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

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“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)

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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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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Team communication strategies to build a strong organization

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‘Good teams incorporate teamwork into their culture, creating the building blocks for success.’

(Ted Sundquist)

The 1992 United States men’s Olympic basketball team was nicknamed the Dream Team because of the collection of NBA superstars who made up the team’s roster.  The roster included Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Charles Barkley to name a few players.  Every member of the Dream Team was considered the top player(s) on their respective NBA team—the best of the best.

So, with a collection of overwhelming talent available on the Dream Team, this roster is considered the greatest basketball talent ever assembled on one team.  With that in mind, do you know what their ‘overall’ record was?  Most people will say the Dream Team was undefeated in their run towards Olympic gold in 1992.  The Dream Team’s overall record was:  8 – 1.  That’s right, the greatest collection of individual basketball talent lost a game in their quest for Olympic gold.

Head coach Chuck Daly assembled a collection of college basketball stars to scrimmage the Dream Team to help prepare for the style of play they would encounter in the Olympics.  College stars Grant Hill, Penny Hardaway, Chris Webber and others were invited to training camp to match up with their basketball idols.  The Dream Team lost to their understudies on June 24, 1992, 62-54 because they assumed, they would roll through the college kids.

The Dream Team hadn’t completely bought into the ‘team’ concept because they were all great individual players and thought they would overwhelm any team put in front of them.  To be fair, coach Chuck Daly limited Michael Jordan’s minutes and didn’t utilize his players to optimize their playing time.  This strategy was taken to get the pros to focus and understand they could be beaten without ideal situations.  The next time the Dream Team played the same collection of college players, they beat them soundly.

The Dream Team provides an excellent example of how team building enhances organizational success.  Simply hiring people and then telling them they are a team does not work.  Understanding team members’ strength, weaknesses and communication styles are a few things needed to build and enhance team dynamics.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

The MBTI is a self-report tool that provides and makes psychological types as described by C. G. Jung understandable and useful (MBTI).  Organizations use the MBTI for various in-house needs.  One area I have found useful for the MBTI is for team communication.  I have direct reports complete the MBTI and then create an organizational chart we share with the team, so everyone knows the MBTI for their teammates.  We create desktop placards or MBTI heads to display in individual offices as a quick reminder of everyone’s MBTI.

Examples of MBTI heads:  https://eu.themyersbriggs.com/en/Using%20Type/Head%20Type%20table

I leverage this knowledge when assigning tasks to team members.  There are MBTIs who crave fast-paced and deadline filled assignments and others who view these type things as torture.  The key is balancing assignments to maximize the team and help individuals grow.  So, I’m not saying an introvert never has to do presentations but understanding team members helps with the overall health of an organization.

Understanding MBTIs within a team construct has led team members to appreciate each other more.  My MBTI is ISTJ and if you view the MBTI head associated with me you discover things like analytical, organized, and calm.  This knowledge helps everyone on my team understand why a perceived crisis does not impact me the same way it would someone who is an ENFP.  No MBTI is perfect but understanding other indicators provides a team with a foundation to grow.  This growth is a starting point for open communication and a successful team.

CliftonStrengths

I was introduced to CliftonStrengths (formerly StrengthFinders) during my time at the University of Central Florida Career Center.  We were looking for ways to maximize our team and contracted to have someone come in to facilitate a workshop for the organization.  This was an eye-opening experience for staff.  I discovered my Talents were:   Analytical, Relator, Learner, Deliberative and Strategic. 

Domain examples here:  https://www.gallupstrengthscenter.com/home/en-us/cliftonstrengths-themes-domains

This knowledge will allow leaders and teams to build on current talents in the organization.  I can leverage my identified talents with someone who has more talent in another area to ensure the team can complete a task.  This can only be done ‘if’ talents are identified in advance.

There are other tools available to help leaders build teamwork and communication strategies for an organization.  The MBTI and CliftonStrengths are two I have used and provided multiple organizations with outstanding results.

6 steps to build a strong team:

  • Focus on roles
  • Value each role
  • Communicate
  • Set goals
  • Celebrate successes and failures
  • Know each other
    • (Entrepreneur.com, 2016)

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What strategies do you use to enhance team communication?  What tools have been most effective?  Thanks!

‘Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress.  Working together is success.’

(Henry Ford)

References

Johnson, C. (2016, May 23). 6 Steps to Build a Strong Team. Entrepreneur.

The Myers & Briggs Foundation. (n.d.) Retrieved May 24, 2019, from https://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/home.htm?bhcp=1