Fork vs. Spoon: Learning From The Next Generation

Written by:  Rachel Murdoch

As I sat at my computer plugging away, I received a text from my daughters care provider along with a picture. The picture was of my two-year old daughter and her friend sitting down to a warm bowl of Kraft mac n cheese. Adorable – this was their first official lunch date!

The care provider offered this caption along with a photo: “My daughter uses a fork with her mac n cheese. Your daughter uses a spoon. The girls are baffled by each other’s decision. Sorry for introducing this alternate worldview.”

This simple story from toddler land got my wheels turning and made me slow down and consider what I might be able to learn from the next generation though simple every day encounters such as this. After some careful consideration, here are my takeaways:

Lesson 1: Tool Selection

There are a lot of tools and resources available for the tasks in front of us. A lot of times I get stuck using the same tools over and over again. What other tools are out there and available? From forks and spoons to graphics and metrics, observing others and asking questions about their best tools may provide an opportunity to learn, grow and expand your toolkit.

QUESTION: How do you want to expand your toolkit?

SUGGESTION: Identify a few people in your network and inquire about the tools they use to accomplish the tasks you need to accomplish more efficiently.

Lesson 2: Broadening Perspectives

My perspective and worldview broadens when I take a posture of curiosity toward others and different ways of doing things. From the lunch table of toddlers to the conference table of executives, we must seek to be charmed by our friends and colleagues, open to learning from those we rub shoulders with every day.

QUESTION: In what ways/areas do you need a broadened perspective?

SUGGESTION: Initiate a conversation with someone who is very different from you and ask questions with the intention of seeking to learn and understand.

Lesson 3: Building Relationship

Relationship sits at the center of true and dynamic productivity. Working together. Sharing. Playing nicely. Communication. These are the basic toddler rules for having a fun play date! Conversely, Working against. Hoarding resources. Pushing. Poor communication. These are sure to end a play date and impair relationship in no time! From the sandbox to the executive suite, we must set building relationships at the center of our strategy for productivity and play.

QUESTION: What am I doing to build into the important relationships in my life and work?

SUGGESTION: Identify 2 key relationships that you want to improve and make a list of 3 things you can do to improve and strengthen the relationship.

In closing, this is what I know:  Sometimes the most profound learning opportunities are waiting right in front you, its just a matter of taking a little bit more time to slow down, notice and reflect.


Rachel Murdoch is a Project Facilitator with Snow Consulting Services.  She has extensive experience in Student Services, including housing and student compliance.  She has worked nationally, and brings her professional network and vast expertise to Snow Consulting to represent the Program Focus area with our clients. 


Process Matters: Turning Observations Into Action Steps

Written by:  Tracy Dunn

Observing Process

Have you ever watched someone doing something or better yet struggling with a task and thought to yourself, “why don’t they just…?”

I started going to a chiropractor this past year. The difficult thing for me is taking the time to schedule and go to appointments multiple times per week.  I like to observe people and observing people at the chiropractor’s office is no exception. I find it interesting to hear other’s tales of how they landed at the chiropractor- a fall, an accident, a temporary lapse in judgment doing something they knew was not going to turn out well. I also like observing the caregivers. I watch people check in and out at the front desk, sit in the waiting room and the chiropractors who care for everyone. The chiropractor in this scenario is a bit like a ringmaster at the circus.   In this area, we have two people in traction, in the center ring we have manual adjustments happening and over here we have education and exercises going on. Funny thought, right?

The chiropractors and front desk staff run a pretty tight ship. It is essential. While quality of care is certainly their primary goal, volume is how they make money. The appointments need to run smoothly and efficiently to effectively treat large numbers of patients in a day.

Back to my story. I was seeing the chiropractor multiple times per week and it was exhausting.  I kept going though because I was experiencing positive results. However, I saw the efficient, well-oiled machine break down when it came to me needing to schedule an appointment on a Saturday. Dreaded Saturdays when there was only one chiropractor and no one manning the front desk-chaos. At that point, lack of staff turned into longer wait times. The eloquent ringmaster-chiropractor literally did circles around himself, keeping track of who was where and what he was doing became quite challenging.

On Saturdays, I observed their efficient Monday – Friday system break down. When tasks are appointed and each team member does their part- efficiency is the result. Throw all those tasks to one person on the weekend and you might as well start the circus music! It just doesn’t work. That is why we stress the importance of communication and teamwork. It takes a plan and people to carry it out.

Improving Process

One day, as I watched my chiropractor pirouette around the office I said, “You know you need a process for Saturdays and I think I can help.” Nervously and a bit embarrassed, he looked at me knowing I was right. Frustrated, he replied “tell me, I need all the help I can get.”

It came down to preparation on Fridays. Patient files were pulled in order of their appointments and readied for the chiropractor. This allowed the chiropractor to stay in the exam area and not run back and forth to the front desk. It allowed more time to focus on the notes he needed to write for each patient. Lastly, I suggested when the front desk scheduled someone for Saturday that they also scheduled the next appointment at that time. This allowed more time to focus on the patient and smoothly get patients in and out.

Not long after implementing these changes, the chiropractor pulled me aside and said, “Hey, you know we used your ideas and it is working out for us!” I smiled and replied, “I know! I can tell because the circus has left town.”

Take Away

Why am I sharing this story?  I truly believe that as employers, we need to take time to evaluate our own processes. What is working? What is not? How can we streamline or utilize people more efficiently? Simple moments of pause and observation can greatly affect what and how we do our day to day work.  So in short, PROCESS MATTERS.  


Tracy Dunn is a Project Facilitator for Snow Consulting and has extensive experience working in the medical community with a special focus on sleep medicine, respiratory care, service coordination and compliance.  Ms. Dunn has experience in hospital clinical, off sight and in home care management and is known for her industry and product knowledge, business development and tenacity in providing outstanding service for the patients directly or indirectly under her care and supervision.  Ms. Dunn also works in the Sleep Center at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha, NE.


Staff Asset: Knowing Your Resources

Written by:  Tracy Dunn

Using All of the Pieces

Do you know who is working for you?  Do you know who you have hired? Do you really know what level of skills you have in your repertoire of staff? In this age of doing more with less, an inventory of staff and their skills could be quite helpful. All companies are looking for more resources without additional expenses. Smaller companies are more used to doing more with less and may not have the monetary resources to hire more staff to acquire certain resources or skill sets. Larger companies may also error towards hiring new staff to acquire new skill sets or resources.

Often, I see people in place who are underutilized in their area or others for that matter. By doing inventory on who your people are and what education, background and skill sets they have, it will be much easier to find the right person for the right task. Employers need to reflect more on the resources they currently have or who they may be able to develop for a certain position or task. In so doing, they develop and invest in present employees while saving money hiring and training new employees.

Practical Examples

Example 1:  Certain staff may be uncomfortable with utilizing critical thinking skills maybe because they don’t have to use those skills regularly or they are not empowered to do so. Empowering and encouraging staff to utilize critical thinking skills to make decisions during their work day can only increase skill levels, job satisfaction and professional growth and development.

Example 2:  For the times when you are looking for staff with certain degrees or backgrounds with a specific area of expertise, know that you cannot know these things unless you talk with and listen to your employees. Employers should have in depth conversations with their employees to gain these insights and learn more about their resources.

Personal Experience

Often times I hear management discuss what is needed and how to get something implemented. Often, these talks happen without any consideration of who is in the room and the talents they already possess but are not utilized. Understandably, this can cause confusion and misunderstanding among employees. They may wonder if their employer even knows who they are, what they currently do or what they could do in the future.

I remember a time when my manager was looking at a copy of my degree and commented that I attended the same college as two other staff members. What surprised me is that she knew where the other two employees had graduated from. This was amazing as it gave the three of us another common bond.

Simple Steps & Significant Rewards

Learn who is working for you. What education or background do your employees have? What are their interests? Wouldn’t it be nice when you have a specific need to fill to be able to turn to your existing pool of people and promote or develop a skill they already possess?

The reward is twofold. First, is to develop existing employees and show current staff that you are invested in their professional growth. Secondly, when you utilize an existing employee to fill a need, you don’t have to start from scratch. They already know the mission and values of the company. Developing current employees allows employers to get to the current problem or project at hand more expeditiously.

Tracy Dunn is a Project Facilitator for Snow Consulting and has extensive experience working in the medical community with a special focus on sleep medicine, respiratory care, service coordination and compliance.  Ms. Dunn has experience in hospital clinical, off sight and in home care management and is known for her industry and product knowledge, business development and tenacity in providing outstanding service for the patients directly or indirectly under her care and supervision.  Ms. Dunn also works in the Sleep Center at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha, NE.




Business Development: Getting The Most Mileage out of your Time and Dollars

Written by:  Brian R. Johnson

Professionals in the role of Business Development (BD) that are also juggling a family, a hobby (or two), upkeep on a house, etc. are forced to approach BD differently than they may have in their 20’s. If we truly want to, we can do a lunch, evening event, golf outing every day of the week. Not only can this be detrimental to a person’s health, it will also take its toll on the family life.   That said, these events are required in the job that we do and if balanced accordingly can be extremely fun and valuable.

It’s unlikely that we need another lunch date or another drinking buddy, if this is the case, you might do some self-reflection and you may fall in the category of “professional lunch-er” or “professional happy hour-er”.   We all know that person that is at every single event, and yet we have no idea what their business does or when we may need their services.

Here are some events that work for me to get the most mileage out of my time and dollars. With any of these events, you should have some goals and specific targets, and self-evaluate your performance at the end.

Conferences/Large Networking Events – These are great events to get a number of touchpoint’s in a couple of hours, but first you have to go out of your way to talk to the right people, they might also need to be reminded that they talk to you (the follow-up).

Initial conversation – There is going to be mainly small talk, a little bit about their business and what they do for the business. Within this conversation, it is almost guaranteed that there will be some negativity towards something (how busy they are, the crazy people they work with, etc) this needs to be picked up on and used in your follow up.   It can be difficult to dive into the details of what you do, but you should be able to slip in a 20 second overview. Keep the conversation positive on your end.

The follow up – Perhaps it is later in the evening or the following morning, a follow up must happen.   I have found that asking if you can get together at a later date to discuss business is usually best, assuming they say yes, this puts some accountability on them to reply to your later email with proposed dates.

The Lunch Appointment – So often times it can feel awkward to talk business or feel too much like a car salesman. However, if a client accepted your lunch request, they expect to talk some business and are likely interested in what your business can provide. It is a failed effort if your lunch date walks away from the meeting without a clear understanding of what you do, how you can help them, or who they can introduce you too (you are now a professional lunch-er). Listen to their needs and tee yourself up with appropriate questions, you don’t want to waste time offering a list of services that are of no value to your guest

Golf Outings/Banquets/Dinner Events/Hobby’s – Here is a great opportunity to reach out to a number of clients to invite them to your event. Think about events that directly relate to that client, either personally or professionally. This should be done over the phone. People are generally appreciative that you thought of them, so don’t feel bad if they decline. If they do decline, you can now discuss what else is going on with their business or ask if they are able to get together for a different event.   Consider this a touch-point. The downfall to these events is they can be very long (6 plus hours for golf outings) consider this when making your invites.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want or let your prospective client know about your business goals. Naturally people want to help others and that person will feel empowered if they can facilitate an introduction, give you intel, or best of all hire your firm.

Brian R. Johnson has extensive experience working in business development and has done so for many years.  Brian works at Farris Engineering in Omaha, Nebraska.