Birthday Cards, Sympathy Cards, and Thank You Notes

Birthday cards, sympathy cards, and thank you notes

2F57F4C3-2F82-4F4A-A626-2D67576332A5It has been that kind of week. It started out with writing a birthday card to my grandmother as she turns 99 on the 11th. She is a great inspiration and provides a living example of what it looks like to persevere through several world, country, local and personal changes. She has seen a lot. I am blessed to have her still sharing her experiences and life with me.

Halloween brought treats and loss. I lost my paternal aunt who had survived cancer for several years. Finally her body needed to rest and our family lost a great lady. She did family gatherings for our huge crew (my father had 14 siblings) and kept the activity going into the evening with fireworks. Alice knew how to feed and entertain!

Later that day my father’s brother in law died. He was out in the field tending the horses. Treats in his pocket and enjoying the life he had made for himself. He was full of ideas and recommendations and always up for a robust discussion. My uncle Glen filled a room.

This morning I decided the best way to begin my Saturday was to write thank you notes. I love this part of my day and week. I am thankful for my work, my colleagues, my friends, my family and my ROCK’N (tolerant) husband.

I was pleasantly surprised this week by two woman leaders who reached out to connect. One stopped by to say “I have been admiring you from afar and I cannot let another day go by without telling you how much I appreciate you”. Stunned, I failed to mention, the feeling was mutual – thank you MR. On Friday I met with a local leader who shared some of her history and impact on the community. I was so honored to be asked to have coffee with her and absolutely thrilled to support her work with More Women on the Move. What an inspiration.

Today I choose to be thankful. I have people in my life that are not joyful and I have learned that I cannot influence their perceptions, however, I can choose to be thankful and bring joy to my interactions. Count your blessings and thank the people who bring you joy and inspiration. Choose to be thankful.


The Day That Everything Changed

The Day That Everything Changed: Perfecting Of Skills Prior To Practicing On People

Discover Center for Simulated Learning (3)

I remember the day vividly, I was at the National Council for State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) convention as a delegate for the Minnesota Board of Nursing. The results of the national simulation survey were announced. I just sat there, stunned. The person next to me asked “what did you expect”? I remember thinking, I don’t know, but not these results. I remained siting during the questions period, few questions were asked, and we were speechless. I continued to sit. The hall emptied.

I am rarely speechless.

After a few minutes I looked around and realized the room had emptied. The presenters provided us with the supplemental journal. Not everyone was interested and left their copies behind. I collected the copies of the journals for my faculty, their world would change too. Plus, I am a notoriously resourceful leader when it comes to gifts (HA)!

I was shocked because “this study provides strong evidence supporting the use of simulation as a substitute for up to 50% of traditional clinical time and makes a substantial contribution to the literature in both nursing regulation and education” (Smiley, Alexander, Kardong-Edgren, & Jeffries, 2014, p. S36). The research design was tight with a control group, one group substituted 25% of clinical hours with simulation, and one group substituted 50% of clinical hours with simulation. Ten programs participated from across the United States with over 650 students. The groups were evaluated and compared during the educational program, at the end of the program, and six months into practice for knowledge, clinical competency, critical thinking and readiness for practice. There was no statistical difference between the groups. These results changed everything. There was great relevancy for nursing education and education in general. When done right, simulating work in a lab setting with evaluation, prepares students at the same level of competency as clinical or work setting experiences. Imagine a workforce ready graduate performing in their position when they graduate. Imagine expanding admissions because suddenly the clinical placement can be replaced by up to 50% by simulation. The way we serve students and the community has just expanded, significantly.

When I came to Rochester over two years ago and began the evaluation process of need for programming and facilities it became obvious that WSU was strong in the community and a commitment of new program relevant facilities was urgent. One area of strength and potential growth was graduate education programming. The results of the study are relevant to graduate programming and educational curricula that expect students to interact with people in their post-graduation careers.

I remember beginning a process of visiting with faculty, community members, and architects to determine next, best steps for developing a multi-discipline simulation center in Rochester. We collaborated, explored available options in the region, and found that the center was a resource that the community needed. The dream for a facility that will help WSU students serve the Rochester community for the next 100 years has launched. We believe in service. We believe in quality education. We believe that people deserve the very best care. Indeed, perfecting skills prior to working with people is key to education to work transition success.

The world of education has changed, it is time for us to address the change here.


Smiley, R. A., Alexander, M., Kardong-Edgren, S., & Jeffries, P. R. (2014). The NCSBN National Simulation Study: A Longitudinal, Randomized, Controlled Study Replacing Clinical Hours with Simulation in Prelicensure Nursing Education. Journal of Nursing Regulation 5(2), pp. S3-S66. Found at

Unique Blessings: A Tribute to Grandmothers

Unique Blessings


Touching the image of the two of us, my grandmother put her finger on the image of my face and said “I remember being that young”. I looked at her and the nostalgia was palpable in the room. Clearly, she longed for the days of being younger – it was a time of self-determination for her, when her energy was high and her daily activities were based on her agenda.

I enjoy spending the afternoon visiting with my 98 year old (soon to be 99) maternal grandmother, talking about her health, her days on the farm, and looking at pictures. Beyond her amazing longevity genes, she still walks and engages with those who visit. As I listened to her stories and her snippets of wisdom, I recognize how fortunate and blessed I am to be granted time with this special lady. When I talk about my grandmother to those who don’t know her, people ask if she cooked or baked or did the stereotypical grandmother tasks. The answer, “no way” – she set her own path, she grew stuff. Her garden boasted some of the most impressive sunflowers and squash that I have seen in my entire life, her indoor plants are cared for with a bit of water, sunshine and serious conversation each day. She seemed serious when I was young and now more wistful. I recall collections of dishes and plants in her cozy farm home. She came from a generation that life was more fragile and taken quickly. Treasuring what you earned and what you could grow, fit with her time and her generation. She transitioned through her extensive life by growing something wonderful each year. My grandmother is unique.

My departed paternal grandmother was, on the other hand, a great cook and baker. She fed a crew of fifteen children plus cousins, spouses, grandchildren every day. She managed a busy household. The energy was high in her home. Shifts of family members milking cows, putting in or harvesting crops, managing the complex business of farming was the lived experience of everyone who engaged in this home. I recall tying quilts with my mother, sister, aunts and grandmother to maintain the needs of the family. Later, she would sew dolls and crafts. She was that grandmother, and unique for me.

Over the years I realized that grandmothers bring different gifts and skills and teach through example. My life is richer because of these experiences, and lessons. The lives of my grandmothers were different, during a similar time in history. They learned and became who they are/were based on necessity and cultivated interests. I feel blessed to have had time to visit and get to know them as individuals. My life is better because I had two distinctively unique grandmothers. Lucky me.

Remember to celebrate the unique contributions brought to us by individuals who enrich our lives.

“Go ahead and share it”

“Go ahead and share it”

A couple weeks ago I toured a brick plant to learn how bricks were made, the process for improvement, and a bit more about the industry. I was overwhelmed by the warm reception, not only the radiant heat of the kiln, but also the open nature of those working at the company. Within ten minutes of my visit the plant manager presented to me the variety of products and unique bricks that they produced. The distinctive bricks made for a special project were different than anything I had seen, I asked if I could take a picture. I understand that in some industries the product is proprietary. He responded “go ahead, we share all the time, our work is unique to the clay and building architect”.

Really, they were just willing to share?

After the visit I realized that this confidence comes with over 40 years of expertise in a field and knowing the value of giving it away. These leaders didn’t drop into brick making yesterday, they had been doing it for years, and they knew that their experience impacted their product and their worth. The confidence from everyone I met on that day, radiated with the heat of the kiln, and helped me believe in their product and process.

As I reflected on my work and my belief that transparency is key to building a strong team and organization, it became evident that confidence in my team is reflected through my willingness to share. When I begin a process, I try to outline who will be consulted, what groups and then ask for help to widen the circle. It takes time to be this transparent. I have found that when I take the time to open myself and the process to full engagement, the outcome is better. It is better vetted and more likely to be adopted. This is not a fast process, it is painstakingly slow, frustrating as hell, and ….. honestly, better. To ensure that I stay true to my core value of transparency, I just added a PS to my email messages (see below), and I LOVE the feedback.

Keep me on task friends. Be confident enough to risk transparency.

Grateful for each of you,


PS: Please forward this email to those I may have inadvertently missed. Anyone who needs this information is welcome to being in the loop. Let me know who I missed so I can add them to future correspondence. Radical transparency is a fundamental practice I choose to follow.



“We need to replace the roof on the church. Then replace the wall paper, carpet, and test for mold.” I remember asking, “How long have we had these issues?” The answer was “since it was built”. Oh, my, that has been a while, apparently since the early ‘70’s.

I was about 3 months into my elected role as president of the church at the advanced age of 31. I had no idea where to go, so the church council discussed the problem. We asked experts to come in to evaluate and found that the fixes could be done, but the structure was not sound and more issues were guaranteed. Next, we asked for an evaluation on removing the church and rebuilding and then requested an estimate on “off-site” building of a new church. Then we brought it to the congregation in an open meeting. The discussion was:

“Where do we go from here?”

Honestly, I didn’t really know. I am not an expert on church replacement. So, we brought in experts. We discussed the expert feedback with the congregation and we made a decision.

During the professional consultations, I privately asked a lot of questions of my colleagues, they were able to describe what HVAC, R value, and other building essentials were described to me. Having people in my life that understood this world was very helpful. To this day I think about all of the people who have shared their expertise with me, and WOW! Am I blessed!! (BTW – the questions have continued).

Sometimes, it seems that asking for help or outside opinion may be seen as a sign of weakness. I have experienced only the opposite. I ask for help, a lot, I also freely help out when asked. Having the courage and confidence to identify your own strengths and recognizing the strengths of others, and asking for help, is key for productive, healthy outcomes and work environments.

I appreciate the expertise of those that I work with professionally and those I engage with for non-profit work. If you receive a note from me that says “let’s connect” or “help” or “let’s brainstorm” – that means you are the expert and I am hoping you will share your strengths zone with me. These are precious collaborative moments and result in some of the best work that I do (actually we do). Additionally, I just started “crowdsourcing” and found the opportunity to explore is so much more fun when recommendations come from a large group of friends. Thank you!!

My challenge for you: Identify a big issue in your life – and ask for help. There are a lot of ‘strengths rich’ people out there who can help!


The Team and Their Strengths

The Team and Their Strengths

I recently asked one of the professionals that I work with what he expects from me as his supervisor. After some time, I received the response from him and asked him to share a bit more about the words and concepts that were shared. “No one has ever asked me that question before”, was how his feedback started.

Then I started to think, what would I have answered? Honestly, this has monopolized my thoughts over the past few weeks. Then I realized, it is probably what I hope that I am doing and have done with those I engage with (never perfectly, always striving):

  • Welcome creativity
  • Welcome surprises (my team surprises me all the time – and I love it!!)
  • Appreciate that I do not know what others are doing and that controlling other people is a waste of time
  • Power, authority and ego are always present – and seldom about role
  • When asking the team for genuine engagement and honesty, not holding a comment or facial expression against the sending person
  • Empower people to do their job, in the way they choose, as strengths are unique in each individual.

(This, is of course, an opportunity for those I would with to keep me on task.) 🙂

The entire idea of considering people first is central to how I lead. To be clear, I do get frustrated and need to refocus, however, when I do – it is about people and their strengths. My strengths coach has been working with me and my team and knows the team well, she describes me as a lioness. Protective of the pride, willing to scavenge for short term wins (food) to achieve the bigger outcome (kill, to keep with the metaphor). Always surveying the surroundings for the best next migration with the pride. Everyone matters, we take care of our own and developing people is key to a stronger team and the creation of the next team leader.

I have experienced the transformation of a team when focusing on strengths. Individuals choosing to update their own position descriptions and reviewing the changes with me to outline what they actually do and how the role then empowers them to achieve the outcomes that better the work we do together. Individuals going from unhappy to much more jolly in the work-place. Individuals feeling safe to be creative and daring. Am I the change, no, they are the change, I am just the fortunate observer and supporter. Watching transformation of people is rewarding for me. The outcomes fall into place. I love seeing people grow in their roles and explore new ways to develop their Strengths. Their happy place becomes my happy place.

I deeply appreciate the heartfelt work that the WSU-R team expertly engages in everyday and know that our WSU-W colleagues support this work. Further, as a community engaged learning institution, our community partners are dedicated and loyal. Our students and future employees benefit from our focus on Strengths and encouraging individuals to work in their “Strengths Zone”.

Indeed, I am blessed!

WSU Learning Community Images.Jeanine

Bringing Joy and Inspiring Energy

Bringing Joy and Inspiring Energy

“OMG, why didn’t I know you a year ago?” I know, right!

Last week I met another dynamic woman leader. She talked about her journey through careers, education, life direction, and relationships. Her journey brought her to a point in time where we were meeting and talking about how we could (and should!!) work together. Her energy was palpable. Her ideas for ways to connect were just what I needed to hear. Finally, someone understands that work can be done in hundreds of ways, relationships created, people served, a more engaged and connected community. The time flew by and I wanted the conversation and the “stream of consciousness” to keep going.

I am grateful for the people I engage with on a daily basis. Every once in a while you meet that individual who seems like you have known for ever. Ideas connect and the discussion and concepts grow to a better idea. This idea of being “better together” transcends occupation, affiliation and relationship types. It is essential to moving a concept forward to an idea, to a plan, to change and betterment.

It is clear to me that I love connecting with people. I am helplessly drawn to joy and individuals with energy – “get up and go”, all resulting from connections. It drives me to be better, to do the work that is less enjoyable, so that more people can connect and be better together. Better together is the tagline to my life story.

The concept of being better together is a theme in my life and career. Really nothing is possible without connecting to others. As I contemplate my 2 year anniversary in my role in Rochester for WSU, I think about the successes and yet to be successes. I like working with people who will “play in my world”. What does that mean? People who have a positive attitude – in fact have found their personal joy and share that with others – those are the people who play well. It is essential that connecting people to people – communicating though any means possible – will cultivate relationships – bring joy and inspire energy.