Through participation in the Fisher Leaders program, I have been provided many assessments to help me to understand my leadership style and how others perceive me (“360 feedback”). This gift of information is wonderful to have to understand how I can improve. I confess that it has been difficult to integrate that feedback into my life. It seems as though, almost daily, I realize how my leadership needs improve. Sometimes it feels like I am stumbling around with respect to leading.
Leadership development is difficult. I grossly underestimated the emotional impact that the leadership development would have on me. I confess that I had a hard time keeping up with blogging last semester because of the emotional turmoil through this growth process.
One of the greatest benefits of all of this struggle is the improved relationship with my family and friends. Before learning about leadership, I internalized quite a bit and neglected to share things with people, because I thought that they already had enough to deal with and felt like I would be adding to the troubles. The Fisher Leaders program has helped me to understand the importance and necessity to share experiences with the people I care for and that the best decisions in life are “we-based” ones.
It has been very difficult to consider so many new elements in my life. Hearing where I need improvements, learning a new job, reconciling emotions, and sharing my feelings more with others is helping me to grow. It is truly encouraging to learn and practice all of these things in a safe context (in school, work, and with my peers). Although not desirable, it is okay to make errors here without long-lasting damage. Developing my skills in these safe environments has helped me prepare for after graduation, where I will have greater accountability from more people.
Being a graduate student, working full-time, and having a family requires a lot of smart time management. In fact, as I write this, my daughter is making a drawing to put in my office and my son is saying “Daddy, sit down” as he pats the couch seat next to him. I’ll be honest–most of this month was really tough in balancing my kids, my wife, school, the new leadership initiative, and the new job. I go to class Tuesday through Thursday. Every other day, I get to be with my family. When I am playing with my kids, I don’t think about school. My attention is focused on playing toys with them. Everyday before I leave for work, I make a drawing and leave it for them to find when they wake up. When I get home, my daughter has often drawn something else on it and/or written her name. It is a small exchange, but it matters so much.
When I am doing schoolwork, I am almost completely focused on schoolwork! But (in addition still wanting to play with my kids), I wonder about how I can bring my HR education into my job. Being in a sales-account position has made this task a little tricky. One of the turning points came during a conference that I helped to host back in March. I basically asked everyone in the company what they had learned in the conference and what they were using from the conference. The results turned out well and lent support to propose another conference next year. Last year’s conference was a great way to funnel some of my HR training into a work context– and having the opportunity to do it again is encouraging! Another “distraction” was that I put a proposal forward to help an organization by doing some pro-bono HR consulting work. This allows me to serve a very charitable organization and it provides another tangible outlet for my developing HR skills.
Exchanging the drawing with my children matters. Telling my wife, as much as possible, how much I appreciate her, is a victory. Finding ways to integrate school into practical settings is exciting. Some of these things may sound small, but celebrating these little occurrences is what helps remind me of why I am going to school and that I am making progress towards my goals.
Work this week began with the usual efforts, but soon turned into one of those times when everything flies by! We got some new orders and I was spending a lot of time out of the office following up on leads and really getting into my sales role. It continues to be an exciting challenge, but I have retained my desire to keep learning and becoming more effective. I took every opportunity to talk with the regional manager and draw from his experiences. Slowly, all learning is paying off. This coming week is filled with appointments.
In addition to a full work week, my wife has begun working on some home projects. We have been married for fourteen years and she still amazes me with her persistence. She is somehow able to be an amazing mother and tackle major household projects. My son turned two years old this week. He is the perfect combination of absolute sweetness tempered with the whispers of the “terrible two’s.” The weekends are filled with me spending a lot of time with my kids, but my heart continues to break on Sunday nights as my daughter begs me not to leave for work and stay home and play with her.
School continues to be busy, but the feel of this semester is remarkably different than previous semesters. I am fortunate to be in a class group with a diversity of experiences and perspectives. Additionally, every member of the group is working together well and we all share a deep desire to maintain clear communications. We have our ups and downs, but the underlying desire to be better is so motivating to me. It makes the work so much more enjoyable.
On Saturday, I organized a volunteering day with my work colleagues and we all served at a soup kitchen. Serving people breakfast and lunch was a truly enriching experience. Most everyone said “thank you” as they left the cafeteria, but one moment in particular stood out. A young girl, perhaps 4 years old, was being carried out by her older brother. Just as she was exiting the door, she smiled, waived, and said, “Thank you!” My colleagues and I were shocked at how touching the impact of her thanking us was. I confess that it emotionally impacted me and I felt the sensation deep in my heart. It was truly a memorable week.
The first week back started with a ‘Kick off’ session of the inaugural Fisher Leadership Program of which I was selected to be a part. Being around talented colleagues, hearing the overview of the program, getting details of the individual electives, and meeting the person I’m to mentor were all extremely motivating.
“Performance Management, Learning and Design” and “Business Excellence Two” are the classes that I signed up to take this semester. After a summer of working in ‘Learning and Development,’ I found the first week of classes extremely relevant to my recent experiences. Although not too overwhelming, it was a shock to jump back into the extensive reading assignments. I felt different in my approach to both the assignments and group interactions. From my internship, I was more confident about how to approach both.
During this first week, I also continued the Office Exchange Program that I had done during the first year of my work as a staffing coordinator. Additionally, I also inquired about and got promoted to a Sales Account Executive position. I felt that this would be a perfect opportunity to learn more about the sales side of the business and an opportunity to develop professionally and personally.
At the end of the week, I got a text from my MHRM cohort showing a group photo of them after a team building experience opportunity. Initially, I wanted to participate in this event, but decided not to sign up because I was away from my family most of the summer due to the internship in Maryland. There are certain moments where you decide why you work. My week ended dancing with my daughter to the song ‘When Can I See You Again?’ by Owl City.
I prepared everything possible for my trip to Columbia, MD and the beginning of my internship with Frito-Lay. I had made all the arrangements with taking a break with my job, prepared all the living arrangements, and my car was completely packed out. One of the most difficult moments in my life occurred as I said goodbye to my wife, daughter, and son. I managed to keep myself composed as I said, “goodbye” and started to walk to my car. My 20 month old son then motioned towards me. He was asking for another hug. We embraced and he began patting my back with his hand. I was no longer able to keep my composure and accepted the fact that I was going to be the farthest from my children and wife that I had ever been.
My first week at Frito-Lay I was torn between desperately missing my family, excitement about the adventure ahead, and the desire to take advantage of this unique opportunity. I was assigned one large project to complete over the summer. I was asked to combine multiple career development resources into a single, “one stop shop” with easy access. The whole summer flew by, but I took every opportunity to ask questions, network with people, and learn about the company. My persistent curiosity resulted in developing an Excel-based career development software linking multiple career tools in a single tool. What an amazing summer!
It has been quite a year and time has passed so quickly. I recently got back in town after experiencing an amazing summer internship with Frito-Lay. I wanted to recap where I was coming from to help me organize my thoughts for the next adventure coming this year!
I asked my daughter, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” She answered, “Bigger”. I responded, “Me too!” She wanted to be taller and I wanted to grow more more professionally! The spring semester helped me achieve that goal, but was very different from the first semester in that it was more like waves of intense work and then a week with much less work. Data Analysis, Staffing, Teams & Leadership, and Employment Law. The ‘Data Analysis’ class helped me to understand business empirically and provided a practical exploration of excel. The ‘Staffing’ class gave me a comprehensive knowledge of the staffing process to complement my job as a staffing coordinator. The ‘Teams and Leadership’ class explored dynamics of organizations. ‘Employment Law’ was a comprehensive introduction into employment law. By the end of the semester, and the end of the first year, I had received a thorough preparation for my internship with Frito-Lay.
Being one of the more life experienced individuals in my class, I still find myself keeping a child like openness to learning. Being in this program has helped to remind me of the importance of keeping my mind and approach flexible. There is so much opportunity to learn if I continue to listen. Below are a few examples of some of my experiences in learning and keeping flexible this semester.
Classes this semester seemed to be focused on minimizing the paper used. I’ve always felt comfortable printing out things, but the amount of reading that we have to do would require me to print out an excessive amount of paper. I decided to just start saving readings to my desktop and using the highlighter function to keep notes while I read. It actually turned out to be really efficient and helpful to use this option. Exciting stuff I know!
I was at the grocery store in the check out line and my daughter was sitting in the grocery cart and said ‘Totoro!’ Totoro is a character from an animated movie by Hiyao Miyazaki. I didn’t really give it much attention until she repeated ‘Totoro’ again. I said, “Where’s Totoro?” and she pointed to my left. I said, “I don’t see him here.” She kept emphatically restating “Totoro!” and I responded, “Sweetheart, I don’t see him.” No sooner did I say it then I noticed a woman with the character tattooed on her arm. I told Larissa, “I’m sorry that I didn’t notice it! Good eyes!”
One of my classmates broke an apple in half with her hands! She told me about a physics class that she had and the teacher told her how to do it. She taught me how to do it and after a few failed attempts, I was finally able to too!
Time has passed so strangely this semester! In addition to the extremely difficult course load, I have spent most of my “free time” developing and finishing one of the biggest projects of my professional career (to date). I just successfully spearheaded a company wide conference. In addition to running the conference, I presented on Social ‘Styles and Staffing’, ‘Communications’, and ‘Leadership and Followership’. It was an amazing experience to have the entire company learn together on some innovative concepts, talk to each other face to face and interact with the owners of the company. It was also an exercise in the effectiveness of my education. This conference was a vehicle for me to apply concepts brought up in my classes at Ohio State. The ‘Social Styles and Staffing’ lecture integrated components from my undergraduate degree (in Psychology) along with components from the ‘Talent Management’ class that I took last semester. The ‘Communication’ presentation was a joint presentation with my boss on communication styles, based on concepts from a ‘Change Management’ class I also took last semester. Finally, the ‘Leadership and Followership’ presentation was the amalgamation of several lectures from an overview from the ‘Change Management’ course culminating in the integration of those concepts in my career development at my company. Underlying all of these presentations were the skills I developed in the ‘Excellence in Business’ lecture I also took last semester. I sent ‘Thank you’ letters to all the professors that influenced me in succeeding and feel truly grateful to be able to learn and apply my education!
When I first started the program, my logic was that you went to info sessions in order to get information about a place that you wanted to go for your internship. However, in going through the program, I attend as many information sessions as I possibly can. These are free opportunities to interact with professionals and to learn about their specific industry. In another sense, you also get the opportunity to look at possible trends or connections between the industries. If you notice the same thing coming up in each session, that only strengthens your ability to enter into your field with a more comprehensive outlook. I recently attended an information session on Gender issues. It was led by the CFO of Cardinal Health and it was an amazing an inspirational lecture. I immediately went home and started looking at how I can start integrating that understanding into my own workplace.
My Chinese classmates have been patient enough to help me with my very basic ability in speaking Chinese. It is usually only a few minutes after class, but it gives me the opportunity to interact with others that I don’t know as well in a medium that I haven’t mastered. It’s definitely humbling, but it encourages me to listen better, and reminds me that no one person knows everything and everyone has something unique about them to share. Taking full advantage of this program requires an interest into not only drawing off the wealth of knowledge from the professors, but also in your classmates. Every time I go to class, I look forward to hearing how others are thinking about things and to better understand how they think and speak.
More importantly, through all the opportunities that are coming up, the most important one is the one available most days of the week. One day, I got home around 10 pm (due to class and a late group meeting for class) and I spent about 40 minutes cleaning and tidying up the house. My wife had a rough day and it was a great opportunity to do something nice for her. Another day, I was just about to start reading for class when my daughter came up to me and said, “Do you want to have a tea party?” I said, “yes.” We sat down eating imaginary blueberry and strawberry cakes accompanied by imaginary blueberry and strawberry tea. Another day, my son brought me a book, turned around, and sat in my lap. We read that picture book at least ten times straight. No matter how busy my schedule gets, I will not lose sight of the most important opportunities.
What is the most ideal learning strategy? Some people would say sitting in a quiet place with little external distractions. Some might say by using the information in a practical setting to gain experience with feasibility. Some people would be okay with writing a detailed Data Analysis homework assignment, while listening to a 3 year old’s comments on her favorite part of Monster’s University as she watches the movie. Add to that a teething one year old who wants to be held and then doesn’t want to be held (repeat many, many times). You may have already guessed, but for me, the answer is all of the above.
The next most logical question might be, “How do you do that?” While writing the response, I chuckle, as probably most parents do, and say, “I just do.” The truth is that there are limited options and I have to maximize the time I do have and prioritize the tasks effectively. This weekend I have several chapters to read (for all three classes), an intense homework assignment due, and preparations for a quiz on Tuesday. For this blog, I am not even going to mention the stuff at work!
The truth is, I could probably be doing much better if I had unlimited time and no distractions (an outcome I would never want). The benefit to be gained though, is that amidst all these deadlines and pressures, a thought emerged that everybody wants that. I am working with the best of what’s around and although I am not doing it “perfectly,” I am growing tremendously. Changing my thought process between what is comfortable and what is effective is not easy. Most likely, when I graduate, I will be in the midst of many projects, deadlines, and meetings. If I can grow and endure with all these considerations now, it is likely that I will be well-prepared for the challenges that lie ahead. “We all make time for what we want to make time for.”