Pushing For Change With My Supervisors

I feel for my Supervisors past and present. I mean, it has to be trying at times to look up from their work and see me standing at their door, leading with, “Have you got a few minutes? I’ve been thinking…”

You know, I think that’s it in a nutshell; I’m always thinking. Where it came from I can’t say, but each day I find myself looking to make improvements in the way the services I and my team deliver. Most of the time the creative ideas I have are limited to my own workshops. You see I consider myself fortunate to work in an organization which allows each of us workshop facilitators the freedom to deliver content using our own materials, provided the overall message we deliver is consistent with others.

Every time I run a workshop, I find myself looking at handouts I’ve made in the past and wondering if there isn’t a better way to communicate whatever the topic is. Sometimes an improvement means simplifying words, adding some colour to make things more interesting to read, or finding just the right photo or illustration for the visual learners in a group.  There are times as well when I just feel something isn’t working to my standards and I scrap what I’ve got entirely for another approach.

These changes are personal ones of course. They don’t impact on my peers unless of course they ask me for permission to look over what I’ve got in order to see what they themselves might like to duplicate and use in their own presentations. Sharing of resources is encouraged where I work; it’s one way we come to appreciate each other’s talents and as no one person knows everything about all things, we acknowledge it’s a good way to learn other approaches and inform ourselves on subject matter at the same time.

Some of the ideas I have for change however are of a different nature. Sometimes the ideas I have are systemic changes that if implemented would impact on the entire team and also have a residual impact on how our peers interact with us. For example, how referrals are made to the workshops we run, the pre-requisites for those participating, and the development of new programs altogether, responding to the real needs of those we serve.

Pushing for change is exhilarating and seems to be in my DNA. I mean, I don’t sit in my office and consciously say, “Today I want to make significant changes to the way we deliver our services. What can I think of? How can I be positively disruptive?” It doesn’t work like that. No, it doesn’t work this way. The ideas I get are often borne out of conversations with my co-workers, when we talk about how we currently do things and the challenges we encounter. Sometimes it’s learning about some technology and envisioning how, if implemented, would enhance our delivery. An idea might arise from a participant who made a suggestion or asked a question of me that began, “Could we …”

Oh yes, I feel for my Supervisors both past and especially present. My last Supervisor jokingly told me I was restricted to bringing her 3 new ideas a week. She couldn’t handle anymore. She’s moved on and upward and is now the Manager where I work, sitting right next door to my current Supervisor. I can only imagine when I leave after having presented, “another great idea”, that they must commiserate with one another, roll their eyes while shaking their heads simultaneously, saying, “Oh Kelly, Kelly, Kelly!”

Coming up with new, innovative and creative ideas is exhilarating and produces enough spark in my work so that things stay fresh. I feed off that process and it fuels my day. As those ideas pop up, I work through the budding concept, look at pros and cons, create and rework the idea, then want to act on it. When I present the idea however, the person on the receiving end hearing it for the first time may not be in the right headspace for something new. I mean, I don’t know what I’ve caught my Supervisor in the middle of. Presumably she isn’t just sitting there waiting for me to drop by and make another pitch for something. No, I may not know what she’s working on at any one minute, but I can appreciate whatever is on her mind, there must be times when she thinks to herself, “NOT NOW KELLY MITCHELL – please not now!” But she smiles, turns, and listens.

A lot of my ideas get rejected; some ideas take root and get implemented. This is the price innovative and creative people pay I suppose when not in positions of power to just implement all the ideas we have. Having your ideas rejected can do one of two things; stifle your enthusiasm for bringing forward ideas in the future or not.

Like I say however, I think this job as an Employment Counsellor delivering workshops has tapped in to my Innovation and Change chromosome somewhere in my DNA. Pushing for change does mean a disruption in the way things are done and not everyone is ready for change when change is proposed. Those that like doing things the way they’ve always been done precisely because they’ve always been done a certain way will attest to that.

I have to end now. I’ve just had another idea.


Wanting To Experience A Better Future

If you assume that everybody wants a better future, you’d be surprised to find out that your assumption is wrong. Of course, we’d have to come to an understanding between us about what the term, ‘better’ implies. Does better mean more money, a better job; maybe ‘just’ a job? Does it imply a home to live in, a loving partner, a pet, travel, having children, etc.? Better to you might not be better for others no matter what you name.

For many, building a better future is going to take work; work they’re ready to put in so that one day they can make what others only hope for. These kind of people believe they are the architects of their own future, that nothing worth having is just going to be handed to them. They plan and then put their plans into action by rolling up their sleeves and getting down to business. How bad they want it and how hard they’re ready to work for it will decide how successful they’ll be and how long it will take to realize what they’re after.

Others  believe a better future is worth a $5.00 investment once a week or more. These folks have pinned their future to a lottery; they dream big and invest little; setting aside some of their disposable income on an extremely small chance that luck will favour them. Soon they’ll stand on a stage with an over-sized cheque and life will dramatically change for them with the calling out of some random numbers. Their philosophy is, “you can’t win if you don’t play”, while others believe, “it’s impossible to lose if you don’t play.”

For others, having a better future has nothing at all to do with money or wealth. Their picture of a brighter and better future has to do with improved health; eradicating a disease, overcoming a health scare, getting stronger, changing their weight, having more stamina etc. It might mean new dentures that bring back their smile, learning to walk again or walking pain-free. Hoping and praying perhaps for a cure that comes in their time for what is slowly robbing them of their body and mind.

Some seemingly have it all together from outward appearances. Still searching and wanting a better future however, they may have hopes for reconciliation, patching up past relationships, strained friendships, They may dogged by an inability to let things go, reluctant to put in the effort to bring about the change needed, to choose forgiveness instead of bitterness.

For you though; you my reader – what does a better future mean for you? What does that look like when you picture life ahead?

Maybe you’re one who wants a better, more fulfilling future but has yet to figure out what that future looks like. Perhaps your wish and hope is actually that; to figure it out. Just being able to decide what career or job you’d most like – that alone would be something! Getting past the indecision, wanting to put a plan in action but not being able to because you figure you must have something to be working toward and the not-knowing has you paralyzed, stressed and downright frustrated.

If you’re after a better future; you can go about it in one of two ways I suppose; change nothing and believe that eventually what you’re doing in the present will bring about the result you’re after. The other alternative is that something; or some things (plural) need to change. Most of the time those who believe something has to change start with a shift in their thinking. The mindset, thoughts, ideas and beliefs sometimes have to shift, being willing to try that which hasn’t been tried before. Do this and you embrace a, “Change begins with me” mentality; “Be the change I want to see” philosophy.

So whether it’s finding yourself, finding God, finding a golden ticket in a chocolate bar or finding yourself signing a new car agreement, the decisions you make going forward from today will bring you closer to your goal or leave you further from it.

Is it as simple as that? Does it come down to better decision-making? All the decisions you’ve made up to now have in large part been responsible for where you find yourself now. The food in your cupboards products of your decisions made in the grocery store. The furniture you sit on a result of the decisions you made on what to buy, borrow or claim. The job you have a product of your decision about your education, your choice of employers, your decision to commute or not.

Decisions are often made by others that affect us though. Employers move, expand and contract, lay off and hire, promote and fire. How we react to these things is ultimately our decision to make. Do we rebel and fight, carry the bitterness with us, shake their hand and move on?

Opting for a brighter and better future might be what you’ve decided on for yourself. Determining what that means – for you personally – is entirely up to you. Talking it out is often a good start. Even when you aren’t sure what you’ll end up deciding on, getting your thoughts out and sharing what’s going on in your mind is helpful.

No sage advice this time around. Just a question; If you want a better future, what does it look like?




What’s Your Working Philosophy?

How you approach the relationship you have with the people you serve reveals your broader philosophy.  So how does the philosophy you’ve adopted fit with: the organization you work for, other team members and most importantly your target audience? Some employees never reflect on their own working philosophy, which is problematic when it comes to finding the right organizational fit.

When you can articulate a working philosophy, you’ll find it extremely beneficial. It governs how you view the people you serve in terms of whether you call them clients, customers, end-users, people or recipients and guides your decisions. You’ll also interact with these people from a consistent perspective when it comes to planning and delivering service. Do you for example include people you are designing services for in the planning process or do you plan without them in a silo?

Imagine yourself seated at a table designing some program which you’d like to roll out to your target population. You and those assembled want to design this program to respond to the needs of your target audience; it’s got to be attractive, the benefits real, affordable, easy to access, and be perceived as being of value. It also has to be cost-effective and make use of available resources. Now looking around, who else do you see seated around the table?

Most of us will visualize our teammates, perhaps someone in a Management role (which if you included as part of your team good for you!). Did you stop at this point or did you see one or more chairs occupied by the people who are representative of your target audience? If you didn’t see any of these people seated at the table, then your working philosophy is that you and your collective group know your audience well enough that you can plan for them in their absence. If you included them seated at the table in your visualization, then your working philosophy uses a partnership approach, where their voices are heard first-hand, and in addition to their input, they act as checks and balances right from the start.

So if not at this initial starting point, at what stage if any do you include the target population in the planning before the service or program is rolled out in its final form? Some people who work in organizations don’t actually include the client, customer, end-user – the people – in the process whatsoever. There is no partnership; there are no test groups, no sample audience. The program is rolled out seemingly with a, “we know what’s best for you” attitude. Guess right and the people flock to the service or program. Guess wrong, and the people stay away in droves, or the numbers don’t justify the service or program and you’re left wondering why these people seemingly don’t appreciate the value of what you are offering them.

Now imagine some chairs around the table are indeed occupied by the audience your service or program is going to target. So whether they are job seekers and you’re a team of Employment Counsellors and Workshop Facilitators, or they’re bank customers and you’re a team of Investment professionals, how would your conversations change with your target audience sitting right beside you?

One thing you might notice is that some of the assumptions you use as starting places would be challenged. You might take it as a given that your meeting to discuss this new service or program would start at 9:00 a.m. sharp. After all, that’s half an hour or a full hour after you and your fellow employees start your work day. Your target audience however, say a youth population of 17 – 24 year olds, would better attend the meeting if it were at 10:00 a.m.; their bodies work on different time clocks then older adults. So right off the bat, you just learned something and you haven’t even got to the table yet. Your initial assumption about an agreeable meeting time is flawed, so what other assumptions will you make that don’t respond to your target audience? Maybe your target population could also benefit from a working breakfast of bagels and jam?

The importance of having a personal working philosophy can also make your place on the team a harmonious or trying experience. Have different working philosophies from your peers and you might ponder, “Why don’t my team members invest themselves as much as I do?” vs. “I don’t do anything outside my job description” or “I’m the professional with 5 years’ experience so I know what’s best for them” vs. “I’ve never lived your unique experience so teach me.”

Getting into a team discussion about personal and team philosophy isn’t very sexy. Some will roll their eyes and you can observe them mentally disengage from conversations. They aren’t interested in what they may perceive as frivolous, obvious, or maybe they feel the objective is to force everyone on the team to conform to a single perspective. When you work with people on a daily basis, there can be great value in knowing and sharing your personal philosophies, based on what each person has experienced and learned and holds as valued. These insights can help each member understand others points of views, and how these align or are at odds with the organizations philosophy and delivery of service.

Working philosophies are not static either; they evolve over time as we interact with others.

So what’s your working philosophy?


Some Words To Work By

Having worked in the field of Social Services for many years, I can acknowledge quite openly that the way I think and interact with my clients and co-workers has changed over the years. Call it maturity, wisdom, experience, even trial and error, but I like to think it’s a sign of growth and continuous understanding. Many have guided me along.

And so, I would like to pass on some thoughts and advice to anyone interested; whether you are a client, a customer, a seasoned professional or just launching your career, I hope you’d agree that sharing such information might prove a good read and useful. Take what you will, leave the rest, add your own as you choose.

Listen attentively in order to determine exactly where your clients are in this moment.

Don’t assume the goals you’d have in someone else’s place will be theirs.

Be forgiving of those who fall short. Find the positives in what they did and start anew.

Surround yourself with positive people whenever you can; you’ll be happier.

Trust in your Supervisor when you’re asked to. Leave things with them.

Be observant, learn from everyone. Your teacher might be a client with a problem.

Build a personal code of ethics and follow your moral compass. It always points North.

Share what you can with those at any and all levels who are open to learning.

You’re skimming without reflecting. Pause, reflect, consider.

Make sure you only hit, “Reply All” when it’s appropriate.

If you are in a position of influence, do so with the best of others in mind.

Do your best whether you run a corporation or dig ditches. Take pride in your work.

If the job isn’t for you, get out without regret over money or benefits. Save yourself.

Hope is sometimes all people have; you may in their eyes be that Hope. Think on that.

Be consistent with your answers and your actions. That’s your reputation growing.

Work productively when no one is watching and a lesser you could get away with it.

Be a person of integrity; you’ll come to admire the person you see in the mirror.

Humour can lighten many a stressful situation.

Smiles cost nothing to give and often have the power to appear on others when given.

Be a Superhero and discover your super power.

Offer to help a co-worker when you can, learn to ask for help when you should.

If you’re lowest on the hierarchy, you influence the people who matter the most.

Dress yourself not for your current job, but for the job you eventually want.

Be kindest to the people who are most affected by the quality of your work.

Even when you are at the top of an organization, you needn’t look down at people.

Asking for help is a sign of strength not weakness.

Being asked for help is acknowledgement of your ability to provide it.

Do what’s right; always.

Be punctual at all times which respects the time of others.

Apologize when you make a mistake. It takes two words; “I’m sorry.” Done.

When you say, “Good morning”, mean it.

If you ask someone, “How are you today?” wait for the answer.

No matter how much you know, you’ll never know it all; keep learning anyhow.

Every now and then, stretch yourself and try something challenging.

Get out into the sun and clear your head. Breathe in some good air. Repeat.

Every so often, “No” is the word you are looking for.

There’s always a way to say, “Yes”. “Is there the will?” is the question.

Re-read your job description at least once a year. Surprise yourself.

Thank the person with a note who cleans your office. Surprise them.

Be considerate of others who share your workspace.

Others have to find their way just as you did. Let them make small mistakes.

People are counting on you; don’t let yourself down.

Be proud of the scars. You survived whatever assaulted you.

Get help before things completely fall apart. Know your limit.

Kind words build good working relationships.

Be someone to look up to even when you’re at the bottom.

Market yourself, promote your skills and abilities.

Your next job interview has already begun. Someone is always watching.

Get over yourself; others can replace you and maybe do things better.

On your very first day, think what they’ll say about you when you retire.

Know when it’s time to move on and have the courage to leap.

Even in bad times, see the bigger picture.

Every so often, get up and watch the day break over you.

There is usually at least one other solution than the one that you know.

People are entitled to hold their own opinion.

As you age, realize things aren’t black and white, right and wrong.

You can make a difference, and it always starts between the ears.

I certainly don’t mean to come across as a philosopher or a preacher. The ideas and thoughts above are just this mornings thoughts passed on for you to take in, think about, possibly act on or share.

You I’m sure have your own intelligence, wisdom, advice and suggestions which are also valuable. And so, I would encourage you to pass that on to your clients, your peers and me. There is much to be said for learning things on your own, trial and error etc., but advice offered is a valued gift.







Share A Resource With Me Please

Dale Briers gets it. Dale resides in Australia and among his other titles in life, he is the leader and founder of a group I belong to through LinkedIn called, Collaborative Career Conversations. In checking my email this morning, Dale has generously offered to share one of his resources with me he uses with his clients. So this got me wondering if my readers and other connections might be willing to send me an email with an attachment of one of their own client resources.

When I think about the wealth of information, skills and expertise largely untapped by me in this world, I quickly understand how much I have yet to know and how massive an index of ideas and job/career resource tools are already working world-wide. Oh and I’d be happy to reciprocate as well. Send me one and you’ll get a tool I find helpful in working with my clients.

So what would be best to share with me should you feel so inclined? Good question. As an Employment Counsellor, I help clients in a number of ways. I run workshops on career exploration, self-assessments (skills, strengths, likes, dislikes), resume writing, interview do’s and don’ts, job searching, self-esteem and of course dealing with employment barriers. If you have a favourite resource you’d be willing to send me that I might incorporate in some way into those broad topics, I’d love to look it over.

Maybe it’s a spreadsheet you find easy for your clients to use to organize their job search. Perhaps it’s a Word document that helps clients assess themselves in a certain area, or something on dealing with conflict. It would be entirely up to you but I’m getting excited just thinking about the wealth of information that could potentially come my way.

I think this is so appealing to me because I value my connections so much; largely because you are collectively such a diverse group of people literally from around the globe with amazing abilities and success stories of your own. Like me, I’m positive you have developed tools you created, or perhaps have come across which work in your own settings.

What is also exciting to me about this exercise is that if resources do come my way, my own learning curve rises. I’ve been doing employment counselling for years and certainly have my own tried and true resource tools. If I’ve learned anything however, (and surely I must have by now) it’s that there are so many more things I yet don’t know and will never know. Surely there are other exercises my online colleagues use that would equally or perhaps more effective than those I use now. Could be, and I’m open to that possibility.

Getting a hold of new resources, understanding them first and implementing them also keeps me growing and learning. We want our clients to be hungry to learning so why not ourselves? Educate me! Believe me when I say I’m grateful in advance for any resource you might care to send my way. And if in the sharing you want to give me a brief synopsis of how and when you implement it in the course of interacting with your clients all the better.

My personal email address is hobbitzaboo@hotmail.ca and my work address is kelly.mitchell@durham.ca Either one would work for me. If you indicate you’d like your gift of a resource credited to you, I would of course be sure to do so each and every time I use it. After all, this is a bit of an experiment in utilizing social media to acquire something concrete and meaningful, so I’d love to be able to share how I obtained the resource I’m about to use with a person or class.

Don’t think for a moment your resource has to be something out of this world and isn’t somehow worthy of sharing. If it works for you in the course of your work it might be something I find entirely useful too. Sometimes what appears obvious and boring to read actually has the most dramatic impact when actually used. So it could be a template, a quiz, a creativity exercise, an on-line assessment tool, a writing exercise, etc. Anything that comes to mind.

You could end up sharing something that adds to or replaces a tool that I currently use myself. Looking in my career exploration and job searching toolkit, I can see it still has a lot of room for additional tools. And don’t many of us like a new tool? You know I do now!

Please don’t think that the field you are in means you have nothing to share. You could be in the field of bereavement, human resources, finance, education, construction etc. and still have something valuable to share with me that could by sharing help those with whom I work. People I work with are unemployed or underemployed. Being people, they too deal with bereavement, need financial help etc.

I know it might take a couple of minutes to fire off an email with an attachment. Help me help others and in return I will send you back a resource of my own that I use which may in some way help you in the course of your work be it professionally or personally for that matter.

Thank you in advance. I’ve got wonderfully wise contacts and connections.

How To Get Rich

Presumably you’d like to be rich or you wouldn’t be attracted to the blog title. Sorry to disappoint you but the point of this blog won’t focus much on money. That’s more the by-product of what follows and may or may not come your way in the end.

Okay for those of you who are still reading, I’m talking about another kind of wealth altogether; wisdom. Ah, the accumulation of experience, trials and failures, learning opportunities and developed relationships. In a nutshell, excel at all of these and you are rich indeed.

Recently I came across a quote, and while there seems to be an overabundance of them on the internet these days if you go searching, this one stood out above the rest for me. It ran like this:

If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.

I’ve thought about that over the last couple of days, letting it roll around in my brain and how I could incorporate it into the facilitating I do. Every so often I come across someone in my workshops is strongly opinionated, who doesn’t value the opinions of others as much as their own and is closed to growing as a result. I think what I’ll try is actually having a couple of apples, and the word, “Idea” on a piece of laminated construction paper. Then I’ll play out that situation in the class to drive home the point; not even necessarily with the person who I’m trying to reach. That way it avoids embarrassing them and isolating them even further.

The idea of sharing ideas with someone else is a great concrete example of where you exchange an item with another person and still come out ahead by having the original plus a second opinion or idea. Hence, you grow in richness by a factor of one. Do this with two people and you give away one idea of your own and end up with three; yours and both of theirs. Your richness is growing.

You’ve probably heard that two heads are better than one. That old saying has stood the test of time because of course it implies that a second person can contribute ideas and thoughts and that together, the resulting course of action whatever it is, has been influenced by two people’s reason, past experiences, thoughts on possible implications, and the result is a better idea than either may have come up with alone.

Some people like to hold onto their idea like it was gold. Their idea is so unique, so different from what anyone has ever thought of before that they don’t want to share it with anyone until they devise a way to profit from it monetarily. These people are often called Entrepreneurs. They call press conferences, launch their ideas to through the media, and set themselves apart from the rest of us by saying, “Look what I’ve thought of – it’s revolutionary”. When we as a consumer go out and by that product, we are really financially compensating that person for their idea. Of course that person has almost always turned to other people to get help making their idea a reality; ie. they needed financial backing, research, technological expertise or some kind of specialized help to take the idea from a concept to production and distribution.

You may not have a million dollar idea that will catapult you to international recognition however, you can still benefit from using the same principle. Sharing ideas, listening with active interest to others and contributing to discussions can help you build relationships, network more effectively, be sought out for your experience and input. In short, you and your wisdom become a valuable commodity for others, and as a result, you get invited to contribute in projects and groups that otherwise you would be left out of. You might even find yourself saying, “What on earth am I doing here? Why did they ask me?” You might be sitting in on a discussion about something you know very little about, but that’s why there are experts in other areas present. Your expertise is in lateral thinking perhaps, or commercial applications, or problem-solving. Your sitting there because someone values your ideas.

So, you want to be rich? Re-define richness from an accumulation of money and the almighty dollar to a richness of contacts, networks, ideas, experiences and dialogues. Those that pursue currency only end up with numbers on a statement at the end of the month. Those that pursue a re-defined richness end up with a lifetime of experiences, connections, networks, friends, colleagues, and a reputation for making contributions rather than financial deposits.

This richness is within the realm of everyone to achieve.