Engage with Social Media

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Many of us connect to some type of social media on a daily basis, either personally or professionally. The top four social media platforms are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.  Today, Facebook remains the priority platform for most Americans. I am sure you have a favorite social media outlet that you prefer over the others.

Social media is used in the workplace for many reasons: to build your organization, connect with people, inform your audience, promote events/programs, gather feedback/reactions and much more. It is fast and inexpensive marketing! You can communicate directly, or share other’s posts. I assume your Department has a Social Media Policy in place if you don’t here is an example of the PRPS Employee Social Media Policy.

When posting to your social media, do you ever think about how to get more responses to your post? Or if anyone is seeing them? I know I get excited when I see a share, like, or comment. Track your social media analytics, and this will help show what is working and not working and help you increase engagement and grow your audience. Most social media networks have built-in analytics for you to track. The basic ones to keep track of are Reach, Engagement, and Impressions. The network summaries allow you to track by day, week, or month.

Which social media platform is best for you?

Facebook– Keeps followers up to date on news, events, programs, which they can easily share with others. Facebook is a great platform for posting pictures, videos and now live videos. (Posts with images are shared more often.) In addition, Facebook is a good place to ask questions and keep your followers engaged.

Twitter – Good for distributing alerts, news, and links to blogs/websites. If you want to start a quick conversation, this is the place.

LinkedIn – The best place to connect with other professionals in your field, build a network, share articles, and collaborate.

Instagram – The place to share photos, videos and stories that display in a live newsfeed.

PRPS uses several social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Google+. We use these platforms to promote workshops and conferences, and share member news, articles, blogs, and current trends. Be sure to follow or like us on all these platforms.  We post 3-4 times a week on Facebook and Twitter, and share articles and news on LinkedIn and photos on Instagram.

If you have anything to share on our Facebook page, please feel free to post, or send via email to Emily Schnellbaugh, Communications Manager, eschnellbaugh@prps.org.

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From Toronto With Love: lessons learned from visiting Toronto’s recreation and community centers

Community involvement in rec centers can flourish, if given the proper attention, time and resources.

Those of us who are concerned with better resident engagement with our neighborhood community recreation centers could learn plenty by visiting Toronto, as I recently have.

As a member of an exploration group participating in Civic Commons Learning Journey: Toronto, I was afforded a first-hand look at the operations of many of Toronto’s public libraries, community housing units – and perhaps most important, its public spaces and community recreation centers.

Our tour took us to all points in Toronto – from its more affluent neighborhoods to its more hard-scrabble, working class areas. What stood out during each stop was that community members and neighbors, by and large, took sincere ownership of their parks and centers. Centers were nearly blight-free, and most parks were fulfilling the promise of being bustling centers of communal activity.

When I asked a center director why the community takes to the center the way it does, I was told that many of the neighbors are immigrants, and have embraced the center not only for its recreational properties, but for the essential programming, including ESL classes and other crucial immigrant services. Most of the services are provided for free, and those participating in the various programs usually donate their own time, effort and other resources to support their center.

The idea that we can turn our local centers into more of a one-stop hub where community members can receive an assortment of services should be a priority as the city embarks on the Rebuild Initiative. 

Another story of communal support unfolded when our group visited Regent Park, a wholly redeveloped neighborhood in downtown Toronto. Developers and community leaders there have gone through great lengths to blur the distinction between the more well off residents and working-class ones. There, a new community center arts bank supports the community’s burgeoning creative arts industry, literally providing an avenue through which Regent Park artists can be properly compensated for their talents.

I believe that this sort of neighborhood involvement can flourish locally, if given the proper attention, time and resources.

For example, during our visit to Dufferin Grove Park in West Toronto, we witnessed public usages that, if scaled properly, could work locally.

Most parks that our group visited housed reconfigured metal shipping containers that housed “Park Cafes.” These cafes sit on recreation center grounds, and are open during the hours the park is open, and provide prepared and cooked foods and snacks to all those who use the park. 

One such cafe sits inside Thorncliffe Park and is operated by the Thorncliffe Park Women’s Committee. All of these cafes employ members of the community, and a portion of the proceeds are folded back into the operations of the park.

The implementation of more diverse programming could lead to community engagement while also creating revenue streams for our recreations centers. It’s worth a try. 

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“The Cob,” an open-air cafe situated in the heart of Dufferin Grove Park.
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The play area at Dufferin Grove Park. Note this is mid-morning activity.
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The skateboard creation program at Scadding Court Community Centre. There, local youth earn certificates in graphic design and screen printing, as they create one-of-a-kind skateboards, which they in turn sell to the local community.

The Subtle Art of Being Blunt

38886346 - portrait of a pretty businesswoman yelling over the megaphoneThere are many skills needed to navigate the workplace in today’s society. You know about hard skills like budgeting and writing and soft skills like customer service and teamwork, but have you ever thought of the skills that you are born with? Skills and personality traits that come naturally to some folks, but are surprisingly absent from others? You know charisma, creativity, common sense, etc.

I was lucky enough to be born with the subtle art of being blunt. I was also “lucky” enough to be born with “RBF”, but that’s a whole other story…

If you were not born with the ability to be blunt, it can be a very delicate and tricky art to master. But in many cases, it can be extremely helpful in the workplace, as well as in one’s personal life. Let me be clear, being direct by no means gives you the right to be rude or inappropriate, rather it is a tactful way of letting someone know how you feel or explaining a situation without sugar coating or giving a false impression. There should be a clear distinction!

In the workplace, it can be used as a power tool, from hiring and firing to managing expectations, and even during the most difficult customer service situations. If done correctly, being blunt can eliminate confusion, prevent any unnecessary expectations, and settle issues in a timely manner.

A few key things to remember when practicing your bluntness:

•   Always make sure you understand the situation you are dealing with. If you are wrong when being straightforward, you will sound like a jerk. There is no escaping it.
•   Be constructive and comment on the situation at hand, NEVER on an individual or group of individuals. Being blunt means being forthright in your opinion. Just because you are being honest and upfront doesn’t mean you have to give your complete opinion. If you can’t say anything nice… don’t say anything at all. Well, how about you just don’t say anything stupid?
•   Don’t yell or raise your voice. Depending on the situation, you may become heated. When being direct, remain calm or at least act that way and keep your voice at a mild tone.

Being blunt may upset people whether it comes naturally to you or if you are trying it for the first time. If you are someone who is worried about ruffling feathers or upsetting someone, being blunt may not be for you. And that is ok! The most important thing is to make sure you are clearly conveying your message, be it candid or subtle. Make sure the lines of communication are open and that both parties understand the situation.

In the weeds

In the WeedsOne evening, I was watching one of those cooking competition shows with my wife. One of the contestants was in the midst of a particularly stressful moment in her meal preparation. She was working on five different components to her meal, as the stove top flared up, a mixing bowl was knocked over, and she couldn’t locate the kosher salt. The omnipresent ticking clock was dipping under 3 minutes to go when another contestant asked her how she was doing. Her reply? “I’m in the weeds.”

I don’t believe I had ever heard that phrase, yet I knew exactly what she meant by it. That chest tightening- panic induced cocktail, part dread, part helplessness with a dash of frustration and disappointment, shaken not stirred.

Last fall I found myself in a similar situation. Though not in a cooking competition, I was just drowning under the weight of a smorgasbord of work …multiple projects, deadlines, budget cuts, exasperating decisions that were out of my control, on top of my everyday work/life responsibilities. One small part of those obligations was helping get the word out for the District 2 Fall Social. I was emailing back and forth with a fellow PRPS member about how surprised I was that it was already October and that I needed to get an email out to the District. During that conversation I confessed, “I’m in the weeds.”
His reply, “Well, weed whack yourself out of the tall stuff.”

This got me thinking, what tools do we have at our disposal to help us escape the “tall stuff?” My incomplete, but growing tool shed has accumulated the following:

• Make a list of all the tasks that need done and prioritize them. Don’t let the length of your list intimidate you, just dig in and start chopping away at it. Inaction/ mental paralysis will only compound your problems. Start with a few small things to get the wheels turning. Soon your long list will be a short list. Celebrate that sense of accomplishment, and feel the relief of the weight lifted from you.

• Delegate and/or ask for help. Whether a supervisor or a front line employee, we can all be a little too stubborn, embarrassed or proud to ask for help. Supervisors, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, task someone else from your team and give them a chance to shine. Frontline employees, ask your supervisor for help if you’re lost or need clarification on a task. Depending on the situation, the help doesn’t have to come from your own agency or department. I don’t know how many times I’ve reached out to my fellow local directors to see how they do something, or to pick their brains. PRPS and its member base is a vast resource of experience and knowledge that should be taken advantage of.

• Be honest about the extra dishes you’re adding to your menu. Now, I’m not suggesting you tell your superiors, “No thanks!” when being tasked with a duty. I’m referring to the extras that we all add to our days, whether you’re coaching or a member of a volunteer board, those extra dishes can add up. For example, last year Tim asked if I would help write for the new website during the height of my journey through the weeds. Even though it was a relatively small commitment, I evaluated my situation and had to decline. I feared I would have submitted something subpar and not up to the standards of my fellow bloggers. To his credit, he followed up three more times before I felt that I was in a place ready to add another course to my meal. (i.e. if you’re not enjoying this read, you can blame Tim and his incredible persistence.)

• Lastly, never stop tool shopping. Anyone who’s ever worked on a project, whether it be a home improvement project, or work task, knows that having the right tool is paramount to a more successful finished product. Seminars, workshops, conferences, or a simple brainstorming session with a peer is like a weekend stop at your local hardware store for your brain.  Those are the places to pick up a new skill or sharpen an existing one.

If you ever find yourself in the weeds, it is my hope that some of these tools will assist your journey out. I’m happy to lend mine at anytime and I hope that others with deeper or more varied sheds will share their collections as well.

 

You want me to volunteer for WHAT?

There are two components when it comes to volunteers:  the folks that volunteer and the folks that manage the volunteers.  Both are equally important.

Volunteers do play a vital role in many areas of the Parks and Recreation profession by providing essential work and know-how, which has Moraine Regatta with Smokey the Bearbecome a considerable monetary advantage. Most recreational professionals that have planned projects or events understand that they could not have been successful without the work, knowledge, and time donated by volunteers. Fischer and Schaffer (1993) define volunteering as, “the act of freely helping others without regard to financial and/or materialistic gain.”

There are many things to consider when working with volunteers in your organization: needs assessment, goals and objectives, risk management, training, orientation, placement, supervision, retainment, motivation, and recognition.  Just to name a few….

As some of you are aware, there are certainly times when you are not sure if managing the volunteers is all that it’s cracked up to be.  However, if you create reasonable expectations for an organization and the volunteers, there will be value to be had for you and the volunteer.

The benefits of volunteering as a family are enormous. Volunteering teaches even toddlers and preschoolers about compassion, empathy, tolerance, gratitude, and community responsibility. And children who volunteer are more likely to continue doing so as adults.  I have been volunteering at Moraine State Park for over 24 years, yikes……yes it has been that long. My children have been at my side since they can remember.  Volunteering is part of who they are, and hopefully, the memories and experiences they have gained will encourage them to continue the service as adults.

 

Civility in the workplace

Ever meet someone that you wish you could pull aside and have a little chat with them about their civility or lack thereof?

If they are on your staff, the good news is – you can. And you should…

Let me clarify… in our workplaces, we train on computer skills, how to balance the cash drawer, how to add proper pool chemicals, how to take a summer camp registration at the front desk – but we very rarely train on the proper etiquette and expected behaviors for how staff treat other staff.

This beautiful concept goes hand in hand with how we (our team) then treat the customers.

So, when I get a request for customer service training, I always first suggest we take a look at the civility expectations and training that staff receive.

If you work for a municipal entity, they sometimes have “Codes of Conduct.” This is often a  “gem” of a document (excuse the implied sarcasm) that includes a harsh list of “Do Not” statements, such as “Employees will refrain from using harsh language” or “Do not disturb, annoy, or interfere with any other person.”

Instead, what if employees come together to talk about the impact that lack of civility in the workplace has on them (step 1) and discuss the standards for behavior that are appropriate and reasonable for their workplace (step 2). Then, by sharing these, employees at all levels are aware and part of this culture. It also becomes easier to welcome new staff into the culture as well. Then, we extend these standards on to our users and patrons.

How does incivility impact the workplace? Big ways, like two employees squabbling or INPE0814name calling or worse. But small ways: tiny jabs at one another, gossip that undermines the moral of all or deeply hurts an employee, employees who quit unexpectedly and you do not learn until later why, staff who call in sick to avoid confrontational situations, loss of productivity related to workplace influences. And so many more…

Another key perk to this process is that bullies or aggressive staff or “hey, I was only kidding, can’t you take a joke” jokers start to feel uncomfortable in the new civil workplace and will begin to be managed by the influence and feedback (even non-verbal social cues) of their peers.

For those that are not, Managers now have a way to discipline and council troublemakers. Sometimes it’s a “hey, can we talk about the last staff meeting? Your comment to Donna putting down her work on the event is not the kind of tone we like to set around here.” on to a full counseling session about language, harassment, or bullying.

Here are some interesting statistics:

  • In 2011, 50% of employees surveyed said they are treated rudely at least once a week at work. (In 1998, it was 25%) I’m anxiously awaiting updated numbers because I bet it’s even higher in 2018.
  • Out of 800 managers and employees surveyed in 17 industries:
    • 48% of employees intentionally decreased their work efforts due to incivility
    • 47% intentionally decreased their time spent at work
    • 80% lost work time worrying about an incident
    • 66% said their work declined
    • 25% admitted taking their frustrations out on a customer
      • From C. Pearson and C. Porath research

It’s time to make training and conversations and workplace civility a priority, regardless of what sector you’re in. I strongly encourage you to hire a consultant or trainer to help you with this, because sometimes employees receive the message better from an outsider versus their management. Look for someone who can be frank and candid but includes humor – Civility training can be fun!

However you approach this, educating yourself and the management of your workplace about the impacts of incivility and the importance of creating a civil workplace is an important first step, then move to a process that allows staff to be heard and be part of creating their own culture. You’ll see wonderful results!

 

 

It’s been 25 years…

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…since the Pennsylvania Bureau of State Parks underwent its last strategic planning effort, State Parks 2000.

Planning for Pennsylvania’s state parks of tomorrow has begun. Named Penn’s Parks for All, the strategic planning process places a priority on public input and participation – because after all, these 121 state parks, totally nearly 300,000 acres, belong to all of us.

Fast Facts:
• State parks receive nearly 40 million visits each year: 36.3 million day visits and 1.6 million overnight visits.
• State parks receive 0.16 of one percent of the state’s General Fund budget.
• A state park is located within 25 miles of nearly every Pennsylvanian.

The mission of PA’s State Parks is to provide opportunities for enjoying healthful outdoor recreation and to serve as outdoor classrooms for environmental education. First consideration is given to the conservation and protection of the environment by balancing the potential impacts of recreational activities and facilities with the natural, scenic, aesthetic and historic resources within the parks.

A public survey which closed last fall yielded 14,276 responses that are being analyzed by researchers at Penn State University. 488 state parks staff members completed an on-line survey. Two additional surveys are in the works:  a statistically-valid statewide telephone survey and an on-line panel survey targeted to reach young adults and ethnic minorities.

Later this year, a preliminary report will be presented at roundtable public meetings throughout the commonwealth to get feedback and reaction from stakeholder groups and residents.

As we look to the future of state parks, questions to answer (among many others) include:

  1. What actions should be taken if natural resources within a park are being harmed by over use?
  2. What changes should be made if the general fund allocation continues to be less than is needed to properly operate and maintain all 121 state parks?
  3. How important is internet access in parks?
  4. Should overnight accommodations be enhanced?
  5. What is the appropriate balance between recreation and conservation of resources?

You can help to craft our state parks strategic plan – Penn’s Parks for All – by attending the future public meetings, reading and commenting on the preliminary report when it’s ready, and promoting the public meeting dates and locations to residents and customers.

We have an amazing, award-winning state park system that we all share. As DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn states, “It’s important to ensure our state park system remains as relevant and valuable to future generations as it has been to current and past generations.”