional in how you spend your time.

Make it safe for folks to name the elephants.

Your personal brand is everything, as in what do you stand for and how do you stand. 


This is your time.

Find the pain and fix it.

It is all about your crew. Talent Matters

Be calm, be consistent, care, and always be a coach.

Legacy in the end is how we will be measured. 




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The Forum

Posted on October 10, 2021 at 6:55 PM Comments comments (0)

“Forum: a place, meeting, or medium where ideas and views on a particular issue can be exchanged.”

On this October 18th ECS will gather for the 8th time its annual Forum for Justice and Opportunity. Once again, we focus on the issues that impact the individuals we serve and explore and recommend solutions that drive transformation.

ECS, in its 151 year, has always run to the fire. Four years ago, we looked back on our history and drew inspiration to make a bet based on a simple observation. As we looked at the poverty landscape in Philadelphia and beyond, we outlined several conclusions. First, most of the work done in the social services sector maintains individuals. All be it valuable and necessary work given the statistic  that 15% of Americans, 28% in Philadelphia, live at or below the poverty line, way more if you look at a living wage. Second, to break the cycle of intergenerational Poverty and move beyond maintenance, transformation to the work we did has to take place. We created a strategy in partnership with our board in several areas.

First, we searched for a better way to case manage and thus create transformational impacts for our participants. Working with Empath in Boston, we implemented a brain science-based methodology based on the notion that Poverty is a root cause of deep crises, which severely hampers cognitive function and an individual’s problem-solving capacity. By setting goals, coaching, and being in a relationship with our participants, and turning goal achievement into a reality, we can start the journey to economic mobility and, in time, break the cycle. The data shows that with each goal achieved, the level of crisis lowers, and in time, a participant can make long-lasting change reality on their own. We added a savings match to help build assets and set new goals so a participant can meet goals in housing, wellness, financial skills, education, and employment—each element with dedicated programs or specialists. Our work looks not to maintain the status quo but to support and create sustained transformation. The data suggests we are on the right path. Both the coaching methodology and our dedicated transformation programs MindSet and Rise are up and running. Our challenge post-pandemic will be the grow the numbers served and continue to respond to participants needs in new and place based ways.

Second, in our Out of School time programs, in addition to a strong STEAM core curriculum, we added a solid social and emotional focus for an age-appropriate coaching model, and again the impacts have been significant. We also grew the program to over 700 pre-pandemic students.

Third, we invested in a strong infrastructure to support our program teams. We created a learning and evaluation group to provide the data necessary to be a learning organization. We built capacity in our IT, HR, Advancement, Marketing, and Finance functions. In our current plan refresh, we are adding a recruiting process and creating a research and development capacity to monitor and rapidly improve our program offering as data and conditions change.

Fourth, we seek out partnerships with other agencies that share our values and complement our offerings to our participants. Some examples are behavioral health, Philabundance with our food pantry, Shift Capital, and wellness programs with several partners. These efforts will be significantly enhanced with the shift at St Barnabas from a shelter to a community resource center where we can partner with the local West Philadelphia community and be in an everyday relationship. We note that we can serve more individuals than we could as a shelter by adding significantly to our Rapid Rehousing units in partnership with OSH.

Fifth, we looked at our programs, our partnership and recognized that while significantly impacting our participants, we could drive a more significant impact by providing thought leadership through the Forum and through growing our advocacy efforts. Our goal is first to educate our stakeholders on the issues of Poverty and second to call for and invite our stakeholders to advocate for positive changes to public policy that directly impacts our Philadelphia participants. Issues like racial equity, a living wage, and cliff benefits are three examples.

We invite you to attend the Forum starting October 18th at noon and running at noon for the balance of the week. We begin with a keynote from Charles Blow of the New York Times, who will bring his unique perspective and start a critical discussion. Register at

Our mission is to challenge Poverty, and our vision is a world where opportunity is available to all. All that we do is shaped by our values of Justice, Dignity, Community, and most importantly, Impact.

If we are to thrive as a nation long-term, Poverty needs to be addressed and the cycle broken. It is one of the clarion calls of our times. Join the movement and answer the call to service. Imagine an America where 15% of the population currently living in Poverty is working at a living wage and off the social safety net? The work we do imagins such a time, such an impact, and such a transformation.

The work we do is a team sport.

We need you on our team.

So do the people we serve.

See you at the Forum.


Once more to the Arena

Posted on August 21, 2021 at 10:40 AM Comments comments (0)

It is early Saturday morning. I am sitting on the couch in my study, my laptop on my lap, and the dog asleep next to me. I have hit a wall, and so have many of the people I work with, and what I note is that wall is vastly bigger and taller for the people we serve at my agency in Philadelphia.

I have been through tough times before, and the lesson is always you come through, and the sun comes up on another day. Different than the one before, but the light and the warmth return. I reflect that each time I have learned, grown, acquired new scar tissue, and can move on. I have grown as a leader, and my biggest takeaway is what we all know as the "arena" lesson.

It comes from Teddy Roosevelt's famous quote, now again popular with the current class of coaches and leadership consultants. You have seen it in Muddy Boots on other occasions.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

The credit belongs to the "person" in the arena. Ponder that thought as we hit our current walls brought on by pandemics, climate change, political culture wars, racial inequity, corruption, and greed. One can face the wall and slip into the darkness of the cold and timid souls of the sideline, or one can get into the arena and fight the good fight, whatever worthy cause that may be for you.

Leadership only happens in the arena. Magic happens when you are there with your team and focused on them and the mission. In times such as these, the danger is to sit on the sideline and rant on an internet chat site or, worse, do nothing. Remember, coasting is a downhill event.

We need to embrace being in the arena, where and whatever the arena is for you, and get back in the game. No one wants to be a cold and timid soul.

So, recharge, reload, put on your spikes, and get back to work. Vaccinated and with your mask, as that's what it takes right now. We have too much to do and it does not happen on the sidelines.

So, recharge, reload, put on your spikes, and get back to work. Vaccinated and with your mask, as that's what it takes right now. We have too much to do and it does not happen on the sidelines.

To paraphrase Jack Nicholson, “You need me in that Arena!”

Yes we do. All of us.



Grandchildren over Greed

Posted on June 27, 2021 at 8:10 PM Comments comments (0)


I spent a late afternoon in the pool with my grandson. It is June, and it is hot. However, the water is still cool, and the contrast to the humid and sticky air is delightful. He is learning to swim, and while he uses a noodle to float, it is way more fun to use it to redirect the return jets and shoot water at his Grandfather. So we take a break and, sitting on the pool steps, half in and half out, have a Popsicle. We debate which is better, ice cream or frozen Popsicle ice. He has strong opinions and suggests we ought to test both. Clearly, he has a future in sales.

I am blessed to be able to spend such time with him. It is not lost on me the contrast of his experience with that of other children around the world. And more specifically, with the children we serve in Philadelphia at ECS, where I now work.

If you follow Muddy Boots, you will know I often ask the question, actually more of a challenge, will we put grandchildren ahead of greed? This month an infrastructure bill will move forward in Washington. Already passed in multiple legislations are laws to address the Covid crisis and flowing funding to families. But much remains to answer the question will we put all our grandchildren ahead of greed.

What of climate change? What of education reform and funding? What of job training for the new economy? What of job creation at a living wage that ends the dependence of the social safety net with all its challenges and gaps? What support do we give to the pillars of economic mobility; Well-Being, Financial Management, Education and Training, and Employment and Career?

I suspect you could ask any parent in any country the question, and they would choose children and grandchildren. But, unfortunately, the clock is ticking, and time is not on our side. Climate, social unrest, inequity, greed gather momentum with consequence. Old problems now demand new answers and new approaches. The reality is the status quo is not an option. The result of doing nothing, and letting greed be the guide, is a generation or two from now, a fatal strategy.

We owe it to all our grandchildren to demand and drive different answers. Leadership matters, but it starts with our vision, our voice and our vote.

Grandchildren over greed?

It is time to not only make the call. it is time to answer it.

Sunday Morning

Posted on May 16, 2021 at 4:15 PM Comments comments (0)

May 15, 2021 is a Sunday. For the first time in 14 months we went to an indoor worship service with fellow parish members. Yes we are vaccinated and yes we wore masks and yes communion was bread only. But it was a gathering of fellow souls for whom in service worship is the bedrock and foundation of the rhythm of our lives. While we have a ways to go and much of the world will not be the same, it was good to return to the simple rituals of faith and to reflect that that same faith is what has carried us through these times. That lesson is not to be taken lightly as the tasks ahead are significant and daunting.


Much of the nation remains divided politically. Racial unrest and the root causes of that unrest demand responses that bring much desired change. Poverty remains pervasive. The climate, either man made or natural, is clearly changing and the science points to a tipping point ever nearer. The economy is both surging and elusive depending on where one sits on life’s continuum.


If nothing else the pandemic serves as a wake up call and a magnifier of all of the above. A vaccine in under 14 months, but based on years of research, tells us we have the ability to face extraordinary circumstances and change the trajectory of a crisis. Will we waste that lesson or turn as a nation to find common ground in our differences, will we look at the inequalities across our society and seek solutions and changes with the same intensity and urgency as we are with Covid 19, acknowledging we have far to go? Can we seize the opportunity of a sustainable environmental and economic policy and create employment opportunities that in turn reduce poverty and lower the need for a social safety net long term? And in doing so acknowledge that our self interest starts with our neighbor’s.


Faith as a bedrock sustains us. But faith in action is what drives real change. As the masks come off, the challenges are clear. Rather than long for a return to the old normal, let us take the faith that has carried us and with courage and conviction acknowledge what we face in the days ahead. Old problems demand new solutions, new responses, new partnerships, new commitments. The good news is they are out there.


Are we that brave?


As Lincoln reminds us, a house divided, cannot stand. Be that house, local, national or global. Our faith tells us we can prevail. The status quo cannot continue. The common ground on which we build needs to acknowledge and include all of us. Hard it may be, but not impossible.


We have to be that brave.




Dog People

Posted on April 24, 2021 at 4:10 PM Comments comments (0)

We are dog people.

I can separate the world into people who are dog people and those who are not.

We have friends in both camps, and we even have friends who are cat people.

Our current fur ball is a two-year-old West Highland Terrier female named Clover. As in four-leaf.

Perhaps because of Covid quarantine, she and I have learned to talk, well she speaks, and I understand, when I talk, she does what she wants. After all, she is a Westie.


A short bark and a lick is time to get up. Which means I get up and let her out, make the coffee, and if we are on time, she barks twice to be let in, get her feet wiped, and a treat, after which she returns to the bed for another hour of sleep with my wife. Mind you; this is usually at 6 AM.


A bark at the pantry door is breakfast or dinner. One would be wise not to ignore this announcement.

A low growl at the toy box is I need help getting my toy. Never mind, it is on top.


A scramble to the front window and barking that would wake the dead is one of several possibilities.

Someone walking a dog, the UPS or FedEx person, I note the FedEx regular has treats and therefore is much more welcome at the door. I am told the same drill, but a much higher pitch barking is the announcement I am turning into the driveway.


Then there is the ironing board. Apparently, she hates the ironing board. From anywhere in the house, when it comes out, she comes flying and barking and growling. God help you if she gets the ironing pad in her jaws. She will shred it and has. The hardware store must think we do know how to use an iron.


But the best is when I am working at my desk, and she climbs into the dog bed I have under it. She snores but is that low heavy contented breathing way. She wants to be with me, and I am happy for the company.


There is something about the unconditional love between a dog and the people with who they live. They know our moods, they invoke our emotions, and they sense the good and the sad. They are at the door when we come home and always with an excited bark and tail wag. We could learn much about relationships from them. Something about just being present. In reality, they can chew the rug, come home muddy, and smell like a skunk, but you forgive and clean them up, and they love you back. A lesson I suspect we should use in other relationships and we would be better off.


Yes, we are dog people. What I am grateful for is that there are people dogs.


She has taught us a lot.





Posted on April 23, 2021 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (0)

The following message went to the ECS community last night.

The longest day must have its close—the gloomiest night will wear on to a morning.

An eternal, inexorable lapse of moments is ever hurrying the day of the evil to an eternal night,

and the night of the just to an eternal day.

-Harriet Beecher Stowe

The verdict for Derek Chauvin reminds us how often the system has failed Black Americans, how many times the oppressor has gone Scot free. Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor. That seemingly endless list can never leave our minds, their names must not be forgotten.

As many voices have reminded us, this verdict delivers accountability for Derek Chauvin, but not justice for George Floyd. For real justice to prevail for Floyd and too many others, we must fashion a world in which the basic dignity of every human being is respected.

That justice is the long and hard work of naming the cancer of systemic racism and banding together to root it out so that all Americans can live without fear of violent oppression. ECS is committed to that demanding task. We know that we cannot truly serve people in poverty, we cannot hold out the hope of economic independence without acknowledging that for Black people the system right now is not fair, not just. Has not been for 400 years.

Nevertheless, we believe that right will prevail—not without our prayers and tears and courageous work, but it will prevail. That hope is what powered Harriet Beecher Stowe to trust that “the gloomiest night will wear on to a morning.”

In that spirit, ECS has just added Racial Equity to the top tier of its advocacy objectives. Now in addition to fighting for a Living Wage, and for an end to the Benefits Cliff, we will be naming that cancer of systemic racism and advocating at every level of society for real and lasting change. Further, ECS has begun implementing a plan for inclusion and equity within our agency, knowing that we cannot demand justice out there when we have not fully demanded it in here.

“Today, we are able to breathe again,” one of George Floyd’s younger brothers, Philonise, said during a news conference in Minneapolis after the verdict was released. “Justice for George means freedom for all.”

This moment affords us an opportunity to push for further change. At ECS we will do that both by coaching one promising person at a time, helping to light the path out of poverty for good, and by advocating for real and lasting change.

Yours in this good work,

Rev.David R. Anderson

Chief Communications Officer

Victoria Bennett

Chief Inclusion and Advocacy Officer

David E. Griffith

Executive Director & Head Coach


March 2021 Punch List

Posted on March 21, 2021 at 3:10 PM Comments comments (0)

As we make the turn to a time post-Covid, some things I suggest we think about and a call to action.


1.Organizational North Star. What is it, and does everyone in your organization know it and where they fit?

2. Talent. New rules, new challenges, the hybrid experience makes communications, travel, and interaction different. You need to adapt.

3. How good is the team at giving and getting feedback, crucial conversations, and being able to name the elephant in the room safely?

4. Cash, Investment, ROI, Operation Expense. You have a chance to reengineer your financial model post covid. Operating margins can significantly improve if you don't go back to pre covid levels of spend. Don't waste a crisis.

5. Professional Services, how did they do with you the last 12 months? Partnerships tool on a whole new level and meaning over the previous 12 months.

6. Data. Is it good, is it valid, are you measuring the right things?

7. Call your customers, reconnect, to quote Mike Marks, "find the pain and fix it."

8. Muddy Boots rule one and two. Get out in the field and ask how we are doing and what we can do better. See #7

9. We are not out of the Pandemic, people need support, and they also need clarity. Listen with an open heart.

10. Be part of the movement to redefine our nation's relationship with essential workers on pay, benefits, working conditions. Living wage creates consumers and lowers the cost of the social safety net.

11. Let us finally make the founder's vision real, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Men being defined as all men and women in the USA. We are a nation on edge, and it will take all of us to make equity, opportunity, and safety fundamental rights. Diversity is our greatest strength. Let us make it more than a word spoken after yet another bias crime.

12. Put Grandkids over Greed. Social Impact Investing, doing well while doing good, the time has come. Climate change is real, and so should our correlated investing and public policy.

13. Demand accountable and responsible government and vote. Don't sit on the sidelines—every election matters. Protect the right to vote for all Americans.

We live in unprecedented times. It calls for unprecedented leadership.

What's your list?



Managing in a time of Covid, Economic Chaos, and Racial Inequity

Posted on February 19, 2021 at 9:00 PM Comments comments (0)


This week as I attended virtually staff meetings, board meetings, committee meetings, check-ins, and zoom with friends and family, I heard a common comment. “Our people are exhausted!”

The next question is, “ What action can we take?” I have heard a range of suggestions. No meeting days, shut the business for a day, listening sessions, send snacks, put off non-essential tasks, set hours for email and work, lower expectations. You could see tempers flare and accountability waiver.

How about we do our job as managers and get back to the basics?

Does your team have a work plan? Do they know where the firm is going? Do they know their role? Are they rolling that plan throughout the organization? Do they know their talent, really know their people? Do they understand the guardrails and what they can and cannot do to provide flexibility and options with the responsibilities and results they own along with their team? Do you empower them to act?

Does your team bicker, or do they problem-solve? Do they acknowledge challenges and share the impacts of decisions? Will they name elephants and admit they are challenged? Are they quiet in the tough crucial conversations? Will they ask for help? A focused and empowered team can move mountains and, in their own way, deal with Covid, economic chaos, and racial inequality on both an individual and larger scale. Your team can be exhausted and helpless, or focused, empowered, and moving the needle.

But, do you set the tone?

We can live in the doom and gloom of 2020 or choose to thrive and drive change. You can lower expectations, or you can set them. You can drift, or you can set direction. You can tell people what to do, or you can lead them. Lead by spending time listening, getting their recommendations, and jointly problem-solving. Giving permission to be balanced and show flexibility in these times and still meet expectations. Clearly communicate and be clear-eyed to the challenges and open to listening. What is the plan, what are our goals, and how do you see your role? Be a leader by being a solid manager. Talent is what drives an organization, and leadership and management are what curates and enables talent.

The essence of Muddy Boot is to be in the field and to ask two questions, how are we doing, and what can we do better? In these times, I would add, how are you doing and how can I help?

Covid, economic chaos, and racial inequity are huge issues, and they can suck the life out of an organization, let alone a nation. Still, there is only one way to meet and address these historic challenges. Yes, people are exhausted and overwhelmed. Rather than seeking one-off silver bullets that feel good but don’t deliver long-term impacts, let us look in the mirror. And see the work of basics leadership and solid management, by defining and communicating a North Star, creating a plan, setting expectations, supporting the team, and creating joint accountability for performance and balance. Focus drives performance, and performance drives and enables change.

A rising tide lifts all boats. We can drift, or we can steer.


Events of 1/6/21

Posted on January 6, 2021 at 8:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Tonight I hold in prayer the nation.

Tonight I hold in prayer the people of the nation.

Freedom, Equality, Justice, Democracy are not idle concepts.

They are bedrock fundamental values.

When we behave this way we put these values at risk and

in turn our families, our neighbors, and ourselves.

We also put at risk the stranger we do not know who could be family, neighbor, or us but for the grace of God.

The time for silence is over, the time for accountability is long overdue. It is time to put Grandchildren over greed.

Yesterday we saw the power of a free and fair election, just as we saw in November. A vote is a voice. It is priceless and unique.

Freedom, Equality, Justice, and Democracy demand discourse and the rule of law.

They also demand equal accountability and equal buy in in order to thrive from the people.

Pray for the nation, but not in silence.

Pray for a time when access to opportunity and justice is available to all, but not in silence.

"All that is needed for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing. All that is needed for the forces of evil to succeed is for enough good men to remain silent."

We are better than this. Speak Up.

Human Services

Posted on December 17, 2020 at 9:20 PM Comments comments (0)


“We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before, and others will stand on ours. Let our shared legacy be that even in the darkest of days, ECS gave light to the darkness and answered with our full measure the call to service. There will always be fires, and we will always respond.” (150th remarks)


One of my favorite quotes with attribution to St Francis is “Preach the gospel and sometimes use words.” As I reflect on the year that has been 2020, my thoughts are very much with the people we serve at ECS and my colleagues that I have the privilege of working with as together we challenge poverty. Without fanfare, they answer the call every day. They run to the fire, and with few words but deep and resilient actions, they work to positively move the lives of individuals, families, and communities.


The call to service runs deep. I am humbled that individuals who could be doing almost any profession choose this field, moreover, not just at ECS, but throughout our City, Region and Country, answering the call to service at agencies and institutions, all dedicated to lifting the human spirit. I am humbled and grateful for their service. I can honestly say that I had no idea of the challenges and the issues before I took on this work. Now almost eight years in, I understand what one means when one speaks to an individual’s full measure. You know who you are and have my admiration, respect, and commitment to do all I can to help answer the call.


We are stronger together. If nothing else, history tells us that we do not win battles on the edges, but in the middle ground where the work is deep and messy. To do the job well, we need to collaborate and not compete, and we need to expect and drive real impacts; we need to adapt as the field changes. Above all, we need to look with clear eyes and an honest heart and acknowledge we can do better. If we measure progress, one individual, one family, and one community at a time, and we hold leadership and ourselves accountable for real and sustainable impacts, real change is possible.


Besides, if we are smart, we will listen to the folks on the front line and the people they serve, close to the action, doing the work, and moving the needle. They understand the roadmap for change.


You can “do,” or you can talk. I respect the folks who “do.”


Thank you for your service.


Dave Griffith is the executive director and head coach at Episcopal Community Services in Philadelphia.