A very unusual year is in our rearview…
With all the craziness going on right after Thanksgiving, after a contentious election, with COVID flaring up and the busyness just before the holidays, why would Class XI come together from all over the state for Straughn Seminar IV?
“Because it’s worth it.”
During our time in Apopka, Groveland and Umatilla, we saw some great operations and met some truly inspiring visionaries. We traveled to LiveTrends, which is a mix of a greenhouse and a fashion design company that is committed to delivering joy through art and nature; Agri-Starts, a supplier of plant tissue culture starter plants; Cherrylake, an integrated landscape company with purpose; and Wild Goose Farms, a blueberry and citrus growing operation with a packaging plant, nursery and beef cattle operation.
Visionaries make it happen and the owners of these operations are clearly visionaries. These individuals were not satisfied with mediocracy but were constantly striving to be better, do more, have a better product, make a new product, find a better way, and improve. Visionaries have a positive attitude and surround themselves with top-tier talent (it’s not the how, it’s the who). As Sara Sebring stated in our “Reflection” at the end of the seminar, “visionaries compete against themselves.”
Vision weaves passion, motivation, direction and purpose into our daily lives. A vision is not just what could be done but what should be done. A vision should be clearly, concisely, and consistently communicated. To help clarify and develop our vision, we were asked “what do I need to do to set a vision and inspire others to work towards that vision?”
How can we become visionaries? In our personal and professional lives, in our industries, our faith, our communities, and even our state or our country.
Additional highlights of our seminar included an overview of UF/IFAS’ research with kratom, ginger and hemp, along with hearing about the long-term economic vision for Orlando and the Central Florida area. We also learned from Class VII’s Lisa Lochridge the value of communicating effectively during a crisis and strategies for working with the media.
Wishing you a blessed New Year full of health, wealth, prosperity and happiness.Read More
If you have ever heard a Wedgworth Leadership Institute (WLI) graduate introduce him or herself, it is always followed by their self-proclaimed class epithet. Class I: The First Class or Class I, V, VII, and X (and likely not limited to): The BEST Class. Apparently, WLI has several best classes.
As for Class XI, we began developing our class epithet and values during Straughn Seminar II last January. While we were not able to land on that perfectly describing class nickname, we were unified on our Class XI values: accountability, integrity, and resiliency. Three words we were confident were the fundamental beliefs of Class XI.
In March 2020, Seminar III was postponed. We all went into COVID and quarantine mode. Class XI had thirty different individuals with thirty different jobs and thirty different families (thirty-five if you include our wonderful director and coordinators) each with their own unique COVID experiences. We could either hit the easy button and pause Wedgworth programming or we could maximize the opportunities that come with being in a developing leader program when a global pandemic hits.
Last December, Class XI should have been attending Straughn Seminar VII with our spouses, learning more about interpersonal leadership and line dancing (probably a much-needed seminar thanks to COVID quarantining). Instead, we kicked off Straughn Seminar IV in Apopka, FL and based off seminar numbers, it probably seems like Class XI missed out on a good deal just as our WLI experience was beginning.
Yes, we had a nine-month gap in traditional Wedgworth programming.
No, we have not made it down to Miami for our South Florida Straughn Seminar.
Yes, our programming is continually adapting.
No, we have not been on our national trip.
Yes, we debate if you should or should not lick thank you notes closed during COVID times.
During these past “quarantine months” Class XI was still presented with opportunities to network among our fellow classmates with how they were navigating COVID challenges, to refine our diversity and inclusion skills, to receive updates from the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, to decompress with Zoom Happy Hours, and over all become more effective leaders through our MaXImize Sessions without harming the integrity of Wedgworth programming.
During our tour of LiveTrends in Apopka, Mr. Bisser Georgiev was sure to highlight that for an organization to thrive and survive one cannot be brought down by the minutia. Each class member had their own list of why it would have been easier to not be accountable and show up: figuring out how to social distance employees in a packing house, being a full-time working parent that doubles as a teacher or having produce ready but nowhere for it to be sold. This is not to minimize what any of us are experiencing due to COVID but a reminder to maximize the resources we are enabled with through WLI.
The list of “minutia” was the exact reason we needed to be and continue need to be in programming be it virtual or in “mask-to-mask” the new face-to face. Class XI does not have to wait ten years after graduating to have the need to analyze complex issues or to assume greater leadership responsibilities. We are stepping up to those challenges now and we are thankful for the resources and opportunities.
So just as Class XI must keep in mind, we encourage you to keep in mind as well:
“It’s okay to fall in love with WHAT you do; but it’s not okay to fall in love with HOW you do it.”
– Mr. Bisser Georgiev, Found and CEO of LiveTrends
Be that in how we navigate this “new normal” we are slowly entering into or our opinion of the ever-adapting schedule and delivery of content to Class XI; because after all we are…
The Global Pandemic Class
The Longest-Serving WLI Class
The Immediately Implementing what we Learn Class
The COVID Class
The “they can’t tell I’m yawning & out of seminar shape with this mask on” ClassRead More
I would like to start by saying, “Thank you” for allowing me to serve as your Alumni Association President for the next two years. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Matt Webb, and I am President of Genesis Timber in Madison, FL. I am a proud member of Class VII (THE BEST CLASS).
I would have never dreamed we would be holding an Alumni zoom meeting! I would like to give a shout out to Class XI for their strong participation in that recent meeting. You have set the bar high for future classes! For those of you that have been directly affected by the pandemic, our thoughts and prayers go out to you and your families. Please let us know if there is anything the alumni association can do to help. We are here for you. One of the greatest benefits of graduating from the Wedgworth program is, if you call any alumni, they will stop what they are doing to help.
The main focus of my presidency will be to help Christy with her mentorship program. I feel we have an amazing group of contacts for future classes. I want to make sure we do more than just nominate people for Wedgworth. We need to invest in these upcoming class members. It is one thing to talk about the program; it is another matter to actually feel you are a part of Wedgworth and to learn from previous class members.
I would also like to implement more strategic continuing education at our regional gatherings. We all face challenges, and I will do my best to address the issues by region.
Over the term of my presidency, I believe we will get back to meeting in person. In the meantime, I encourage each alumni member to reach out to people in your classes that have not been involved. We are all busy, but there was an investment made on behalf of each of us, and I feel it is our duty to make sure there is a substantial return on those investments. Wedgworth alumni is the future of Agriculture world-wide, and I believe it will be the sounding board for any issues that arise in that arena.
I pray 2020-2022 are the best years yet for each of your families and your businesses.
GOD BLESS and GO GATORS!
Matthew G. WebbRead More
Innovation. A word that most likely brings to mind the latest iPhone or tablet. Long before the invention of the wheel, people have been steadily refining how we do things. But at the Wedgworth Leadership Institute’s most recent seminar in Cedar Key and Trenton, we were able to see a few examples of how far agriculture has grown. We all know that dairy farmers milk cows, grove workers mow and fertilize, cowboys ride horses, and farmers grow crops in pretty rows. However, it’s the details that have been innovated over the years. For example, those row crops now have plastic and drip irrigation so that farmers are using less water. There is an amazing amount of innovation being made throughout our country to help our growers be some of the best in the world.
Agriculturalists and conservationists in the sunshine state have found many ways to make the best use of the resources we have. This statement can be seen in full effect in the beautiful town of Cedar Key, where a majority of our seminar was held. This small gulf community has made big waves. It is home to some of the most productive clam farms in our state. When net bans went into effect, the commercial fishermen of Cedar Key were forced to adapt. Aquaculture was born. Boats that were once used to pull up nets full of fish were transformed to manage the clam farm leases. But this was not the only change made in the area. The need for clean water became a key component to the survival of these farms.
Whether you chomp or tomahawk, there is no denying that the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an enormous benefit to our state. This is no different in Cedar Key. The research done on keeping the water clean inspired a huge innovation to the island’s human waste management system. As with most of the state, septic tanks were a part of every household. But even trace amounts of undesirable material can upset the fragile ecosystem. A community effort led to doing away with all septic tanks and building a waste management facility; an accomplishment that the natives are very proud of. That’s not the only innovation UF/IFAS is a part of.
Coastal erosion is a natural part of how our world works. As waves crash on the shoreline, that shore changes over time. However, this does create a problem for those who enjoy their beach front houses. Seawalls seem to be the quick fix, but they too have their issues and are most certainly not natural. This leads to another opportunity for innovation. UF/IFAS has outdone themselves again by recreating the natural marsh/beach shoreline that is naturally found in the area but with one small change; these beaches are engineered in a way that the shape of them holds together better as the waves abuse continues. This project is still fairly new, so I encourage you to take interest in the work being done there.
Merriam-Webster defines innovation as “a new idea, method, or device”. As I reflect on my time in the third seminar, as well as these past few months of COVID-19 living, I see this word to have more weight than ever. Our world is changing rapidly. The Marine Corps has a saying “adapt and overcome”. With each speaker I felt challenged; challenged to be creative, to adapt, and to innovate. I offer that same challenge to you. In whatever your daily life consists of, whether it be professional or personal, be creative, adapt, and innovate.Read More
“It’s good to find common ground with people. When you find common ground and you see things from other people’s perspective, you can have a voice in their lives, you can have an influence.”
I truly believe that now more than ever in our country we can all agree that there is a divide between people like never before. To notice this divide you only need to spend five minutes watching the news or a few scrolls on social media and it can easily be found. From this Wedgworth seminar, one of the most repeated statements I heard was to “find your common ground.”
The need to find common ground before the conversation even begins is one of the most important things that we can do to be a better advocate for our industries and livelihoods. Finding something in common with the “opponent” is the best way to be able to have an open conversation about each other’s differing viewpoints while still actually listening to them.
The perfect example that I took away for finding the common ground was between Ms. Sue Colson, Cedar Key Vice Mayor and the Mayor of Cedar Key, Heath Davis. Mayor Davis said that he and Ms. Colson disagree on just about everything that you can imagine but they both have the same common ground of their love for their community and for Cedar Key. It allows them to overcome their difference and get their job done for their community. Without finding common ground their differences in opinions could easily tear their community apart and nothing would be able to be accomplished.
Common ground in their community has allowed Cedar Key to be completely septic free to ensure the safety of the water quality. This action was actually taken over 20 years ago because many knew the importance that clean water was going to have for the survival of the clamming industry that is so vital for Cedar Key. At the time, even 20 years ago there was great differing of opinions but they knew for the survival of their clamming industry they needed to take steps to protect it and the protection of the clamming industry was the common ground.
Dr. Michael Lauzardo, the Director of UF Health’s Screen, Test, and Protect initiative in the Division of Infection Diseases and Global Medicine spoke about the impacts that COVID-19 has had on the University of Florida Campus and the decisions that he has had to make as a leader while in his position. He explained that he has been making tough decisions that sometimes have not been very popular. Many of those in disagreement let him know that they were extremely unhappy with his decisions. He went on to explain that he could have just easily deleted those emails and phone calls from irate parents and students and let it smolder. But instead he had to see it from their perspective: sending an 18-year-old off to a University for the first time during a health pandemic. This was the way that he found his common ground to get across the line. Taking a pause to put himself in their shoes and understand where and why they have a differing opinion. To respond to those concerned parents and students and explain why he made the decisions that he did.
He explained that it was important to him to find the common ground to be able to have the conversation. The differing of sides along with the fact that “fear and anxiety don’t like reasoning” was important for him to try and understand. He explained it best by stating that people can get all the information they want but it is the knowledge and wisdom to interpret that information. Finding the common ground to help someone gain the wisdom and interpret the information to understand it and to use it is the only way that the influence can happen.
I believe that in order for us to become better advocates for ourselves, families, business, and the industries we represent now it is more important than ever to find that common ground. Whether it be with the neighbor across the street with an opposing political sign or the activist who shows up to every community meeting speaking out against agriculture. Finding the common ground that we have with our opponent is the only way we will hopefully be successful in having a positive impact in their lives and educating them about the importance of our industry. Through the common ground we can hopefully have a positive influence.Read More
We are in a time of turmoil and of hardships. A period in this country where the very act of going out has become a stress-inducing activity. In a time where at any moment you could be out of a job or out of a basic necessity such as food. In a time like this we all need to take the time and sharpen our axe. This phrase was used during our seminar to describe taking time out of our days to sharpen our skills and reflect on the things we have learned to have a sharper and clearer mind, focused on what needs to be done. The idea of sharpening leant itself to the idea of hardiness. Hardiness in relation to leadership can be described as way to facilitate resilience and creativity under stress. What better attitude to focus on during one of the most stressful times in recent history? During our Wedgworth Leadership Institute’s seminar III, Dr. Elio Chiarelli gave us a very insightful look into hardiness and how this attitude can truly make a difference in our business, communities, and personal life. As he discussed the idea of hardiness, I could not help but see the connection to the community of Cedar Key and how they have taken up the attitude of hardiness to innovate and change their way of life during a time of stress and challenge.
Cedar Key residents had a history of net fishing to provide for their families. Overnight the ban on using nets eradicated the number one job creator the small coastal community had. However, despite the challenges and stress of the loss of their main economic driving force, they were able to rise up and innovate. With the help of Ms. Leslie Sturmer, the residents were able to see the opportunities through defeat and innovate a new industry for the community. The new industry they created for their community was a venture in aquaculture raising clams. Although it took many years, farm raised clams are now a huge economic driving force for the small coastal community. Many of the former net fisherman switched over to the foreign-yet-similar job of raising clams. It allowed them to continue utilizing the ocean they loved, while still being able to provide for their families. This switch also allowed many other opportunities to appear in the area such as local seamstresses making the clam mesh bags they use to raise the clams in. They showed that through stress and challenges, innovation can take root and something great can grow out of it.
While learning about the adversity and stress the fishermen of Cedar Key overcame, I couldn’t help but understand consider the hardiness that was demonstrated in order to survive. In our own industry we can take these lessons and apply them. How many times does adversity or stress make its way into agriculture? I personally can’t think of a single season where something didn’t go wrong or stress didn’t mount an unrelenting attack. Agriculture will always be a stressful industry with both; weather you can’t control and outside pressures constantly working against you. In an industry such as ours we must adopt this attitude of hardiness to ensure the success of our own business and communities. We must turn stress to our advantage and seek the opportunities that arise in these circumstances. Dr. Chiarelli mentioned that truly left an impression on me: we must have the attitude that we have control even when we do not. The belief that our effort will positively influence the outcome even if it can’t. This idea truly emphasizes that a positive mental attitude can help you see your way through even the darkest of times. As we all take time to sharpen our axes we should apply hardiness as a whetstone that will make them hack just a little better through even the thickest of tree trunks.Read More
This July’s session hit on a topic which happens to be receiving a lot of attention from all media channels: racial injustice.
Our Director Christy Chiarelli started the session off by welcoming us and giving us a quick rundown on the layout for the session. We broke into small groups to check-in with other classmates to see how they are doing and if anyone had any personal growth from their experience with our new norm. A common theme was spending time with family that would not happen if we were not on this schedule. Before our speaker Dr. Suarez took the stage, Christy briefly spoke to the class about leaders constantly learning. One statement she said that stood out was, “learners aren’t always leaders but leaders are always learners”.
Learners aren’t always leaders but leaders are always learners.
Dr. Suarez spoke about racism and how this is a topic that can make people extremely uncomfortable when having to speak about it.
She asked for us to watch a TED Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “The Danger of a Single Story”, before the start of the session. In this TED Talk, she does a great job of explaining how we as a society can have one perspective of a group that we gather from stories we are told by others. We go on believing these stories until we actually listen to another side of them or experience it for ourselves.
We learned about social identities and the Identity Wheel:
- Gives us a basic sense of who one is
- One’s beliefs and values
- Conscious and unconscious
- Socio-Economic Status
- Particular Activities
- Sports, education, farming, etc.
We all know what the golden rule is, but some were caught off guard when Dr. Suarez mentioned the platinum rule (me being one of them):
- The platinum rule is: Do unto others as they would like to have you do unto them.
- This rule makes you take a step back and think
We also learned about equality and how it does not mean equal:
- Equal means to get the exact same
- This is assuming everyone starts from the same place and needs the same help. Which is not always true
- Equity is giving everyone what they need to be successful
Dr. Suarez also spoke about microaggressions which are subtle, verbal, and nonverbal slights/insults often automatically and unconsciously directed towards a particular person because of their group identity. A couple of common microaggressions are:
- “No, really, where are you from?”
- “You don’t even sound like you’re from another country.”
She gave a list of 10 things to remember when things get tough:
- Intent vs. Impact
- Do not start naming all the people of color we know
- Sit in our uncomfortably
- Acknowledge when you made a mistake
- Be vulnerable
- It is ok to admit that we do not know something
- Do the work
The most important one is to LISTEN, which is why it is listed three times.
Dr. Suarez mentioned in her presentation, “saying nothing is still say something, and that not saying something could be more harmful.”
Don’t let others think you agree with what is being said because you aren’t say anything that combats that assumption.Read More
In the last several months, WLI conducted an alumni needs assessment in order to determine how best to serve WLI alumni in terms of continuing education and involvement opportunities.
59 survey responses were analyzed, generating an outline for how we will continue to engage our program alumni. When asked “Do you value leadership development at this stage in your career?” all question respondents answered yes. This illustrates the commitment to personal development WLI alumni exhibit, and is a poignant reminder of the importance of providing ample development opportunities to our alumni.
Areas including leading through uncertainty, priorities and decision making as a leader, mental health, preparing an organization for crisis, and identifying innovation opportunities were identified as having the greatest need for continued development.
Alumni reported that in-person workshops are preferential for programming, followed by webinars.
Furthermore, responses indicated that our alumni find tremendous value in new experiences, diverse perspectives, and self-discovery.
In order to meet the needs of WLI alumni, we aim to offer programming with synchronous and asynchronous components. For example, posting written summaries of in-person events online or recording live webinars so they can be revisited on-demand.
With the insights gained from this survey, we look forward to offering engaging opportunities which will better serve WLI alumni.Read More
When the world is chaotic, leadership becomes even more challenging. As we lead throughout these difficult times, we may find ourselves growing weary and becoming unsure of how we will continue on. When these doubts cloud our thoughts, we can center ourselves by remembering why we chose to lead in the first place. It is important to find time to reflect and remember our WHY, because when we are driven by a purpose our capacity for leadership is multiplied.
Simon Sinek is the leadership expert and bestselling author behind our theme of “Revisiting Your WHY” this month. Sinek is best known for popularizing the concept of WHY, which he described in his viral 2009 TED Talk. Sinek has spent years studying the people and organizations that make the greatest and longest lasting impact in the world. He has devoted his life to sharing his thinking in order to help leaders and organizations inspire action.
This month, we are sharing TED talks, podcasts, and articles revolving around Simon Sinek’s concept of WHY. While exploring these resources you will be encouraged to consider what drives you, what gets you out of bed each morning, and why you have decided to lead. This is our personal WHY. We hope that these resources aid in the process of revisiting your WHY and remind you why you choose to lead.
If you prefer to read:
(5 minute read) This Forbes article discusses four ways purpose-driven companies are out performing their competitors amidst Covid-19. Read Now
(15 minute read) This Harvard Business Review article presents a step-by-step framework that leaders can use to identify their purpose and develop an impact plan to achieve concrete results.
If you prefer to listen:
TED Talk: Start With Why
Simon Sinek’s TED Talk “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action” is the third most-viewed TED video of all time. In this 20 minute video, Simon Sinek summarizes “The Golden Circle,” a framework which describes how great leaders and organizations distinguish themselves and inspire those around them.
Podcast: Coaching for Leaders Podcast featuring Simon Sinek
In this 40 minute episode of the Coaching for Leaders podcast, Simon Sinek discusses how purpose-driven leadership positively shapes organizations.
Podcast: Episode 107: Simon Sinek – Leadership: It Starts With Why
In this 30 minute episode of the Learning Leaders Show podcast, Simon Sinek discusses why we should lead and the necessity of courage in leadership.Read More
We’re already a couple months in to 2020 – how many of us have given up on our New Year resolutions? Most people bail on their ambitious goals for the year by the middle of February. Life happens, right? We probably already have a lot on our plate and trying to squeeze another hour out of the day to go to the gym seems literally impossible. I know I could use a few more hours of daylight each day and maybe even an additional day to the weekend. Then MAYBE I can get it all done.
Productivity and time management are crucial components of success, particularly in a leadership role. It can be overwhelming to think about “all of the things you need to think about” – the company you are responsible for, the projects you’re managing, the team you are leading, and the field that needs to be planted. Then there’s family time – dentist appointments, baseball games, dance lessons, and birthday parties (although I’m pretty good at making time for cake, though). Don’t forget the awesome two-year leadership development program we’re part of! Is work-life balance even possible?
This past seminar, we reflected a lot on resiliency and met a lot of productive people. I found myself thinking a lot about how these people can do it all. How are they managing the process of overcoming challenges and moving forward? How are they managing rapid growth? How are they managing complexities of policy and politics? How are they managing all of this with their personal lives, hobbies, and families?
Over the past couple of years, I’ve tried to find my own work-life balance (and by balance, I really mean try to find time to do it all). There’s no “one system” that you can pay a monthly subscription for that works for everyone. There are, however, an insane number of books discussing productivity and time management techniques. Here’s the kicker though: “reading more” is one of those resolutions that usually gets abandoned early on.
Below are some of the most helpful pieces of information I’ve found in my quest for 24+ hour days and 7+ day weeks. From books and blogs, I’ve developed my own system of productivity. Like most other things, it’s been a lot of trial and error. It’s still not perfect, but it gives me a chance to dream, think, and do. Here are some of the guiding principles that help me get it all done.
- Take advantage of procrastination. Wait, what? Yeah – that’s what I said too. I am a huge procrastinator. It’s natural to procrastinate – the mind is expressing a desire for curiosity and novelty. Instead of fighting it, learn to use it. Acknowledging and validating the urge to procrastinate actually trains your brain to see it as something neutral rather than a threat. This helps with your confidence to get it all done.
- Little habits lead to big impacts. I’m also one to dream up some pretty big goals, which usually require big changes. Big changes all at one time can be overwhelming. Break the changes up into smaller, bite-sized habits. Not only are the smaller changes in routine more palatable, they can also be more sustainable.
- Implement the 4:55 rule. At the end of each day, take a few minutes to think through the next day. If you’re a list maker, this is your chance to prioritize what has to be done and jot it down in your planner on tomorrow’s page.
- Find a method of organizing your projects, to-do lists, etc. This could be a fancy planner, little black notebook, or the calendar app on your phone. I would encourage you to try a couple of different options. I’ve noticed that as my workload changes, my preference to organize my lists and notes changes too. Right now, I’m using an app called Things.
- Give meditation a try. This is a new one for me and I’ve still got a lot to learn. However, making this a small habit everyday helps me to think clearer. It’s a good workout for the brain. I use an app called Headspace to guide me through this process every day.
While there’s no secret recipe for superhero-levels of productivity, there is definitely a major ingredient found in all systems and strategies: the word “no.” It’s just a really hard word to say. Saying “yes” to our coworkers, friends, and family is a lot easier. Because it’s a lot easier to say, we say it a lot more. Then our lists are out of control and whatever system we’ve invested in to help with our productivity or time management becomes overwhelming or inadequate. Saying “no” to one thing is actually saying “yes” to a lot of other things, including the items already on your to-do list, projects you’ve already committed to, and the things you are most passionate about.
Don’t give up on your resolutions just yet. Make the most out of each day.Read More