New York, New York

A week ago (boy time flies!) I had the delightful privilege and honor to stand before a room of my peers in the workforce development sector. I was invited to New York City to join JobsFirstNYC as a guest speaker for a group of seven organizations who focus mostly on helping young adults, who are out of school/work, build workplace skills and find quality employment.

These orgs are doing really powerful work so I’ll link them below. You have to check them out!

Anyhow, so when I got the invite to be flown in from Chicago and have my hotel taken care of in Manhattan hunni, I was like, “girl, yes!”

Sidenote: You never know who’s watching you and taking notes. You never know when – who you are might open doors you hadn’t considered.

This moment has been in the making since April 2017 and I didn’t even realize it. In early 2017, I gave a speech in Chicago about employer engagement, strategies to building and maintaining relationships and overall success driver best practices for doing good work, tracking good work and using data to make sound business decisions. I was introduced to a consultant, Marty, during that meeting.

In 2017 I got a call from Marty with a request to talk to some individuals from New York over the phone. We had a great conversation about emplyer engagement and data.

Several months later, I recieved a request to do an event for New York. They offered a phone or live video conference for me to present. Unfortunately my schedule was insane so it didn’t work out.

Fast forward to April 2018, I was contacted by that same consultant friend, this time with an offer to visit New York and it worked in my schedule!

Taking a Water Taxi past the Brooklyn Bridge

The whole event was amazing. There was a lot of community learning happening as organizations shared with me and each other. There were great takeaways and action planning. This learning community takes times on a regular basis to meet and share their wins and losses, lessons and challanges. Instead of being competitive, they intentionally choose to collaborate. It’s inspiring, not only in our work but in our world.

At the event, I used my time to give an overview of my work, my team, describe our culture of metrics/data and share strategies for strengthening key internal/external feedback loops. I wanted to learn too and in addition to answering questions throughout the day to help as much as possible, I also took notes on ideas a few in the group offered me because who wouldn’t hear of an idea that could increase productivity and efficiency then do nothing!?

Action Planning Session

PS. If you’re not familiar with the work I do, here’s your chance to learn a bit more about Cara Chicago.

Walking through Cara’s Service Delivery Model

This space of helping individuals with barriers to employment, not only get back to work but thrive and walk with them as they transform their lives is such vital work. To sit in a room across the country and experience the synergy between my work and theirs was encouraging! I hope my insight will indeed help some individuals who sat in that room, along in their personal and professional journeys.

View of Lower Manhattan from Water Taxi

Outside of this really stellar part of my trip, I also had a few hours each day to explore New York City and boy did I! I walked all over town through Midtown and Brooklyn, Chinatown and Little Italy, Soho and Tribeca, Hell’s Kitchen and Lower Manhattan to name a few. My little legs were tired from all the walking but so worth it. And I saw crazy things, ate good food and had fun along the way!

Brooklyn Bridge

Manhattan Bridge

I already have a list of places to visit for next time. I look forward to more opportunities like this, more speaking engagements (I had a blast) and more cities to explore.

Thanks New York!

Organization list/links as promised:

Madison Strategies Group– connects individuals with quality employment, maximizing their unique talents to achieve advancement and independence.

Seedconational nonprofit organization that advances economic opportunity for people, businesses and communities in need.

Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation – partners with transportation and culinary employers to offer credentialing options for young people leading to a career pathway.

Green City Force – with partners Con Edison, C+C Apartment Management, and NYCHA’s REES focus on career pathways in the sustainability sector.

The Knowledge House – partnering on the Bronx Digital Pipeline with Hostos Community College and Per Scholas, developing pathways into cutting edge technology jobs by mobilizing pipeline partners who contribute to the Bronx tech ecosystem.

Roundabout Theatre Company in partnership with the IATSE union and The Door provide training and job placement for young people interested in technical theatre careers.

Stanley Isaacs Neighborhood Center partners with employers to train for careers in hospitality and food service. Isaacs Center also offers trainings in community health and education and child development.

Action Day!! Day 3 of M.A.D Leadership Chicago 

​The last three weeks I have been doing a series writing about this amazing conference I volunteered at in September. It was hosted by the Aspire Foundation and was a program focused on developing (mostly women) leaders who want to make a difference. 

If you want more back story, I would recommend you visit my blog to catch up on those posts. Today I am going to wrap up this series with the final day, my favorite…ACTION DAY!!

This is my favorite because without action steps or effort into a  tangible plan, a great conference can quickly go down the drain once it’s all over and regular life distractions get in the way…again. 

Action day when I attended a similar conference in London is part of what changed my life in this last year. I often keep my soapbox ready to chat about the value and importance of vision boards and Action Day falls into the same category for me. 

When I can articulate my vision, share it with others, write it down or have visuals for it, it will become more reasonable to achieve those things. You can begin to look for ways to open doors yourself or the right people who can help you or hold you accountable. After some time has passed you might look back and day, “Wow how did I make it this far?” I’ll tell you how. It’s because you had some version of Action Day. If you don’t know what you want or where you’re going, how can you know if you are even on the right track? 

On Action Day, you learn to say ‘Screw the Fear’ and give your vision some teeth. Action Day is not for the faint of heart as it will make you uncomfortable because a plan don’t mean ish without some action on your part. Yes, you actually have to DO stuff to achieve your dreams and goals. 

For the Aspire attendees, there were 4 sessions for the day:

1. Leading and Influencing Others

2. The Power of Your Network

3. Strategic Thinking & Time Leadership

4. Action Plans, Support & Accountability 

Again, the best way to wrap up this conference was with Action. So many people leave conferences with a whole lot of action and little thought towards implementation. But you don’t need a conference to have your own action day. You already know what you want to or need to work on. Follow through on the commitments you have made to yourself and others. Start today! 

Day 1 of M.A.D. LEADERSHIP CHICAGO 

Prior to the Aspire M.A.D. Leadership Chicago conference I wrote abour last week, there was a webinar to prepare. 

One question posed to webinar attendees was, “What is your main motivation to attend M.A.D. (Making a Difference) Leadership?”

  1. Improve Leadership Skills
  2. Make a bigger difference in the world
  3. Figure out future career and life goals 
  4. Make a life or work change
  5. Something else

Intentions are powerful. Declaring your direction and what you want to achieve can gain more results than going into any new project or adventure blindly.

Throughout the program, attendees had a chance to network and spend time speaking out loud about dreams, goals and vision. But what I loved was that it didn’t stop there. Goals do not mean much without action and that was a big focus of the event. Attendees could learn the steps for how to take action and create steps for making a difference. 

Before the event began, attendees checked-in and got to select their own journal to jot down notes, ideas, contacts, plans, follow-up, etc during the week. I attended an Aspire Foundation event last year and I still have my journal. 

This year’s event in Chicago included 12 sessions. I will take my next few blog posts day by day. Day one sessions included topics on the power and impact of being a MAD leader in today’s competitive organization and global economy which was led by Aspire’s founder, Dr. Sam Collins. On day 1 attendees also heard from Linda Cruse on how to create a life and career you love and be a catalyst for change. Linda Cruse is an international aid worker, disaster management specialist, author, inspirational speaker and social entrepreneur. You should check out her book Marmalade and Machine Guns.

Linda said a lot that resonated with me. She talked about the work she does around the world but how it’s important to create environments that foster independence. You have to train people you teach to be without you so they don’t become dependent. It is valuable to co-create then leave. That to me is not important only if you are assisting in third world countries but a principle that rings true in every country in any life. Parents, school teachers, managers can all take that same piece of advice and apply it. I know I want to. No one should want to create someone who cannot be independent to think, live and thrive on their own. 

Some other faves Linda mentioned are as follows:

“We come with nothing and we go with nothing. At the end of the day we have our purpose so don’t miss living your purpose by one day. How do you want to be remembered?”

“Why not? Two words that will change your life.”

“Have a board of directors for your life, in your life.”

“You become who you have coffee with.”

“Buy an experience for Christmas or Thanksgiving. You’ll talk about it for years. Buy experiences, not things.”

To wrap up day 1, there was also a panel session on making success. The panelists dove deeper into the ideas of balance and resilience being possible for MAD Leaders. 

One of my favorite takeaways was something someone on the panel said which was,”No…is a gift you can give someone. It’s you saying, ‘I can’t do it’ so they can find someone else versus saying yes then you can’t commit to it. 

Next week I’ll tell you more about day two of the Aspire Foundation MAD Leadership Chicago conference.  

The totally fab Volunteer Team I was part of

Aspire, Inspire, Trailblazing Women

​I love being in a room with powerful women and men, especially women. Powerful though not because of their title or status but because of their spirit. Aspire has done it again!

This week I spent volunteering for The Aspire Foundation M.A.D. Leadership Chicago conference. 

This was a symbolic full circle for me. Last year, I attended my first Aspire conference on Trailblazing Leadership in London (click link to read one of my most popular posts on traveling in London). If you have been reading my blogs for some time, you probably remember my posts (like this one here!) about that trip.

This week, I feel like I met the most beautiful souls. People who help you believe in humanity. People who believe in diversity including diversity of thought, of people, of ideas and dreams. People who were open, loving, thoughtful, compassionate and serious about making a difference to change the world, knowing that it starts with transforming their own lives so they can help transform the lives of others.

150 women attended each day from front line, manager and senior positions in the corporate, academic, local government, small business, nonprofit and charity worlds. There were attendees on scholarship, students, mentees, mentors and a few amazing men attended as well. 

As a volunteer, I got there early each morning and stayed late each night, giving my best energy, smiles, help and support to everyone who needed it. I helped with setup, breakdown, did the social media (Search #madleaders on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn), checked attendees in at reception each morning, helped delegates during and between the sessions, supported the volunteer team and all other duties as assigned. 

I got just as much if not more from volunteering as the attendees did. I got to see the experience from a different point of view this time around. I was nervous about how that might turn out but it was a brilliant decision. I worked closely with Dr. Sam Collins, the Founder and CEO of Aspire whose mission is to Make a Difference to 1 Billion women by 2020. 

At the beginning of the conference and before it started I spoke aloud intentions for what I wanted to get out of it. What did I want to see for myself? What did I want to see for the attendees? What did I want to see for the volunteer team? Some of my answers were re-energizing, restoration, peace and clarity.  I feel like I got even more than I asked for and that’s pretty incredible for a few days.
There were 12 fantastic sessions over 3 days. I have so much more to share but I will cut this post short so I can give the other content it’s full airtime. Next week I’ll start sharing more details about the conference sessions and some take-aways that really impacted me. 

I had to start somewhere because I am so excited. This week gave me a renewed energy and outlook on my present and my future. I am a M.A.D. (Making A Difference) Trailblazing Leader. 

Onward #madleaders!

To Thine Own Self Be True

For several days last week I attended personal and professional development seminars. One seminar was actually to gain training in preparation for the kick-off of a major project for a partner company I work with.

Over the course of 3 days I spent in Predictive Index (PI) training, it became clear the training would not only help my coaching techniques for the pending project but also could prove beneficial with my own staff.

“The Predictive Index® leverages a simple methodology that empowers you to understand the true behaviors of your workforce so they can take you where you want to go.”

Their sites states, “People are super complex. Decode the complexities and realize what drives workplace behaviors so you can ensure alignment, reach your team’s true potential, and achieve your business objectives faster than you ever thought possible.”

I won’t dive into what I learned about the other 3 motivators but will focus on what I learned about myself for this post. Many of these things I already knew to some degree but it is always interesting to hear more about what motivates you.

What motivates me impacts how I see and interact with the world. I learned I talk through things to be sure I have learned it which I was a bit surprised about. I am really motivated by personal, positive (sometimes public) feedback. I enjoy influencing people for a postive response according to my PI profile.

The profile analyzes drives and predicts behaviors. I took a quick assessment and PI gathered all this data and information. I was definitely skeptical at first but the more I learned, it seemed far more accurate than expected.

The behaviors you might see from me because of my drive is good communication, influence, empathy, enthusiasm, fun. I am a natural motivator, persuasive and adaptable to lots of different situations and environments. I also like clear expectations, fairness and performance feedback. If you want stuff to be done right, give it to me. I’ll be careful and accurate even though I like variety, am comfortable multi-tasking and don’t mind pressure.

The reverse side is I am not competitive, don’t like conflict and am not driven solely by winning or losing. I am in the business of people over tasks.

I mean think about learning the ins and outs of yourself. I also learned more about those around me and what drives them to display the behaviors I see.

I know statements like that make people nervous they’ll be analyzed and judged but I think the more we know about ourselves, the better we can stay true to who we are while also being empathetic to others. We can help people learn what we want and need in friendships and relationships of all levels.

The other day of professional development training I had to break up PI training was around the topic, “Making the Transition from Staff to Supervisor.”

It was training around transitioning from player to coach, building a team, managing the team and action plans for growth. The cool part was that there were some major themes that popped over from the other training I had been part of. It was really an opportunity to establish myself in learning what I want out of my recent promotion and where I can make the most impact at work and outside of it as I make more career strides.

I’m grateful for the things I learned. I already have action plans and goals to begin putting some of my knowlege into play. Being true to myself is a matter of principal. I mean if I can’t be real with me, how could I be real with you?

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