3 Interesting Learnings from the Florida Dept. of Transportation
Let’s jump into this week’s 3 Interesting Learnings from Joe's conversation with April Blackburn, fmr. CTO at the Florida Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Advisor and Technology Strategist at Rawlins Infra Consult, LLC.
Connect with April: https://www.linkedin.com/in/april-blackburn-a2104b144/
1. Let Your Work Inspire the Next Generation
April remembers it clearly: A self-professed second-generation FDOT employee, April fondly credits her mother with "having raised more secretaries of the Florida Department of Transportation" than anybody April knows. :)
Mama was an executive assistant who April recalls running the executive suite with "love and rules- just like at home." And that work ethic modeled for her greatly influenced the type of worker, and type of leader, April would become.
April's story exemplifies how when young people see professionals taking an interest in them, they start considering that pathway as a future possibility. These insider peeks and experiences over time can help align purpose, and create a stronger workforce with a flourishing mission.
"Now that same mama who has love and rules says to me on occasion, 'Uh-oh, Cinderella, somebody moved your castle. What are you going to do now?' And you know, my first thing is usually I might, you know, have a moment. And then I have to forge a new path to get to where the castle is now." [20:00]
No matter how long you are serving in the public sector- be grounded in the overall scope of working toward solutions that inspire the next generation to continue on. Even if your castle moves, your mission, and your influence, remain.
2. How to Overcome the Friction of Change
You know the feeling: you have identified change on the horizon, and instead of excitement for diving in and figuring out how to affect that change, you cannot get past those dark clouds that accompany the upending nature of change. How you communicate that change will determine whether your teams will see project rainbows with gold at the end (well, almost), or neverending black clouds of work doom!
As a leader, you know enough not to dismiss concerns brought up by your team during times of change or difficulty. But are you afraid to model how to not dwell on these concerns? April explains how to move past fear and re-engage the team by bringing everyone back to a central mission and goal:
"Now that we know where we're going, what's the plan to get us there? What do we need to do? How do we need to do it? Again, that's that goal-setting stuff, right? It's the where are we headed and why? Okay, now let's go get all the great resources that we have together and move in that direction." [19:26]
If you are overwhelmed by the change, you need to introduce yourself to your team, reach out and see how your peers have navigated a similar situation. Mentors are more than happy to share their insights and help you hone your fear-of-communicating-change strategies.
The takeaway? Different is not worse. It is just different. Use vision-focused language to encourage others (and yourself!) and model the way forward.
3. How to Navigate When Things Go Wrong
This one's a biggie. You've worked your way up to the level of leadership where you are tasked with making the ultimate decision based on the input you've received. You know there will be people on your team who will disagree with your decision and think it was the wrong choice. What do you do?
The dismissive answer is, well, there's no pleasing everyone. But could a more integrative answer be that your team feels their input was considered and valued and they understand why you went with the choice you made? Where do you land in your spectrum of approach?
I have a big pet peeve about people asking me for my opinion and then not doing anything with it, or not telling me what they did with it. And so throughout my leadership, if I ask you, I'm going to do something with it, I'm going to tell you what I did. Even if it was, "I heard you and I appreciate the input- it didn't change where I was headed, but I heard what you said and I considered it. [38:00]
April calls this listening with authenticity.
Again, tapping into your peer network and sharing in each other's wins and losses will help you tactfully communicate through those tough decisions.
Be sure to check out the full episode:
on a personal note by joe toste:
As I arrived in Orlando this week (yes, you're not misreading that - I flew to Tampa last week, back to California, and then crossed the country again to Orlando this week), I was struck by how if you take an interest in other people more than yourself, you almost instantly become friends.
This week at the airport, I became friends with a few kids after noticing their Elsa dolls from Disney World. I'm singing "Let it go, Let it go!" in my best Frozen / Elsa voice (thanks to my 4-year-old son for coaching me in the finer points of all things Frozen)!
On another adventure, I met a gal by the name of Andrea Sherwood, who, through her podcast with my friend Jordan Raynor, became a new friend to me, too!
I topped out the week at the Florida Orbie Awards with my friends Lacey Elmange and Joseph Lopez and his family.
And, of course, you make friends very quickly by taking pictures with Daniel Tiger. Those who have had four-year-olds know what I'm talking about. We love Daniel Tiger, and visiting the Daniel Tiger poster at the Orlando airport is one of my favorite things to do after landing.
This Week's Inspired Leadership Reminder:
Need help building new relationships? Look for the "me, too!" connection.
Let me explain.
When asking questions about other people, try to find a connection or link. Sometimes it takes a bit of digging, but most people can connect with others - even if, at first blush, they seem to have nothing in common!
My favorite example is when I volunteered at an organization called Year Up more than a decade ago with inner-city Chicago kids, teaching them computer skills.
Like most kids, they never care about anything you have to say until you care about what they have to say.
So how did I get 20+ south-side Chicago kids to listen?
Simple: I looked for a "me, too!" connection.
- [Me] What's your name?
- [Kid] Jon
- [Me] Cool, Jon. Tell me about yourself.
- [Jon] It doesn't matter...
- [Me] I understand. From the sweatshirt you're wearing, it looks like you like basketball.
- [Jon] Yeah, it's alright
- [Me] Me, too! Want to ball?
- [Jon] Okay, after this computer stuff, we hooping...
And that's how it goes.
Try it out this week. Look for your "me, too!" connections.
I bet you'll make more friends than you thought. : )