FROM COMMON VISION TO TRANSFORMATION

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We feel privileged to be in the room when a close-knit team decides to invest time in meaningful conversation about purpose, shared values, and the emotional impact of their work. Listening to a passionate group of individuals rediscover and name their North Star is energizing and inspiring.

Such conversations don’t usually start with a mandate for change. It’s the more basic questions – “How can we work together better?” or “Are we having the right impact together?” – that triggers some of the best conversations we see.

That’s how our two days of discovery with the faculty at Tuckahoe Montessori School began. Head of School, Amanda Edmondson, wanted to start the school year by creating space for her team of teachers to connect, build alignment, re-engage for a new school year, and have fun.

Floricane’s Kathy Greenier and John Sarvay spent two half days with the team to focus on their mission, vision, and shared values. What that really means is we created room for them to have effective conversations as a community of purpose-driven teachers. From that discussion of purpose, passion and commitment emerged common language to transform their work and their behaviors.

Tuckahoe Montessori School takes its mission to build community and engage the hearts and minds of its young students seriously. Their arms are open wide. Their work is big.

During our time together, the faculty engaged both broadly and deeply. They painted with generalities and with specifics. It was important for them to connect all of the dots, and to understand what might be left out.

Our work as facilitators meant helping the group uncover their own best answers by asking questions, and then stepping out of the conversation. Being prepared to pivot, to shift our own energy in response to theirs, was important. Allowing the teachers to get into the weeds, then drift to the grass tops, helped ensure their best ideas came into the room in powerful ways.

We took a brief pause with the school so they could do their best work – welcome more than 100 students back into the classroom. We’ll re-engage with them later in the fall with refined mission and vision statements, a set of shared values, and ideas on how to transform the words on paper into a lived experience.

We can’t wait to regroup later this year to hear how a group of teachers already infused with a shared sense of passion and possibility turned their energy up a notch to strengthen Tuckahoe’s world-changing community of learners.

BUILDING A STRONG FOUNDATION FOR CHANGE

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It takes a colony of bees just seven days of working collaboratively to create up to three pounds of honeycomb. That’s 5,000 bees, working 10 hour days, and converting pounds of honey into beeswax. Time, energy, geometry, and collaboration all go into building the perfect beehive.

To borrow a metaphor, the Virginia League of Conservation Voters have been busy as bees ensuring the voice of the state’s conservation community is heard – on Capital Square and around the state. To mobilize and engage hundreds of organizations and citizens, the League – like bees – has to start with a common foundation.

The League had a strategy, new team members, and new resources to deploy in service to its mission. With that framework already in place, Floricane’s Kathy Greenier and Debra Saneda have been working with the team to connect the pieces into a stronger framework.

When organizations have both individual- and team-based needs, customized approaches are often needed. With the League, Kathy and Debra deployed three tools – Insights® Discovery, Insights® Team Effectiveness, and leadership coaching – to align the perspectives of the entire staff.

The beauty in these three tools is that, like the hexagon shape in a honeycomb, they build on each other. They lead to one shared foundation, not disconnected parts.

The initial Insights® assessment provides individual awareness about communication style, approaches to decision making, and more. It gave the team at the League an opportunity to think about their individual strengths, and what they bring to the table.

The emphasis on Team Effectiveness illuminated how the group works together for a common purpose, and allowed space for a conversation around shared work goals and behaviors.

And, at the center, individual coaching provided key leaders time to reflect on their best approach to helping the organization integrate its work with genuine integrity.

Watching an organization coalesce with energy and purpose around very real challenges facing our community inspires our team to bring its best work to the table.

CREATING NEW VISION FOR AN ESTABLISHED COMMUNITY

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Sometimes a project comes along that hits all of the right notes, and challenges us in the right ways. Working in Charlottesville with New Hill Development Corporation (NHDC) and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) to develop a community-focused small area plan for the Starr Hill neighborhood has been one of those projects for Floricane.

Over the past six months, a small team – Ebony Walden, Shelli Jost Brady, Marle Hylton and John Sarvay – has been engaged in deep, focused discussions with residents of Starr Hill, members of Charlottesville’s black entrepreneurial community, and other NHDC partners. The goal? Develop a vision for the future of Starr Hill that centers the neighborhood at the heart of black economic and social success for Charlottesville.

The vision: The Neighborhood Vision is of a Starr Hill Area community whose future growth is guided by a commitment to racial, economic and social equity. We will create a neighborhood identity rooted in African American presence and prosperity with real opportunities for the Black community to foster ownership -- of property, commerce and culture.

The vision was just the beginning. Over the summer, the Floricane team worked with Chicago-based RW Ventures and LISC to develop an ambitious set of economic, housing, and cultural strategies to shape future development in Starr Hill. By creating a hub for minority businesses and closing financing gaps for black-owned small business they will strengthen the physical connections between Starr Hill and the rest of Charlottesville. The plan lays out more than two dozen specific recommendations to drive black wealth creation, property and business ownership, and cultural presence in the city.

Striking a balance between a community’s aspiration and the near-term reality is a major challenge in work like this. By tethering the plan and emerging strategies around a set of guiding principles – building black prosperity and a more equitable community top on the list – we were able to keep pushing the plan to do both what is right for the community and what is best.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be working with architect/designer Peter Fraser to transform our written plan into a visual roadmap for the community. We’ll begin working with our partners at New Hill Development Corporation to talk through specific approaches to implementing a set of strategies that range from a monthly gathering of food trucks and entertainers to a major mixed-use development.

As we slide out of October into the winter, we hope to be able to reflect back on our time in Starr Hill knowing that the community challenged us to be better as consultants – and that we helped position Charlottesville to provide more equitable opportunities for its black residents.

BEGINNING WITH CULTURE

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A lot of organizations focus on the customer experience. Increasingly, we are spending time with organizations focused on employee engagement. It often surfaces beneath the all-encompassing umbrella of “organizational culture.”

Employee engagement and organizational culture are not new ideas at Sheltering Arms Institute. Unlike many of our clients, the brand new rehabilitation hospital (slated to open next summer) gets to build its culture from scratch.

There’s an old phrase we hear a lot – start the way you want to finish. With a commitment to become a destination rehabilitation hospital for the Mid-Atlantic region, the team at Sheltering Arms Institute is thinking a lot these days about creating a hiring process and candidate experience that starts with culture.

Starting with culture means giving prospective employees an experience that makes their values of courage, integrity, positivity, community, discovery, and accessibility visible and tangible during the hiring process. Over the next few months, hundreds of people will apply for positions at the new rehabilitation hospital. What they say about their experience as candidates – and, in many cases, as new employees – matters. A lot.

In the midst of building this hospital, the actual building, SAI is choosing to raise their values, mission, and vision up on the priority list and out into a lived experience. Giving candidates an experience they can reflect is key. How candidates are greeted, what the environment looks like, the questions asked, and the consistency of the interview experiences are all culture touch points that need to be handled in the right way.

SAI’s leadership knows that their new culture will set them apart from other hospitals and they are committed to getting it right from the start. 

HOW TO NOT BE WILE E. CYOTE

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Role clarity, efficient workflows, and consistency: Hefty goals for a recent engagement with the Creative Services Team at John Tyler Community College. 

As the session started, it was clear the team works well together. And it was clear that their drive for a common purpose and for consistency in their work would require more than healthy relationships.

The team’s engagement began with the creation of an internal mission and vision statement. Establishing more clarity and alignment around purpose sets the stage for a team to change the way it engages around work. In the case of the John Tyler team, it allowed the rest of the day to focus around work flow and role clarity.

Why the emphasis on work flow?

In the old Road Runner cartoons, Wile E. Coyote is always on a rocket careening down a road and focused on one thing – catching the Road Runner. The frame zooms out to show the road coming to an abrupt stop at a canyon. There’s the moment of realization, a look of panic, and then the inevitable dust cloud when the coyote goes off the cliff.

Work flows have gaps, and when teams are running fast – well, we go over the cliff. It’s rarely pretty.

Being a creative services team, we asked the folks at John Tyler to be creative. They drew a visual of their current workflow. They worked through decision making points, and they named their ideal client experience.

By mapping their work flow on paper, they were able to get off of the rocket and look at the road. They saw the gaps, and the potential cliffs. And they looked for solutions. All too often we focus on how the gap can’t be fixed. We throw up our hands or we try to fill it with a behavior not natural to our own. We were inspired by the way this team balanced their opportunities with their strengths.  

This was not our first encounter with this team at John Tyler Community College. Seeing a team evolve and incorporate their work with us into the day-to-day operations is always fulfilling. 

Can you imagine what Wile E. Cyote would be like if he had that type of self-awareness? It would have made for a far less enjoyable cartoon, but maybe leveraging his strength in determination would have driven some new, less catastrophic behaviors.


RUNNING IN THE SAME DIRECTION

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There’s a moment familiar to many long-distance runners when momentum can go either way. The road that lies ahead feels harder than the ground covered. The choice is simple: to let the past create drag and slow the pace, or embrace the challenge of the road ahead feeling empowered by what you have already accomplished.

The American Civil War Museum (ACWM) recently completed what passes for a marathon in the world of museums. After years of dreaming, and working, they opened the doors to a brand new museum building focused on a clear account of the causes, impacts and after-effects of the Civil War. (Not up to date on this major milestone? Check it out here.)

While running can be a solo activity, there is power in running with a team. The power of a team comes from a shared commitment to finish the race. We recently convened the ACWM team to search for alignment and energy as they prepare for the next chapter in their journey. That is a team that is running together. 

Using Insights® Discovery as a starting place, we created room to run for 30 people to explore ways to strengthen their performance going forward. All 30 invested energy and perspective in the conversation, and all 30 left with increased alignment and clarity.

The team agreed on four key behaviors they believed would help the museum, and their own work teams, run more smoothly. They could have stopped there. Many teams do, but we then asked them to go a step further in their work teams, and individually, by identifying specific changes they would put into place to strengthen their commitment.

Making commitments together requires team support and accountability. Relying on a team to help you cross the finish line requires trust, openness, and vulnerability. It requires some runners to slow their pace, while others press harder. It invites a commitment to seeing everyone finish the race.

By creating shared commitments, the American Civil War Museum team is better prepared to run their next marathon. Having endured a challenging run, clearing the finish line as a team is a moment to celebrate – and feel inspired to keep running.

The Zoom photos

On June 12th we gathered 70 amazing people into a room with the focus on connecting. We talked about organizational struggles and successes. These photos shine a light on the connections that were made.

Meet Helen McKinley: Floricane's Spring Intern

Hello, Everyone! My name is Helen McKinley and I am a senior attending Randolph-Macon College. As I entered college for the first time, I had an unwavering goal to major in Biology and become a doctor. In my first 2 years of being a Biology student, I took rigorous math and science classes, but I also worked hard in my school’s Information Technology (IT) department, improving both my computer and customer skills. I quickly developed a knack for observing executive-employee dynamics, communication challenges and best practices between colleagues, exchanges amongst coworkers and clients, and how I personally fit in amidst it all.

While working in the IT department, I analyzed how certain interactions between the workflow, clients, and fellow employees can either help or hinder progress within the workplace. After witnessing a business consultant give advice to help improve such interactions in our department, I soon realized that I loved working with people more than working in a lab. By the end of my second year, I switched my major from Biology to Psychology with an emphasis in Industrial/Organizational.

As a new Psych major, I took classes that emphasized the biological, social, and directional aspects of understanding the human psyche. I was very interested in the Leadership course that I attended, as it gave me insight on the different leadership styles (Directional, Servant, Charismatic/Transformational, etc.) and how they can work hand-in-hand. This class was helpful in allowing me to realize not only others’ skillsets, but my own as well. I knew from there that I wanted to aide companies through business consulting. I wanted to intern at a place where I could shadow professionals in the consulting field, and so my college professor connected me with Floricane.

My goal is to learn from Floricane’s experts on improving companies’ leadership and workflows, while having tons of fun in the process! It has been exactly one month since I’ve started my internship here at Floricane and I can honestly say, that in a short amount of time, I’ve learned a great deal about what Floricane does and the company’s goals.

I obtained the most knowledge by observing John and Kathy’s Insights workshops. I had the chance to meet and observe staff at various companies who utilized the Insights profiles, and I watched as they learned how to improve communication and workflow between their coworkers by understanding each other’s personalities.

One of the most important things I’ve learned so far is that there isn’t a singular personality type that is “better” than the rest in a work setting; instead, all personalities are complementary to each other, and balancing the different traits to effectively complete daily tasks is key. As my time at Floricane continues, I know I will learn even more about valuable leadership strategies that will help me in directing teams in the future to come.