Nearly every job description we’ve seen includes the line “other duties as assigned.”
Some people view that responsibility as a burden. For them, “other duties” are small, insignificant tasks that nobody really wants to do. These people might complain or even ignore something that needs to be done. They might even “delegate,” suggesting that it falls under someone else’s job description.
We like to work with (and be!) people who see “other duties” differently. These are the people who wholeheartedly embrace this responsibility and actively look for ways to step in and be helpful – even if the task falls outside their job or title.
Opportunities to unexpectedly step up don’t come along every day. But when grisly occasions arrive, you learn who you want on your team: the intern who sees a need and fulfills it, the CEO who pushes aside ego and picks up a plate, the staff member who solves a problem before you even know it exists.
As we’ve learned from managing various events, it doesn’t matter whose job it is. If something needs to be done, do it. It’s not worth your time to argue about whose responsibility it is.
Sometimes, you need to:
After an event, when you’re exhausted and exhilarated, it’s human nature to rehash and relive what didn’t go well.
But it’s even better to recognize the plucky heroine who jumped in at a critical time of need. It’s satisfying to delight in the tale of an individual who set aside ego or an opportunity for rest to cheerfully don another hat for the good of all.
We all need these people in our lives and on our teams – someone who serves and comes to our aid even if the need seems simple. Call them small stuff superheroes, if you will. They are superheroes, nonetheless.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This blog post was adapted from one that was first published in August 2013.
It's always fun to be part of something big, which is why we were so grateful to put our project management skills to work on some grand opening events for the new Sanford Medical Center Fargo earlier this month. (Congrats to Sanford Health on this amazing milestone!)
We assisted the Sanford marketing team with some of the activities that took place during the three-day celebration. Of course, considerable planning and coordination happened beforehand, but here's a glimpse of what the actual week looked like from our perspective.
We never stop planning and setting goals. (We are project managers, after all).
We do it for our clients, our professional selves AND our personal selves.
This year, we’re even doing it for our summer.
We’ve been inspired by Anita’s son, Ian (one of our Reach Partners kids), who came home one of the last weeks of school with a wish list for summer. This summer he wants to take swimming lessons, have a stick fight, go to the beach, go on a vacation and play outside. (Thank goodness Disneyland did not make the list, although that may be his idea of a good summer vacation.)
Anita posted the list in her home’s front entry. This way the family won’t forget to do some of the activities.
We decided we could do the same: a Reach Partners summer wish list, now posted for all to see.
Summer is fleeting, and by writing these goals down, we will hold ourselves accountable (and we hope you will, too!):
As project managers, we have a lot of fun assisting a variety of businesses and organizations. We thrive on bringing our expertise of process and organization to the table.
That’s what we did when Healthy North Dakota asked us to assist with the Statewide Vision and Strategy Coordinating Team.
Healthy North Dakota founded the Statewide Vision and Strategy Coordinating Team to support a coordinated vision and understanding of health care services provided in the state.
Members of the team included a wide range of leaders who represented business, associations, government organizations, healthcare organizations, higher education and more. They all gathered monthly to share needs, challenges, opportunities and available resources.
But when a Healthy North Dakota staff member tasked with administering the team left, the group no longer had someone to hold the group members accountable for what was discussed and shared. Assigning these additional responsibilities to one of the committee members wasn’t an option because the members were volunteers.
The SVS Coordinating Team asked Reach Partners to coordinate the monthly meetings (including set the agenda), distribute minutes and follow-up with committee members on action items. Anita stepped into this role for more than two years.
She worked closely with the team’s chair to ensure the group’s momentum continued and progress was made. When action points were identified during meetings, she followed up with the responsible committee member.
“Anita filled a vital role in a transition period for the program and the team. We relied on her expertise and we were not disappointed,” said Jerry E. Jurena, president of the North Dakota Hospital Association and chair of the SVS Coordinating Team.
We’re grateful that we were able to help the SVS Coordinating team stay on task and collaborate in a healthy and positive manner.
I started running just before I turned 30. After realizing I had never completed a consecutive mile, I wanted to see if I could reduce the amount I sweat (my cooling system is a slick thing to be admired), and if I would ever be transformed into a long-legged, running gazelle (nope).
Still, what I have discovered after years of trotting is there are numerous similarities between running a race (like a half marathon, 13.1 miles) and the project management work I do at Reach Partners (everyday, baby). For both, success starts by committing to do what I say I’ll do.
And, of course, I never forget that the race isn’t over when I step over the finish line. Likewise, the project isn’t done at the deadline. I celebrate the success. I close with stories, a great beverage, and a yummy treat. And then, I start planning for the next race.
Trot on, my friends. See you on race day!
Over the years, numerous student interns have blessed us with their skills, their passions and their personalities. Every internship experience is different, but every single time we cherish those moments when we get to help someone explore and grow.
In honor of our most recent intern who graduated college this week, we took a few minutes to reflect on why we hire interns and how we benefit from these relationships.
Q: Why did you decide to bring interns onto your team?
Rachel: It’s a valuable experience for us to create a work plan that mutually benefits both us and the student. In addition, one of Anita’s strengths is developing others. She’s gifted at creating experiences that build on the skills an interns brings to our team.
Q: How do you structure your program so that the intern gets a valuable experience?
Rachel: We intentionally match what we need done with the interest of the intern. Everyone has a better experience when the intern is confident enough to be curious and explore. When we find activities and projects that they’re interested in, we all benefit.
Q: What do you gain by bringing interns onto the team?
Anita: We love having the opportunity to mentor a student and to pass on what others have done for us. It’s a way to honor those who have taken the time to mentor us. We also can’t help but get drawn into the enthusiasm every intern brings to our office. Their new and fresh ideas keep us engaged.
Q: How have you found your interns?
Rachel: Most of our interns have been students at North Dakota State University, Concordia and Minnesota State University Moorhead. We’re not afraid to ask for referrals from professors, other professionals, student association and even other interns. We tend to find better fits for our team when we rely on word-of-mouth.
Q: Any suggestions for other small businesses who want to hire an intern?
Rachel: Define goals and expectations. Clearly establish how and when you want the intern to communicate, whether that’s finished work or questions they need answered. We believe that it’s important to share experiences and to invest in them. Go ahead and send them to a training session or networking event. This is our chance to show them that we see their possibilities. We also embrace their ideas by listening and riffing off what they share. Nothing says respect like showing enthusiasm for someone’s suggestion.
Q: What’s your best intern story?
Anita: It is so amazing to watch all of our interns grow and do amazing things. One of our former interns now works at the National Defense Industrial Association as a communications and special events associate. She interned with us, got a job after college and later served as a volunteer on our Women’s Health Conference planning committee before moving to the Washington, D.C., area.
Rachel: I loved having Kene Okigbo work with us. He brought so many good things to our team: curiosity, a willingness to share his ideas, energy, enthusiasm and tenacity. I was so energized by his ideas and work.
Q: Were you an intern? How did that experience help you?
Anita: In college, I interned with Women's Business Institute and put on the Women's Expo, a conference for women entrepreneurs and small business owners. Lily Tomlin was the keynote speaker. During that experience, I learned many valuable lessons from my mentor, Penny Retzer. The first was that no matter what role or title you have at a company, you always need to be willing to stuff envelopes. It was a good reminder that sometimes things just need to get done – even if they’re not glamorous or fun.
I am still in contact with Penny and, likewise, I'm still in contact with some of the interns I've overseen. Those relationships are gifts you can’t replace.
It’s hard to believe that the time has come when I am approaching the end of my internship with Reach Partners and the end of my college career. I am very thankful for my time at Reach Partners in many ways. I have learned an abundance of new knowledge from Anita and Rachel, and this experience is one I will always have and be able to look back on as I start my career.
There were many lessons taught and learned during my time at Reach Partners that helped me learn not only about project management, but also about myself and what I want to do with my chosen career path. I learned the ins and outs of project management and got to witness first-hand the behind-the-scenes work that goes into planning and executing an event. Interning at Reach Partners has also taught me lessons that have helped me along in my job search. Because of skills learned during my internship, I am able to elaborate on this new set of skills on my resume and in interviews for full-time positions.
During my time at Reach Partners, I sat in on committee planning meetings, drafted communication plans, and helped out during events that Reach Partners executed. It was a great experience for me to be able to see the different stages of the event planning process from committee discussions to the wrap-up.
All of my experiences at Reach Partners have been very rewarding for me. The skills I have learned and developed during my months at Reach Partners will help me in my future career, whether it is planning staff events, creating communication plans, or even sitting in and coordinating meetings. This new set of skills will help me to feel confident in my abilities after graduation and as I start out in my career.
—Olivia, Event Strategy Intern
Have you ever taken your car to the shop, knowing that the mechanic needs to order a part before the problem can be fixed?
Consider two scenarios.
Scenario one: You leave your car at the shop on Monday. You don’t get a phone call that day or early the next. Finally, at noon on Tuesday you call the mechanic and find out the part was delayed. It arrived shortly before you called, and it will be another day before the work is done.
Scenario two: You leave your car at the shop on Monday. Your mechanic calls a couple of hours later and explains the part is delayed. It will arrive on Tuesday, and the car will be ready on Wednesday.
The outcomes are identical in both scenarios: you get your car back on Wednesday. Which one would you prefer? Which one treats you with more respect?
It can feel awkward to communicate when there’s no action or forward movement on a project. After all, no news is good news, right?
At Reach Partners, we establish frequent touchpoints with our partners. These real-time conversations happen no matter what happens or doesn’t happen with a project.
Progress made? We communicate.
Problem uncovered? We communicate.
Nothing happened? We communicate.
Most of us pick up the phone or send an email when progress and problems happen. Doing the same when there’s nothing to report is just as critical.
We don’t want our partners to waste energy wondering about the status of a project. We communicate with clarity and integrity, even when the news to share is a big, fat zilch.
This keeps clients from assuming the best or the worst. It assures our clients that their project is important to us. It also makes it easier to connect when we have bad news to share, such as delays or blocks that might affect a project timeline.
After all, nobody wants to get a call only when something isn’t going right.
Think about it in these terms. If you’re selling your house, a weekly conversation with your Realtor makes you feel good. Even if there are weeks that nobody has looked at your home, you feel like things are moving in the right direction. You are confident that your house will sell.
Communicating nonaction will do that.
As the days grow warmer, our minds turn to one of those harbingers of summer: family reunions. As much fun as old-auntie kisses are, planning a family get-together is no walk in the park, even if the event is held in one.
Whether you’re in charge of a picnic for a few cousins or a week-long vacation with the entire clan, we have some tips to make the planning less daunting and the connections more fun.
Write It Down
Save yourself a headache, stress and maybe even some money: jot down what you know. It’s okay if all details aren’t planned. After all, we don’t need to know right away whether there will be a sack race for the kiddos at 2:30 p.m. or 3:30 p.m. on Thursday.
Start with the basics. Break each day into meals and broad time slots: breakfast, morning (travel), lunch (on own), afternoon (family activities), dinner (potluck), evening (family photos). As you get closer to the event, you’ll likely have a couple of different written plans: one that you can share with the family when you send out the invitations; one that is more of a planning/resourcing document; a third that serves as a communications outline.
Here’s an example of information you may want to track:
Create a Budget
A budget determines what type of space you can rent for the event. (Even park shelters often have fees.) Food is always a cost. Create a “per person” budget so that Cousin Sam’s family of seven doesn’t pay the same as Grandma. Determine early on, too, how you will gather the money and who is responsible for tracking down those who haven’t paid yet.
Gather the Addresses
Ask for both email and snail mail addresses. While most people communicate via email, remember great-aunt Maggie may not. Use something like Google sheets so you can easily share updates with the group (and EVERYONE can update their Christmas lists). Ask family members to update their own contact information and to pass along to anybody who might not be on your contact list. List families by household and double-check that cousin Sally isn’t listed twice – at her childhood home and her new SoHo flat.
Venue and Accommodations
Your venues and accommodations largely will be determined by your budget, but you should also think about your audience. Special accommodations may be needed if there are babies, toddlers, or family members who are visually impaired or use a wheelchair.
Check out the site prior to the event. Will it accommodate the whole group if it rains? Is there a severe weather shelter nearby? Does the site have everything you need: electricity, tables, chairs, projector or screen, full kitchen, stocked bathrooms? Nothing’s worse than expecting 125 people and realizing you were supposed to bring your own TP.
If you opt for a hotel, ask for a discount rate for room nights. Even if your plan is as simple as setting up tents on Uncle Bruce’s lawn, ask questions. Is there a septic system that people should avoid driving over?
In your first announcement, be sure to provide the basics: dates, location (include the address!), accommodations, and any upfront fees or shared costs. As the event gets closer, update attendees with details about activities and what everyone needs to bring. Swimsuits? A dish for sharing? Additional cash for the latest edition of the family genealogy book or a regional tour?
Your last communication prior to the event should contain the schedule of events. It will include a simple layout of the hours and day/s and where activities will be held. This schedule is a kindness for all involved.
Keep messages simple and avoid long-winded updates about Aunt Lena’s gout flair-up or the not-so-recent discovery of great-grandpa’s third wife Anna’s missing china in Aunt Mildred’s collection.
Tips: Suggest a family hashtag so you can aggregate images on social media during and after the event. Also keep each email heading similar so people can find it easily, e.g. Jaaten Larson Reunion: Accommodations and Jaaten Larson Family Reunion: Graveyard Tour.
Activities are a great way to encourage interaction among family members who don’t know each other well. Assign teams (mix by ages and families) to play yard Olympics: bag toss, ladder golf, bocce ball, Klub, washer toss. Create clues for a medallion hunt.
If it’s a large group, use nametags. You all may be related, but that doesn’t necessarily mean everybody knows each other. (And think about it: the young ones in your group think anyone over 25 looks the same.) Color coordinate nametags for each branch of the family tree. Bonus points if you can get everyone to wear a nametag every single day.
Roles and Jobs
You don’t have to do this alone even if you are a prized control freak. Outline jobs for others to take on. Give family members a chance to choose how they want to help. If you are specifically asking people, don’t ask one person to do all the like activities, such as kitchen clean-up, recycling, photography. Ask Sandy to take photos in the morning and Mark in the afternoon. Split up families to prep meals so they can get to know each other.
Enjoy the Moments
Once the event is underway, stick to the schedule shared prior to the reunion. Everyone will thank you. Be sure to take some leisure time for yourself. After all, it’s your family reunion, too.