Effective Solutions Through Partnership

Category Archives: General Life/Work

Why Servant Leadership works in the Digital Services world

Digital Transformation, Employee Engagement, General Life/Work, Information Technology, IT Modernization, KAI Partners, Managing/Leadership, Sacramento, Servant Leadership, Team Building, Technology

By Catherine Kendall, PMP

Throughout my career, I have worked for some incredible individuals at esteemed consulting and technology companies. I am fortunate to have witnessed brilliance in action, incredible creativity, and professional excellence.

I have also witnessed behaviors that I promised myself I would never adopt or condone. Such behaviors include bullying, intimidation, fear mongering, public humiliation, sabotage, and my personal favorite, elitism (for example: “I have a manager title, so therefore I am better, smarter, faster”).

At the assortment of companies where I worked during my career, this is the feedback I consistently received: “You may be more suited for change management since you are so sensitive,” followed by, “You’re too touchy feely,” and, “You will never be an executive because you are too sensitive. Maybe an HR job is better for you,” and finally, “You care too much about people and how they feel. You need to stop that.”

Guess what? I became an executive and I am still a sensitive person.

I figured it out fairly early in my career that I am a servant leader and although this was not a leadership category I was aware of during the tender ages of 25 – 35, I always knew that I believed in building people up and putting their needs before mine. I knew if I took care of my team members and had their backs, they would deliver on their commitments. I believe in service to others, compassion, and kindness. Yet to many of my peers and managers, this kindness made me weak.

Fast forward 10 years later, I keep reading blogs about servant leadership as if it is some new kind of leadership style. It is often paired with digital services—why is that?

Technology has pivoted towards caring about customer behavior, thoughts, and actions. Technology is about the customer experience, not just the customer transaction.

The experience has everything to do with feeling and yet, for over 20 years, I was told feelings have no place in the corporate world of technology.

I am happy to say that I stuck to my own principles and continue to behave in a kind manner towards others. I would like to argue that I did it because I am incredibly principled, but if I am being perfectly honest, the few times I tried to be really tough, I felt sick to my stomach for a long period of time and then the guilt caused by the cognitive dissonance was overwhelming and incapacitating.

Being kind to others and behaving as a servant leader does not make a person weak. Abusing employees, taunting them, condescending on them, bullying them—do people really believe leadership is equivalent to being mean?

I am pleased to see the changing of the tides. While I do not believe the days of bullying and intimidating leaders are a thing of the past, what I do see is a growing belief not to mistake kindness for weakness.

About the Author: Catherine has 20 years of experience in managing large scale information technology systems integration projects. Before joining KAI Partners as the Service Delivery Director, Catherine was the Chief Information Officer for the California Department of Conservation. Prior to that, Catherine worked for IBM as a delivery Project Executive where she served predominantly public sector clients in both California and New York. Catherine started her career as a programmer at Accenture (formerly Andersen Consulting) in San Francisco and a process engineer designer and test lead at Deloitte Consulting in Los Angeles. She has her doctorate in education from Drexel University and she has an MBA and a B.S. from the University of California at Davis. Catherine is an animal rescue volunteer and does community service with the elderly. Her hobbies include playing piano, reading non-fiction and macro-economic research, and writing.

5 Ways to Achieve Work-Life Balance

Best Practices, Employee Engagement, General Life/Work, Human Resources, SAHRA—The Sacramento Area Human Resources Association, SHRM

By Melissa McManus, Ed.D and SHRM-CP

Work-life balance. I am sure you have heard this phrase before or even tried to fulfill its simple message: To balance your work and personal life.

Some of you might be thinking, “Yep, I’ve got this down to a science,” while others might be thinking, “It seems so easy, why can’t I just do it?”

Well, I am about to let you all in on a little secret…I know from personal experience that there is no magic answer or solution—work-life balance is something you have to actively think about and try doing.

As a Human Resources professional, one of my responsibilities making sure my employees can find ways to have this balance, which is important. Not only should it important to the individual, but it is important from an employer standpoint as well. Ever hear the expression, “Happy wife, happy life?” Well, we can apply that same principle here: “Happy employee, happy organization!”

Employees who feel rundown, overworked, or stressed are more likely to be less productive. It is easy to get caught up in our work, especially when we love what we do and who we work with and for. However, it is equally important to unplug (sometimes literally) once the work day has ended and take time for yourself and your loved ones. Sometimes this is easier said than done, as I have found myself putting in 10 hour days without even realizing it.

So, how do you make sure to balance work and life appropriately? Here are some tips that you might find helpful.

  1. Be Organized: Stay as organized as you can throughout the day; set goals or make lists. Use whatever methods are effective, depending on what organization looks like for you personally. Find a way to prioritize and delegate tasks accordingly.
  2. Breathe: Remember to take breaks and refocus throughout the day. Sometimes I find that taking a quick walk or doing some simple stretches (especially important for those of us who work at a desk or in a seated position all day) can help you reset and allows you to be more productive and less stressed.
  3. Be Flexible: Be open to flexibility in your work and ask for flexibility when needed. We all need a little wiggle room at times and being flexible and having flexibility can lead to higher productivity—a win-win situation!
  4. Be Efficient: When you are at work, be efficient by staying present, avoiding distractions, and staying focused on your tasks. This can be as simple as keeping a clean work space, organizing your tasks or projects for the day, creating a timeline and sticking to it as much as possible, and delegating tasks as appropriate. Working efficiently allows us to get more done at a quicker pace and worry less when we go home (or get us home faster). Work smarter!
  5. Communicate: Communication is the cornerstone to just about everything. If you need something, ask for it. Whether it’s a day off or assistance with a project, be sure to communicate what you need—those around you cannot read your mind.

These tips might seem simple, but give them a try. By doing a few simple things, you may find yourself more energized, productive, and less stressed throughout the day and at night when you go home. Remember, it’s okay to leave work at work; I promise it will be there when you get back!

About the Author: Dr. Melissa McManus is a Human Resources Professional and research guru. One of her greatest strengths is her resolute ability to soak in new information and her never-ending thirst for knowledge. Melissa has a Master’s degree in Counseling, and a Doctorate degree in Educational Leadership with a focus in Human Resource Development. Melissa’s professional interests include human behavior, career development, research, writing, training, and knowledge transfer. She is passionate about life and describes herself as an avid bookworm. In her free time, when she is not running her kids to gymnastics or karate, Melissa enjoys reading (a lot), wine tasting, being with friends/family, and spending time with her husband and two children.

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.

7 Tips to Work Successfully in a Virtual Environment

Best Practices, Employee Engagement, General Life/Work, Managing/Leadership, Team Building

By Angela Darchuk

We live in a world where most of us use technology to do our job, and often that can include being able to do our job from anywhere. With businesses offering work from home or flexible schedule options, many employees now have the opportunity to work in a virtual environment.

Since starting to work in a virtual environment four years ago, I have found ways to make sure working virtually is a success for me and the virtual team I manage. Working in a virtual environment has its challenges and it may not be for everyone, but with some self-motivation and these tips, hopefully you can make your virtual work successful:

  1. Be Open: If you are joining an already established virtual team, and especially if you have never worked on a virtual team before, be open to the process. Virtual teams require a lot of positivity—there is little worse than a team member joining a team and being negative to the process.
  2. Ask Questions: Ask questions about the process, what is expected of you on a daily/weekly/ monthly basis, and seek clarification if you don’t understand what is being asked. It’s a waste of time for an employee or a supervisor to do or receive unnecessary work, so make sure you understand the expectations from the start.
  3. Get to Know Your Team: Getting to know your team can be hard when working in a virtual environment. Talking about your life, your likes and dislikes, and your personality can help open up a dialog and make the team comfortable together.(Working in a virtual environment may mean working solo, but it isn’t just about you doing your job—it’s also about collaboration with others in different locations (and maybe even different time zones!) More tips for virtual team success can be found in our blog post, How to Create a Successful Virtual Team Dynamic.)
  4. Know the Roles Your Teammates Play: Knowing the role of each of your teammates is important. When you know what others’ jobs are, you can leverage their expertise when needed. Additionally, if you are familiar with everyone’s roles, you can start to anticipate what may be needed from/by other members of the team.
  5. Be Involved: Be involved by offering information, providing solutions to issues, and volunteering for action items. A weekly meeting—usually via conference call or video conference—is a must to make sure the team is involved, but if you need more frequent meetings, just ask.
  6. Show Initiative: Showing initiative can be difficult in a virtual world, but if you see something that needs to be done, talk to your supervisor about what you can offer. Your skills and abilities were some of the reasons you were hired, so offer up new ideas to help!
  7. Ask for the Proper Equipment to do Your Job: As a virtual employee, it’s important you have the tools to do your job. This can include software and hardware; in addition, you should have access to tools for conference calling, sharing screens, direct messaging, and project management. However, be mindful of what is a ‘need’ and what is ‘want’—equipment needs to be budgeted and you should be able to justify the request.

As a virtual employee, it is your responsibility to show your value so that you thrive—hopefully these tips help your venture into virtual work a success!

About the Author: Angela has a background in book-keeping and office management. She worked for several small businesses in the Sacramento area before taking a job with the State of California. She worked for Dept. of Child Support, EDD and the State Treasurer’s office before making the jump back to private sector where she feels more at home to voice her opinion and help grow a company. Angela is currently the Administrative Services Manager for KAI Partners. In her spare time Angela loves to read, dance, and go to Disneyland. When she goes to Disneyland, her favorite ride is It’s a Small World. She is a graduate of Penn State University, has been married for 18 years, and has two boys, ages 19 and 13 (who hate It’s a Small World).

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