Harvard Recognizes AACPS Signature Program

Outfluence, LLC received the some exciting news from Signature Coordinator Linda Lamon at South River High School in Edgewater, Maryland this week:

"An exciting example of how our Signature Programs impact students' futures: Megan Rutkai, a Global Communications & Public Affairs Signature Certificate bound student, just received record breaking news that she was granted early admission to Harvard University!!! Megan attributes her success in school, and her acceptance to Harvard University, to the opportunities offered through the GCPA Signature Program.

"Megan called me yesterday, besides her family she wanted me to be the first to know. She said Harvard chose her due to the Signature experiences on her resume and she wanted to thank me. The reality is she is an incredibly deserving young woman, and it has been an honor to work with her."

The Outfluence Team, which has been an active part of the Signature Program since its inception five years ago, applauds Megan's great achievement, and wishes her the very best in her bright academic future! Ms. Lamon, the administrators, and others in the business community involved in AACPS have been remarkably committed to the development of the Signature Program.  It is exciting for us to see their dedication so beautifully rewarded. 

Congratulations again to Megan, and to the Signature Team family!

How Our Children Will Achieve in the Workplace

In my opinion, we don't succeed in the workplace.  We achieve in the workplace.  Success implies that we have reached the end.  We don't want to plant the idea in our mind that one success is the ultimate, that we have reached our capacity for success.  We determine that we have succeeded when we are ready to end our workplace journey.  At that time we can look back and determine our level of success.  Until then we want to continue to achieve new things.

Dr. Ben Carson, author of  Gifted Hands - The Ben Carson Story,  writes that "Success is determined not by whether or not you face obstacles, but by your reaction to them. And if you look at these obstacles as a containing fence, they become your excuse for failure. If you look at them as a hurdle, each one strengthens you for the next.”

To achieve in the workplace you must continue to meet your employer's or your customer's expectations in four areas:

    1.  Performance - find ways, large and small, to inspire those around you as well as to be a champion at your job.

    2. Trust - every action you take should deepen your employer's reliance on you.

    3. Consistency - be aself-starter, someone who understands the mission and knows what to do every second of every day.

   4. Deliver peace of mind - be great at 1, 2 and 3.

The great actor, writer, comedian and musician, Steve Martin, when asked how to achieve in Hollywood, said, "Be so good that they can't ignore you."  That's what an inspired performance is all about.  Learn as much as you can about your job, expand your knowledge, become a leader by setting a good example and make yourself invaluable.

Prove that you can be trusted by silently communicating your core.  Your employers and your customers will watch you carefully, just as you observe them, and they will determine by your actions whether you will earn their trust.  Outfluence coined the term "Constant Messaging" which references the fact that everything we do sends a message to anyone within our sphere of influence.  Learning to control your message while also being aware of the incoming messages of others is at the foundation of trust. 

How can we consistently demonstrate our commitment to mission?  Let's look at it from the perspective of an employer evaluating the value of a prospective employee.  In my book Outfluence, the Better Way to Influence, I describe how NBA scouts assess a college player's assets.  Here's what I wrote:  NBA scouts have an interesting method of assessing a player’s assets. They ask five questions about a college basketball prospect:

1. Does he have a weapon? For example, the “sky hook” that Kareem Abdul Jabbar had in his day.

2. Does he have a position? Can he play either guard, center, or forward so well as to leave no doubt as to what position he should play?

3. Can he get his own look? In other words, can he work the court in order to get a shot at the basket from his highest percentage spot on the floor?

4. Can he defend his position? A player has to move his feet quickly in order to stay in front of his opponent and keep him from scoring, or at least to make it difficult for him to score. It takes commitment to play good defense.

5. Does he “get it”? Can he lead? Does he have a work ethic? Is he responsible? Will he be a team player?

You can make the same assessment about yourself. A prospective employer will want to know the same things about you that the basketball scout wants to know about a player. When making your personal assessment here are a few basic questions you will want to address:

1. Do you have a weapon? What makes you nearly impossible to replace?

2. Do you have a position? What’s your specialty?

3. Can you get your own look? Are you self-sufficient? Are you a self-starter?

4. Can you defend your position? Do you know your stuff? Can you express yourself?

5. Do you “get it”? Are you a responsible individual? Are you a team player?

These five questions get right to the heart of the matter, don’t they? To begin your assessment, make an honest determination of your attributes. Next, evaluate the requirements of the position to which you aspire. Finally, formulate a plan to fill in any gaps between your current attributes and the requirements of that position.

Peace of mind is what every employer wants every employee to bring to his or her business.  Peace of mind can only be delivered by an individual who has developed a strong set of personal ethics, a person who is confident, aware, educated and is able to communicate well in any circumstance.  The Outfluence program You Are Here . . . Now What? teaches high school students how and why to develop those attributes.  We teach them how to persist in pursuit of their goals and we teach them the skills needed to complete the pursuit.


Psst... Pass It On.

"HE WHO ANGERS YOU OWNS YOU ." FATHER OF DOC RIVERS, NBA PLAYER AND COACH.

My wife and I were grocery shopping. A young boy was standing idly in front of a customer ticket-generating machine we wanted to access. My wife, in a gentle, friendly manner said "Excuse me, sir, may I sneak in front of you for a second?" The little boy looked up at her as he stepped aside, and she said "I like your hat." The little boy smiled and said thank you.

Now, this was a perfectly innocent exchange. The little boy learned how to interrupt someone in a positive way and he had a nice moment with an adult. The two adult women with him didn't see it that way. They looked at my wife with daggers in their eyes and, as the saying goes, if looks could kill . . .

This event occurred weeks post-Ferguson and days post-New York City, both locations having experienced police-involved deaths.

25 years earlier a similar incident happened to my wife in a grocery store. Two young children were shopping with their mother. My wife struck up a conversation with them. Their mother accurately interpreted the silent communicators of friendship and sincerity and she used her life experiences in a positive way and chose to recognize an opportunity for friendship. Those two children eventually graduated from college and became life-long friends of our family.

What are we passing on to our children? Are we passing on the mistakes of our predecessors or are we teaching them how to build on the blocks of success that have been achieved in the midst of fits of violent disharmony?

In our program for high school students titled "You Are Here . . . now what?" we teach communication from the perspective of the sender of the message as well as from the perspective of the receiver of the message, and we spend time discussing the art of crafting a message. We meet with the students for one hour per week. Communication is taught over an entire semester each of the four high school years. We cover communication in great detail, all types of communication, and we bolster it with activities. When we are finished, students are armed with the tools needed to accurately interpret messages and they are able to respond appropriately.

I will never forget a lesson learned early in life. An elderly gentleman told me, "Son, you will always get exactly what you're looking for." What he meant was if you are looking to pick a fight with someone you will find a reason to fight. If you are looking to overlook imperfections and make a friend, you will find a way to make a friend. The youngest among us are looking to adults as examples of how to live life. We are certainly not perfect examples. We make mistakes. Our children will learn our lessons, good and bad, as we pass them on.

For additional information about Outfluence, LLC or to learn how to bring You Are Here . . . Now What? to your high school, visit our Contact Page, and drop us a line.


"False Sense of Security" in MD's Educational Needs

YESTERDAY'S ARTICLE IN THE WASHINGTON POST TELLS THE STORY OF SCHOOL SYSTEMS THAT ARE COMING TO GRIPS WITH FAILURE AND ARE TAKING ACTION TO GAIN CONTROL OF WHAT OUR STUDENTS ARE LEARNING.  THE OUTFLUENCE PROGRAM "YOU ARE HERE . . . NOW WHAT?" IS ON TRACK TO SUPPORT THE EFFORT TO PREPARE CHILDREN FOR COLLEGE OR CAREERS.  THE PROGRAM FOCUSES ON PERSISTENCE AND COMPLETION, AND IN 24 90-MINUTE SESSIONS OVER TWO SEMESTERS, PREPARES STUDENTS FOR SUCCESS. 

From the Washington Post:

"EDUCATION OFFICIALS in Maryland and the District had pretty similar responses to the release of test scores showing that most high school students in the two jurisdictions are not on track to graduate ready for college or careers. “Obviously, this is a cold shower. There’s a lot of work to be done,” said Maryland Board of Education member Chester Finn. “These results are not easy to see, and certainly we have a lot of work to do,” said D.C. State Superintendent Hanseul Kang. As sobering as the results are, they also must be seen as a credit to efforts to require new rigor in Maryland and D.C. classrooms and provide honest assessments of what students have learned.

The first results of testing on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC — geared to the heightened academic standards of Common Core — were released Tuesday. In Maryland, only 31 percent of studentsmet proficiency standards for Algebra I and 40 percent of students met the standard for 10th-grade English. In the District, 27 percent of students were proficient in 10th-grade English and 12 percent met standards for geometry. The dismal first-year results mirror the experiences of other states that switched to PARCC and had been anticipated by officials who nonetheless recognize the value of tests that accurately measure college or career readiness."

“Why are we here?” Maryland’s interim superintendent of schools, Jack R. Smith, asked. “Because we raised expectations considerably.” That inflated scores from previous state-administered tests did not reflect what graduating students need to know could be seen in the large number of students required to take remedial classes before they could enroll in credit classes at Maryland community colleges. And, as Maryland officials ruefully learned this week with release of scores on another national test, gamesmanship with the assessments does great disservice to the educational needs of students. Maryland was the only state to have falling scores on the Nation’s Report Card in both reading and math and in both grades tested; one factor cited was the exclusion in previous years of high percentages of students with disabilities or English-language learners who would lower scores.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) spoke about “a false sense of security” that was created by exclusion of these students. He could just as easily have been talking about how inflated scores from undemanding tests allowed students to coast through school and graduate without the knowledge needed for life. Maryland and D.C. officials are right in setting ambitious new goals for students, and these first-year test results, while disappointing, should not discourage those efforts.


Removing Obstacles

"Silver Oak Academy is a residential program that inspires learning, growth and positive change for at-risk and disadvantaged youth. Silver Oak utilizes evidence-based practices and cognitive behavioral approach, and is guided by our belief that each youth has strengths."

Silver Oak Academy opened in 2009. The Keymar, Maryland sleepy country community which surrounds the 65-acre Academy was anxious but welcoming. Silver Oak's predecessor closed following the tragic death of a resident/student several years earlier.

I attended an event at the Academy last evening. Local government officials, residents and other interested citizens gathered to discuss security policies and to receive an update on the status of the program. Community support for the work Director Kevin MacLeod and his staff have been doing was overwhelmingly positive. Stories of the community volunteering at the Academy, attending events, and generally supporting the resident/students at Silver Oak were unabashedly shared.

Kids, teenagers, are placed at Silver Oak Academy because they broke the law. Drugs, assault, petty theft are among the violations. The kids are removed from an environment of obstacles with little to no hope for anything productive into an environment of love, structure, discipline, expectations. It's a difficult learning environment for a very few who are sent elsewhere if behavior becomes an issue but most graduate from the Academy and move on to great opportunities. For example, of 15 recent graduates, 6 were offered college scholarships. Seven students are moving into the Navy SEALS program.

It was exciting to listen to the stories of the neighbors surrounding Silver Oak. They talked about their fondness for the residents/students, their pride in their accomplishments, their joyful support of them as they slowly move forward and embrace community. Living an others-focused life is incredibly rewarding, and the residents/students at Silver Oak Academy are discovering it every day.

Outfluence, LLC, is the developer of "You Are Here . . . now what?" a soft skills and leadership program for middle school and high school students. Contacttraining@outfluence.com or call Kay Betz, MBA, 410.365.0741 for information.


Day 2: Teachers Act, Students Win

Astute educators with an eye to the future embrace opportunities to win on behalf of their students.  On the second day of a recent implementation of our program for high school students titled "You Are Here . . . now what?" a teacher who was observing said, "I just have to learn your program!"

He noticed immediately the impact our professionals were having on the students.  They were engaged, they were interested, they were learning.  Our program prepares students to persist in the pursuit of their educational (and later, workplace) assignments and complete them successfully. 

Dr. Nancy Grasmick, former Maryland School Superintendent, recently wrote an article in which she said, "It is past time for us to design and implement a new high school model that is innovative, technologically savvy and focused on the interrelatedness of knowledge and skill in the 21st century and which teaches grit and perseverance. American high schools must undergo a radical sea change if they are to maximize the potential of every student and meet the workforce needs of corporate America."

If you are an educator, I encourage you to contact Outfluence, LLC at training@outfluence.com or call Al Betz at 410.365.0742 to schedule an introduction to our program. 

 (Designed by professionals, tested in 50+ years of life experience and in 20 years of classroom application, You Are Here . . . now what? works.)