Beware the “Culture of Nice”

Guest Post by Kathy McDonald, NLC trainer News, Stories

It was important to Melissa* that she create an inclusive culture where all voices were heard. Yet, as a chronic conflict avoider, she was unwittingly building a “culture of nice,” where getting along was valued over getting things done. (*Names have been changed to protect identities.)

Neither extreme is helpful.  But Melissa failed to see how her culture of nice was hurting the team. She avoided giving important partner input to a peer organization that meant more work for her team. She put off providing constructive feedback because she didn’t want to hurt the feelings of an underperforming employee, leaving others to pick up the slack. Resentment started to build among her dependable employees that left them feeling undervalued.

When “nice” trumps “no” at times when “no” is appropriate, you’ve got a problem.

What are some signs a manager is being too nice?

  • The manager avoids constructive feedback with an underperformer. There are times when all team members need feedback, especially when they’ve missed the mark. If a manager fails to provide constructive input to an underperformer causing others to have to pick up the slack, resentment is bound to grow. In the end, in sparing an employee’s feelings, the manager is robbing the employee of an opportunity to grow. The employee may not even know that they are coming up short. As author Brene Brown says, “Clear is kind.  Unclear is unkind. It can be hard (to say what you need to say) but people value it.”
  • The manager fails to enforce deadlines.No need to be unreasonable about it.  There are times when it’s appropriate to move deadlines. But when deadlines routinely slip it leaves team members feeling anxious, not knowing who and what they can count on. It also keeps those who miss deadlines from building the skills necessary to become more reliable.
  • The manager fails to hold a standard of quality. When a manager lets work go that should be improved just to avoid being perceived as difficult, it affects the brand of the entire organization and creates an environment where average work becomes accepted as good enough. Over time, standards slip and they are at risk of losing good employees. As the saying goes, “A” players want to work with “A” players.

All work requires occasionally asking the tough questions that help an organization grow in important ways. If leaders avoid conversations because of the conflict that may arise rather than building the skills to effectively deal with different points of view, they do so at the organization’s peril.

______________________________________________________________________

For more management strategies that strengthen your team, join us in the training room for Management 301: Hiring, Managing, and Succession Planning. The third installment of this 3-part training series, on Feb. 22, 2019, will cover topics that include avoiding a culture of nice, how the 5 levels of listening offers more than just active listening, and succession planning so that you are prepared when key employees leave. If you’ve not yet attended Management 201: Productivity Hacks & Team Recognition Strategies, you can join us for this second session on Jan. 25th.


Kathy McDonald is the assistant director for network partnerships for the Florida College Access Network. Kathy has helped individuals, leaders and teams find and leverage their strengths for the last 18 years. She is an experience workshop leader and speaker, developing adult professional development programs for numerous organizations including Accenture, PwC, the City of Chicago, and the Hillsborough Education Foundation.

She is co-author of CREATING YOUR LIFE COLLAGE: STRATEGIES FOR SOLVING THE WORK/LIFE DILEMMA (Three Rivers Press). Kathy holds an MBA from Northwestern University and is a certified leadership coach from the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching. Happily married for 25 years, Kathy is the proud mother of two teenagers and currently 3 dogs (small, medium and large) and is an avid gardener, though she admits gardening in Florida is a contact sport.

Kathy’s training approach is to ensure participants walk away with actionable tools and resources while creating a space that encourages learning and growing together.

 

 

Reinvent Your Personal Brand

Scott Edinger, Edinger Consulting Group Stories

Like so many of you reading this blog, my “to read” stack is piled halfway to the ceiling. Some books and longer articles that I want to read, and others, that for one reason or another, I need to read. Add to that stack the deluge of emails, daily periodicals, and of course, blogs like Forbes and Harvard Business Review, and I sometimes wonder how I’ll get through my stack. The books are all good by virtue of having made it into my stack, so I prioritize my stack from “must read now,” because of valuable information that I presently need, to “read eventually.” This month, the book that made it to the top of my stack is Reinventing You, published by Harvard Business Review Press written by my friend and colleague, Dorie Clark. The criteria for me was that, like so many of you, I am continually looking for how to improve my brand and I always find Dorie’s writing, in her blogs on Forbes.com as well as Harvard Business Review, to have great pragmatic insights.

 Here are a few of my key takeaways from the book.

  • You already have a brand, and in order to take control of it, you need to fully understand what it is. That’s easier said than done, because we’re all inside our own heads 24/7 – so you need to enlist key allies to help you gain perspective. Dorie suggests conducting your own “360 interviews” to get the perspective of your colleagues, boss, and employees to understand your strengths and where you can grow. She also proposes a fascinating concept – doing your own “focus group,” where the focus is on you. You can recruit a friend to moderate, and then invite 8-10 people over to talk about how they see you and what they can envision for you; you’re only allowed to listen and ask clarifying questions. That’s the kind of perspective it might take you years to learn on your own.
  • You don’t need to – and shouldn’t – jump into a “reinvention” without planning, but there are ways to minimize your risk. Dorie profiles people who served on nonprofit boards and gained new skills that allowed them to change careers, and provides case studies about professionals who cleverly expanded the definition of their current job to stretch their boundaries and move into new areas that fascinated them. That’s something we should all ask ourselves: what can I donow to make my current job more fulfilling and interesting?
  • Creating your “narrative” is critical to the reinvention process. If left to their own devices, most people will continue to think of you the way they always have, meaning their perceptions are often erroneous or out-of-date. After all, you’ve been learning and growing in the intervening years, but they may simply not have noticed. So you’ll need to create a narrative that explains, clearly and succinctly, where you’ve been and the value only you can offer. With creative examples like a poet who became a management consultant, and an Army helicopter pilot who transitioned into corporate America, Dorie makes this point eloquently and shows us how we can all do it.
  • You have to “demonstrate your value.” Whether it’s taking a leadership role in professional organizations or creating online content (like blogs or podcasts), it’s essential to show others how you think and what you can do. As knowledge workers, there’s no other way for them to get a sense of our abilities. And if you’re the one creating intellectual property, you’re able to set the agenda – and others will soon be talking about, and citing, you.

Defining and developing a personal brand is no easy task but Dorie Clark’s writing brings the process to life and makes it accessible to all of us. A brand is a promise of uniform quality and performance. What promises are you making? Read Reinventing You to get clear on those promises, and learn to do what is needed to deliver on them.



Shared with permission by Scott Edinger.  Originally published on HBR.com.  Scott Edinger is the founder of Edinger Consulting Group. He is an expert in helping organizations achieve measurable business results. Scott is a consultant, author, speaker and executive coach who has worked with some of the most prominent organizations in the world including AT&T, Harvard Business Publishing, Bank of America, Lenovo, Gannett and The Los Angeles Times.  Connect with Scott at 
www.Twitter.com/ScottKEdinger.

Setting Expectations through An Out of Office Message

Ashley Pero News, Stories

Repost from 2011 — timely given the upcoming holidays!

Are you getting ready for some time out of the office? It is important not to forget to set your out of office email and voicemail messages. You can easily set a task reminder for the day of your departure to pop up in Outlook. And, if you do forget it is worth a trip back to the office (or a quick remote in) to get it set. An effective out of office message can save you time when you get back to the office and also lets people know why they haven’t heard back from you. These people can be coworkers, donors, clients, volunteers or that all important potential donor – you don’t want to leave them thinking you are unresponsive or don’t care.

You can craft an effective out of office message by answering a few simple questions.

  • When will you be out of the office and what day will you return?
  • Will the office be closed during any of the time your away?
  • How can you be contacted (if at all)?
  • Who can they contact while you’re away?

An email out of office example:

Hi! I will be out of the office with no access to email until (day of the week), (month and day). I will respond to all emails upon my return.

If you require immediate assistance please call our office, (888) 888-8888, and someone will be happy to assist you.\

The office will be closed (dates office will be closed).

Thank you.

 

Your voicemail out of office can be similar, but try and keep it short with just the important information.

  • You could also have limited access to email/voicemail or available only by cell phone – if that is the case let them know how long they should expect a response to take.
  • If there is a particular person they should ask for in your office list that person’s name, email and phone number. If there are certain people for certain issues list them all (being mindful while recording your voicemail out of office).

And one last thing, if you are using Outlook make sure to set both the internal and external message (both tabs). The same message can work, but you customize both depending on your office size and office requirements.

#GivingTuesday: Be the Ripple for Change

Andrew Rametta, Fellow in Fund Development News

#GivingTuesday: Be the Ripple for Change

 

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
-Mother Teresa#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving that harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities and organizations to encourage philanthropy and to celebrate generosity worldwide.

 

How?  That’s up to you! You can give online at your favorite local nonprofit’s website, schedule time to volunteer, collect donations, spread the word through all forms of social media, etc!

What? Your time, money, resources, and shout-outs to your favorite cause… including the NLC!

When? Today!

Where? Online, at your favorite Tampa Bay nonprofit, on social media, at your work place, etc.

Why? Because you can help create the ripple effect for positive change in our community.

 

We invite you to take part in #GivingTuesday and be the ripple of change in the Tampa Bay Community!

Give Knowledge. A #GivingTuesday scholarship gift to NLC will educate a nonprofit leader in Tampa Bay!
A donation of $69 provides one half day of training for one nonprofit leader in the Tampa Bay Community

And I Think to Myself….What a Wonderful World

Team NLC News, Stories

Every year, Team NLC shares what we’re each grateful for. It’s especially exciting to share this year’s post with you because we have so many new team members and so very much to be thankful for!

We wish you and yours a wonderful, restorative, memory-filled holiday weekend.

 

I am grateful today for life’s teachable moments.

After a year like we’ve had, it might be tempting to get discouraged or even feel a sense of hopelessness at times. As a nation, we’re being forced to examine our own identity—who are we and what do we stand for?

The response is critical because our behavior has such a profound global ripple effect. But in this moment of gratitude, I choose to see the good that can come out of the struggle.

If we come out on the other side with a renewed passion for what we believe in, a stronger nonprofit sector, more robust community networks, more people who recognize the importance of participation, and an understanding of the depth of our power when we work together, then we can see this time as an investment in our future and our children’s future. So let us continue to work hard, have compassion for others, and pay close attention to the lessons we’re being taught by these turbulent times.

—Laurel Westmoreland, Education & Data Manager

 


I’m so very grateful for improved health and well-being in 2018. In January of this year, I started a new way of eating, the ketogenic diet. Over the course of the year, I have steadily lost weight but, even more wonderful than that, because my food is my medicine, I have also lost chronic inflammation and muscle pain and gained mental clarity and emotional stability. I also

I now have the energy to do many things I’d let fall aside over the years—from working out to following new personal passions. And cooking and eating are fun (and delicious) again!

I’m also grateful that my husband joined me in this way of eating in February and is also experiencing his own amazing advantages. We’re also enjoying a new sense of community as we meet—physically and virtually—so many others who have also embraced their health in this way.

I only wish we’d found this lifestyle sooner!

—Jen Dodd, Director of Education & Communications


Something that I have been truly appreciative of is my artistic abilities. I’m an artist, and I planted this life goal in myself to be educated in everything that I genuinely love.

Ever since I was in the 4th grade, my best friend, Olivia, taught me how to draw these, almost, stick figure-like girls (far right). You see, they weren’t the BEST drawings, but it really guided me to dabble into something greater something new.

We departed from one another, but I continued to do art by taking classes. And by the time I hit the 8th grade, art started to become a lot more serious to me. At that time, I figured out why I loved art so much; it’s because of nature. It really moves my heart into experiencing more. So, I can have a substantial amount of new ideas to create. I just love the fact that I have such a detailed eye for art because it just gives me a brand-new perspective on life.

I am very thankful for Oliviaand this astounding realm of creativity she opened up in my life.

Can’t wait to see what’s in store for me in the near future.

—Taghiyana Wells, Cristo Rey Corporate Work Study Student

 

This year has been a year of transitions. I have had a wedding, a career change, and I started my new job here at the NLC. As I look back and reflect at Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the little moments.

Oftentimes I am going too fast to notice them, but when I do, they are the moments I treasure the most.

I am thankful for the times early in the morning, when it is still dark, and it is just my two dogs and I walking in the park by my house.

I am thankful for the evenings I get to sit across the dinner table from my wife with no phones, TV, or other distractions.

I am thankful for the few fleeting moments of awareness where I remember to pause and take a breath and chose for a split second to live in the moment before going back to the business of life.

—Andrew Rametta, Fellow in Fund Development

 

Today I am thankful for…..SuperBoys and Pumpkins—also known as my darling grandchildren! What a most wonderful role being “Nana” is for me! It is entirely different from parenting in countless ways and you cannot easily grasp what it is like until it actually happens to you.

“Pride,” “love,” “happiness,” and “gratitude” don’t seem powerful enough words to describe the joy I have to be a part of these children’s lives and in this special role. But I feel all of those things. And yes, one grandson lives a continent away, and the other two live a continent AND an ocean away, so often I also feel sad when I am not a part of their daily lives. However, time and distance will never really keep love from blooming, especially between Nanas and grandkids.

—Lorraine Faithful, Operations Manager

 

Showing gratitude is one of the greatest virtues. Unfortunately, we allow our busy lives to stop us from benefiting from what it offers us.

So, in this season of gratitude, I want to say thank you to the universe for all that it has given me, taken from me, and allowed me to give this year.

I am and will be forever grateful for the relationships I have enjoyed this year—relationship with my wife, Marilyn; my son, Al; my daughter, Jelly; my mother; and my mother- and father-in-law.

I am also grateful for the opportunity NLC gave me to serve the nonprofit community, my colleagues here, my tennis friends, and all those who have allowed my life to touch theirs.

—John Loblack, Director of Strategic Solutions

 

 

I’m thankful for my family, and all the good times we have had—all the laughs we have had and all the good family dinners. And I also thank God for blessing me with this beautiful life.

I also want to thank my parents for providing food for me and my siblings every day, and for the clothes I can put on every day.

—Alexis Maldonado, Cristo Rey Corporate Work Study Student

 

I am grateful for the gift of music in our lives. I was born into a musical family. My mother, a graduate of the Westminster Choir College, insisted that each of us play a string instrument. I challenged that edict with my stated preference for the French horn. Luckily, she prevailed, and I inherited my sister’s cello when she went off to college.

While I never intended to be a professional musician, I loved everything about music, majored in music in college, hung out with musicians, and even laughed at their viola jokes.

Because of music, I travelled the world with my college choir: singing in Mozart’s birthplace and dancing in Austria to welcome the summer solstice. Because of music, I was able to connect with other musicians to perform exquisite piano trios and sing Bach cantatas. Most importantly, because of music, I met my husband and life partner Jim Connors in the cello section of the Amherst-Mt Holyoke College Orchestra in 1977.

I still have my cello and have now inherited my brother’s guitar. Someday, I will play them both. But in the meantime, I will relish each note performed by others and the shared appreciation for this most beautiful form of expression.

—Emily Benham, CEO

Allegany Franciscan Ministries Announces 2019 Major Grant LOI & Information Webinar

Lorraine Faithful News

2019 Major Grants Announcement

Allegany Franciscan Ministries is pleased to announce the release of the Letter of Intent (LOI) for our 2019 Major Grants. Grant seekers may now review important information about the process on the Major Grants web page. LOIs may be submitted anytime between now and the January 17, 2019 deadline.

What’s New For Major Grants
Our Major Grants will fund organizations, programs or initiatives that align with our mission. Grants will support organizations that positively impact health, and improve access to health services and information for marginalized or underserved persons.

Grant seekers may apply for either General Operating Support or Programmatic Support, choosing the one that best fits their need(s).

General Operating Support: Grants will support the organization’s overall mission and goals rather than specific projects or programs, and should help strengthen the organization or further its charitable purposes. General Operating Support is unrestricted and can be used to underwrite an organization’s administrative or infrastructure costs, or help to maintain core programs and essential staff.

Programmatic Support: Grants will provide funding for specific projects and activities that are intended to result in an increase in access to health services or an improvement in the health status. Projects may focus on eliminating barriers to health, advocating for health reform or systems change, providing health navigation and care coordination, or capacity-building efforts to improve or strengthen the organization or its programs.

More Information

The deadline to submit a Letter of Intent application is January 17, 2019 at 12 pm (noon).

Grants Information Webinar

A Major Grants Information Webinar will be held on November 28, 2018 from 10-11 am. Agenda items and discussion will include:

• 2019 Major Grant Funding Opportunities
• Application Process & Timeline

Prospective applicants are strongly encouraged to participate in the webinar. No RSVP required. Please use the following information to participate the day of the webinar:

Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android: https://zoom.us/j/155555359

iPhone one-tap :
US: +16699006833, 155555359#

Or Telephone:
Dial US: +1 669 900 6833 Meeting ID: 155 555 359

Lessons on Leadership from Fantasy Football

Guest post by Scott Edinger News, Stories

Football season is upon us, and while the link between these two may not be obvious at first blush, stay with me for a moment. Before I detail the similarities between these two seemingly disparate topics, it makes sense to highlight my qualifications to do so. I have been playing fantasy football in the same league since 1995, and in the last four years have won more games than anyone in my league, including two super bowl appearances and a championship in which I vanquished my arch-rival. Take that Eric! As a leader, I have been an SVP and EVP of Sales for two different companies, both of which grew steadily through recessions and achieved record levels of revenue and profit. So I know a little bit about both of these topics.

There are many connections between leadership and fantasy football and in both disciplines (it is fun to refer to fantasy football as a discipline), strategy is of the utmost importance. These are the key strategies that are the same for both:

  • It’s all about results. As a leader, you are responsible for getting results and in both fantasy football and in business, it’s results or bust. In business, it may be increased profit, launching new products, improving processes, and so forth. In fantasy football, it is winning week in and week out.
  • Get your players in the right positions. Leading teams is all about putting people in the position to use their knowledge, skills, and talents for the overall benefit of the organization. That may include cultivating talent and developing skills that are needed. In organizations, for instance, that means making sure that your team members with great customer-facing skills are spending their time in the field, on activities related to client service or new business acquisition. Leaders need to ensure that they are clear on the skills needed in all positions, and that they are staffed with people who have the ability to succeed in their given role. In fantasy football, you need to ensure that your roster is complete with the right players to fill each position from Quarterback to Kicker.
  • Make win-win trades. In fantasy football, nobody wants to make a trade that seems lopsided. Similarly, nobody wants to work with people who are not good collaborators. Improving your ability to work cross-functionally with colleagues enables you to get things done in an organization. Most projects today involve multiple constituencies and multiple stakeholders and your ability to influence them by appealing to their rational self-interest is your best chance for success. Teamwork and collaboration are increasingly valued skills because of the complexity of work in organizations today. And in fantasy football, if you want to make a trade, you better offer fair deals or nobody will trade with you.
  • Know when it is time to cut your losses. In the last decade I have been in scores of discussions about whether or not someone should be let go. When the person was eventually let go, I have never heard a leader say, “I did that too fast.” Most of the time, we suffer incompetence for too long. I am not suggesting terminating someone’s employment at the first mistake, but when performance problems are persistent, we need to recognize that both the organization and the individual would be better off elsewhere. But sometimes leaders get emotionally involved in making someone a success, or don’t feel like dealing with an issue, and provide much more time than is warranted to improve. Similarly, fantasy football GMs get emotionally attached to a player because they play for a favorite team, or think “just one more week and they will break out of their slump.” In both cases, those in charge need to take swift action for the benefit of their respective teams.
  • You can’t win ‘em all. Even the best players have a clunker of a game now and then. Your best seller may lose an account or your six sigma expert may get a process messed up. It happens, and you need to be able to take it in stride and stick with your strategy. When you do suffer a setback, take some time to understand why it happened and how it may be prevented in the future. Do what you can to learn from it. Maybe there is a lesson to be gleaned that helps you get better. But above all you then need to shake it off, because there are still objectives to be achieved, deadlines to be met, and a job to be done. Just because one project didn’t go well doesn’t mean that everything else in the organization stops, so take your lumps and move ahead. In fantasy football, there is always next week or next season.

READ ME: The Right Subject Line Can Increase Year-End Giving

Sara Leonard News, Stories

Raise your hand if you’re not thinking about your year-end appeals. (Cue crickets chirping.) That’s what we thought.

Gail Perry, nationally recognized fundraiser—and the speaker at our “Fired-Up Fundraising”  Board Leadership Conference a couple of years ago—dedicated an entire blog post to year-end email appeals, specifically the importance of the subject lines of those appeals. We were really struck by what she had to say and wanted to share a portion of it with you here:

“Remember, as much as 10% of your ENTIRE ANNUAL giving will be coming in the last 3 days of the year. Better be ready!

What’s the first step to raising money online? Especially here during the last busy days of the year? It’s getting your email opened by your wonderful donor.

What makes an email get opened or not? It’s the subject line.

If your subject line is boring, you can pretty much kiss your well-crafted email good-bye.”

That makes sense, doesn’t it?

Gail then goes on to offer two great tips: be very thoughtful and deliberate in your word choice and consider using a symbol in your subject line.  

How much time and attention do you give to your e-solicitation subject lines? Sometimes it’s the last thing to be written, just before you hit send? Don’t worry; we’ve been guilty of that, too. But crafting strong subject lines is something we’ve decided to commit to in 2015—a business resolution, if you will, to put into practice the best practices we’ve learned about all year but not acted on consistently.

So we’re studying the example subject lines Gail gives in her blog post as well as the helpful resources links that offer additional food for thought.

What business resolutions are you making this year?

The Importance of Building an Intentional Onboarding Process

Guest post by Kathy McDonald News, Stories

We’re thrilled to bring you the second installment in our 3-part series of guest blog posts by Kathy McDonald, offering a sneak peek of the scenarios and skills you’ll learn in our new Management series. For sessions titles and dates, see below. Some dates are completely sold out, so don’t dawdle if you’re interested in attending. Click on the date in question and register ASAP!

When Tracey* started her new job she was directed to her cubicle and given the paperwork human resources required to set up her benefits.  She looked around the empty cubicle for a pen, checking the drawers and cabinets to no avail.  Finally, she fished in her purse for a pen.  This false start gave her pause about the organization she just joined.

First Impressions:  Just as new hires are making a first impression, so is the organization.  Ensuring a new team member gets acclimated will shorten their ramp up to becoming an effective contributor.

Should I stay or should I go?  According to research done by the Aberdeen group, 86% of employees make the decision to stay or leave within the first 6 months with a new organization.  Of new hires that do go through a formal onboarding, 69% stay with their organization for 3 or more years.  This indicates an onboarding process improves the bottom line by increasing productivity and reducing turnover.

How long does it take new hires to get up to speed?  Many managers don’t have a good sense for what it takes to build the industry knowledge a new team member needs to be effective.  As Tracey found in an organization without an onboarding process, they were losing people at the one year mark.  It took the average new employee 6 months to get up to speed, meaning the organization only gained 6 months of true productivity from them before they left.  Adding in the costs of recruiting and related expenses, a one year turnover means most organizations are at best breaking even.

Onboarding considerations:  While this is not an exhaustive list, these questions should get you started thinking through how to make the most of those early days with your new hires:

  • How will you help new hires develop the industry knowledge they need to be successful?
  • What are the short-, medium-, and long-term goals you have for your new hire, so they know what they are working towards to become effective?
  • What are the peer relationships both inside and outside your organization that will be important for them to build?

Effective onboarding is more than just a welcome lunch on their first day.  Helping new hires get up to speed and feeling confident in their ability to contribute as quickly as possible will reassure them they made a great decision in joining the team.

* Names have been changed to protect identities.


For more management strategies that strengthen your team, join us in the training room for our 3-part training series:

  • Management 101: Moving from Doer to Leader on Nov 16 (SOLD OUT) or Nov 28

  • Management 201: Productivity Hacks & Team Recognition Strategies on Dec 11 (SOLD OUT) or Jan 10

  • Management 301: Hiring, Managing, and Succession Planning on Feb 22


 

Kathy McDonald is the assistant director for network partnerships for the Florida College Access Network. Kathy has helped individuals, leaders and teams find and leverage their strengths for the last 18 years. She is an experience workshop leader and speaker, developing adult professional development programs for numerous organizations including Accenture, PwC, the City of Chicago, and the Hillsborough Education Foundation.

She is co-author of CREATING YOUR LIFE COLLAGE: STRATEGIES FOR SOLVING THE WORK/LIFE DILEMMA (Three Rivers Press). Kathy holds an MBA from Northwestern University and is a certified leadership coach from the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching. Happily married for 25 years, Kathy is the proud mother of two teenagers and currently 3 dogs (small, medium and large) and is an avid gardener, though she admits gardening in Florida is a contact sport.

Kathy’s training approach is to ensure participants walk away with actionable tools and resources while creating a space that encourages learning and growing together.