Talent Talks

EdFuel's blog on all things talent.

Learning to Embrace Ambiguity
Rachel Nozari, Director
July 2022

    As a society, we’ve experienced immense ambiguity in the last two-plus years. We lived through a global pandemic and managed day in and day out uncertainty with fast-changing needs to respond to. We grappled with personal and family health concerns, sustained disruption to schooling and childcare, “the great resignation”, and likely a general feeling of being overloaded and overwhelmed. 

    Ambiguity Metaphor 

    Before we dive in, join me in a brief activity; you’ll need a pen and a piece of paper. 

    Bring to mind a time, maybe over the last couple of years, when you experienced a lot of ambiguity. To the extent you feel comfortable, try to put yourself back in that moment. 

    • What was happening in your life?  
    • How were you feeling in your body? 
    • What kinds of things were you thinking?  

    Now fill in the blanks in the following sentence: 

    “Ambiguity is like ____________, because ________________.”  

    This is your ambiguity metaphor1. Hang on to this, we’ll come back to it.

    Ambiguity, It’s Here to Stay

    Ambiguity is a general sense of uncertainty, of experiencing the unknown. For many people ambiguity brings up feelings of stress and anxiety, which in turn negatively impacts their creativity, motivation, engagement, and fulfillment at work. Over time, this kind of sustained stress can result in loss of self-efficacy, cynicism, and ultimately burnout. [Read More]

    A Personal Reflection on Job Embedded Professional Learning
    Cortney Graham Ameckson, Manager
    June 2022

    I became a high school civics and economics teacher the semester after I graduated from college. As a former educator, I have lots of memories of spending hours in professional development sessions intended to help prepare myself and colleagues for the school year, only for the learnings to be inapplicable to me or a repeat of things I already knew. A lot of these sessions took place outside of the classroom setting; Saturday mornings, after school, and on teacher workdays.

    Though a great opportunity to connect with colleagues, I still left these sessions with many questions unanswered and no information that directly related to the skills I wanted to strengthen and develop. I also knew there was no formal way to get these answers until it was time for my annual review or if I was lucky enough to get a meeting with my very busy mentor (who was also a teacher) or my grade level administrator. Teaching was my first “real job”, and though the professional development felt unfulfilling, I came to believe that all professional development sessions, no matter the profession, were one size fits all lectures or a refresher of skills that the organization wanted to make sure all employees had mastered.

    Shortly after leaving the classroom, I joined the EdFuel team, where I quickly learned that professional development does not have to be one-size-fits-all and that the development should not only enhance your skills and abilities to succeed in your current role but should also keep in mind your future goals and aspirations. I came to realize that strong professional development can occur during the workday, not after hours, and be integrated into your day-to-day job responsibilities. Enter the concept of job-embedded learning. [Read More]

    How Staff Onboarding Can Build Commitment: Lessons from the Cleveland Guardians
    Ashleigh Phillis, Director
    April 2022

    For most of us, the start of spring signals the return of warmer weather and blossoming flowers. For some, spring simply means that baseball is back.

    I should note that I am not a baseball fan. Unfortunately, my husband is an avid Cleveland fan. And Cleveland baseball has had an anxious off-season. This is their first year as the newly renamed Cleveland Guardians and in the final days before opening day, fans faced rumors that one of their star players was about to be traded.

    As I listened to my husband worry about the status of Cleveland’s third baseman, I heard echoes of conversations I have had with school leaders.

    For school leaders, spring is recruitment season. And much like Cleveland fans concerned about José Ramírez’s contract, school leaders must navigate uncertainty. Who will be returning for the next school year? How will they replace outgoing staff? How can they prepare for unexpected and late attrition?

    Comparing professional sports and education is both easy and frustrating. Fans feared Cleveland might trade Ramírez to the San Diego Padres on the eve of the first game, but instead the Guardians offered him a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract. None of the school leaders I have worked with could do the same for their top talent.

    What stood out to me though was that Ramírez wanted to stay with the Guardians. His franchise record breaking contract is considered to be a great deal for the team because he could have earned more elsewhere. But Ramírez made it clear that he was committed to the team. School leaders can also build commitment among their staff and can begin doing so as soon as a new hire accepts an offer with a strong onboarding process. A well-planned onboarding process sets-up staff for success in a new role and makes it more likely they will commit to an organization longer. [Read More]

    Reflections on Belonging
    Saima Zaman, Director
    March 2022

    In a study shared by the Harvard Business Review in 2019, 40% of employees feel isolated at work despite 8 billion dollars being spent by US companies on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives1. In addition, studies around belonging have shown that feelings of belonging vary across identity groups, with Black and Asian women having the lowest belonging scores2. The question arises: What is missing from DEI efforts?

    What may be missing from DEI programs is a focus on creating an environment where people feel as though they belong, which can be defined as the feeling of security and support when there is a sense of acceptance, inclusion, and identity for a member of a certain group or place3. Belonging is not a new concept; after all, it is a part of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. When employees feel like they belong, they are more likely to be engaged, more productive, and higher performing4.

    Belonging vs Inclusion: A Personal Reflection

    I started to reflect on belonging vs inclusion at the start of the covid pandemic. As most of us retreated to smaller personal spaces and virtual settings, I set upon a path of reflection about my place in the worlds around me, both personal and professional. I started to think critically about what was important to me, how I related to others, and how I showed up in spaces. I have lived in 11 cities across three countries in my life and there were a lot of spaces where I have felt excluded, several where I felt included, and a handful where I have actually felt that I belonged. [Read More]

    Navigating Professional Environments with Intersecting Identities
    Melany Justice, Associate
    February 2022

    In April of 2020, the CDC recommended mask-wearing in public to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. In the weeks that followed, I often pondered the metaphoric similarity between the “new” precaution of wearing a mask to remain safe in public and the long-standing precaution of wearing a “mask” while navigating professional workspaces given the many identities I carry.

    The notion of covering or concealing an aspect of one’s self was a recent phenomenon to some and yet just another layer added for too many of us.

    To Be Seen
    Of all the identities I carry, there are three that often pose the cautionary question in professional environments of whether it’s safe to remove the mask. 

    I am a Christian, I am a Black woman, and I am a first-generation professional.

    As organizations across the nation gain consciousness of the value and necessity to both acknowledge and appreciate the many identities their employees bring with them, it’s important to dually recognize the full spectrum and intersectionality of such identities, which can affect the degree to which staff feel safe being themselves at work.

    In my personal experience, the murkiness and complexity of contemplating how much of myself would be embraced, understood, or valued if I were maskless in the workplace has generally resulted in inaction and introversion. [Read More]

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