Effective Solutions Through Partnership

Category Archives: Communications

How to Use tools from Work to make the Holiday Season Easier and Happier

Best Practices, Communications, General Life/Work, Managing/Leadership, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Project Management

By Judi Phelps

‘Tis the season to get overwhelmed by holiday parties, Secret Santas, decorating the house, numerous family functions, and all the other festive activities that can take over your life this time of year. On top of that, the end of year is always a busy time at work, as you try to get everything off your desk and out of your email inbox before leaving the office for a week.

I was thinking recently about all we have to do in both our personal and professional lives during the holidays it got me thinking—how can we take the skills we use in the office every day and apply them to our personal lives? If we project managed our personal lives a little bit, perhaps we would be able to increase the quality and quantity of the time we get to spend with our friends and loved ones—not to mention entering 2018 feeling like we have things under control.

Here are some of my suggestions for project managing your holiday season:

  1. This can be overwhelming, but gather the family and begin the conversation to determine what your plans are this holiday season.
    • Prioritize Tasks: Decide what you want or what needs to get done this season, plus which events are most critical or which you are most excited to attend. Make sure you ask your family their vision for what the holiday celebration should be. Then determine the level of commitment from yourself and others—do you have the commitment needed to accomplish all your tasks?
    • Make a Timeline: Look at what is on the schedule. Whether it’s extra choir rehearsals, cleaning, decorating, or addressing envelopes, schedule everything out so you have a clear picture of what needs to get done by when.
    • Identify resources (both physical and financial): Assign roles to complete the tasks. Seek volunteers for tasks no one wants to do (e.g., clean the bathroom before guests arrive; make room in the coat closet). Maybe an older grandson and friend could put the lights on the house. It may not be how you would have done them, but it gets the job done! My 3- year-old grandson actually helped me decorate their Christmas tree this year—this is a great memory and the tree got decorated! Just don’t forget to empower your team—you should be willing to accept imperfect results!
    • Plan for Contingencies: Have a backup plan for when things go haywire. Perhaps you and your best friend had dinner plans but you’ve run out of time for shopping—will your friend combine shopping with visiting?
  2. Change Management: A year goes by in a flash, but 365 days is actually a long time! Some change is bound to happen!
    • Take inventory of your contact list. Marriages, divorces, new babies, moves? Whether it’s updating the Christmas card list with a new address or adding a new nephew to your gift list, make sure you are working with the most up-to-date information.
  3. Communication Management: You can do all the planning and scheduling in the world, but if no one is informed or consulted on what’s happening, then the plan doesn’t mean much!
    • Think about the most effective way to make sure everyone knows what is happening and when. Ask your family/friends which communication method works best—maybe it’s a Facebook chat or a group text. Perhaps a Google doc where everyone can make edits as needed. Just make sure everyone knows what’s going on so they are not left in the dark—remember everyone else has their own plans too!
  4. Work toward the Goal: As you move through each item in this process, remember the goal…
    • …to have fun and celebrate! Perfect is not the goal, and you may find that a little breathing and perspective will make a misadventure a memory!

Getting all of this together may not be possible, but approaching the season with the same skills you use to conquer the business or project issues you deal with everyday could get you further along to a less stressful holiday season. I know I’m working on it!

About the Author: Judi Phelps has a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and worked for the State of California for more than 38 years, starting as a part-time clerk-typist and ending as a Staff Manager II. Judi worked almost all of that time in various areas of the Medi-Cal program, implementing program policies as well as working to develop policies. As a consultant, Judi currently works with clients to look for better ways to achieve the mission. Judi loves singing and scrapbooking—sometimes together!—for both the paper-craft and the time with friends aspects. Judi enjoys traveling, entertaining, and making memories (to put into scrapbooks) with her two grandsons.

What the KAI Partners Team is Thankful for in 2017

Communications, Data Management, Employee Engagement, General Life/Work, KAI Partners, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Prosci, Sacramento, SAHRA—The Sacramento Area Human Resources Association, SHRM, Small Business, Team Building, Training


From the KAI Partners team to yours, we wish you a happy, healthy, and stress-free Thanksgiving holiday.

3 Tips for a Successful (and Fun!) Career

Communications, General Life/Work, Hiring, Human Resources

By Sarah Walsh

I’ve only been out of college for 12 years, but I feel like a cat with nine lives with the amount of jobs I’ve held across various sectors and industries. I’ve worked for a major political party, two elected officials, a Native American tribe (where our lunch meetings took place at a casino), the pharmaceutical industry, and, finally, consulting.

What I’ve found along the way is that where you start is not necessarily where you’ll finish. What you think you like and what you actually do like may change over time. Your life, ideas, politics, values, and dreams will change over time. Despite—or because of!—the various roads you take, you will have many opportunities to reinvent yourself.

Today I share three things you can do to ensure continued career progression while allowing for life’s many changes. While these tips are targeted towards those starting out their career, they can also be applied to the more seasoned professionals who perhaps feel stuck in their current state.

  1. Intern!

Not sure what you want to do with your life? Intern.

Know exactly what you want to do with your life? Intern.

The benefits of an internship cannot be overstated. You not only learn more about the field in which you’re interning—which can help you decide whether or not it’s what you actually want to do—you also meet valuable people, whether a mentor, a future job reference, an industry connection, or a friend.

When I graduated college, my major (Political Science) required either a 12-page paper or a three-month-long internship to graduate. As much as I love writing now, writing a required 12 pages wasn’t a passion at age 22, and so I chose the internship route.

This move ultimately put me on a path towards doing what I truly love (writing and editing, creating communications plans and procedures, and hanging out on the Internet)—although of course, I didn’t know that at the time. I thought I’d work in politics forever, and while that goal shifted (I happily no longer work in politics), I still have the skills and inside knowledge my years in politics provided…All because I choose to take an internship.

  1. Build and Foster Relationships

It was only through the relationships and connections I built along the way that enabled me to continue to progress in the political field. Hilariously, in my early years, I ended up following my first internship supervisor in several roles as she vacated them—was it any coincidence that each time she took a new position, she thought of me to replace her?

Mentorships are just as important and being mentored is not something that should only happen at the beginning of your career. As your roles change or you take a job in a different industry, you may find that being mentored is critical to your success. Shelve the idea that age matters and remember learning is continuous, even if that means learning from someone who is younger than you—insight is ageless!

Building relationships/mentorships can be tricky. You need to make sure the relationship is symbiotic, not just something you dip back into when it benefits you. A piece of required reading on this topic comes from a friend of mine, a successful writer. People with whom she had little to no relationship were forever asking to, “Pick her brain.” Eventually, she’d had enough and shared her thoughts on the brain-picking epidemic. Underscoring her blog post is the reminder that professional relationships don’t happen in a vacuum—they are something to be nurtured over time.

  1. Embrace the Change

Some of my career changes were by choice and some were not (dreaded political term limits!) Each change while, on the one hand scary, was also an opportunity to take what I’d learned and shift that knowledge into a new role.

My years of writing political briefings may not have been an obvious transition into more typical communications functions like internal comms, social media management, marketing/PR, etc., but what was obvious was that the raw skills transferred across industries.

While initially there was fear around the unknown—in my case, abandoning one industry for another in which I had little to no knowledge or professional contacts—it was a challenge that ultimately got me here, to a job I enjoy and value. The first step was taking the leap and embracing the initial change—and the discomfort that went along with it.

Another example of embracing change is our own Human Resources Generalist, who recently made a career change, going from Research Analyst to Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Certified Professional.

Through her years of research work, she eventually found a new passion in HR—and didn’t even have to give up her beloved research in the process. As she said about the transition, “I still get to do research as part of my work. … While my focus is in the daily tasks surrounding human resource management, this includes a variety of tasks, even research.”

Remember, change is not only ok, it is necessary to keep growing in your career and life! We hope these tips will help in your professional development—whether a reminder to pick up the phone and call text your old boss to catch up, or by deciding to finally pursue a long-held dream.

About the Author: Sarah Walsh has over a decade of communications experience, including public sector roles in the California State Senate and State Assembly, as well as private sector roles for a sovereign Native American tribe and a global pharmaceutical company. In addition to communications work, Sarah and her husband are team captains and fundraisers for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s annual Walk MS event. When she’s not writing, editing, or watching The Real Housewives, she loves performing comedy, hanging out with her husband and 6-year-old daughter, and cooking. One day, maybe she’ll figure out what she wants to be when she grows up. Until then, follow her on Twitter @sarahsykeswalsh.

4 Ways to Adapt to VUCA

ADKAR, Best Practices, Communications, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Prosci, VUCA

By Debbie Blagsvedt

I recently attended an Association of Talent Management Development (ATD) seminar on Change Management Strategies, as well as a Training Magazine Network webinar called “Leading with Emotional Intelligence (EQ) in the New Workplace.” In both of these seminars, VUCA was mentioned.

VUCA—an acronym for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity—seems to accurately define the world in which we currently live and work. Working in a VUCA environment, combined with the need to quickly and efficiently adapt to rapid-fire change, is forever a part of today’s organizational culture.

A friend of mine—who has recently taken up running half marathons as a hobby—shared with me how Usain Bolt, the world-renowned Jamaican sprinter, became the 21st athlete to break the world record for the 100m sprint over the last decade. While the 100m record was broken merely four times from 1900 to 1950, the same record was shattered 17 times in the following 50 years!

You may ask, what does shattering world records have to do with VUCA in the workplace? Research shows that the time span between the launch of a new product and its extinction from the market is decreasing every year. This results in shorter lifespans of companies, a constant overhauling of ways of working, and disruption and change brought about by technology and customer demands. The effects of these changes across the globe happen at lightning speed, and all with VUCA at their core!

In the workplace, the churning of change running constantly in the forefront can result in change fatigue, employees face down, with their noses to the grindstone. Add to that the tension, fear, and a grappling within ourselves as to whether we have the competence and the confidence to take on this new world. The result is oftentimes employees waiting for the latest trend to blow over so they can get back to what they were used to doing.

Unfortunately, that approach doesn’t work well in today’s work environments. After contemplating VUCA and its relationship with change and the topic of “Leading with EQ,” here are some ideas that hopefully will help you ride the VUCA storm:

  1. Take on Volatility with Versatility
    • We all know what it’s iike to have a volatile stock market—unexpected drops and unstable economies are unsettling. Try attacking volatility with versatility—it is essential to hone your ability to be flexible and adapt to different situations. Remember Gumby, that clay figure youngsters loved to bend so the legs were on top of his head yet Gumpy could still stand on his feet? Next time you are faced with volatility, be Gumby-like!
  2. Move from Uncertainty to Understanding
    • A common reaction to uncertainty is fear, which typically leads to resistance. In today’s digital age, technology is a key defense for increasing understanding and awareness. This can be done in many ways including through shared dashboards, online collaboration tools, simple instant messages, and targeted SMS communications. Try creating online learning communities as a forum for employees to learn from each other. This can increase employees’ awareness of what is and what isn’t known which can help reduce fear and even stress.
  3. Tackle Complexity by Building Connections
    • Create direct connections among people across the organization to allow them to sidestep cumbersome hierarchal protocols. Remove barriers and create connections to foster more direct and instant connections, allowing employees to share valuable information, find answers, and get help and advice from people capable of providing the answers. Equally as important in tackling complexity is to build organizational competencies to succeed in tackling complex issues.
  4. Address Ambiguity with Leadership Agility
    • Develop a vison that accounts for VUCA. Stay focused and be a role model to employees in leading and navigating through the chaos. Build change stamina by being aware of the state of readiness of the organization at all times. Use surveys to assess change readiness and learn how it will impact employees. Put stretch goals into place, make them fun, and reward employees for tackling them.

These are just a few ways to adapt your leadership or personal development for the rollercoaster that is VUCA. How do you manage change in your workplace?

About the Author: Debbie Blagsvedt is an Organizational Change Consultant with over 25 years’ experience in change management, performance management, process improvement, training, and facilitation. She has a worked in both the private, public, and non-profit sectors in industries that include health, legal, financial, social services, high tech, and transportation. She currently works as an Organizational Change Consultant with KAI Partners on assignment with a child welfare services agency.  Debbie is passionate about collaboration among teams which she believes leads to high employee satisfaction and is equally fascinated with the rapid-fire speed of change and what it means for organizations today. Debbie grew up in the bay area but now considers Sacramento her home. She has many interests from home projects to wine tasting, volunteering, witnessing the changing face of Sacramento, and going on new adventures with her family and friends. Not to mention nightly walks and occasional mountain hikes with her dog, Emmett.

From “Yes, but” to “Yes, and”

Communications, Employee Engagement, Team Building

By David Dickstein

It’s just a one-word change, but getting into the habit of saying “Yes, and” instead of its nasty evil twin can result in huge payoffs in and out of the workplace. Experts from the business community to the medical profession agree that applying “Yes, and” to life does wonders in making people feel respected and supported. As one workplace coach puts it, this practice creates collaboration in times of conflict and engagement in times of trouble.

So that you can bring this positivity to your neck of the work-related woods, consider putting “Yes, But” jars in and around the office.  These visual reminders are intended to help discourage personnel from using “Yes, but” phrases that often rear their ugly head in meetings, hallway chats, email responses and other ways the workforce collaborates. The rules are simple: Every time someone says you-know-what, others who witness it can collect a “fine” by insisting that the offender puts some money into the jar. A buck is recommended. Proceeds can be earmarked for charity or an office party.

With the help of “Yes, But” jars, one day you could work in an environment where responses like, “I appreciate your idea, but based on history it will never work,” become more along the lines of “Your idea has merit and I can give you some insight to make it work.”

Yes, we know old habits are hard to break, but …. Oops, guess someone’s putting a George in the “Yes, But” jar! Hoping this tip is worth implementing, and if so, good luck helping make your workplace more positive and respectful.

About the Author: David Dickstein is a senior communications manager with KAI Partners, currently assigned to a division of the California Department of Health Care Services. Previously, he was with the Global Communications Group of Intel Corporation, serving the media relations, employee communications and executive communications departments for over 17 years. A former staff writer on several daily newspapers and president of the Orange County Press Club, Dickstein currently is a travel and entertainment freelancer for four publishing chains in California.

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