And she’s back!

I don’t know what triggered me to come back and look at my blog this evening, but I’ve sat here for the last 30 minutes or so and re-read my journey through adult learning…

I know some of my fellow classmates would be floored, but I truly believe it has to do with the fact that I miss school. Post graduation has been wonderful, but something feels like it’s missing. The only thing I can think of is that I actually do miss taking classes, learning, and seeing familiar faces every week. There was something comforting about being in a program where everyone knew one another. It was nice walking into a room and being able to share personal stories, and relating to one another through discussions and experiences. I miss all my Adult Learning friends! Once school was over we all went our own ways, and it’s amazing how quickly time passes us by. It doesn’t feel like I’ve been away from the classroom for that long, however it’s been about 8 months, and a lot has changed.

I started a new job about three months ago in the University College here at VCU. My current position as a Transfer Advisor has been a wonderful experience so far, and it’s great to be surrounded by students, and people who have similar interests as me. I’ve learned so much already, and I know there is so much more to come. Sometimes I sit and take in all the sounds in the Transfer Center and think, “wow, I’m finally here.” Job searching was exhausting, mentally and physically. I cried (a lot), had a few breakdown’s and internal battles, and may have even drove my family and friends a little crazy. I definitely went through the phase of questioning myself and my abilities… Rejection was hard, but it’s good to go through these kind of experiences, and learn that there is something wonderful on the other side (aka, the job offer!)

What I find most inspiring with my job as a Transfer Advisor is watching, and listening, to the students every day. It’s amazing what I hear as they walk through the hallways. It’s an exciting experience when they do come into the office, and share their stories and goals. I must admit that a part of me is jealous, because I remember when I finally figured out what I wanted to do with my life, and what a great feeling it was. I am jealous of these students because they have the freedom to figure themselves out, and have fun doing it. They are experiencing college, and I miss that part of my life. What an amazing journey it was… it’s something I would relive over again if I had the chance. This is why I love advising, and being around students on a daily basis – because a part of me can live my college life again, and I can be the sound ear to tell them that it will all work out the way it’s supposed to.

Well anyway, here it is. My first blog post in almost a year! I’m not sure if anyone else in the Adult Learning program will read this, but if you do, I miss you all! I would love to catch up soon! Take care, and I’ll be in touch again soon 🙂

Banking on Success: Capstone 2010

No worries, I didn’t forget about you. It’s been a crazy, busy semester with Capstone and finalizing graduation that my blog has been a bit neglected. However, better late than never!

This semester has been one of new discoveries, new friendships, new learning, and a new me. Capstone has proven to be an enlightening, but challenging course. Action learning isn’t easy! I never thought that asking questions, and learning how to phrase comments in the form of a question could be so difficult.

The Banking on Success set has been working very hard these last few months to achieve our goal for Union First Market Bank. June, Tim, and myself have learned a lot about one another, but also much more about the world of banking. I must say that I was completely in the dark about the culture and norms that came with it. Working with UFMB has provided us valuable information, teammates to talk to, and we’ve learned more about the two legacy organizations. Before the merger, there was A. First Market Bank, and B. Union Bankshares Corp. As the two have now merged, it has been our goal this semester to come up with recommendations for a new onboarding process for UFMB. Gathering data from teammates through interviews, focus groups, and surveys has provided us with numerous best practices that we know will benefit the organization and culture in the future.

As we continue over the next four weeks, reflect and ask, “how are we doing,” the Banking on Success set also asks each other about our personal goals. Mine over the semester happens to be, being more assertive and taking more of a leadership role. I have received great feedback every week from June and Tim, and they assure me that I am stepping outside my comfort zone even when I don’t necessarily realize it. I told them last week that I think it’s finally hit me how much I’ve grown professionally, academically, and as a young adult through my time in the program. This course has helped to bring it all together, and I am feeling confident about taking the next step in my career.

22 days until our final presentation to UFMB,  38 days until Graduation!

Consulting Skills Final Reflection

This semester opened up a new door of challenges and surprises. Challenge #1 happened the first night, when Dr. Carter asked us about our expertise. What I learned just by this question, and through our consulting project, is that I do have expertise in many things. This is one of the most simple, yet valuable concepts to realize, especially when we are acting as consultants. I learned that I am a good communicator and listener. I learned that I am very organized and timely. All these things I knew about myself, but didn’t know how much they would play into a consulting role.

I learned that I need to work on being more assertive and express my wants and needs to clients. I realized that it’s just as important for the client to express what they want to see happen as it is for the consultant. The consultant/client relationship is a vital point to success. Open communication is needed throughout the entire project and it’s important for the consultant to realize that they can have an impact without control. What is so special about process consultation is it allows for the client to fix the problem; it allows them to take control and initiative with the consultants to solve the problem within their organization. I also learned that having this relationship with a client is the most effective, and it builds a solid, trusting base to the whole process.

In the future, I hope to build on the concepts I’ve learned from Block, Schein and Dixon. With all three of their perspectives, I learned that the consultant/client relationship is like forming a friendship. In the beginning of a friendship, we discuss with each other our similarities, differences, past stories, and possibly issues we have. As a friend, we are constantly in dialogue, and we help each other through tough problems. We are good listeners, mentors and share our expertise, but we (try) to let our friends figure out their problems on their own. Our friends may show some resistance to thoughts and advice we may share, but we have to ask them, “I see you are feeling uneasy about what I just said, can I explain further or do you want to talk about it?”

What I’ve learned about process consultation, and what I will take with me, is that it’s practical. It can be used in a formal or informal setting, in our workplace or at home. It is important to remember that it’s a working relationship and it’s all in what we say that helps the client realize their problem. Lastly, it’s important to have fun!

Thanks for a great semester! I’m glad I had the opportunity to work with HandsOn and also learn from my classmates. I look forward to using my expertise and the skills I’ve learned in Capstone next semester! Happy Holidays everyone!!

Reflections for My Mirror, Consulting Skills: #6 – Ethics in Consulting

What is my ethical standing when acting as a consultant and how does that translate into my personal life? I think the class facilitation helped to point out the importance in ethics, values and morals, and how these things do play a large role in the consulting world. How were my values and morals shaped? Where did they come from? What specific experiences in my life have shaped me to be the ethical person I am today. All these aspects are tested daily when we act as “consultants” in our work lives and personal lives.

I started thinking back to our feedback meeting last week, and in fact, our entire project in general. I think Demetria and I did a good job of being very ethical with our client. For me, it wasn’t hard to be open and honest with her because we initially established a rapport that made this possible. I think we got very lucky to have a client that was understanding, and with our initial contracting meeting we all knew that it would be easy to work with each other. Of course, I’m sure we could have said things that would have caused resistance and uneasiness, but those comments wouldn’t have helped to solve the underlying problem.

It’s easy to see how I stayed ethical and maintained control of my values and beliefs during this process because we had a client who was wonderful; however, if we had a more difficult client, how would this have changed the process and my ethical standing? Listening to some examples from classmates clients’ has helped me sort through these thoughts, and I believe I would still stay true to myself. It’s is easier said than done though… as many things are. I’m sure throughout my career, whatever that may be, I will deal with some resistance and difficulty, and therefore my ethics may be tested a bit. Is it strange that I’m welcoming this challenge?

Okay, on to finishing this integration paper… good luck everyone!

Reflections for My Mirror, Consulting Skills: #5 – Power of the Circle

The weeks are flying by and I am trying to keep up my pace. I know the whole class chimes in week after week that we can’t believe the semester is almost over, but I really can’t. The past few weeks have been very empowering, and have reminded me why I was drawn to this program in the first place.

This past Monday we were led through a facilitation on engagement and implementation. A large part of the facilitation was spent in a circle, literally. I never really  grasped the power of a circle until I became an Adult Learning student. This one particular circle the other night was not only engaging, but also a breath of fresh air. We spent the last half of the class, in this circle, going around and saying positive things about each individual. It was truly a powerful exercise and we all left feeling a little bit better about ourselves.

I started thinking after class about the power of a circle in my workplace and with our client. The setup at my workplace is fairly standard: stadium seating lecture halls, long and narrow conference rooms, and in most offices the desk separates the individuals. I think it takes certain people, and in my case faculty, who appreciate the power of a circular table. One of our periodontics faculty members has a circular table in his office, and he’s adamant that when we have a meeting in his office, we sit around that table. I didn’t realize until I started thinking about the power in a circle, but he gets it! It makes such a difference speaking with him around this space as opposed to across his desk. I believe a lot of this falls back on the individuals character, because it would be just as easy for me to speak with him across the desk; however he appreciates what I do and listens when I have questions, so this is his way of showing me that he cares – that during that meeting, we aren’t separated by numerous hierarchical levels.

As far as the power of the circle with our client, I think the same situation exists. From day one, and from our initial contracting meeting, our style with her was quite casual. We met at a local coffee shop and exchanged ideas, but this worked for us. With some consultants’ and clients’ this may not work as well, but in our case, we knew we could accomplish even more if the relationship was open. As a matter of fact, during our feedback meeting the other day we sat with our client at a circle table. It’s so easy and comfortable for conversation to flow this way, and what I appreciate is how it’s almost impossible to not look at each person you are talking to.

The power of the circle, and the power of the dialogue and engagement that takes place within that circle is huge. I think if we all sat around a circle more often,  during our meetings, seminars, lectures, and simple conversations, we would learn a lot more about the people we are interacting and engaging with.

Reflections for My Mirror, Organizational Learning: #5

It’s been a very busy week and I got a little behind on my writing my post. However, I was thinking back to our conversation in class last week and remembered one topic that had caught my attention. We were discussing our organizational culture paper, and Dr. Carter described an example of using the Future Search timeline to flesh out the culture of an organization. I, of course, started thinking about my current work situation and what a timeline would look if my department drew one out. With a new Director will come culture changes, and it would be interesting to see if a change strategy like this would be effective in my organization. Culture is a very powerful word. I’ve started thinking about my department’s culture and how I’m going to develop my paper. It has forced me to think about the culture I’ve been apart of for the past 2 years. It also makes me think about the culture I may be walking into in less than a year.

Realistically, I will probably look for other job opportunities within the year, and again I will be the new person in an already present culture. This can be a very intimidating place, but I’ve also learned that it can be very rewarding. What will I bring to a new organization, a new culture? Dr. Carter also mentioned that administrative positions may not be able to have a huge impact on an organization’s culture, but I really believe I have played a large impact on the culture of my department. The person in the position before me made the department a very unwelcoming, almost negative place. Faculty and staff in my department would wait and come into the administrative suite after this employee would leave for the day, because it was that unpleasant to be around her. I have heard more times than I can count how nice it is to hear, “Is there anything I can do?” So, I do agree that an administrative person may not have a huge impact on the organization’s culture, but I also know that my department is a much more positive, warmer place because of little things like this. I guess it’s true what they say that “it’s the little things that count.”

I’m looking forward to using what I’ve learned from Dixon and Schein to flesh out the culture in my department. I know I have my own bias’s and thoughts, but I’ve never thought to ask the other faculty and staff what they really think or how they perceive things. My department is like a little family, so it’s easy to see when someone is having an off day or is peeved at someone else; however it will really take some good conversation to dig out the underlying thoughts of other faculty and staff. I look forward to seeing what develops out of the conversations with my co-workers, and if anything else, it may be a good therapy session. 🙂

Reflections for My Mirror, Consulting Skills: #4 – Discovery

Coming into an organization as a consultant can be difficult, and trying to pick apart and understand what is happening within that organization is challenging. When I hear the word discovery, I think of learning new information, realizing what the attitudes and opinions are of employees, and finding different ways to “fix” the problem. I like how Block states, “the stance we want to take is that we can be a guide through a process of discovery, engagement, and dialogue.”

As far as our consulting project goes, I think we are lucky to have a client who seems very open to the change and discovery process. They are willing to face the problem head on, and therefore have been supportive and provided us with answers and information that will help us discover as much as we can. I think discovery happens on both sides; the consultant is discovering more about an organization and the in’s and out’s, and the client is also discovering what needs to change. I think our client is at the “I’m ready to discover and change” point, and therefore is willing to take action on their problem.

We had touched on it a little in a previous class, but I had never really thought of the difference between a research approach and an action approach. When I first learned that through this project we would be doing discovery and data gathering, I immediately thought, “oh, we’ll be researching the organization and collecting information that will be useful.” Block says that research is understanding, and that understanding is enough. The action approach is a more in-depth, personal way of helping the client move through understanding the problem.

Act, jointly, involve, recognize, and understanding – these are all words within the text that describe how we want our discovery process to proceed. I want to make sure we use these words above as we work our way through the discovery process with our client.

Reflections for My Mirror, Organizational Learning: #4 – The In’s and Out’s of Culture

We learned through Schein’s text that culture and leadership are intertwined, so what happens when you have a defined culture but very little leadership? This is the situation I find myself in right now. I have explained in past posts that my department has a huge lack of leadership (which has increased even more so since my last post.) My supervisor has not only turned the leadership switch to “off,” but has now moved into the new building, in an office as far away from myself and the other faculty members as possible. It’s quite clear to everyone now how he feels and what his intentions are. So, after our discussion on culture and understanding how it’s learned, I am trying to pin-point where my department stands.

Many things came to mind as I was reading the text and as we were talking during class. I remember when I first came to work here, the culture seemed much ingrained. Many of my co-workers have been in the same positions for 20+ years, so they have seen the School of Dentistry’s culture and climate change drastically. Each dean brings his own ideas on management and teaching practices, and this trickles down through the departments and clinics. The same principles apply to each department, and what each director brings to the table or has instilled in the faculty/staff/employees. It didn’t take me long to realize the culture of the school and the department, because the people I was surrounded by didn’t hide their thoughts and feelings towards the administration. I’m finally to the point, about 2 years later, where I am finally seeing the school through my own eyes and developing my own opinion. I’m also finally comfortable enough to talk about what changes I see that need to happen, and share what I am, and have been, pleased and disappointed with.

We talked about the culture being the memory of the organization. I also think that in a work setting like mine, the culture is also the memory of the department, which makes up the organization. My department has always done things a little differently than the rest of the school because we aren’t as focused on the clinical/teaching aspect. We solely do research, which either intimidates or confuses people. However, with the search for the new Director, everyone in the school seems to be invested in who this person will be and what he/she will be able to do for them. The rest of dental school is finally interested in our culture and climate change and what it will do for the organization. Are the faculty who have been around for 10, 15, 20+ years anxious about this new person, and how he/she will change the culture? It’s so different from the time I stepped foot into my position, where no one outside of my department seemed to care or invest interest in what went on, to now everyone wanting to know what’s going on, what will this person do, what will change?

I’ve walked through the school before and thought to myself, “if these walls could talk…” This makes me think about the memory of an organization – the memories and history of the dental school that make up the culture. Culture is a powerful word. Memory is a very powerful word, too. Understanding it completely seems impossible. I wonder if 20 years from now, if I walked back through the dental school and my department, would the values, beliefs, assumptions that make up the culture be the same?

Reflections for My Mirror, Consulting Skills: #3 – Where I Stand

Happy October! Now it finally feels like Fall and I couldn’t be happier. I’m excited about pumpkins, sweatshirts and dinners in the crock-pot! October signifies, to me, the middle of the semester, and I start to think a lot about where I stand.

homepage pumpkins

I feel optimistic about our client for the consulting project. I also believe they have an issue within their organization that we can truly help them grasp and improve upon. One of my initial concerns was that I wouldn’t be able to help the client, or more-so that I didn’t have the consulting skills necessary to help them. Learning about process consultation has eased my worries. As I said in a post earlier, I think it will boil down to maintaining strong and open communication throughout the project. We, the consultants, will help the client walk through their concern and ultimately guide them in figuring out the issue for themselves. Sometimes, all we need is just another set of eyes and ears.

I’m looking forward to our contracting meeting. They want to meet us at a local coffee shop and I think that’s just great. I feel like we are starting out from the beginning on level that everyone is comfortable with. The step in the contracting meeting that I imagine will be hardest for me is wanting to offer solutions too quickly. I have had similar situations like this happen at work, and after the HRD overview class this summer, I realized I needed work on my coaching and mentoring. We learned that it’s important to be an active listener and be engaged in the conversation, but not to offer solutions too quickly, or at all. It’s important to let the client/mentee figure out the solution for themselves as it works best for them. Coaching and mentoring is perfectly okay, but try not to offer opinions or solutions right away. This is something I have to work on. I tend to insert my opinion quite frequently, and sometimes too quickly.

So, here I am, almost mid-semester and I’m feeling positive about where I stand. I’m excited and anxious to get this project rolling and learning as much as I can from a great organization!

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Credits: Google Images – countrypumpkins.net/

Reflections for My Mirror, Organizational Learning: #3

This past week passed over me quite quickly. I was there, but it seemed like things were happening around me at a different pace and I couldn’t catch up. I felt off. The latter end of the week I was busy with a potential candidate visiting VCU for a second time. This candidate, if chosen, will be my new boss. I have mixed emotions about the many things that will change with this new person.

First, my most selfish reason, is how will this person affect my position and place within the department? I have been at my job now for almost 2 years and have formed a great bond with my supervisor. He is well aware of my first priority, aka school, and is 100% supportive of my education. When it comes down to it, we work well together, and it’s come to the point where I don’t have to ask him a hundred questions a day. Second, I’m anxious to see how a new Director works with the existing people, not only within my department, but within the school. Everyone seems to be impressed now, but how much can you really learn from someone in less than a weeks worth of time total. Third, I know my department needs change. I know that the other faculty and staff see it as well, but it’s still a scary thing bringing someone new into a “family” even when everyone is blatantly aware of these needed changes.

During my adventures of taking this candidate between both campus’s Thursday and Friday, I started thinking about the learning that will have to take place in within my department, the school, and the candidate. They all will have to learn many things, both individually and collectively. How will my organization (my department, my school) learn? Will it be difficult or easy for this new Director to learn about the make-up of the department? How long will it take him to learn those underlying aspects of the department? Will they all be able to truly embrace learning from each other?

All these questions went through my head as I heard this candidate being interviewed over 2 days. It helped me pull together different concepts of organizational learning, and how it really boils down to the individuals. We are learning so much of this from the case studies we are working on, and are realizing that the people within those organizations are the ones behind the changes. One person can’t – or shouldn’t – be able change everything, so I’ve realized that this one new candidate will not completely change my department. Improve is a better word. I hope that he can improve on the attitudes and ideas that are already ingrained, but also add a touch of something new. I suppose time will tell…