Environment Matters

Fortunately for me, my mother, Herlean, knew how important environment was to becoming your best. As an only child, living with older parents in a neighborhood with very few children my age, my mother recognized that without the right environment, I could become spoiled, self-centered, and dependent upon others to do for me things that I should do for myself. Those were not the outcomes she wanted for me; in fact, she wanted just the opposite. To that end, she and my dad decided to enroll me at 2 years of age in Southside Kindergarten. My hours were 9:00 am – 2:00 pm, Monday – Friday.  Would you believe the cost was $1.55 per day?

When it came time for my first day at Kindergarten, it was my Dad who took me to school. kclass He loved taking pictures, so before leaving, my Dad would always take a picture of my classmates. It’s hard to find me on the picture because I am near the back, “crying”.  For the first three days, I cried when he left. Magically, on the fourth day, when my Dad had decided if I cried he was going to take me back home, I didn’t cry. Instead, I waved good bye like a big girl. You see I had a caring, and nurturing teacher, Mrs. Susie Curinton. She knew just what to do to make me feel that I was in a safe, welcoming, and fun place. It didn’t take long for me to start mixing and mingling with my classmates and begin developing friendships, many of which I still maintain today.

Mrs. Curinton kept us busy with lots of activities. We played outside, learned to sing, and dance. Then she would invite our parents and community to witness our performance.kprogram (2) Because our school was too small for such an event, the auditorium of our local college, Bethune Cookman, became the venue. So at four, I made my first visit to a college campus and sang a duet. I don’t know how that went since today I can barely carry a tune.

It wasn’t all fun. There were educational activities too.  I started imitating my classmates- coloring, counting, and copying letters.  It was the beginning of my learning to enjoy the basics- reading, writing, and math. One day, my mom was writing a letter to my dad who was away. I told her I wanted to write him too. She pulled out some of paper and pencil and I began writing. For the words I didn’t know how to spell, I would ask her for help. You can see my writing wasn’t the neatest but you can make out most words. Not bad for 4!

dadsletter

I could hardly believe that it was time for me to leave a place and teacher that had become dear to me. kgraduationBut the time had come and at five years of age, I was the Valedictorian of my class. Sitting next to me on the stage was the speaker, Mrs. Turie T. Small, the Principal of my soon to be elementary school. While sad to be leaving, I was excited to be going to the “bigger school” and couldn’t wait to get to know the Principal.

The people and your physical surroundings influence what you think and do. They bring out your best.

Environment matters! 

Do you have dreams and goals that you want to achieve?  Learn more about how important your environment is in my book, “Be Your B.E.S.T.”

Achieved My Goal in Record Time!

Five years from the time when I was a graduate student, I arrived in Memphis, TN memphis with 1 goal- “obtain my doctor of philosophy degree in 3 years.” After having served for three years as the Head Speech-Language Pathologist for an Easter Seals Speech and Hearing Center, and two years teaching at an undergraduate college, I had decided that for the long-term, it was necessary for me to leave the working world. In fact, excelling at an academic institution of higher learning in the future was contingent upon my earning this degree. The way I saw it, there was no option. I had to commit to earning my doctoral degree and doing whatever was necessary within the next three years. Most people around me said that my goal was unrealistic. They pointed out that completion of doctoral programs typically took four-five years, sometimes even as many as seven years.  In fact, I was reminded that many  people didn’t earn the degree, among them were people referred to as ABD… abdwhich I learned meant all but dissertation.“But that wasn’t going to be me!”

 

For the third time, my mother, god brother Tom, and a family friend were on the road again, helping me to relocate. After getting me settled into my apartment, we were off to dinner at the home of a relative of our family friend.  I connected right away with the relative. My mother was relieved and thankful that there would be at least one person I could call upon if I needed something, given I knew no one in Memphis except the Dept. Chair. The next day, we ventured over to the facility that housed the University’s School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, the place where my program was located.   uofmIt was a short walk from my apartment. Dr. B., the Chair, was eager to greet me and my family. He quickly took us on a tour and assured my mother that I had made a wise decision to come to the University of Memphis and pursue my doctorate. Dr. B then looked directly into my eyes as he reminded me that the program was rigorous and said, “Given the fact that you have  been awarded a doctoral fellowship, the expectation is commitment full-time to the program, with minimal time for anything else.”  I assured him I was up committed and looked forward to completing the program within 3 years. He smiled and said “we’ll see.”

It didn’t take long after my family left for me to realize that living off of the stipend wasn’t comparable to my previous salary. That meant I was going to have to give up some things I had become accustomed to doing and having. Since the Department was nearby, I gave up my car. While I loved my Ford Thunderbird, it had to go. That eliminated car payments, gas, and maintenance. I took on washing and setting my hair rather than going to the beauty salon. Shopping became a thing of the past. Also, I learned a new word, “no.” I decided not to join any organizations that would distract me from my goal at hand. However, I did join a local church and made sure that every Sunday I attended the early service.

My first class sent me into a tail spin. The teacher’s style was different. He challenged me to understand the meaning of concepts, apply my learning in my practicum experiences,  and look for new ways of doing things.  There were reading assignments, research, clinical work- all expected to be completed within a short period of time. Consequently, I had to develop new study habits, learn to work at a faster pace, and spend many hours in the library and clinic. It became apparent that team work was essential to succeeding.  So attending group study sessions wasn’t an option. Additionally, all of the advanced doctoral students were on top of their game- conducting research, publishing, and presenting at conferences. These were the expectations for all doctoral students.  Whenever, the going got tough, I remembered my “why,” and pushed forward. 20161130_201225And for three years, I stayed focused and worked diligently. Then on August 17th, three years after my arrival,  I walked across the stage and was the first African American to receive a doctor of philosophy degree from the University of Memphis graduating from the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders.

I did it in record time because I purged what was necessary, embraced a new mindset, stayed focused on what mattered, and moved forward with determination.

Celebrating with me were my mother, aunt, Tom, and  friends!

gradgroup

SAVE THE DATE and join me on December 8, 7-8 pm, for my B.E.S.T. Chat. I will share my 5 BEST Tips- “how to” jump start 2017 so that you too can achieve your goals in record time.

 

 

What’s Your Temperament?

There has been a lot of talk about temperament these days and it reminded me of when I discovered mine.  It happened when my boss called me into his office and shared with me that one of my employees had told him that I was difficult to work for because I was controlling, unwilling to let my employees have the freedom to do things the way they wanted, and a micromanager. disappointed I was in shock and disappointed. Why did my employee feel that she could not come to me and express her feelings? Why hadn’t my boss sent her back to me to discuss the issues rather than call me in directly to discuss something he was told? Did my boss think these things too? Now what must I do?

Immediately, I reached out to my HR Consultant, who I enjoyed working with because he was knowledgeable, experienced, objective, and good at guiding you in developing appropriate strategies. Luckily he was at his desk and had time to talk. I explained the situation and together we mapped out my strategy.

Consultant:  “Let’s begin Pat, my finding out your personality preferences and temperament. I’m going to send over an assessment tool and it will give us some useful information that will help shed some light into the situation at hand.”

I love measuring so that sounded like a great place to start. The tool arrived and it was the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). [The MBTI is used by eighty-nine of the US Fortune 100 companies, and over two and a half million Americans take it annually. The tool identifies 16 different personality types and 4 temperaments.] I took it immediately and returned to my consultant. Within days, he was in my office ready to review my results with me and discuss next steps.

Here is a small example of what I learned about myself to illustrate the impact that knowing more about myself had upon me.

  • Extravert which means I get energized from outside of myself. I love talking, invading others space. This can be challenging to others who get their energy from within and like their privacy.
  • Intuitive which means I make sense out of information from sensing. This can be challenging to others who need the details.
  • Thinking which means my decision making is all about logic, cause and effect. This can be challenging to those who consider others in their decision making.
  • Judging which means I love structure and order. This can come across as controlling to others who like to explore options and possibilities.
  • NT Temperament which means I am a person who loves to ask “why?”  Why is an evaluative question that sometimes puts others on the defensive.

I found the information invaluable and then wanted to have all my staff to complete the MBTI so that I could have a better understanding of their preferences. This would help me to better manage our interactions. As it turned out most of my employees’ preferences were the opposite of mine. No wonder there were issues! My consultant also helped me to understand that with any new hires, I needed to make sure my team was more diverse in their preferences.

What I learned about my preferences and temperament has helped me to better navigate relationships with people. I know that I cannot control others but I can control myself. So it becomes important for me to flex when I interact with types that are different from me. By the way my temperament also focuses on insights about organizations and systems. No wonder I love my consulting work that has taken me into over 125 different organizations!

temperamentfactor

The MBTI may not be for you. But I hope that today’s blog inspires you to self-assess and recognize that your temperament has an impact on others. Sometimes because of our temperament we don’t get our desired results. But knowing our temperament equips us to be more effective in managing and having productive relationships with others.

No Excuses!

It was time for my meeting with the Chairman. Every month, each Vice President had to submit their Department’s  “To Do” list, to-do-listwhich identified their major activities with the date expected to be completed. All activities were tied to agreed upon performance objectives that were aligned with the company’s business objectives. At the end of the month, the Chairman reviewed with the Vice President their department’s performance. A copy of the “To Do” list was provided with completed or not completed by each activity.

My department had completed all of its objectives except one. It had been a tough month for one of my direct reports, who was the lead for this objective. She had spent most of her time with an aging parent who had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. In preparation for the meeting, I had asked her to give me a status update.

My Direct Report:  “To be honest, I have not done anything with regard to this activity. I’ve been too busy trying to get my mom settled in her new home, a nursing facility that had an Alzheimer’s wing.”

Me: “When do you think you will be back?” I asked.  “

My Direct Report: At this point, I just don’t know.”

Me: After I hung up, I wondered if the Chairman would be understanding when I explained the situation.

Entering the Chairman’s office, I exuded confidence but was a little uncertain about how things were going to go once he knew that all of my objectives were not met. We were movingly along fairly quickly and the Chairman was pleased that it looked like my department was getting things done on time. Then we reached the last objective which was “not completed.”  Immediately, I started to explain about my direct report’s mother. Surprisingly, the Chairman interrupted and said, “I don’t need to hear the excuse. It’s not completed. makeithappen

Just tell me when I can expect it to be completed.” He then put his pen down and looked me straight in the eye and said, “No Excuses.”  Your job as leader of the department is to ensure that objective are met and on time. When they aren’t, your job is to have a plan and clarity about when they will be met.  The reason doesn’t change the fact that the activity was not completed. In order for the company to meet its business objectives, things must be completed, and on time. Our stockholders are counting on us to deliver on our promises to them. Just make it happen! Do you understand?” My reply was “Yes, and I then provided a specific date when he could expect completion.

“No Excuses” has proven to be an invaluable lesson.  I have come to recognize that by not acknowledging an excuse (reason something didn’t happen), I recognize areas needing improvement,  maintain focus on solutions and get things done as quickly as possible.

resultsorexcuses

 

Forgotten- At the Bottom!

 The CEO, HR VP and I headed over to the site of our new facility for a walk-through. building

As we entered the building, the HR VP explained that the third floor was the top floor and the most important in the building. He immediately pointed out the office suites of the Chairman and CEO. While pointing out his office space, we learned the dimensions of the VP offices and that each had a window view. All direct reports had a nice size office with windows too. I was excited to hear this because I knew my team would be happy given they were working currently in cubicles. Walking through the floor, the offices of the VP of Finance, Regulatory Affairs, and their direct reports were identified. Then we stepped on the elevator and headed to the second floor.  Offices of the  VP of Information Technology and his team were identified along with the new hardware and data systems. Finally, we were on the bottom floor. The HR VP then turned to me and pointed out my office and my direct reports offices. Immediately, it was easy to recognize that the office size was not comparable to the VP offices seen on the previous floors, and my direct reports offices did not have windows. shock

I was shocked and couldn’t believe what I was seeing. How would I ever explain to my Department that we were on the bottom floor, while the other departments were at the top?

Upon returning, the HR VP and I had a  previously scheduled meeting. Excited about showing off the new building, he immediately engaged me in conversation about it.

HR VP:   “So what do you think about the new building?”

Me:   “I wouldn’t take my mother to see it.”

HR VP:   With a look of disbelief he asked, “why would you say that?”

ME:  “Well, at the outset of the tour, you told the CEO and me that the most important floor was the third. And at the end of the tour, you showed me the location of my department which was on the bottom floor. What message do you think that sends, when the VP of Professional Services is the only female VP in the company? The only African-American VP? The only VP with a rehabilitation background, which is the focus of the business? In fact, know that I will have a hard time coming from the bottom floor to the top when summons for a meeting.  Also, I don’t know how I will explain this to my department and keep them excited about the move when my direct reports will not have windows and comparable space to their counterparts.”

message

HR VP: Stunned with my response and questions, he responded. “I don’t know what to say. That was never our intention.”

As soon as I arrived at the office the next morning, the CEO’s secretary called to say that the CEO wanted to see me right away. When I walked into the office, there was the HR VP with the CEO and blueprints spread out over the conference table.

blueprints

CEO:  ” Last night, the HR VP shared with me your conversation. And I want you to know that the company does not want to send messages that are not reflective of our values, beliefs, and priorities.  We have re-examined the space allocation and your department is being moved to the third floor. Here is the location.” Pointing to the blue print, the CEO then said, “you and your direct reports have space comparable to your counterparts.”

ME: “I am pleased that you have addressed this issue prior to the move.  Would you please, show me the measurements so that I can be certain that all of our space is comparable to the other departments?”   measuringfloorplans

HR VP: Pulls out the ruler, measures, and validates the space size is the same.

ME. “Thanks for resolving this issue so quickly. My department’s location on the top floor sends the message to our stakeholders (both internal and external) that women, minorities, and our customers are as important to the company as our finances and government regulations.”

I left relieved that I was not going to have to let my department know that we had been forgotten, overlooked, and on the bottom floor.

morelessonslearned

  • Make sure you obtain regular project updates, including specifics that relate to you.
  • People don’t always recognize when their actions aren’t in alignment  with their words and values.
  • Don’t just point out what you perceive as a problem or issue, also point out the impact of not addressing the problem or identifying the issue
  • Show gratitude when problems are resolved and issues identified

Off to My Best Start!

After the contract was signed and start date agreed upon, my supervisor asked me to come in over the weekend so that she could begin my on boarding. What was so important that we needed to get started on Saturday? After all, my start date was the following Monday. My supervisor saw my puzzled look and immediately explained that she wanted to make sure I knew my way around the facility and was familiar with the phone system so that I could handle the basics when I arrived on Monday. That seemed reasonable since a majority of my work was going to involve handling incoming phone calls from our members. As we departed, she reminded me to dress casual, bring the things that I wanted to put in my office and come prepared to spend at least three hours.

building

Upon entering the building, she greeted me warmly and showed me that I would  greet my visitors in the same place. Then she took me over to the receptionist area and made sure I knew where to sign in and out.  “This is how you will get to your office,” she explained as we took the elevator to our department’s floor. “Why don’t you get settled in your office and when you’re finished come on over to mine.”

My supervisor made it clear that she was excited about working with me and wanted me to be successful. She then drew a diagram that depicted the roles associated with my position and explained that on Monday, my primary responsibility was to answer incoming answeringphonemember calls. She reviewed the script I was to use when answering internal and external calls; showed me “how to” operate the phone system; reviewed the most frequently asked questions and responses; identified resources available to assist me with calls; and reviewed the process for tracking and reporting calls. Then we engaged in role play. From her office, she called mine. Afterwards, specific feedback was provided- pointing out things I did well and things that needed improvement. We continued until I felt comfortable and confident that I knew “how to” handle the phone system and frequently asked questions. After working for an hour, it was time for a break and that took us to the cafeteria. Now I knew where to go when it was lunch time. After returning to our work area, my supervisor reviewed with me the agenda for my first day. We did one more round of role play. I left feeling confident that upon my return I was prepared to handle my first responsibility, “answering member calls.”

On Monday, confidently I entered the building knowing exactly what to do and where to go. While signing in, the receptionist asked me if she needed to call and have someone come get me. I told her “no,” I knew my way. Once at my desk, the phone rang, I immediately answered with the appropriate greeting and helped my first member get the information needed.images Sitting in my chair a smile came over my face “knowing I was off to my BEST start!”  

Here’s what I learned.

  • Starting early demonstrated to me that my supervisor had a vested interest in my success; we became partners with a shared focus
  • Because I was comfortable with my new environment and confident about what I needed to do, I was able to meet the performance expectations
  • Knowing how to navigate the phone system and environment helped me to be efficient in my use of time
  • Being there on the weekend, eliminated distractions and created an opportunity for us to spend quality time together, building our relationship and focusing on what was expected of me
  • Clarity about expectations helped me to know what to do and facilitated experiencing early success on the job

At Last! A Happy Ending

On Saturday, my husband and I will celebrate twenty-two years of marriage. September 3, 1994 represented a “happy ending” for me.wedding My happy ending became a reality because I chose to change my mindset and actions. So what changed?

I recognized that I had been waiting for Prince Charming to come and sweep me off my feet. After all, that is what happened in the fairy tales. And because of that expectation, I was leaving my happy ending to someone else. Most of my time had been spent trying to convince men I met that “I was the one for them”, only to realize after a period of time “they were not for me.”

First mindset change, achieving my dream was up to me. I get to choose.

But who was best for me? I didn’t really know. It became clear to me that defining “my best lifetime partner” was my first priority. After all how would I know who to look for or better yet, if he appeared, I might not even recognize him. This led me to create my Best Lifetime Partner Profile (BLPP), which equipped me with the criteria I needed to identify him. Now to find him meant getting outside of my home and office; going to events and activities that a man fitting my profile might be attending.

Using my profile, I started telling my friends, co-workers, college classmates, family members about “my best lifetime partner” so that they could be on the lookout for me. This led me to my next discovery, don’t listen to others who tell you it can’t happen. Some people began to tell me “Your criteria is too high.”  “You won’t ever meet a man that fits your profile. He doesn’t exist.” “Don’t you know there is a shortage of good men.”

I chose to not let others place limitations on my dream.  I chose to believe in my dream.

Recognizing that there would be competition, before stepping out, I needed to “stand out.” Attracting him would require me to stay focused on my appearance, self-esteem, and attitude. At each event or activity that I attended, I made sure I was “at my b.e.s.t.”  One evening while attending a professional conference, I stepped off the elevator and standing before me were two men warmly greeting attendees as they entered the reception. One in particular, smiled and asked if it was my first time at the conference. Using my BLPP, I began observing and listening to him as we talked.  He met my initial criteria. After dinner, the music began playing and there he was asking me to dance, guiding me across the dance floor. I was having fun! I hated to see the evening come to an end (much like a princess who had found her prince). It meant we would be going our separate ways. I returned to Philadelphia, PA and he returned to Columbus, OH.

Shortly after returning home, a beautiful card from Ohio arrived in the mail. Now I was faced with an important decision, “Was I willing to do what was necessary to be with my best lifetime partner?”  The answer was “YES.”  Whenever I could, I traveled to Columbus. I even made arrangements for side trips when on business trips within the Mid-West Region. He also changed his schedule and traveled to Philadelphia and attended events that were important to me.  I didn’t let distance get in the way.  On Christmas Eve, as I opened my presents, I found a beautiful diamond and my “best lifetime partner” was asking me to marry him.

Making your dream a reality requires being committed to doing what is necessary. 

Saturday, I look forward to celebrating our anniversary which always includes dancing to At Last!

If you have a dream, remember to…

  • Choose to go after your dream
  • Get clarity
  • Don’t let others limit you
  • Believe in your dream
  • Commit to doing what is necessary