The Learning and Development Center

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In this Issue

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Featuring Neal Rackleff, Housing and Community Development Director (HCDD) for the City of Houston

This interview with Neal Rackleff, Housing and Community Development Director for the City of Houston, was conducted and condensed by Mahogany Johnson.

MMJ: What is your vision for the future of your department?

NR: Our vision is to serve as many Houstonians as we can and as efficiently as we can. The two major things that I consider as the Director of the Housing and Community Development Department are 1) to stay focused on who we ultimately serve. Those are the people of Houston with a low to moderate income who need help. We are given stewardship over the funds to assist them and I view that as a sacred stewardship. It’s critically important that we are as efficient as humanly possible in the way we serve folks so that we can serve as many as possible. The other point that is a guiding principle for me is 2) to focus on our department and building a team that can successfully achieve the objectives that we’re pursuing in a very complex, regulatory and political environment. One of the things that we have striven for is trust and transparency in terms of dealing with the public. I believe that in the past it was unclear where the funding was that we were responsible for and how much of it there was. We’ve become highly transparent, and we share information about how our funds are spent with everyone who wants to learn about it. We publish that data on our website. We hold public meetings and forums, and we work actively to be extremely transparent. I think that increases trust with the communities that we serve.

MMJ: As Houston prepares to host Super Bowl LI next year, the city is undergoing numerous improvements. What is your department doing to improve the visual character of the City of Houston?

NR: Most of the funds that we spend must be utilized to serve families who are low and moderate income. A lot of those funds have to be in census tracks or areas where there are low and moderate income people, but we think it’s critically important that the same kind of aesthetic improvements that higher income neighborhoods have are found in Houston areas with limited resources. For example, we’re in the process of building approximately 275 single family homes that belong to people of low to moderate income whose homes were damaged in Hurricane Ike. This initiative is for people who are successful applicants in that program. We’re able to either substantially renovate their home or rebuild them a brand new home. We’ve found that over time it almost always makes more sense to just rebuild a new home because often these are 75 to 100 year old homes. It’s usually best for the family to begin anew; that way they get a better, safer home and it’s better for the environment in that there’s now a brand new home in that community. Rebuilding homes is a large part of what we’re doing to increase the aesthetics of the City of Houston. We’re also conducting an extensive community revitalization effort that produces high quality affordable housing and goes beyond to other elements of the community. We’ve gone through a very thorough process looking at market data and demographic data, and we’ve conducted analysis to find out what communities in Houston are those where we can best strategically use our limited resources to achieve revitalization. We received $178 million in the second round of Hurricane Ike federal recovery funding, and we’re using those funds in a targeted way. Typically, in the past, when we received those kinds of resources they were broadly distributed all over the city. The problem is that Houston is so large that if you spread the resources too broadly, you’ll end up with little result, whereas if you concentrate those resources, you’ll end up with impactful revitalization efforts.

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MMJ: Some question the possibility of urban revitalization without gentrification. Please share some of the latest housing and community development initiatives taking place within your department with regard to revitalization and residential mixed-use developments.

NR: We have four major initiatives which are targeted revitalization, homelessness, community economic development and public services. We took a retroactive look at how we have allocated our dollars for these initiatives over time. Almost $700 million went into the different initiatives since 2010, approximately $178 million of which was federal disaster recovery funds from Hurricane Ike. In our multi-family program, we created 10,554 units of affordable housing in Houston. To do that, we invested almost $284 million into projects where private developers added $730 million. That’s over $1 billion we’ve helped add to the Houston economy. So when people ask, “Can you stem the tide of gentrification or displacement due to gentrification?” The answer is yes, but it takes resources and you must be strategic in where you place them.

We are targeting our resources into community revitalization areas, which I’ll refer to as our CRAs, which were selected through an extensive public engagement process. These CRAs include the Fifth Ward area, Near Northside and the Old Spanish Trail (OST)/South Union neighborhood. In each of those CRAs, we’re building or rebuilding a lot of single family homes. We’re building high-quality multi-family homes as well. An example of that is the Village at Palm Center development that is currently under construction in the OST area. We engaged in a public-private partnership with a developer who bought the old King’s Best flea market and demolished it, eliminating blight. They are building a beautiful mixed-use community with 222 units, including apartments and townhomes, and it has about 15,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor. Most of that will be affordable housing and some will be market rate. It’s located across the street from the Palm Center and the Houston Texans YMCA. Cattycorner to it, there is a new City of Houston library under construction. The OST Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) has funded that library, but we helped the TIRZ by putting $3 million into a street infrastructure project that the TIRZ was undertaking on Dowling Street parallel to Emancipation Park. That allowed the TIRZ to free up resources so they could put money towards the library.

All of our CRAs are gentrifying. Land prices are increasing and low to moderate income residents, to varying degrees, are pressured by higher rents or higher taxes if they are homeowners. The affordable homes and apartments we’re building are helping residents avoid displacement due to gentrification. In the OST neighborhood, the Village of Palm Center is adding high quality affordable housing that will remain affordable for the next 20-40 years. In the Near Northside, we have two mixed-income developments, Hardy Yards and Avenue Station, which will add 418 units, 234 of which will be affordable. Avenue Station, which is a reconstruction of a vacant office property, will also be eliminating blight. In the Greater Fifth Ward, we are helping to renovate the 284-unit Cleme Manor apartment community, which had become a serious crime problem for the neighborhood and is now under new ownership that has turned it around. Plus, we are working with a developer that will be building clusters of single-family homes, town homes and duplexes in the Fifth Ward. These 164 rental units will be centrally managed and maintained similar to multifamily properties.

When we help people, we want to help in a way that recognizes the worth and dignity of every individual that we serve. For example, when we build a single-family home, we want it to be beautiful aesthetically and architecturally. We want it to be an improvement to the community where it is, but also blend into the community’s character. In most disaster recovery programs, you get a few home designs that are boxy and standard looking. I wanted to ensure that 30 years from now when someone is driving down the street, they’re able to acknowledge a beautiful home that the City of Houston contributed to the neighborhood.

For our disaster recovery single-family home program, we brought in a Dallas architectural firm called BC Workshop that focuses on lower-income communities. They conducted a design charrette where we included families from targeted neighborhoods who were applicants in the program. The families sat down with 16 architects who asked very specific questions such as, “How do you use your backyard?” and “What architectural motifs in your community are important to you?” The architects then left and later returned to showcase a gallery that featured 26 different designs. The program participants were able to vote in real time on the designs. Of course, it took a little more effort and time on our part to complete, but the response we received from families participating in the program was profoundly heartwarming. The homes turned out beautifully because they were designed to reflect themes from the neighborhood where they exist and the preferences of the people who will be living in them.

MMJ: According to a recent Houston Chronicle article, the city council later this year will consider allotting $3 million for the land acquisition and pre-development costs that will go towards the development of affordable housing. Please share your insights on how this project will materialize?

NR: This was just one of a number of projects in our pipeline. Currently, we’re working on five multi-family affordable housing developments where we’re contributing $52.4 million and leveraging $168 million in total investment. We’re engaged in revitalization efforts that are probably broader and deeper and more targeted than anything the City of Houston has previously undertaken in partnership with the development community.

Another big initiative that we’ve undertaken is alleviating homelessness. Our department has infused $102 million into our homeless initiatives: $62 million in construction of permanent supportive housing for the homeless and $40 million in services. That’s just our department’s investment. This has been a unified and cooperative joint effort between the City of Houston, the Houston Housing Authority, Harris County Housing Authority, Harris County Community Services Department and a number of partners from both the non-profit and for-profit communities.

The results have been pretty remarkable. Chronic homelessness in Houston has dropped 70% since 2011; overall homelessness is down 46%; and downtown homelessness has dropped by 50%. We’ve generated over 2,500 units of permanent supportive housing, which means you provide a rental subsidy and social services to help address the physical, mental or behavioral issues that contribute to homelessness. In the past, shelters and homeless programs had zero tolerance rules that required the homeless to solve all of the problems that led to them living on the street, or they would get put on on the street again. That’s proven ineffective.

The new model is called “housing first,” and what we do is take the homeless from the street and immediately place them in an apartment without requiring them to get sober or drug-free. Once the person is in stable, safe housing, they can better address their addictions, mental issues or physical health issues. And the supportive social services to help them are onsite, which has proven to be a highly successful model.

Houston and Harris County have received a lot of national attention for the good work that’s going on here. We have been integral in housing 2,744 chronically homeless individuals and 3,917 homeless veterans since 2011. In fact, we are the largest city in the country to effectively end veteran homelessness. Houston and New Orleans were recently recognized by President Obama as the first cities to achieve this milestone. What we mean when we say “effectively ending” homelessness is that if you’re a homeless veteran in Houston, there is a home available if you choose to take advantage of it.

The concept of “ending” homelessness can be confusing to the general public and not a very accurate statement because there will always be people who have lost their homes. Our goal is to have a system in place to rapidly rehouse anyone who is without a home. What Houston and other cities have found is that the faster you can get a newly displaced family back into housing by assisting them with deposits and rent, the lower the probability is that they will become chronically homeless. Rapid rehousing is something we put a lot of emphasis on because it’s the most effective way to avoid chronic homelessness.

While it sounds like it would be expensive to place the homeless in housing and cover the costs of their rent, for the chronically homeless we calculated that between the City of Houston and Harris County, we were spending about $103 million a year for things like jails, legal costs and emergency room services for the chronically homeless who continually cycle through the system. It’s incredibly expensive. Over a three-year period, we spent $102 million to develop the system for alleviating chronic homelessness, which is a far more sustainable and successful approach.

MMJ: How does the Housing and Community Development Department (HCDD) increase public awareness and what has the response been from citizens on how you inform them of your progress?

NR: HCDD makes a considerable effort to engage communities in need and forge relationships to include community leaders in the process as well as residents. When we identified our Community Revitalization Areas, we went through what I would consider an unprecedented community engagement process. We planned and hosted 13 community meetings attended by over 500 unduplicated participants. We asked participants to help us narrow our focus and find target areas that are strategic and where we can achieve comprehensive revitalization and racial integration, and avoid displacement due to gentrification. We had community meetings where members of the community showed us the areas of community they felt needed to be revitalized. Community members were encouraged to discuss problem areas within their communities, and we gleaned insight through that public participation process and included it in our request for proposals that we sent to the multi-family developers. We notified developers that we wanted their plans to be informed by what the community would like to see happen. An example of this is the Village at Palm Center, which I mentioned earlier. There was a blighted flea market on that site and people wanted it gone. Now, there’s beautiful housing under construction in that location, and it’s achieving the community’s objectives. We work really hard to engage and communicate with the communities that we’re serving in an effort to involve them in the process directly, but also achieve a result that they will feel ownership of and that will benefit their lives.

MMJ: What advice would you give to budding professionals looking to break into your field of work and what qualities do you look for in a potential candidate?

NR: I’m a lawyer, and the thing that I did that helped me most as a law student and aspiring professional was to talk to as many lawyers as I could and ask them what they liked and disliked about their job. I was interested in working for a governmental entity so I had conversations with lawyers who worked for the district attorney’s office, and it was very interesting to hear what they liked about their jobs. Then I spoke to people who worked at big law firms and most of them hated their work, which was bizarre because they were making so much money. I would study real estate development trends and there’s a lot of good information online that covers high-quality affordable housing and permanent supportive housing and the whole “housing first” movement and the homelessness world. There’s a lot of great information out there that you just need to dive into and figure out, but mainly I would say, talk to people who work in those fields you may be interested in and learn all you can from them.

MMJ: How do you get people on your team to live your leadership philosophy?

NR: Primarily, it’s by utilizing a servant leadership model. We serve families in Houston and when we remember and stay laser focused on that fact, it helps us to keep perspective – especially when dealing with a complex array of funding sources, with complex strings attached to them. I’m able to make sense of all that we do by focusing on the ultimate customer. Also, I think it’s important as a manager for the folks that work for and with you to know that you care about them and are interested in their growth and development as well. I want to see the good people in our department grow, develop and succeed in their current roles, and go on to bigger and better things in the future. I think if you approach people from that perspective, try to hire people that are smarter than you are, aren’t insecure or feel threatened by others around you, but instead become a cheerleader for those that succeed, great things can happen.

MMJ: Employees typically perform at their best when the environment is conducive to growth. What growth opportunities are available within your department?

NR: In this department, great things are happening. We’ve got a lot of dedicated staff members here who work hard to provide services for people in need. I’m constantly amazed at how bright, hardworking, and compassionate the folks are that are a part of our team. I view my role as being a cheerleader for the department, and I want to help the people who work in my department to succeed on every level. It’s been super gratifying to watch people in this department soar, grow, and develop in amazing ways. We work in a very intense political environment so it’s critical that the folks know that their leader has their back when political pressure is brought to bear on the organization. They want to know that you are not going to drop them in the grease to save your own skin, but that you will take responsibility for the good and the bad. As a leader if those whom you are attempting to lead don’t trust you, then they’re not going to follow you. You ought to do everything you can to encourage the growth of those who work with you, and you have to back them up. I decided early on in my career that if I made a mistake I was going to own up to it, and hopefully the mistakes are few and far between. In my career, I’ve found that being honest about my participation when things go wrong has contributed tremendously to my managers trusting me. If they know that you’re going to give them the straight scoop when there’s a problem, they’ll want to come to you again, but if you conceal things and don’t take ownership of a problem, that engenders distrust. Transparency has a lot to do with trust as well. People may not always like my decisions, but I don’t hide the ball and when I’m negotiating a real estate transaction or interacting with folks on the staff, you can see my train coming a mile down the track. You may not like the direction it’s going, but I try to be transparent and forthright with what we’re doing and that usually results in an in-kind response from people.

MMJ: Tell me about a time you realized you had the power to do something meaningful.

NR: I’ve had a lot of impactful experiences in this position, but one incident in particular was when a tornado hit an apartment complex called the Rockport in SW Houston. At the time, my wife and I were headed to church when Harry Hayes, the chief operating officer and solid waste director of the City of Houston, called me and told me about this situation and requested my help. So, my wife and I quickly took communion (because I felt like I needed the strength) and then we went to the location where we were faced with several hundred apartment units that had been damaged to the point that people couldn’t safely return to their homes. The manager and owner of the complex were nowhere to be found. This was a complex where most occupants were lower income and non-English speakers, so there was a language barrier. We had hundreds of people that needed a place to stay that night. The fire chief, Harry Hayes and one of the head HPD captains were present at the site, and then Harry Hayes turned to me and said, “I guess you’re in charge, Neal.” It was a beautiful thing to see all of the different departments of the city working together and it was remarkably smooth given how complex the situation was. Everyone involved did a phenomenal job and Houston METRO sent four buses to transport the people to the shelter that the Red Cross had established at the Chinese Community Center. There was so much good done that day and we helped the residents of the complex in dealing with the landlord who didn’t show up for several days. The biggest concerns for the residents were that they would have a bad mark placed on their credit and having to pay the rest of the month’s rent in spite of not being able to inhabit their units because the Fire Department and Public Works and Engineering had deemed them unsafe for human habitation. The city attorney’s office, then-Mayor Annise Parker’s office and I worked to ensure that the residents were not taken advantage of by the owner. It was great to see so many of the city’s resources brought together to help a group of people who were in such dire need.

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The Learning and Development Center in Partnership with Strayer University Will Host Growth Mindset Workshop April 12

This Organizational Development initiative was designed to help employees foster a growth mindset in the workplace environment and approach leadership with a growth mindset


Houston, TX—April 12, 2016The Learning and Development Center's Organization Development (OD) and Auxiliary Service team in partnership with Strayer University will host a Growth Mindset Workshop on Tuesday, April 12, 2016.

Conducted by Adviser, Coach, Mentor, and Academic Leader Dr. Charity S. Lanier, the workshop was designed to teach participants how to foster a growth mindset that creates optimal motivation, productivity and teamwork.

Goals and objectives of the workshop include:

  • Differentiate between a fixed mindset and growth mindset
  • Foster a growth mindset in the workplace environment
  • Approach leadership with a growth mindset

"Employees are eager for classes that can help them invest in their professional development, which is evident by the interest and increased enrollment expressed for more courses such as these," said Erika "EJ" Johnson, OD Specialist, LDC.

The professional development workshops offered by the Learning and Development Center can benefit those employees who are in various stages of their careers, no matter their occupation.

About Strayer Education, Inc.

Strayer Education, Inc. (NASDAQ: STRA) is an education services holding company that owns Strayer University. Strayer's mission is to make higher education achievable for working adults in today's economy. Strayer University is a proprietary institution of higher learning that offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in business administration, accounting, information technology, education, health services administration, public administration, and criminal justice to working adult students. The University includes Strayer@Work, which serves corporate clients by delivering the next generation of performance improvement and workforce development. Strayer University also offers an executive MBA online and corporate training program through its Jack Welch Management Institute. The University is committed to providing an education that prepares working adult students for advancement in their careers and professional lives. Founded in 1892, Strayer University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, 3624 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104. (267-284-5000). The Middle States Commission on Higher Education is an institutional accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

About the Learning and Development Center

The Learning and Development Center (LDC) is a strategic development and employee performance improvement organization that offers comprehensive training solutions that significantly affect performance and institutional outcomes. The LDC’s consultancy is comprised of an experienced team of professionals with the knowledge and capabilities to design and implement strategies that help our clients’ achieve their goals. The LDC’s primary focus is to provide transformational learning programs that enhance the skills, job competencies, and improve performance and overall satisfaction for the City of Houston's workforce.

For more information, please visit the LDC website at


Contact: Mahogany Johnson

Tel. 832-395-4895


***Click on the following course title to register in the Talent Management System (TMS).***
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Featuring Chrystal Boyce: Administrative Coordinator for the City of Houston's Housing and Community Development Department

MMJ: What is your role at the Housing and Community Development Department (HCDD)?

CB: As an Administrative Coordinator in the Real Estate Compliance division, I serve as the long-term monitoring expert for affordable housing and entitlement programs such as HOME, CDBG, BOND, TIRZ, DISR and NSP.

The essential functions of this position include: supervising long-term monitoring staff to ensure compliance with municipal, state and federal affordable housing requirements and evaluating entities selected to administer program activities compliance with ongoing income targeting and affordability requirements.

Our priority is to effectively administer federal program requirements to achieve the mission of the department as well as achieving HUD’s national objectives related to increasing the supply of affordable housing and improving the living conditions of low and moderate income households.

MMJ: In your opinion, what is the HCDD’s approach to learning and development, and how does this add to the ongoing discussion about the role of education in the development of city employees?

CB: HCDD provides adequate resources and an environment that supports the growth and development of employees. Management understands the power of learning and the importance of providing opportunities that strategically facilitate growth.

Continuous learning promotes essential skills that emphasize education which encourages employees to thrive in knowledge and expertise. City employees are provided with a wealth of tools and resources to further the skills needed for advancement. This investment shows employees that they’re valued, which indicates that monetary compensation isn’t the only form of reward.

MMJ: What has been your favorite project at HCDD?

CB: One of my greatest experiences involved a program audit by HUD that required the review of file records, policies and procedures that resulted in resolving past deficiencies and contributed towards mitigating any potential negative consequences for the department. My team and I worked diligently to ensure that our portfolio was not only in compliance, but also followed best practices. Aiding in the development of an efficiently flowing operation system in the Real Estate Compliance, portfolio compliance section has been extremely rewarding.

Currently, our actively increasing portfolio consists of 89 multi-family affordable housing properties with funding commitments totaling over $370 million. These properties have 14,869 total units and 6,681 assisted units, occupied by low-income households. I am proud of that fact that, through technical assistance trainings and compliance assessments, we have satisfactorily achieved a total compliance rate of 98%.

MMJ: If you could switch positions with anyone else within the City of Houston, whose job would you want and why?

CB: With a natural desire to make a difference in the quality of life provided to low-income families, serving as Director of the Housing and Community Development Department would be phenomenal. I admire that Director Rackleff is tapped into the pulse of current affordable housing trends and is at the forefront of implementing changes that impact the lives of Houstonians who benefit from the services and products provided by our department and garner national recognition.

It would be an amazing opportunity to channel my passion for affordable housing and community development into planning and directing activities that build inclusive and sustainable housing options for families in need, free from discrimination, while adhering to national objectives.

MMJ: What’s your motto or personal mantra?

CB: There are a few mantras that keep me focused and prepared for success including:

• “Champions take chances; you can’t be afraid to win!”

• “A lot of people who lost, lost in their minds first. People that win don’t let themselves be defined by time. You must define your time.”

• “Iron sharpens iron.”

• “Whereas skills can be learned, passion cannot be.”

• “The most successful isn’t always the best; it’s the hardest worker.”

Upcoming Industry Webinars & Events

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The Scarcity of Talent Affecting Your Company

As a result of the financial crisis of 2008 and the recession that followed, most companies now operate with fewer workers, relying more on automation and technology. At the time, reducing the workforce made sense; the supply of workers cost more than the demand for workers. But to successfully meet the talent demands of today’s business climate, companies need to maximize the effort of their remaining workers. Insightful talent development practitioners know that they need to leverage the ingenuity, creativity, and tribal knowledge of these workers.

For example, say your company reduced its talent supply by 20 percent during the economic downturn, leaving it with 80 percent talent demand in 2016. Consequently, your company may have reduced its talent supply of tribal knowledge by 80 percent because the 20 percent reduction of workers took tribal knowledge with them. This is called the law of diminishing returns effect and the Pareto principle.

To fill the talent demand, you must consider your remaining workers an off-balance sheet asset, your supply to shrink the skills gap. No longer is it acceptable to label your workers a liability or a burden. This is your only option for your company to expand in an age of limited talent.

During this webcast, you will be given insight into your 80/20 talent by addressing these questions:

  • Who is my talent?
  • How is my talent capitalized and utilized?
  • How is my talent providing business innovation?
  • How is my talent providing operating performance improvements?
  • How is my talent training others?

You’ll learn how to:

  • Shrink the widening skills gap.
  • Maximize your company’s talent.
  • Calculate earnings from talent.

Topic: The Scarcity of Talent Affecting Your Company

Date: Monday, April 04, 2016

Time: 2:00 PM EST


About the Speaker:

Carrie Van Daele

Carrie Van Daele is president and CEO of Van Daele & Associates (, which features her Train the Trainer System for trainers and subject matter experts. Her company was founded in 1996 as a training and development firm in the areas of train the trainer, continuous process improvements, and leadership. It is a Certified Woman-Owned Business.

Carrie is the author of 50 One-Minute Tips for Trainers. She is also a public speaker and a featured writer for several publications and organizations, such as the Association for Talent Development, Women of Achievement magazine, Quality Digest magazine, and FM & T magazine. Her degrees include an AA from Evangel Bible College, a BS from Indiana University, and an MSM from Indiana Wesleyan University.

Dear Managers: Heed the Signs of Stress in the Workplace

In today’s workplace, performance demands and stress are on the rise while relational support is in decline. As a result, many workers are struggling. The current state is contributing to an increase in anxiety, depression, and addiction. Research shows that nearly half of Americans have one or more addictions that have a negative effect on their physical or mental health. The current state also diminishes organizational health and performance, including lower employee engagement, employee wellness, and productivity. It doesn't have to be this way.

The best culture to help people cope with stress is a connection culture. Connection is defined as a bond based on shared identity, empathy, and understanding that moves individuals toward group-centered membership. One prominent neuroscientist describes connection as a superpower because it makes people more productive, healthier and happier.

In this session participants will learn:

  • how to identify over-stressed people in the workplace
  • how to maximize “challenge stress” and minimize “toxic stress”
  • 3 types of relational subcultures in every organization
  • 3 essential elements of a life-giving, high-performance connection culture
  • mini case studies and best practices of leading organizations.

Topic: Dear Managers: Heed the Signs of Stress in the Workplace

Date: Friday, April 08, 2016

Time: 1:00 PM EST


About the Speaker:

Michael Stallard

Michael Lee Stallard is president of E Pluribus Partners, a leadership training and consulting firm based in Greenwich, Connecticut. He speaks and teaches at a wide variety of organizations, including Foote, Cone & Belding; Google; Johnson & Johnson; MD Anderson Cancer Center; NASA; and Scotiabank. Michael is the primary author of the book Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team’s Passion, Creativity, and Productivity and the forthcoming book Connection Culture: The Competitive Advantage of Shared Identity, Empathy and Understanding. He writes the CEO Advisor column for and is a regular contributor to SmartBrief. Articles about his work have appeared in leadership periodicals worldwide. He is a faculty member of the Institute for Management Studies and Executive Development Partners. Prior to founding E Pluribus Partners, Michael was chief marketing officer for Morgan Stanley and Charles Schwab. Earlier in his career, he worked as an executive at Barclays and Texas Instruments. Michael has a BS in marketing from Illinois State University, an MBA from the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, and a JD from DePaul University College of Law.

How to Fix a Toxic Workplace (or Survive One) - Member/Subscriber Webinar

More than 70 million workers in the United States have reported that they either endure or actively hate their job. People are increasingly describing their workplace as a toxic environment, and the levels of negativity, pessimism, and cynicism are rising within many workplaces. Employees at every level believe their work environment is unhealthy, but they don’t know what to do to make things better.

Topic: How to Fix a Toxic Workplace (or Survive One)

Date: Monday, April 18, 2016

Time: 2:00 PM EST


About the Speaker:

Paul White

Paul White is a psychologist, author, speaker, and consultant who makes work relationships work. He has written articles for and been interviewed by Bloomberg Businessweek,,,, Fast Company,, Huffington Post LIVE, U.S. News & World Report, and Yahoo! Finance. Paul is the co-author of three books, including The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace (written with Gary Chapman, author of the number 1 New York Times bestseller The 5 Love Languages). The two also have developed a unique way for organizations to motivate employees that leads to increased job satisfaction, higher employee performance, and enhanced levels of trust. Their Motivating by Appreciation Inventory and Appreciation at Work training resources have been used by numerous corporations, colleges, universities, medical facilities, schools, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies.

Paul has improved numerous businesses, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations by helping them reduce the level of cynicism and negative communication within the workplace, eliminate supervisors’ frustration from not knowing how to effectively encourage their staff, and communicate authentic appreciation.

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Is Your Learning Technology Holding You Back?

We all know how quickly business moves, and technology changes even faster. Why then do so many organizations rely on outdated learning technology to support their business? Why do they use multiple LMSs from a variety of vendors across their global organization? According to Brandon Hall Group research, a “system that appears outdated” has been one of the top five reasons why companies want to switch their LMS providers for the past several years. Our research also indicates that large organizations, on average, have as many as four different LMSs.

Often, companies hold onto legacy technology or multiple systems for fear that a change would be too challenging and/or expensive. The truth is that old technology and extra systems may be costing your company far more time and money than you know.

Key takeaways include:

  • Challenges presented by outdated technology
  • Insights on business strategies for change
  • Best practices for selecting solutions for the future, not just today
  • A technology migration framework, highlighting both the risks and rewards in the migration process

Topic: Is Your Learning Technology Holding You Back?

Date: Thursday, Apr 21, 2016

Time: 12:00 p.m. CDT


About the Speaker:

David Wentworth, Principal Learning Analyst for Brandon Hall Group

Michelle Sullivan, Marketing Director for NetDimensions

Getting to know your Workforce via Predictive Analytics

Predictive analytics as applied to the workforce has mostly focused on determining when an employee might leave. However there are other uses of predictive analytics that can give insights to what will make employees more engaged, what affects their satisfaction, and how changes to policies might impact morale, for example.

Participants of this webinar will:

  • See how predictive analytics have been used in the past, and how they are changing
  • Learn the trends causing changes to how we use predictive analytics
  • Study the types of solutions that predictive analytics can offer today
  • Hear some examples of how real companies have used predictive technology to solve a business issue
  • Have a chance to talk about some of the issue people analytics will face in the future

Topic: Getting to know your Workforce via Predictive Analytics

Date: Tuesday, Apr 26, 2016

Time: 12:00 p.m. CDT


About the Speaker:

Cliff Stevenson, Principal Analyst for Workforce Management at the Brandon Hall Group

Brian Gaspar, Senior Director of Product Development and Innovation at SumTotal Systems

About the Learning and Development Center-The Center for Excellence

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At a glance...

The Learning and Development Center (LDC) develops and provides programs designed to empower and enhance employee skills and competencies for improved performance and job satisfaction. Our services also extend to external businesses, organizations, and communities.

Our mission is to build a world-class, responsive and results-oriented workforce by providing the following:

  • Learning that meets critical business goals and needs
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Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World

Originals is about how to champion new ideas and fight groupthink. Using surprising studies and stories spanning business, politics, sports, and entertainment, Grant explores how to recognize a good idea, speak up without getting silenced, build a coalition of allies, choose the right time to act, and manage fear and doubt; how parents and teachers can nurture originality in children; and how leaders can build cultures that welcome dissent.

“Originals is one of the most important and captivating books I have ever read, full of surprising and powerful ideas. It will not only change the way you see the world; it might just change the way you live your life. And it could very well inspire you to change your world.”

—Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of Lean In

“This extraordinary, wildly entertaining book sheds new light on the Age of Disruption. By debunking myths of success stories, challenging long-held beliefs of process, and finding commonality among those who are agents of profound change, Adam Grant gives us a powerful new perspective on not just our place in the world, but our potential to shake it up entirely.”

—JJ Abrams, director of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and co-creator and executive producer of Lost

“After launching hundreds of businesses—from airlines to trains, music to mobile, and now a spaceline—my biggest challenges and successes have come from convincing other people to see the world differently. Originals reveals how that can be done and will help you inspire creativity and change.”

—Sir Richard Branson, founder of The Virgin Group

"Reading Originals made me feel like I was seated across from Adam Grant at a dinner party, as one of my favorite thinkers thrilled me with his insights and his wonderfully new take on the world.”

—Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers and The Tipping Point

“Originals is a fascinating, eye-opening read that will help you not just recognize your own unique gifts, but find the strength to challenge conventional wisdom to bring them to life. Using surprising studies and riveting stories, Adam Grant brilliantly shows us how to champion new ideas, bust persistent myths that hold us back and change not only our lives, but our world.”

—Arianna Huffington, cofounder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, and author of Thrive

About The Author

Adam Grant is Wharton’s top-rated professor and a New York Times writer on work and psychology. He has been recognized as one of the world's 25 most influential management thinkers, HR’s most influential international thinkers, the world’s 40 best business professors under 40, and Malcolm Gladwell’s favorite thinkers. Previously, he was a record-setting advertising director, a junior Olympic springboard diver, and a professional magician.

Adam is the author of two New York Times bestselling books. Originals explores how individuals champion new ideas and leaders fight groupthink; it is a #1 national bestseller and one of Amazon's best books of February 2016. Give and Take examines why helping others drives our success, and was translated into 27 languages and named one of the best books of 2013 by Amazon, Apple, the Financial Times, and The Wall Street Journal—as well as one of Oprah's riveting reads and Harvard Business Review’s ideas that shaped management.

Adam earned his Ph.D. in organizational psychology from the University of Michigan, completing it in less than three years, and his B.A. from Harvard University, magna cum laude with highest honors and Phi Beta Kappa honors. He has more than 60 publications in leading management and psychology journals, and his pioneering studies have increased performance and reduced burnout among engineers and sales professionals, enhanced call center productivity, and motivated safety behaviors among doctors, nurses and lifeguards. His studies have been highlighted in bestselling books such as Quiet by Susan Cain, Drive and To Sell Is Human by Daniel Pink, Thrive by Arianna Huffington, A Path Appears by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, and David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell.

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