With the Thanksgiving holiday recently behind us, I’m trying to make more of a conscious effort to take time each day to reflect on things in my life I’m grateful for. This is something that we did with the clients each night at the residential treatment program I previously worked at, but it’s the first time I’m taking a stab at incorporating it into my own life.
The reason, you ask? Here’s a logical one: Professor Will Shepherd recently cited a “Ted Talk” in which psychologist Shawn Achor argues that the formula most people use to govern their lives: hard work leads to success which leads to happiness, is inherently backwards. Research suggests that happier brains are more creative and productive than those individuals with negative self-talk. So, we ought to be thinking: how can we be happier and more fulfilled, leading us to achieve a higher level of success and productivity in our lives, leading to a higher level of happiness and fulfillment? And the cycle continues.
At the end of the 12-minute presentation (and I encourage you to watch the whole thing, especially if you’re a psychology nerd like me), Achor offers some suggestions for how this can feasibly be done. For 21 days in a row, consciously acknowledge and write down (that part is important) 3 events, things, or people, you interacted with or participated in that you are grateful for. How does it work? In simplest terms, given that our brains are plastic, we are able to reprogram our thinking by simply practicing thinking in certain different ways. By acknowledging gratitude, your brain actually rewires itself to scan the world for the positive.
So, here are 3 things I am thankful for today:
My work unit. I share an office with 4 of the kindest, wittiest, and well-informed individuals. I am constantly impressed by their positive outlook on the world and how they can take any mundane task and make it fun.
My job. I am biased, but I think I have one of the most rewarding graduate assistantships around. I get to talk about a program, university, and city I love every single day.
My friend, Tony. Tony works with me in the GPO (also a blogger here) and has become one of my closest confidants in the program. He is so open-minded and always challenges me in my thinking when I most need it. He’s always looking out for me and my best interests. Tony rocks.
This exercise is already helping me put things in perspective as classes ramp up around the end of the semester when projects are due and exams are scheduled. I encourage everyone to take time each day to be grateful. Do it for yourself!
The competition was sponsored by PepsiCo this year, and real executives from PepsiCo as well as other companies that recruit heavily on campus—Marathon, The Wendy’s Company, Ford, Rolls Royce to name a few—were on the judging panels. At 8 AM Friday, we were briefed on the case (a real problem that PepsiCo HR professionals were currently facing), and after a 20-minute Q&A, we broke off into respective 4-person teams to begin our work. We had until the following morning at 8 AM to conceive a solution and figure out a way to sell it to the judges in 20 minutes. If you ever participated in some sort of “lock-in” at your church or school, then that’s a good starting point for understanding. We spent 15 hours in Gerlach Hall that day—or as I like to call it now—my second home.
My team’s day consisted of some serious brainstorming, followed by changing our minds several times, and finally settling on a simple and practical solution to the problem. Was it too simple? Had we thought through all the details? What if they throw us a curveball? These were the questions rattling in my brain all day. But we were in a time crunch (yes, that’s on purpose), so we had to roll with it.
Fast forward past lunch, dinner, laughing, crying, sleeping (there was not actually any crying) to the next morning. We arrived back at Gerlach Hall the following Saturday morning at 7 AM and received our presentation room and time slot. At that point, we scurried back to our room to hammer out the last few details and practice, over and over…and over…and over………………………and over.
We had a tough room—the judges are trained to interrupt you and throw you off to challenge your ideas and assumptions. Now seems like an appropriate time to introduce the idea of Type II Fun:
“Something that is fun only after you have stopped doing it”
– Type II Fun
At the end of a nerve-wracking and intense Q&A session, we left our room to debrief how we thought it went. What was most difficult for me was not having anyone to compare ourselves to. We were not permitted to collaborate with other teams, nor see their presentations. So, it was difficult to know how competitive our idea was. Situations like this definitely challenge my discomfort with ambiguity.
At the end of deliberations and a delicious lunch provided by the Fisher College of Business, the results were in. I am proud to say that my team won our room, which is especially exciting considering we were strangers just a few days before. It is so satisfying to be able to come together and leverage our strengths as a team so quickly and effectively. And I feel lucky to have made some new friends along the way!
This is the question Professor Jeff Ford posed to us during our first class. Most of us took a stab at answering and the usual responses surfaced–a process of making something different than it was before, an equation of addition or subtraction, a state of transformation. No single answer seemed to entirely encompass the definition of “change.” And like most philosophical questions, the concept seemed to slip through our fingers like fine sand as we tried to wrap our arms all the way around it. I knew immediately that I was going to love this class.
During the second 7-week session of the first semester, all 1st year MHRM students take Organizational Development & Change with Professor Jeff Ford. The course is structured around a series of short cases that we explore each week. We are given a simple question that we work together to answer. The first week, we defined change. This past week, we talked about how to identify–exactly– what we want to accomplish and how, specifically, we would know if we accomplished it.
Professor Ford’s teaching style is exactly what I envisioned of a graduate-level class. He challenges us to tease out the essence of what we are saying. In undergrad, I felt it was much easier to get away with saying a bunch of pretty words and hoping my main points and ideas would materialize for my audience. But, when forced to focus on word choice and detail the way Ford urges, I find that stripping away all the excess is the best way to solve any complicated problem. He doesn’t lead you into the answer or finish your sentences; he waits for you to distill your message down to the very essence. I think it is so important to practice thinking like this in a world littered with so much information to sift through.
Another unique feature of Ford’s class is that his wife, Dr. Laurie Ford (an experienced consultant), sits in on class and contributes her insights. This is fantastic–Laurie shares real-life examples of how she has initiated change from diagnosis to implementation in organizations she has worked with. With a concept as cloudy as change, I’ve found it is tremendously helpful to have access to multiple perspectives to help us apply what we are learning to real cases that we analyze from start to finish. I also think Laurie’s involvement is such a palpable example of how Professors at Fisher (and their spouses in this case!) truly invest their heart and soul in their students.
Last week, we studied an example of a utility company struggling to complete installations accurately according to the specs provided by the engineers, leading to delays and complaints. We were asked by Professor(s) Ford to get into small groups and provide recommendations for what we would “change,” how we would change it, and how we would know if we succeeded.
Many of us fell victim to the “action imperative”–doing too much too soon and all at once. We suggested lofty ideas like streamlining the communication systems, instituting various task forces (what are those anyway?), implementing and training and project managers, relationship-building among the installers and the engineers…all of which could have worked, but they very quickly became too abstract and unmanageable. Then we started to think about how we would know if our changes worked. Increase in revenues? More timely installations? And how would we implement the changes? Company-wide training initiatives, team-building, eLearning…at a point it began to feel like we were vomiting every HR-related word or phrase we had ever heard in a desperate attempt to hit the right answer. It turns out, we were overcomplicating things.
This case study was actually a client that Laurie had worked with. She encouraged us to think about the “lines” that represent the connections between the different players. The issue clearly became the communication that was (or wasn’t) happening between the installers and the engineers. They weren’t speaking the same language, and directives were being lost in translation and leading to mistakes and delays in the work orders. Upon further discussion, we discovered that the work order template hadn’t been updated for over a decade. The simple solution was to update the template. Brilliant.
My takeaway from this class so far is to keep it simple. Change can be an intimidating concept for many organizations that need it, and so it is best to change as little as possible that still allows you to accomplish the goal. Tread lightly, and don’t rock the boat if you don’t have to. I’m sure these will be important lessons to remember after grad school when we will be brand new HR professionals trying to make our mark on the world. It will be a tough balance to strike, but I already feel more prepared to tackle it.
So, let’s say you want to make a change in your life– in any aspect. You want to change your job, your spouse (yikes), your relationship with your next-door neighbor, your health. Big changes. Small changes. We all want to change and grow in new ways… especially in the upcoming New Year.
But how do you actually make the change happen? Introducing BUSMHR 7308 Organizational Development and Change. This class really makes me think and has real-world application. Therefore, it’s my absolute favorite so far! It’s taught by Professor Emeritus Jeff Ford. Professor Ford is extraordinarily accomplished and well-respected in the area of organizational behavior, specifically change management (a hot topic, particularly in HR). He’s written a book which we use in class, The Four Conversations: Daily Communication That Gets Results. And he has a very specific framework about which teaches. I won’t get too into it, but… in short order…
You have to know what you want to accomplish and how you’re going to do it. And you have to make agreements regarding what you’re going to get from who and by when. It’s something you need to map out–using lines and nodes. This is the extremely high-altitude summary; there are obviously much more nuanced and granular details to the process that require a lot of deep thinking during class. It sounds logical– and it is. He’s able to take the abstract complaint of “miscommunication” and dissect specifically why it occurs and how to avoid it.
Best of all, he’s… intense in class. Quite a bit of the discussions focus on case studies that are rife with detail about an organizaton’s woes: lack of communication, unrealistic goals, blame, politics and game-playing, sexism– you name it. And our job as students is to come up with solutions to fix the organizations and get them on the right path. Professor Ford analyzes every word we utter and firmly asks for clarity, disagrees, or otherwise challenges our assertions. This is not a class for the thin-skinned (I’ve made a few observations about which he’s disagreed; it hasn’t felt good, but his willigness to question students is what forces impactful thinking). And his approach is a gift; those without any or much work experience haven’t learned the sometimes harsh realities of the professional world– and his candor is a good primer.
Now… let’s talk about that decision to apply for the MHRM program at Fisher. What’s your “from” state? And how will you know when you’ve arrived at your “to”? Is your “to” admission to Fisher or is your “to” a certain GPA or certain thing you want to learn? What agreements do you need to secure from others? How will you know you have the agreements? And what outputs will you need to generate? And what inputs must you secure? Decisions, decisions…
Well into the autumn semester, and it finally becomes autumn weather! The brisk, cold air is comforting– as well as the joy of seeing one’s breath in the morning. Coming from Georgia, we would get this weather later in the year, and I love breaking out sweaters and jackets. That being said, one thing that warms the heart more than hot chocolate and sweaters is my partner, Meredith. I want to take a moment to share what we did, because we saw a lot of Columbus, Ohio, together!
First, she came in late Saturday night, so naturally we went to a friend’s house to watch the first half of the Wisconsin v. OSU game (we won, but sadly lost to the Nittany Lions the next week).
The fun really began on Sunday! We went downtown, because the Columbus Museum of Art has free admission on Sunday– and who doesn’t love free things to do? We parked down towards the Capitol building, and on a whim, decided to visit the capitol building. What a beautiful, informative tour! Seeing the history and power of the State of Ohio was truly spectacular. After that, we then walked down to the art museum, and the exhibits were very beautiful, with some exciting interactive displays (mainly for children, but we’re children at heart).
On Monday, we explored the Columbus Zoo! Holy Giraffe– this was such a fun adventure, and everyone should see the zoo while here in Columbus! We spent the whole day there and got there in time to see one of the demonstrations, “Cheetah Run,” where they let the cheetah run a track for exercise. Just the pure power and speed is awe-inspiring. We then tested our speed and minds with some trivia alongside some friends. Our team (eventually) did our best and got second place!
On Tuesday, we went to German Village, where there is a quaint bookstore with a ton of books! After perusing for a while, we walked to Scioto Park, and the changing leaves made us forget we were downtown.
On Wednesday, we took it easy. I showed Meredith “The Shoe” and around Fisher College of Business. We also walked to the Library and showed her the top floor with a beautiful view of the Oval.
On Thursday it rained a bit, so we found COSI! This was our favorite time. It’s a science museum that has three levels of interactive, enjoyable science exhibits that range from the human body to space to energy. We could’ve spent several more hours (and it’s definitely on our list again).
Friday was our last day. I had to teach two classes, so she came with and saw what I do for my assistantship position. We also went to lunch with some friends at Melt, and ended the evening with some Indian cuisine.
This was a great week– and it was very exciting to share Columbus with the one I love. I have enjoyed this week, and all the other weeks where there’s been a new adventure– exploring a haunted corn maze, all the food, and other spectacular things to do in Columbus. There is plenty to do for 200 years (much less trying to see it all in two)– and experiencing everything makes me wish time wasn’t passing away as quickly as the leaves fall this month.
Last Friday night was one for the books. It all started in the Ohio Union. There I was, perched unassumingly on a bar stool witnessing a gaggle of college-aged hipsters load out band gear from the stage inside Woody’s Tavern. And then, from a distance across the white terrazzo tile, I saw them barreling toward me—Ash, Charizard, Pikachu, Bulbasaur, Eevee, and everyone’s favorite, Squirtle. I thought that maybe I’d entered an alternate reality in which Pokemon Go was real life and my real life had become simply an app on an iPhone.
It turns out that this motley crew was simply six of my friends from the MHRM program, competing in the annual Fisher Scavenger Hunt & Bar Crawl. Phew! I decided to join them on their mission toward victory, mostly because they looked really silly and I knew it would be entertaining to watch them skulk down High Street in costume.
We embarked on an evening of endless successes. From Eevee petting the belly of a rabid dog (okay, it was a harmless Bernese Mountain Dog)… to Squirtle’s awkward break-dance breakdown at a remarkably empty Bullwinkle’s… to Pikachu high-fiving a policeman when he least expected it, the evening turned out to be the high point of the semester so far. We can’t forget the highlight of the night when a Cane’s employee unashamedly threw a pokeball full of free box combo certificates at the group– which happened to look a lot like a Styrofoam to-go box secured with red electrical tape. #gottacatchemall
As the evening drew to a close, the team was determined to close in on the lead. With just minutes remaining on the clock, the group wandered into World of Beer to complete a few final high-stakes objectives. The team stumbled upon the man behind the curtain—2nd year MBA Tada, sifting through mounds of incoming data from hundreds of accomplished objectives. He was obviously glad to have taken data analytics the year prior.
After several grueling minutes of Tada and his team of analysts poring over their Excel spreadsheets with beads of sweat accumulating on their foreheads, the results were in. It was alleged to be a close race, but as we all could have anticipated from the beginning of this post, the Pokemon were the obvious frontrunners from the very beginning. Congratulations to the MHRMs on their well-deserved win and the trophy to prove it!
The first session (7 weeks) of my 2nd year of MHRM program has flown by almost as quickly as my summer internship at Huntington Bank HQ in downtown Columbus! The summer was a unique opportunity to not only apply the first year of the program to a more tactical learning endeavor, but also to gain new experiences to then bring back to the 2nd year of the program and share with classmates. Below is a quick recap of my summer internship and unique projects I got to be a part of! I apologize for the delay/lack of blogging; it may or may not have taken me the first 7 weeks to get back into the swing of things!
During the first stint of my summer at Huntington, I tried to quickly apply a book from Business Excellence II – The First 90 Days. The book highlights the importance of the first 90 days of any new job and new transition, and how it is important to make a good impression quickly. Really, a summer internship is just around that time frame, so the book was an easy application for tackling my projects.
Overall, I would say the first year of my MHRM curriculum trained my brain to think a certain way: what is the situation, the outcomes desired, impressions and experiences we want to provide? I loved that through the first year of my program, I had a network of resources to bounce my thoughts off of: both classmates and professors. To kick off one of my first projects at Huntington, I tried to get an understanding of the current state of the business and how I was being asked to make an impact, and then called one of our professors, Dr. Inks for his expertise and experience. There wasn’t a shiny bauble that came from the conversation, but instead a frame of mind that helped guide my project throughout the summer.
I loved my projects, team, and work environment over the summer. One of my favorite experiences from the summer was Huntington’s all-intern project. The entire class of about 60 interns was divided into groups of five cross-functional teams. I loved that I had the opportunity to work with students from different departments: IT infrastructure, Commercial Risk, Capital Markets, and Data Analytics– all extremely different departments that possessed a different perspective. The task was to pick an opportunity for improvement at Huntington and confront the problem: what is the problem, why is it a problem, and what is our solution for the problem identified? What prepared me for this project was the MHRM Case Competitions – hosted by Fisher. The problem we identified was one that most companies are facing today: how do we retain millennial talent? I had seen this trend before in the MHRM Internal Case Competition with PepsiCo. Therefore, I had a framework and mindset to build on that rallied our team behind how Huntington can improve to retain the very people giving the presentation: millennials.
I’m so excited to be returning to Huntington after graduation from the MHRM program and to be part of the talent acquisition team! I can also say that I’m excited to finish up the last 1.5 semesters in the MHRM program at Fisher, and gain further background and experience that will ultimately prepare me for taking on an HR Specialist role. Plus, I still want to live out the last of my college breaks that I might never see again 😉 Until next time. Go, Bucks!
I’ve been just awful about updating this blog, but I have an excuse: I’ve been busier than I’ve ever been before in my life. It probably was not wise to start my return to college (16 years after earning my undergrad degree) by enrolling in five graduate-level courses, working as a graduate administrative assistant, and interviewing with recruiters for internships (I do have one offer so far!). In the last seven weeks, I’ve spent large chunks of every day (including weekends) studying, writing, and going to class– along with my other duties. It’s just been cray-cray. I am SO relieved to be down to three classes starting next week.
BUT one of my mother’s many sayings that she ingrained into my mind as a child is, “Count your blessings.” And I am. Since beginning my time at THE Ohio State University, I’ve met so many kind-hearted, smart, open-minded people; fellow students, staff, and faculty who are good people happy to be here– and intent on bettering the world in some way. It’s an intangible spirit that you can feel on campus and it’s very inspiring. The sky is truly the limit.
I also am really enjoying the relationships that are developing in my MHRM cohort. It’s a small group of 48 (I believe), so we already kind of feel like brothers and sisters! For me, getting to know them has rejuvenated my outlook; most of them radiate with the same energy I had in my early 20s.
And they’ve been very kind to me– making sure I don’t feel completely out of place! (although I admit that I sometimes do) Most recently, we went to a … corn maze/haunted house thing (I don’t know what to call it!) and I took part in the fun!
Next up: the continuation of our Business Excellence class, Talent Management (this is taught by a very well-respected professor and is obviously a critical course) and Organizational Development & Change (also critical and very topical, given the importance of change management today). And registration for spring semester starts on October 28th! I can’t wait!
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.
First, let me share some background on myself to give you some context for this post: I am originally from Upper Arlington, Ohio—less than 5 minutes from OSU campus. I attended The Ohio State University alongside 50% of my high school graduating class. During undergrad, while most of my high school friends could pinpoint exactly where they wanted to be 5, even 10 years from then, I always felt unclear about what I wanted out of life and unsure of how to figure it out.
In my junior year of undergrad, while many of my friends were securing study abroad opportunities, I knew I wanted to do something different, something that would challenge me and hopefully reveal to what I didn’t already know about myself—strengths, weaknesses, vulnerabilities. I wanted to know it all! I found National Outdoor Leadership School through a friend of a friend, and I embarked on what was to become one of the most rewarding and bizarre experiences of my life…
I slept in a sleeping bag for 85 consecutive nights next to 16 strangers who would soon become my closest friends. We backpacked through remote sections of the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico and the Galiuro Mountains in Arizona, carrying everything on our backs that we needed to survive for 3 weeks at a time. We climbed the incredible granite domes of Joshua Tree National Park– powered by bacon, coffee, and laughter. We navigated class-3 rapids in whitewater canoes on the Rio Grande, paddled past Mexican military clad with automatic weapons, and didn’t see another human being for 18 days. The vastness of the wilderness was exhilarating, humbling, inspiring, and terrifying all at the same time, and I came to learn more about myself than I ever expected.
When I graduated from undergrad, I knew I wanted to marry my education in psychology with my passion for the outdoors to facilitate meaningful experiences for others who might benefit. I took a job as a Field Instructor for Evoke Therapy Programs helping struggling adolescents and young adults work through depression, drug addiction, trauma, and motivational/behavioral problems. In this job, I worked a non-traditional schedule of 8 days in the field, followed by 6 days off. I saw recovering drug addicts celebrate 30 days of sobriety in the field over no-bake pies. I saw teenage boys with autism begin to challenge rigid patterns of thinking and to develop their first real friendships. And I saw adolescent girls with a history of self-harm come to believe that they mattered in the world. I count myself lucky to have been a part of the transformation process for the clients I worked with, whose stories continue to inspire me and put my own struggles into perspective.
It’s clear that the program I attended and the wilderness therapy program I worked for are very different. The takeaway that I hope becomes obvious here is that there is a certain inherent healing effect of being outside. I also think there is a deeper level of learning that comes from challenging experiences with real consequences—learning what is in and out of your control and how to adapt to adversity. I believe my experiences in the outdoors have shaped me into someone who can find hope and happiness in just about any situation, and I’m grateful for that.
If there is any piece of advice I would give someone who is uncertain about their path in life (and trust me, you’re not alone), I encourage immersing yourself in an experience that you’re afraid of. I’m talking the thing that you always wished you could do but could never actually imagine yourself doing. There is deep self-discovery and self-awareness that comes from pushing ourselves outside our comfort zone.
The great part about OSU is that we have access to so many different experiences– so many that I hear people talk about how they struggle to fit in everything they want to do. Well, here is one more for you: the OSU Outdoor Adventure Center. Of course there is the famed indoor rock climbing wall, but what a lot of people don’t know is that as students we also have access to adventure trips. From rock climbing, to sea kayaking, to dog sledding—there is really something for all seasons and to suit all tastes. The best part is that there is no experience required for most and all are welcome.
I can’t emphasize enough the benefit of pushing yourself to challenge fears, insecurities, an preconceived notions of your own limitations. From my own trips, I’ve learned to work with diverse teams, lead others in high pressure situations, and accomplish stretch goals with limited resources. These are all skills that translate remarkably well to “real life,” and that I plan to leverage in work and life in the future. Get out there!