Blog – Blogging
Write the Future By John Sarvay | May 20, 2013
I spent an hour of my weekend listening to Bono chatting with Charlie Rose. It was an hour well-spent. Toward the end, he mentioned guitarist Nile Rodgers, who got his start playing with the Sesame Street Band and went on to form the band Chic, produce albums with a huge array of musical luminaries, and write tons of music. Here's what Bono said:
"He came from a rough place, and when he wrote "Good Times" or "We Are Family" it wasn't that it was where he came from -- he wrote the future he wanted to live. He wrote so that he could have those good times."
So, what future are you writing?
11 Lessons from a Facilitation Marathon By John Sarvay | May 20, 2013
And then there are the weeks when you barely even come up for breath, when it’s client engagement after event after workshop. That was the case recently when I glanced up to see the calendar for the week was almost completely booked with solid blocks of activity.
We started with a team alignment session in Williamsburg with the emergency department leadership at Bon Secours’ Memorial Regional Medical Center, followed by a team retreat with the staff of the Virginia Poverty Law Center. Midweek found our team huddled with a project group representing the Virginia Society of the American Institute of Architects. We wrapped the week with a workshop on leadership for a large group of board and staff leaders with the Virginia Society of CPAs.
In the moment, the lessons that bubble up from intense back-to-back work feel ephemeral. As breathing space emerges, however, so do the lessons.
Here are 11 things I learned, relearned, or affirmed during our busy mid-May marathon:
- Emergency department physicians deal with team alignment issues in exactly the way you’d expect – diagnosis is quickly followed by treatment and action. It wasn’t surprising that we ended our day early. And with a plan.
- Very early morning meetings are the worst. But they’re not as bad as a very early meeting + a one hour commute.
- It’s great to engage with new clients. Work with new groups is laden with new discoveries, and opportunities to be curious about entirely new areas.
- It’s great to reconnect with long-time clients. Working with people we know is comfortable, familiar and fun. Planned well, it is not rote!
- All meetings should be held at the Roslyn Retreat Center overlooking the James River, especially on sunny, spring days. If Roslyn’s not an option, meetings should take place in any 500 square feet of the 54,000 square foot Branch House.
- Never underestimate the value of an extra mind. Having a thought partner at the table makes breaks productive, and helps our facilitation keep up with changing group dynamics.
- Never underestimate the value of an extra set of hands. Collecting 200+ Sharpie markers, Post-It Notes and more than 800 Insights Discovery playing cards is hard to do in 15 minutes. Even with help.
- You cannot get any other work done easily on weeks you are facilitating for 35 hours. Or plan the dinner menu for your family.
- Accountants are pretty smart.
- The answers are already in the room, and the best facilitation happens when we let our clients answer their own questions.
- One of the best aspects of our work is the variety – of relationships, of experiences, of learning, of engagements.
Playground Perspectives: Now We’re Cooking By John Sarvay | April 10, 2013
One of my new favorite activities is cooking dinner. By which I mean, one of my all-time favorite activities has just gotten more interesting.
It turns out my daughter likes to cook with me.
Part of it, I'm convinced, is the opportunity to eat half of her dinner before it even makes it to the table. There's also a small sliver there of just enjoying doing things with me, her dad.
Oddly enough, her palate has expanded as our culinary journey has progressed. By which I mean she likes the idea of more foods than before. It's a start.
Her favorite things to cook right now are stir fry and pizza. Stir fry is attractive to her because she likes to eat red pepper, carrot, green beans and snow peas raw. Pizza? Well, you get to toss the dough. And write your name in red pepper strips on mom and dad's pizza.
At the end of a busy day, it is hard to slow down enough to make this successful for both of us. (I want to fix dinner and eat. She wants to learn how to fix dinner. I can work faster alone. She wants to work with me. I'm in a hurry. She's not.)
I remember as a kid sitting patiently with my father as he worked on one project or another, never allowed to do much more than pass him an occasional nail. Some combination of his need for perfection and control and my own awkward inability to ask to help colluded to keep us from working together when I was young.
I see the same dynamic in the workplace - mine and yours both.
Ask my team how often they find me cooking alone. (Too often.) Ask yourself how often you cook alone.
Here's an exercise for you: Skim through your own day and see what percentage of your busy time was spent teaching someone else. Look around your organization and catalogue all the ways it encourages people to collaborate. Now, do more.
Being a mentor, a partner, a cooking companion to my daughter adds depth, flavor, opportunity and relationship to her day. Granted, it's my job. And it's something I value deeply and do without much fuss. (Usually.)
But it's also my job to be available to my team, to our intern, and to be a teaching partner, and a learning partner, with our clients. It's all part of my job description. How about yours?
April 2013: Letter from John By John Sarvay | April 10, 2013
I spend most of my waking life telling clients that feedback is just data, just information -- and they should embrace opportunities to hear and act on it. But I am not so unlike the rest of you. Feedback makes me anxious! I often find myself working to avoid it. Or having mild emotional meltdowns when I receive it.
This was reinforced a few weeks ago when two pieces of feedback consumed my attention -- a stakeholder survey for Floricane and feedback on a lunchtime presentation I did in March for the Virginia Society of Association Executives.
Let's go with the "feedback is just data" idea for a minute. The data was good! Hundreds of people told us what they thought. (See below in the newsletter for details.)
People told us that they generally like Floricane and the work we do, and gave us good feedback on ways to be better at what we do. Here's a taste about what Floricane does that stands out: "Think differently. Have opinions. Say what's right. Do right things. Look like you're having fun even if you're not always. Initiate." Score!
The lunchtime crowd at the VSAE event had very kind things to say about my casual style, my use of humor, my transparency and the content of the presentation I delivered on leadership. One perspective: "John's information and his style were excellent. I was most impressed by how authentic he seemed. I would welcome hearing him again." FTW!
Oh, but the devil, my friends, lives right in the briar patch of the details.
I wonder what other words people used to describe Floricane? Let's dig deeper. "Disappointing." Cue me getting hijacked.
How about another take on that presentation? "His program started off like an infomercial." Ouch.
Feedback is awesome. Until it cuts to the bone.
My reaction to feedback always brings to mind one sentence from my very first Insights Discovery personality assessment -- "He dislikes being criticized by others as he is already burdened by his inner voice of self-judgment." Preach on, Insights.
It also surfaces words of wisdom from the late Charles Seashore, one of the greats in organizational behavior. "Feedback," Charles told me in 2007, "tells you as much about the giver as it does about the receiver."
That said, it's important to listen to feedback. In both of these cases, I am the receiver, not the giver, and I have a choice -- to listen, or not. Acting on feedback often is less important than clearly hearing and internalizing it.
The truth is, I have left clients disappointed. More than once. And I know I'm prone to talking too much about my experiences. This recent feedback is a reminder of both facts -- and a call for me, and for the Floricane team, to do better.
"Change is inevitable. Growth is optional." That was the first slide in my VSAE presentation. It was followed by a picture of Charlie Brown saying, "This is going to take more than one night."
It's perfectly normal to have mixed feelings about feedback. It's a bit harder to treat it like a gift. But people complain about (and applaud for) things that matter to them. If I listen clearly, I get to make choices about how I grow, and to what degree that growth is in response to people who matter to me.
Charlie Brown has it right. This is going to take more than one night. This journey is going to take the rest of my life.
Explore the 1E Collaborative Space on April 2 By John Sarvay | March 26, 2013
After a six-month pilot, the collaborative workspace in the Richmond Times-Dispatch building is about to go public. Join Times-Dispatch Publisher Tom Silvestri at an open house to see and discuss the new 1E space this Tuesday, April 2, from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. at 300 East Franklin Street.
Called 1E, the 4,500 square-foot open space will have up to eight tenants working in dedicated office spaces and sharing common work areas. Tenants also have access to meeting space in the building, as well as off-street parking.
One of the drivers for the collaborative space is to create new opportunities for the team at the Times-Dispatch and its parent company, World Media Enterprises, to interface with local entrepreneurs. The real goal is to create a vibrant, energetic community of small business collaborators in the heart of downtown Richmond.
As the first tenant in 1E, Floricane has not only seen real benefit from the location and setting of the space, but has enjoyed being part of an emerging culture at a time of growth and change in Richmond and within the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
If you’ve got a small business, a yen for collaborating with others and a bit of zest, you might find the 1E space an ideal home. We hope to see you at the open house next week.
Tuesday, April 3
5- 6:30 p.m.
300 E. Franklin St
Richmond, Va. 23219
Can’t join us on April 3 or want more information about 1E? Contact Rick Thornton at 804.649.6441 or email@example.com.
- Write the Future
- 11 Lessons from a Facilitation Marathon
- Playground Perspectives: Now We’re Cooking
- April 2013: Letter from John
- Explore the 1E Collaborative Space on April 2
- Thanks, ChildFund International
- Take Them to the River
- Congratulations, VCU Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders Center!
- Everyone’s in Transition
- Congratulations, National Alliance on Mental Illness Virginia!
- Building the Future with Architects
- Just Keep Going
- The Job of C
- Playground Perspectives: Seeds of Change
- March 2013: Letter from John