Building a Future for a Historic House Museum

As a rising senior at the University of Richmond, I am constantly asked what I would like to do once I graduate. My most common response to this question is, “I’m not exactly sure, but I would potentially like to do consulting”. I had never had an experience in the consulting world but I love to think critically and problem solve so the career path has appealed to me.

So, I was excited to have the opportunity this summer to start an internship at Floricane and work on projects to learn more about consulting and determine if it is a career I would like to follow.

I was thrown into Floricane’s consulting during a “charette” event at the Wilton House Museum.

I grew up in Richmond, but had never visited the museum. I had driven by the “Road to Revolution” and “Wilton House” signs on Cary Street Road numerous times, wondered what they meant. My favorite subject is history so I was excited to visit the Wilton House Museum, and to learn about the Randolph family and the colonial era home.

It was cool to meet and engage the people – board members, docents, other museum directors, and educators – who attended the event, and to see the feedback provided about the Wilton House Museum’s strategic plan. One highlight of the day: A personal tour of the house itself!

The next day, fellow intern Stephen and I met up with Lesley, who is leading the project for Floricane, to debrief our experience. We discussed how the event went and went over the feedback we gathered. We then talked through ideas we had for Wilton and its plan.

Two days into my first consulting experience, and I am excited to say that I am looking forward to my next project and learning more!

Putting the "Work" in Workshops!

Maybe you’re familiar with one or more of Floricane’s workshops. Whether it’s Introduction to Insights Discovery or our Manager Development Program (to name just two), we are passionate about helping people develop the skills they need to achieve their organization’s purpose.

But how do we go about choosing what workshops to offer? And what’s next on our workshop calendar?

Over the past few weeks, I had the opportunity to confront the “problem” of how to revise and revitalize Floricane’s workshop offerings. For me, soaking up as much data as possible and then talking the details to death is how I best process through a problem. I often tell people that my brain is not working unless my mouth is moving.

It’s equally true that my brain thrives on input as well as verbal output. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to receive lots of input. A number of Floricane clients spent a few hours helping us rethink our new slate of workshop offerings.

We want to design programs that are practical, and will help our clients day to day on the job. Of course, we can’t know what our clients specifically need unless we ask. So, we did just that.

We started with a survey that went out to past workshop participants. (Thanks for completing it, part workshop participants!) The survey helped us understand what past offerings participants liked best and what topics they might like to see offered in the future.

Data gathering was just the first step.

We also conducted a very informal focus group (those clients I mentioned, above) to do my favorite thing – talk it out. There’s obviously no one right answer to the question of what workshops to offer (much less when and how), but we walked away from that discussion with a few key takeaways:

1.     We can always do more to strengthen the experience in the workshop room. Our group noted that workshops should not be a one-and-done experience. There should be pre-work and post-work to keep the conversation, and the learning, going.

2.     We can step up our game when we communicate about what’s on tap for the upcoming season of workshops with increased in-person conversations, and that we should continue to make sure that discussion hones in on what’s best for that specific client.

3.     Less is more when it comes to the calendar of workshops open to the public, but that we should increase and make clearer our slate of “in-house” workshops that we take into our client organizations.

What does that all mean for the future of Floricane’s workshops? For now, I’m busy designing a new calendar that reflects what we’ve learned. Soon – and I won’t make you wait too long - you’ll see Floricane (online and in person!) unveil our offerings for the next year and a half. In the meantime, know that we’re never done listening to your feedback. Please get in touch if you have any suggestions about workshops. I hope you’re as excited as I am to get back to class!

Playground Perspective: Resiliency at Home

The Floricane team has been spending a lot of time talking about resiliency lately. From all appearances, it is going to be one of our 2017 calling cards.

The Sarvay team has been spending a lot of time experiencing resiliency lately. We'd like it to be completely absent from our lives as we move through 2017.

Resiliency is defines as an ability "to recover quickly from misfortune; to return to original form after being bent, compressed, or stretched out of shape; to recover quickly from disruptive change, or misfortune."

I've had plenty of time lately to think about the various ways the four members of our close family demonstrate resiliency, and our unique strengths that collectively go a long way toward helping the whole family cope with change.

Take, as an example, Jack. Now, two-year-olds are designed to be human putty. They run into walls, and bounce. They hit the ground, and get back up. And they get sick, and usually get better.

Last week, Jack got sick. And he stayed sick. Getting better took time, medicine, an amazing pediatrician (Dr. Gayle Smith at Partners In Pediatrics, FYI.) and resiliency. On all of our parts. Our little guy, and his mom, spent the better part of a week in the hospital, confined to a single room with only his 1970s Fisher Price Little People (all 21 of them) to keep him company.

He rolled with it all -- the confinement, the bad food, the needles. He was the model patient. Seriously.

Nikole was the model mom, staying with our kid 24/7 through the most traumatic moments to the most mundane. She was patient, caring and connected with Jack the whole way. Her resiliency often comes in the form of grace and just simply being in the moment she is experiencing.

On the other hand, I need action. Which made me the perfect person to parent the eight-year-old during the experience, and to go get coffee, go get palatable food, go corral the doctors and ask them detailed questions. You give me opportunities for movement and motion, and I can take anything you throw at me.

Thea sort of splits the difference -- a bit of still water running deep combined with a need to visibly express her emotions. Say, with a "Welcome Home" shrine for Jack with flowers, banners, drawings and other icons.

As I experienced each of our responses to the health crisis in our home, I gradually moved from a place of judgment to appreciation. Staying with a crisis over time allows each person's approach to add value, and be more visible -- something that doesn't always happen in the day-to-day rush over more trivial dramas. Watching Jack, Nikole and Thea each add their own strength to our family's ability to move through disruptive change reminded me why we form families, communities, teams. Politics aside, we are all stronger together. All it takes is a challenge and the ability to rely on and appreciate others for who they are.

As for Jack, he's on the road to recovery. Which is exactly what you'd expect from a kid who eats sugar cookies (made by his sister who was unable to visit him in person) for lunch.

A Singularly Important Gift

STRATEGIC PLANNING with DONATE LIFE VIRGINIA

Spending the better part of two days with a passionate group of volunteers is how we like to roll at Floricane. Our time early in November with the member representatives of Donate Life Virginia is a case in point.

The Donate Life Virginia team is comprised of representatives from major hospitals, transplant centers and other organizations committed to increasing public awareness about organ donation and supporting both donors and recipients. For an added dose of inspiration, the team includes organ donors and recipients and family members. The team left their retreat with a solid plan to educate and train a new generation of volunteers and health care professionals.

Letter from John (December 2016)

Twenty years ago, I started my first grown-up job at Luck Stone Corporation, which was then a small, family-owned quarry company headquartered in Goochland County. During one of my interviews, my soon-to-be boss asked me, "How do you know when communication has been effective?"

My answer: "You watch what people do. If people change their behaviors, the communication is effective."

One of the more useful forms of communication is feedback -- information received in response to something. Several weeks ago, the Floricane team received scads of feedback. The first round came from eight other CEOs of small business at a Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce/Virginia Council of CEOs event. The second came when we invited eight of our favorite clients to talk shop with us at our offices. Our team put our cards on the table, and our clients asked questions, provided perspective, and challenged our approach to the work.

It was a relentless discussion. It was oddly affirming.

It's bolstering when people have the capacity to be candid and open about difficult things. It is refreshing when what is shared is not a complete surprise -- our team feel as if we know where the gaps are. The CEOs and our clients helped push our thinking, and challenged us to hear ourselves more clearly.

We spend so much of our time helping our clients hear more clearly. Whether it's individual stakeholder feedback, or coaching, or a 360 assessment, or an organizational assessment, a big part of our job involves helping others see the invisible, listen to what has been previously unheard. As a team, it was interesting to live our own work for a few hours.

What I heard at the Chesterfield Chamber was a prelude to what I heard at our own client roundtable. At a certain moment in time, for a growing business to be successful, the owner has to make a change. By Floricane's calendar, that moment happens about every two years.

A few hours after we wrapped our Floricane client discussion, I got an email from one of the participants. It does a good job of summarizing one of my key takeaways:

Make sure to realize the solution is intelligence and people leverage, not more work for John. The real business tragedy will be if you allow yourself to fall back into the same patterns as before. The pull will be strong to go back to the same old relationship with your business - DON'T. Fixing the problem will be difficult but it will become an investment that you have to make in order to grow the organization that it seems you want to grow.

Will the communication and feedback be effective? Watch our behaviors as we start the new year.

As we turn a hard corner into what feels like an absolutely unpredictable 2017, the pull for all of us will be to go back to the same old relationships -- with ourselves, our jobs, our communities. DON'T. Identify what matters most. Fix the problems. Do the difficult work. Grow the life that you want to grow.

I'm looking forward to the year ahead with all of its uncertainty and opportunity. There is so much transformation waiting to happen. So, take a deep December breath, and prepare to create your own version of transformation. We'll see you in the new year.

 

Defining Regional Impact

FACILITATION for the CAPITAL REGION COLLABORATIVE

There are times when even we are impressed, and maybe a little intimated, by regional star power -- like when you have regional county administrators, corporate executives, foundation heads and Richmond's new mayor-elect are gamely filling out Post-In Notes and sticking them to windows. (Many of you know the drill.)

We had an hour to help a group of 35 heavy hitters build some alignment around the key "wins" that would determine success for the Capital Region Collaborativein 2021. The Collaborative has sent the last seven years building cross-sector alignment around a set of regional priorities, and has helped initiate conversations, projects and activities to move those priorities forward. But at an organizational level, it turns out that success is also about getting, analyzing and acting on the right data; being creative about investments; and increasing public awareness that change is happening.

 

Exploring Resiliency and Strategy

PRESENTATION for the VIRGINIA SOCIETY OF ASSOCIATION EXECUTIVES

Occasionally, people like to make us stand at the front of the room and talk about things we know! That happened last month when John and Lesley facilitated a workshop on "The 8 Questions To Ask Before Strategic Planning," and then spoke about resiliency to a few hundred members of the Virginia Society of Association Executives. The workshop included some great new case studies from projects we've done this year with the Orange County Public LibraryHousing Opportunities Made Equal, and the Virginia Society of Association Executives itself. Look for Lesley and Debra together at last in March as they speak to women leaders at Dominion VA Power.

Writing the Book on Alignment

FACILITATION for THE LIBRARY OF VIRGINIA

It's not often that the leadership of the Library of Virginia gets to spend quality time (at the same time) with both its governing board and its foundation board. And pulling all three groups of leaders -- one hired, one appointed, one recruited -- together for a day of strategic discussion can be challenging. At a time when state budget cuts are once again hitting the Library (and other state agencies) hard, it is an important challenge to meet. Working as a large group, and in small cross-functional groups, the Library team strengthened its alignment and understanding around the capacity building role of boards -- before turning its attention to focused, deep dives into specific opportunities related to major technology needs, public awareness and outreach, and fundraising. It never ceases to energize and amaze us when we're in the room with large groups of people who are passionate about the cause they support.