Alber Enterprise Center: Solutions for organizational challenges

At some point, even the most successful teams, organizations, and agencies of any type (public, private, non-profit, etc.) face seemingly insurmountable barriers to growth and success. And, their inability to recognize the barrier can sometimes be part of the problem.

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The Alber Enterprise Center (AEC) has been providing organization development consulting for employers throughout Ohio (and beyond) since 1996. AEC is a business outreach service of The Ohio State University and OSU Extension based on the Marion campus of OSU. Their staff develop customized plans to help teams of all sizes reach their potential. Learn more about their services, including the BRIDGE program at the new AEC website. Encourage the teams, organizations, agencies and businesses in your community to check out the new on-line course catalog too.

You can also follow the Alber Enterprise Center via a variety of social media networks:

Contact the Alber Center at alber.osu.edu/index.php/en/contact-us.

Teamwork, it’s not rocket science…or is it?

Have you ever noticed that when we want to illustrate how easy something is, we compare it to rocket science or brain surgery? Ok, it requires years of advanced educational study and hundreds of hours of technical experience to master aerospace engineering or neurological surgery. But, truthfully, the average person will never need to become adept at either of these disciplines. Effectively working on a team and getting along with others – those are skills that are necessary for everyone.  Unfortunately, embracing the abilities needed to be a good team member and build relationships with others is not always easy. In fact, it can be downright difficult – kind of like rocket science…or brain surgery.

Emotional 3In a 2004 article in the journal Psychological Science, J. Richard Hackman contends that effective team members are people who possess the emotional maturity needed for their roles with their teammates. His research shows that fostering emotional maturity is essential; however, it is a trait that tends to be developmental in nature and cannot be readily taught. Well, you’ll get no argument here. In fact, while many institutions of higher learning offer degrees in neurology or engineering, we’ve yet to see a university that offers a degree in emotional maturity.

So what are those elusive (for some folks, anyway) skills that demonstrate emotional maturity, thus enabling a person to be a good team member? Here’s a list of our top three essential teammate traits:

  • Trust – Let’s face it, trust is the foundation of all relationships.  Whether it’s with your spouse, your friends, your coworkers or your hair stylist, if you don’t trust the person, you’re not going to be willing to take the risk of being open, honest, and well, trusting.  For a good team to work, we need to be able to count on each other.  Building trust takes time – and dare we say, it also helps to have face-to-face interactions now and then.  Social media and Skype are wonderful tools to keep in touch, but there’s just something about breathing the same air as someone else, and actually spending time interacting together at the very same GPS coordinate that helps to build a strong, reality-based relationship that goes beyond cute photos and 140 characters of type.
  • Open Communication – Ok, this seems like a no-brainer.  But trying to build a team with a poor communicator can seem like working with a person with no brain.  Good communication skills include the ability to effectively and diplomatically express yourself, while quieting your inner voice (and the one resonating from your face) long enough to listen to and understand another person.  Honesty, tempered with genuine and sincere kindness, help grease the communication gears, preventing resentment and allowing a shared sense of responsibility to grow.
  • Flexibility – Guess what…things don’t always go your way.  Good team members know that compromise and a willingness to adapt to change are essential when working with others.  And honestly, it’s that combination of ideas – that diversity of thought and experience – that really contributes to building a strong product – and a strong team.

So, creating a good, effective and enjoyable team really isn’t rocket science. It’s actually a lot more complicated than that.

If you want to learn more about how we’ve worked to make our team more successful, check out our June 2014 article in the Journal of Extension, joe.org/joe/2014june/iw4.php.

Becky Nesbitt and Rose Fisher Merkowitz, OSU Extension Educators for Community Development, have worked together for many years, building a strong and effective team focused on providing educational materials related to leadership and organizational development. Take a look at the educational programs that Becky and Rose offer at go.osu.edu/seekexcellence.

(Submitted by Becky Nesbitt, Assistant Professor and Extension Educator, Ohio Valley EERA, and Rose Fisher Merkowitz, Associate Professor and Extension Educator, Miami Valley EERA.)

The fragile nature of a new idea

I’m a writer – well, sort of.  Couched within my job as an Extension Educator is the expectation that I’ll write. Fact sheets, flyers, marketing materials, news articles…Extension folks write stuff. Over the years, I’ve seen plenty of really good – and a few not so skilled – writers. And great or bad, every writer needs a good editor – someone who can help clarify ideas, find embarrassing typos, and get those commas where they belong.

I’ve served as an editor as often as I’ve been a writer, which is why I never forget that the act of writing is kind of amazing – it’s like creating something from nothing; and editing is like taking that new creation and sanding away the rough the edges. The effort it takes to write – to fill a page (or more likely, a computer screen) that was once  void of any intelligence or creativity, with information, poetry, ideas, solutions, questions – takes effort, imagination, and courage.

Idea exchangeWriting isn’t the only creative venture that takes courage. This same philosophy also applies to generating ideas. Countless times, I’ve been in meetings where folks are brainstorming ideas to address an issue; then someone begins to strike down the ideas, edit (kill) them, until all that’s left is a pile of bright, shiny potential covered with slimy, gray criticism. Okay, calm down, I know that the dialogue balancing creativity and evaluation is essential. My point is that we should make it a practice to acknowledge the fragile nature of new ideas and occasionally provide a protected environment to allow some of the better thoughts to take root and grow. New ideas are like fragile bubbles, floating out in the open, in full daylight, where anyone with an opinion, an agenda, or a little indigestion from lunch, can pop them.

Noted Nobel Prize scientist and humanitarian, Dr. Linus Pauling shared, “The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.” Of course, not every idea is a good one; in fact many are probably not workable. But plenty of good things have come from crazy ideas – like digital cameras, the Apollo space program, and imitation crab meat (okay, some things are a matter of taste). Without those people who are willing to take a risk on a novel idea, we would never have experienced the joy of flying, the convenience of the Post-It Note, or sweet pulp of a seedless watermelon. So the next time you’re in a meeting and presented with an innovative or unusual idea, take a moment before sharing why you think it won’t work, and consider all of the unlikely reasons that it may just be brilliant.

(Submitted by Becky Nesbitt, Assistant Professor and Extension Educator, Ohio Valley EERA)