Making a difference–the first 100 days!

(Image by Free Photos from Pixabay)

“If you are walking down the right path and you are willing to keep walking, eventually you will make progress”.

(Barack Obama)

Love starting Walk into the Future blog articles with quotes to introduce the topic for each week.  The quotes are selected to get me into the right frame of mind to generate content my followers will enjoy.  I try not to overdue my Barack Obama quotes but he provides inspiration on multiple levels and I can always find something generated by #44 to help me find the words to make a positive impact with my writing.

I am an avid reader and discovered author Robert Hargrave’s book, Your First 100 Days in a New Executive Job:  Powerful First Steps on the Path to Greatness prior to taking my role in Fort Pierce.  Decided to leverage my first 100 days in my new role to find ways to make a positive difference in our daily operations.  The COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it has on normal operations was a huge challenge to me.  I accepted my position at Indian River State College in March 2020 with hopes the pandemic would be mitigated during the summer and we would get back to what use to be normal workday activities.  The COVID-19 numbers exploded over the summer and most of the country remained in a work from home mode out of necessity.

I did not let COVID-19 limit my focus on making a difference daily.  Referred to President Obama’s quote daily and looked for ways to chip away towards the progress I sought.  How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.  How do you make workplace progress?  One project at a time.

My first 100-day point at Indian River State College was 7/28/2020.  The Career and Transfer Services (CTS) team was not briefed on my 100-day plan but were key players to ensure we got the results I wanted us to gain.  I take a lot of pride in being able to organize and execute action plans and set about getting a lot of things completed in the first 100 days.

Vision

One of my first tasks was to create and then share a vision for the CTS team.  This process allowed me to educate the team on how we would work together to help generate wins for our operation.  Robert Hargrove advises to seek out as many wins as possible in the first 100 days—it builds positive energy.

I went on a listening tour (virtual, phone, in-person) to speak with staff, colleagues, students, and faculty to understand the best way to partner with each of them.  I learned a lot during these conversations (good and bad) and discovered who I needed to mend fences with.  It was not important when the fences broke but it was my responsibility to get things moving in a positive direction.

The team conducted a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis to identify what we did well, our weak areas, improvement opportunities and organizational threats.  This was an eye-opening experience for the team because they had never analyzed the operation at this level.  I needed a full view of our operation to make the first 100 days productive.

We created action plans to mitigate weaknesses and threats (wins) because we could not grow without addressing these two areas.  This process led to improved training, better communication, and improved team interactions.  The SWOT analysis is a living document and will extend beyond the first 100 days but is a positive step.

We leveraged multiple teambuilding activities during the first 100 days to ensure our continued growth.  We leveraged the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), created team values statements, enhanced professional development training, and got on The Energy Bus.  Each initiative built on the previous one to help us all grow as team members.

This teambuilding process allowed us to create additional wins:

  • Produced a Career Ready Infographic
  • Created and produced a Resume Guide
  • Created and produced a Resume Rubric
  • Created and produced a Mock Interview Rubric
  • Created CTS branded PowerPoint template
  • Developed a CTS workshop library
  • Developed employer specific marketing

These are a few examples of our wins in the first 100 days—excited to add a few more wins as the team continues to grow together.

We continue to walk on the right path and progress is evident daily!

How do you measure your progress?  What steps do you leverage to continue to move forward?

“Little things make a big difference”.

(Picturequotes.com)

Walking with a positive work environment

(Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

“Positive work environments outperform negative work environments”.

(Daniel Goleman)

Positive people make positive things happen is one of my favorite sayings to inspire people in my world.  I created this as a mantra when I enter a work environment to help my team understand the mindset, we need to get positive results.

I was introduced to Positive Psychology during my course work and it remains with me daily.  One premise of Positive Psychology is people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives.  This could be on a personal or professional level.  I like leveraging Positive Psychology within the work environment to show direct reports how our mindset influences work outcomes.

I mentioned in an earlier post, my daily response to how I am doing is to say fantastic.  This is not a way to hide my true thoughts or feelings but a way to energize myself.  I found by saying I am doing fantastic provides a new level of energy for myself and it can inspire others around me to join in on the fun.  The word fantastic is not used very often in daily life so it makes people take notice and encourages them to get on The Energy Bus.

Now imagine if you had a leader who was always negative and never had anything nice to say.  How would this person impact the work environment?  I am sure this negative mindset would translate to everyone in the work environment and would not be a pleasant place to work. 

Leaders must be cognizant how their energy (positive or negative) impacts the work environment.  This knowledge will go a long way to build a positive work environment culture to ensure positive things get done daily.  Sounds simple, huh?

It takes a while for this positive process to take hold within a new work environment.  The speed of this process can be enhanced when everyone is ready to engage.  One negative teammate can slow or aggravate the process, but this can be mitigated by the rest of the team pulling in the same direction.  A new initiative for me is to follow Rule #6 from The Energy Bus—I have a sign posted that reads No Energy Vampires Allowed in my office in a prominent location.  I will point to the sign when the tone of a conversation starts to become negative.  I welcome different views and opinions but look to negate negative tone, language, or interactions.  It takes time to eliminate the negative, but the goal is to move forward in a positive manner.  I struggle sometimes because I want everything to head in a positive direction but also know things take time. 

A positive work environment is a place where everyone can thrive, grow, and provide input.  We spend a large amount of our lives in the work environment and I strive to create a space where we can work hard, laugh, and enjoy the process.  Leaders who understand work does not have to be stressful create a space where productivity can be displayed daily.  I have worked in places where people dreaded coming to work and I made a vow to never duplicate these types of environments when I reached the big seat.  Well, I have been in the big seat for a while now and smile whenever one of my tree branches reach out and say they want to work with me again.

I am sure not everyone feels this way, but I have enough of these folks to form my own wolf pack.  😊 Still learning and growing but will continue to promote positive work environments because they are productive and fun.  Imagine that, fun in the workplace!  Guess Google, Microsoft and Apple understand what people want in the work environment.  I do not have ping pong tables, yet, but play a lot of reggae in my office.  Irie!

What do you see as the benefits of a positive work environment?  How do you contribute to ensure your work environment remains positive?

 “Positive anything is better than negative nothing”.

(Elbert Hubbard)

The Energy Bus—team building program!

(Image by Marek Studzinski from Pixabay)

“Thoughts are magnetic. What you think you attract”.

(John Gordon)

Dictionary.com defines teambuilding as the action or process of causing a group of people to work together effectively as a team, especially by means of activities and events designed to increase motivation and promote cooperation.

I have always been a fan of conducting teambuilding activities throughout the years to keep teams focused and pulling in the same direction.  I have been fortunate to create teambuilding platforms at UCF and FSU to enhance our team dynamics and set us up to accomplish our work goals.  Teambuilding is a critical component to organizational success and is necessary to remind each team member how interconnected we are daily.

I have leveraged the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) at every stop I have made since I left the Air Force.  I find the MBTI an excellent way to understand team members’ communication style and allows us to adjust to how individuals prefer to communicate internally and externally.

My MBTI is ISTJ (Introverted/Sensing/Thinking/Judging) and is displayed on my desk to remind my team of my preferred communication style. Each team member gets a desk placard highlighting their MBTI to help them communicate with others and serves as a reminder we all have different preferences and work styles.  One is not better than the other, simply different.

I was introduced to Clifton Strengths while at UCF.  I was charged with building a teambuilding program for Career Center staff and Clifton Strengths provided us with a platform to build on the strengths of everyone on the team.  We reached out and hired a certified consultant to come in and work with us to learn how to maximize team strengths so we could grow the organization.  This was an eye-opening teambuilding experience for the group and has remained an integral tool for me when working to build my respective team dynamics.

Ice breaker activities are another great way to bring teams together and enhance socialization.  The ice breakers used do not have to be elaborate but should have an element of fun while the team learns more about each other.  The platform should enhance communication and help the team find ways to discover new things about teammates.

My latest teambuilding adventure was introduced to me by one of my new team members.  She found out I am a huge reader and shared a leadership book from her library with me.  I had never heard of the book but was intrigued by the concept after she explained the premise of the book.  The full title, The Energy Bus:  10 Rules to Fuel your Life, Work and Team is an international best seller and the author, Jon Gordon is sought by organizations to share his Energy Bus knowledge and help people continue to grow.  I watched several of his talks on YouTube to get a better understanding of his concept to determine if this was something I could utilize.  He has a ton of stuff on YouTube so recommend taking some time to explore his work to see how it can help you and your team move forward.

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=jon+gordon++

The book is an extremely easy read and reminds me of the classic, Who Moved My Cheese but in an actual work environment.  I was impressed with how his concepts could be applied to my current work situation as I had to find new and inventive ways to conduct teambuilding while maintaining physical distancing due to COVID-19.  Never imagined 6 months ago I would be able to implement teambuilding activities with team members in 8 different locations via virtual platforms.  I chose the Energy Bus because the 10 rules identified are easy to follow and fit where I wanted to take the team.  We must get creative with our work products now and needed them to understand we must pull in the same direction.

Leveraging the https://www.theenergybus.com/ site, I was able to send each team member a bus ticket to invite them onto my bus.  It felt funny generating the ticket, but it seemed to excite people when they received the invitation.  Most of the team reached out to ask if they needed to present their ticket at our scheduled teambuilding session.  It was not required but a lot of them had their ticket ready just in case.  😊

10 Rules for the Ride of Your Life

  1. You are the driver of the Bus
  2. Desire, vision, and focus move your bus in the right direction
  3. Fuel your ride with positive energy
  4. Invite people on your bus and share your vision for the road ahead
  5. Do not waste energy on those who do not get on your bus
  6. Post a sign that says “No Energy Vampires Allowed” on your bus
  7. Enthusiasm attracts more passengers and energizes them during the ride
  8. Love your passengers
  9. Drive with purpose
  10. Have fun and enjoy the ride

We were able to go through the 10 Rules and discuss the impact each had on our new team adventures.  I gave the team my view of the 10 Rules and how I planned to leverage each of them.  We went around the virtual room and had each team member provide their feedback on each rule and how they would incorporate the rule daily.  I was pleasantly surprised when one of my teammates asked if she could give a full rundown for ALL the rules.  She did a fantastic job summarizing each rule and how it would be incorporated in her daily interactions.  This set the tone for the rest of the teambuilding session and let me know we are heading in the right direction.

I am always looking for ways to get the team to the next level.  Will continue to research teambuilding activities but highly recommend The Energy Bus if you are looking for ways to bring a team together.

What teambuilding activities does your organization use?  How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your team’s ability to gel?

 “Your positive energy and vision must be greater than anyone’s and everyone’s negativity.  Your certainty must be greater than everyone’s doubt”.

(John Gordon)

Zoom into the Future

zoom

(Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay)

“When in doubt, zoom out”.

(Reggie Watts)

I like starting Walk into the Future articles with a quote to inspire my thought process and get me going.  Well, the quote above is the best I could find with zoom in it but has nothing really to do with this article.  Forgive me but thought it was funny and had the appropriate word (zoom) I needed to move forward.

The last several months have been productive, exciting, and frustrating (COVID-19) but progress has been made daily.  The Zoom application has become a popular way for the workforce to keep making positive things happen considering the COVID-19 pandemic.  More people are using this platform to ensure daily operations and tasks are completed in this new way to go to work.

Zoom interview

My first foray using the Zoom application came back in February when I was introduced to it for a first-round interview.  I have used Skype to interview for past positions and to interview candidates for openings on my team.  Did not know much about Zoom but found the process a lot more seamless than the Skype application.  Simply receive an email with a link, click on the link at the appropriate time and you are meeting with the folks on the distant end.  Zoom provides the capability to host multiple people in multiple locations so this appears to make getting a team together to interview candidates a bit easier than Skype.  I am sure there are still uses for the Skype platform but thought Zoom took pressure off me as the candidates since I did not have to test my computer/software as in the past.

Zoom team meeting

Leveraged my newfound appreciation for Zoom by hosting my first team meeting with my new team at Indian River State College prior to starting work.  Again, COVID-19 has most organizations working remotely to avoid large meetings and practicing physical distancing.  I wanted to get a head start on teambuilding prior to moving to Fort Pierce and Zoom was the perfect application.  We were able to host 10 people in 5 different locations (physical distancing) and build a team foundation to help us find ways to ensure students, faculty/staff and employers continue to receive world class customer service.  I have talked with tree branches who are using Zoom but found it to be an even better platform than described.

Zoom work process (onboarding, team meetings, teambuilding)

Realize there are several who will read this article who have been using Zoom for a while.  I am just getting my feet wet and see so many useful ways to use this platform even after we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.  Staff on satellite campuses can continue to participate in meetings, workshops, and teambuilding activities without having to drive to the main campus.  There will be times when they need/want to be present, but Zoom can save time and driving to and from the main campus.  Also, see the benefits of conducting one-on-one sessions with distant students, employers, and staff.  Just getting my thoughts together but I am sure I will leverage Zoom to find ways to ensure our students have the best employment opportunities available.  Zoom appears to be setting the pace for a new world order!  Stay tuned as I will continue to share how I am zooming into the future. 😊

 How does your organization use the Zoom platform?  Do you have tricks of the trade you can share?  Thanks!

NOTE:  Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Blackboard Collaborate are three platforms I am actively using at work.  The three platforms are easy to navigate and provides similar functionality.

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!

brand trademark cobblestones community denim pants
Photo by Ingo Joseph on Pexels.com

“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

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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!