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Cultivating a positive workplace culture: Omaha’s mid-year retreat

Photo Of College Possible Team At Mid-Year Retreat

The months following the holiday merriment can sometimes seem a bit lackluster, especially when the cold reality of an Omaha winter settles in for an extended stay. How do you overcome freezing temperatures and the monotony of days stuck inside? Omaha’s leadership team took on the winter blues by planning a mid-year retreat focused on mindset, motivation, and cultivating a positive office culture.

To keep energy levels high throughout the day, Director of College Access, Aminatu Issaka, used various ice breakers, which encouraged participants to move about and interact with one another on a regular basis. All the ice breakers provided a few minutes of levity between heavier discussion topics,

One of my favorite ice breakers was the, ‘Say My Name’ – where we had to call out co-workers names that were spelled backwards,” said Development VISTA T’Netha Bailey.

A key component of the retreat was the incorporation of the “20 Tenets of Culture,” a program designed by Better-Culture, an Omaha-based company working to build successful workplace organizations. The 20 various aspects improve individual performance, team chemistry, and overall organizational culture. The first session focused on looking back on the challenges and successes of the first half of the year, and explored how the following tenets influenced interactions between staff, community partners, and students:

Tenet 1: Coachable – Accept, appreciate, and seek feedback

Tenet 2: Helpful – Offer assistance eagerly and proactively

Tenet 3: Assume Positive Intent – Grant colleagues the benefit of the doubt

Tenet 5: Welcoming – Take steps to ensure others feel included

Members of College Possible’s advisory board, Champions Auxiliary Board, and Union Pacific Ties executive committee joined the retreat at lunch to listen to guest speaker Tessa Porter, President and Owner of SPRINKK, discuss concepts about abundance, joy, mindset and motivation. Porter encouraged the audience to examine their creative ideas and how they might make them a reality by establishing processes and systems.

Following the lunch break, College Possible Omaha’s Executive Director, Arvin Frazier led the team in a discussion about strategizing for the rest of the academic year. College Success Program Coordinators Mallory Johnson and Liz Kurtz facilitated sessions on tenet 10, “Gather and Sow,” which encourages colleagues to pass on compliments they hear about one another, and tenet 16, “Own It and Fix It,” a simple concept of acknowledging your mistakes and repair any damage they may have caused.

To wrap up the retreat, Senior Development Director, Melissa Valek asked Team Omaha to take a few minutes to act on tenet eight, “Saying Thanks,” by expressing meaningful appreciation to co-workers in a hand-written note. Melissa shared,

Saying thanks is such a simple, but important act. We wanted to end the retreat on a high note, and these short, but heartfelt expressions of thanks did just that.”


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