Mentoring and people building daily

People Builder March 2020

(Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay)

“We’re here for a reason. I believe a bit of the reason is to throw little torches out to lead people through the dark”.

(Whoopi Goldberg)

Had an interesting conversation with a good friend today about why I consider myself a People Builder.  My explanation comes down to this is something I was destined for—my purpose if you will.  There it is—I’m a People Builder!

Got invited to speak with 3 Student Success classes at Tallahassee Community College in December 2019.  The professor and I worked together at FSU years ago and reached out to see if I could energize her students.  I never turn down speaking roles so decided to work on some new material to help students find the why in their studies.

The invite came the week prior to finals so most students were ready for the semester to end–then I enter the arena.  Always love a challenge and the end of a semester provides plenty of them.  Didn’t let this deter me as I prepared for my full day working on the TCC campus—I’m built for this! 😊

The main message I wanted the students to take away is they control their destiny.

Education and life are active endeavors and the more they participate, take charge and act the more empowered they will feel in all aspects of life.  Wanted to ensure the students understood empowerment by having them create a life and educational why statement while I was with them.  Some never heard of this concept but were quick to embrace it since the professor made this an extra credit project prior to finals—it takes all types of motivation. 😊

Had several students share their why statements with me during the class sessions—came away impressed with what they generated during our time together.  Also introduced the concept of SMART goals (Simple, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) to the students to help them with future educational and life pursuits.  Leveraged SMART goals to help the students understand how written goals would impact their why statements.

The professor conducted a survey to get the students to identify what they took away from my visit.  See a sample below.

Sample student survey results:

  1. What was your favorite part of the Leadership Presentation? My favorite part of the presentation was what Dr. Williams proved to us. He proved that all of us are leaders of our own lives. He made me believe that I am far more capable of doing great things than I give myself credit.
  2. What did you take away from the perception vs. reality part of the presentation? The perception of a person is how they carry themselves such as how they walk, talk, and dress. For example, Dr. Williams walked in confident, dressed in professional attire, and he was very well spoken. Yet he is a very introverted person.
  3. In your own words, what was Dr. Williams’s why statement? Dr. Williams’ why statement was simply that he wants to leave a positive impact on every person that he meets.
  4. What is your why for your education (including this class)? My why for my education is so that I can grow into a mature and responsible adult and to be able to become an officer in the United States Army. My why for this class is to help make a smooth transition into college which has been interesting.
  5. What is your why for life? My why for life is to recognize that I will not live forever but I want to create something positive that will.
  6. How long did it take Dr. Williams to learn his why? It took him 20 years.
  7. In your own words, describe what happens when everyone in an organization agrees on everything? Everyone stops learning, they all stop growing, and eventually all become complacent.
  8. How was the presentation helpful to you? It helped me realize the many things that I can do right now for my future. It was very eye opening and motivating. Thank you for having Dr. Williams come in.
  9. If you were a tree, what kind would you be? Explain why you would be this tree. I would be a pine tree because I may not be the toughest, but I am flexible and dependable.
  10. Share something you learned that you can put into action this week. I made a game plan of how I can get into ROTC at FSU. After class today (December 2nd) I made an appointment with the recruiter at FSU ROTC for tomorrow.

Happy to report most of the students I spoke with left with the same energy and got active making positive things happen.  Several reached out to me on LinkedIn to stay connected for mentorship opportunities.  Got invited to coffee recently for additional insight on goal setting—progress was made at TCC!

People building closely resembles being a superhero—Inspiration Man strikes again!

How can you become a People Builder?  Who in your circle would benefit from a little construction?

“Our chief want in life is somebody who will make us do what we can”.

(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

 

Guest Blogger Friday: Melissa Forges

Guest Blogger Friday Villages

(Image by Magdalena Smolnicka from Pixabay)

Today my guest blogger is Melissa Forges who is one of my closest tree branches.  Melissa will be featured here for Guest Blogger Friday:

Villages:  A success factor

When you think about the factors that have helped you become successful, which one stands out?

For me it’s my villages. My personal villages always come to mind because it’s through the support, resources, and encouragement I continuously receive, that enable me to thrive in the many areas of my life. I strongly believe a community has the power to cheerlead you to persevere and be the candor, the frank wisdom you need to be guided in a specific direction. A group of people, whether you call it a village, or another name can be a success factor in your career and life as you Walk into the Future with others by your side.

As the old proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child”, so if child rearing, a noble yet daunting responsibility requires additional input and involvement, how much so for career, relationships, and other complex areas in our lives as well. The good news is there’s no boundary on what topic a village can be created around, how many villages you can be a part of, how many people in the village or how long it needs to last (it may serve for a specific purpose or time frame). The one ingredient is all must share the core identification of the group.

My villages are casual mom-groups to professional development organizations – and everything in between.

I’m part of a text-chat group with a handful of former coworkers and friends where we send jokes, encouragement, and levity during hectic work weeks. Another village is one that’s online via Facebook with 11,000+ members to provide networking opportunities, idea sharing and a safe space to feel heard and represented in our chosen career field.

Although I treasure all my villages as they are all unique, I appreciate one at work where we meet periodically throughout the day, especially at the end of the day to “check-in”, give feedback and provide advisement for each other’s projects and challenges, like a village think tank. The sincere support and sisterhood help each of us to shine, and I find that uplifting.

As one village makes me shine, another makes me sweat! This group of hard-working women are as diverse as they come but we all meet up three times a week, keep each other accountable and inspire one another to attain our fitness goals. I’ll never forget when we were tasked to plank for three sets of 60 seconds after an intense workout. Seems easy right? Well, not for me at that time! My arms were shaking from fatigue, sweat was dripping, and I was about to throw the towel in – but my village was not about to let that happen. Everyone began shouting my name and for me to not give up. I didn’t realize I needed a boost, but I sure used their energy and felt determined and was able to complete the exercise enthusiastically. The village helped me achieve the plank goal, shaky arms and all. It wasn’t about the planks; it was the group that helped me stay focused to achieve more than I thought I could in the moment.

That’s what villages can do. They call you higher to exist above mediocrity; they provide insight you may need for a decision or help you stay on your toes so to speak. Also, as villages call you higher, they become clusters of family whether they’re in-person or virtual because at the base of a village are the people, you’re building relationships with.

You may be in several villages and didn’t even know it. Think about the groups you periodically interact with and how you mutually serve one another. If you cannot think of one, maybe you can create one and it can even be online. Start with an interest or skill you enjoy or would like to develop. For example, it can be sports, business, or a hobby. You’ll find there are people, village people (pun intended) out there just like you looking to make a connection. Get out there and “raise a child”, metaphorically speaking, and build villages to incorporate into your success factor for life, career, and beyond!

What village(s) are you a part of?  How has your village helped your success?  If you’re not a part of a village, what type of village can you create?

Thank you Melissa for your outstanding insight on villages!

Follow Melissa here:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/mforges/

Superheroes are all around us—open your mind to see them!

Superhero 2020

(Image by John Hain from Pixabay)

“It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me”.

(Batman)

My current Walk into the Future provides multiple opportunities for me to discuss life, travel, interests and potential blog topics with tree branches.

I’m lucky to identify future blog topics from the great people I interact with daily.  I can’t develop every idea into something useful for the Walk into the Future blog, but I try extremely hard to never miss a topic to help others on their walk.  Thank you to everyone who has sent me topic suggestions so far.  Please note, if you haven’t seen your topic then I’m still working on the development process.

Superheroes

I published an article back in October 2019 discussing the challenges superheroes face daily:

This article led to an interesting phone conversation with a tree branch while driving to Orlando for two networking events.  Normal conversation but we detoured onto the subject of superpowers.  Not the Batman versus Superman hype or who would win a fight type conversation but what superpower would I have.  We laughed a bit and I had to put some real thought into what superpower I display.

There are a lot of things I bring forth daily.  My main mission has evolved to make a difference daily.  Simple enough but I’ve found the best way to accomplish my mission is to find ways to inspire others to reach or exceed their stated goals.

So, my superpower is inspiration!  You can still call me Calvin when you see me, but I will answer to Inspiration Man!  Nice little ring to it, huh? 😊

Seriously, I view my ability to help others achieve things in their personal and professional lives as making a difference daily.  The concept of serving others has been with me for a while now.  It started with my many roles in the Air Force (instructor, mentor, leader) and continues to expand with my consulting work as well as former roles in higher education.  I don’t have a fancy Inspiration Man uniform (yet) but take pride in being able to guide others and provide tough love when necessary.

My current Walk into the Future provides maximum flexibility to work with diverse people with differing needs for inspiration.  I take pride in my ability to listen and then help generate outcomes to assist people I partner with.  This process can be formal or informal, but my goal is to leave folks inspired to go tackle their day.

My tree branches get daily and weekly check-ins from me to let them know I’m always here for them.  It may not appear to be a lot of inspiration in this process but I’m sure someone smiles when they hear from me—just guessing! 😊  My #1 client is my niece Jayla who will graduate from UCF in May—she gets the full-blown Inspiration Man act daily—even if she doesn’t want it—so lucky!

Speaking engagements and presentations provide me with additional ways to inspire others.  I make a point to never turn down a meeting or presentation request because Inspiration Man needs an audience.  I see these as opportunities to generate additional tree branches and continue to make a difference in this world.  Just finished speaking in 3 Student Success classes at Tallahassee Community College—received the topic the night before the presentations but I willingly accepted the challenge and opportunity to inspire students to find their why.  Again, I don’t turn down opportunities if I can help it.

“Be your own hero.”

(PictureQuotes.com)

Tree branches

Recent conversations highlight superpowers for several of my tree branches:

Positivity Persuasion Writing
Relentless Analytic Organization Connecting with others
Activating Destiny Adaptability / Positivity Writing / Editing
Unstoppable Energy Caring / Empathy Networking

You can see I’m associated with a team of superheroes with diverse and impactful powers.  They are making a positive difference in the world and I’m excited to watch them change lives daily—well done team!

Think we need a cool team name—Avengers, Justice League and X-Men are already taken! ☹😊

So, what’s your superpower? How do you use it to make a difference in this world?  Can you match the superpower to one of my tree branches? 😊

Thanks for walking with me!

“The most important thing is to try and INSPIRE people so they can be great in whatever they want to do”.

(Kobe Bryant)

Planting seeds in Orlando to grow new trees!

Planting seeds at UCF

(Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay)

“To move forward, you have to give back”.

(Oprah Winfrey)

My Walk into the Future provides me with flexibility to work on projects in multiple locations.  I consider myself a running tourist but can also travel and work in different locations with others when needed.

I’ve worked on projects for the Seminole Tribe of Florida (Immokalee), Intern Pursuit podcasts (Orlando), Salvation Army (Tallahassee), Mastering College to Career podcasts (Orlando), individual clients (Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Orlando and DC), Tallahassee Community College (Tallahassee), MLK event Keynote (Jasper) and the University of Central Florida (Orlando).

Each project had a different audience and expected outcomes which is exciting to me.  Picking these projects allow me to hone my skills and continue to grow as I extend my reach and grow new tree branches.

“Your greatness is not what you have, it’s what you give”.

(Unknown)

My project with UCF was especially rewarding because I was invited to train a group of student workers by an active tree branch.  We have worked together for the past 10 years—first at UCF, then at FSU and now again at UCF.  Full disclosure, this tree branch worked directly for me at FSU.

I conducted team building training for her student workers at FSU and she wanted to bring the same training to UCF as a part of their enhanced student professional development program.  An extra bonus for me conducting the UCF training is my niece, Jayla, is a current student worker in the UCF Career Center and would be a participant.  This was her first time to see me working with students instead of hearing about my work.  Think she came away proud of her uncle! 😊

These opportunities allow me to give back and help the next generation Walk into the Future.  Love the energy I get when standing in front of motivated college students.  Believe the energy they put out helps me find another gear when presenting material to them.  They inspire me to get better daily.

This workshop was designed to help the student workers understand the importance of working within the team environment.  We also touched on how they can still be individuals but can’t let this hinder the overall function of the team.  Example, someone who is naturally quiet will still have to speak publicly in a customer service environment.  We explored understanding differences and how to find strengths in others to ensure work is being accomplished in a proper manner.

We were also able to leverage communication styles and techniques to enhance workplace interactions.  The students were well versed in how their personalities can impact interactions with peers, faculty and staff.  We utilized their knowledge to build team dynamics and translate this information directly to their respective roles in the Career Center.

Team building is not a formal course of study and takes time to implement.  Believe getting students engaged in understanding team building dynamics early will translate directly to their work and life experiences after college.  It also creates a strong foundation they can utilize while in school—group projects, presentations, fraternity/sorority life, student government, etc.

We can all sharpen our team building skills—this workshop is my way to keep this important workplace tool growing.  I was able to plant seeds during this presentation and look forward to watching the new trees grow in the future.  Several students have reached out via LinkedIn and I’m actively mentoring them to help reach their respective goals.  One of the students that reached out works for another tree branch in Orlando—small world!

What are your favorite team building tools?  How does your organization ensure team building is a strong component for growth?  (Respond in the comments section—thanks!)

Thanks for walking with me!

“As you grow older, you will discover you have two hands – one for helping yourself and the other for helping others”.

(Audrey Hepburn)

UCF Training

We all win with diverse work environments!

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“Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without”.

(William Sloan Coffee, Jr.)

Merriam-Webster defines diversity as the condition of having or being composed of differing elements.  Clear as mud, right?

Organizations with diversity initiatives need to ensure they fully understand what diversity means.  Simply making a statement does not ensure diversity in the work environment will happen.  Diversity must be examined in order to identify how it can be fully implemented and embraced in the work environment.

Some organizations define diversity on very short-sighted components i.e., men, women, race.  These components are all intertwined when discussing diversity but there should be more components included in a truly diverse work environment.

Leveraging background dynamics, educational and life experiences as well as demographic components will help generate a new level of diversity for organizations who truly seek this in the work environment.  There are some organizations who say they want diversity but continue to hire clones of the staff currently working there.  This is the opposite of the Merriam-Webster’s diversity definition.

“We need diversity of thought in the world to face the new challenges”.

(Tim Berners-Lee)

Diverse work environments value different perspectives. This includes skills, experiences, backgrounds and education.  This concept brings a variety of ways to get things done.  Bringing diversity into the work environment allows the organization to grow and avoid the groupthink mentally that stifles new thoughts.

New thoughts in the work environment leads to increased creativity when facing a problem, change or new procedure.  True diversity brings together people who will see the same problem from different perspectives and sharpens everyone because of this exposure.  The creative impact on the organization increases because staff hear, see, feel, think differently and exposes others to different ways to get things done.  This creativity process may also impact innovation within the organization.

Decision making and problem solving are other areas a diverse work environment can enhance.  Again, a diverse work force brings new thoughts, ideas and ways to get things done to the workplace.  Leadership receives diverse solutions to organizational problems and has multiple options to select from.  This leads to faster problem solving and allows the organization to tackle new challenges.

A caution, leadership must be willing to accept the diverse solutions and not revert to business as usual.  The worse thing that can happen is for leadership to say “we always do it this way OR that will not change as long as I’m here”—the quickest way to deflate staff and eliminate their voice in the work environment.

A diverse work environment can also help retain staff members.  A diverse and empowered work environment helps staff members feel accepted and valued.  This creates a happier work force and may lead to staff staying with the organization longer.

So, let’s examine the Merriam-Webster diversity definition again:

  • The condition of having or being composed of differing elements.

A few elements to consider for workplace diversity:

  • Race
  • Gender / Identity
  • Education / Educational Institutions
  • Geographic region
  • Age
  • Experience

A final thought on diversity is it impacts your clients as well.  A more diverse work force can enhance an organization’s ability to attract diverse clients.  Example:  an office with diverse staff will be able to attract diverse clients because they see someone similar.  Don’t overlook the importance of how diversity impacts your clients.

What does your organization do to ensure a diverse work environment?  How can diversity be improved?

“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance”.

(Verna Myers)

Thanks for walking with me!

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Mentors provide valuable lessons for us to share

man and woman discussing and sharing ideas
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“Our chief want in life is somebody who will make us do what we can”.

 (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

We all need someone to mentor and guide us on our journey.  I have had some great people step into my life and provide guidance needed for successful outcomes.  I reach out and thank them as much as possible because their lessons walk with me every day.

I purposefully relay those same messages to my tree branches when needed.  So, the tree started with my mentors, and my goal is to keep it growing with new branches who will grow additional branches.

Had an interesting conversation with one of my closest branches.  She mentioned she met with former students at their request and realized these students were branches from her tree.  I hope to continue to hear about additional tree branches sprouting in other areas.  How many branches have you added to the tree?

Greatest lesson learned

The greatest lesson I learned from my mentor is patience with others.  The pace of the world continues to accelerate but patient leaders provide direct reports the space to learn, make mistakes and grow.  Leaders who display patience in the work environment provide a space for reflection and active coaching when needed.  The exact lesson my mentor gifted me I call:  3 check-ins.  Sounds like a weird game for the work environment but I’ve seen it work and leverage it to this day.

So, how does 3 check-ins work?  Great question!

Example:

You assign a work project to one of your direct reports with a specific due date.  Instructions are provided but you allow the direct report freedom to get the project completed prior to the due date.  The assigned project will have 3 check-in points built in where the leader comes back to the direct report to:

  • Make sure the assignment was understood (reflection)
  • Answer outstanding questions (learn)
  • Offer support/guidance if needed (coaching)
  • Adjust goals (as needed)

The 3 check-ins are spaced out to allow for adjustments to the project if needed but keeps the direct report focused on positive outcomes.  Creating organized check points for the project shows the leader is a willing partner and seeks growth for team members.  This also eliminates the direct report from feeling like they are alone on the project.  We want them to take initiative but not feel they have no support.

The 3 check-ins approach is not designed as a fancy way to micromanage a team.  It provides a support system to enhance professional growth and ensure successful outcomes for the entire team.  Also, the approach allows the leader to serve their team and maximize individual talents.

How do you provide support when assigning projects to your team?  How can the 3 check-in approach enhance your operation?  (Please respond in the comments section below—thanks!)

“The best teachers are those who tell you where to look—but don’t tell you what to see”.

 (Alexander K. Trenfor) 

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“Play chess not checkers in the work environment.”

(Calvin Williams)

Thanks for walking with me!

Leverage individual communication styles to enhance team operations

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“In teamwork, silence isn’t golden, it’s deadly”.

(Mark Sanborn)

There are no two teams that are exactly alike.  Not the most prophetic thing I’ve ever written in this blog space but worth stating.

Teams have different dynamics and function based on these things and the people who make up the team.  The most successful teams can leverage the talents of each team member into the overall organizational dynamic to ensure successful outcomes.

We’ve discussed team communication strategies in previous posts with an angle to strengthen your team.  Individual communication styles and preferences should be reviewed and discussed when you add someone new to your team.  I’m sure everyone strives to hire the best candidate to fill an opening on their team.  How much thought do you put into understanding how to integrate the new team member’s communication style in with others?

I’m a firm believer that leaders should know direct reports’ communication style and preferred way they want to receive information.  This knowledge allows leaders to seek ways to ensure they communicate in a way to maximize operational needs.  This knowledge has helped me when assigning tasks to team members.

Example #1:  When faced with a project that has an extremely quick turnaround time, I normally assign this project to my ENFJ (MBTI) staff member.  This type project excites the staff member and I know they will get things done quickly with enough time for review before the deadline.

Example #2:  When faced with a project due four months from today, I normally assign this project to my ISTJ (MBTI) staff member.  This type project allows the staff member time to plan, strategize and ask all the questions they need to for a successful outcome.

The examples listed above are two actual scenarios I’ve tackled in the past.  Both had successful outcomes because I knew and understood how to engage staff to maximize their talents.  This in turn produced successful outcomes for the organization.

Knowledge of individual communication styles also provides a blueprint to help build training plans to help staff members grow.  Introverted staff are not exempt from ever getting a task with a quick turnaround.  The leader needs to provide a more detailed set of instructions and understand they may have to follow-up with the staff member.  This process begins to stretch the staff member and helps their professional growth.  This also provides the leader with another staff member who can handle future quick turnaround projects and not wear out the extroverts.  Also, extroverted staff are not exempt from being assigned long term projects—training applies to all staff members.

There are multiple ways to engage staff to understand their individual communication style.  MBTI and CliftonStrengths are two tools used in my work environments.  These tools allowed me to get a better understanding of everyone on my team and integrate this knowledge to help teammates understand each other as well.

What’s the most successful way for me to understand how to communicate with my team?  I sit down with them and ask everyone how they like to receive information.  Simple, huh?  Then I make sure to communicate with everyone in a manner they identify (as much as possible).  Things pop up but I try to remain consistent with the communication process.  Direct reports seem to appreciate this fact and respond in a positive manner.

A final note, leaders need to ensure their team knows how they like to communicate as well.  The team shouldn’t have to guess how to approach a leader.  This creates undo stress and is not productive.

How do you account for individual communication styles in the work environment?  Can this knowledge impact your current organization?  (Please respond in the comments section below—thanks!)

“Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something”.

(Plato)

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