Poetic Friday

(Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay)

The storm

Round and round it goes

Sometimes fast, sometimes slow

There are days it feels like a merry-go-round

Others, things are more controlled

The depth changes at times like the wind

A howling force that seeks attention

Then the calm, as the eye of the storm hovers overhead

No attention seeking, just the process of moving forward

What has this level of depth and speed?

It is simple, the life you lead

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas

(Image by Satheesh Sankaran from Pixabay)

2020 has been a tough year for us all!

The good folks from the Walk into the Future blog wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy 2021 New Year!

The challenges we endured in 2020 will lead to a stronger mentality as we get ready to have a FANTASTIC 2021!

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another”.

(Proverbs 27:17)

I hope the Walk into the Future blog has sharpened you in 2020.  Looking forward to another great year enjoying life to the fullest and sharing my experiences, thoughts, and adventures with you in 2021!

Thanks for walking with me!  Irie!

Merry Christmas!

Calvin

Walking and enjoying the Square Grouper (Ft. Pierce)

Square Grouper1

“It is life, I think, to watch the water.  A man can learn so many things”.

(Nicholas Sparks)

My Walk into the Future continues to look more like My Walk with COVID-19.

That would not be as catchy of a blog title so will stick with Walk into the Future! 😊  Again, the pandemic has slowed down the adventures but has not completely shut them off.  I remain careful when I venture out and take precautions to ensure I am not exposing myself to undue risks.

Most of my adventures center around the beach and shopping excursions.  These have proved to be safe and gets me out of the house for fresh air.  Will continue to find new beaches to sit on and enjoy the views on the Treasure Coast.  Still do not know why it is called the Treasure Coast, guess that will have to be a future blog article when I find out.

A favorite spot for the locals is Square Grouper.  Thought it was a clever name when I first heard it but Googled the definition to make sure I understood how the place got the name.  Turns out it is a clever hook and attracts a lot of people based on the name and meaning.  Yes, you should Google it to understand what it means. LOL.

My attraction to Square Grouper is it is close to Jetty Park and sits right on the Fort Pierce Inlet.  The location is at the mouth of the inlet before it empties into the Atlantic Ocean.  It is a great location to catch sunsets that seem to plunge directly into the inlet.  The Square Grouper is 95% an outdoor venue with two bars, a tiki hut stage, and a large outdoor seating area.  The plastic chairs are not comfortable but serve a purpose as you can move them around as needed.

Square Grouper2

The outdoor venue has been great to practice physical distancing while also enjoying some live music.  Most of the bands are local and only play for two hours—cannot say the bands have been memorable but they have been good enough to make a few people get up and dance.  There has never been a large crowd when I visited but everyone seems to enjoy the atmosphere.  I spoke with one of the bartenders and he let me know they typically got around 600 people nightly before COVID-19 impacted the world.  The crowds are a lot less than that now—the most I have seen there is around 50 people spread out around the outdoor seating areas.  A few brave folks will sit at the bar but not very many.  Face masks are still required to enter but do not know how long that will last since the governor has relaxed statewide restrictions.

A surprising aspect of visiting the Square Grouper is the food.  Typical bar staples but they use fresh ingredients and fantastic seasonings.  I have tried multiple items on the menu and have not been disappointed yet.  I have been a bit adventurous and explored menu items I would not normally get. Both bars are fully stocked but the signature drink is the Rum Runner.  Never had one prior to my visit to Square Grouper but now it is my go-to drink when I am there—try it frozen if you make it there.

Hoping the band lineup starts to improve since I enjoy live music.  Will continue to leverage the Square Grouper as part of my Walk into the Future.

https://squaregrouper.net/

What locations are on your adventure list?  What makes it a place you want to visit?  Thanks!

“On the beach, you can live in bliss”.

(Dennis Wilson)

 

The man in the mirror

(Image by athree23 from Pixabay

“We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience”.

(John Dewey)

I am always looking for angles to help keep my Walk into the Future moving forward.  I leverage available tools to ensure my growth provides a platform to make a difference daily.

Decided to conduct a personal Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats (SWOT) analysis on my 100th day in my role at Indian River State College.  We conducted an in-depth analysis of the overall office as part of our teambuilding program and to discover areas of growth.  This was a great step to help everyone on the team to see the things we do well and to collectively identify improvement points.  The SWOT approach is a great way to get a true operational picture IF everyone is truthful with their inputs.

I used this same approach to look at my work during the first 100 days to identify areas of improvement.  I strive to do a good job daily but did not want to have blinders on and not see the weaknesses, opportunities, or threats in front of me. 

I started this role in April 2020 which was thought to be the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Oh, were we wrong! My point here is most of my coworkers and direct reports were working from home when I went into the office.  My Human Resources onboarding was done via computer before I left Tallahassee.  There was not an orientation process, in person introductions or meet and greets to welcome me to town.  I fully understood this process and why but wanted to paint a complete picture of how I arrived on-campus. 

(Note:  I am still playing catch up due to how I entered the work environment—still learning things I needed for a successful transition.) 

My personal SWOT was performed to identify the things I needed to work on that I may have missed due to how I was onboarded. 

My strengths were easy to identify and transferred directly to this role.  My vision for the office, Authentic leadership, positive energy, communication and organized were a few of the strengths listed.  My career services background at multiple institutions was also listed and enabled me to hit the ground running even though the workforce was scattered and working from home.

The weaknesses I wrote down included lack of in-depth institutional knowledge, lack of in-depth division knowledge, on-line onboarding, and office interpersonal dynamics.  The lack of knowledge and on-line onboarding go hand in hand since I never got a chance to ask questions to learn more about daily operational procedures.  This did not stop me from making a difference, but I soon discovered I needed more information to continue to grow.  I used this new knowledge to reach out and ask more and better questions to ensure I fully understood how the college operated. 

The opportunities were plentiful, and I am excited to work them into the operation.  Teambuilding, robust training, virtual events, and enhanced officer interpersonal dynamics were a few of the opportunities I discovered.  The concept of virtual information sessions, appointments and career fairs were not everyday activities at the beginning of 2020.  The COVID-19 pandemic has forced organizations to find new, better, and exciting ways to connect with students, employers, and faculty/staff.  Excited to discover new ways to use virtual platforms to create a great experience for our customers.  The COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools to modernize operations and leverage technologies daily.  Currently working on our first ever virtual career fair—fingers crossed for an outstanding event!

The threats are present daily but can all be mitigated in some form.  The COVID-19 pandemic remains one of the largest threats since it can shut down the country again with additional spreading.  Universities and colleges have opened their doors to students again, but it only takes one major outbreak on a campus before operations go back to virtual learning only. 

Another threat is the possibility students will not engage with virtual programs or events.  A virtual career fair is a new concept for everyone so will be interesting to see if students will interact with this platform.  Discovered my new office has multiple areas we need to modernize so need to prioritize projects to ensure we are focused on the right things at the right time.  Sounds simple but this needs to be done to keep us productive.  Need to gauge employer interest as well for the virtual platforms.  Most employers have been engaged with Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google platforms to conduct daily business.  Getting them familiar with our virtual software should be an easy transition to help mitigate the threat.

Please note, I provided a snapshot of the SWOT analysis—there are other weaknesses, opportunities, and threats I will be working on to continue to grow.  This was an outstanding learning process for me and will look to leverage this approach multiple times a year to help my self-awareness in the work environment.

Have you ever performed a personal SWOT?  Would this process help you grow as a professional?

 “To realize the self is to be still”.

(Ramana Maharshi)

Poetic Friday

(Image by Ri Butov from Pixabay)

Knowledge (11/13/20)

The series of daily challenges presented

Provides a template to view

How to conquer the challenges?

It is all up to you

Life provides many opportunities to grow

The direction you chose, only you will know

Continue to strive through the growing process

Knowing that you hold the key to it all

The knowledge you gain

Helps to move your journey forward

And makes the challenges easier to maintain

Leading from a distance

(Image by FelixMittermeier from Pixabay

“Leading remotely makes the complex role of leading even more complex”.

(Kevin Eikenberry)

The year 2020 started with a bang for us all and the promise of a fantastic year. 

The term 2020 Vision was used to highlight the promise this was going to be the year where vision became reality and positive things were coming.

2020 has been a lot tougher than most of us would like but there have been positive things to be thankful for.  We must remember tough times now can lead to positive outcomes in the future.

One area of my Walk into the Future where I really needed 2020 Vision was after accepting my role in Fort Pierce and discovering my entire team was working remotely.  Imagine moving to a new city during a pandemic, taking over a work environment and meeting your entire team on your laptop.  Strange times but quickly discovered all my leadership training, speaking, and consulting experience were needed for me to make positive things happen.

I have read a lot of leadership books and written multiple articles on authentic leadership.  There is not a manual on how to come in on day one and begin to lead a remote team.  Trust me, I searched for that book for days! 

You always want to make a great first impression, but it is tough to gauge your direct reports via a laptop screen.  Things are progressing but I continue to learn new tools and techniques daily.  2020 Vision has morphed into a new mantra to remain focused and control the controllable.

Teambuilding

A first step to build a great team is to ensure teambuilding is a central focus to get everyone on the same page and moving in the correct direction.  I have written about several teambuilding exercises we have completed (MBTI, The Energy Bus) and the need to help each team member grow professionally.  We completed these activities in a complete physical distancing environment where staff members engaged each other via computers from separate offices.  Let’s repeat that…we were together via a Zoom like application (Blackboard Collaborate), in different locations, and working on our teambuilding activities.  Not ideal but it can be done.

Never imagined this was possible but got the 2020 Vision to try this and tweak as needed.  We have been able to enhance team dynamics and maintain our physical distance from each other.  I continue to look for interactive ways to engage the team using computer technology and ensure we have fun with the process. 

Work schedules

2020 Vision allows me to understand the traditional concept of work schedules went out the window earlier this year.  Not saying people do not have to work but the COVID-19 pandemic created a huge work from home dynamic.  Jobs traditionally done within the office environment were rapidly transformed to work from home.  This was a major change for everyone, and work schedules had to change as well.  Gone were the typical 8 am – 5 pm work schedules since people had to juggle work, childcare, home schooling and a myriad of other tasks daily. 

I learned quickly when staff needed time to take care of their home life.  Also learned the work from home mindset is not the same for everyone.  Some folks are just as motivated working from home as they were in the office.  I came to understand that some are not as motivated working from home—human nature kicks in for these folks.

My role has evolved to ensure everyone can use the technology we have available to complete work assignments.  We needed to create communication channels to check in without being overly connected daily.  I am still learning and evolving in this area, but we are getting things done.

Mental well-being

My initial thoughts for this section was to write about helping my staff with their mental well-being.  We do that daily but one aspect I continue to focus on is my mental well-being.  My workouts and running program are great escapes for me from the daily grind of leading a team from a distance.  This new world of work seems to always have someone trying to schedule a Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Blackboard Collaborate meeting—they never stop! ☹😊

Finally had to tell some coworkers to ask before just jamming a virtual meeting on my calendar.  This is a constant reminder the world of work has changed—mostly for the good but there can be a bad side to always being connected.  I work to connect with my staff daily to make sure they are doing well.  I do not email, call, or text them after work hours to model behavior that honors a true work and life balance.  Small steps!

I am still learning how to operate in this new world of work. 

What techniques do you use to not be connected all the time?  How has your 2020 vision changed from earlier in the year?

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

(Plato)

Poetic Fridays

(Image by H. B. from Pixabay

Life role

Living the life I lead

Let’s me see how mistakes can produce learning moments

Taking time to enjoy the world around

Produces the essence in this life I lead

Working towards goals, to fulfill this promise I need

Striving for perfection is what I bleed

There will be times when I do not reach my goal

The key to the life I lead is to find my role

Walking and the importance of networking

“It’s not who you know but who knows YOU”.

(Anonymous)

Dictionary.com defines networking as the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts. 

This definition provides a clean view of networking but does not limit how it can be done.  I have written in the past about several podcast episodes I have been a part of.  Each episode was done to share a specific message to the audience and help their professional growth.  I engaged in multiple in-person networking events (Orlando, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tallahassee) prior to the COVID-19 pandemic with designs to meet people who could help me grow my consulting and speaking roles.  So, as you can see, networking takes on many forms with the objective of connecting with others.

I got invited to speak on a local radio program last week to engage and speak with Fort Pierce community members about my new workplace and the work we do.  Turns out the radio host is an Indian River State College (IRSC) colleague who happens to work on a different campus.  We had not met prior to the event but knew of each other through work interactions.

I make a point to never turn down opportunities to speak about the great work we do for our students and alumni populations.  The radio spot was a fantastic way for me to network with students, parents and employers interested in attending or coming back to IRSC.

The host for this networking opportunity works directly with underrepresented students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.  She is always looking for new ways to engage students and members of the community on the benefits of higher education and wanted me to discuss how my office helps our students become career ready.  Love being able to showcase the improved operations and services we are building.  These new operational tweaks allow staff to reach more students and add value to the overall college experience.

I especially enjoyed participating in the radio program since I could speak directly to employers in the local Fort Pierce area who did not know they could recruit talent on our campuses.  We are not hosting in-person events in the fall, but employers are able to post their openings for free with our office.  We are in the process of finalizing our Virtual Career Fair platform and wanted to let employers know they have multiple access points to recruit on-campus.  The radio program reaches our four-county service area and should enhance our reach to help employers understand how we can help them moving forward.

A secondary aspect of participating on the radio show was to let the community know enrollment for the fall semester is open and we are still recruiting new students.  COVID-19 has had a major impact on college and university enrollments across the country and we are no different.  Going on the radio allows us to let folks know we are here for them and want to share ways we can help with their success.  Two-year colleges are very affordable and can be an excellent way to launch into a four-year degree if that is a goal. 

The new term for me in this environment is UpSkill.  We talk with prospective students and employers on the benefit of in-demand certificate programs to UpSkill their careers or improve staff outputs.  This process is still new to me since I came from the four-year university model but UpSkill is a great way to impact local economies by training students to meet local career demands.

I am scheduled to speak on another radio program later this month hosted by the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and will look to continue to network to help the Treasure Coast grow.  Excited to see the impact of these networking opportunities! 😊

What networking opportunities are you working on?  How can networking help your organization continue to grow?

 “Networking is the #1 unwritten rule of success in business”.

(Sallie Krawcheck)

Listen to the show here—I speak around the 5 minute markhttp://wjfp.com/ondemand-wjfp/player.php?wrspot=72816

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)