Writing the Book on Alignment


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.


Blowing Things Up with Gas


We're not sure you can create a better morning than one involving sausage biscuits, the launch of a new brand, 300 utility workers and 1,200 uninflated balloons. Except for the part when the 300 workers start to inflate the 1,200 balloons. That part is pretty amazing.

We were recently invited by our friends at The Hodges Partnership to facilitate a team building activity for Richmond's Department of Public Utilities. DPU was launching a new brand -- RVA Gas Works -- and wanted all of its employees to better understand how collaboration, communication, accountability, customer service and quality work made a difference to City of Richmond residents. It was a fast-paced morning, and we were only part of the entertainment -- the DPU Singers performed, and there was a fashion show with DPU employees showing off the new brand identity

Building an Oral Health Gameplan


The best part of planning to plan is when you start to move past planning and into action! That's how dozens of Virginia Peninsula organizations are feeling as the team from Smart Beginnings Virginia Peninsula moves closer to an action plan to tackle oral health awareness, access and care in Newport News and Hampton.


We've been facilitating conversations in the region for more than a year, and have identified a small handful of real opportunities to effect change -- especially when it comes to consistent dental care for children. Early in 2017, Smart Beginnings will deliver an action plan to DentaQuest Foundation -- and then get to work with community partners to make a difference on the ground.


Scenes from a Birthday Party

We got together with a handful of our Floricane friends last week to celebrate eight years of making change, and dream about tomorrow's possibilities. No one brought us a pony for our birthday, but we left the party rejuvenated by the support of so many friends, clients and partners. Thanks for 8 great years! (Click the photos to scroll few the images above.)

Playground Perspective: You Can Go Home Again

You can go home again.

When I was young, my dad and stepmother dragged me along with them for regular visits to her family's homestead in rural North Carolina. After a few years, they abandoned city life and settled into a comfortable house on 30 acres of fields, streams and woods in a small Quaker farming community in Alamance County.

I spent important slices of my adolescence there. I learned to bale hay (and learned that I was allergic to hay). I helped slaughter hogs (and quit bacon for several years). I hunted (mostly without success) frogs, squirrels, deer and raccoons. I dug potatoes, strung barbed wire, swam in ponds, got stung by bees. I learned a bit about God, pinto beans and Tarheel basketball. I learned to understand my father more honestly because of who he became in that house, and in that small community.

My dad died at that house on Greenhill Road in 1997, and my stepmother passed away just a few short years later. The property was sold, and we found fewer reasons to visit.

Nikole and I went back to Greenhill Road last weekend on our way home from visiting family in Charlotte. My dad and stepmother's neighbors still live in their farmhouse across the road, where I played constantly with their son when I was growing up. Treva and Leonidas haven't changed one bit, and we immediately felt at home. Again.

Watching Jack and Thea delight in a passel of barn cats, moo at nearby cows, and throw straw at each other in the back of an old wagon made the detour so worthwhile. Leonidas had pulled his tractor out to give the kids a hayride, and so all of us piled into the back of the wagon as he meandered down the gravel road, across the hay field, along the creek and past the barn. It was too short a visit, but it was packed with memory and meaning.

Creating a sense of place for our children -- visiting their grandparents, spending time at Nikole's family place on the Chesapeake Bay, walking our neighborhood, exploring our city -- is important. It roots them in story, and in relationship. And I believe it will give them an anchor as they grow and stretch into themselves.

I've always valued the anchor of my stepmother's home in North Carolina. And my infrequent visits are visceral reminders that memories, stories and relationships always matter.

Back to the Bank

Over the next few months, we'll be spending time with the IT team at the Virginia Credit Union. They've been long-time fans of Insights® Discovery, and leverage the personality assessment to help their teams communicate and collaborate. Kathy and John are currently taking the entire team through our new Insights Refresh workshop -- a fast and easy way to reintroduce teams to the basics of Insights, get everyone on the same page around ways to leverage it well, and introduce some best practice ideas from our other clients

Letter from John (November 2016)

Birthdays get more calm as you get older, but I'd like to think that two things never change. The first is that secret dream that someone you care about will hand you  small, neatly wrapped package that contains the best gift ever. The second is the quiet appreciation for such people that lingers after the candles have been blown out, and the party has come to a close.

Floricane turns 8 this November.

I could not have imagined this during my early morning drive from Luck Stone that first November morning. It was a week after Barack Obama had been elected, and regardless of your politics change was in the air. There was the residual change of the previous administration -- more than a million people a month were losing their jobs that winter in America, and there was tremendous anxiety. There was the promise of transformation, as well. The promise that somehow we could erase the wounds of our nations past; that purple -- not red or blue -- is the true color of America; that we could, in fact, overcome.

That November in 2008, surrounded by anxiety and hope, as a newly unemployed American and a new dad, I stepped into Floricane and into my future. It has been a marvelous, difficult journey.

My desire with Floricane has always been to build, and to build with other people. I've been fortunate beyond belief to have employed or contracted with smart and wonderful people who have contributed in genuine ways. Many of them have transitioned to new chapters of their own lives. (Thanks, Sally and Juliet and Cara and Tina! And Beth and Sarah and Jessica and Jim. And Matthew, Eleanor, Kristen, Carey, and Peter. And Josh, Caroline, Theran, Anne, and Julie!)

Several of them -- Debra, Lesley and Kathy -- remain at the heart of what Floricane is today, and what we are becoming as we grow and evolve.

In so many ways, like our nation, I find myself (eight years later) back where I started, and different. There are different anxieties, different hopes. The problems I thought my new business would erase have taken a new form. Excitement continues to surface with each opportunity to solve a problem, build a relationship, discover new insights into our community. The sense of possibility continues to outweigh the moments of doubt, of second-guessing.

Every day is work. Every day brings worry. Every day brings a new opportunity for renewal, and investment, and for curiosity, relationships and growth. Growing up is hard work -- for people, for communities, and for organizations.

At home, I still wake some nights and tiptoe into my eight-year-old daughter's room to make sure she's still there, and warm in her blankets. I've added an extra stop to my two-year-old son's room. I pause, watch their quiet slumber, place my hand on their heads, and reflect. Sometimes I whisper words of thanks. That these two kids have slipped into my life remains the bright spot of the past eight years, and creates a foundation for optimism about the next eight years, and beyond.

As for each of you, this letter represents a thank you, too. You have -- my clients, friends, partners, coworkers and acquaintances -- contributed in such significant ways to Floricane's continued success. You have been, and remain, bright spots for me, and for the Floricane team. We value our work with you.

We love what we do. Our work is the small, neatly wrapped packages. And the communities we engage are what we appreciate most long after the candles have been blown out. We are better because of you.

Happy birthday!


Ross Reflects on Insights Explorations: Learning Styles

Please welcome back to the Floricane blog:  Ross Catrow! Check out where Ross tweets, here, and what things he likes, here. Ross has been a big Insights® fan from the beginning, so we thought we'd ask him what he learned at our latest Insights® Explorations workshop.

I've always heard that most folks are either visual or auditory learners, and I've always thought of myself as very visual. I can remember lectures in college (well, not really, because I mostly fell asleep) where entire classes would slip by as the professor droned on and not a single thing would stick in my brain.

So color me surprised when Kathy dropped this study in front of me at the most recent Insights Explorations. The long and short of it is: Not only are people probably not stuck to just one specific type of learning for their entire lives, but they really can't tell you how they best learn. This blew my mind! You can present a person with information in a way that they prefer (visual, audio, whatever), give them a test on that information, and when they perform poorly on that test they'll tell you—right to your face—that the preferred-yet-not-as-effective method of learning was better! Even though it was clearly not!

Brains, man. Never trust them.

This is all very fascinating, but how does it apply to the magical Insights color wheel? As a group of us talked about the ways in which we learn and which ways are more comfortable, we started to realize that—who would have guessed—learning strategies correspond to Insights types. For example, "role playing," which, for me, sounds terrible, is way across the Insights wheel from where I live. The unreliable narrator part of my brain says that I should never attempt to use role playing as a learning strategy, because "that's just not my style." Well, au contraire, brain! We just learned that you cannot be trusted when it comes to matters of what is and is not effective learning. It's probably best, and the research shows this too, to mix up learning activities—and even push yourself into places that make you feel uncomfortable. Even things like...role playing.

So as I prepare to tackle my next new task (which is probably something boring like, "how to effectively administer surveys to humans"), I'm going to take a look around the Insights wheel and see if there are some techniques that would have (and still do) give me pause. Maybe some of my immediate family will help me role play through asking a total stranger to fill out a survey about buses?