Introducing Serenity Work·Flow
Connecting Healthcare Providers with Remote Reception Services
Introducing Serenity Work·Flow: Revolutionize your front desk experience. We offer a seamless blend of modern hardware, intuitive software, and expert remote staffing, all within HIPAA guidelines. Put your guest services in good hands and embrace tranquility.
As part of the Peace Corps Virtual pilot, I'll have the opportunity to support non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and non-profits outside of the United States. The contract starts in July, working in strategic operations. I'm thrilled to start this new line of work and to see where it leads!
McSorley Consulting was spotlighted by GoSolo
In a quick interview with GoSolo, I had the chance to reflect on the last few years' consulting work. Check it out if you have two minutes! As those close to me know, this has been the work I've done, since around the start of the pandemic, that has brought me the most joy. I started this LLC in the midst of moving my family, taking a full-time remote position and earning my MBA via COVID-affected distance learning.
Throughout all this disconnection, my work here coaching individuals, talking with schools, and --most unexpectedly-- advising tech companies on the market for ed products has provided sources of connection and stretch that have been greatly meaningful & rewarding.
Thanks go out to everyone who has invited me to thought-partner and collaborate in their journey!
We all grow through reading and personal interactions, not doomscrolling social media
Social media has developed over time to be dominated by Twitter-style hot takes and dunking, or Instagram-style self-promotion and advertising. We had to develop words to describe our behavior on these platforms like doomscrolling, creeping, and more. And it's not healthy. In fact it's become such a public health issue that the Cleveland Clinic, the #2 hospital in America and arguably the world, has posted about it.
In a modest effort to contribute something to the conversation that is the opposite of a hot take, I've taken a moment to catalog some of my professional reading over the last decade. I'm leaving out fiction but including readings on societal trends, since these impact our work. Check it out, and feel free to suggest an addition to my reading wish list!
Coaching works for educational leaders
Edutopia covers it here.
I am a coach, and I have benefited from executive coaching. I've met as often as weekly, and as infrequently as quarterly. It can be intense. I feel as though I can remember almost every session.
When Michael Bloomberg was mayor of New York, one of the key steps he took to shake up the largest school district in the country was to separate out the accountability structure, the legacy borough superintendents, from the support structure, by creating the school networks. It wasn't a silver bullet, but there's an essential truth that the system that demands accountability is not the best source for support and growth. Your employer needs you to perform; however these days it is rare for an employer to help you actively grow.
If you'd like to see what an external push for growth feels like, reach out and schedule an initial consultation.
Your Team Members Function Best with Apps
Most people interact with most entities these days through apps. We order delivery, adjust our 401k contributions, communicate, get information, set up appointments, and even meditate with the support of apps. The average smartphone user has between 60 and 90 apps; people pick up new apps and teach themselves and their peers how to use them with minimal outside support.
Yet for many daily work actions, we're asking our teams to hunt down people in between meetings, or skim through 5 different documents, or try to find one of a dozen internet links on your laptop, or going through your call history or email history for some contact you know you have, just never saved. Onboarding new people, or promoting people, often involves a week spent trying to upload a host of these information sets into their brain.
How could your organization's community benefit from apps? Off the top of my head:
Your Ops team could put their ticketing system onto an app.
Project management, including something like an onboarding process, can move to mobile
Do your community a favor and centralize all the apps you've asked them to download and use during COVID-19, or during remote work generally (screenshot above, for a school)
Anything that benefits from being interactive, searchable, repeatable, centralized, or available on mobile. Remember that office workers spend as much as 20% of their time seeking out or confirming already-documented information.
Any established process that is tedious and drains your the attention and time of your HR team, or your Finance team, or your Ops team, or... you get the point! A specific case would be if your HR put a searchable, clickable, contactable FAQ onto an app (screenshot above)
Any other process you're frankly tired of explaining yet again
Apps are incredibly easy to build these days. I'm terrible at remembering friends' and loved ones' birthdays, including my own... So while I was setting up the two apps for the screenshot at the top of this post, I went ahead and did one to cover me for those. Since it also includes all contact information for each person, it connects the needed information (calendar dates) to necessary action (whatever form of outreach I then use to follow up with that person).
Take a moment to calculate the cost, organizationally, to the time lost in Where’s Waldo games of document searches, to the repeated training on known simple processes, to actions not taken because harried workers can’t find the time to sit down with a laptop and hunt through links, etc. App development for simple apps used to be somewhere in the 5 figures; these apps can now be set up in a day or so and handed off to existing staff with minimal upskilling required. What’s the first way you would unburden your team?
Reach out and I’ll let you know how I can support!
Cultivating Culture is Tough
I'm connecting a lot with this article from HBR:
Key paragraph: "The reason, I believe, is that innovative cultures are misunderstood. The easy-to-like behaviors that get so much attention are only one side of the coin. They must be counterbalanced by some tougher and frankly less fun behaviors. A tolerance for failure requires an intolerance for incompetence. A willingness to experiment requires rigorous discipline. Psychological safety requires comfort with brutal candor. Collaboration must be balanced with individual accountability. And flatness requires strong leadership. Innovative cultures are paradoxical. Unless the tensions created by this paradox are carefully managed, attempts to create an innovative culture will fail."
The high-growth, high-performance orgs I've worked with have displayed a number of these hallmarks -- candor, discipline, focus on competence. When I found a workplace that seemed more "comfortable," what I also found was a company that set audacious goals, only to walk them back over and over. It turns out that this comfort was only superficial. In my experience, that happiest teams are the ones that are successful, not the ones who feel comfortable on a day-to-day basis.
If your team wants to embrace discomfort and move forward, it's important to introduce tools and frameworks that will help them work through those tough conversations. Reach out if you're interested in getting support on this.
Programmatic Support for Transformational Leaders
Right now we're facing a number of issues demanding that organizations transform in ways that are clear and accountable, whether it's the reaction to COVID-19, responsiveness to systemic racism, or any number of long-term trends that we're seeing accelerated due to the pandemic. Off the top of my head, I can name:
Many industries are in make-or-break situations.
This is the opposite of standard scenarios. For example if you work in education, in any given year your student testing outcomes may be affected by
a change to curriculum,
a change to the test itself,
a cohort effect in the students,
a cohort effect in the teaching staff, or
some indirect change you made five years or ten years ago(!)
among other things. Lots of business outcomes are like this -- success or failure can be blamed on any number of factors. However right now, if you your company gets the response wrong to one of the situations mentioned above, that could be it. You might alienate your customers, create a crisis in your staff, or move your organization in a direction that leads quickly toward failure. If you're in one of those industries, organizations, or teams, you might be looking for an external push to help move things forward.
If you're currently in a position where your actions right now are going to have a measurable impact on the future of your organization, I encourage you to check out the course. It can push your thinking at a time when you really need to get things right.
And please, feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have.
Digital Community-Building Resources
Given that education leaders are in a position of planning both-and for the fall, meaning in-person learning and distance learning, we need to be ready to lead our teacher teams both in-person as well as through digital togetherness. Now is the right time to strengthen your digital workspaces, not just for teaching and deliverables, but for community, joy, and growth.
As a leader, it's entirely on you to avoid the rut of communicating one-to-many, when your role is to foster professional learning communities where everyone has a voice, where staff can teach and learn from one another, where you facilitate growth instead of becoming a hurdle to your own teams.
Some tools worth investigating:
-- Diigo, social bookmarking -- a great place to build a repository of anti-racist podcasts, websites, and learning tools, or to share distance-learning tools the team has discovered (https://lnkd.in/eisqihm)
-- Menti, great place for a team to share shout-outs (https://lnkd.in/g8aDWHB)
-- Workplace by Facebook (https://lnkd.in/eaJNGKa)
-- Jamboards -- for teachers, not just students! (https://lnkd.in/geuZWbs)
-- Flipgrid -- as a PD center for your Professional Learning Community to engage (https://lnkd.in/e87MEpz)
-- Slack, always! (http://www.slack.com/)
Values are everything
Several years ago I interviewed with a tech startup in NYC. I'll leave out the specific industry so that the issues I describe later in this post aren't immediately Googlable -- my goal here is not to embarrass anyone. The company had just successfully completed a C round of funding, I had the potential to join early enough to take equity, and they wanted me to support/drive their continued growth as Director of Operations, including the transition to multiple sites cross-country -- exactly the work I wanted to do! The term "unicorn" was being thrown around a lot. It seemed like a great opportunity.
The last interview was about what you'd expect given the role demands -- an entire day on site, an hour spent with the holder of every major title, through CEO. I'd had earlier conversations, and read every inch of the website, and strangely found no reference to organizational values. In each successive hour-long conversation that day, I asked which values they were using as guideposts as they expanded, hired new staff, created and promoted new job titles, etc. The question was repeatedly brushed off, so those who know me won't be surprised when I say that this would just make me push the question harder with the next person in line. Finally, reaching the CEO, I was asked how I would drive consistency of staff experience as they launched in two distant cities. I told him that, to ensure that staff had the same experience not just aesthetically or in customer service, but in less tangible areas like tone and properly prioritizing issues, I would absolutely need to be clear on core organizational values. Three to five of them would do. His response, and this is a real quote: "Assume there will be no values!"
I wish I was making that up.
I wanted that job. To be really honest, I wanted that equity. So it almost physically hurt to say that, without values to refer to, I knew no way to reliably grow an organization. It was about more than customer service, or tone. Values are the structure that we anchor ourselves to, so that we can then operate freely. With strong values to guide you, you don't need to check with three layers of management or have a week of meetings to decide a course of action. You can act or respond immediately, because nine times out of ten the organizational values make clear what you should do. Staff all the way down the organizational chain can respond rapidly and flexibly to evolving situations, knowing they're on solid ground with the company.
It was clear on both sides that it wasn't a fit. That was a long subway ride home.
I went to a different organization instead, and felt pretty good about the decision. The FOMO was real though, and about eighteen months later I Googled that tech company. Mostly I wanted to confirm how dumb I'd been by choosing not to join them, and maybe even guestimate the math on how much I'd potentially lost.
The company had crashed. Hard. Starting about eight months after my interview, workers had started exiting the company -- close to 30% of them. Shortly after that, two C-level executives left. A few months later, the CEO had exited without warning and deleted his LinkedIn page and all other social media. I realize it sounds a little too perfect, but this is all publicly-available information. Those of you who suspected which company I've been talking about will know, based off of that last detail alone.
I don't know that their failure derived directly from a lack of values. I don't know exactly what happened, but deleting one's social media is a strong measure to take. I do know that they've never regained unicorn status. I do know that the equity I worried about wasn't a factor in the end. And I know that I made the best decision I could at the time, and it turned out to be the right one.
Always ask about values. And then when you hear them, dig for evidence that those values are actually being lived. You should have heard direct or indirect questions about them in your initial phone screen. You should see them embodied in the org structure, evidenced by actions taken and inferred from steps not taken. How has the organization handled conflict, crisis, or bad media? These things will tell you how you'll deal with tension or disagreements when you're part of the organization. They'll impact who gets promoted, who gets fired, and how the organization deals with internal transitions or external shifts.
They'll impact you every day, for most of your working day, which will be most of your waking hours. It's worth digging into. And if they're lacking, it's worth it to walk away.