Goal Processing: A Cloud of Dust

One of my favorite classes at OSU was an Agricultural Economics course with a guy named Justin Beadles. A group of us would get together before every test and just drink all the coffee and economics we could stand.

Justin went on to seminary and is now the Pastor at Grace Bible Church in Nacogdoches, Texas - http://www.gracebiblechurch.com/. Here is a line from Justin's welcome page on their web site...

"The last thing we want to do at Grace is feverishly stir up a cloud of dust, but essentially go nowhere. Nor do we want to meticulously chart maps, yet never leave the runway. Our desire is to chart a biblical course and energetically travel it together."

You and your team might be like the team I worked with this weekend - struggling with the issue of growth. How fast should we grow? How thin can we spread our resources? Should we put one ton of energy into 100 separate projects or put 50 tons of energy into two?

Obviously, Justin's leadership at Grace is a great model for you to follow with your team. There is no need to sow row after row of crops year after year if you deplete the land of nutrients so much you can't grow anything and dust covers the land instead of bounty.

Justin also recently joined the blogging world - http://justinbeadles.wordpress.com/. I encourage you to check it out and read regularly. Justin's wit, creativity and love for the Lord are all inspirational.

(He is also part Pastor, part Psycho - check this out...)


General: The Leadership Blog Voting

Personal Leadership Insight has been nominated for the Best of Leadership Blogs 2008 award. Please click here to vote for your favorite leadership blog.

The voting ends in July. We are currently in third place and just need a few more votes. Thank you for your support!


General: Student Award/Recognition Banquet Success Strategies

The middle of the summer isn't the best time of the year to be thinking about year-end banquets, but I promised a room full of teachers today that I would put up this post. So, if you are going to be in charge of or helping to plan a year-end student organization award/recognition banquet, here are a few tips to print off and save for later...

1. Set the date, announce it early, and build in a "WOW" factor.

Obviously, if you are working with a school's calendar, you are going to set the date fairly early. What most people forget is to announce it early. I am certain you don't have a big promotional budget (plus, you will have to send an announcement a few weeks before the event), but even just a simple postcard with a "save the date" message works wonders. Send it to local boosters, all the students' parents/guardians, all your school's staff/administration, etc. If you include a "WOW" factor, you can build in anticipation. This could be a special guest appearance, a special meal item, and/or a unique demonstration from the students. Don't be afraid to build it up and make it seem greater than it is. A little showmanship here goes a long way to people anticipating a cool event.

I spoke at one banquet where the big thing every year was what a local shop was going to do for the table center pieces. They were always something phenomenal and someone from each table got to take their table's centerpiece home. This was also a great promotional for the local vendor.

2. Assign every student a duty, check on their progress, offer them assistance and help them be exceptional.

Students get engaged in anything where they have a clear purpose and role. Find out their talents and/or the talents of their family members and go from there. Our local FFA chapter in the small town of Laverne, Oklahoma (population 1,000) had a huge banquet every year because we delegated and assigned roles. It was a huge event that created strong community awareness and support of our little 60-member FFA chapter.

Have a handful of gophers - students who simply play the role of helping you do misc. tasks. Put your nicest, friendliest and most outgoing students at the front as greeters. If you have a guest speaker, local VIPs or school administration coming, assign two students to each to specially greet them, help them feel "extra special", show them where they are seated, etc.

3. Talk positively about the event.

It is amazing how our language is powerful in shaping the mood of the planning and delivery of an event. The more you talk up about the event, the more your students will do the same. Everything is not going to go as planned and everything is not going to be as great as you say it will be, but if you (as the chief planner of the event) can't get excited about it, why should anyone else?

4. Have students perform with equipment that works.

I have been to hundreds of student award/recognition banquets and the best ones are the ones where the students not only do most of the podium work (emcee, introductions, announce awards, etc.), but where the students get to show off their talents also. This might be traditional banquet entertainment (singing, piano, etc.), but also showing off their speaking skills. Regarding the performances, whether from the podium or otherwise, make absolutely certain you have (and triple-check the morning of) facility items that add to the experience instead of detracting from it....

1. If you can't hear the speakers, then why have an event? I have been to banquets where the microphone is literally running into the portal podium built in 1960. If your town doesn't have a facility with a good sound system, someone in town has to have a portable sound system you can borrow. Ask the local churches, car dealers, auctioneers, local motivational speakers :), etc. You don't have to secure a high-dollar BOSE system, but one built after Reagan was in office would be nice.

2. If you are doing a slide-show, lighting is critical. If you can't turn the lights down for the show, then don't have the show.

3. If you can't hear the music behind the slide show, then don't have music. And a laptop's speakers with a microphone pointed at it is not good. Ask your local Radio Shack AV expert (come on, even my grandparents' town in po-dunk Oklahoma has a Radio Shack), to show you how to get the laptop's sound to run through the house sound. It takes an investment of about $40. It involves a few cords, adapters, and a little thing called a DI box.

4. If you are going to hang signs, banners, etc., make absolutely certain they will stay up. Duct tape is good, but duct tape and bailing wire (seriously) will hold anything. 50-pound fishing line works better and is more discreet than bailing wire also. You also need to check your facility's rules before using tape. Many places don't allow it. But if your banquet is in your grade school's 60-year old cafeteria, I doubt they will mind.

5. Make the room cooler than normal. If a few of your guests are complaining it is too cool, that is a good thing. 70 is a good room temp for meal functions. But remember, 65 in an empty room might get you 70 in a full one.

5. Keep the agenda short and simple.

No one ever, in the history of banquets, has ever complained about the event being too short. 90-minutes should be your target and 120-minutes should be your ceiling. You know you have reached your perfect banquet flow not when you have nothing left to add, but when you have nothing left to take away. Some say that every student should get something at an awards banquet. Well, if every student accomplished something, then that is true. However, you and I both know that not every student put in the work necessary to receive an award.

Because every event planner should be concerned with program length, here are a few time savers:

1. Have multiple registration/sign-in lines.

2. Have multiple food lines (if you are doing a buffet). Also, don't have food in a buffet line people have to assemble (tacos, sandwiches, etc.).

3. If you ask people to speak, ask them to speak about half as long as you actually want them to speak (i.e. - tell your Mayor she has 5 minutes if you expect her to go 10.)

4. Have someone other than the teacher give out the awards. It is tough for teachers to not want to say everything they can think of about every student who received an award. If certain highlights need to be said to give special recognition to work done, put it in the script. The best person to announce student awards is another student.

5. If you do a year-end slide show, put a two-song limit on it. I know you took a ton of great pictures throughout the year, but after 7-minutes even grandparents stop looking for their grandchild's smiling face and start looking for the last slide. If you have more pictures to share than can fit in a 7-minute show, put them in an online web album, put the URL in the program and announce the URL from the podium.

6. If you have a guest speaker, don't ask them to talk longer than 15-minutes. Trust me on this one, if the speaker is worth their keep, they can say in 15-minutes what they can in 30.

7. Bring multiples up all at once. If you have an award that goes to a group of individuals, call their names out all at once, have all of them come up to the front, then give them their awards individually. Award winner walking time is the third biggest time killer (second place is not having enough buffet lines and first place is a long winded teacher.)

6. Invite both friends and enemies.

Send out invitations to both your best supporters and to those people who you know don't support your organization. If you are out-of-sorts with the coaches or administration or the adult leader of a different student organization, send them an invite and call them personally to extend a personal invite. Tell them you just want to let them see the good work "the school's students" have been doing all year long. Don't make it about your students versus their students or your agenda versus their agenda. Make it about your event being a place for the school's students to be recognized for their hard work. It is amazing how much support you can create when people see you are trying to include them and, if they actually show, when people see the good works you do.

7. Seek sponsorships.

A banquet is a great marketing opportunity for local businesses and individuals that want to get their name in front of the community for a good cause. Check out this post on fundraising. The connection isn't direct, but some of the same principles apply to sponsorship acquisition. Getting sponsors isn't easy, but it gets easier as time goes on. Most organizations have a set "donations" budget and once you are in their list, it is easier to stay on their list year after year. And if you can get one bank or one retail outlet to sponsor, you can use that sponsorship to "nudge" their competition to do the same.

8. Invite the media.

Telling the good news is critical to the success of your organization. There is no better place to shout than at your annual banquet. Invite as many media outlets as you can. If no one from their shop shows, then send a picture and a press release the day after your event and ask them to run it. They will print it if the picture is good and the press release follows some basic rules. Here is a post at BNet an overview of press release rules... BNet. Also, make certain your picture has a few close-up shots of faces in it. Better to be able to actually recognize three faces than barely make out 20. Remember, the picture won't be printed full-sized and will be in black and white.

9. Have a printed script.

Your script should be in at least three, three-ring binders, double-spaced, 14-font, numbered pages and not copied until the morning of the banquet. You want multiple copies of the final event-ready script just in case something happens to one. You don't want to print it until the day of the event because things will change on you at the last minute. If things do change at the very last minute, just write in the changes. Use a three-ring binder so it will lay flat on the podium and so you can insert pages with changes. You should have students memorize their parts (the better they know their speaking parts, the more comfortable they will be at the podium), but have the manuscript available just in case their nerves get the best of them. When you put names in your manuscript, put them in phonetically correct, not grammatically correct (i.e. - Law-buck, not Laubach.)

10. Practice the night before, show up extra early to start preparing the day of and expect things to go wrong.

As much energy should be exerted in the practice the night before as the actual banquet itself. Early, in event planning terms, means as early as humanly possible. Everything at a banquet takes longer to prepare than you think. When things go wrong, as the event coordinator, you need to keep a calm head, walk with a hurried calmness and remember to put relationships before results. If something goes wrong, most times no one can tell anyway except you and your planning team. Just roll with it. And take notes after the event for next year. Send thank you notes out the next day. Send your press release and picture out the next day. Then celebrate with your students for a job well done!

I welcome any comments with more great banquet tips.


Working in the 17% Zone: 6 Big Keys to Getting and Keeping Engaged Team Members

The Gallup Organization did a study on how people feel about their job. The results:

17% felt they were actively engaged in their work.

54% were disengaged in their work.

29% actually felt actively disengaged.

How do you, as a leader in your organization, get people into the 17% zone and keep them there? Here are six big keys...


1. Encourage up. People have a basic need for reward. This reward doesn't have to always be pay or gifts or awards. Many times it is just simple encouragement. This positive interaction is especially important between a boss and a team member. The health of this relationship is the strongest factor in determining an employee's job satisfaction.

2. Target down. Identify what "a good job" means. People need loops in their life. This means they need to shoot for something, accomplish it and be given something new to strive for. Sometimes the "target" needs to be artificially manufactured, but as long as the work involved is substantial and meaningful, engagement will follow.

3. Strengthen in. Do you know what gets your team members excited both in the office and out? When you learn what naturally stimulates a person, you can help them do those things more often - even if they aren't work related.

4. Weaken out. When you ask a team member to do a task that engages one of their weaknesses, this actually weakens their ability to do other tasks. It takes time to massage the work flow around weaknesses, but it is a task worth pursuing.

5. Make it sharp. The sharper the axe, the better the cut and the easier the work. This principle works in the world of work, as well as the world of tree-cutting. Create, encourage and support (but don't mandate unless for licensing purposes) professional development opportunities. People desire accomplishment and for thousands of adults, their development path at work is their primary success outlet.

6. Rock the gap. People have a need for inspiration, even the cynical. In the world of employee engagement, this inspiration can come from seeing the gap between an average performance and an amazing performance and then being put in an environment that coaches and encourages an amazing performance from everyone - top to bottom.


General: Book Review

A Leader Becomes A Leader is a phenomenal new historical leadership study book by J. Kevin Sheehan. It includes 65 in-depth, creative and insightful profiles of highly successful individuals and the corresponding leadership trait they exemplified.

This image is an example of one of the profiles. Each profile includes images, quotes, a page description of the leader's life, a column dedicated to the leader's timeline and a sentence providing a brief, interesting story from their childhood. This profile picture is from John Coltrane, which is an example that not all the profiled leaders are your traditional historical leaders (Lincoln, Churchill, Einstein, etc. - although they are included, as well.)

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in history and leadership, as well as any educators who teach leadership in their classroom.

Purchase it from Amazon or from the publisher, True Gifts.


General: Best Leadership Blog Nomination

Personal Leadership Insight has been nominated for the Best of Leadership Blogs 2008 award. Please click here (the voting box is at the bottom of that page) to vote for your favorite leadership blog. The voting ends when July ends.

Thank you for voting and thank you for being a loyal PLI reader.