Learn which themes have emerged in my 20-year professional career
Theme and Throughline: Relationship Building
I cut my teeth in relationship- and rapport-building by pounding the pavement as a professional sales representative in Upstate New York while on a college internship in 2000. It was the first time I had been away from my family and, without having an office to go to everyday, I didn’t have the built-in social factor that comes with office positions. With that being said, I had to create my community from the ground up.
Those skills continued to serve me every day as a contract sales representative for PDI, Inc. from 2004 until 2007. I had to consistently find a way to demonstrate value to busy healthcare professionals without compromising their capacity to serve their patients while simultaneously working to ensure that my colleagues and I met our individual sales goals.
I found that the best way to do this was to connect with these providers, their very important staff and gatekeepers, as well as my colleagues, in an authentic way that captured the emotion of what we had in common. My through-line for that period of my management experience is Relationship Building.
Theme and Throughline: User Experience Design
My sales experience back in college was where I was first bitten by the entrepreneurial bug but it would be years later before it activated. In December 2006, I leveraged my relationship with a nurse that I frequently called on to secure the first customer for my bartending business, 71 Proof. The market research skills I developed while working on my MBA had served me well in identifying where the gap was in the local hospitality industry for beverage catering.
I conducted a competitive analysis and promptly designed 71 Proof’s operational model in a way that put the user experience before anything else. I had pinpointed the customer pains and frustrations and trained my team on the 71 Proof approach that addressed those. I also created the first and only local bartender training course in Tallahassee to ensure that the user experience that I had become known for creating would not be compromised in my absence as the company grew.
Theme and Throughline: Impact, Innovation, and Influence
For the past ten years, I have been responsible for facilitating the learning experience of no less than 300 adult learners…every academic year. Every 4 months for the last decade, I have had the pleasure- and challenge- of innovating my curriculum and classroom in a way that maximizes impact in my position as an influencer for more than 3,000 students. This has required me to develop the keenest communication skills- skills that have helped me create a psychologically safe learning environment for these adult learners.
I have also become a strong advocate among the faculty for creating metacognitive and deep learning experiences for our customers- the students. Thanks to the relationship I had built with the dean of the business school where I teach and the experiences I had created for my students through innovative teaching approaches, she rewrote my contract year and incorporated community entrepreneurship education into my responsibilities.
This was a huge win for me in the impact category, especially considering that my impact is bound by the physical size of the classroom and my class load. This triggers internal tension for me on a pretty regular basis as I want to be create as much impact as possible while I am capable of doing do.
2019 and Beyond
Theme and Throughline: Organizational Leadership and Change
That is what brings me here- the quintessential student of leadership and change. As I begin my dissertation-writing journey through Antioch University’s Graduate School of Leadership and Change, I envision myself being able to leverage my talent, skills, and passion in deep service to others.
I look forward to the change that I can help create and to the learning that will come from it!
I did my best to keep the description of my management experience from becoming a gray wall of text! I thought it might help to capture some of the highlights on this page 🙂
Professor LaTanya White
Growth Mindset Coach and Business Development Expert
Professor LaTanya White is an entrepreneurship and innovation educator. She uses a “whole student” teaching approach that advocates that student- and learner-identities be seen and served in whole and not just in part.
My research explores the nexus between identity, entrepreneurial mindset, and social justice. Crazy right?!
Professor White has been featured in several media outlets including Ask.com, Essence Magazine, Florida A&M University magazine, Forbes.com and SiriusXM Radio.
– Feedback: The most growth comes from receiving feedback. I am a firm believer in the idea that learning happens during the feedback loop. I feel that is important to keep feedback loops as short as possible, and even give immediate feedback when appropriate. For 71 Proof, I provide rapid-fire feedback on efficiency, inventory usage and guest interaction.
Those adjustments need to be made in real time because they impact the client and guest experience. The staff members that have worked several events with us now serve as the Event Point of Contact because they have a higher level of expertise due to the feedback they have received and grown from.
– Communication: I became a better communicator when I became a better listener. Years ago, after being told that I was an aggressive listener- that I was only listening to make a counter argument, not listening to understand- I become much more aware of other aggressive listeners and was able to hear my old self in them.
Now, on a daily basis and in all the roles I serve as a manager and educator for, I deploy listening skills as the first means of communicating with anyone. Ensuring that the people on my team feel valued, respected and seen makes it easier for us to communicate with each other.
– Decision-Making: Decision-making is much easier when the circumstance or situation is pitted against the bigger picture. Asking “How will this decision help us attain the larger goals?” is the most reliable vetting process I have used in 20+ of my professional career.
During the negotiation process with the Chinese manufacturer we have been working with at My Founders Dream, I was confident with our BATNA as it was based solely on the larger goal that we wanted to achieve. I made the decision to take our requests up to two levels above the representative we were working with because I know that you don’t get what you deserve. You get what you negotiate.
– Delegation: Mike Micalowicz’s Clockwork helped me understand how to become better at delegating. For me, delegation is strictly tied to the Why of the organization. Aligning the task with the team member that is best equipped to complete it allows me as the leader and manager to operate with higher order thinking in the pursuit of the larger goal.
During the accreditation process, when I realized that the Excel spreadsheets I created didn’t have the power and flexibility of an SQL database, I delegated the task of creating a custom database to one of the 1.5 FTE staff I was responsible for managing. This freed up my time and mental capacity to work on other aspects of the application process.
– Hiring: At the risk of being pedantic, I feel strongly that the hiring process should start with the Why of an organization. When this is woven into the fabric and culture of the organization, it should be nearly impenetrable by someone who doesn’t understand or doesn’t connect with the Why.
I failed to use this approach during the expansion phase of 71 Proof and our brand and bottom line suffered significantly because of it. That is lesson that I don’t have to learn again!
– Firing: For me, if you aren’t growing, you are dying. Complacency in organizations can spread like cancer and as a manager, keeping a finger on the pulse of the resources and the culture ensures that the spreading of complacency can be contained and eliminated.
This was the case with one of our 71 Proof bartenders. It is important that we create the kinds of experiences that help people connect with each other- but this isn’t just for the clients and guests but especially among the 71 Proof staff itself. When I was able to pinpoint that the root cause of the internal tension that was impacting the guest experience, I had to let that staff member go, even though she was among the first crop of bartenders that had been brought on 7 years prior.