Friday, January 4, 2019

What's The Sweet Sauce In Virtual Teams?

As a member of Forrest Johnson Recruiting, a 100% virtual team, I understand first-hand the challenges and opportunities associated with managing a team virtually and being an active member of a virtual team.  What is the sweet sauce to successful teams?  What are the ingredients that make a virtual team effective?  Just in time for the new year, I have a special recipe for success for you!

For the purpose of this article, a virtual workplace is a workplace that is not located in any one physical space. It is usually in a network of several workplaces technologically connected (via a private network or the internet) without regard to geographic boundaries. Employees are thus able to interact in a Collaborative Working Environment regardless of where they are located. A virtual workplace integrates hardware, people, and online processes.

According to Upwork, the largest freelancing website, remote workforce is on the rise.  The organization released the results of its second annual Future Workforce Report, which explores hiring behaviors of over 1,000 U.S. managers. The discovery? As companies struggle to fill the skills gap, they are embracing agile, remote teams to get work done. In fact, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of companies today have remote workers and 55% of hiring managers agree that remote work has become more commonplace than compared with three years ago.

The Buffer Team shared in their State of Remote Work 2018 Report: What It’s Like to be a Remote Worker in 2018 that 90% of remote workers plan on working remotely for the rest of their careers and 94% of those surveyed indicate they would encourage others to work remotely.  So, what is needed to prepare for this type of workforce and its demands?

Here is a Recipe for Success:

Step One:  Add one tablespoon of Accountability.  In the book Traction by Gino Wickman, the author discusses the accountability chart in its "The People Component" chapter.  Each member of the team should understand their role and what they are required to do to make the team a success.  Holding members accountable facilitates processes and ensures everyone understands what is expected of them.  With the Forrest Johnson team, we have been engaged in the process of defining seats and ensuring everyone who holds a particular seat not only has the desire for that role but also the capacity.  "People need to be able to take the ball and run with it" (page 99).

Step Two:  Add three dashes of Connectedness and two slices of Opportunities for Fun. In brick and mortar teams, relationships are typically deepened through conversations that occur near the water cooler, outside team members' cubicles, or in the restroom.  With that in mind, it is essential to find times throughout the year where the team can connect in person for quarterly meetings but also regularly as a team for FUN.  As a member of the FJ team, I look forward to our quarterly meetings where we strategize and review the previous quarter's efforts.  I also look forward to our annual holiday gatherings where we have the opportunity to connect without discussing work.  Additionally, during our weekly meetings, we use the Level 10 Meeting agendas, as described in the book Traction, to spend a few minutes sharing about our personal events over the last week before diving into the week's business tasks.  All are efforts to foster community.

Step Three:  You will need a cup of regular One on One Meetings.  Regular one on one meetings serve multiple purposes - the opportunity to check -in, enforce accountability, identify and address any issues as well as discuss steps for future actions.  Drew and Erin Johnson do a phenomenal job of checking in weekly with each team member to offer support and implement adjustments as needed.  Having a regular check-up allows for ongoing communication and the ability to reinforce expectations, a MUST for remote teams.

Step Four:  Apply Vision liberally and work it in!  Once everyone on the team embraces a vision it is easier for the team to head in a specific direction.  Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, discusses the metaphor of "having the right people on the bus" and ensuring the bus is headed in the right direction.  Vision offers the ability to provide direction to teams and companies.  The success of a remote team is contingent upon the vision and if it is applied liberally and infused in every aspect of the company.  As this image above illustrates, vision must be worked in every nook and cranny! 

Final Step:  Mix until the mixture thickens.  Putting all these aforementioned ingredients together requires care and attention.  Managers and leaders will need to work diligently to cast the vision, check in regularly and provide instances for remote team members to connect whenever feasible.  This effort all takes time, repetition, trial, and error.  As with a recipe, tweaks may be needed to fit the needs of your business or team.

The finished product is a well-balanced team, where everyone knows their role and what to do to achieve greatness for all!  Do you have the right ingredients for your remote workforce?

**Special mention to my husband who allowed me to capture his efforts while preparing dinner to help drive home the points shared in this article.  His images were WAY better than photo stock images!  :-)**

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Puzzle Pieces, A Lesson For Marriages

My Sister in Christ, the beautiful Nakita Williams, facilitated an exercise a few weeks ago during We Honor Marriage at Word of Faith Family Worship Cathedral.  I am still thinking about the insights gained during our time together.

She divided the class into four groups and gave each group a puzzle.  She told us to work together as a group and assemble the puzzles that were inside each box as quickly as we could.  We only had a few minutes to assemble our puzzles.

In our group, we strategically began tackling the sides.  I immediately could tell we did not have all the pieces we needed to complete our puzzle and I said to the group, “We are missing some pieces.”  Everyone looked at the image on the box and assessed all of our pieces.  We kept working.  

All the while, Nakita was walking around and calling out the remaining time.  We could hear at least one group cheering as they were nearing the end of their assembled puzzle.  The pressure was on!

Not to be outdone, our group continued to put together as many pieces as we could, because we wanted to WIN.

Nakita announced Time Was Up!  As I looked at our puzzle I could see we had done our best with what we were given.  A great deal of the puzzle was assembled but there were gaping holes in certain areas and there were a number of pieces discarded off to the side, clearly not belonging to our puzzle.

During the debrief, we learned some of the puzzles were in fact missing pieces while other groups had fully functional puzzles.  

One member of our group shared that even though I had mentioned we did not have all our pieces, she did not want to believe we were missing pieces and was convinced we could still assemble the puzzle.

Key takeaways?

1.  When you marry, you each may be missing something that will impact your ability to build a solid foundation.

2.  While tempting as it may be, focusing on other marriages can be distracting, even though they may be celebrating their success.  Everyone’s marriage (puzzle) is different.  The comparison game will get you every time.

3.  You and your spouse may have a different perspective on what is missing or what’s needed to build your marriage.  The key is to respect each other’s perspectives and to do your best with what you have.  Or agree to seek out whatever is needed. 

4.  We were in a tight circle as we tried to assemble the puzzles.  Our hands bumped into each other often and occasionally we nicked one of our teammates with our nails.  During the debrief we marveled at how easy it was to forgive those minor bumps and nicks from our teammates but when married, it’s sometimes much easier to become offended.

5.  Even when well meaning couples or individuals are offering advice (other puzzle pieces), you have to be mindful as those pieces may not fit or may not be right for your marriage.   

6.  Sometimes it’s not about winning but instead is about the process and the journey.

How are you and your spouse at building your marriage?  Is there one person offering direction or are you both attempting to figure out what goes where?  Do you both see the same image/vision for your relationship or is one of you focused on only one portion of the picture?  

The new year is right around the corner.  It’s a great time to take stock in how you are connecting with your spouse and how you are working together to build your puzzle.

Shatanese is the owner of Super Extra Ordinary Mom, LLC, a HR Consultancy that delivers leadership and development training with an emphasis on diversity and inclusion.

Shatanese resides in Atlanta, GA with her husband and their six children.  She enjoys walks on the beach and colorful sunrises.  Shatanese's goal is to encourage others to find the extraordinary in every day moments.

Invite Shatanese as your next guest speaker or trainer!


Follow Shatanese on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Performance Management Doesn't Have to Be a Bad Word

It's near the end of the year and many companies have begun their performance management cycle.  Unfortunately, this process is still being mismanaged and mishandled by many well-meaning employers, thereby causing employees to view the process in a negative perspective.

In fact, according to research released in 2015 by Saba and, only half of employers surveyed actually conduct annual reviews at a minimum.  Although, according to a SHRM March 2018 article by Dave Zielinski, there is hope as employers attempt to improve their performance management processes using technology.  Performance management does not have to be seen as a necessary evil.  With intentionality, employees and employers can have meaningful dialogues about performance and what adjustments can be made to reach organizational and professional goals.

Image result for performance management
When you think of performance management what comes to mind?  Do you view it as an exciting opportunity to showcase your talents with your supervisor?  If you are a manager, do you view it as a wonderful time to highlight your employee's accomplishments?  Many are facing this time of year as simply a checkbox.  And if there are not merit increases associated with the dialogue, employees are hard pressed to view the benefits of the review.

What exactly is Performance Management?  

Performance Management can be defined as an integrated approach to ensuring that an employee’s performance supports and contributes to the organization’s strategic aims.  Whereas Performance Appraisal is defined as setting work standards, assessing performance, and providing feedback to employees to motivate, correct and continue their performance.

Nearly 6 decades ago, performance management and appraisals were typically used to identify pay associated with what an employee does.  Fast forward to today and you will see companies are attempting to redefine the performance management process.

Follow the Cycle 

There is a natural cycle associated with performance management.  Many models exist and The Peak Performance Center offers an easy to follow model with four stages: Planning, Monitoring, Reviewing, Rewarding.  Each portion of the cycle has tasks associated to help the employee succeed.

Planning - The first stage in the performance management cycle is planning.  Goals are established and expectations are discussed.  The goals identified should support the strategy of the organization.

One way to effectively plan for the year ahead is to first understand how your employees are motived.

Motivation is the psychological quality that leads people to achieve a goal.  Employers need to know if their employees are intrinsically or extrinsically motivated.  This is key during the planning stage as it will help direct the goals that are established.  Keeping Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of basic needs in mind will help with ensuring employees are being viewed as wholistic beings.

Intrinsic - because of the interest and enjoyment in the task itself.

Extrinsic - because of the outcome that will result by doing the task.

Do you know how your team members are motivated?  If not, now is a good time to ask them!

Use SMART Goals to Establish Clear Expectations.

Once motivation has been understood, SMART goals can help teams clearly define what needs to be done, who needs to be involved to accomplish the goal and identify a specific timeframe for completing the goal.  Asking questions such as, "What do you want to accomplish?"  "How do you know when you have reached it?" and "Is this a realistic and relevant goal?" will ensure the goals established are focused and meaningful.

Monitoring - Once an employee's motivation is understood, and goals are established, it is time to shift to the monitoring stage.  During this stage, performance is measured and feedback is offered to the employee.  Periodic feedback is critical as it allows for corrective action prior to a significant amount of time passing.  Effective communication is essential at this stage.  Correcting, and encouraging behaviors are needed to reinforce previously established expectations.

Reviewing - During the reviewing stage, managers have the opportunity to assess efforts employees have made towards their goals.  This is when the appraisal occurs.  The appraisal should not be a surprise.  Employees should receive a copy prior to the scheduled meeting, a conversation about their performance should occur, and any corrective steps should be outlined.  Feedback should be specific and focus on the behavior and not the employee.  What should they STOP, START and CONTINUE should be discussed at this stage.

Rewarding - Acknowledging and confirming desired behavior is important and occurs during the rewarding stage.  Being creative in lean times is essential, especially for those employees who are extrinsically motivated.  There are a number of great ideas out there.  Check out this list of 121 Creative Ways to Reward Employees by SnackNation.

By following this cycle, employers and employees are well on their way to engaging in meaningful conversations about what is working, what's not and what needs to be done to make changes.  Performance management does not have to be a bad word or a checkbox or a necessary evil.  It can be an opportunity for growth.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Virtual Interviews-The Wave of the Future

Virtual interviews are becoming more commonplace in the recruiting process.  Are you prepared?

As a Senior Recruiter with Forrest Johnson Recruiting am currently using virtual interviews for my initial phone screens of candidates.

The individual you see in the photo happens to be my daughter and it illustrates the wave of the future in recruiting-virtual interviews.

Virtual interviews are a great way for recruiters to ascertain the candidate's poise, ability to use technology and ease in responding concisely to questions. You might be surprised by the number of people who are ill-prepared for their virtual interview.

Virtual interviews can be in the form of either pre-recorded videos or live interviews.  During pre-recorded virtual interviews, a candidate must respond in a certain time-frame to pre-recorded questions.  During live interviews a candidate is speaking directly with an interviewer, simply virtually.  In either case, it is easy to become nervous and not perform at your best.
Below are a few tips to keep in mind if you find yourself facing an upcoming virtual interview.
Attire: Dress as you would for an in-person interview.  Unless otherwise specified, attire for a virtual interview should mirror the attire you would wear for an in-person interview, ie. business casual to business attire.  If you are not certain, you can always ask the person who is scheduling the interview about their recommendation for attire.  Your hair should also be presentable for the interview, i.e. not wearing a baseball cap or other item that would obstruct your vision.  
Location, Location, Location: Be certain you are in a space with no distractions.  There should not be a television playing in the background, nor anyone walking back and forth behind you, or people knocking on a door attempting to get your attention.  There should be no interruptions or distractions.  If possible, select a room in your home or office (Not in a bathroom stall. Yes that actually happened!) where the environment can be controlled.  Taking the interview in your car is ok, but not preferable.
You also want to be aware of the backdrop behind you.  Pictures, books, quotes and other items on the wall or bookshelf, all say something about you.  Be certain they are telling the story you want to share at this stage in the process.
Device Positioning: If at all possible, have the device you plan to use in a stationary position, not in your hand.  You run the risk of the device shaking throughout the interview if you are nervous or it slipping from your grip, leaving the interviewer to look at the ceiling, or the side of your face, or worse, up your nose.  A stable position for your device will minimize the chance of any embarrassing situations that could occur. 
Prior Preparation: Do not have your resume near you for you to read directly from it during the interview.  You should be able to concisely convey the most recent 5-10 years of your experience.   Prior to the interview, practice reciting your experience or offering an overview of your experience to anyone who is willing to listen.  Ask them to assess how well you articulate your background and make adjustments as needed.  
For pre-recorded questions, take a deep breath and do your best to respond in the time-frame offered.  It is strongly encouraged that you use the practice feature if offered, to have a sense of how the question should flow within the designated time-frame.  Practicing only helps hone your ability to share your thoughts in a concise manner.
Application Choice: I have used FaceTime, Skype and Google Hangouts for my phone screens.  I have had the best success with FaceTime, and Google Hangouts as there are fewer delays that occur with these two applications.  GotoMeeting, Zoom and are also applications that are being used frequently.  Using these platforms allows the interviewer the ability to type comments during the interview.  If you are not familiar with the application that is selected, please download it and test it a few days before the interview to ensure you are comfortable with how to interact with the application.
Technology Glitches: Be prepared for technology glitches.  Whether the call drops due to connectivity issues or the audio/video clarity wavers, glitches are bound to occur.  Attempt to cover all aspects of what you wanted to share in the time remaining once you have recovered from the glitch.  If too much time elapses in-between recovery time, you can certainly request a time to reschedule the interview.
Username:  If the chosen application requires an user name, it is recommended that you use some variation of your name such as sreese or sreese2018HR for example.  While "dropemlikeitshot1999" may be really cool, it is distracting to the interviewer when they are attempting to locate you within the application.  Use every opportunity to make a good impression.
Notifications:  Turn off your notifications and use the "Do Not Disturb" feature on your device or computer 30 minutes before and during your interview.  There is nothing more distracting than text messages and / or FaceBook or email notifications floating across your screen as you are attempting to describe your best professional assets.  Another distraction can be in the form of the notification sounds.  The “ding” could be so loud it would drown out what you are attempting to share.  Using the "Do Not Disturb" feature should address this concern.
Conclusion: It is recommended that you have a few prepared questions to indicate your interest in the role and highlight your effort to conduct some research on the company / role.  Reiterate your interest and be certain to inquire about next steps in the process.
Even though it is a virtual interview, it is suggested that you still send a follow-up email or a thank you note.  A thank you goes a long way and definitely sets you apart.

Shatanese is the owner of Super Extra Ordinary Mom, LLC, a HR Consultancy that delivers leadership and development training with an emphasis on diversity and inclusion.

Shatanese resides in Atlanta, GA with her husband and their six children.  She enjoys walks on the beach and colorful sunrises.  Shatanese's goal is to encourage others to find the extraordinary in every day moments.

Invite Shatanese as your next guest speaker or trainer!


Follow Shatanese on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Taking The Leap of Faith-Tips From A New Small Business Owner

My son, Joshua, illustrating taking a leap of faith.
I have been a small business owner since September 1, 2017 and the experience has been similar to a roller coaster at an amusement park-full of ups, sharp curves, downs and thumps.  Sounds fun, right??  Like with riding roller coasters, you have to have a "stomach" to launch out on your own. I am sharing my experience in the hopes of encouraging others who may be on the verge of taking that first step or leap of faith.  

1.  Dream, catch the dream and take the step-  I am a firm believer of pursuing one's dreams.  My pastor once challenged us to think about a cemetery in terms of all the unwritten books, businesses never launched, screenplays never created and other dreams that never came to fruition.  Do not let life pass you by while you sit on your dream.  Take the first step!

2. Set Goals-As a first time business owner, it was clear to me immediately that I needed to have clearly defined goals to ensure I was on track for success.  The SMART process is one that I employ to help me identify what needs to happen and when.  The acronym SMART was originally attributed to Dr. George Doran, and has taken on several slightly different variations.  

S - specific, significant, stretching
M - measurable, meaningful, motivational
A - agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented
R - realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented
T - time-based, time-bound, timely, tangible, trackable

3. Establish and maintain a schedule-Now that I am not reporting for work at a designated time, I realized I needed discipline to establish and maintain some semblance of a schedule.  Since my business is home-based, it is very easy to get side-tracked and find myself, after a period of time, lost in household tasks or simply procrastinating.  A schedule is key!

4. Establish an organization method to track leads, next steps and goals.  A dry erase board, any form of electronic method such as Evernote or Apple Notes, or a good-old fashioned spreadsheet are methods to consider.  Essentially, if you do not have a method to track your progress, you will instead feel like a hamster in an exercise wheel, going in circles.

5. Have accountability partners-Not only do I have my husband's support, but I also have a prayer partner who prays with me daily for my business needs and aspirations.  Additionally, I have another individual who offers coaching as it pertains to my business. Remember to factor in the coaching suggestions you receive and to keep up with the "homework."

6. Plan a Launch Party-My husband and I hosted a launch party to announce our new business.  Our goals were to celebrate a new chapter in our lives with the start of the business, explain the purpose of the business to friends and family and to offer networking opportunities to all who were in attendance.  We met our goals!  To view our launch, visit: Super Extra Ordinary Mom Launch Party.

7. Network, network, network-Don't miss an opportunity to network with anyone you meet.  Even if they cannot use your product or service, they may know someone who can.  When filing for my business license, I missed the opportunity to meet the city's Mayor.  He was escorting a guest to the lobby when our eyes met.  He nodded his head towards my direction as a greeting and I waved back awkwardly, with my back glued to my chair.  As I watched him disappear down the hallway to his office, I kicked myself mentally for a missed opportunity.  It never hurts to make your requests known to whomever you meet.  You just never know where that may lead you!

8. Pray-For me, prayer is important in all aspects of my life, especially in my professional life.  I have been praying for open and closed doors-"Lord, if this opportunity is not in your will, then shut it down!"  The challenge, I discovered, is to be prepared for when those doors are closed.  Closed doors may sting the self-esteem a bit and the tendency is to focus on that door and why it is closed.  I learned that I had to shift my focus from "Why not?" to "What's next?"  It is also important to take time out during the day for spiritual renewal, whatever that may mean to you.  I usually start my day with spiritual renewal.

9. Brainstorm future ideas-I learned very quickly that it is important to stay two to three steps ahead in my planning.  For example, my goal is to have content available for my social media outlets on a weekly basis.  I have to think 2-3 weeks ahead and also be nimble in the event something happens in the world that may require my attention.  I also asked myself, "Would I hire me?" and "Would I fire me?" to think of ways to enhance my offerings.

10. Make time for exercise-Managing your own business can produce a great deal of stress.  Exercising will help combat the stress.  I attempt to build in walks throughout my day to give myself a break and to minimize the amount of stress I encounter.  Joining a virtual exercise group such as on Fibit or MapMy Run can also help hold you accountable to daily exercise goals.  #behealthy

11. Don't focus on what's not coming your way-Similar to dealing with closed doors, focusing on the contract that is not being approved fast enough or that one key relationship that you think will skyrocket your business will not be helpful and will produce negative energy.  It will be important to channel your energy on things that are happening and any wins, big or small, that you experience in your business.

12. Every moment matters-As a small business owner, you have to be ever-mindful of how you spend your time.  By asking the question, "Will this put money in my pocket?," can help you to determine if the task you are entertaining is worth your time.  I recently heard a speaker state that unless the activity you are doing on Facebook is making you money then it is "Wastebook".  I am not suggesting that you are to never spend time on social media or t.v. or any other activity where you are simply zoning out.  I challenge you, however, to be strategic with your time and make certain each moment counts.

13. Fight discouragement during the waiting game-It can be downright frustrating to wait for responses to your proposals or requests for networking as well as receiving rejections during that process.  Counter discouragement by keeping your goals at the forefront of your mind and relying on your accountability partners and support system for encouragement.  You will need encouragement regularly so definitely make certain you have the right people in your corner.  In terms of rejection, awhile ago my colleague Dethra U. Giles created a FB group called "The Rejection Project."  Our task was to ask for things throughout our day where we would typically expect to receive a NO in response.  The experience was liberating as I read others' stories and shared my own experiences of receiving a YES when I expected a NO.  Each no gets you closer to a YES.

14. Watch simmering pots-I am not a cook nor a chef but as a new business owner, I have become adept at watching simmering pots which is a phrase my coach, Monica McCoy, likes to use.  You will have a business deal percolating over here, and one over there and one in the works over there-all simmering pots that you are waiting to boil over into successful closed deals.  Watch and wait!

15. Don't entertain negative energy-Recently, I had an unfortunate experience of being blocked by an individual I had just met on LinkedIn.  I won't bore you with the gory details but I found myself brooding over the incident attempting to identify what went wrong.  Then I realized I was putting forth way too much effort on a situation that may have been a blessing in disguise.  It is important to recognize energy drainers and to remove yourself from that energy immediately.  It is a waste of your now very precious time and not where your efforts should be.  

16.  Circumstances can make you lose focus-Depending on your personal situation, your business may be your only or main source of income and the contract procurement process can make you lose your mind.  I will certainly admit that there have been times where I second-guessed my decision to launch out and wondered if I would fail miserably.  It is at those times that I recognized the negative thoughts going through my mind, STOPPED the thoughts, and changed my focus.  As my mentor Tom Darrow stated during the night of our launch party, that if we fail, we will fail forward.  #focus    

17. Create your own water cooler environment or holiday gathering-After years of being in the office, it is very different to now only have my family members around me for the majority of my day.  Admittedly, I had grown accustomed to the occasional conversation that would occur near the water cooler at work or even the holiday party where everyone brought in a covered dish.  I discovered that working at places such as the library, Starbucks or McDonald's offered the limited social exposure I sought.  If your business is a home-based business, it is good to get out among the living every now and then.  :-) 

18.  Marketing plan- I have been fortunate to participate in a business class that is offered through my church.  The Bronner Business Institute (BBI) has helped me tremendously with identifying and creating a marketing plan, understanding my customers and positioning myself for success in the market as well as a host of other business-related skills.  If you have been fortunate to take business classes throughout your career, awesome!  If not, I highly recommend getting connected to a business class to further support your efforts.

19.  Don't wait for others to create opportunities for you-Waiting for return phone calls and emails can be daunting.  While waiting, think of ways to create your own opportunities for business, whether that means hosting a webinar, offering your product in a unique way to a target audience or collaborating with another colleague in your field/industry to further your business.  You will be amazed at how creative you can become.  

20.  Make the decision, focus, enjoy the journey-Enjoy the natural excitement that comes with owning your own business.  There is no other feeling like it in terms of the freedom it brings even if it is like riding a roller coaster.  #scarybutfun

Shatanese is the owner of Super Extra Ordinary Mom, LLC, a HR Consultancy that delivers leadership and development training with an emphasis on diversity and inclusion.

Shatanese resides in Atlanta, GA with her husband and their six children.  She enjoys walks on the beach and colorful sunrises.  Shatanese's goal is to encourage others to find the extraordinary in every day moments.

Invite Shatanese as your next guest speaker or trainer!


Follow Shatanese on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Exercising Their Minds During The Holiday Season

The holiday season is upon us and school bells will be ringing a final time as students race home to begin their holiday breaks.  Research has shown that children's retention is impacted during school breaks.  Why not incorporate fun activities that can involve the entire family to keep those skills sharpened during each break?  The alphabet game and a pile of leaves can do wonders!  Check out these suggestions...

The Alphabet Game-As your family makes its way to various
locations during the holidays, encourage everyone in your vehicle to participate in the alphabet game.  This happens to be one my family's favorite past-times when we travel.

How to play: Each participant attempts to find road signs that begin with every letter of the alphabet.  Any sign is fair game-restaurant signs, interstate signs, advertisements, etc.  You can even decide as a group to use words found on other vehicles, especially semi-trucks, which are oftentimes rich with muli-word text.  Keep in mind you may struggle with various letters within the alphabet such as Q, X, Y and Z.  The group can decide to be creative with how words will be identified for those letters.

Holiday Dinner Math-When you finally arrive at your destination, you can stir up the kids' math skills by discussing the number of guests and various items on the menu.

How to play: As you are waiting for dinner to be served or as you are preparing your plates, ask the kids to think about how many of the guests will enjoy each of the side dishes.  For example, they can count the guests and the side dishes and offer a guesstimate of which side dish will have the most eaters or a timeframe of how soon it will be consumed as a result of the number of guests who enjoy it.  You can also ask them to determine how many slices can be cut from a pie, a cake or even the ham or the turkey.  One other activity could be to ponder the number of fluid ounces of gravy or egg nog which are being consumed by guests.  Of course, if niblets have been added to the gravy, a discussion regarding the amount of space each niblet takes in the gravy could occur as well.  Lastly, you and the children can discuss the colors they see among the delicious spread of food and how each dish complements each other as a colorful palate.

Pile of Leaves-Once the meal has been eaten, friends and family may be looking for a way to work off some of those calories.  Take the family outside and engage in a Pile of Leaves game!

How to play: Encourage the kids to rake the leaves into four equal piles.  They can then guesstimate how many leaves are in each pile.  Ask the kids to determine the fraction of leaves that are each color, i.e. brown, orange, yellow, etc.  You can also discuss velocity and projection as you ask the kids to determine how far the leaves will fly if they run at various speeds through the leaves or jumping into the leaves.  Of course, at the end of these games, the best fun is to have all of the leaves in a huge pile and invite all friends and family to take a quick plunge.  We love this part!!  :-)

Count The Blessings: Counting blessings during the holidays can serve as a reminder of challenges the family has overcome throughout the year and the opportunity to experience life as a team.  The children can add up the number of blessings shared and marvel at the goodness the family has experienced.

These quick and fun games are a great way to keep everyone entertained while maintaining skills obtained during the school year.

Looking for more creative ideas to use during the breaks?  Watch your pumpkins scramble to decode these yummy words! 

For more fun with spelling go to

Answer Key: 

Shatanese is a the owner of Super Extra Ordinary Mom, LLC, a HR Consultancy that delivers leadership and development training with an emphasis on diversity and inclusion.

Shatanese resides in Atlanta, GA with her husband and their six children.  She enjoys walks on the beach and colorful sunrises.  Shatanese's goal is to encourage others to find the extraordinary in every day moments.

Invite Shatanese as your next guest speaker or trainer!


Follow Shatanese on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Career Tips from a New Marine, My Son

My son, Azaan, recently graduated from the United States Marine Corps (USMC) bootcamp, one of the most traumatic transformations of his life.  I asked him about his experience and was delighted to hear some of the tips he learned while on Parris Island.  These tips can be applied to all aspects of life, especially our work lives.

1.  Always give 100%. 

Azaan was required to give his all at all times throughout the grueling 13 week transformation.  While most of our work environments are not like the US Marine Corps bootcamp, I am certain there are days when we all feel like giving up and quitting.  At those moments, attempt to assess what is causing the duress.  Once that assessment is made, you have the opportunity to determine if you can change the situation or if it is outside of your control.  My son only had control of his attitude during bootcamp and in many cases, our attitude is exactly what we may need to change to allow ourselves to give 100%.

2.  It's never just about you.  

As a recruit, Azaan had to learn how to work with each individual in his platoon.  He learned very quickly that what he was experiencing was not about him and that he had to factor in others with each decision and action he took.  He also had to look out for anyone who was struggling.  "No man left behind" was the motto he embraced during bootcamp and still carries in his heart.

In our work environments, it usually is not just about us.  Of course, there are those moments when we are receiving accolades for a job well-done but most of the time, we are to have an outward focus.  What do our customers want?  What are the expectations of our shareholders?  What goals are being attempted by senior leadership?  Those questions should influence our actions and approaches to problems.  The moment we lose sight of this perspective is the moment we jeopardize the overall effectiveness of our companies.

3.  Don't be stupid.  

Simple, somewhat crass and yet powerful.  Azaan shared that he had to be mindful of every action and decision he made during basic training and his drill instructor reminded them regularly (and loudly) "Don't be stupid."  One false move could have caused his entire platoon to experience an afternoon of extra PT (physical training).  As such, he was careful to be deliberate and intentional with his interactions.   There was at least one instance when my son was caught sleeping during instruction.  He said he wanted to instantly disappear and did his best to recover from the embarrassment of waking up to find his classmates and drill instructor staring at him.

At work, we too should be careful not to be "stupid."  Whether that means not responding to an email while we are angry or not intentionally ignoring a company policy, being mindful of our behavior is critical to our professional success.  

4.  Pay yourself first.

When the recruits finally became Marines and were given Liberty, personal time, they were instructed to pay themselves first.  Not necessarily monetarily, but with time for family and vacation time.  I thought this was a novel idea because too often we find ourselves at work but not at 100% in terms of our mental health.  We will put our companies, our families and our stresses front and center before we decide to take care of ourselves.  Mental health is key and sometimes it is ok to simply take a mental health day.  The benefits far outweigh any reason not to do so.

5.  Seek self-improvement.

Self-improvement is now a way of life for my son.  He is regularly seeking ways to improve his time for the last mile he ran, or the number of pull-ups he can complete in a designated timeframe.  A little bit better is on the other side of initiating self-improvement.

Our approach to our careers should be similar.  I understand that not everyone has the desire to be the "super employee" at their place of employment.  I am encouraging everyone, however, to be aware of ways to self-improve.  Even the slightest positive change can go a long way.

6.  Push yourself especially when you feel like you can't.  

My son shared numerous instances where he believed his body had been pushed to limits he never thought possible.  He described grueling marches which consisted of several miles in extremely warm weather.  He highlighted the difficulty of dragging another platoon mate who was asked to "play dead" and how he thought he was crawling in the sand forever with the extra weight while the entire time thinking of going home.

There will inevitably be days at work where we want to pack up our items and go home.  Or months when we feel as if we are not making the progress we desire in our careers.  Or like my son, where we feel as if we are carrying colleagues who are like dead weight.  Don't give up.  Keep pushing yourself, especially when you feel like you can't.

I hope these tips offered by my new Marine not only encourage you to be your best at work, but also encourage you to be always faithful to your goals and dreams. #semperfi

Shatanese is a the owner of Super Extra Ordinary Mom, LLC, a HR Consultancy that delivers leadership and development training with an emphasis on diversity and inclusion.  

Shatanese resides in Atlanta, GA with her husband and their six children.  She enjoys walks on the beach and colorful sunrises.  Shatanese's goal is to encourage others to find the extraordinary in every day moments.

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