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Mission Possible

MISSION POSSIBLE 

As a coach, I’m a student of talents, strengths, and weaknesses.  My mission is to serve leaders choosing to focus on developing their unique potential to build superhero strengths.  Long after they’ve taken the CliftonStrengths Assessment, and we’ve debriefed each theme looking at the pixels connecting them to more wins, our conversation turns toward aiming all of this acquired self-awareness at important life desires, outcomes, and goals.

Because, “talents and strengths do not develop in a vacuum,” the real moments of application happen when they are face to face with other people.  Gallup’s research proves, “Strengths develop best in the framework of mission,” serving those you influence.  Mission brings heart into what you do.  Heart added to a matter, encourages others to trust.  I’ve never met a leader who when trusted, didn’t want to find out how to dig deeper and bring more of their best to the surface.

We’re familiar with businesses having mission; not as much with individuals.  We’ve been taught leaders serve the mission of their organization.  True. Highly successful leaders are now passionately proclaiming their own mission.  Joining their mission with that of their organization is how they are impacting their world, bringing excellence time and time again.  Personal mission adds fuel to the equation of success, benefitting the individual and the company.

It’s a sure way to know, how one performs (with or without fuel), when one attempts to bring their best to the table.

Three characteristics of mission from Don Clifton (the father of Strengths-based Psychology) and Paula Nelson’s best seller, Soar with Your Strengths, (1992, 2010):

  • Mission must first be personal.
  • Mission must mean the world to you!
  • Mission added to your strengths is fuel to achieve more.

What means the world to you?

Mission transcends goal setting; it possesses an “eternal” quality.  It’s the difference between leaving an inheritance or a legacy.  Using your talents and strengths to drive your mission and your organization’s is setting an example for each employee to learn exactly what it is that means the world to them, and how they can bring this into their role.  Your mission will change as life changes.  Having previous mission statements is a great way to observe growth, development, and current why behind your doing.

What is it you do within your organization that makes a difference in the lives of those around you?

Why you do this difference making action, is your mission!  Your mission is your guide…layering profound meaning and motivation into all your thinking, feeling, and actions.  Motivation on those great memorable days, and even on the other days, that seem to sneak into our lives unannounced.

Would you like to learn exactly what you best bring to the table, fueled by a dynamic personal mission in 2020?

The Alber Enterprise Center welcomes and serves leaders just like you.  A clearly defined mission brings depth to your potential and helps accelerate what you want and need to make happen in 2020

Mission makes possible what otherwise might not happen.  Mission makes you a hero to those you serve.

A Time for Reflection

by Greg Davis, Department Chair and Associate Director, OSU Extension

This time of year provides us a time to reflect and practice gratitude. Most of us recently spent some holiday time away from work and with family or friends. These changes to our regular routine can illuminate many wonderful things we appreciate. Couple that with the fact that it seems to be dark for the vast majority of the day and it becomes easy to appreciate the simple things for which we may not have otherwise felt a sense of gratitude.

When we slow down and enable ourselves to be reminded of our many blessings, we realize how many others play a part in our lives. It is these relationships that give us meaning and connection. I was recently reminded that we can strengthen our relationships with others by simply sharing our gratitude for their specific actions. You can read more about this here.

 

Ten Truths About Learning

I’ve been in the Teaching-Learning Business for most of my life.  So, when an undergraduate group at The Ohio State University asked me to make a presentation that summarized what I had learned over the course of my career, talking about what I had learned about Learning was a natural.

Truth #1: Learning is Innately Pleasurable.  You may scoff.   You may disagree…and in a way, you are right.   That’s because too many schools and too many teachers have given Learning a bad rap and they have taken all the fun out of Learning.  However, just think about very young children whom you know and have known.  They are avid Learners— they encounter new “stuff” every day… they suck it up like little mental vacuums–and they are proud and delighted with all their new-found skills, abilities, and knowledge.  They know how much fun it is to be a Learner!  It really is fun to learn.

Truth #2: Learning is All Yours. Learning is a truly rare commodity in that it is something that is completely yours and nobody can take it away from you–ever!

Truth #3: Learning is Uniquely Your Own.  It’s a huge part of what makes you the individual you are and aspire to be.

Truth #4: Learning is Multi-Dimensional.  There is no single way to learn. There is considerable literature from mid- 20th century devoted to Learning styles.   Are you more of an Oral Learner or a Visual Learner?  Or some combination?   Do you want your new ideas neatly packaged, or would you like to discover them yourself?   Is your attention to Learning achieved better in the evening rather than in the morning?   If reading is a chore, audio and audio-visual materials are widely available.  Your local librarians are wonderful sources for lots and lots of “stuff”.  If they don’t have it in their collection, they will find it for you and get it to you in an astonishingly short period of time.

Truth #5: Learning is a Power Tool.  This is so obvious; I almost didn’t include it.   Learning leads to Knowledge.  And, as we all know, Knowledge Is Power.

Truth #6: Learning Opens Doors.  This is a purely practical reason for Learning.  Any job-hunter knows that.

Truth #7: Learning Limits are Boundless.      “I’m too old to Learn.”  No, you’re not!  That’s a cop-out.  Having been an “Advanced Learner” myself, I can attest to the fact that we older people Learn differently than our young classmates, and it may take a bit more time and effort.  Is it worth the effort?  Absolutely!

Truth #8: Learning Changes with Age/Experience.    What you take away from a Learning Experience depends a great deal on the life situation that you bring into it.  The more life experience you have, the more richness you will gain from the Learning Experience.

Truth #9: Learning Opportunities Abound.  The impact of the Internet on the availability of Learning Opportunities can’t be overstated.  You can find out “How to do” almost anything from plumbing to pot roast.  You can take a lesson or two in knitting.  You can take a course in almost anything.  You can earn a certificate in an area of special interest.  You can even earn an undergraduate or graduate degree from an accredited college or university—ALL ONLINE.

Truth #10: Learning is Infinitely Portable.  You can take your Learning with you wherever you go, and it doesn’t even need a suitcase!

Dr. Patricia (Pat) Schwirian’s lifelong work with health care and the aging provides a unique perspective. She recently agreed to work with Alber Enterprise Center,  facilitating programs such as the Elder Care Certificate.  Her experience includes years of teaching, research, publications, and consultation in health and aging, and she is Faculty Emerita for The Ohio State University.

The Importance of Being Part of a Team

One of the joys that I have always found with my work is being part of a team. I learned how important this was to me early on in my working life when I was a surgical technologist in the operating room on an open-heart team. The team was small, and we were responsible for all the open-heart surgical procedures being done at this particular hospital. It was a very busy program and the team worked together many, many hours at a time. The amazing thing about this heart team was when we had a patient coming into the operating room as an emergency and we had very little time to get set up, we each knew our role and we went into action…and, just like Nike, we did it.

I remember one time, I suddenly realized that nobody was talking in the room because we were all doing our specific duties to get ready for the emergency procedure. We were each able to focus and function efficiently for the task at hand – literally, to save someone’s life.

As I think back on this experience spanning 10 years, I realize that this had a tremendous impact on how I perform as a team member. Working in isolation is not a good scenario for me. I find great joy and satisfaction in being a part of a team.

So, what makes a well-functioning team, you might ask? Every member on the team knows their responsibilities and is accountable for their actions. They also look out for one another to make sure that if one member of the team is struggling or feeling overwhelmed, the others are there to lend a helping hand or at minimum, support by asking, “How can I help?”. The phrase “that’s not my job” does not enter into the vocabulary of a well-functioning team. I have been on both kinds of teams: those that are well-functioning and one that was completely dysfunctional (fortunately, these have been few in my career). However, I will say, the latter is no fun.

One of the best ways to identify the strengths of team members and ensure that they are working in the areas where they excel is to have each member take the CliftonStrengths® assessment, which is offered by the Gallup organization. Over 22 million people have taken this assessment and identified their strengths – what it is that they do best. In other words, they discover what they love to do and what brings them great joy and satisfaction.

As I think back on working on the open-heart team, I now realize that my Responsibility #2 (of my Top 5) and my Arranger (#3) are being utilized on a daily basis. Also, my Belief (#5) was being fulfilled as I felt I was doing something that was truly making a difference. So, in retrospect, I now see that in that role I was able to work in three of my Top 5 strengths, which is why I found the work so rewarding.

CliftonStrengths can be used to develop a team and have them performing at their very best. Gallup-certified strengths’ coaches must go through comprehensive training as well as take a certification exam. This certification must be renewed every two years. CliftonStrengths is a lifelong journey which one can apply personally as well as professionally.

If you are interested in learning more about the CliftonStrengths assessment and how it might help you and your team, please call the Alber Enterprise Center at The Ohio State University. We thrive on working with teams to build upon their strengths and improve performance.

Elder Care: It Takes a Village

If you have an aging loved one — grandparent, parent, aunt, uncle, or family friend – living in a senior nursing community or being cared for at home by a home health organization, the people performing the most menial-sounding jobs may be the most important people in their lives. They are the van driver who takes them for a day out to the mall or to the clinic for dialysis; the laundry worker who picks up their dirty clothes every morning and brings them back clean and carefully hung or folded; the activities director who brings music, art and crafts to engage their minds, bodies and hearts; the housekeeper who cleans the floor no matter what mess s/he encounters. They also are the groundskeeper who mows the lawn and manicures the flower beds; the custodian who hangs a new memento on the wall; the hairdresser who keeps them neatly groomed.

My mother spent the final eight years of her life in a nursing facility. That became her permanent home, and almost everyone treated her as if she owned the place. She knew most of the staff by name and would share with me her interactions with them. It became clear after a few months that she only spoke in detail about the employees that I mentioned in the first paragraph. The nurses and aides, of course, were giving her the physical caring she needed to stay healthy, yet the non-clinical staff were the people she told me about. She knew about their marital status and family life, what they did on their non-working time, and their favorite hobbies. Mom didn’t get to know the clinical staff on the same personal level; they had many residents who demanded their expertise, and her interactions with clinical staff were focused on medical needs.

The next time you visit your aging loved one living in a senior community, pay attention to the staff:  not only those who are giving the meds or changing bedpans, but also those working behind the scenes to make life more comfortable for the residents.

Elder Care Certificate

Alber Enterprise Center has created a new training program for those on the front lines who would like some help understanding the challenges of the elders in their care. The Elder Care Certificate program, designed for anyone who cares for or interacts with older adults, is a wealth of information about issues facing our aging population. This program will transform the way participants work with elders and enhance their status as caring individuals. Participants will gain expertise in dealing with the aging population, will have a better understanding of the challenges seniors face, and will be better equipped with the interpersonal tools to function as contributing members of a caring team. The modules include topics in gerontology, personal effectiveness, communication, problem-solving, and leadership/customer service skills.

The 16-hour pilot program was delivered in 2017, and the 14 participants who were randomly selected to experience the program offered high praise for their experience. One stated, “The thing that touched and inspired us the most is that it changed our attitudes and the way we look at our residents.”  Another commented: “What is the #1 thing that I will use in the future? Listening:  Making each resident or coworker feel that they are very important and have my undivided attention.”

To be clear, there are actually two aspects to this program:  the full, noncredit Elder Care Certificate program (dates will be announced soon) and the Elder Care Certificate Train-the-Trainer, being offered at various locations in Ohio throughout the year. The Ohio State University has licensed the Elder Care Certificate curriculum, and the train-the-trainer workshop will ensure that the certificate program is delivered to as many workers as possible across the state. (Certain criteria must be met to become a certified trainer.)

For more information, contact  Myra Wilson.2025@osu.edu or Anne Johnson.6754@osu.edu.

Are Your Employees All the Way In?

Employees can be fully “in” and performing well, checked out and simply filling space, or somewhere in between. This is called “employee engagement,” which can affect job satisfaction, productivity and teamwork. According to Gallup®, “… only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work.” Is this why we should care about employee engagement?

Gallup has conducted research for years regarding various levels of employee engagement and what those mean in terms of performance and business success.  Robyn Reilly of Gallup advises in her article, Five Ways to Improve Employee Engagement Now, “Converting this group of (not engaged) employees into engaged workers is the most effective strategy that any organization can implement to increase performance and sustainable long-term growth.” This begs the question:  How do we get employees more engaged?

The late Dr. Donald Clifton of the Gallup organization spent decades researching human nature and organizational behavior. One of my favorite quotes from Dr. Clifton, who founded the strengths movement, is:  What would happen if we studied what is right with people versus what is wrong with people?

Performance management has always been focused on trying to find ways to “fix” weaknesses in employees to make them better rather than looking at and enhancing their strengths. Weakness-fixing only prevents failure, whereas strengths-building leads to excellence.  Building on the strengths movement, Gallup research has shown that organizations that focus on their employees’ strengths and who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged in their jobs and three times more likely to report having an excellent quality of life than those who don’t.  In addition, employees who know their strengths are also 8% more productive and teams that focus on strengths everyday have 12.5% higher productivity. Our society has few, if any, places where people can learn about their talents, in order to capitalize on their strengths.

Think about it:  if workers understand their strengths and those of their team members, they are more likely to find their work to be rewarding and motivating.  While on the job, those same employees are more likely to be involved, “here” instead of somewhere else mentally or just waiting until their next break.

Alber Enterprise Center has found CliftonStrengths® to be a valuable set of tools and a mindset for providing a pathway to better understanding and more creative, positive ways to get things done – together. Organizational leadership and management practice; vision, mission and values; and business performance, structure and value creation are all positively affected by focusing on individual strengths and how they build a cohesive team.

To learn more about how to bring out the best in your people and work toward increasing employee engagement, please contact Alber Enterprise Center, alber@osu.edu or call us at 740-725-6325 to start the conversation.

 

High Performing Teams

High Performing Teams:  Three Pitfalls to Avoid

Have you ever been on a really great team?  Why was it great?

Great teams that accomplish amazing goals and are enjoyable to be on do not happen by accident.  It takes a savvy team leader and team members who are willing to risk sharing their unique strengths and differences for the good of the team.

How do we build these great teams and what are some of the pitfalls to avoid?

#1 – Negative Thinking

Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.  Helen Keller

Building great teams starts with building a strong foundation of respect and trust.  Without these, the team will always struggle with communication, judgmental attitudes, personal agendas, and lack of valuable transparency.  Teams that have a foundation of trust perform better.  According to Paul J. Zak in his Harvard Business Review article, the Neuroscience of Trust, employees of high-trust companies as compared to low-trust companies report: 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 76% more engagement, and 29% more satisfaction with their lives.  Wow – who wouldn’t want to be part of this team!

Given the strong importance for trust, why is it team members do not respect and trust one another?  I believe we need to take a good look in the mirror and determine to stop thinking the worst of our teammates.  We need to expect the best and not jump to negative conclusions.  We need to get rid of the stereotypes we think, believe, and act on about one another.

If we want to be part of a great team then it is time to start giving our teammates the benefit of the doubt, to trust them, to forgive them, to put ourselves in their shoes, to encourage them, and to share credit with them.  In fact, when we start thinking positively about one another, amazing things can happen.

#2 – The Meeting-After-the-Meeting

Great things in business are never done by one person.  They are done by a team of people.  Steve Jobs

Admittedly, I have on a few occasions been part of “the meeting-after-the-meeting”.  You probably know this pitfall too.  It goes something like this:  you sit through a meeting where the leader and maybe a couple of teammates do all the talking, enthusiastically make the decisions, and then the meeting ends with you feeling confused, in disagreement, or with a lack of energy.  At this point, the “meeting-after-the-meeting” occurs.  You stick around afterwards commiserating with another teammate about the terrible decision or you huddle somewhere to criticize and complain.

If we want to be part of a great team then we need to risk speaking up during the meeting and sharing our thoughts, ideas, and disagreements.  Obviously, we need to be respectful but if we do not speak up, the team misses out on valuable input and possibly the best idea for great success.  Let’s decide today to stop “meeting-after-the meeting” and make sure each team member is encouraged to respectfully speak up, ask questions, and voice concerns.

#3 – My Idea or The Best Idea

None of us is as smart as all of us.  Ken Blanchard

Which is better, my idea or the best idea for the team?   If you have ever been part of a great team, you probably responded with “the best idea for the team”.  Unfortunately, we often refuse to truly embrace our teammate’s ideas.  We may not outwardly say it but rather our refusal plays out in subtle ways.  We don’t take part in the follow up, we lack energy to stay on task, or we just plain do not do our part.

I may talk a good game about wanting the team to succeed but when their ideas do not benefit me or my personal goals, I may have a tendency to protect my own idea.  If we want to be part of a great team, then what is best for the team is to tap into and embrace ideas from all team members. I need to let go of thinking my idea is the best idea and trust the collective team for the best idea.  After all, “none of us is as smart as all of us.”  What holds you back from embracing change and others’ ideas?  Consider your motives and ways to overcome the fear of the unknown.  Once we accomplish this, then we are well on our way to becoming a great high performing team!

 

Serving Leadership is a Verb!

Serving Leadership is a Verb; Action Is Required!

Much has been written about the concept of servant leadership. It can be a bit confusing due to the term “servant.” For some, it conjures up an image of a person hired to perform personal domestic duties, with little input toward planning and resources. Others tie it to a philosophy of unquestioning submissive service to others.

The real goal is to focus on the idea of leadership as service to others. I like to use the more descriptive term, “serving leadership.”

Noun vs. Verb; Title vs. Action

The use of the word serving changes the meaning from a title or position to a verb; an action. Consider these definitions of serve (serving) from a quick Google search:

  1. To perform duties or services for another person or organization
  2. To be of service to, be of use to, help, assist, aid, make a contribution to, do one’s bit for, do something for, benefit

That sounds like my idea of leadership.

Then, there is the second word, leadership. What do we really mean by that? My favorite definition of leadership comes from Michael McKinney: “Leadership is intentional influence.

The use of the word “intentional” is the key. There is serious thought in leadership; it is not random. There is foresight and planning; it is not accidental. We are deliberate and purposeful in our actions; not haphazard.

Add to that the idea of leadership as serving others – to help, assist, aid, and make a contribution to – and we have a powerful declaration of our role as leaders.

Serving leadership is intentional influence to actively support the people and goals of the team or organization.

How To Practice Serving Leadership

How can we be this type of leader? Here are some intentional actions to consider:

  • Be authentic, be real, be human; relate to your team members from a place of caring about them as people, first
  • Understand the mission and goals of the organization and enlist others in it through your clarity and passion
  • Provide the resources your team needs and clear any obstacles in their path
  • Encourage and reward achievement; coach and counsel accountability
  • Listen to the ideas of others, even when – especially when – they differ from your own
  • Walk the talk; be an example of the type of behavior you expect from others
  • Put people to work in their strengths zone whenever possible to maximize their performance opportunity and contributions to the team’s success

To Learn More, Contact Us.

Let  Alber Enterprise Center help your front line and mid-level leaders develop the practice of serving leadership. Our workshop “Leading the Challenge and Finding your Strengths” is the first step toward reducing turnover rates, increasing revenues, and improving quality.

Eleanor E. Biddulph is an operations effectiveness consultant and emerging leader coach. As a Leadership Studies graduate from Otterbein University, she has honed the skills necessary to lead a dynamic, complex and rapidly growing organization. Eleanor has been trained as an enhanced level Narrative Coach through WBECS (World Business & Executive Coach Summit) and recently joined Alber’s roster of expert solution providers. 

Embracing Strengths

Dr. Donald Clifton, the founder of CliftonStrengths®, asked the question, “What would happen if we studied what is right with people versus what is wrong with people? The CliftonStrengths movement is all about focusing on what we do well, while minimizing our weaknesses.”

CliftonStrengths is an assessment that can be taken (over 19 million people have) to identify your Top 5 Strengths (you can also unlock all 34 of your strength themes). You can then take a deeper dive into your strengths, see where they play out in your life, both professionally and personally. What you will most likely find is that areas where you excel can in some way be tied back to one of your Top 5 strengths.

For example, Relator is my #1 strength. The definition of Relator is, “People who are especially talented in the Relator theme enjoy close relationships with others. They find deep satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve a goal.” Relationships, deep and meaningful, have always been an important part of my life, in general. In my work as an Organization Development Consultant, it is all about developing relationships. This is one of the most rewarding aspects of my work and it is something I enjoy very much.

Another strength, called Woo (winning others over), is defined as, “People who are especially talented in the Woo theme love the challenge of meeting new people and winning them over. They derive satisfaction from breaking the ice and making a connection with another person.” This is not a strength of mine. Walking into a room of people I do not know is very difficult for me. WOO is #30 out of #34 for me. In those situations, I leverage my Relator and try and meet 1 or 2 people, rather than “work the room” and talk with everyone.

A group of leaders in Hardin County are currently going through an eight-session community leadership development program. This is for adults who aspire to or find themselves in elected, appointed or volunteer leadership roles in their communities. One of the key objectives is to offer educational experiences which will allow participants to explore who they are and how they are uniquely gifted for the work of leading.

For the last two years, Hardin Leadership has included a CliftonStrengths session from the Alber Enterprise Center. According to Kathy Oliver, Chairperson for Hardin Leadership, “Strengths is a perfect fit in the Hardin Leadership curriculum. We offer this session as the third one, just as the participants have become comfortable with the others in the program. They are ready to explore openly. I think these selected comments reveal the value the participants received from the session:

**I found the different strengths very interesting. This helps understand the different thought processes that people have.

**I can’t think of other people’s strengths as weakness just because they don’t align with my strengths.

**How to use my strengths to my advantage and to the team I’m building.

**Knowing others’ strengths can help you work together in a work environment.

**Thank you for the validation!”

There are so many ways to embrace your strengths. According to Gallup, “The highest level of performance comes from those who focus on strengths while managing weakness.” What you will find by taking this assessment is insight and understanding in a way that you most likely have not experienced before. Or, another way to put, you might have a light bulb moment!

 Take the opportunity to get to know yourself in a whole new way. You won’t regret it.

by Anne Johnson, Certified Gallup Strengths Coach

Anne’s Top 5 strengths are: Relator | Responsibility | Arranger | Learner| Belief

To take the assessment, go to: https://www.gallupstrengthscenter.com

The Credible Leader

Credibility is the fundamental trait that every excellent leader must embody.  The traits of a credible leader are demonstrated by their words.  How many of these do you say on a regular basis?

 

What do you need?

 

Great leaders get things done through others. So after setting a clear course ahead, they ask regularly, “What do you need?”  After all, to ensure that our teams succeed, we must make sure they have everything they need.  Knock down obstacles, provide resources, guidance, and clarity.  We serve them so that they succeed.

 

Tell me more.

 

Great leaders don’t jump to conclusions, but hear out the full story so they can make better decisions.  Our team members crave being heard and when there are two sides, both sides want a full hearing.  Ask for details.  It’s the details that matter.  This runs counter to our culture of a fast pace and too much to do.  Great leaders know when to step back, slow down, and intentionally focus on the matter at hand.

 

Keep in mind our values…

 

If your team ever gets off track or is having trouble with a decision, elevate the discussion and go back to your core values.  It brings clarity and focus on what truly matters most.  On a regular basis, insert your core values into any discussion and watch how it fosters ownership and engagement.

 

I trust you.

 

Foster more trust with your team by expressing your trust in them.  This says you believe in them and have confidence in their skills and abilities to get the job done.  When we give others a great reputation to live up to, they will strive to reach it.  

 

Well done!

 

Great leaders celebrate and talk about high performance.  They cultivate gratitude when effort is shown, goals are met, or just when everyone pulled together.  It’s inspiring when it happens and great leaders talk about proud stories of achievement. 

 

So, how did you do?  How many of the above have you said to your team?  Less than perfect?  No problem.  Let this be a reminder to say what highly credible leaders say.

 

Here at the Alber Center, we have a passion for helping leaders be their best.  If this short article was useful, please consider partnering with us to help make this year your organization’s best ever.  Leadership matters and it would be an honor to come alongside you to foster the leadership that builds healthy, high-performing teams.