I’ll Take Potpourri for $500, Alex…

I’ll Take Potpourri for $500, Alex…

By Bruce Hammond, Director of Governance & Operations, American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology

Ok, since you’re twisting my virtual arm, I’ll admit it… I’ve always wanted to be Jeopardy host Alex Trebek. He’s just so darn cool. He has the best job in the world, probably drives a Ferrari or some other cool car, and has the power to create categories in his show like Potpourri where he just throws together a bunch of things that don’t really relate all that much to one another.

Well, I’m going to do my best impression of Trebek today with my post – and create a Potpourri-like experience for you where I share a few things our team at the American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology (ASPHO) has been working on this year that have provided benefits for us and our organization. I hope you can take something away to enhance the work you’re doing.

Connecting to Understand Our Strengths

As part of my team’s annual retreat, this year we each participated in Gallup’s Strengthsfinder exercise to help us better understand our top five strengths and how they relate to one another’s. At the retreat, we had a certified Strengthsfinder coach come in and help us make sense of how our team members’ strengths work together and how individuals’ strengths affect the way they like to work and communicate. This exercise provided us with a baseline to go back to the office and work better together, utilizing one another’s strengths to make positive change.

Following the onsite session, we’ve had 1:1 coaching sessions every six weeks or so to help us continue to keep this exercise and the impact it can have top of mind.   

Over the last several months since this happened, I have noticed increased thoughtfulness about how we interact, engage, discuss issues, and work together as a team. We’re now discussing bringing this to our Board, as we think helping them (and us) understand their strengths could have tremendous positive impact for our organization as well.

Bottom line: Understanding your own, as well as your team members’ strengths can provide a tremendous opportunity for added synergy, collaboration, and positive outcomes.

Impact of Innovation

We all get bogged down in the day to day. You do. I know I do. When this happens, we’re so focused on today and the way we’re doing something that we may not be focused on how we can do it better in the future. Earlier this year, our ASPHO team realized this was the case with us, and developed a framework where we would regularly spend time focusing on innovation.

So how did we do it? We created a basic spreadsheet where we ask team members to share ideas that could be flushed out in a discussion with the team. This spreadsheet includes the idea, the description/vision about it (how it will help), the problem we’re trying to solve with the idea, and the proposed timeline. Then we spend 15 minutes at each of our team meetings discussing it. Once it’s discussed and more concrete, it is assigned to the appropriate team member for follow up. This focused time to spend on innovation is a great way for us to ensure we are thinking about new ideas, discussing those that come up, and engage around thinking differently to benefit the organization.

Bottom Line: Spending focused time on innovation is a way for teams to get out of their day-to-day rut and really engage around thinking differently to benefit the organization.

aspho team

Board Fun/Engagement

At ASPHO Board meetings, we typically take the Board to a restaurant at the conclusion of the first day of their work so they can connect and engage before heading back to the hotel. You probably do something similar if you have a two-day meeting.

At this year’s fall meeting, we tried something new. Rather than take them to a restaurant where they could only engage with the two or three people sitting around them, we decided to hold a friendly competition to get them talking and laughing, while participating in a little board development as well.

We held a salsa/guacamole competition at our office, splitting them into four teams of three (two of the teams included staff as well), where they needed to make the best salsa and guacamole they could, using limited ingredients. We then provided additional ingredients to teams who correctly answered Board Development/ASPHO trivia questions that we developed.

After the competition was over, we judged for best salsa, best guacamole, best presentation, and best teamwork (four teams, four prizes…) and held a short celebration before sitting down to dinner. The event was tremendously well received, and allowed the Board to engage in a less formal environment, building their camaraderie and teamwork. Trying something completely new allowed them to grow together as a team.

Bottom Line: Try new things to engage your Board members and help them develop as a team. An exercise that had them working in teams and competing was perfect for our group – what would be good for yours?

Thank you for letting me fulfill my dream of being Alex Trebek for a few moments with my potpourri. I sincerely hope something has struck a chord and you can find benefit in our team’s efforts. If I can provide any additional information, don’t hesitate to reach out at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Bruce Hammond is the Director of Governance & Operations for AMC client the American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology.

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