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)

Walking with no new races in sight

(Image by David Mark from Pixabay)

 “I am trying my hardest not to act how I feel”.

(Anonymous)

The COVID-19 pandemic hits just keep on stacking up!  I have been bombarded with emails from the Rock N Roll marathon race organization identifying the cancellation for future races.  Please note, I fully expected the remaining 2020 races to be cancelled but the Rock N Roll folks have begun cancelling races in 2021!

Oh, how we have failed society with our lame government response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I moved from Tallahassee to Fort Pierce in April with the full understanding this country would be in better shape in October.  We are in worse shape today (8/20/2020) than we were in April.  Shocked I had to write that last sentence, but it is unfortunately true.

Races lost so far

The first 2020 race I lost to COVID-19 was the 2020 Nashville Rock N Roll half marathon in April.  This is my favorite race of the season and one of my favorite cities to visit.  Love the Nashville course, culture, food, and country music on every corner.  Always look forward to my country line dancing lessons at the Wild Horse Saloon, eating barbeque, and listening to new country artists playing.  Wanted to visit the Ryman Auditorium for the first time and explore the historic venue.

Got the news the 2020 and 2021 Philly Rock N Roll half marathon races were cancelled two days ago.  Fully expected the 2020 race to get axed but never thought the 2021 race would be on the chopping block due to COVID-19.  Not sure the race organizers are predicting COVID-19 issues for 2021 but this may signal running tourists will have limited options in the future.  I was looking forward to getting back to Philly and hang out with my friend, Lauren Apgar so we could explore the city and get some more of those cheesesteaks.  We planned to explore the Reading Terminal Market in-depth this year to sample food from the different vendors there.  We will have to put off our Philly cheesesteak adventures now.

I signed up for the inaugural 2020 Clearwater Rock N Roll half marathon scheduled for October.  This was going to be the first Rock n Roll race scheduled in my home state in years.  The excitement for me was most of the race is run near the beach and I would not have to travel so far.  I would get the opportunity to enjoy more sights and sounds and not have to rush back.   The course is flat and would have produced a fast time and October in Florida would be cooler with less humidity.  The race organizers cancelled the 2020 and 2021 Clearwater races.  They project to run the race in October 2022, but we will see what happens that far out.  I do not have a good feeling all the cancelled races will come back—some may but believe COVID-19 will eliminate how we travel, race, and interact for a long time.

The Orlando Utility Commission (OUC) 2020 half marathon scheduled for December is still on the books, but most races hosted by Track Shack have been converted to virtual races.  Believe the OUC race will be virtual as well so I have not signed up.

The 2021 New Orleans Rock N Roll half marathon was cancelled today and now the race organizers project to run this event in February 2022.  Turns out New Orleans was the only Rock N Roll race I was able to run in 2020.  The race was completed in February right before the country realized how bad COVID-19 was and we started shutting down.  Had a great time in New Orleans so guess it was only fitting this would be my only half marathon race of the year.  We will see if this race ever comes back because of the close interactions of Bourbon and Canal Streets.  Love the food and atmosphere but it may be hard to host large-scale events there and keep people safe.

Virtual options

Most running organizations are bridging the race gaps with virtual options.  Runners can still race, compete, and receive race swag (t-shirt, medal, etc.) while running in their hometowns—just sign up and sync your running application to the race.  I am sure this is a great option for some runners, but I enjoy the in-person interaction associated with the event.  I joined the Rock N Roll Virtual Running club and signed up for my first virtual race—a 10k which I completed on 8/22/2020.  My time was not great—I signed up on a Friday and ran the 10k the next day without additional mental or physical preparation.  I may explore this option more especially when the weather gets a bit cooler.  I need a competitive outlet for my running program so may reach out to my tree branches to join me on some of these virtual adventures (Apgar, Forges, Kume). 😊

Note:  My first Virtual 5k was completed on 8/29/20.

https://www.runrocknrollvr.com/

Training

I still get out and train but not logging the same number of miles I put in last summer.  I get my runs in on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays but not committing to extreme long runs with no races on the horizon.  I run as a form of therapy and to keep my weight in the range I want.  I have not done any speed work since early March, so my training goal is to keep my heart rate up and enjoy the views I get in Fort Pierce.

COVID-19 Training miles (run, bike, elliptical):

April 2020:  79.45 miles May 2020:  90.57 miles June 2020:  130.72 miles
July 2020:  78.15 miles August 2020:  74.57 September 2020:  46.16

Realize there are more important things happening in the world than me not being able to be a running tourist.  Hoping we can get the COVID-19 pandemic under control so we can all get back to the things we enjoy without worrying about the air we breathe.  Look forward to bringing you reports from new travel locations when it is safe to do so again.

Until then, here is what happen in Nashville in 2019! 😊

https://walkintothefuture.blog/2019/05/23/nashville-and-the-wild-horse-saloon/

“Life equals running and when we stop running maybe that is how we know life is finally finished”.

(Patrick Ness)

 https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/17/some-marathon-races-may-not-survive-coronavirus-pandemic.html