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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Nicholson

A Journey to Organizational Development: Reframing One's Own Narrative

Earlier this year, as I updated my cover letter, I realized that I have been epitomizing Rha Goddess, founder of Move the Crowd, 3-L model of "living, loving, and leading" within higher education for two decades.

Close Mouths Don't Get Fed

Currently, I have the pleasure of facilitating enrollment management within higher education. After two decades in the same industry, higher education, I have to be honest that it has indeed been a journey of learning, discovery, boundaries, and coaching to arrive here. I have to give a very special thanks to my career coach, Eve Dauer Wong, for reigniting my voice and helping me to visualize a new reality, and my business coach, Michele Morrisey, for helping me to heal while honing and toning my strengths through the DISC Assessment. I highly recommend both!

Leveraging Your Skills For Today's Workplace

Higher education has swiftly morphed into a complex business environment and the stability of the industry is being greatly impacted by a number of factors. The National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) (2022) identified these issues as the top five for higher education institutions:

I Did That: Assessing One's Achievements

2022 has been a phenomenal year of transformation and abundance for me. Recognizing the changes and opportunities within higher education, I like others, have purposefully endeavored to round out my leadership skills by setting a clear vision. One of my strengths is being strategic. As a first-generation college student, building rapport and maintaining relationships with thought leaders across multiple disciplines have been tremendously valuable. Because let's face it, "we don't know what we don't know." I recall a conversation where I rattled off some of my achievements to a mentor:

  • Created early advising weeks,

  • Instituted an advising syllabus,

  • Enhanced transfer programming,

  • Advised cultural student organizations,

  • Facilitated large-scale orientation, onboarding, and admissions for new students,

  • Produced the online New Student Orientation,

  • Launched a Dual Enrollment system,

  • Executed campus-wide volunteer training for New Student Convocation,

  • Developed and managed three pre-college programs: Creating Opportunities for Academic Success and Transfer (COAST), the Dual to Degree Program, the 3D Scholars Program, and 3D Scholars Exploration Day, which increased the high school-to-college student enrollment pipeline.

When Workplaces Don't Support Employees Holistically

My mentor was shocked. She had no idea how I'd contributed to the success of many facets at Prince George's Community College over my 13-plus years. Sometimes, we fail to stop and acknowledge our accomplishments. I knew I had them. While my accomplishments were never pronounced, I'd been at the community college long enough for individuals to be aware of the innovative ideas I constantly brewed. However, without consistent leadership, I rarely had a direct sponsor to advocate, mentor, or guide me internally. That meant awards and recognitions were few and far between and based on institutional cultures, some positions, access to committees, and budgets, can be, as they were for me, limited as I was also shunned from tables and experienced growth stunts. I will be honest when I arrived at the job I was one of the youngest employees but I'd already been a Director of Multicultural Student Affairs at another institution. Unlike some institutions which appreciated multiple generations in the workplace, when I arrived, given my role and department, I definitely stuck out like a sore thumb. Being a millennial cast into a sea of Generation X, Baby Boomers, and Silent Generation colleagues provided many courageous learning experiences for leadership who often viewed me and unfortunately, despite my demeanor, discriminated against me. Yes, I remained internally motivated. As I collaborated across the college, I developed partnerships, allies, and sponsors. These people got a chance to look past my age or youthful appearance, and see my work efforts and style. I celebrated my wins nonetheless with my family, colleagues, staff, and my students.

Workplace Evolution Through Organizational Development

Given the pervasive culture of workplaces, higher education aside, many have unique populations and ways of operating. Additionally, organizations often struggle to facilitate successful business continuity as individuals retire and new, divergent staff requires new levels of onboarding, retention, and engagement. Previously Human Resources handled recruitment, benefits, and labor policies, but those roles as reflected in the above graphic have expanded, along with the nature and purpose of Human Resources. As the nature of work and workforce needs have evolved over the last few years, Human Resources departments are being recentered and restructured as an essential function within the business strategy.

Mentoring: She Understood The Assignment

As a Chief People and Culture Administrator, my mentor listened deeply and helped me both understand and reframe the narrative of my experience. She picked up where my business and career coach left off. She presented all of my accomplishments including my ability to navigate the workplace as the catalyst that would propel me toward my future. She suggested I research and consider Organizational Development. Based on my wealth of experience in directing individuals and myself autonomously, building systems and processes from the ground up, experiencing a culture that lacked skills or desires to mentor my strengths-based personality, and collaboratively coaching teams to successful outcomes, she rationalized that incorporating Organizational Development was a sound next level of leadership for me.

Reflecting On The Learning Experience

Combining regular reflections on past experiences, readings, monthly cohort dialogue with OD and SEM colleagues, dissertation research, and completing my AACRAO ASCEND Strategic Enrollment Management capstone project, the experience was exhilarating. Each month for six months, I had the opportunity to meet individuals from across the globe as we processed the dynamic and quickly evolving business systems. The conversations were timely, the faculty was outstanding, and the ever-emerging field was just right. As we dissected case studies and real-time scenarios, we stepped out of "work," and analyzed how cultures are stubbornly resistant to change.

Bridging My Experience with Organizational Development

Organizational development utilizes theory and methods of change, engagement, consulting, communication, and inclusion to redesign the narrative of institutional culture which far too often hinders organizational success. Leveraging all I learned from Eve, Michele, and Michelle, to name just a few of my dynamic village of mentors, coaches, and sponsors - I embraced many parts of my DISC personality as an influencing, inspiring, and impulsive personality; And, I returned to embrace my natural ability to connect, support, and relate to people.

Humbling Connecting The Dots

As an academic advisor for many years, I have witnessed my students triumph through unimaginable experiences that would have made the average student stop trying. Despite personal barriers, that often set them back, I've coached many students to success. I was most shocked to find one of my students acknowledge me in their Master's Thesis, I hadn't spoken to him since he was graduating from the community college. The power of influence to empower others is long-lasting. When I supervise, I'm fortunate to have the humility to recall my own personal struggles to complete goals, but also the many setbacks and achievements of my students. So, now when I lead, coach or facilitate, I seek to understand before being understood, while addressing the problems with a bit of radical candor, and both appreciate and celebrate the various ways success can be engineered from a lens of psychological safety.

And we are back to that time when my mentor was right. She understood the assignment. I adore this strengths-based perspective through which I can facilitate the work of organizational development within and among organizations. Most importantly, it is beautiful to uncover a space where my strengths as an Achiever, Learner, Strategist, Minimizer, and Relator and my DISC personality align perfectly and can benefit any industry.


I am happy to share that I completed the 2022 Global Organizational Development Competency Framework Learning Series. And if this isn't good enough news, I have more. In less than 30 days, I will launch into a new organizational development consultant role with AllProfitHR. In the interim, check out AllProfitHR and follow via social media for updates.

How AllProfit HR Can Help

Consider partnering with an organizational development consultant as you evaluate your business, division, and departmental needs regarding processes and structure. We can imagine and create a renewed workplace, especially within higher education, efficiently and effectively. Stay tuned for more details.

I look forward to the next chapter of my professional journey as I help fulfill the AllProfitHR mission to build a sustainable and stellar culture of belonging for all.

Written by Johnika Dreher

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