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Anthony L. Webster is a Career and Technical Education Student Success Specialist for Washtenaw Community College.  He works closely with first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented college students to help them navigate earning their college degree.  Read on to learn about Anthony’s insights on collaboration across generations, inspirational leadership, and workplace culture.

Data shown above depict the featured individual’s age, preferred form of acknowledgment, top three values of organizational culture, principal values sought in their profession, and what they feel is the greatest misconception of the Millennial generation, as reported in SparkVision’s High Achieving Millennial survey.

Describe any meaningful activities you are involved in.  I consider myself to be a higher education geek.  I find meaning in helping people reach their full potential. As a first-generation college student, I always engaging in conversation with families regarding the benefits of attending two-year or four-year colleges after high school.  Along with helping students navigate the ebb and flow of earning a college degree I also assist students by helping them leverage internal and external resources to be successful as students and once they leave the institution.  

What do you feel are the biggest opportunities for collaboration across the generations in the workplace?  People often-time have an “us vs them” mentality in the workplace when it comes to discussing generation differences. I have found it most beneficial to 1) highlight the similarities across generations rather than pointing out the differences and 2) create a work environment which allows individuals to learn from one another. Forming intentional committees that consist of people across the ages to complete a mission is always a great collaborative effort. I believe it is also important to acknowledge the “why factor”, inform the team what value they add no matter where they fall on the generation spectrum.

What does an “inspirational leader” look like to you?  An inspirational leader is someone who inspires those around them to be better. However, this is merely a notion. To lead is also being able to know when to follow, an inspirational leader understands this more than anyone. You don’t always have to be in the front to inspire others to want to be great. As a Millennial in the workplace, I am always looking for opportunities to serve others and be an agent of change for those older and younger than me.

What makes you feel valued in the workplace?  No employee wants to come to work and give 100% every single day and never be acknowledged. I absolutely love when someone notices my efforts, even with a simple “thank you”.  This goes a long way. I never look for recognition; however, it always great to be appreciated. I also feel valued when leadership provides me with professional development opportunities and/or increases my workload to expand my knowledge and skill-set.

Are there any unique or special aspects of your organization that contribute to a positive workplace culture? One could assume that the administrative leadership of a local community college is comprised of only older individuals.  That is not true here.  Washtenaw Community College not only allows Millennials to have a seat at the table, it also allows them to lead.  This contributes to a positive workplace culture because people know their input matters and they have opportunities to influence.  

What are three actions companies can take to compel millennials to stay longer? Companies that are allowing flexibility in work hours, professional development, and leadership opportunities are winning big time when it comes to appealing to Millennials.  Additionally, Millennials like myself, appreciate leaders who understand that even though I may not stay at their organization for my entire career, they still see the value in pouring into me and see that while I am an employee I will be pouring myself into the work and want to be a positive contributor while I am part of their team.  

What is one change you would like to see in today’s workplace?  Life is meant to be lived in phases, not levels. Many people think Millennials are living life using the check-box method (degree “check”, job “check”, family “check”). Most Millennials that I know understand the value of putting in the time before you’re able to be promoted or given a raise. This may differ depending on the person, but some people get it. One change I would like to see take place is companies giving credit where it is due. There is no need to prolong a promotion or raise simply because “that’s the way it has always been done”. Let’s build more leaders that are going to go out and impact the world.

Want to learn more about the values, motivators, stress indicators and culture preferences of High Achieving Millennials? Download our free white papers here.
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Da’Kuawn Johnson is currently training at the University of Maryland School of Medicine to become a physician-scientist.  This career will enable him to advance the field of medicine through care of patients and running a research lab.  Read more about the experiences that shaped his career path and his perspectives on work-life balance, how the workplace can support personal growth, and more!

Data shown above depict the featured individual’s age, preferred form of acknowledgment, top three values of organizational culture, principal values sought in their profession, and what they feel is the greatest misconception of the Millennial generation, as reported in SparkVision’s High Achieving Millennial survey.

What are some of the most influential factors from your upbringing that impacted your career path?  The two most influential factors that impacted my career path were my education and my home environment. Despite societal norms and statistics, I wouldn’t have wanted my upbringing to have been any other way. I was raised in Baltimore City and was educated through the public-school system. Nonetheless, I had a world-class education for free. At the end of my high school career, I had the choice to attend any college I desired, including Johns Hopkins University, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Maryland, Baltimore County to name a few. One of the key factors during my time in the public-school system was a program called The Ingenuity Project, which allowed me to explore my interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The program was rigorous and didn’t allow students to do anything less than their best. This allowed me to identify my interest and strength in the life sciences early in life. The Ingenuity Project was also where I developed my interest to pursue a research career.  In hindsight, my home environment was grooming me to be socially aware, spiritually strong, compassionate to those in need, and have an iron will to succeed. Despite not having a male role model in my life, the women in my life (my mother, my grandmother, and my aunts) still managed to teach me how to be a good man. They accomplished this by simply teaching me to be a “good person”.  Simply stated this boils down to a respect for yourself and others. The most important factor of my home environment was watching my mother and my grandmother sacrifice what little they had to help other family members that were in need. Living in a home where I was constantly surrounded by people who had cancer, strokes, and even watching some take their last breath in our home made the decision to pursue medicine a simple one. My career path now is simply a combination of my home and academic environment. My research satisfies the curiosity that I developed in high school and my passion for medicine comes from helping sick family members from a young age. I simply cannot imagine my life without either one. 

What are some meaningful activities you are involved in?  I am very involved with my high school Alma Mater, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. I often visit the school and serve as an ambassador for students looking to attend my undergraduate Alma Mater, University of Maryland, Baltimore County. I also provide mentorship, help maneuver the college application process, and even serve as a mock interviewer to help students prepare for college interviews.

What does personal growth mean to you and how can a workplace support that experience? Personal growth to me is multifaceted. It consists of mental, emotional, and spiritual growth. Mental growth occurs when one must stretch their scope of thinking whether it be through tackling difficult problems or simply being open-minded to understand another’s perspective. Emotional growth happens as you encounter some of life’s greatest and worst moments. It’s during the times you get the home you have been saving up for or you lose a loved one that you truly understand yourself as an emotional being. Finally, spiritual growth comes with wisdom, which comes from life experiences. The first time you experience tragedy, it always feels like the world will come to an end, but eventually, you gain a sense of peace as you gain more experience. The workplace could best foster an environment to promote personal growth by setting up teams of workers, which will act as mentorship groups. The groups should allow junior members to struggle and stretch to their limits by taking on challenging tasks or portions of projects to grow mentally and emotionally. And the senior members can grow mentally as well by interacting with junior members and opening their minds to understand the perspective of the junior members. I think this model builds more cohesive teams that have a better appreciation of each members strengths and weaknesses and ultimately can solve more difficult problems.

What does an inspirational leader look like to you?  An inspirational leader is someone who is honest, compassionate, and committed to their cause.  

What does your ideal work/life balance look like and what are the barriers to achieving it? An ideal work/life balance to me is the flexibility to be there for family for all of the big moments, while still being able to impact the world through what I do for a living. I think the biggest barrier to the work life/balance is time. The nature of my career goals is to fulfill the duties of two full-time careers, physician and scientist, as an individual. The only way I have seen others achieve it is through trial and error because it is different for everyone in my field.

Are there any unique or special aspects of your organization that contribute to a positive workplace culture?  I believe the unique aspect of my current position is that I am surrounded by people who genuinely love what they do, and it is not simply a job. When you are surrounded by people who are passionate about what you are passionate about, you don’t mind working or getting your required tasks done. I believe the passion from everyone makes a more positive and enjoyable environment.

What is one change you would like to see in today’s workplace? If I could change one thing about today’s workplace it would pertain to respect. I feel that in today’s workplace there is a lack of respect, not just for authority, but for women in general, patrons, coworkers, and subordinates. I believe if everyone simply showed a higher level of respect to one another, despite one’s opinion, the workplace would be a more tolerable place.

Want to learn more about the values, motivators, stress indicators and culture preferences of High Achieving Millennials? Download our free white papers here.
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The “Culture Keeper Feature” blog series highlights individuals and companies who are leading the way in crafting healthy, intentional and authentic workplace cultures. “Culture Keeper” is a SparkVision term used to describe the people who lead and maintain the positive aspects of their organization’s environment & values.

As a key member of the Federal Hill community, Baba’s Mediterranean Kitchen (or more commonly referred to as “Baba’s”) is the place to go for delicious authentic cuisine and a large helping of neighborly love. During a recent visit, I discovered that we share a lot more than just taste in food.

Upon a normal stop to get a bite to eat, Farid Bishara Salloum and I asked him how business was going in his new location. He candidly shared that he started the second location purely to support the growth of his loyal employees who had been with him for over 10 years and were yearning for a new opportunity.

Surprised and thinking I had misunderstood him at first, I asked him to explain further.

Me: “Wait a second… so you started a whole new location for the sole purpose of helping someone else grow?”

Farid: “Yes – he earned it and deserved the chance to see what was possible. My guys are so loyal to me that this was the least that I could do to show them that I’m listening and I want them to see a future here.” 

This interview was sparked by that brief but powerful exchange at the register. I knew I needed to learn more from this Chief Falafel Officer (Farid’s REAL title) and here’s how that conversation went…

Tell me about how you got started and what you hope to accomplish. I never knew I was a food guy until I opened a restaurant. I was a chemical engineer I went into high-tech marketing for 20 years. On paper, I’m supposed to be pretty smart, if degrees mean anything. I worked for GE, Anheiser Bush, a lot of small companies too. I never really enjoyed it because I never felt comfortable. It was just a job and that’s what a lot of people do. It’s a job because you make money, but it doesn’t have significance.

Now I’m 57 and I still work 14 – 16 hours a day but it feels valuable. I don’t value Wealth, it’s not why I work. I relate more to the individual than I do with the economy.  I like generating jobs, providing quality food, and connecting to my upbringing. Food is a medium to build relationships. You’ll come in and talk to strangers over food – it connects people. 

It’s important to me that I’m contributing to the fabric of the neighborhood. The number one thing that impacts you in a neighborhood has so much to do with how much you love or hate being somewhere. People should know each other, talk to each other, commune. It’s really cool to greet regulars. It’s one of the main elements of the neighborhood. 

What’s an example of something that makes your connection to the community unique? 

This funny thing happened a few years ago, while on vacation. I snapped a photo of my business card against the backdrop of a beach sunset in Jamaica. Customers saw it, and through their own initiative, it’s evolved into an extraordinary display of wanderlust and sense of adventure in our community. Our customers travel and take a photo of our business card in some of the most extraordinary places on earth. So now Baba’s has “been to” 92 countries and counting. And we display the pictures proudly at our register for people to see! 

Tell me about your team. Billy and Ryan both came on board in a recession and I’m so fortunate to have gotten them. They believe in the same values and we’re a team.  There is a work ethic that they’re here to make a great experience for their customers. If either one of them found a dollar on the floor – they would let me know and give it to me. I trust them and do my best to empower them in doing their best. None of us is above getting down on our hands and knees and scrubbing the floor if it needs it. I don’t know what I’d do without their loyalty and commitment to Baba’s.

I then flipped the script to talk to Farid’s two head teammates, Billy Bryan + Ryan Scalfari. I wanted to hear from their perspective on the culture at Baba’s…

What’s kept you here so long? “Honestly, it’s Farid and the environment that he has created. He treats us like people and not just his workers who make him money. A lot of restaurant owners are in it for the money, it’s rare that you see someone who thoroughly enjoys the customer service aspect and the relationships that it can create. At Baba’s it’s more like we are in our own home and we are cooking for people who are visiting.” – Ryan

Tell me about the culture. “I love being a part of the Babas family. The food is so good and opened my eyes to not only food that tastes good but is good for you. The customers are amazing and really appreciative of what we do here. And then there is my boss Farid- I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again he’s the best person I’ve ever worked for, period.” – Billy

“Being Italian, I especially appreciate and value the family-like, kind environment. We treat with respect, dignity, and appreciation. It’s good to look around and see what you are providing to the community and also the value of the interpersonal relationships you have at work. Baba’s has helped me to grow and figure out my own path in life. From the start I felt like Farid and I had a connection and we share a lot of the same personal values and beliefs in and out of the workplace. He has let me have the freedom and honor to add some of my own dishes to the menu as well as help with major decisions regarding the business. We have learned from each other in this journey. ” – Ryan

Clearly, Farid and his team are leading a culture of connection, community and loyalty through their decisions and behaviors each day. Upon my final question to Farid, it became clear that his legacy is already in action each day his doors open. 

What do you want to be known for? I would hope that 20 years from now that people will remember the impact that I had on their lives. History is really a reflection of your mark. There’s the experience and then there’s what’s left behind.  I would hope that I have patrons who will bring up Baba’s and talk about the special moments we created in their lives.

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Remember when you were a kid and during the summer there was a take-home “reading list” so students could stay engaged and hopefully build on (and not loose) what they’d learned that year and what’s to come ahead? Well, I always wished I could get a summer reading list handed to me as an adult. What are THE BEST books out there as it relates to the areas I want to grow in and truly be an expert in?

Emotional Intelligence is the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.

This is the space that I live and work in. The more I know about it conceptually and the more I can translate it experientially, the better I am at my craft and being a contributing human on this planet. Every single one of us can benefit from better strengthening our emotional intelligence (or sometimes referred to as emotional quotient – EQ). When we know ourselves fully, we can better understand humanity at large.

So here are 10 of THE BEST books I’ve read recently that have the power to boost your emotional intelligence and understanding of humanity.

  1. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Mark Manson – I LOVE his no-nonsense approach how to understand your values and let go of the things you don’t value. 
  2. Tribes:We Need You to Lead Us, Seth Godin – When I read this book I cried because it was the first time I realized what I was doing had a name for it and I wasn’t crazy for feeling that level of connection with my work and volunteers.  
  3. The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown – She dives deep into heavy topics like shame, guilt, vulnerability and empathy. 
  4. Better than Before, Gretchen Rubin – Her practical approach to living a happier life has drastically changed my daily habits for the better.
  5. The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything, Stephen Covey – This is a long read, but well worth it if you are interested in how to create, repair and lead through trusting relationships.
  6. Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, Adam Grant – Are you a giver or a taker? His books helps you to identify your own characteristics and build relationships that are based on giving. 
  7. Radical Acceptance, Tara Brach – Mindfulness is one of the most powerful tools that exists when it comes to being in the present moment and slowing down your racing thoughts. 
  8. The Last Lecture, Jeffrey Zaslow – His storytelling approach to sharing his experience with terminal illness and what to do with his last moments of time allows the reader to pause and reflect on your own wishes for legacy and life. 
  9. Tribal Leadership, Dave Logan – As far as we’ve come, our way of thinking and connecting remain the same. This book dives into those timeliness trends to learn to galvanize them for your work.
  10. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain – After reading her book I realized that I’m a closeted introvert and I now embrace that side of myself for better self-care and personal growth. 

Will you join me in this emotional intelligence journey? Let me know which book or books you plan to read and what you thought of them. I know I haven’t captured them all here, so please share in the comments below which must-read books I’m missed as it relates to boosting your own emotional intelligence!

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Kyle Elliott, MPA, CHES runs CaffeinatedKyle.com. His goal is simple – to help people find jobs they LOVE (or at least tolerate). This help takes many forms, from Career and Life Coaching to resumes and cover letters to interview prep and salary negotiation. Kyle loves coffee (if you couldn’t tell), writing and eating the same thing at different restaurants. Connect with him on LinkedIn where you’ll often find him talking about work, life, and Starbucks.

Other than surviving freshman year roommates, attempting to secure a job post-graduation–preferably in your field–is one of the most stress-inducing parts of college life.

Here are six steps to improve your employment chances after graduation…

  1. Start your job search early.

You should begin applying for jobs a minimum of 2 to 3 months before you want your first start date. Before applying to jobs, though, you will want to ensure your resume, cover letter and LinkedIn are on point, and the people you plan to reach out to in (and out) of your network is solidified. Because each of these can steps can take a few weeks, and the job market will be heavily saturated with fellow graduates, you should start your job search as early as possible. If you graduate in June, begin working on your resume and other application materials by March, at the latest. If your university has a career center, make use of it—the people who work there are literally paid to help you with your job search.

  1. Leverage your education.

You just spent four, five or even six years (*raises hand*) working toward your degree(s). Unless you have considerable professional experience, your degree(s) deserve more than just a single line on your resume. Highlight relevant coursework and a few class projects on your resume. But don’t just list the names of the courses and projects, and call it a day. Tie your coursework and class projects to the positions you are applying to. Showcase how and what you learned in the classroom will benefit your future employer.

  1. Brand yourself as a professional.

While your education is a noteworthy achievement, don’t allow your brand to become professional student. You want to be branded as a professional…professional.

In other words, you want to be seen as someone who can perform well outside of the classroom. Achieve this by highlighting the experiences you have outside the classroom walls:

  • Part-time jobs (on and off-campus)
  • Internships
  • Volunteer work
  • Board positions

Again, make sure to tie these back to the job posting.

  1. Up your LinkedIn game.

Once your resume has been updated, it’s time to move on to LinkedIn, a more friendly, first-person narrative of your resume. Since your LinkedIn doesn’t have a page limit, you can expand further on your passions, strengths and personality. You can also add relevant school projects and volunteer experiences, as well as request recommendations from classmates, professors, colleagues and others you interacted with during your college years.

But the point of LinkedIn is not to stay on LinkedIn. You want to move off LinkedIn. You want to network, network, network. Then, cultivate those relationships to land a post-graduation JOB! This article shows you exactly how I used LinkedIn and networking to land FOUR jobs.

  1. Find mentors.

As you take note of all of the components of job searching—your resume, LinkedIn, networking—it can get overwhelming. But you’re not alone. There are people out there who want to help you succeed. Sometimes, those people turn into mentors. Rarely though, do mentors fall in your lap. You have to be on the lookout for them.

I’ve found most of my mentors by way of LinkedIn. You can use the platform’s handy search bar to target people who are in positions you aspire to. It’s okay—and totally expected—to reach out to total strangers on LinkedIn. A vast majority of people on LinkedIn are responsive and friendly. Once you have found a prospective mentor,  ask these three questions to identify if they’re right for you.

  1. Find a tribe.

Beyond 1:1 mentoring, I’m also a huge fan of joining tribes of people with similar interests. LinkedIn has some decent groups, but I have had the best luck with Facebook (I am a millennial after all). Groups allow you to share your story, connect with like-minded individuals all over the globe and network, network, network. One of my most favorite Facebook groups is Mentors & Mentees, hosted by Tim Salau. (If you see me in the group, make sure to say hello!)

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Last week I was invited to be a part of a mastermind group which included 10 other High Achieving Millennials. Each member of the group owned their own business, and the convening concept was to have a safe space to discuss our challenges and support each other’s growth. Going in, I only knew the organizers of the event (and not the other eight invitees). I didn’t know how open the group dynamics would be to vulnerability, but it was certainly worth exploring.

The moment one gentleman spoke up to admit that he was struggling was the moment we realized we were all connected. He said something like this… “I can’t turn my phone off. Dinner parties, watching a movie with my wife. On vacation. I cannot stop checking and responding to my emails. And I don’t have any balance as a result. I’ve created the expectation that I’m always on–and I liked that. But now, I’m realizing that it’s impacting my relationships with the people I love. Especially when I’m called out for it, and have no excuse for what I was doing.”

BOOM! It hit me like a ton of bricks. Yes! I know that gnawing + addictive feeling!

As a newbie, I sat back to see who would respond. What was so painfully apparent? Every single one of us was currently suffering from, or had suffered from, this unhealthy technology-induced state of being “on”. As a few folks offered their tips, I knew it would be harder than any single tip could muster.

So, I spoke up… “I was diagnosed with a work addiction 4 years ago.”
Typically when I make this pronouncement, people are slightly taken aback. First, they usually don’t realize it can be clinically diagnosed, so that’s being processed. And then secondly, they want to know…Do I have a work addiction, too?

I make my statement with a slight tinge of shame for my past, but mostly pride that I have made extremely positive progress in re-thinking and re-designing what “success” and the correlated “work” looked like and meant for me. There was no quick transition, but it started by realizing that I had a problem.

And I had gone on for years, not thinking I had a problem. Unlike more commonly thought of addictions, my workaholic behaviors were rewarded, made me seem like a super-achiever and earned me praise and positive attention. It wasn’t until my husband pointed it out, that I realized how unhealthy my life had become.

My routine looked something like this:
  • Head into the office at 8:30 am
  • Work non-stop all day until 6:00 pm (including responding to emails at traffic lights + multi-tasking through each item of the day)
  • Attend or host an evening networking event until 8:00 or 9:00 pm
  • Come home and say Hi to my husband, eat at my computer and finish up more work until 11:00 pm
  • Fall asleep on the couch until 2:00 am
  • Wake up with racing thoughts on all the work I needed to accomplish and go back to work until 4:00 am
  • Fall asleep again on the couch until 6:00 am
  • Work for a couple of hours before going into the office at 8:30 am
  • REPEAT

It wasn’t until one morning when I had broken this routine, and I actually made it into bed, that when my husband woke up at 5:00 am, rolled over and said to me “It’s so nice to see you.”

What did he mean? I SEE him all the time. But really, I didn’t. I was so busy with work I rarely even saw him when I was at home. It was his kind and loving words that made me realize: I have a problem. So I started to go to mindfulness-based therapy to un-learn all the bad habits that were ingrained in me from my work addiction.

Do you think you may have a work addiction? Here are 10 questions to help you evaluate your personal circumstances:

  1. Are you putting in long hours at the office, even when not needed? (Including responding to non-urgent emails on nights + weekends)
  2. Do you lose sleep to engage in work projects or finish tasks?
  3. Are you obsessed with work-related success?
  4. Have you neglected or lost personal relationships because of work?
  5. Do you have a defensive attitude toward others about their work or lack of commitment to it?
  6. Have you ever been told by others to lower your expectations or standards for success?
  7. Do you feel like you’re always busy and in a hurry to move from one thing to the next?
  8. Do you become stressed or panicked when you’re unable to get work done?
  9. Do you lower the importance of hobbies, fun activities, and fitness in exchange for more work time?
  10. Do you avoid taking vacation or sick leave because of your workload?
If you answered YES to any of these questions, you have some clear warning signs of an unhealthy relationship with work. If you answered YES to more than 5 of these, and want to change, I encourage you to seek support. I did and it has changed my outlook on work, life, success, and happiness.
I feel so strongly about this that I encourage you to email me if you want to do something to change your relationship with work (marybeth@sparksvisionnow.com).  I don’t have all the answers, but I do have some starting blocks.
One thing should be clear in life: We’re not meant to just pay our bills and die. Let’s take control of our relationship with work, and create healthier norms in our lives and with those whom we impact.

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Ecatarina Grant is a Procurement Specialist III for USAC, a large non profit organization that provides universal internet and voice connections to even the most remote areas.  Outside of work she volunteers for the MS Walk, March of Dimes, and is part of the Frederick Memorial Hospital Auxiliary.

Data shown above depict the featured individual’s age, preferred form of acknowledgment, top three values of organizational culture, principal values sought in their profession, and what they feel is the greatest misconception of the Millennial generation, as reported in SparkVision’s High Achieving Millennial survey.

What are some of the most influential factors from your upbringing that impacted your career path?  My parents have an insane work ethic. My mother is an immigrant now US Citizen from Costa Rica and she was always taught by her adoptive parents to work hard. She had a more difficult up bringing but forged ahead and made a great life for herself. She imparted on me the importance of not letting bad things that happen affect your life past the situation. My father works as a baker by trade and for 30 years he rose before the sun perfecting his craft. His work ethic and interest in order and compliance made it easy for me to see that working in contracts and compliance would be a great fit. I worked as soon as I could and always had the idea that the more time I put into my work history and the more I learned, the better I would end up earlier in my career and I think those lessons laid the groundwork for a great professional history.

What does personal growth mean to you and how can a workplace support that experience?  Personal growth means having the time to cultivate interests and have experiences outside of your professional career. Workplace can support this easily but offering flexible work schedules and providing the training and imparting the consensus organization wide that this is acceptable. There is nothing worse than being told you can work from home whenever you like and being met with emails alluding to you not being “present” or that feeling of guilt you have when your manager pushes back on your email requesting a day at home to take care of some other things around working throughout the day.

What makes you feel valued in the workplace?  When managers listen to understand not just respond. We can amplify our thoughts and have co-workers cosign as much as we want but until a manager listens to consume and then respond, there will be no value for you as an employee. Having a relationship with your manager and team mates that really fosters an open line of honest and sometimes raw dialogue is so important. Seeing your ideas and thoughts applied to problems and then becoming the solutions your team needs is just so rewarding. It shows that you as an employee are a part of a working machine and are necessary to keep it going!

Describe the most meaningful experience you’ve had in your work history.  This may sound strange but being laid off during a critical point in my career really had the most positive lasting impact. In my situation, the job I held was not providing any other outlets for growth, the environment was overrun with micro managers and it was toxic with lack of funds and rumors of layoffs. The company was amazing in that it did provide some flexibility but it was always met with negativity. When I was laid off, I became determined that this was the time to find my true happy place. It took me 1 week and 5 days to secure 17 interviews after hours preparing resumes and cover letters, going through phone screens and meeting with companies. I ended up receiving 6 job offers one of which is my current position that is the job I have been looking for ever since graduation. It all started with one early Friday morning meeting being let go with a room full of people. Life is wild!

Are there any unique or special aspects of your organization that contribute to a positive workplace culture?  USAC is amazing in that it truly puts its employees first. The first question on my phone screen with USAC was: what would your dream job look like on the first day? The way the question was asked was just so shocking to me. At this point, they knew my experience, had seen my resume and were screening for lacking information, or so I thought. They wanted to see how I liked to work, what I liked to work on and how I did my work. I got the impression from my very first interview to my third panel interview and final prior to decision that they wanted to make sure I wanted to stay with them. They learned things about me and when I arrived on my first day, my team was prepared with things for me to jump into that were expressed during the interview process. It seems so trivial typing it out but caring that much about someone you only might offer a job to just spoke volumes about an organization the size of USAC.

What are three actions companies can take to compel millennials to stay longer? First, realize that millennials want to work to learn. We want to take in as much about what we are doing as possible. Give us an opportunity to learn, make mistakes and correct them. Second, offer a compensation package that isn’t strictly salary based. Having more sick days, offering flexible work styles like telecommuting and pushing perks like tuition reimbursement are so much more enticing than a high salary with 1 week of vacation. Third, promote when promotion is due. It is really important to realize that millennials are always looking for an opportunity to do the best they can. Whether it be to impress their team, manager or to reach a personal goal, it is important to provide promotion in both pay and title and make those things known.

Want to learn more about the values, motivators, stress indicators and culture preferences of High Achieving Millennials? Download our free white papers here.
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SparkVision by Kevin Frick - 1M ago

Kevin Frick is the Vice Dean for Education at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. He has been an avid runner for the past 11 years – participating in 9 marathons (including Boston in 2013) and one 55 mile ultra marathon in South Africa.  He has spoken about mentoring to the Carey Women in Business student association and for TEDx JHU DC.  You can follow his personal blog where many of his poems appear as well as his professional blog

In my opinion, National ‘Tell a Story Day’ should be celebrated daily.

Some elements of storytelling are pretty straight-forward. Action, dialogue, descriptions, monologues, and narrative are the building blocks of any good story. The format in which you tell the story–on stage, looking at notes, written by hand, typed on the screen–still, is pretty straightforward.

We all need to be able to tell stories to connect. To connect with others on a personal level, to share the stories of our business to our audiences, to be able to communicate our point of view.

Here are three key areas you can use to help tell a better story:

Creativity

Creativity doesn’t have to be about art, it can be about delivery. It can be as simple as connecting imagery to the words of your story; giving the audience something visual to experience. Reading the words on paper is one thing, but hearing those words as lyrics set to music transports you entirely. What are the ways you can tell your story more creatively?

Vulnerability

As humans, how often are we willing to share our authentic struggles? These struggles often serve as the inspiration for why we do what we do. They define us. So why do we try to hide them, instead of using them to connect with others? Think about 1 to 3 struggles that have led you to be who you are today. Have you developed the characters, descriptions, and narratives to help you tell the story of these struggles most effectively to an audience?

Inspiration

Inspiration is the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something. If a story causes confusion vs. clarity, or if it rambles vs. has structure, your message can get lost to your audience. Think about a time where someone has shared with you that you inspired them. What were the elements of how you presented your story that created the inspiration in the first place? (Examples: what did you share with them, what wisdom did you provide that caused them to act) How can you apply these findings to your stories to connect more deeply and more often?

Now that you are looking at your stories in a new way, what stories are you most excited to share?

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SparkVision by Marybeth Hyland - 1M ago

One of the best ways to create a culture of trust and respect is by acknowledging, addressing and improving based on direct feedback from your colleagues and stakeholders. Without feedback from those who have our best interest in mind, we will never grow. When we think of feedback as the stepping stone to growth it can shift it from a scary experience to one of excitement and opportunity.

By formal definition, feedback is information about reactions to a product, experience or a person’s performance of a task, used as a basis for improvement. I’d challenge that definition because it implies that the only kind of feedback is constructive criticism. Feeback can and should also be that of affirmation and validation on what is going right.

Feedback is one of the most untapped resources in town. With it, organizations and individuals can remove the guesswork on what is going well and what can be improved. But that can only happen when a culture of trust, transparency, and accountability are in place.

These tips will spark some tangible ways to improve your process around feedback and mutual growth.

Here are 6 Tips on how to create a culture of feedback:

  1. Make sure it goes 2-ways. If you’re dishing it out, make sure you’re receiving it at equal levels. Oftentimes we think it’s a manager’s role to provide criticism for their team members. It’s short-sighted to think that those very teammates don’t have feedback from their supervisor. Want to make sure that happens? At the end of a one-on-one meeting ask, “What could I be doing differently to help you with your success?” 
  2. Provide the good + the constructive. If you’re only telling someone how they can improve, imagine what a toll that can take on their sense of belonging, value, and confidence. Now I’m not saying to do the “praise sandwich” (that’s such bs) or give compliments that aren’t earned, but I am saying that it’s just as important to recognize when things are going right as it is when they’re not.
  3. If you can say it to a dog, it’s not feedback. This is one of my most favorite sayings. Think about it…”Good job”or “Well done” gives no context for what was done well! The more specific you can get, the better. Consider this, “Kesha – you did amazing work on that presentation. I was particularly impressed by the graphics you chose and the speed in which you walked the audience through your key points.” 
  4. Give it when you have first-hand knowledge. I can’t tell you how many of my clients are in full rage mode telling me that they’re being evaluated for work that their manager has never experienced first-hand. In particular, I know an event planner who’s supervisor never came to their events but yet had lots of feedback on what they could be doing better. How is that possible for them to know if they’re never showing up?
  5. Consistently ask for feedback in group AND one-on-one settings. When reviewing the highs and lows of an experience together, make sure “feedback” is part of the agenda. For people who aren’t especially vocal, meet with them individually to check in about their experience and what could be done differently from their perspective. Be clear and direct “What is one thing we could have done better?” vs. “Any feedback?”
  6. Provide examples of feedback from others. Should you hear crickets when asking for feedback, it often helps to give an example of what you felt could have been done more effectively. For example, an organizational staffer could say: “One of our volunteers mentioned that he didn’t feel the updates were a good use of our tutoring time together. I had never thought of it that way because it’s always been our routine. How do you all feel? Would you prefer to get the in-person updates via email moving forward? Or could we use that time together differently? I’d love to hear your thoughts.”

Should you engage in any or all of these tips, remember that your tone of voice and body language play an enormous role in how safe people feel in speaking up. It’s critical to creating a feedback culture that is embraced vs. feared.

So what can you do TODAY to own your role in creating a feedback culture?

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Kelly Marciniw, CPHR, geMBA writes on entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship from both the employees’ and employers’ perspective. As the Founder and CEO of BrightGo Solutions in Vancouver, Canada,  she guides immigrant entrepreneurs, global companies, and international HR leaders, who are overwhelmed when establishing their business and human resources in their new market, to navigate the culture, compliance, and context of doing business in Canada. Kelly is a thriving millennial who is on the board of the Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology and has traveled to 40+ countries with many more on her to-do list. Connect with Kelly on LinkedIn.

You’ve likely heard the term entrepreneur before, but have you heard of an intrapreneur? Did you know you just might be one?

An intrapreneur is an internal entrepreneur. In the United States, there are about 25M entrepreneurs starting and running businesses, leaving 90 percent of the workforce working within a company.

So if you’re one of those driven employees, or if you’re a leader looking to spark innovation and drive in your employees, how can you become more entrepreneurial within a larger organization? As a former intrapreneur turned entrepreneur, here are my top tips.

  1. Build a culture that embraces and explores failure.

You may have heard the saying “Disrupt, or be disrupted.” And that is key. As reducing risk is a major part of what companies do, embracing failure can seem very scary to a leader within an organization. In the short run, it is easier to become more efficient, make it faster, cheaper or higher quality–you may not believe you have room for failure and mistakes. But the reality is, most long-running companies have actually changed what they do along the way. And it’s likely due to a failure of some kind. For example, 3M started out making abrasives, but now make flat sticky things like scotch tape and post-it notes.

Start by sharing a failure you made and why it was considered to be one. When sharing your failure story, give context to the failure and frame it as a learning experience. Then encourage others to do so, perhaps start by sharing a failure from when they were young, in school or early in career. This may take a few tries as people are naturally averse to share failures but with time it will become normal.

With failure, comes experimentation. Think about the scientific method–the very thing scientists use when they conduct experiments. A true experiment is when you don’t know the result that may occur, which by definition means it could fail and not give the result you hope for.

Think of a problem your customers have and develop several questions that may lead you to a solution. Then for each question, write it in a way that can be answered in yes or no (this is your hypothesis) then develop a small (low cost, quick) experiment. Examples: a small-batch formula tweak, A/B testing an ad, or building a mockup to show customers.

  1. Create structure and use tools.

It may seem counterintuitive to use structure and tools to be more creative and entrepreneurial, but it actually helps get things started. You can always dial back the structure once the intrapreneurial spirit starts to kick in. Two structured events I’ve found which foster intrapreneurship are hackathons and pitch sessions (think Shark Tank).

With a hackathon, the key is a multidisciplinary team, a time crunch and prizes. Other best practices include:

  • Plan for some mini training in advance on techniques such as the scientific method, customer personas / job-to-be done and prototyping.
  • Invite suppliers and customers to join the multi-disciplinary teams.
  • Select 1-3 customer problems to serve as “challenges” the teams can work on. Teams should be encouraged to develop whatever they want–the results may surprise you!
  • Plan for two full days (e.g. Wednesday afternoon start to Friday afternoon pitches/prizes) including bringing in food. Sleep is important so no need to encourage all-nighters.
  • When teams present, encourage the whole office to join the audience. They can cheer, be inspired and may come away with new ideas for their own work.
  • Have prizes. Including 1st, 2nd, 3rd place awards plus others (like most helpful participant, biggest ROI multiplier) to embrace the spirit of the event.

Running a pitch session at your company is another way to bring forth different ideas to problems you have. Like hackathons, you could have specific challenges or keep it open. Employees submit a one-pager about their idea and then some are selected to present a 5-minute pitch to a panel of judges. Ideas selected are given time from their normal day-to-day job to work on the idea plus some budget to put towards developing it. As the idea progresses and meets set milestones, they can apply for additional “rounds of funding” internally for time and resources.

Having fun as an entrepreneur, building new things, solving challenges creatively and seeing results isn’t limited to those starting their own companies. As an intrapreneur with a little bit of structure, tools and the right culture, you can achieve those same results and with a less risk and a deeper-pocketed safety net.

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