Because of ‘We’

This week’s message is from guest contributor John Lawrence, director for Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension and Outreach, and an associate dean in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

I always have been proud to be part of our Iowa State University Extension and Outreach team. Although we don’t wear a full uniform like a sports team, we have name tags and similar shirts that say Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Administrators, specialists, and county staff all wear the same brand. We all wave the same flag when things go well, and we’re all painted with the same brush if something goes wrong. So it’s in our best interest when we all are at the top of our game.

ISU Extension and Outreach is strong because we are talented people working together. Promotion and tenure or revenue generation may cause us to focus on “me” from time to time, but our success is because of “we.” We find comprehensive solutions from across programs and disciplines to educate and serve Iowans. We help colleagues to be successful by sharing information, lending a hand, or being a sounding board. The communication and camaraderie make us stronger as we care for our organization and our colleagues.

Our new Mentor Academy is one way we are formalizing this culture. Iowa State hasn’t mastered cloning, so effective coaching is our best chance for replicating great colleagues. The academy will help participants become great mentors to carry our culture and skills into the next generation of our organization.

Effective mentoring takes time to learn and do, and it will compete for time with programming, revenue generation, and engaging stakeholders. All of us may have to shoulder more of the load as mentors work with our new colleagues. Administrators and program leaders must encourage mentoring and acknowledge the mentors’ time and talent. We all have an investment to make in the next generation of ISU Extension and Outreach professionals who will proudly wear our brand.

See you there.

— Cathann

P.S. You can share your comments about this message on the blog, at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/seeyouthere/. You can follow me on Twitter @cathannkress.

Our Greatest Asset

Showing new Iowans how to buy, eat, and live healthy; helping entrepreneurs start their own businesses; assisting farm families as they transition their operation from one generation to the next: These are wonderful examples of how ISU Extension and Outreach is harnessing the resources of our university to build a strong Iowa. At our annual conference yesterday we began sharing our #STRONGIOWA stories. We have so many compelling examples of the importance of education and partnerships. These stories demonstrate our commitment to excellence, access, community, and engagement. We all need to share our stories so people understand the private and public good of our work in ISU Extension and Outreach.

As President Leath pointed out yesterday, serving as a 99 county campus requires a strong university, connecting Iowans from river to river and border to border. That is why we have expanded ISU Extension and Outreach into all ISU colleges, developed programs like the Rising Stars Internship and our new Data Center, and established our Engaged Scholarship Funding Program. Today, we are in a solid position to enhance the university through building capacity for extension and engagement. Five years ago we made a commitment to rebuilding a strong ISU Extension and Outreach. Because we made and carried through on that commitment, now we are in a position to work in partnership with the people of this state – to build a strong Iowa.

One of the keys to our success these past five years has been the investment in our greatest asset – our people. For those of you among the nearly 500 who came to Hilton yesterday, thank you for coming and I hope you felt enriched and valued. I know I walked away with a few ideas percolating around in my head: Napoleon’s regret, understanding more about the larger land-grant family through Carrie Billy, Iowa trivia, and my favorite, from Chris Bashinelli, “I thought I was here to change the world, now I know the world is here to change me.”

The progress we’ve made within ISU Extension and Outreach during the past five years is the direct result of the dedication and talent of all of you – the many people who make up our system, including faculty, staff, council members, and volunteers. Our strength is our team, our collaborations, and dedication to our mission. “We believe in people and their hopes, their aspirations, and their faith; in their right to make their own plans and arrive at their own decisions…I believe in my own work and in the opportunity I have to make my life useful to humanity”*

See you there.

— Cathann

*From the Extension Professionals’ Creed

P.S. You can follow me on Twitter @cathannkress. Remember to use #STRONGIOWA and share your stories on Twitter. For a glimpse at what happened at Annual Conference, search social media under #STRONGIOWA.

Superstars … Or the Whole Team?

Former NBA player Walter Bond gave the keynote address at the 2011 Farm Bureau annual meeting — and his message has been noodling around in my head ever since.

Walter talked about our tendency to focus on basketball superstars. However, he noted that it takes many people for the NBA to function. Superstars do not “make it” on their own. They need the other players, coaches, trainers, managers, and so on, to successfully compete. Together they are the whole team.

Walter really wasn’t talking about basketball; he’s a motivational speaker now, after all. He was talking about organizations and what organizations need to succeed. A few superstars aren’t going to cut it — a successful organization needs a team with the right combination of staff at all levels, doing the right things. All the members of the team have to be really good at what they do and provide exceptional service to their customers — so their customers will enjoy the experience and return for more.

We’re building for success in ISU Extension and Outreach — so we all can be really good at what we do and provide exceptional service. That’s why we are restructuring extension administration into teams for County Services and Outreach, Operations, Program Leadership, and Organizational Advancement. That’s why we’re working on a professional development plan for our organization, but in the meantime we’re training our players. For example, ANR staff gathered for in-service in March, our office professionals participated in their conference April 4, and Families and 4-H staff held in-service this week. 

As we continue to follow up on our Leadership Summit, carry out our Strategic Plan, and implement our Business Plan, we will continue to address how we work as well as what we do, so we can more effectively engage Iowans and create increased impact through both existing and new programs. See you there.

— Cathann

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