Blog – Blogging

Getting A Piece Of Your Mind By John Sarvay | January 24, 2014

Pick your cliché – walking the walk, practicing what you preach, taking your own medicine. Yeah, we just did those things.

Three years into some serious culture change work with the Library of Virginia, we invited a mixed group of Library leaders over to our place for pizza and feedback.

For the better part of two hours, they huddled in our conference room with Theran Fisher (the closest thing we had to a neutral, third party) and unpacked a broad mix of work – from an initial round of “all employee” conversations (read: venting sessions) to strategic planning to Insights self-awareness training to leadership coaching.

And then they brought us into the room and gave us their feedback on what worked well, what didn’t and the ways in which, specifically, Debra Saneda and I were more effective and less effective in our engagements with their team.

They didn’t hold their punches. But they didn’t hold back on their praise, either. Here are some of their observations about our work together:

  • One of the most important pieces of work we did for them was simply getting started. We began with a series of conversations with all 170 employees that gave everyone a chance to vent, gnash their teeth – and feel hopeful about the future. “You helped us have conversations that needed to happen,” they told us.


  • Our second piece of work fell on its face, but it helped everyone involved better understand the organization’s readiness for the change work – and illuminated the leadership and relationship gaps that became the core of the work later on.


  • The opportunities where everyone in the organization was included – the opening conversations, visioning activity, strategic planning work – were among the most impactful moments.


  • Where we could have done a much better job was helping them understand and facilitate the work on their own – faster, and more often. We try hard not to make ourselves indispensible to our clients, and we need to try harder. Teaching a man to fish, and all that.


  • The moments when our team wasn’t on the same page – whether during a small leadership discussion or a strategic planning process – were not helpful. It’s important for the Floricane team to be in alignment, especially when we’re helping our clients wrestle publicly with work that matters deeply to them.

We gritted our teeth while the Library team worked behind closed doors to develop the feedback they gave us. And I think we relaxed visibly when the feedback started. Most of it wasn’t a surprise. All of it was important to hear. Allowing it to shape our future work with the Library and other clients is where the rubber will meet the road. Cliché intended.

Taking Time By John Sarvay | January 23, 2014

Floricane took Christmas week off. Our folks went their separate ways to recharge in unique and personal ways. We took the week after Christmas off, as well – off from our clients.

Rather than diving back into the fray, and trying to cram new work into the week, we decided to make New Year’s week a “client free” week. Instead, our team hung out together, and did some serious prep work to make 2014 a great year. We used that week to connect with one another in a more relaxed way, and to fine tune the business.

It was the smartest thing I did in 2013.

And so we're going to do it again in 2014. Several times.

We’ll close the week of July 4 for vacation, and close our doors to clients the following week to pause and take a breath. We’ll sharpen our saws, polish our processes and prepare for the second half of the year. (And we'll do it again next December.)

We’ll all take personal time throughout the year, as well, but we think blacking out four weeks a year where our team has to take its foot off the gas sends an important message or two.

Our people matter. Our clients matter. Recharging to do great work matters, too.

Five Lessons from Group Coaching By John Sarvay | January 21, 2014

Our clients are fortunate. I do very little group coaching these days, relying on the skilled talent of Debra Saneda and Anne Chamberlain to fill that particular niche.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy sitting with groups and unpacking their challenges. It’s that I enjoy it a little too much – I sometimes can spend too much time unpacking.

Now that the Floricane team is in the midst of one of its biggest projects – group leadership coaching for a large slate of managers in Richmond and Hampton Roads – we’re focused on coaching for impact. Anne and Debra are in the midst of an eight-month project involving 17 different groups of managers. Each group will have five coaching sessions, and participants will also do homework, attend several training sessions and develop plans for their teams.

Two of the biggest takeaways I’ve had from our ongoing coaching work? The value of creating space for managers and leaders simply to slow down – and the importance of facilitated opportunities for peers to share their struggles, solutions and best practices.

Listening to Debra and Anne discuss the flow and tenor of their first round of group coaching discussions – all 17 of them! – in December, I’m struck by how deeply they have to listen to each unique discussion. The volume of active listening they do in a week is amazing, and the act of that listening alone is of value to their coaching participants.

Five lessons I’ve drawn watching our team engage in group coaching work:

  • Time and Space: Managers and leaders have a hard time creating space for themselves. Coaching forces a mental timeout, and an opportunity to reflect – and plan forward.


  • Peer Discussions: There are circumstances in which we find group coaching (of peers from different teams without reporting relationships) creates amazing dialogue and value. Sometimes, it’s simply recognizing that other managers deal with the same chaos as you do that helps.


  • Active Listening (and Questioning): Having someone listen deeply to your challenges, and your successes, and asking hard questions to focus your attention can be a game changer.


  • Being Heard: Sandwiched between busy teams and even busier bosses, many mid-level managers have no one to hear them. That isolation can be paralyzing, and demoralizing.


  • Lather, Rinse, Repeat: Sharing, setting a plan in place, making commitments – and then coming back in two or three weeks to be accountable (to your coach and your peers) can be a truly motivating set of habits. Do it often enough, and you develop new muscle memory.

In The Name of Dr. Martin Luther King, Sing! By John Sarvay | January 20, 2014

Every January for four years, we've sent a simple postcard to hundreds of our friends in the community. It's a thank you note, and a reminder -- of the power of one voice, the power of community, and the power of dreams. On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we'd like to thank each of you for your commitment to making our community a better place.

(And we'd like to thank Ben Dacus for his simple, powerful design.)

TILTED 2014 By John Sarvay | January 20, 2014

If you attended last February’s small business unconference, you know that Tilted is a great way to connect with and learn from other small business owners and entrepreneurs. More than 140 people crowded into our collaborative space in the Richmond Times-Dispatch building for a full day of learning and discovery.

It was one of our favorite events.

But it wasn’t our event. It was organized by 12 small business owners (including us), and it really came together because the 140+ participants were not afraid to build the content collaboratively, and in-the-moment. Hence the term “unconference”.

Well, I’m excited to announce that Tilted is coming back in 2014! Many of the original organizers have signed on, and we’re looking at another late February landing date. Last year, we organized the entire event on a shoestring, and it only took us 45 days. We hope to repeat our low-budget, high-impact success again this year.

Keep your eyes on Facebook, Twitter or the Floricane blog for more news as we start to put the pieces into place.

And mark your calendar for Saturday, March 1. Let's get Tilted.

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Plant Nurture Grow

At Floricane, we specialize in helping individuals and organizations explore tomorrow’s possibilities, discover the leadership potential inherent in any strong culture, and actively engage in a rapidly changing business climate.