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SparkVision by Marybeth Hyland - 1w 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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SparkVision by Lindsey Dowd - 1w ago
Gideon Taub is the Founder & CEO of Pinkaloo Technologies, the  company that is modernizing how people manage their charitable giving.  Through Pinkaloo, Gideon and his team are creating easier ways to budget for philanthropy, collaborate with peers, and most importantly to find local charities that match interests and passions.

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 three actions companies can take to compel millennials to stay longer?  As the founder of a company that helps our customers develop engaging workplace giving programs, either as the start of a company’s corporate social responsibility program or as a small part of their larger CSR strategy, we spend a lot of time thinking about how companies can more deeply engage with their employees and increase how long those employees stay employed. I am a big fan of the ‘tours of duty’ theory that I was introduced to by Chris Yeh in his book The Alliance. The concept is that as an employee comes on board, both the company and the employee should think of the employment as a series of 2-3 year tours of duty, where the employee will help the company meet its corporate objectives (profits, specific customer targets, etc.) and in exchange the company will help the employee achieve their personal goals, which should be financial, but also professional and personal growth. The professional and personal growth can include training and education opportunities but also may include opportunities totally unrelated to work, such as mentorship or community-related opportunities. Throughout that ‘tour,’ there should be ample opportunities for bi-directional feedback, and equally important, as the end of the ‘tour’ nears, a frank discussion around what the next tour looks like for both to be happy. The size of your company and how dynamic your industry is will determine what the right length of time for each tour is and how specific or flexible it needs to be, but I believe that the framework is valuable in establishing aligned expectations and incentives for both employer and employee. During my nine years at Videology, while we didn’t have a formal program like this, I was very fortunate to have managers that allowed me to grow and to tackle new roles over that time. I can clearly break out my time at that company into 4 distinct periods. And while nine years seems like an eternity for a millennial employee at one company, to me it felt like 4 roles where I had the opportunity to contribute to their growth and success while I was able to pursue my personal goals of learning new skills, working in international offices, and gaining exposure to different facets of a high growth tech company.

How can companies build a culture that appeals to Millennials? I think it all comes back to purpose. While many of the latest trends in perks (ping pong tables, free meals, kegs, etc.) are amazing in helping to attract great talent, I believe that companies build great culture through purpose. It starts with each employee very clearly knowing what the company’s purpose is, beyond creating profits. How does the company, either directly through their work or indirectly through their programs and resources, improve society. Second, each employee knowing what their individual purpose is in helping the company achieve its financial and non-financial goals; how each employee helps the company fulfill its purpose, and how the work they do on a day-to-day basis aligns with the company’s purpose.  Lastly, each employee feels empowered to do their best work by allowing them the agency to align their work with their personal goals and know how they are helping the company achieve its purpose. When employees have that clarity and see the executive team embody that purpose and not just give lip service to it, that drives an authentic culture.  For companies whose core product or service may not truly benefit society as a whole, I think that they need to put programs in place around their work to reinforce what their purpose truly is, or they risk not being able to build a culture and retain top talent, even if they’re paying way above market salaries. I’ve seen so many of my friends take salary cuts to work at companies with a great culture and great mission.

Describe the most meaningful experiences you’ve had at your current or previous jobs.  I am super fortunate in that Pinkaloo’s work is to power amazing charitable giving experiences and to create communities and connectedness around philanthropy. And that second piece, creating community, is where I’ve been fortunate to be a part of many truly meaningful experiences. We hear phenomenal stories about how two community members realize that they both have a passion for environmental conservation or childhood literacy, and then work together to make an even bigger impact. Or we’ll receive anecdotes about an employee discovering that one of their peers has a family member suffering from Lupus or a rare form of cancer, and building a bond with them around that. For me, those are the meaningful moments, where two community members create a new bond around a topic they’re passionate about.  For companies, I think that’s one of the key drivers of engagement. Are your employees passionate about your purpose and are you creating opportunities for them to further engage with their peers around that passion? Those meaningful experiences will drive engagement and drive employees to be advocates for your brand.

What does an inspirational leader look like to you?  An inspirational leader amplifies those around them. There is a ton that goes into making that happen, but that’s what it comes back to for me. Does everyone know the overall mission? Do they know what their purpose is in helping to achieve that? Do they have the tools they need to be successful. Do they have the agency? Do they have the space to make some mistakes, learn from them, and grow? Are they receiving regular feedback on overall progress and their personal performance? To truly amplify everyone around them, the answer to all of those needs to be yes!

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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Dr. Tammira Lucas is the CEO of The Cube Cowork and co-founder of Moms As Entrepreneurs.  Through these businesses she is able to fulfill her desire to educate and empower other mom entrepreneurs to live their best life.  Learn more about how her upbringing, experiences, and how she is providing mom entrepreneurs with resources and a space to grow in business and in life.

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 am the co-founder of Moms As Entrepreneurs in which we provide an 8 week and 16 week entrepreneur academy in low income communities. Moms As Entrepreneurs has graduated over 40 moms in the last 2 years and we are on track to graduate 40 moms a year.

What are some of the most influential factors from your upbringing that impacted your career path? I grew up in West Baltimore, a place where the odds of being anyone were against you because you were from that community. Every day I watched individuals around me live the status quo. I watched many people with amazing talent allow their talent to just sit on the shelf and do nothing. I knew that I wanted more out of life and I knew it was possible. My mother always encouraged me to do whatever I put my mind to, even if she was unable to provide me with the resources to do so. The moments when I walked the streets from work and school and watching everyone around me was what encouraged me to go out and create opportunity for myself and others.

What does personal growth mean to you and how can a workplace support that experience?  To me, personal growth means that you are growing in ways that contribute to you achieving your long term goals. I think a workplace can support their employees’ experience of personal growth by helping them achieve their long term goals. I am a firm believer that an organization that invests in their employees personal growth are more successful and can retain their employees.

What makes you feel valued in the workplace?  Now that I am an entrepreneur my experience of being valued is different.  However, when I was an employee I felt valued in the workplace when my employer treated me fairly and provided opportunities for long term personal and professional growth.  I also felt valued when my employer treated me with respect and trusted me to do my job well.   

How can companies build a culture that appeals to Millennials? Companies can build a culture that appeals to Millennials by embracing their innovative ideas. Millennials have a lot to offer and they want to feel valued. They also need to understand how millennials think about their careers. They want to invest their talent and time and get long term returns. They also need to build an environment that embraces Millennials. Millennials are not office workers they want a place that is enjoyable and can help bring our their innovative ideas.

What is one change you would like to see in today’s workplace?  One change I would like to see in today’s workplace is more leaders that are women and African American. In a lot of industries, especially tech, African American women are underrepresented and I would like to see that change. Of course I want equal pay for women as well. There is no reason men should ever make more than women who have the same credentials, experience, and qualifications!

What does an “inspirational leader” look like to you? An inspirational leader to me is a person that uplifts others. They are individuals that see the value in other people and invest their resources and time to motivate them. They are individuals that are putting in hard work so that others behind them have opportunities and a platform.

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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Sue Elias is EVP of Parks & People Foundation in Baltimore, MD and has 25 years working in the nonprofit sector as a leader, executive, and volunteer. Reflecting on the experiences and events throughout her career, she witnessed great leadership despite limited resources or adverse circumstances – and thus, her blog content was born. Sue, a Buffalo native who knows that chicken wings should only be served with blue cheese dressing (never ranch), lives in Baltimore with her husband and 3 children. She believes that being a mother of teenagers is her greatest leadership challenge to date.

“Mom, can’t you just let me feel bad?” My teenage daughter said this to me recently, exasperated.

She had been discussing a particularly bad day and I, not wanting to see her in pain, was pushing her to quickly move beyond the challenging feelings and focus on the opportunity for growth. There was only one problem: she was still trying to sift through her emotions.

Her words really affected me. I thought about those intense emotions during the adolescent years (betrayal by a friend, getting cut from a team, failing a test, or having a broken heart.) These feelings are raw and acute. Yet, urging my daughter to move past feelings right into solutions was actually doing her a disservice.

Jennifer Goldman-Wetzler, executive coach and founding principal of Alignment Strategies Group, gives a compelling talk to Google on “Mastering Conflict.” She stresses the importance of transforming challenging emotions to master conflict.  Challengin emotions are a part of every difficult conflict at work and in life. Goldman-Wetzler suggests only when you allow emotions to sit and settle, can you transform them into something more constructive.

One of my biggest failures in the workplace happened early in my career. I had relocated to a new city, started a new job and gotten married all within a couple of months. Just a few weeks after my wedding, I delivered my first large group training. Needless to say, I had not taken the time to prepare. I struggled through every moment of that training. I received harsh reviews. I felt humiliated during the training, and after, when going over the evaluations with my new boss. I felt defensive and scared that I might lose my job. I wanted to fast forward past these difficult feelings, forget the whole experience and just move on.

In the decades since my bombed training, I’ve frequently been tempted to shortcut preparation needed for big presentations, especially as I’ve mastered the material. Instead, I have transformed the difficult emotions of failure and embarrassment into motivation to always do the work of preparation. I really needed to experience those challenging feelings in order to learn a lesson that would be incredibly helpful in my career.

Disappointments at work can feel as bad as those teenage emotions of heartbreak and betrayal. We might not have gotten a project we really wanted, a proposal we’ve submitted isn’t accepted, a team we’re leading is rife with conflict. At work we are often taught that suppressing emotions is a sign of maturity.

In my role as a coach for both my children and a younger generation of leaders at work, I need to encourage others to identify and sit with their feelings. Only then, can they transform them into valuable life lessons.

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Dylesia Barner is an author, licensed psychotherapist, and speaker.  Along with writing devotionals and self-help materials, she owns a private therapy practice in Nashville, TN and speaks on a variety of industry-specific topics.  Read more about how Dylesia has created a company that aligns with her values and allows her to create opportunities for others to live their values as well.  

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.  Dylesia is a member of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Nashville, TN, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and the Order of the Eastern Star (Prince Hall affiliation). She is also a member of the National Council of Negro Women and the International Cultic Studies Association

What are three actions companies can take to compel millennials to stay longer? To compel millennials to stay longer, companies can (1) promote open, honest, and direct communication over passive aggression, (2) eliminate hierarchical leadership practices that discourage upward communication, (3) encourage leaders to embrace what millennials have to offer versus having the objective to “whip” millennials into traditional shape. Millennialism is NOT a disorder.

How can companies build a culture that appeals to millennials?  To build a culture that appeals to millennials, companies should hire leaders who value our voice and not just our expertise in a given area. Millennials may not have as many years of work experience as seasoned professionals, but we are often more educated and more abreast to trends that impact our specific industries. Considering such, it’s offensive when we’re disciplined for making suggestions and portrayed as troublemakers for pointing out practices that don’t work or advocating to adjust uncompromising expectations. Companies that hire millennials should be prepared for us to be vocal and revolutionary, not for us to silently do what we’re told. Assertive communication is not disrespect.

What does an “inspirational leader” look like to you? To me, an inspirational leader is someone who considers “boss” as more than just a title, but as a mindset. Not an “I’m higher than you on the hierarchy mindset,” but an “I’ve been chosen to help you grow” mindset. People want supervision that focuses more on developing them than monitoring, so to me, an inspirational leader considers him/herself as “the one in charge OF CHANGE,” not “the one in charge.” 

 What does your ideal work/life balance look like and what are the barriers to achieving it?  My ideal work life balance would include a flexible schedule that eliminates daily reporting. I’d prefer that my progress be measured by considering the time it takes for me to complete work tasks instead of being in a specific place for a set number of hours each week. Optimal balance would also mean that completing tasks faster (and thus leaving the workplace earlier) doesn’t impact my earnings. These are difficult to achieve goals because of how traditional most companies are. That means the average millennial clocks in, finishes their work early, is bored for several hours, and clocks out. Getting stuck in such a cycle causes a person to either become complacent or to leave. Another aspect of my ideal work life balance is self-care: not being expected to be available before or after work and taking all the lunch and wellness breaks the employee policy guarantees me. This can become challenging when companies praise and promote employees who have poor boundaries and disfavor employees who exhibit healthy ones.

What are some of the most influential factors from your upbringing that impacted your career path?  Some of the most influential factors from my upbringing that impacted my career path are my mom’s parenting style, being born and raised in an urban, low-income area, and my determination to break generational curses. Regarding my mom’s parenting style, she shared her opinion, but didn’t force us to honor it. She modeled to us that it was okay to question authority figures, because at the end of the day, they were no more than just people like us. This inspired me to seek a career that valued being vocal and being an advocate for people who didn’t feel comfortable using their voices. As a licensed psychotherapist, I counsel the way my mom parented, offering my clients guidance and support and helping them gain the confidence to break unproductive patterns and stand up to unjust people. Being born and raised in the projects of one of the worse cities in Virginia (Portsmouth) inspired me to become a first-generation college student, a social work master’s and doctoral student, and an entrepreneur. Not only did I want to create more options for myself, I wanted to enter a field that allowed me to help others do the same. Being able to build a life that is barely recognizable when juxtaposed to my past has proven to me that there’s always a way out. That not only makes me intolerable of abusive, unproductive environments but gives me the experience needed to help my clients escape seemingly impossible to elude situations of their own. Lastly, my determination to break generational curses has impacted my refusal to stop seeking new opportunities to learn, develop, and succeed as a career woman. I chuckle when I’m told “no,” because certainly whoever said it doesn’t realize that my life started as one big “no” that devotion to God and change helped me prove wrong. This perseverance was instilled in me at an early age, as my immediate and extended family struggled with issues such as poverty, addiction, and undiagnosed mental illness and I vowed to do something different so that I wouldn’t have to experience the same. Now, I serve as both a guide and an inspiration as I assist others with breaking their own generational curses.

Describe the most meaningful experience(s) you’ve had at your current or previous job(s)? Though I’ve had positive work experiences, including gaining a lifelong mentor, most of the meaningful experiences I’ve had at my current or previous jobs have been negative. They’ve included being supervised to go against ethics, working jobs that paid well, but didn’t allow me to exercise my full potential, and being lied to and ostracized by superiors who valued employee obedience over client impact. Each of those experiences pushed me to create a company that aligns with my values, maximizes my income, affords me opportunities for growth, and most importantly – will allow me to hire employees who I can understand and develop. Through Existence, Consciousness, Bliss Counseling, Psychotherapy, & Wellness Center, I hope to create positive meaningful experiences for clients and team members alike. I want to be certain that employees leave my agency simply to create new opportunities for themselves, not to create new opportunities for themselves because I didn’t value, support, or challenge them.

Want to learn more about the values, motivators, stress indicators and culture preferences preferences of High Achieving Millennials? Download our free white papers here.
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Have you ever traveled some rocky roads in your personal or professional life, but had an upcoming vacation as the light at the end of your tunnel? Situations out of your control were wreaking havoc and creating negative emotions, but you knew the upcoming travel would be the respite you craved? That pretty much describes where I was last week.

After some personal hurdles that took place recently, I was beyond excited for (and desperately needing) time with my husband and two dear friends. Our light at the end of the tunnel? A 10-day adventure in Nicaragua. We were feeling pretty spoiled, honestly, as our travel companions booked and planned everything. We were in heaven to be able to go on such a unique trip with almost no leg work on our part.

I had been doing the usual things leading up to a longer vacation–making sure all my clients were taken care of, wrapping up loose ends on projects, ensuring my team had what they needed to be successful in my absence. I did all the right things to be properly set up for a carefree and rejuvenating experience.

An Uber ride and two flights later, we eagerly met our first Airbnb host, Julio, at the Nicaraguan airport. Upon arrival, it was immediately clear that everything was not okay.

He explained to us that protests had started the night before and he was unsure what was going to happen in his country. Nicaragua’s people were rising up to the government policies that were crushing their livelihood. He ensured us that, based on our travel plans, we should be fine and were very safe in the place he was taking us to for the next two nights.

To make a long story short, we were not safe. After hearing and seeing things we’ll never forget, and taking into account the U.S. Embassy’s encouragement, we retreated back home.

The photo shown here of my husband is the look of trying to figure out what to do next after finally arriving at the airport. His empty drink and visual signs of emotional depletion perfectly captured what we were all feeling: complete despair. 

We were glad to be going home safe, but we ached for the people of Nicaragua. There was no more light for us. That tunnel we’d seen it through before had collapsed. We were surrounded in darkness not knowing whether to pull away the rubble, or, simply sit there.

Gratefully, we did both.

Simply put: things did not go according to plan. To help those who may find themselves in uncharted territory, I put together 7 steps you can take to reset after an unexpected blow. Note: This process applies to any circumstance, from a state of emergency to a lost client.  

STEP 1: Keep calm and carry on. I must admit that I was pretty proud of how I handled the chaos. Staying calm and making coherent decisions ultimately made our process feel much more rational and unified us as a group. If one person starts to freak out, it can create a ripple effect that can take over all logic. Staying composed and allowing others to express their feelings in a productive way was the only possible option for us to move through the experience in one piece. 

STEP 2:  Make room for grief. We were all feeling so sad–for the country, for the six months spent planning and building up to this experience. But I set a hard boundary on this: we could not give into our grief until we were safe. Once we were at the airport, we literally made space to give into our sadness. 

STEP 3: Reflect on what you experience. In the days following, we spent time intentionally talking through everything we experienced and asking each other things like, “What was going through your head at that time?” and really listening to one another. 

STEP 4: Give gratitude. In all the sadness that occurred, we ultimately got to go home safely and return to our relatively peaceful lives. We have so much to be grateful for. Spending time vocalizing those things was the beginning of reframing the experience as it fits into the bigger picture of our lives. 

STEP 5: Soak in self-care. Each day, we planned for at least one thing that was on our top list of self-care. Little things like going out to lunch together was a real treat and made us feel like we were taking care of ourselves. Both of us could have gone back to work, but that would have been unkind and unproductive for our human experience.  

STEP 6: Reflect on how you grew. Being validated and learning from the other person’s lens brought us closer together. Acknowledging, verbally and/or in writing, what we learned and how we’ve grown was a big step in moving forward. It also furthered our gratitude for the information the experience gives us–how we reacted and how we can do even better in the future. 

STEP 7: Make plans for the future. What better way to get our light back then to have something else to look forward to? Solidifying future plans brought the spark back that we needed. 

Life almost never goes according to plan. The more we can lean into what we can control, and release our anxiety and ownership over what we cannot, the more resilient and grounded we become. And trust me, if you possess those two traits life will be filled with gratitude and intention.
How do you reset when things don’t go according to plan?
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David Wayne Thomas Jr. is a sales and marketing professional for Breakthru Beverage Group.  Dave loves international travel, Crossfit and is active in multiple sports leagues and fitness groups in the DC area.  He is also a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and the Suited Lifestyle Group.

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 African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” is the first thing that comes to mind. My family did an amazing job exposing me to numerous activities and educational programs at a very young age. Looking back at my childhood, I cannot recall a time when I was inactive. I have been a member of numerous sports teams, fitness groups, technology camps, student governments, bands, a hip-hop dance team, pre-law society, business fellowships, and scholarship institutes. These opportunities provided me with important career soft skills like communication, leadership, and teamwork. As a result, it is easy for me to exit my comfort zone and collaborate with people from other races and unique backgrounds. My network is now filled with other young leaders from many diverse backgrounds. Today I still keep in contact with many of the friends that I made via those programs. I also visit some of those who have migrated around the world.

Describe the most meaningful experiences you’ve had throughout your career path.   I remember one of my lowest moments at my current company. Just months after starting my job, my manager questioned my performance and recommended that I seek new employment options. Prior to that, I was also told that I would not be successful since I was simultaneously enrolled in grad school at Georgetown. I remember thinking, “OUCH! I thought managers were there to help coach you to greatness and help me achieve your goals.” I did not know it would be looked down upon to actively pursue more education to enhance my skill set. These two experiences truly exposed me to realities of Corporate America early in my career.  Rather than let that bring me down and cause me to question my abilities, I used that adversity and my competitive spirit as fuel to prove them wrong. Thus, months later I earned the Salesperson of the Year for the state and then Salesperson of the Year nationwide after my first year on the job. Moral of the story: We can do anything we set our minds to!  

What makes you feel valued in the workplace? What makes me feel most valued in the workplace is all about opportunities for collaboration and less about my personal recognition. Though I like being recognized for my personal contributions to a project, I love the moments when I am sitting in a conference reviewing my team’s activities and I get to see how my work behind the scenes has helped someone else achieve greatness. Being the captain of my own ship is easy. However, working with others to help the team win is an even greater display of value.

What does an inspirational leader look like to you? An inspirational leader is one who ultimately challenges me to invoke an action. Whether it be physical, mental, and/or spiritual the result should be positive. This type of leader inspires me with a sense of direction or common vision. The call to action may be as simple as creating a new habit. Their words and actions also inspire me to exit my own comfort zones to expose me to different concepts and mindsets. One interesting note is that this person is not always someone who is significantly older than me. I have peers who I view as inspirational leaders in their own fields. They inspire me to continually align my focuses and goals towards bettering myself and those I choose to collaborate with.

What are three actions companies can take to compel millennials to stay longer?  This is an interesting question because I believe that a company’s issues are not limited to just millennials if its employees are not staying long. I do realize that some millennials get a bad reputation for being impatient and overly ambitious. Let’s face it, we grew up in a digital society that feeds into instant gratification. However, I feel that we are no different from any other employees early in their careers. As for the companies’ actions, here are my thoughts: #1. Communication is key! – The team’s vision, goals, and objectives must be clearly communicated. Any doubt caused by a lack of understanding and clarity in its direction will result in a loss of human capital. We see this all the time in professional sports. #2. Clear Growth Opportunities – There is a lot of noise out there in our society about what we should and should not do in our careers. When employees feel lost and undervalued at their jobs, they seek alternative career options. Modern technology and social media make it very easy for us to research alternative career paths. If you want to keep your employees, provide them with internal growth opportunities. #3. Modernize Your Footprint – Based on the nature of the business, I recommend providing flexible work arrangements to allow employees to spend more time outside of the traditional office space. I briefly mentioned a note regarding modern technology. Some of the biggest trends in technology are wireless and hands-free functions. Allow your opportunities for your employees to be “wireless” and work remotely after setting clear goals and benchmarks for project-based assignments. Just because someone is sitting at the desk under supervision, does not mean they are always being productive.

What does your ideal work/life balance look like and what are the barriers to achieving it?  In the United States, we SUCK at work/life balance. In our increasingly digital world where smartphones keep us connected with work 24/7, the concept of work/life balance is hard. I am reminded of this every time I leave the country and connect with other travelers while abroad, especially Europeans. The average American has about 13 paid vacation days and 10 federal holidays annually. I have met numerous Europeans who have a minimum of 30 days paid vacation in addition to 20+ federal holidays (Spotlight: France with 25 federal holidays). The barrier is that U.S. workers spend a greater portion of our time working and commuting to work with little time left for social activities. Since we work so often, we find ourselves subject to checking emails and taking work home on weekends rather than spending time with our families. Multiply that 35+ years and you may start to understand why we are such an overly aggressive and violent country. Perhaps we should restructure the true meaning of “productivity” on the job and the revisit the concept of life outside of work.

Want to learn more about the values, motivators, stress indicators and culture preferences preferences of High Achieving Millennials? Download our free white papers here.
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Stephanie Ranno is a wife, mother of three, and believes that a woman can have it all: success in career and family life, as well as success in creative and community projects. Recently recognized as a 2017 Maryland Leading Woman by The Daily Record for professional accomplishment, community involvement and a commitment to inspiring change, Stephanie tries to pursue an integrated life at home and work. As the Director of Enterprise Business Development for TorchLight Hire in Washington, D.C., she helps marketing leaders build talented teams and grow meaningful, progressive careers. Having reviewed thousands of resumes and job descriptions, and advised hiring managers and candidates alike through hundreds of searches and placements, she is uniquely qualified to speak and write on what really works in recruitment and talent acquisition strategy.

I have been in the recruiting industry for more than 12 years and have witnessed hiring managers lament of the “unprepared” candidate. The candidate who has little idea about the company, product, or position for which they are interviewing. Preparation, which entails giving true time and focus to the search and interview process, is the single most important action you can take as a candidate to land your best job yet.

But what about the other key player in this equation? All too often, we give a pass to the “unprepared” hiring manager. In a talent market more competitive than it has been in 20 years, the onus is really on the company and its hiring managers to give more to get the best candidates.  

Earlier this week, a senior-level marketer shared a story about a recent interview with the head of a large healthcare organization. My heart sunk and my head shook as I listened to the retelling of his interview.

The marketer was given very little preparation with his executive search firm recruiter–only a 5 minute call to confirm logistics. On the day of the interview, the organizational head appeared 10 minutes late to a 50-minute meeting and did not apologize. He then proceeded to ask questions that equated to: “What are the top 3 things you do in your role now? What would your current boss say are your strengths and weaknesses?” It was evident there was little time given to the review of this candidate’s resume or profile.

Sound familiar?

Lack of preparation equals bad impression on both counts. Here are the three most important ways to give in the search process, applicable to both the candidate and hiring manager:

  1. Give Time
  • To your resume or job description–Use the opportunity to compose a compelling, value-driven, branded story filled with the “what, how and why” of the work you’ve done or the work you have to offer.
  • To the search itself–Give time to reflecting on what type of position your gifts are best suited for, or what type of candidate will round out the needs of your team. There may be a need to stretch on both sides to grow–for the candidate to unlock greater potential and for the company to foster diversity and innovation.
  • To preparation–Research, practice, read, think. Use all the digital tools available but at the minimum: LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Google, and the company’s digital presence from their enterprise website to social platforms. One prospective candidate reached out to me via LinkedIn (as well as a follow-up call) to conduct a reference on my former employer.
  • To your strengths and failings–As an individual and as a culture or team, you need to first know, and then align with, work that plays to your natural gifts.
  1. Give Authentically
  • Whether in the writing of your resume or LinkedIn profile, or in the first phone or face-to-face meeting, find moments to express who you truly are and what you bring to the human being on the other side of the conference room table.
  1. Give Thanks
  • For an introduction–It doesn’t have to be effusive, just a simple acknowledgement of the time and implicit endorsement someone is providing through that introduction.
  • For advice or direction–I spent 45 minutes on a call with a marketing leader in my network, and received an endorsement via LinkedIn within hours. This left a positive and lasting impression on me.
  • For an interview–From the interviewee, a thank you email within 24 hours after an interview is a non-negotiable and a returned note of thanks from the interviewer(s) for the hour (or 2 or 3 or 4) given is ideal. In addition to an email, send a written or video note of thanks.

I am not alone in my zeal for giving to achieve success in building my career or company. Adam Grant, Professor of Management and Psychology and best-selling author, has written a whole book, Give and Take, on the premise of giving to succeed.

I challenge you to try giving more–of your time, yourself, and your thanks–to get that next best job or best candidate on your team.

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Kathryn Green is a Financial Adviser with AspireWealth Planners where she works with individuals to find long-term financial strategies that fit their needs and goals.  Read on to learn about how her resilience, faith, and an opportunity led her to the fulfilling career she has today.

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 have the privilege of helping on the social committee at my church as well as Vacation Bible School every year. I am also active with The Red Devils, a non-profit that is focused on helping families affected by breast cancer.

What are some of the most influential factors from your upbringing that impacted your career path?  Where do I begin? I was raised in a Christian home.  As my siblings and I were walking out the door in the morning my mom would say, “Remember who you represent.”  We would respond by saying, “God and my family.” It was a reminder as I started my day that what I did was never just about me.  In 2008 my family had a very tough year.  It was probably the most influential year in my life and it taught me a lot of hard lessons. I was not able to go to college my first year, so I worked 90 hours between two jobs to pay for online courses. One day, a gentleman came through the line at the Subway where I was working.  He said he was surprised that I was working there and not working at a bank. He came back after fifteen minutes with a stack of applications and his card. He told me to put him on my application as a reference and give him a call when I got the job.  Three weeks later I started working as a teller for Susquehanna Bank. I am blessed to have met that man, and I cannot be more thankful for the fact that he was open to helping me. As a teller I experienced something completely different. I was able to talk and connect with people on another level. It was a great introductory into the financial world and I genuinely enjoyed what I did. The Wealth Advisor at Susquehanna encouraged me to look at a career path that involved Financial Planning.  She told me to sit in on a meeting with her to learn what she did.  When I left that meeting I was completely overwhelmed with the fact that I could help an incredible amount of people in this career. In 2014 I moved to Lynchburg, VA to pursue my Financial Planning degree at Liberty University. While attending, I worked as a debt collector with the University. This experience humbled me, and it fostered a protective instinct in me. I was determined to never let a client of mine experience what so many people had gone through.

Describe the most meaningful experiences you’ve had throughout your career path.  I have had many meaningful experiences. During my employment at Liberty I was attempting to collect an outstanding debt from a woman who was incredibly sweet.  She explained that she had been taking courses and doing well, but had to stop suddenly.  Instead of demanding the money right away I simply asked her why she stopped taking the courses.  Her response was heartbreaking.  I found out that she had two young children and she was pregnant with her third when her husband left her.  She was trying to get food on the table for her children with her minimum wage job.  I was able to cut out some of her debt and put her back on to a payment plan so that she could pay the rest of the debt and get it off her back. She ended up getting the Financial Aid she needed and got back into classes to work towards completing her degree.  Being able to positively affect someone’s life simply by listening to their circumstances was one of the most rewarding experiences in my career.  

How can companies build a culture that appeals to millennials?  Simon Sinek wrote a book called “Start With Why”, and I think that is where all companies need to start to appeal to millennials. We have an ever increasing need to understand the reasons we are being asked to complete tasks.  If our work does not have meaning or does not make an impact then companies will quickly lose the interest of millennials around them. We crave relationships and companies that foster them. Also, get to know us – not our numbers, not what we are bringing in every month, but us. We all have a story and we know that everyone has a story. Stories are meaningful, they connect all of us, so get to know ours and we will reciprocate and feel valued.  

What does personal growth mean to you and how can a workplace support that experience? 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” My faith in Christ has always been a source of guidance and my roadmap for personal growth. I cannot get better at what I do if I do not love or care for people. I cannot be great at understanding people and what they need if I do not care for them. A workplace can support this by encouraging selfless behavior.

What is one change you would like to see if today’s workplace?  I would like to see a genuine care for others be a priority in the workplace.  Although money can do a lot and is needed for corporations to run, we need to be driven by more than the bottom line.  Everyone in a company is a person with families, dreams for the future, and things we want out of life.  Keeping this in the forefront when interacting with others can change the way we approach situations.

Are there any unique or special aspects of your organiation that contribute to a positive workplace culture?  My organization knows its “why”.  I work with some of the most caring, inspiring individuals in the Financial Services Industry.  David LaBricciosa is passionate about protecting and serving people.  Everyone he brings on board is passionate about this as well.  Family always comes first, so he encourages people employees to take the weekends off during each weekly meeting.  I am blessed to work in a firm that cares about its advisers.  The leadership team is intentional about checking in to make sure that we are taking care of ourselves and being conscious of balance in work and life.

Want to learn more about the values, motivators, stress indicators and culture preferences preferences of High Achieving Millennials? Download our free white papers here.
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