For this educational statement, I will be focusing on the MDS 450 class. I will highlight what prior learning experiences have helped me to learn the importance of Teamwork and Innovation. In order to accomplish this, I will also write of my personal education goals and attempt to provide a window to you of who I am and how I have arrived where I am today. Also, I will be using experiences from my work history in management to highlight some key moments that have molded me along the way.
I returned to Boise State after leaving school about 7 years ago. My family was growing and I was struggling to provide for them and maintain good grades. I had to put my then small and young family’s needs first. That decision eventually led me to the hardest, most frustrating and most fulfilling job I have ever had and almost five years later I am still plugging away at it. I am currently the Custodial Supervisor for the largest school district in the state of Idaho. After working in this position for a few years, I learned that in order to best help my large team of now 220 custodians I needed to add some more tools to my tool belt. That is when I decided to go back to school to help sharpen my tools and add new ones. I discovered the Multidisciplinary Studies program with its focus on leadership and business. I knew immediately that it was a program for me. I wanted to help my team rise to a new level and I knew that by investing into and improving myself, it would allow me to then invest in and help improve my team.
In short, my personal education goals and professional goals are tightly intertwined. I want to advance in my education so that I can be better prepared to serve and help my team. I want to foster a culture built on a system of trust that encourages and supports teamwork and innovation. It is by and through teamwork and innovation that the Custodial team in the West Ada School District will be able to continue to provide a safe and sanitary learning environment for the students in our schools.
About 8 years ago I started working for a company called GCA Services. Our regional manager always preached that we as a team succeed together and failed together. When we would have our weekly team meeting, this same regional manager would call the account manager and us shift supervisors together and we were to shut up, listen and do as we were told. He would preach team work; however, we were not a team. We were a group of people being led by a dictator. Not one soul had an opportunity to give a suggestion or be allowed to have a creative or innovative thought. In my opinion this was a detrimental behavioral trait of that regional manager. He constantly was damaging and harmful to the moral of those he was supposed to lead.
Fast forward to eight years later, I now work for a school district. A few months ago I took a problem I was working through regarding one of my employees to my supervisor. My Supervisor did not order me on what to do. In fact he said “wow that’s a doozy, I see why you’re having issues with it. Let’s call the other supervisors over and let’s round table it and come up with a solution as a group”. My supervisor could have come up with a directive he wanted me to follow and sent me on my way. Instead he saw an opportunity to not only allow me to learn and voice my ideas; but, also the other supervisors in the office. We were all able to learn from this experience and become more unified as a team. This experience taught me why organizations use teams and the importance of organizations effectively using creative and collaborative teams.
I have in between these two personal team experiences, I have had my own opportunities to assemble teams and I have learned to do it with an open mind. When I hire new employees and assign them to a school, we try to place like minded people together. The interview questions I wrote after working for the district for about a year allows me to better gage a potential new employee’s personality. Before the questions were all skill and performance based. I figure I can teach someone the trade, I cannot teach them to be a good human. These new questions allow me to determine that. After the interview, my assistant and I will decide if we want to hire that person or not. If we do want to, then we have a lengthy conversation about team development, detrimental behaviors and what school to assign them too. When discussing the team development we consider the personality of the Head Custodian and other custodians and also the building principal and the culture of the school. When discussing detrimental behaviors, we look at the application, letter of recommendations and our notes from the interview. We try to identify red flags that would be detrimental to the current team.
About a year ago I interviewed an individual who was currently transitioning from male to female. The person interviewed well and we decided to hire her. The hardest part about hiring her was deciding on what school and custodial team to assign her to. We considered everything including the demographics of the students. We did not want to put her in a situation that would be difficult for her to succeed. We ended up assigning her to a small elementary school that had one of our most seasoned and welcoming Head Custodians. This Head custodian has worked for the district for 38 years and is one of the nicest people I have ever met. The principal and the school were equally welcoming. The lady we hired worked there very happily until she decided about ten months later that she wanted to pursue a different path as her and her significant other moved out of state. It was interesting to see this team go through the stages of team development. The forming stage was by far the most interesting. A lot of that had to do with the lifestyle of the new employee. However, the Head Custodian did a great job at listening to her and getting to know her before making quick judgments. This experience is one of the many times I learned the importance of team development vs. detrimental behaviors and the stages of stages of team development.
Learning to identify the different team stages (forming, storming, norming and performing) is extremely helpful when a team is stuck in one of the 4 stages. I have learned that most teams get stuck in the forming stage. I have had multiple employees unwilling to look pass the little annoying habits of their teammates. They allow it to boil inside them until it one day explodes. Before learning to identify different team stages, when a team started to struggle and under perform, I would simply take disciplinary action. Now that I have learned the different team stages, I now can first take a mentoring or coaching role. By taking a mentoring or coaching role, I can help the team to grow as individuals and as a team.
It was through teamwork and innovation between a vendor and I that allowed my district to be prepared for the current COVID 19 pandemic. At the end of last cold and flu season I worked with a vendor to find a way to better disinfect the schools. It was then that I discovered electrostatic sprayers. These devices at the time were very new to the industry and many did not believe in the technology. The vendor presented the opportunity to me and my assistant. We tested it and allowed some of our head Custodians to try it. We ended up loving it so much we bought 60 of them. Once the COVID 19 pandemic hit the Treasure Valley this device became a highly sought after piece of equipment. But the manufacturer was completely sold out. However because of the innovative thinking and team work of the vendor, my leadership team, and I were ready to face the challenge with the best tools in the valley to do so. This experience showed me the importance of best practices for driving innovation. Being willing to have a safe space for innovation and keep a broad perspective when the vendor presented the idea was key.
These many experiences have helped me to learn the importance of creating balanced teams that can work through the different stages of team development. Also they have helped me to quickly identify the current team stage and how to help the ones that get stuck. These experiences have helped me to more appreciate the importance of innovation and why organizations use creative teams that foster and drive an innovative culture.