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“Everyone thinks change is a great idea, so long as they aren’t the one doing the changing.” I first heard this quote from Michael Funk, the head of California’s Expanded Learning Time Division.

I bet we can each think of a time in our professional life that we thought that everyone else should change: “If only everyone else would start doing the lessons like they are supposed to, then we could really get something done!”

I’ve got some bad news for you: if people aren’t changing, they have a good reason for doing so. And it’s not because they are lazy, or not smart enough, or a jerk. If you really want to catalyze change, you have to identify and address people’s valid concerns. Until you get clear about what those barriers are, and address them well, lasting change isn’t possible.


dec 2 blog pic


The team at XPLANE has developed an awesome way to get clear about the barriers to change – a card deck! The Barriers to Change Cards list 36 common concerns that teams have when considering a change.  Ask team members to pick 2 or 3 cards that best describe their concerns, then flip them over to find which of the main types of barriers you need to address. The 36 concerns fall into six broad categories:


  • Problem Alignment – Do we have a compelling reason to change?
  • Engagement – Is everyone engaged with the thing we’re considering?
  • Interpersonal – How do people’s relationships affect the change?
  • The Unknown – Can we cope with ambiguity?
  • Solution Alignment – Do we agree on what we want to change?
  • Execution – Are we confident we have what we need to make the change stick?


Once you’ve identified the reasons why your team is resistant to change, you can take steps to address these barriers, whether by sharing more information about the plan, making it clear what will be better in the future, or marshaling resources you need.

We’ve used the decks with our own team to identify our team members’ concerns about upcoming changes to our internal company policies. We plan to use the Barriers to Change Cards with our clients to help them troubleshoot new initiatives.


For breakfast, I had a whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter. 

Published in Breakfast Club

If you're a mid-career professional like me, you've participated in a lot of strategic planning processes. I've found that the good ones are inspiring, create a shared sense of purpose and momentum, and result in measurable outcomes. The bad ones, well, don't.

After leading a department-wide reorganization process in 2014, I knew two things: we needed to do some strategic planning and execution, but staff were tired from the grueling months of meetings. I had to find something different from the typical lengthy strategic planning process – something that would energize staff and make a difference in the short and long term.

Staff in our Lifelong Learning (LLL) Division, which provides enrichment and recreational opportunities for youth and adults in our community of Ann Arbor, Michigan, agreed to be the first in our organization to try a new method. Using the book "The Four Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals" as a guide, the team developed a Wildly Important Goal (WIG) they'd work on as a team for the fall semester.

"A Wildly Important Goal is a tactical goal with a limited time frame," note authors Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling. "It allows a team to focus and achieve 1-2 process or outcome changes that are critical for the division's success in the short and long terms."

The LLL team started by discussing these critical questions:

● If every other area of our operation remained at its current level of performance, what is the one area where change would have the greatest impact?
● Is this a change that connects to the heart of our mission?
● What type of change (process, programmatic, etc.) will make all the difference to our short and long term success?

Conversations around these questions were a perfect opportunity for new and veteran members of the LLL team to analyze their programs, brainstorm and come to consensus.

The result was this Wildly Important Goal:
90% of the 466 youth and adult classes the LLL division offers will "run" in the fall 2015 semester.

Put in the opposite way, the division will decrease the class cancellation rate from 20-25% to 10%. Cancelled classes result in unhappy participants and instructors, not to mention a loss of revenue.

Many factors impact whether a class runs or is canceled, including how well we're meeting community needs; how successful our marketing efforts are; instructor quality; and if we're hitting the right balance of repeat versus new classes.


Ann Arbor Rec & Ed Lifelong Learning Division staff stand in front of their calendar of action steps for achieving their Wildly Important Goal.

After agreeing on the Wildly Important Goal, the LLL team identified the action steps ("lead measures") most likely to achieve the WIG. First, they wrote a calendar with these action steps on newsprint that's posted on the wall of their hallway. Next, the team created a highly visible "dashboard" to monitor progress.

Rather than a screen- or paper-based dashboard, LLL staff chose a more fun way to measure progress: marbles! Each marble in the bowl represents a class that's offered. Every time a team member is certain that a class will run, she or he moves a marble from the bowl of marbles to a tall vase. As the photo shows, the vase is marked with milestones toward achieving the WIG.

marbles 2

The team meets briefly each week standing in front of the calendar and marble containers. During this lively 20-30 minute check-in, staff talk about what went well or didn't go well in the previous week and their plans for the upcoming week. They identify no more than two tasks each will accomplish in the next seven days.

The LLL staff team is "Invested but not overwhelmed," says LLL manager Sally Searls. "This process has strengthened how we work as a team and is already showing results."

We adapted aspects of the Four Disciplines process (originally intended for the business community) to meet the needs of our school district department. The ideas it's based on – team identification of 1-2 critical goals and weekly meetings at a common dashboard to monitor progress and make course corrections – can be beneficial for any type of organization.

Based on the energy and dedication the LLL team is showing, I'm certain that by the end of October, the vase will be filled with more than 90% of 466 marbles.


For breakfast, I had a Morning Glory muffin from Espresso Royale in Ann Arbor.

Published in Breakfast Club

In the middle of a severe drought here in California, water is very much on our minds. Kids probably know not to waste water, and maybe you have activities at your site to urge kids and their families to conserve. With 80% of California's water used for agriculture, and more than half the U.S. fruit, nuts, and vegetables grown here, a drought in California is a nationwide concern.

Where does water come from anyway? Kids are taught the water cycle in elementary school – the cycle of rain and snow, runoff and collection, and evaporation back into the atmosphere. Satellites in Earth's orbit monitor weather, oceans, ground water, and more to better understand the global water cycle.

leslie blog 1You and your kids can participate in NASA's Rain Gauge Design Challenge to come up with your own rain gauge design to measure a part of the water cycle. Or for the more passionate, you can set up a pre-made rain gauge kit at school or home, and send the measurements in to scientists who compare them with satellite observations.

Now for a really big question: how'd all that water get on Earth in the first place?

Scientists believe that comets – yes, comets – brought most of the water through collisions with Earth (and the other planets, too) in the earliest days of planetary formation, over four and a half billion years ago.

Comets stream in from the great reaches of our solar system, looping around the sun in long, odd orbits. When a comet gets close enough to the sun, tiny bits of dirt and ice spew off in a fantastical display we can sometimes see in the night sky as a tail.

Scientists are actively seeking clues from comets, the left-over remnants from those early days billions of years ago. Engineers have just landed a robot named Philea on a comet (delivered by the European Space Agency's mothership Rosetta) to take a ride for 9 months while the comet is closest to the sun. On the surface, Philea measures the spewing water, gas, and dust. It's a bit like sitting in the middle of a bunch of fountains on a summer day, trying to figure out what's actually shooting out of them, and still protecting yourself from getting wet.

Your kids can learn about comets through this fun hands-on, teamwork-based STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) activity from NASA, where youth learn the art and science of making a model of a comet, and check out cool comet facts through singing, rapping, or reading.

Professional artists have made a model of the nucleus of a comet, too, that they display in cities for people to enjoy, experience, and learn about comets. This one, as tall as a person, was recently on display in New York City.

leslie blog 3

Build your own comet model and help us celebrate Philae's journey hitching a ride around the sun, and learn where much of our precious water comes from!

You can also learn more from these sites on the internet:

"Ambition the film" is a fun drama about water coming to earth, in a fictional futurist setting.

Follow the Rosetta mission and the Philae lander, from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

More activities related to the solar system, for upper elementary afterschool programs, are available at JPL's From Out-of-School to Outer Space website.

For breakfast I had fig yogurt, fresh berries, and a decaf latte.


Published in Breakfast Club

Put your hand in.

Right now, as you're reading this blog post, take one of your hands and hold it out, palm down, in front of you. It'll only take a second.

No, seriously. We're going to make a virtual circle of hands here. Let's do this.

Is it in? Good. Keep reading.

Now on three, let's all imagine a really loud "Go team!" and you can lift your hand up.

Ready? One, two, three, GO TEAM!

That felt good, right?

This is when I'd love to ask you to stand up and do a trust-fall, except I'm not actually there, and you might break your monitor or laptop, and you'd then be facing the wrong way to keep reading anyway. But I'm sure you've got enough experience to know that teamwork needs trust.

There's a reason teams do these activities – or some manner of these activities. It's the same reason that "improving teamwork" is a key component of any organization's strategy. When everyone is working together towards a common goal, with everyone's work coordinated in the same direction and tapping into each individual's strengths, then any reasonable goal will be met, both more efficiently and with greater impact.

Within each district, and at each site, exists a set of teams ... that work more or less well together. At the site level, we have a pretty good idea about what makes good teamwork, and we can identify a solid set of best practices to make that happen. But what happens within districts to support programs working effectively – not just in a few sites – but across the whole system?

We at the Partnership for Children & Youth were curious and set out on a journey more than a year ago to find out. We wanted to study how a "circle of hands" comes together at the district level to make expanded learning programs run like clockwork. In other words, what accounts for success in districts where expanded learning time is truly time well spent?

time well spent

We did a series of expert interviews, looked through all the literature we could find, then headed out into the field for a series of site visits and more interviews.

There were different sizes, shapes and grips of hands in the circle pretty much everywhere we went. In fact, of the eight districts we visited, all were configured uniquely; with each of the districts, their community partners, and their county offices of education handling different roles and responsibilities.

But what we hoped we'd find – and, in fact, what we did find – was that there were common strategies in use throughout all of these partnerships. The hands in the circle were different, but the circle was always there, and it always meant the same thing for supporting student learning; "We're in this together."

Everywhere we went, when a district and its expanded learning programs were coordinated; there were five overarching, common strategies.

• The school district was building on its existing assets, and was creating a broad-based expanded learning system and infrastructure.
• The school district had set the vision that expanded learning was part of the core work of its schools.
• The school district was creating and sustaining authentic partnerships, through shared planning and management.
• The school district was supporting the system's capacity for continuous improvement.
• The school district was clear about the critical role school-level leadership plays in creating and sustaining effective programs.

Take a look through our report, Time Well Spent, and register for our one-hour webinar, taking place on Wednesday, November 12 at 11:30 Pacific, to learn more about how exactly these strategies work together – and how they're being employed in various districts across the state. And take a look at your own district. Are these strategies in place? Are any elements missing? How can you learn from other teams to achieve more?

California was ranked the #1 after school system in the country last week. We did this by continuously striving for quality. And quality in expanded learning requires teamwork, making sure the gears are aligned – and that everyone's got a hand in the circle – so it can truly be Time Well Spent.

For breakfast, I had a strawberry/blueberry smoothie.

This blog post was written by guest blogger, Jessica Gunderson: Policy Director, Partnership for Children and Youth. 


Published in Breakfast Club

I was in a meeting recently and was offered a suggestion: to invite my staff to play back what they heard when we're having discussions to reduce the chance for misunderstandings. I appreciated this feedback because it was practical and addresses an area of growth for me. It was especially meaningful since the feedback was from someone whom I supervise. I know that it's not always easy to offer up constructive feedback to a supervisor.

Techbridge feedback

Feedback within an organization: Practice makes better
It takes determination and practice to make feedback part of the practice of our organizations. At Techbridge we encourage all staff to offer feedback on what is working well as well as areas in need of improvement. This goal came out of our recent performance review process in which areas for improvement surfaced. There were a smattering of challenges described in peer and supervisor reviews that had not been shared between supervisors and staff during the year. Next year, we don't want any surprises or missed opportunities for making changes and improving practices with more timeliness.

We recognize that while giving more and better feedback is a goal, it is a work in progress at Techbridge. Jane MacKenzie, Chair of our Board of Directors, offered up her help and hosted training for our staff. Jane is General Manager for Global Workforce Development at Chevron and she shared research and encouraged us to role play and practice some of the strategies she recommended. We know that a one-time training isn't enough and plan to revisit our staff needs for additional training later in the year.

Feedback to partners: Regard it as a gift
Offering feedback is also important for the partners we work with. We introduce our girls to role models who dispel stereotypes and inspire our girls in science, technology, and engineering. They come to our after-school programs and host field trips. Knowing how to be an effective role model is not something one learns in college or on the job. In order to support their success, it is important for us to share feedback with role models. At the start our staff wanted to focus only on the positive since role models were volunteering their time. While we want to recognize and reinforce what role models get right, it is important to note where role models (and Techbridge) can improve. We've learned that while it may be hard at first, it is important to engage in candid discussions with role models.

Looking at feedback as a gift instead of an indication of a shortcoming is a perspective that helps guide us. It helps to set up the expectation from the start that follow-ups are part of successful partnerships and feedback supports program improvement. Starting these conversations by asking partners for their help on what they think can be improved makes it easier to share feedback on how they can also improve. Everyone wants to help when they are asked. Quality feedback makes for lasting partnerships. With practice and training it does get easier to provide feedback.

Matt and Martha

Techbridge's Top Ten Tips for Making Feedback Part of our DNA:

1. For most of us, feedback can sometimes be hard to give and receive. Provide training so that everyone in your organization gets more comfortable and more skilled. It takes practice and with time will become easier and more effective. It helps to remember that we are all works-in-progress.

2. Make it timely. When you see or hear something that you want to reinforce, let your staff know what they have successfully accomplished. Be specific on what made their behavior effective. Did they walk around the classroom and make sure that all kids were engaged with hands-on materials? Did they demonstrate growth in giving directions and managing behavior since your last visit?

3. In instances when you can't provide immediate feedback, find the next appropriate moment to share your comments. Or, send a quick email or write a note that captures your insights and can serve as the basis for a discussion the next time you meet.

4. Techbridge after-school programs end with shout outs. We learned this from one of our program coordinators. Our girls share out and acknowledge and appreciate the actions of others. They note the partner who helped them work through a design challenge, the teacher who encouraged them to persevere, or the role model who visited their school. We brought this practice back to our office and end team meetings with shout outs. Help with a weekend family event, review of new curriculum, and success in managing a challenging partnership are examples of shout outs that appreciate the collective efforts of our team.

5. Find out the preference for how each staff wants to receive feedback. Each of us is different. A private note may be more appropriate for some. A public remark during a meeting may work better for others.

6. For managers, make it a standard practice to ask a question during check-ins to make sure that they are providing feedback to their direct reports. Ask them for an example of when they provided feedback on successful work and when they provided input on a skill that needed improvement.

7. Positively reinforce feedback. When someone offers up feedback, thank them for caring enough to offer a suggestion on how to improve. This is particularly important for supervisors since it can be intimidating to offer constructive feedback to someone with more authority.

8. Managers, give your team a box of thank-you notes to support their giving of feedback. Let them know that you will be checking back to make sure they use them up in a timely way.

9. We invite partners to visit our programs and see us in action. We ask that they follow up with feedback. We learned this effective practice from Galileo Learning. In advance of a visit to one of their trainings, Glen Tripp, CEO and Founder, requested that we share at least one piece of constructive feedback with him. We liked the idea so much that we stole it!

10. Random acts of feedback are demonstrations of caring. They help us thrive in our work. The benefits go round and round. The person who receives feedback feels better and becomes more effective at the job. The person who provides the feedback feels good and knows that she or he is cultivating leadership within.

For breakfast today, I had coffee and granola. I shared breakfast over a phone call with Elizabeth Hodges, who is Executive Director in our Greater Seattle office. We may be in different cities, but we share a common commitment to inspiring the next generation of innovators and leaders. In these calls, we can offer input to one another and work on our feedback muscle.

Published in Breakfast Club

For breakfast today I ate my kid's leftovers; half a piece of bacon, a cold egg and a well-chewed English muffin. The interesting part of the morning was less the food than the discussion. If you have ever tried to talk with two little kids at the same time you understand how conversations can spin rapidly to amazingly unique subjects. As my Jonah and Sydney left for camp, I reflected that the OST field often feels just like the conversation I just finished with them.

collaboration pic Dialogue in the OST field is fast, ever-changing and based in collaborations. In fact, our field is driven by collaborations. School districts collaborate with providers who collaborate with Community Based Organizations, foundations, and private sector funders. Schools collaborate with summer learning groups and, often, two after school providers collaborate on one school campus. That is just the tip of the iceberg. We collaborate with teachers, parents, government officials, youth sports. The list goes on. Whether the collaborative work is intentional or situational, it is hard. Collaborations sound great, and are great when done well. Regardless, they are hard and they are complicated because of communications. There is a simple math formula that demonstrates this concept; n squared minus n over n. Draw it out. Two people have one conversation. In our formula, the people are 'n'. Add a third person and there are three potential conversations. Here is where it takes a twist. Four people have 6 potential conversations. Five people have 10. Make 'n' 6 and the potential conversations are 15. 7 people = 21 communication lines...and so on. If you are a visual learner, draw a dot for each 'n' and then start connecting them and you see how complicated collaborative conversations become through a multiplier effect.

I am not saying we should avoid collaboration. I am saying we need to recognize the increased potential for blurred messy collaboration pic visions, values, outcomes analysis, and failure as we add more people and cross-conversations to a group approach in OST. We need to walk into group efforts aware of the difficulties and the potential for struggles due to significant cross-communications and we need to be deliberate and efficient in our word choice.

Let me be clear. I believe in and support collaborative work. In fact, I have worked on many state initiatives to align OST efforts and my organization won an award from the CA After School Network for collaboration and was runner up for the National Loadstone Collaboration Prize. The conversation with Jonah and Sydney this morning just reminded me of what a wise mentor once taught me...99.9% of the time that an issue exists in a business or between people, it is a communications issue.

Sorry. I have to go. My phone is ringing, email is pinging, iPad is tweeting, colleagues are interrupting, and...


Published in Breakfast Club

As I walk into the office of BOOST Collaborative I see artwork, inspirational t-shirts, magazines, and vision boards. I have been interning here for about three weeks now, and I have learned so much about the professional world. Rachel leads me into an open office room, which is freezing cold from the air conditioning. The office has no walls, just windows, creating a cool open space. My mentor Tia and I have worked closely together for the past few weeks, but I am excited to learn more about her past.

Tia Quinn is a passionate professional who created the company BOOST Collaborative in 2007. BOOST Collaborative is a purpose driven organization dedicated to creating change within after school programs nationally. Her organization started on her couch and has grown into a beautiful office space in Little Italy in Downtown, San Diego. Sitting down for an interview, you can tell she is passionate for what she does and wants to see change created within after school programs.

HG: Can you start off by telling me how you came to be in the afterschool program field?
TQ: My background educationally speaking is in psychology, however my work experience primarily has been in the afterschool field. I was a counselor for a bit working with high school students, but for the past twenty-two years I've worked primarily with after school programs, in Connecticut and California. I've done everything from being a site supervisor to a program director. I was the Region 9 Co-Lead working with all the publicly and federally funded afterschool programs in Orange, San Diego, and Imperial counties. I felt that I could make a bigger impact on youth and adults that work with youth if I went out on my own to provide impactful, innovative services.

HG: How did you start BOOST Collaborative?
TQ: So, it started in my living room! I had always done training and consulting on the side for different programs around the country. As that grew I felt like I was able to go out on my own, and start my own company. So I began in my living room, borrowed money from a friend, and started my own company!

HG: That's so crazy. Look where you are now.
TQ: I know, and I love it. I wouldn't change it for anything. The work we are able to do as a team and provide for the field, I wouldn't have it any other way.

HG: Ten years ago, where did you see yourself now?
TQ: Not here! I've always loved this work, and in the beginning I just saw it as a job. I never saw it as a career. Even though I loved working with youth, then later on as I shifted into working with educators, I still didn't see the work as a career. But then I remember I went to my first conference and I met other people who were working in the field, and I was really inspired by the speakers and the workshops and the time to network. I think that was the first time in my adult life that I saw the work that I was doing as a career.

HG: Where did you go to college and what did you study?
TQ: I went to University of Hartford in Connecticut and I studied psychology and sociology, and while I was in college, I started working for an inner-city afterschool program. It was my first experience working with an afterschool program and that's when I fell in love with the concept of out-of-school time and how we can impact students lives through out-of-school time programs.

HG: What advice would you go back and give your teenage self? Speaking academically and personally.
TQ: My teenage self?! I was always involved in a lot of extracurricular activities like student council, band and sports. I think that those are wonderful opportunities to participate in and really engage in, and although academically I had very high test scores, I had average grades because I wasn't engaged in the learning process of the classroom. So I think that I would go back and maybe put more effort in my GPA. It wasn't important to me, and the things that were important to me were actually the extracurricular activities and I felt like I was really more involved and engaged with those things over anything else. Advice I would give to any young person, such as yourself, is just to be open to new possibilities and experiences and have a well-rounded exposure whether it's through travel or education, it's really important to be open socially AND academically.

HG: What sort of trainings, programs, and experiences helped you to be prepared for the professional working world?
TQ: I don't think I've ever taken a business class on how to run a business in my life. Like I said my background is in psychology and working with youth and after school programs so that is what I am familiar with. Starting BOOST I jumped into it very blindly. I didn't know what I was getting into as far as running a company. I'm actually in a program now, an entrepreneur program that teaches me how to run my business and how to grow my business. So I'm doing that after the fact, when maybe I should have done it before. It's good to network and see how others deal with issues within their companies.

HG: What is your favorite and least favorite part of your job?
TQ: There are so many aspects of our company that I love. I'm really passionate about training educators. I love when I get to travel and incorporate personal experiences into my travel like live music or visiting with friends. Also just being in the room with after school-time educators- that's what inspires me and helps me grow. Of course my other favorite part is actually the BOOST Conference. Seeing it all come together and seeing people have a good time is amazing. My least favorite part is the day-to-day operations. As the CEO I need to keep my eye on the big picture and the overall vision but sometimes I get caught up in the other little things. It's a constant learning experience for me to stay focused on what I need to be doing.

HG: You have a very successful company but how do you hope to grow even more in the future?
TQ: Our goal is to be able to create experiences for people in the community. The next project that we are working on, as you know, is the MARS Experience. It's out of the realm of what BOOST is known for but MARS will introduce an experience with a different audience. The next step with that is to take the systems that we know work well and mirroring that into another audience.

HG: What advice would you give someone my age, who has a lot of ambition, but doesn't know where to start?
TQ: I would definitely say to travel. I think it's so important to go to other countries to see different cultures. I think travelling allows you to find out more about yourself and figure out who you want to become in this world. Along with traveling, I think volunteering in your community and giving back are very important to your growth as a person as well.

haley gorman Haley Gorman spent one month at the BOOST Collaborative office as part of an intensive Internship Program in partnership with her school, High Tech High Chula Vista. Tia Quinn is the Founder & CEO of BOOST Collaborative, headquartered in San Diego, CA. 

Published in Breakfast Club

When you were young, how active was your imagination? Did you believe in the ghost in the closet? The spirits in the attic? Or the monster under the bed? As young people we created amazing stories that filled our minds with untrue ideas. As we matured and became more educated, we were able to change the stories, decipher what was true or false, and understand how to think more clearly and productively. However, below are some thoughts about where the little green monsters reside in us today.

Do you ever sit in a meeting and act like you were listening, but really think that the speaker isn't projecting his/her idea in the best way? Do you find yourself thinking you already know what someone is going to say next? When having a conversation with another professional in the field, do you compare your program and ability to theirs? When problem-solving with a director, do you think you know how to do it better? If you said 'yes' to any of the above, I believe that the little green monster is living inside your head, whispering ideas and thoughts that are keeping you from: being present, being a contributor, being open to fresh ideas -- and ultimately preventing you from being a collaborative and contributive team player.

In 2011, I took a course from a leadership development group called 2130 Partners. One of the most impactful sessions I attended was called the File Cabinet. In summary, our brains are like a storage space, a 'file cabinet' that collects our past experiences. Often, in work situations or in personal situations, when listening to others our file cabinet starts sorting the information based on what we know. The filing cabinet urges us to form an opinion and then it tells us not to focus on what is being said -- thus pulling us away from actually listening. Then the subtext begins: "He or she is way off base" or "That's not the best way to run this event" or "That idea is lame," etc. When that happens to me, I know the mischievous little green monster is alive and well, letting my imagination run amok. I know I am no longer listening, participating, and staying open to the actual conversation at that very moment. I've been distracted and have become filled with judgment and ego. Here's how I fix it: Even when I'm right (just kidding), I try to listen to the information as if it is the first time I'm hearing it. I work hard on staying open and being able to receive new information. This lesson has improved my participation in team meetings and in my consulting business by really being present. It reminds me that I am always a student.

I choose to keep my imagination alive and energized. I am not going to allow the little green monster to whisper dirty or false secrets in my ear, nor prevent me from waking up each day to the wonderment of what will come next. I want to get up in the morning unafraid of what's under the bed.

This morning and every morning I have had a vegetable smoothie. (Yes, I brought my juicer to the BOOST conference and made smoothies EVERY SINGLE MORNING!)

Published in Breakfast Club

The holiday season is upon us — a time of year when we recognize those in our personal lives we are thankful for. It is also a great time to think about recognizing those in our work life. Things can get so busy during the year that we forget to let those we work with know how much we value their contributions. That is why having a Recognition Plan can be so valuable.

Those that work in our after school programs, and with our most vulnerable youth, really benefit from ongoing support and recognition to feel engaged in the program and get through challenges. The best thinking and research in this area indicates effective recognition should:

• Have both an individual and team component
• Be aligned with organizational goals and values
• Increase employee engagement
• Create a positive work environment
• Reward innovation, attitude and performance
• Improve employee retention

It is important that recognition is meaningful, specific and connected with activities that staff value. It doesn't have to be elaborate, but it should be personal and tied to the vision of the organization. Here are some practices from my experience to get you thinking about your recognition strategy:

Personal Approaches

Write a personal note to a staff member who has done something great, thoughtful, or supportive. It is so simple but often is the most meaningful. I remind myself to be specific about what I am thankful for and to connect it to our vision of supporting student success.

Create your own personal certificate to give to those who have an achievement, present at a meeting, or reach a certain goal. I got this idea from our Superintendent who gives out her own award, which staff often post on their walls with pride.

Invite an employee to coffee or lunch to celebrate an accomplishment. This provides some one-on-one time to acknowledge the accomplishment and make a personal connection and explore future career steps.

Find out what the staff person enjoys and get a gift that aligns with their interests/strengths. This can run the gamut but it is best when connected to the vision. As an example, I got a personalized coach whistle to thank a staff person who loves sports and organized a sports league in our after school program.

Provide, as a reward, opportunities for staff development to support career aspirations. I have offered a registration to the BOOST conference to staff who attain certain goals.

Honor those exhibiting best practices. This recognizes individual accomplishments and reaffirms specific program strategies and elements you want to see in your program.

Public Honors

Include appreciations at every staff meeting. At our staff meetings, we always conclude with an opportunity for staff to recognize each other.

Honor a Staff Member of the Month, create a "Catch Inspiration" Award to highlight inspirational staff/stories, or create a staff nominated "Wall of Fame" and post on social media. We have done a variety of these types of recognition strategies, usually focusing on our Facebook page, blog and newsletter. It is a great public recognition that the honoree can send to their families and friends.

Honor years of service along with personal milestones. This is an annual celebration at my organization. However you celebrate it, the recognition of time given to the organization is an important and motivating right of passage.

Honor innovation with a special award where the winner can challenge you to do something new. This is a great way to get more deeply involved with staff and it is fun and motivating too.

Team Rewards

Bring a care package to staff teams that have done great work, made it through a challenging time, or reached a milestone. We honor school site teams with care packages and gifts throughout the year in honor of accomplishments, with thanks for a job well done, and to appreciate the strength shown in getting through challenging times.

Organize a party to appreciate staff and provide time for personal connections. We have a committee that focuses on creating social opportunities and other strategies to support a positive workplace. It is great to get the whole organization involved and owning recognition—it encourages a culture of appreciation.

Some Other Ideas

• Have staff fill out a "Recognition Preference Profile" so you know what type of recognition is preferred.
• Keep an inventory of recognition strategies and what works well (or not).

I hope some of these ideas spur your thinking about how to support, recognize, and honor those who do this necessary work. Recognize!

I began my day with half a grapefruit, sourdough toast, and coffee.

Published in Breakfast Club

"If the young are not initiated into the village, they will burn it down just to feel its warmth." - African Proverb

In traditional societies, parents would send their children outside of their immediate family to an 'elder' in order for the child to begin a rites of passage. This rites of passage gave them the opportunity to learn the social norms and mores and join the larger community. Our programs, in many ways, have become this community of 'elders'. Which could be many of us really consider ourselves 'elders'? And when I reflect on this, my experience has shown me that though these 'rites of passages' exist in our programs, they for the most part remain a latent aspect. Now imagine when this aspect of programming is powered with intentionality. This intentionality can be focused in four areas:

1. Mentored Learning
2. Practical Testing
3. Enacted Ritual
4. Community Celebration

A noteworthy point is that these four areas should not be approached with cookie-cutter responses. The four areas must be contextualized with authentic and relevant responses that invite young peoples' out-of-school experiences and culture. To borrow from my experiences running programs in Los Angeles, our East Los Angeles program tailored those four areas in a fashion that was distinct from our South Los Angeles program, yet both were completely authentic and true to themselves and their communities. Young people AND staff did not join a program, they joined a community who had a strong sense of affiliation. Also, staff and leadership invested heavily in the design of this "rites of passage". I would like to point out that the investment mentioned above was not solely monetary. Of more importance was the time and space allotted for staff and leadership to critically examine their programs and perform a programmatic "autopsy without blame".

In closing, I believe that transforming our programs into communities where the youth can be initiated is not just a good idea, but a necessity. I offer some questions for you and your staff with the intent that you will engage in a critical dialogue as to how the youth are being initiated into your "village".

• Are your programs building community? And probably even more important, is it a community worth joining?

• Are you more concerned with collecting the dots than connecting the dots? What's the point of having all these youth in your program if no one knows their names (along with their parents and teachers)?

• What rituals are being created at the site level, organizational level? How are these rituals and artifacts (i.e. shirts, wristbands, dog tags, etc) building affiliation?

• Is your program Instagram worthy? In other words, are the activities and relationships at your site inspiring you to capture that moment with a picture?

For breakfast I had eggs, beef bacon, toast, orange juice and coffee.

Published in Breakfast Club
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