The Learning and Development Center

The Center for Excellence

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In this Issue

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Ronald Lewis, City Attorney, City of Houston Legal Department

This interview with Ronald Lewis, City Attorney, City of Houston Legal Department, was conducted and condensed by Mahogany Johnson.

On any given day, the City of Houston’s 183-member legal department is busy handling litigation, city laws and regulations, and issuing legal opinions. Leading that team is City Attorney Ronald Lewis, whose office serves as counsel to Mayor Sylvester Turner and City Council members.

Under the direction of Mayor Turner, Ronald Lewis was appointed as city attorney, a position he’s held since May 2016.

Lewis had not previously served in government but has pursued public service as a volunteer, chairing the board of the social-service nonprofit Neighborhood Centers, and of public policy advocacy nonprofit Texas Appleseed, among other groups.

Lewis brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the City having spent 23 years at Baker Botts, before co-founding Marshall & Lewis LLP in 2006. Lewis joined Baker Botts in 1983 after graduating from Harvard Law School and, previously, Princeton University.

“I wanted a lawyer’s lawyer, someone highly respected who can relate well to me as well as City Council and the general public,” said Mayor Turner. “Ronald certainly fits this description. He is an outstanding lawyer with excellent credentials and the experience necessary to run the law firm that is part of City government.”

As we talk, he tells me what his plans are and how he intends to carry them out in his role as city attorney.

MMJ: You have been on the job since May. In that time, what have you learned about the culture at the City of Houston, and how does it differ from your previous roles?

RL: The City is operated by a diverse and friendly group of people. They care about Houston and its citizens and are willing to sacrifice for the good of the City. The diversity of City staff is unique in my personal experience.

MMJ: Mayor Turner described you as a ‘lawyer’s lawyer.” What does that mean to you, and how is that an advantageous characteristic in this role?

RL: Good question. Most experienced attorneys are confident in their judgment. I hope that the Mayor believes that I can and will add value to his decision making.

MMJ: You were a partner at Baker Botts, LLP for more than 20 years, and then you started your own firm in 2006. What drew you to make the transition from the private sector to the City?

RL: Houston faces great challenges. In this Mayor, it has a man willing to accept the burden. With citizenship comes the duty to accept the responsibility for our civic well-being. Inspired by our Mayor; I wanted to do my share.

MMJ: What are the greatest strengths and what are some opportunities for growth in the Legal Department’s day-to-day operations?

RL: Our practice areas are remarkably diverse. The breadth and depth of our practice is amazing, but our bench is not deep. As a result, every lawyer and member of our team has the opportunity to exercise responsibility for issues that matter and affect Houstonians. In so doing, they can challenge themselves to grow professionally.

MMJ: Going forward, what are some of your immediate and long-rage priorities for the Legal Department?

RL: We want to provide timely, responsive, and valuable legal services to the Mayor, Council, and our client departments. If we can do that, everything else will take care of itself.

MMJ: Name one thing that most employees and Houston residents may not know about what the Legal Department does for the City of Houston?

RL: One of my friends was surprised to learn that we have an intellectual property practice. Again, our practice areas are quite varied.

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What areas of your job do you find most difficult or want to improve?

Come and experience our Administrative Development Program (ADP) that will equip you with the tools, techniques, and behavioral skills you need to maximize your success! If you are looking to improve your skills in communication, technology, professionalism, and other areas, then this is the program for you.

ADP is our multi-track program consisting of 16 sessions designed to enhance and empower administrative effectiveness and efficiency.

Please note ADP is only available to administrative assistants and those who wish to be promoted to administrative assistant.

New track begins Monday, January 23, 2017. ADP courses are held weekly every Monday, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the LDC.

All registration requests can be sent to

For more information, please visit the TMS website:

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Strengthening Your Core (SYC) Program

Come and experience our Strengthening Your Core Program that focuses on eight behavioral factors that are commonly chosen as part of the HEAR plan. This program is designed to provide you with more in-depth training on the eight behavioral factors.

Participants will:

  • Gain further understanding of the behavioral factors and how they pertain to job performance
  • Learn the behavioral factors and their definitions
  • Be able to identify the metrics used by supervisors to rate each behavioral factor

New program begins Friday, February 3, 2017. SYC is held weekly every Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the LDC.

All registration requests can be sent to

For more information, please visit the TMS website:

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Highlights from the LDC's 2nd Annual Career Development Symposium

2nd Annual Career Development Symposium
The Learning and Development Center (LDC) hosted its 2nd Annual Career Development Symposium on Wednesday, November 9th. The annual open-house training event was available to all City employees and was held in collaboration with our strategic partners. The event was intended to assist employees on the road to career success by providing career tools, academic resources, and professional development opportunities to support the achievement of their future career goals.
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The Learning and Development Center Hosted its 4th and final Ask the Expert Panel Series discussion on Tuesday, November 15th on Workplace Behaviors: The Good, the Bad and the Taboo

Ask the Expert Panel Series is a unique organizational development (OD) intervention to address concerns presented by middle and senior-level managers from the 2014-2015 Leadership Institute Program (LIP)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 21, 2016

Houston, TX—The Learning and Development Center's Organization Development (OD) and Auxiliary Service team hosted the final session of the four-part Ask the Expert Panel Series entitled, Workplace Behaviors: The Good, the Bad and the Taboo. The panel featured David F. Cutler, Director, Houston Emergency Center; Donald J. Fleming, Senior Assistant City Attorney, City of Houston in the Labor, Employment & Civil Rights Section (LECR); Robin Curtis, Inspector General (OIG), Legal Department; Charlotte Lang Booker, J.D., Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer, Municipal Courts Department (MCD).

The panel discussion, which was complimentary and open to all City of Houston employees, took place Tuesday, November 15, from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Learning and Development Center (4501 Leeland Street, Houston, TX).

All panelists shared their experience and expertise on a range of topics including professionalism, confidentiality, ethical standards, and more. Donald Fleming shared with the audience his definition of professionalism and why it is our collective mission to remain professional and conduct City business. "Your appearance and the way you carry yourself says a lot about your state of mind," said Fleming.

Taking the floor, Robin Curtis noted the importance of engaging in regular communication, particularly communicating effectively with your employees and giving them autonomy. "Let people shine in their best functions," said Curtis.

Charlotte Booker highlighted reliability and how it is a significant part of professionalism. "Draw the line in the sand on what's acceptable for you and ask yourself if you are a reliable team player, said Booker.

The closing remarks were delivered by Kelly Shreck, Chief Learning Officer of the Learning and Development Center, who encouraged employees to attend future Ask the Expert Panel Series sessions. "The information I received today was a gift that will help me as a manager and employee. As managers and supervisors, we have to recognize the value that people bring to the organization and find ways to make our environments better."

About the LDC

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



Mahogany Johnson


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***Click on the following course title to register in the Talent Management System (TMS).***

Employee Learning Spotlight

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Featuring Karin Anderson: Administrative Supervisor for the Public Works & Engineering Department's Engineering and Construction Division

What is your role in the Public Works and Engineering Department?

Before taking on my current position with HITS as a Staff Analyst/Partner Accounts Manager, I was the administrative supervisor for Support Services Branch/ Engineering and Construction, and I served as a liaison between internal and external partners. My greatest responsibility for my team and me was to provide quality customer service to the citizens of Houston, the Department of Public Works and Engineering (PWE), and other departments within the City. I managed a team at the highest professional level that supported the Engineering and Construction Branch of the City of Houston's Infrastructure Capital Improvement Planned (CIP) Projects by utilizing efficient problem-solving techniques when investigating, resolving and tracking Mayor requests, Texas Public Information Act (TPIA) requests and any citizen’s concerns related to CIP. I also assisted in the development and implementation of inter-department procedures and policies. Due to my background in public safety, I also took on the role as the emergency management liaison for Engineering and Construction.

How has the Public Works and Engineering Department helped you in your career development?

The department offers a variety of training opportunities and adequate resources to all employees, including academic programs, leader development, career development, mandatory training, professional development, and technical skills training that support growth and room for expansion. I believe that the City takes great pride and understands the power of learning and the importance of providing opportunities that purposefully facilitate evolution.

Continuous education encourages essential skills that accentuate education inspiring employees to thrive in knowledge and expertise. All of our employees are provided with a momentum of tools and resources to further their skills needed for advancement. This investment displays to employees that they’re valued, respected, and that we have the power to change the future. City employees should visit the Talent Management System (TMS) for more information about any opportunities for career advancement and to enhance their knowledge.

What are a few career lessons you’ve learned thus far? (here, or elsewhere)

I have learned several lessons, but the following are some things that I’ve taken on over the years, helping me evaluate and re-evaluate my life and career:

  • Know that the world is open to you and “stuff matters less” when you love your work or what you do. Career happiness and fulfillment, I believe, comes from enjoying your work, and it has a big impact on your quality of life overall.
  • Fear is a natural reaction. Looking at it differently, it is only an indication that you’re on to something great, something interesting and different that’s worth exploring. Nothing stops you in your tracks like fear. That keep-me-up-at night feeling made me thoughtful. It kept me sharp and motivated. You should never be afraid of that feeling; it’s truly often how big career changes happen, and it’s part of being human.

What does true leadership mean to you?

Leadership to me means to be true and passionate. Values of good leadership are measured by how we act and not by what we say.

Leadership to me is more than some extravagant label. It has little to do with who you are. A great leader lives with integrity; meaning you should be congruent in words and in actions, honest, trustworthy, authentic, and compassionate. If you want to be a leader others wish to follow, you have to become the leader that you would follow. Always remember it’s about the people and not about themselves.

Listen more to them instead of doing all the talking. Your own actions inspire your members to believe in themselves and accelerate. You can lead others with your words and actions, earn your members’ trust, and inspire them to build their business and develop their skills.

Offer hope and inspiration. Decide today to be the leader that offers a positive experience, and make a great difference in someone's life. Help your team to plan for success, and help them map out a plan for action: a map to see which direction and steps to take is essential to achievement. It is impossible to know what direction to take and how to know when you have reached your goals without a plan. You have to decide where you are now in your life and where you want to be. This is what leaders do for their team.

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

With a natural aspiration to make a difference in the value of life provided to people and now as an employee to the citizens of Houston, it would be incredible to shadow Mayor Sylvester Turner, and see what it’s like to be in his shoes when applying and implementing changes that impact the lives of countless people who benefit from so many services and products delivered by our organization.

If you could witness any historical event, what would you want to see?

To be present at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin to see the fall of the Berlin Wall, November 11, 1989. I was born and raised in Dresden, East Germany, and fled the country with my mother and sister 3 days before the wall came down. I had several friends at my school in Dresden, East Germany, whose parents took the risk fleeing the DDR (former East Germany) with their kids, and they were killed as they tried to cross the Berlin Wall or other unsuccessful attempts to escape.

What’s your motto, personal mantra?

There are a few mottos that I live by including:

“It takes courage to push yourself to places that you have never been before…to test your limits…to break through barriers”

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

“Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.”

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”

Be happy, embrace new experiences, be who you are ,and be kind and responsible for yourself and others.

Favorite line from a movie?

"Smile, it enhances your face value." -Truvy (Dolly Parton) in ‘Steel Magnolias’

Upcoming Industry Webinars & Events

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Building Sustainable and Scalable Mentoring Programs

How do you build a mentoring program that stands the test of time? Focus on the sustained learning relationships of mentors and learners. Mentoring relationships create opportunities for applying and testing new skills and knowledge over time, which creates a relatively large potential for increased and retained performance improvement.

In this webcast, we will share practical steps to building a mentoring program that is sustainable as a long-term development solution and also scalable to larger audiences. You will walk away with actionable best practices and tools based on the industry’s only model for developing mentoring programs. Register now to discover how to create sustainable and scalable mentoring programs!

Topic: Building Sustainable and Scalable Mentoring Programs

Date: Monday, November 21, 2016

Time: 2:00 p.m. EST


Achieving Blended Learning Success With Bite-Sized Videos

People forget 90 percent of what they learn each day; information tends to go in one ear and right out the other. So how do you ensure that your learners are taking away more than 10 percent of your e-learning content?

In this webcast, you’ll learn how Orchard Supply Hardware uses a blended learning approach to engage its learners. Using microlearning videos, handouts, and physical conversations, Orchard Supply Hardware creates content that resonates with its learners and eliminates noise.

You’ll learn:

  • how to create effective microlearning videos simply and quickly
  • how to incorporate other mediums with video to reinforce taught concepts
  • the best ways to look at the whole project from start to finish and how to eliminate excess noise.

Topic: Achieving Blended Learning Success With Bite-Sized Videos

Date: Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Time: 2:00 p.m. EST


Optimize Your Resume!

It's always wise to have your resume up-to-date. If you haven't looked for a job in a while, you may find that your resume looks dated and doesn't work well for online applications. Perhaps you're thinking about a career change and want to present yourself in a different light. Whatever your resume challenge, this webcast can help you solve it! Resume expert and career coach Lakeisha Mathews will answer questions such as:

  • What should a modern, professional resume look like?
  • How do I format my resume for online applications?
  • What can I do to highlight older experience on my resume?
  • How can I present myself if I want to make a career change?
  • What do you do if you have limited paid experience using a skill, but have employed that skill as a volunteer?

When you register for the webcast, be sure to provide a question that you would like the presenter to answer.

Topic: Optimize Your Resume!

Date: Thursday, December 01, 2016

Time: 1:00 p.m. EST


The Democratization of Learning and Development

The future of learning and development (L&D) is already here. This new reality includes workers and their managers sharing more of the responsibility than you might be used to. That doesn’t mean your L&D organization, practices, and tools are obsolete—they still play an important role. But they do need to evolve. These days, the most successful chief learning officers do more than just supply learning. They also enable their workers to take learning into their own hands.

Join this webcast to explore:

  • Why yesterday’s approaches to L&D are no longer meeting today’s demands
  • What progressive organizations are doing differently to build more agile and responsive L&D functions
  • Suggestions for ways you can adapt your strategy, organization, and toolkit so you’re ready for this democratic future.

Topic: The Democratization of Learning and Development

Date: Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Time: 2:00 p.m. EST


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Research Spotlight: Training By the Numbers

Training is often one of an organization’s biggest budget line items. With business needs changing quickly and technology advancing even faster, companies are constantly reevaluating how they spend their training dollars. It can also be difficult to determine just how big the training function should be related to a company’s size and the industry in which they operate.

Join David Wentworth, Principal Learning Analyst with Brandon Hall Group, and Claude Werder, VP of Research Operations with Brandon Hall Group, as they review the results of Brandon Hall Group’s 2016 Training Benchmarking Study – a comprehensive look at the level of resources organization are devoting to learning, and how they are using them.

Discussion topics include:

  • Learning budgets
  • Per-learner spending
  • Use of learning modalities
  • Internal vs external resources
  • Content development

Topic: Research Spotlight: Training By the Numbers

Date: Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Time: 12:00 p.m. CST


Research Spotlight: The Essentials of Effective Leadership Development

Each year, Leadership Development sits atop the list of Human Capital Management priorities – and disappointments. Less than 40% of organizations participating in Brandon Hall Group’s 2016 Leadership Development research say their LD programs are effective, even while they plan to invest more time and money in 2017.

So why does Leadership Development have such a dysfunctional relationship between investment and success?

The answer can be summed up in one word – strategy. But the truth is much more complicated than that. Join us for a special Research Spotlight Webinar Dec. 14 as Brandon Hall Group’s Claude Werder, VP of Research Operations, and Chief Strategy Officer Michael Rochelle explore the reasons behind – and some remedies for – the plight of Leadership Development.

You’ll leave the webinar understanding several essentials of effective Leadership Development, including the:

  • Importance of a mature strategy that links LD objectives to business goals.
  • Critical elements of an effective LD strategy
  • Importance of measuring leadership effectiveness in terms of business objectives and financial performance rather than simply skills improvement.
  • Most effective learning modalities in Leadership Development
  • Positive – and negative – impacts of corporate culture on LD effectiveness.

Topic: Research Spotlight: The Essentials of Effective Leadership Development

Date: Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Time: 1:00 p.m. CST


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
  • Lifelong learning opportunities that will prepare employees for life and work in an increasingly technological society

Facility Features

The LDC is a two-story, 54,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility featuring:

  • An auditorium capable of seating 150 with fold-down desktops
  • Instructor computers connected to HD projectors and the Internet
  • 170 available campus parking spaces
  • Break-room area with microwaves and refrigerators
  • Welcoming lobby area
  • Open atrium for al fresco activities

Internal & External Room Rental Request Forms

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The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness

Are you above average? Is your child an A student? Is your employee an introvert or an extrovert? Every day we are measured against the yardstick of averages, judged according to how closely we come to it or how far we deviate from it.

The assumption that metrics comparing us to an average—like GPAs, personality test results, and performance review ratings—reveal something meaningful about our potential is so ingrained in our consciousness that we don’t even question it. That assumption, says Harvard’s Todd Rose, is spectacularly—and scientifically—wrong.

In The End of Average, Rose, a rising star in the new field of the science of the individual shows that no one is average. Not you. Not your kids. Not your employees. This isn’t hollow sloganeering—it’s a mathematical fact with enormous practical consequences. But while we know people learn and develop in distinctive ways, these unique patterns of behaviors are lost in our schools and businesses which have been designed around the mythical “average person.” This average-size-fits-all model ignores our differences and fails at recognizing talent. It’s time to change it.

Weaving science, history, and his personal experiences as a high school dropout, Rose offers a powerful alternative to understanding individuals through averages: the three principles of individuality. The jaggedness principle (talent is always jagged), the context principle (traits are a myth), and the pathways principle (we all walk the road less traveled) help us understand our true uniqueness—and that of others—and how to take full advantage of individuality to gain an edge in life.

Read this powerful manifesto in the ranks of Drive, Quiet, and Mindset—and you won’t see averages or talent in the same way again.

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Fact Check:

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*Opinions expressed in interview statements and messages from featured articles are not necessarily the views of the staff of the LDC or employees of the City of Houston.

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