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Reflections on Being a DELP Scholar

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Well, I’ve been home from the 2012 ASAE conference for several days now. I always think after this conference that I need one full day to sleep and process everything I have learned and experienced at the conference, before I get back into life as usual. Between learning, networking and just having fun, the days are long and there’s a lot to digest.

This year seems like the perfect time to reflect on being a DELP scholar. I’ve been finished with the program for a full year now and many times I have sought to quantify for myself exactly how much, and in what ways, I have changed and grown from the program. And some of those things have been very clear- attaining my CAE, experiencing a wide range of learning experiences, a priceless mentorship, an instant network of colleagues in the DELP alum. group, and some very good friends. I have had a more difficult time exploring are the less tangible changes as a result of DELP. This conference, my first completely removed from being an active/graduating DELP scholar, gave me an opportunity to get some real perspective on my own growth over the past 3 years.

So, without getting too deep into it, here are a few observations:

1. There is not just one way to be successful. There are many paths, many definitions of success, and many ways to get where you want to go. I’ve always had a very narrow perspective on what it means to be successful, based on certain role models. But after the experiences of the past 3 years, my perspective has shifted. Success is such a subjective term, and I’ve learned to define it more clearly for myself.

2. We all have something to offer and something to learn. Speaking up when we have a question, or suggesting an idea in a conversation, allows us to grow into a part of a community of sharing and knowledge. Listening has always been my forte, but I have learned that speaking thoughtfully is as important as listening in being a part of an innovative community. And through the experiences I have had as a DELP scholar, I’ve built the confidence that has allowed me to speak up and be part of the community. I’ve also had a network of support and cheerleaders in my DELP colleagues that has encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone and be more.

3. It’s ok to work on your own schedule- your success is not a competition. I tend to benchmark my own professional progress on folks around me. And that has caused me some stress. But as I’ve learned to take a more holistic view on life, personal success, and professional success, I have learned that all things happen in due time. Drive is good. Drive is essential. But a balanced approach in which I learn from my colleagues, but set goals for myself and benchmark against my own goals, not other people’s accomplishments, has allowed me a healthier approach to professional growth.

There’s more, but this seems like a good place to stop. The ASAE conference this year allowed me to reflect on how much not only the DELP program itself has changed me, but even more, on how the community of incredible professionals I am a part of through DELP, has pushed me grow in unexpected ways and supported me on that path.

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Making a Difference

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Well, it appears that Maddie Grant’s post, “What are you going to do to change the world in 2012?” has had quite an impact.  I’ve been tagged by both Aaron Wolowiec and Stefanie Reeves to dedicate some time to discussing this topic.  Initially, I just threw off a quick tweet about being more appreciative and giving back to people in need.  But, now that the frenzy of the holidays has calmed down and we are settling back into life as usual, I think it’s important to take some time to make sure that “life as usual” does not mean status quo.

So, since firing off my tweet, I have given a lot of thought to what I mean by giving back to people who are less fortunate.  In reflecting on what 2012 will hold, I’ve come back to two key statements that I have always held to be integral to my personal philosophy.  The first is knowing what I do best and doing it.  The second is that I have always, since I was a young idealistic teenager, believed that I will make a difference in the world one person at a time.

Which brings me to my goal for the year, to give back to people who are less fortunate.   And I don’t mean by writing checks to a charity or two.  I mean, by putting myself out there and spending my time in mentoring, teaching and supporting people who need it.  I don’t know yet if this will take the form of volunteering at a women’s shelter or with disadvantaged children, volunteering with Big Brothers/Big Sisters or some other venue I haven’t determined.  But I do know that there are a lot of people in need and there’s never too much empathy and kindness that can be given.

I’m fortunate that in my association, I work with an incredible group of members who give of themselves continually to make life better and more enriching for people who are arguably severely marginalized in our society.  Our members are not-for-profit providers of senior living and services.  Whenever I am able to get out into our member’s communities, I am inspired by the work that they do.  I’m moved by their compassion, dedication and innovation.  They make a difference to each individual resident in their communities.  They inspire me to want to be a better person.

So, if it’s true that we can make the world a better place by helping raise others up, then that is where I will be focusing my efforts in 2012.

2012 is Just Around the Corner

I’m not the kind of person who makes New Year’s resolutions. I think you are setting yourself up to fail when you set lofty, idealistic and largely unattainable goals, with no concrete plan of action to make them come to be. And that’s largely how New Year’s resolutions end up. But, I do appreciate the mindset of the fresh start. Culturally, many people are doing some introspection and thinking of ways to improve their lives in the coming year. Collectively, when we all engage in reflection and some determination to improve,I think we make the world a better place. There’s a power in a whole lot of people trying to embrace some renewed hope and optimism all at the same time.

2011 was a year of challenges for me, many of which were not in my control. Which means that 2011 was a year of tremendous personal growth. And while I appreciate personal growth as much as the next person, I am hoping that 2012 is more friendly.

Here’s to giving 2012 the best welcome by embracing a positive outlook and knowing that each day brings new possibility, new hope and a new chance to make the world a better place.

Happy New Year!

Siri

Finally back where I long to be – on the bleeding edge of technology. My iPhone 4S arrived today. It’s been years since I have allowed myself the luxury of buying technology on the launch date.

I have been super excited about trying out the new Siri voice command on the 4S. I understood from reading that it was a little clunky and not 100% reliable. I am ok with that because it’s such an awesome technology. But, if my phone is typical, I wouldn’t describe it as a “little clunky and not 100% reliable”. I would describe it as very slow, very clunky and hardly works.

One thing I read it should reliably do is set reminders. It took me over an hour of repeating the same phrase for it to finally set a reminder. Then when the time rolled around for it to remind me – nothing happened. And clicking through the phone, I couldn’t find any record of the reminder. Blargh.

This is the problem with getting technology on Day 1. People with more time and patience than me haven’t had a chance to work out the kinks and blog about how I can do the things I want to do.

Lessons from Food Trucks

There’s something about Food Trucks that has captured me.  I am obsessed.  And truly, it has very little to do with the food.  I’ve only eaten at one of the local food trucks and it was very tasty, and I would definitely eat there again.  But we have several food trucks, and I haven’t sought them out to actually eat their food.  Yet, I am obsessed with them – all of them.  I can tell you what they serve, where they are located on a given day, their upcoming schedules, etc.  I follow them on Facebook and Twitter and actively look for their posts each day.

So, why is it that I am so enamored with them? As I’ve been laughing at myself for this obsession, I realized it’s the business model that appeals to me.  It’s nimble. It’s fun.  It’s engaging.  It’s all innovation, all the time. It’s customer service.  It’s quality.  They took a business model that was completely outdated and ridiculed (aka – The Roach Coach), and made it relevant again.  They used technology advances and changed the model to make it massively appealing.  They’ve built a grassroots following – and people evangelize. These are all attributes that we strive to build into the fabric of the associations and organizations we lead.

So, here are my favorite five lessons from food trucks:

1. Know what you do best. And do it. Better than everyone else.
2. Go and meet the people where they are. If they move, move with them.
3. Engage with your audience in fun ways and be real.
4. If something isn’t working, recognize it and move on quickly. Don’t stagnate- there’s an opportunity around the next corner.
5. Don’t let yourself become irrelevant. No one wants to be associated with a roach coach.

Tasty

I tried 2 new recipes for dinner tonight.  I made Apricot Balsamic Glazed Chicken, Quinoa Salad and Grilled Peaches.  It was delicious!  Next time for the quinoa salad, I’ll put in a little less serrano pepper and a little less cumin.  It was fantastic – but next time those little tweaks will make it even better.  The apricot balsamic glazed chicken was really tasty and SO easy.   Here was tonight’s dinner:

apricotchicken

quinoasalad

I’ll post the recipes later.

The F Word

I’ve been thinking a lot about the f-word.  Failure.  When I report out  about the projects my team has been working on, we always talk about all of our successes and how well our projects are going.  We never talk about failing.  It’s largely because my team doesn’t have a lot of failures to report.  And that makes me feel inadequate.

It’s a very different way of thinking about how we function as leaders.  Not that we should set out to fail, but that we should be pushing ourselves regularly to expand and innovate, so that failure is just a part of reality.  It simply means that we worked outside of our comfort zone and tried something different.  And the organization’s culture should be such that it doesn’t condemn failure, but rewards employees for innovation and supports learning through failure in experimenting with new ideas and practices.

And key in failing is learning and doing it better next time – I have observed instances in organizations where folks do try something, fail, pretend it never happened or just stop the effort since it isn’t going well, and then they try the exact same thing again hoping for a different outcome.  This would be failing at failing.  And that’s a double negative and we all know about double negatives.

So, I feel inadequate sometimes because my team has very little failure in the work we do.  I’m devising a plan to deal with this – I want us to fail more so we can succeed bigger.  Here’s the idea I am toying with.  I’m interested in the concept of requiring team members to come up with at least one completely new idea to address one of our challenges every quarter.  We could then discuss if that idea is something we can pursue, available resources, the best strategy for implementation and then go for it.  If the timing isn’t right for the project, we’ll keep a log of all of the ideas generated so we can revisit them at a time that may be better.  I’m thinking I’ll call these  “The F Word Projects”.

Mandatory innovation…could it work?