Empowering Success: The Leadership Journey of Norriese Rogers

In the dynamic and ever-evolving world of corporate leadership, Norriese Rogers stands out as a beacon of success and innovation. As the Chief Financial and Human Resource Officer at Gestalt Community Schools (GCS), Norriese has carved out a unique path, seamlessly blending her expertise in finance with her passion for human resources. Her journey is a testament to the power of resilience, vision, and a deep-seated commitment to making a positive impact on both individuals and the broader community.

A Leap of Faith into Human Resources

Norriese’s journey into the HR industry was not a straightforward path but rather an unexpected yet deeply fulfilling turn of events. Initially, she was a finance and accounting professional with over two decades of extensive experience in these fields. She was serving as the Chief Financial Officer for Gestalt Community Schools when a pivotal moment occurred. Five years ago, she was asked to temporarily take on the leadership of the HR department. This request marked a significant and surprising shift in her career trajectory. “My journey into HR was somewhat unexpected but deeply fulfilling,” she explains, highlighting the unforeseen nature of this transition.

This move, intended to be temporary, unveiled her latent passion for nurturing talent and shaping organizational culture. It became evident that her analytical skills, honed through years of financial oversight, could be effectively leveraged to make strategic decisions, enhance workplace culture, and boost operational efficiency within the HR sphere. Norriese discovered an intrinsic satisfaction in addressing the human elements of the workplace, realizing that people are indeed the greatest asset of any organization. This belief has been a driving force behind her efforts to make a lasting positive impact on the lives of her colleagues and team members, both professionally and personally. Her transition into HR has thus been not just a career change, but a journey of personal and professional growth, driven by a newfound passion for people-centered leadership.

Gestalt Community Schools: A Commitment to Community Empowerment

Gestalt Community Schools (GCS) is a nonprofit Charter Management Organization dedicated to revitalizing neighborhoods, creating high-performing schools, and tackling out-of-school challenges. Operating five K-12 college-preparatory public charter schools, GCS serves over 2,300 students from low-income, predominantly minority communities. “Our foundational belief is that every child, irrespective of race or socioeconomic status, deserves access to a high-quality education and a supportive community to support long-term success,” Norriese asserts.

Gestalt’s mission is to leverage community assets to empower citizens who will be college-ready, career-ready, and community-ready. Their academic model integrates social-emotional learning (SEL) and mental health support, addressing the needs of the whole child.

Looking ahead, Gestalt Community Schools aims to build on their successes and continue fostering a diverse and inclusive culture. “We were recognized as the Top Workplace 2023 in Memphis, TN,” Norriese proudly states. This recognition reflects their efforts to create an inclusive and valued staff environment. Future plans include expanding low-cost benefits, introducing a free healthcare option, and providing clear growth tracks for every position within the organization. The ultimate goal is to ensure that every community member feels valued, understood, and integral to their collective success.

Navigating Dynamic Dual Roles: Balancing Finances and Human Capital

In her capacity as the Chief Financial and Human Resource Officer, Norriese Rogers undertakes a myriad of responsibilities that define her days as dynamic and varied. Each day presents new challenges and opportunities, from addressing financial intricacies to managing human resource dynamics. Her tasks span policy review, team updates on various fronts like grievances and retention, communication strategies, data analysis, recruitment oversight, and budgeting. The cyclical nature of the academic environment further influences her daily agenda, adding layers of complexity to her role.

At the core of Norriese’s leadership ethos lies a commitment to cultivating a culture of integrity within Gestalt Community Schools. She believes in leading by example, adhering to principles of transparency, respect, and truthfulness. By fostering an environment where trust and honesty thrive, she has instilled a sense of accountability and responsibility across the organization. Through cultural climate surveys and continuous improvement efforts, Norriese ensures that integrity remains at the forefront of Gestalt’s operations, inspiring others to uphold these values.

Redefining Human Resources with Empathy

Norriese’s approach to human resources is inspired by a quote from Basecamp CEO and Co-founder, Jason Fried, who asked, “Human Resources or Resources for Humans?” She is a staunch believer in the latter approach, prioritizing empathy and understanding. “My primary resources at hand as the head of HR have always been ‘empathy’ and ‘understanding’,” she explains.

This philosophy has created optimal conditions for staff to excel and grow both personally and professionally. The results have been astounding, with better engagement, increased productivity, and higher retention rates. “Our organization thrives because our people thrive,” she exclaims.

The Impact of Technology on HR

Modern technology has significantly impacted the HR industry, making processes smoother and faster. “‘Significantly’ would be a gross understatement,” Norriese says. Technology has reduced paperwork, improved data management with cloud storage, and streamlined HR processes through HRM software. Automated payroll systems and digital onboarding have made HR tasks more efficient, and data driven.

“My job has not just become more efficient but massively data driven as well,” she notes, highlighting how technology has transformed HR management.

Evolving Perspectives on Success and Overcoming Professional Hurdles

When asked about her definition of success, Norriese’s perspective is both profound and multi-dimensional. “Success? To me, it is a multi-dimensional achievement that goes way beyond the usual business targets,” she says.

For Norriese, success is not merely about hitting financial milestones but about creating a positive impact that resonates on a personal and professional level. She finds fulfillment in seeing her team and the people she mentors flourish, thrive, and grow. “Real success is when you make a difference where it actually counts,” she asserts. Norriese’s vision of success is deeply rooted in fostering an environment where people feel valued, encouraged to challenge themselves, and supported in their growth.

Like any journey worth undertaking, Norriese’s path was riddled with challenges, especially given her background in finance rather than human resources. “The challenges were plentiful,” she recalls. The steep learning curve involved bridging knowledge gaps and aligning HR department goals with human-centric policies. However, these challenges became her greatest strengths.

“Every challenge was a lesson that eventually pushed me to learn and adapt,” she says.

Norriese approached HR with a fresh perspective, integrating her financial acumen to drive organizational efficiency and effectiveness. Surrounding herself with knowledgeable HR professionals who shared her people-first vision, she transformed challenges into opportunities, achieving high employee satisfaction levels and shaping herself into a leader who believes in the potential of every individual.

A Career Marked by Recognition and Gratitude

Norriese’s career, spanning over a quarter-century, began with a degree in finance and was fueled by dreams of success and professional recognition. Her journey took a pivotal turn five years ago when she stepped into a temporary role leading the HR department. This unexpected opportunity allowed her to blend her financial acumen with a newfound passion for human resources, ultimately reshaping her career path.

One of the most significant accolades in her professional life was being named a finalist for the CFO of the Year by the Memphis Business Journal, an honor bestowed upon her through nominations from her staff members. This recognition, rooted in the appreciation of those she leads, stands as a testament to her impact and effectiveness as a leader.

“However, there’s another that affects me more – the everyday gratitude expressed by our staff,” Norriese shares, emphasizing what truly resonates with her. The daily acknowledgment from her team, whether it’s for introducing new benefits, addressing family needs through the Gestalt UKnights Program, or creating avenues for professional growth, holds immense value for her. This everyday recognition surpasses formal accolades, as it reflects the genuine appreciation and positive changes she has facilitated in the lives of her colleagues.

For Norriese, these moments of gratitude and acknowledgment are the true measures of her success, underscoring the profound impact she has on her team and reinforcing her commitment to fostering a supportive and empowering work environment.

Empowering the Next Generation

As an HR leader, Norriese places a high value on mentoring and empowering young professionals, guiding them to achieve their career aspirations and aiding the underserved in their journey. “One word: empowering,” she succinctly defines herself, capturing the essence of her leadership philosophy.

Inspired by President Ronald Reagan’s words, “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things, but rather, the one that gets the people to do the greatest things,” Norriese embodies this belief in her everyday actions and leadership approach.

Her mission is not just to lead but to inspire and uplift others, helping them to realize their potential and encouraging them to pursue greatness. By creating a supportive environment where individuals feel valued and motivated, she aims to leave a lasting, positive impact on their professional and personal lives.

Norriese’s commitment to empowerment extends beyond her immediate team, influencing the broader community and setting a standard for inclusive and compassionate leadership. Her personal goal of inspiring and empowering others is a testament to her dedication to fostering a culture of growth, support, and excellence within her organization and beyond.

Balancing Personal and Professional Life

Balancing personal and professional life is a crucial aspect of Norriese’s leadership philosophy. “It’s never easy, but it’s ABSOLUTELY crucial that we get it right,” she emphasizes, highlighting the importance of finding harmony between work and personal time. Leading by example, Norriese makes it a point to frequently disconnect from work to recharge, demonstrating to her staff that taking breaks is not only acceptable but necessary for maintaining overall well-being. This approach fosters a healthier, more balanced work environment where employees feel supported in taking time for themselves.

Clear communication of vision and goals is another key element in Norriese’s strategy to balance work and life. By articulating the end goals and aligning them with the organization’s values and commitments, she ensures that staff members have a clear sense of purpose. “If we can see the end goal and the end goal is aligned with our values and commitments, we care about the work and are driven to achieve desired results,” she explains. This clarity not only motivates and inspires her team but also creates a cohesive and focused work environment where everyone is working towards common objectives.

Norriese believes that understanding and communicating the ‘why’ behind goals, decisions, and values is essential for effective leadership. This practice gives her team members a clear sense of direction and purpose, making the work more meaningful and engaging. By prioritizing both personal well-being and professional clarity, Norriese ensures that her team is motivated, inspired, and equipped to achieve their best, creating a culture where balance and productivity go hand in hand.

Message to Aspiring HR Professionals and Leaders

Norriese’s message to future HR leaders emphasizes the importance of emotional intelligence, relationship-building, and clear communication. She believes that understanding and connecting with your team on an emotional level is fundamental to effective leadership. “The key to your success is this one rule: leaders don’t command, they empower,” she advises. By fostering an environment where team members feel valued and supported, leaders can unlock the full potential of their teams.

Creating a thriving work environment is central to Norriese’s leadership philosophy. She encourages future HR professionals to prioritize the well-being and development of their employees, ensuring that they have the resources and support needed to excel. This approach not only enhances individual performance but also contributes to the overall success of the organization.

Norriese asserts that leaders should inspire and empower their teams rather than simply directing them. By fostering a culture of empowerment, leaders can cultivate a motivated and engaged workforce, driving both personal and organizational growth. Her advice underscores the importance of empathy and understanding in leadership, highlighting that a supportive and empowering environment is key to achieving the best performance from any team.

Conclusion: A Visionary Leader with a Heart for People

Norriese Rogers exemplifies the qualities of a visionary leader with a heart for people. Her journey from finance to human resources showcases her adaptability, resilience, and commitment to making a positive impact. At Gestalt Community Schools, she has fostered a culture of integrity, inclusivity, and growth, empowering both staff and students to achieve their full potential.

As she continues to lead with empathy and vision, Norriese remains a beacon of inspiration for future leaders in the HR industry and beyond.