What will we NOT do with our funds?

Looking at the prospect of utilizing the funds we are awarded or allocated wisely is a very important topic and one I reflect on often.   I worry that sometimes people do get complacent and expect that those funds will just magically appear year after year.  What roles do I and others on the SNAP-Ed team play towards holding ourselves and others accountable to spend those dollars in the best and most impactful way possible?

Strategic planning and being much more explicit about the intended results and items to be delivered as well as the strategies created to achieve said outcomes is gaining importance year by year (Bradach, Tierney & Stone, 2008).  Increasing the social impact has really gained a new threshold of importance as indicated in the Bradach, Tierney and Stone (2008) article.  The four questions stated in this article are ones I believe should be asked by all organization receiving taxpayer dollars.  Achieving results and holding the organization accountable for those results rank highly in my mind.  Are we as a program creating the results we should?  Are we generating enough results?  How long standing or sustainable are our behavior changes?  Are they short lasting or are we really helping people make long term changes in their health and wellness?  Are we the organization we need to be to deliver these results or do we need to rebuild certain sectors of our program to increase our effectiveness?  One example is refocusing our attention on those counties with the greatest SNAP population and pockets of need.  Putting more program assistants in those places with true needs is being done.  This takes time, energy, and effort to get personnel hired and trained.  This should allow for more impact and cost effective and efficient programming.  This may mean exiting some sites that are unable or unwilling to implement the most effective programming (Bradach, Tierney & Stone, 2008).  The idea of “Intended impact” that Bradach, Tierney and Stone (2008) use is a great descriptor for me.  Are we delivering and therefore making the intended impact our programs were designed to make, or are we just a fill in for bingo or a check in the block for a regulation to be completed? 

We are part of a federal grant that is issued through the USDA and FNS.  Looking at our purpose and mission as stated by Dr. King is of utmost importance.  Are we continually designing our programming and therefore the supplies for programming in a thoughtful manner, or with increased funding will those contemplations be done in a more impulsive manner?   Are we using our dollars to create greater value? (King, 2014)

This year of rollercoaster funding has been stressful to those of us on the team that have been impacted by all of the ups and downs such as the Tax Payer Relief Act and the stagnation that occurred during the Farm Bill debates.  To the degree that personnel were almost sent home without pay, the need to be appreciative as Dr. King (2014) stated could not be emphasized enough.  Now that our funding has been restored with the 5 year Farm Bill and the new formula which will take our budget from a 3.5 million dollar per year to over 10 million per year how will we assure all taxpayers will get the best and most impacts for their investment?    Will our actions convey this strongly?

Our team has really looked at trends; most importantly the future environmental and societal trends are now on our radar (King, 2014).  With the amount of growth we will need, new initiatives, programs and contracts are all being brainstormed and discussed.  Ideas such as the hiring of a graphic designer and social marketer to broaden our reach have been proposed.  Other ideas such as webcams for more personal communication between staff have been discussed.  Replacing worn out computers with laptops to better allow school programming and work out in the field when away from the office is also on the drawing board.  New programming and collaborations with groups such as Cooking and Local Matters is being explored.  These are a few of the many ideas that we are exploring and discussing. Some of these new ideas will hopefully replace and redesign the face of our program and funding useage.

Bradach, J., Tierney, T., & Stone, N. (2008). Delivering on the promise of nonprofits.  Harvard Business Review. 

King, J., (2014). Budget and Finance Video PPT.

Can I help facilitate leading the team through the storm?


I really enjoy the teams I am a part of for the most part.  That being said, do I really do my fair share as a part of the team?  Am I too hard to work with?  Expect too much of myself and others?  Not define or set the standards clearly?  How different are my roles on the various teams I am on?

 This weeks’ PowerPoint and readings were really interesting to me.  I was able to reflect not only on the diversity of the team members on the teams I am on, but the leadership structure and style as well.  For example, I am part of the state Community Nutrition/SNAP-Ed team, the SNAP-Ed Regional Specialist team, the Northeast Region SNAP-Ed team, the FCS Marketing team, the Live Healthy, Live Well team and a Community of Practice for eXtension for Healthy Food Choices in School Meals team, to name just some of the teams I am a part of.  Within the NE Region SNAP-Ed team I would say we have subteams or subgroups.  Each county office is really their own team and if the office has an FCS Educator and EFNEP, for example with an EFNEP Program Specialist, I would define that as its own little county Community Nutrition Team.  Do all of these teams in the NE Region function collaboratively and cooperatively?  I can honestly answer it depends. Not only does it depend on the county but on the day and project as well.  Some of the factors on which it depends are: the stage the team is in as defined by Dr. King in his PowerPoint, the personalities of the members, the type of leadership the team is functioning under, and the ways the members handle conflict.   There are county teams which I work with that are stuck in the storming stage and do  not appear to be moving too quickly to the norming stage.  (King, 2014)

  Learning about the Five Dysfunctions as described by Dr. King (2014) and the idea of conflict being a difference of opinion and way to learn more about what is happening is very enlightening.  Another really interesting topic to me this week is the information on virtual teams.  Our SNAP-Ed team fits the definition of a virtual team as defined by Yukl in Chapter 10 of his book (2012).  Our team is geographically separated and face to face meetings generally occur once to three times yearly.  A great deal of our communication occurs via email and Carmen Connect.  In fact, one of the first purchases that our Community Nutrition Leader plans to make when our funding from USDA is released is to purchase Videocams for all the Program Assistants and state staff in SNAP-Ed.   In counties that are a long driving distance from the Regional Program Specialist we will now be able to communicate by at least being able to see each other face to face more frequently.  Our leader and team believe that being able to see someone’s face and determine from their facial expression if they heard and understood will hopefully lead to improved communication and an increase in trust and transparency.

Yuki points to the lack of face to face making it more difficult to monitor performance, influence members and develop trust and collective identification (Yukl, 2012).  Also mentioned is a great point about coordination problems in a dynamic and unpredictable environment.  As an example, one county in which I interact frequently has a FCS Educator, SNAP-Ed Program Assistant, 3 EFNEP Program Assistants and an EFNEP Program Specialist, who functions across five counties.  Much of the online and phone communication involves members of the community nutrition team complaining about one another.  I see several of the five dysfunctions Dr. King discussed in this scene.  I see and hear some of the status and ego/ inattention to results in several of the statements made.  For example, we are approaching summer food programming delivery in community nutrition.  SNAP-Ed has delivered this programming in this county for 9 years.  The amount of programming is enormous.  This year I have been told there are approximately 60 sites that qualify for educational programming.  With only one SNAP-Ed Program Assistant employed in the county and the EFNEP program assistants available to work with youth, the combining of programs seems only logical to me.  The calls and emails I receive are not supporting this.   In some minds this is only a SNAP-Ed program.  My question is when only a few sites are served are we really doing the best we can for the county?  Can we collaborate and make a better effort to serve those in need?    Another of the five dysfunctions that came into play as I attempted to have the Educator initiate a meeting to work on this plan included the invulnerability/ lack of trust.   Neither supervisor was eager to arrange a time to sit down and strategically map this out so that everybody’s best interest could be met.  Fear of conflict was also readily apparent to me.  Although during a meeting they can be cordial most of the time, in conversations to me and others the same cannot be said.  Neither of the supervisors wants to be accountable for the lack of communication and cooperation in the county team (King, 2014).  Additionally, the conflict went further to even lead to conflict over use of kitchen equipment.   As our FCS Assistant Director often states one plus one is always greater than two—teamwork is the foundation of our success.  We have a long way to go to leave that storming phase and move into the norming phase.  Patience and trying different empowerment processes with more communication and transparency is what I know to try.  Small and steady steps will hopefully move this team inch by inch.  Am I handling the team dynamics the best way?  Can I get this team to move forward for the good of the whole group?  The jury is still out at this time, but enthusiastic efforts are being put in place to try!



King, J. (2014). Working with Teams/ Team Science Video PPT.


Yukl, G. (2012) Leading in Organizations, 8th Edition, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Where is My Place on the Continuum?

I chose to look at the transformational process of change for my research paper and found it timely and critical for the success of the SNAP-Ed team.   Maybe I need to take a step back and look at myself as well as the bigger organization and its impact on the changes we are and will endure.   I found the idea of which category I primarily fall into interesting and something worth spending more time and energy reflecting on (King, 2014).  As Dr. King stated in his PowerPoint video this week, the majority of the population or employees fall into the Pragmatists area.  Initially, in doing the readings and listening to the information, that is where I saw myself as well.  Then I drew the continuum line and tried to envision which pole I would lean closer to.  The more I worked on this the more I saw myself as an Originator in many instances and situations, but it is as so many items I review, very contextual.   It is also fun to try to figure out where the SNAP-Ed team I work with plot out on this continuum too (King, 2014).

In trying to place myself on this line, I started to reflect on and remember examples where I would be more in the Pragmatist or Originator camp.  One example that came to mind was the movement of SNAP-Ed into piloting and working with youth during the school year as opposed to only the summer food program.  This move came about when our new Community Leader had been with the organization for a short time and had been discussing the needed and eventual move to youth audiences in the future.    I knew that a few Program Assistants were really excited and eager for the move to the new audience and I also knew that their level and number of classes were not meeting standards (number of classes per week needing to be taught based on FTE).  During one of our conference calls our SNAP-Ed team had in February or early March, that was scantly attended, two of what Dr. King identified as the naysayers were not on the call.   I broached the subject of allowing a few of the program assistants with the will and desire be allowed to approach the schools to pilot a few programs before the school year ended.   It was a more radical approach, moving fast for our program, and challenged the engrained structure. 

The move was risky and uncertain and once those couple of members on the team who were not on the call returned, things became rather rocky for a brief period.  I moved as soon as I got the go ahead and had several Program Assistants talking to schools and starting to make plans.  The couple of people on the team who had missed the phone conversation (the naysayers) started immediately questioning the appropriateness of this.  Were we prepared to do this?  Were we moving too fast? What about the IRB – Institutional Review Board?  Our policies and procedures only allowed us to work with adults.  Some of the traits of the Originators really fit this situation perfectly.  Others felt I had little regard for policies and procedures that were in place for many years.  Although the Community Nutrition Leader was planning to change the target audience this was all to happen later when we could take our time and inch it into place.  Slowly and methodically was the normal pattern in the past (King, 2014).

Upon closer examination, it was discovered that no IRB was needed for any of our programming because our data and results were reported to funders only and not shared in research articles.  This resulted in many happy program assistants who no longer have to read a script and follow the more rigid procedures in collection of evaluations.  This was one nice side effect of this pilot.  Our program is now fully integrated into the youth audiences and although we still have those who fall on the resistance or even anger side of change, most have really embraced the change and believe it is energizing the program.  One program assistant went so far as telling me it has renewed her love of the position!  This moving ahead in times of change allowed those who piloted the youth audiences to share at our in-service in the late summer as the idea went state wide.  It was a step to allow others to feel a little less nervous about the change.  They could see the possibilities and ask questions of those who had done it.  From a risky move into a change that was to eventually happen, more good came than not I believe.  Would I have moved as fast if I had it to do again?  Would I have waited to get permission from the remainder of the team?  Would the program assistants have been as empowered and excited to be the first to pilot the idea?

So where do I personally fit on the continuum?  I believe I still am mostly a Pragmatist with an Originator in several contexts.  This is especially true when working with the Community Nutrition Leader, who I classify as an Originator with a hint of Pragmatist too.

King, J. (2014).  Leading in Times of Change, Video PPT.

 King, J. (2014). Leading  Change, Supplement for AEE 8420, Spring, 2014.

Where do I fit in the Performance Puzzle?

The forced distribution ranking as explained in Chapter 16 and in Dr. King’s PowerPoint (2014) was attempted by OSU Extension last year for performance rankings of the SNAP-Ed program assistants.  Although I witnessed struggles and issues with this process in Extension, I did not see this as completely negative for SNAP-Ed, but rather a wakeup call for us to do a better job at communicating.  We in SNAP-Ed need to make our standards and expectations for the performance of the program assistants well known to not only those in SNAP-Ed, but FCS Educators and County Extension Directors as well.   This really made it obvious to me that we needed to do a better job of having something standard so that it would be easier to compare performance against performance and person against person.  Although the forced ranking did not work more for the reason as explained in the Chapter 16 page 299—with small numbers the idea of the bell-shaped ranking does not work very well.  We worked in EERAs and with such small numbers of SNAP-Ed PAs in those EERAs often only one or two could be placed at the top with many more at the lowest level.  I felt like morale could be damaged in this ranking.  I really witnessed this as a problem with the ranking of office assistants and associates.  The literature notes that often this can be more difficult, dependent on the job duties.  With the SNAP-Ed positions we have clear expectations, and even though we have and are making changes to those, this did make it much clearer to me that we needed to communicate and share those expectations Extension wide.

I like how Dr. King (2014) explained that calibration is not the forced-distribution (page 299 Chapter 16), but rather a way to compare and evaluate performance against a standard and against others doing similar positions.  This is how the process is being done this year.  I will be involved with 3 EERA calibration days next week.  We have distributed the program assistant performance standards and I think this year should go very smoothly.  I do like the idea of bringing all the CEDs together to help them get a better picture of how their county’s program is stacking up.  As our program grows and has become competitive it is no longer enough to say we are doing programs, we need to be delivering high quality programming that makes a difference.   

According to my job description, I have no supervisory expectations.  I do not do any performance reviews in my current role, although the amount of involvement with each county’s program assistant really varies.  In some counties where there is a strong Family and Consumer Sciences Educator working with the program assistant, I may have little or no input into the evaluation.  In other counties where the FCS Educator is not as involved with SNAP-Ed or where there is no FCS Educator, which in my Region is 11 of the 21 counties, I may be asked by the County Director to write the performance review or give input into the performance.  I attend all the performance review calibration days and am asked for input in all the EERAs.  Depending on the CED’s knowledge of the program and program assistant’s work, the review of that assistant may really differ.  There are CEDs that include the PA in advisory committee meetings and office conferences and others that do not.  There are CEDs that observe the PAs teach and others that are unfamiliar with what the PAs teach.  Is this different way of evaluating county by county really the best? Is this in the best interest of the Program Assistants I work with?

My role and where I feel that I need to take on more responsibility is in the standards of quality of the programming that the PAs implement, especially those without the support or guidance of the Family and Consumer Sciences Educator.  I make it my priority to help the Program Assistants meet the performance standards that we have created.  I feel responsible when the number of programs that should be delivered are not being delivered in the counties.  How can I guide the program assistants that are not meeting that standard to reach those standards?   When I go county and county, do the program assistants feel like they can be candid and honest asking me open ended questions and having a two way conversation on how to better reach those expectations?   (OSU performance management- performance review)

The quote from Nicholson “The manager needs to look at the employee not as a problem to be solved, but as a person to be understood” is a great statement and one I reflected on as I read and wrote this week.  What can I do to understand as much and as many details as possible about each of my counties’ program assistants?  How can I support the program assistants in each of their unique counties with each of their unique needs to be successful?  The challenge for me is of the 21 counties SNAP-Ed is present in the NE Region; no two have exactly the same scenario.  All come from unique and diverse situations.  With the growth we are anticipating we are discussing the idea of performance standards in more depth recently. How can we assure the current program assistants will be good role models and are following the standards for our newly hired program assistants to emulate? 

The idea that coaching and performance review can help identify how the employee can be a more effective contributor and how the manager can support the employee is really important to me.   Am I doing all I can to support the educators and program assistants alike?    Do I go in with a curious mind and listening ears?  Are the conversations always two way conversations and great opportunities to learn about hopes and dreams? (OSU Performance Reviews)  Am I focused on the future, not the past?

The importance of setting employees up for success is so very important.   I think to set standards but not help people find strategies to achieve them, reflects poorly on my performance.  We have a standard of number of classes program assistants need to teach weekly based on their FTE.   We are now sharing quarterly updates on performance.  Number of classes taught, number of classes in a series versus single lesson, target audience composition – youth versus seniors, for example.  I look at those numbers as a way to work on my performance.  I need to offer the program assistants resources and suggestions for them to generate some ideas of how to make that happen in their county.  I feel this is especially important where the program assistant does not have the support of an FCS Educator to work with them on finding and securing partnerships and collaborations.  Are we making a difference in helping those people in the Low Socio-economic status lead a healthier life on a limited budget?  




King, J. (2014). Performance Management, Video PPT.

 OSU Performance Management Policy 5.25. (2011) retrieved from:

 Supervision Chapter 16- Appraising and rewarding Performance

Will the GROW model continue to grow on me?

I have really never had a position where I have “supervisory” or influence on others’ performance to the degree that I currently do in this position.  I really was uncertain about this position when it was first proposed to me.  What did I know about how to help others succeed?  What if someone else wasn’t interested in really doing the job, only drawing a paycheck?   I come from a family with a strong work ethic and drive, and married into a family with a very similar work ethic and drive. What if others I work with do not share similar interest and drive to do those tasks in their positions that I do? 

Utilizing the GROW method has helped me develop a stronger procedure and way of coaching and interacting with those I work.  Our system, in OSU Extension, is very unique. Some program assistants have strong Family and Consumer Science Educators in their counties who assist the program assistant in developing partnerships and creating a strong plan of work for the grant year, others have no FCS Educator or one who because of the past couple years of funding and no compensation for their time, have elected to not be as involved with the program assistant.  I struggle with how much time and coaching each county’s program assistant needs.  Each is so unique and has such different needs.  Some really need to sit and go agency by agency and class by class and talk out how they plan to program and work with each, while others are very independent and I can count on them to come to me when they get stuck.  How can I get all the program assistants to feel comfortable calling, emailing or texting me when they are stuck or just need someone to vent to or brag about something that went great?

As discussed in the Dawley, Andrews and Bucklew (2007) the ideas of participation in decision making and autonomy are included in the organizational practices that research has shown to more tightly bind an employee to an employer.  Do I give the program assistants enough flexibility and autonomy or do I coddle and hover too much when grant time and partner development occurs?  Due to the fact that we have no FCS Educators in so many counties I have the responsibility of writing those county grants (usually around 10 grants).   Do I include the program assistants in the process enough or do I simply write and develop their county grant myself to “get this task done” or meet the deadline?

Have the coaching relationships, with those counties without educators, grown and shown development through the process of writing the grant and observation of their programming and teaching?  As stated by Clutterbuck (2008) those relationships that deliver value or perceived value to the coachee should deliver a broader sense of purpose or more of a relationship then simply a short term task.  How do I gauge the amount of responsibility for the grant I delegate to each county’s program assistant?  Using the grow method of coaching could benefit me greatly in this task as well.  I need to look at each unique county and program assistant and determine the reality of the goal for that unique individual.  Do I underestimate the amount of content they are comfortable writing?  Do I assume that they are unable, when in fact, if I would delegate I would be pleasantly surprised by the amount of the process they could comfortably complete?  Are their obstacles blocking their ability to write this grant for their county?  Are there options such as them writing a draft and forwarding it to me for feedback and input prior to preceding something I should consider?  Can I see a way to accomplish this task with less stress and strain on me?  This would be a huge step toward the program assistant better buying into their county plan as well as the understanding of their county needs and budget.   Is their potential for grant writing greater than what I envision?  Could their performance be enhanced by including them in the grant writing process to a greater degree?   With grant writing time right around the corner the idea of trying this out without causing undue stress and workload on others will be gingerly attempted in a few counties to see how this may benefit all!


Clutterbuck, D,. (2008).What’s happening in coaching and mentoring? And what is the difference between them? Development and Learning in Organizations. 22 (4).

Dawley, D., Andrews, M., & Bucklew, N., (2007). Mentoring, supervisor support, and perceived organizational support: what matters most? Leadership & Organizational Development Journal, 29 (3).

King, J. (2014). Mentoring and Coaching, Video PPT.

Whitmore, J. (2009). Coaching for performance. Boston: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

Wilkipedia. GROW model retrieved on May 8, 2011. model.

Wandering Aimlessly

 When I left the arena of clinical dietetics in which I worked in the neonatal and adult medical areas and accepted a position with OSU Extension 14 years ago, OSU Extension did not offer an Onboarding Program. We did have an “orientation day” on campus but otherwise our orientation was in the county and with our mentor. (Argabright, 2014) At that time we were assigned one mentor to help guide us and answer our questions. The mentor was from the same program area and close geographic vicinity but that may have been where the similarities ended. The mentor may not have shared a specialization or area of interest with me at all. I believe I fell in the category of the “sink or swim” situation described by Derven (2008) and the readings mentioned that compelling evidence shows this really is not an effective way to guide and hopefully retain those in one’s organization.

The size and complexity of OSU Extension was a major hurdle for me. (Derven, 2008) I muddled along with many programs, most of which are still continuing in some form today, but many of those came about because of seeking out ideas on my own or researching on line, calling specialists, or others in the field. As examples I started a youth cooking class for juvenile offenders and their families in conjunction with the juvenile court, an adult to youth mentoring program with two schools. I also started a truancy school for students and families, that the Judge in the county requested and numerous nutrition programs with the hospital and health department.

Fast forward 12 years when many FCS Educators were accepting the early retirement offer and our county began having financial difficulties. It was appearing that the county would only have the funds to support a 4H Educator. The OSU Extension structural model at that time involved EERA leaders. Our EERA leader, who would be retiring, approached me about a “new opportunity.” With all the FCS vacancies in the Erie Basin she explained that there would be no coverage for the SNAP-Ed (then FNP) program assistants in many counties. FCS and OSU Extension Administration were interested in having a pilot or trial position to help cover those program assistants in the 10 county area that were without programmatic supervision. Although apprehensive, I moved into this position. I had never been a County Director, thus had never worked with the budget, purchasing, and other areas of hiring and training, but I soon learned this would all fall under my responsibilities. How was I going to learn about purchasing, budgets, hiring and training and all the other skills I needed? Who would I call and turn to? What happened if I failed? Reese (2005) talks about “old road maps helping to provide a sense of direction, but new positions meaning new territory to navigate.” I really was in a world of “new.”

I would have loved to have an Onboarding Program that allowed me to learn the OSU Extension purchasing, budgets, hiring and other human resource policies and procedures. I was very lucky to have a Community Nutrition Leader that had years of experience who was only an email and phone call away. And that became my umbilical cord/mentor. I would email or call Joyce when the unexpected or novel request or question arose and work through it in each situation, as each county was vastly different. I also took it upon myself to schedule meetings, referred to as self-directed in this week’s PowerPoint, (Argabright, 2014) with the Business Office Manager and the person at OSP who processes all of our expenses. I spent a day with each to see what I could glean from their work that would help me in my new world. Unexplored in the area of positions, we as a team looked at pros and cons of this type of a position possibly becoming the norm. Every week we held a conference call to catch up and discuss what was and was not working, what had been accomplished that week, etc…. This actually allowed for timely performance feedback between the Community Nutrition Leader, Director, and FCS AD as well as other state programmatic staff. (Reese, 2005)

Other structural changes such as Educators leaving to take field specialist positions created more need for the SNAP-Ed coverage in EERAs and soon I was piloting a 20 county area as opposed to a 10 county. With the retirement of the Community Nutrition Leader, my source of knowledge was gone, and now we have new grant guidance as well as the Regional Program Specialists positions created. As I applied and moved into this position, I had a little more experience, mostly learned the “hard way” that now I could share with our team. Again an Onboarding Program would have been so helpful. The other two program specialists had had some County Director experience, which does help, and all three of us work together, very well, in my opinion. We not only work on projects together, but email, call and text each other scenarios and situations that we work through together. I love our team and enjoy the job very much, but could I have performed better with more direction and guidance early on?

How might our experience have looked had we had an Onboarding experience at the start? What theories come to mind as I look at our situation? Vroom’s Expectancy theory? Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Motivation and Hygiene theory? So many diverse and unique county situations, personalities of program assistants and county office staff and so much to figure out and learn. Wonderful experience, but maybe less intimidating and stressful with a great onboarding program and support! (Argabright, 2014) I am very happy and supportive of OSU Extension having such a program and believe it will only make our organization better and stronger!


Argabright, K. (2014). Motivation, Supervision, and Onboarding. Video PPT.

Derven, M., (2008). Management onboarding, T&D, 49-52.

Reese, V. (2005). Maximizing your retention and productivity with on-boarding. Retrived from:

The Right Hire to Prevent Rehire

As the Farm Bill allocation clears USDA and Food and Nutrition Services and funnels down to Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Ohio’s SNAP-Ed team is soon to be on a path of hiring and growth.  The state team has been meeting frequently in anticipation of this occurring.   What seems like a fairly straight forward process is very complex in part due to our infrastructure in Ohio State University Extension.   As the article Hiring without Firing stated, as high as 30 to 50% of filled positions end in firing or resignation. (Fernandez-Araoz, 2006)  One of the goals I hope to meet is for this number to be as low as possible.  How can I assure that I hire the right people for these positions so that they will stay, enjoy their job, make an impact and be well received by their counties?

The topic for next week on orientation, training and on-boarding is a large part of this, in my opinion.  If the people we bring in are not well trained to understand the position and what they need to do, I believe that is one major reason that people get frustrated and leave.  Additionally, the idea of hiring the right people into the “right” environment is the other piece of this puzzle and the topic that I will further address in this reflection.  Fernandez-Araoz stated that “the systematic approach can greatly improve the chances of hiring the right person.  This approach takes time and discipline if it is to be accomplished in the best manner.” (Fernandez-Araoz, 2006)

Each of the four Program Assistants that will be in the first round of hiring for the Northeast Region will require different skills and personal styles to fit the county and the level of supervision they will have.  I will be filling positions in Lorain County, which is a larger urban type county with numerous schools and agencies that a Program Assistant can work as well as Richland County, another suburban county, with a large number of persons on SNAP and living in poverty.  Additionally, Crawford and Wayne County are smaller and more rural counties but the needs of the population are still great and the schools and agency requests continue to mount in each of these counties.  The fact that the county culture is so different in each of these four first county hires is an important factor in this process, but the other important factor that can’t be overlooked is the OSU Extension Office staff and structure that these new hires will be working in.  

SNAP-Ed has an interesting reporting structure for these positions.  In counties with a Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, this person is the direct line of supervision for the program assistant.  This FCS supervisor will be receiving a portion of their salary as release time to help write the grant and supervise the day to day operations of the program in their county. If that person is not the County Director, then they will not handle the human resource issues such as timesheets and performance reviews, but will assist the CED in those roles.  The more interesting scenario occurs in those counties in which no FCS Educator is employed.  In those counties the Program Assistant will receive the majority of their support from the Regional Program Specialist with the CED still handling the human resource portion of their positions.  This is where this becomes tricky and I fear may have more of an influence on our losing people.  With the Regional Program Specialist just an email, text or phone call away, it is still difficult for many people to not have as much day to day personal supervision.  Dependent on the person and the county they are in, some people are more comfortable with this unsupervised and more independent structure and others not as much.   Is this structure partially to blame for the loss of the 3 positions we had during our funding cuts?  Were the program assistants not feeling supported in those counties?  What could I have done or can I do in the future to help prevent this from happening again?  Each time we lose someone we have to reexamine that county position, determine if we should fill the position in the county and start the process over again.  Not only is that process time consuming, but the county is left with no services during this void and the training curve is rather steep for these positions.  For each of these counties I plan a minimum of three weeks of training for the program assistants to feel they are ready to start getting out there teaching on their own.  How much does flexibility and cross-cultural literacy play a role in the success of the program assistant? (Fernandez-Araoz, 2006) Are we trying to move too expediently to get these positions filled and not taking our time to find the right fit? What happens if we cannot find people with the right qualifications to fill these positions?  As we have moved into the less supervised roles we have required some education/certification for the positions.  What if this becomes a problem to find these candidates? For our interviews we do ask the candidates to do a short demonstration about a given topic. Is this helpful to us finding the best candidates?

Finding the right people so that we do not have to redo the search is a time and energy saver. I want to do the right thing from the start so that we have the best fit and quality people to deliver the programming in all counties. I hope through exploring and asking questions I will improve this process and have better fits for all counties!

Fernandez-Araoz, C. (2006) Harvard Business Review.  Retrieved from:

King, J. (2014). Staffing and Staff Selection PPT.

Decisions, Decisions

According to Dr. King in his PowerPoint “Deciding what’s best and knowing how best to decide are two different skills.   The mastery of that difference has major implications for both the decision maker and those affected by the decisions.”  (King, 2014)

I had made my decision about what to write this week, SNAP-Ed of course, when I received another person’s decision via email that caused me to take a moment and reflect before moving ahead.  I have invested a great amount of time and effort writing an OSU Cares Grant for facilitation of a youth mentoring program utilizing the SNAP-Ed nutrition and physical activity curriculum.   This started when I was approached by the school’s health educator and asked to work with the leadership classes in the high school to help fill the need for content when the students performed their required youth mentoring.  The decision the health educator made was not approved by the district curriculum director, so all that work on the grant with a program I am really passionate about got scrapped.  The major implication of this decision affected several people and my job now became having to tell the team.   It is a great example of not only how quickly one decision can impact so many, but how heartbreaking one person’s decision, for no stated reason can be and the ripple effects it can cause.  Why was no reason given for the decision about not wanting to be involved?  Was it not explained well enough?  What had I done wrong?   As I tearfully sent out the emails informing the team that the project would not be able to move forward, the responses I got were overwhelming.  Of course my husband, who is my biggest supporter, was empathic and my mother, who was a former curriculum director and principal was upset, but also my co-workers were super supportive.  These are the types of messages I received confirming my decision that I am at the right place with the right co-workers.

“These setbacks happen all the time. It just means that you are destined to do something else this summer! If anything opens up for me, you will be the first to know! Do not be discouraged- in academia, rejection happens about 90% of the time. Hang in there.”

So my next decision is where do I go with this project from here?  I have many other projects and work tasks on my plate, but I am very passionate about this type of nutrition and physical activity delivery and want to see it work.  I was sure I could empower the program assistants to feel the same about this program as they worked on it!  (Yuki, 2008)  I realize that the idea of clarifying my problem with the answer to “what’s stopping me” is critical at this time. (King, 2014)  I have received much information after the fact regarding the contact I made at the school. Had I had that information previously maybe I would have met with the Superintendent or other members of the school administration rather than the curriculum director, or meet jointly. (Rue & Byars, 2010)  As I work through the steps of the Hoy and Miskel model recognizing and defining the problem, analyzing the difficulty, finding a criteria for a satisfactory solution, developing a new plan and initiating the plan, I believe I need to keep moving ahead. (King, 2014) So the next step for me is to think in terms of the decision style and what I want our next approach to be.  Is it simply a fact finding and investigating position where I find another alternative school if possible or is it to be more collaborative and use teamwork to make the decision? The outpouring of emails has given me contact names and suggestions to start with.  Should I start over and hope to find a match by the grant deadline or should I be patient and try again next year?   By discussing this with my team and inviting the stakeholders to help with that decision the chances of making the right choice should emerge.  (Snowden& Boone, 2007)   What is the right choice at this time?  Is the hurt of this “failure” too fresh to start over right away or should I give it some time?  The grant is due soon therefore time is not on my side at the moment.  Using the decision matrix to determine my next steps has been very helpful and I will continue to fill in the matrix and make the decision along with my team about where to go from here.  Interesting how as one co-worker stated—“other opportunities will come your way and maybe this was meant to be!”  Maybe the topic of decisions fell right at the opportune time!

 King, J., (2014, February). Video lecture.  Leadership and  Decision Making, PPT.

Rue, L.W., & Byars, L.L., (2010). Supervision. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Snowden, D., &Boone, M., (2007). A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making. Harvard Business Review, retrieved from

Yuki, G., (2008). Leadership in Organizations (7th Edition) New York: Pearson.

Is It Right or Is It Wrong?


Many examples of situations of right or wrong came to mind as I read the articles, watched the PowerPoint and read the posts this week, but the situation that kept resurfacing as I read the materials was that of my experience of being on the Regional Director search committee.    According to Yuki (2008) in the Values Emphasized in Theories of Ethical Leadership the definition of integrity, stating the importance of openness and honesty, as well as not attempting to manipulate or deceive people kept playing over and over in my mind.  Is this what I or we as a committee did when we conducted the searches for the Regional Directors?

 I had never been involved with a committee for this type of a position in the past, and although I didn’t realize the time commitment or intensity of the task, I was excited to be asked and agreed to do this. With the conclusion of this process I have to ask myself should I have declined this opportunity.  Did it involve too much time away from my SNAP-Ed responsibilities?  Did our work succeed in doing what we wanted it to do?  Were we ethical in our process and our endeavor?

This committee met twice to determine job descriptions and steps we would take to accomplish our tasks.  We were instructed by the Director of Extension that our goal would be to give pros and cons of the candidates we chose to interview and then the final decision would be made by Administration based on those recommendations.   

Our committee was composed of seven people, with a variety of positions and locations.  I was overwhelmed by the policies, procedures and amount of work required.  We had many more applicants than we could ever interview for the two positions.  We had to be inclusive of all, thus if we did not interview those from minority classes, we would be required to justify our decision.  I asked myself, why not interview and hire the best person for the job based on experience and personal character, not on skin color or other characteristics. Did I or the group have implicit prejudice in those chosen to interview?  Why did we end up with the seven candidates we did, versus others?  Were there unconscious beliefs that drove our group decisions? (Banji, Bazerman &Chugh, 2003)

We chose seven candidates to interview.  Each committee member checked references and set up the interview for one candidate.  What I experienced from the committee chair was a true sense of making sure we were very fair and consistent.   Standardized questions and procedures for all candidates, regardless if they were internal or external, were utilized.  The fairness mentioned in Dr. King’s video lecture was definitely in place in my opinion.  (King, 2014)

 Several interesting issues resulted when we checked references, with one that was very pertinent to the topic of ethics.  One committee member had a “gut feeling” that something was not right after calling the first two references of the candidate.  The references kept referring to a book that the candidate had written but no other details about the book.  After asking the name of the book this committee member googled the title and read the information about the book.  It was discovered that the candidate had been in prison and wrote a book about that experience.  When this was presented to the committee no one knew how to respond.  Do we still interview the candidate?  Do we ask about the situation?  How transparent should we be about this situation?  The committee chair contacted human resources, we were told to continue with the interview and ask a question in the interview about referred journals and other publications.  Was that the right way to handle this situation?  Was it justified to interview this candidate knowing full well that this would disqualify them from being hired?  Was this a good use of the committee’s time?

During the interview we attempted, and I believe succeeded, to have equal time and scenarios of presentations, group interviews, meals etc… with each candidate.   I learned a great deal and believe the experience was very valuable, but was it fair and just to the grant funder, from whom my salary comes, to spend this amount of time on this process?  I work with the Regional Directors and know these positions are stretched too thin and what  the benefit  of having additional directors could do for the SNAP-Ed and the FCS area, but was the cost really worth the time committed to this process?   Does this fall into the category of wasting time at work? (King, 2014)

After the interview process we compiled our pros and cons on the candidates and our committee chair reported our findings to the OSU Extension Director and Administration.  We left believing we had four fairly strong candidates that would be considered for the two positions.  I was surprised when the announcement email containing the new Regional Directors came out.  Three of the four candidates we had scored highly were not included in those receiving the job.   The integrity as defined in the Yugi article as open and honest, the empowerment of sharing sensitive information and the fairness and justice of the experience was now being questioned in my mind. Why wasn’t our committee given any explanation about the decisions made?  Should a conference call or meeting with those of us that had invested so many hours and heart to this process been scheduled to provide some explanation or clarity? Could all of the references we checked and all the people that watched the seminars been wrong about the characters of the candidates?  I have so many more questions than answers.  Where does the fairness and transparency come into place here?  Was this whole process ethical?  Was I unethical for not speaking up more?  Should I have questioned why we interviewed the one candidate?  I did write the committee chair when the email surfaced about those hired for the positions, but should I have asked more questions or simply accepted the decisions and moved on?   I am really not sure if I was “ethical” or not.  What were my responsibilities in this situation?  Was this a process where my “everyday self” became a “better self” or not? (Yugi, 2008)

Banji, M., Bazerman, M., & Chugh, D. (2003). How (Un)ethical are you? Harvard Business Review, 12. 

 King, J., (2014, February). Video lecture.  Ethics and Leadership, PPT.

Yuki, G., (2008). Leadership in Organizations (7th Edition) New York: Pearson.

My Journey to becoming “socially smarter” and authentic

I am privileged and fortunate to work with a very talented and diverse group of people on our state Family and Consumer Sciences team and our Community Nutrition team.  As mentioned in Goleman and Boyatzis’s article in the example of Janice (pg. 80), I have some very good role models and coaches that can provide stimulation for my mirror neurons.  (Goleman & Boyatzis, 2008)   Dr. Bruns, who is the FCS AD, often approaches ideas very differently than I or our other Community Nutrition leaders might.

In looking at the Emotional Intelligence traits of our leadership in Community Nutrition, I now wonder as we make and enact policy and procedures if Dr. Bruns had a different purpose in mind when creating the structure of the three Regional Program Specialists.

Prior to our current structure, the Family and Consumer Science Educators in the counties had the supervisory role for their program assistants.  Out of necessity, due to educators retiring and leaving the system, a newly created level was put in place to help oversee the professional development and fiscal management of all program assistants in a region and provide day to day oversight of those program assistants with no county FCS educator.  I now wonder if the intent was to have the three of us, who are out in the counties with the program assistants, be the liaison and buffer to handle the communication out in the counties in more of an emotionally involved or socially smart way.    Goleman stated, “people wonder how leaders can make hard decisions if they are “feeling” for all the people affected.” (Golemen, 1998)  Although we are involved in much of the decision making, we come to those discussions with a different perspective, one from those out there doing the work.    Although I see positive social and emotional characteristics in our state staff, I am not sure the trust and bond between the county personnel and the state personnel is always there.  I think the intention is that we are the conduit between the state staff and the county personnel trying to “develop the genuine interest in and talent for fostering positive feelings in the people whose cooperation and support we need.” (Goleman & Boyatzis, 2008)  Maybe this is what Dr. Bruns had in mind when this was first piloted all along.  Although never stated, has that been the underlying mission or goal?  Could this lead to stronger and more impactful performance?  Are we seeing success as a result of this structure?

Because we have developed the rapport with many of the program assistants and have more of the empathic touch, are we more suited in many situations to deliver the “news?”  I also wonder if because the state leaders are not out in the counties they just don’t see what we see or hear,  thus making the feelings for the “people” come to life.

One of the biggest challenges for me is the ability to develop the trust and bond with the program assistants due to the geographic distance between us.   Since each of the program assistants are so different and have such different needs, (as one of my PAs reminded me once, “we all need something a little different to feel valued”), the time and effort involved to really do this well creates a major challenge.  How can I do a better job of remotely supporting and really knowing the different program assistants I work with?  Since I am unable to physically be in 10 plus counties every week or even month what methods will help me be more successful?

Finally, I really examined the work by George in Northouse’s chapter. (Northouse, 2013)  Is it the sense of strong relationships that I need to continue to build if I really want to see the results I think are possible from this structure?   The third characteristic of authentic leadership that George mentioned was that of establishing the connection with others through sharing ones’ own story and listening to others stories.  Are my personnel experiences and stories too personal, embarrassing or hard for me to share?  Do I take the time to really listen to the program assistants or do I have too many other tasks and concerns on my mind?  Do I fully listen to my daughter when I am home or is my mind on work or other concerning situations?  I am afraid I have more questions than answers at this point.  

 At stated in Northouse, “in a sense people are asking leaders to soften the boundary around their leadership role and to be more transparent.” (Northouse, 2013)   How do I really make that happen?  Do I need to continue my journey of self-awareness and self-knowledge?  As suggested in the Northouse chapter, increasing one’s sensitivity to others’ culture, background and living situations can help leaders develop compassion.  I have applied and been accepted into a study abroad class to Honduras in May. This is a huge stretch for me.  Although very nervous, I am also very excited to learn more about myself through really opening my mind to new and different experiences and being flexible.  What can I learn about myself and give to others from this experience? 

 I have many more questions than answers in this week’s reflection with more topics of interest than space allows.  I really look forward to further topics and exploring the team leadership in times of changes.  How do I focus on the skills that will lead to the greatest success of our team?



Golemen, D. (1998). What Makes a Leader? Harvard Business Review.

Goleman, D., & Boyatzis, R. (2008). Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership. Harvard Business Review.

Northouse, P. (2013) Leadership Theory and Practice (6th Edition).  California: Sage