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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Training during Economically Challenging Times is Even More Critical

There is no argument that there is a direct correlation between quality of on-boarding and agent retention. “Effective onboarding is one of the keys to employee retention,” says Dr. Michael Wesson, Department of Management, Mays Business School, at Texas A&M University. Dr. Wesson emphasized that, “The more quickly employees adapt to your culture and become fully productive, the better chance you have that they will become long-term employees.”

During the past few months it has become easy to get sidetracked regarding some of Extension fundamental needs such as providing high quality onboarding for our new employees.

This systematic approach involves various Extension professionals in the on-boarding process. The involvement of District Extension Administrators, First-Step host agents, mentors, coworkers, Specialists and Regional Program Directors certainly has great advantages in terms of mobilizing resources to address on-boarding needs.

As Texas AgriLife Extension faces challenging times it becomes even more critical that I along with RPD's and most importantly you buy into the process. While there a number of the on-boarding components that our Organizational Development Group provides leadership to, it is important that we serve as the catalyst for all on-boarding functions in District 11.  I will be looking forward to working with our new agents and mentors in addressing our onboarding process again. The following premises are being embraced in making the new on-boarding system successful;

* All members of Regional Teams are responsible for new agent on-boarding.

* New agent on-boarding is a timed learning process where one event establishes the knowledge base for future learning activities that provides progressively more complex training.

* All on-boarding experiences have specific teaching points that are designed to increase knowledge, develop skills, encourage adoption of best practices or lead to the refinement of best practices.

* All on-boarding experiences are designed to give agents “early wins”!

County 4-H Participation Plans
As you know , your county 4-H participation plans are due on August 2nd, 2010. We discussed your expectations at our May 4-H scheduling in La Grange. Some of the plans have already started coming in and they are excellent.  I know that many of you have been giving this process much thought. I look forward to reviewing your plans. It will also be expected for you to incorporate these plans in your plan of work for 2011. If you need a reminder please refer back to my previous post at:

New District 11 and 12 Extension Range Specialist
Dr. Megan Dominguez has accepted the position of Assistant Professor and Extension Range Specialist effective September 1, 2010. Dr. Dominguez will be stationed at the Center in Corpus Christi and will cover most of Districts 11 and 12. I know that you will assit me in welcoming her to her new role. We realize that Dr. Dominguez has some huge shoes to fill but I am confident that she will develop into an excellent Extension Specialist.

Monthly Reports
I want to commend most of your for your commitment to reporting and also for your consistency with conducting your office conferences. Just in case you were wondering, I do read the reports and office conference minuets and do appreciate you sending them in on time.

As a reminder : your monthly Texas reports and county commissioners court reports are due on August 6th, please make sure you complete these reports prior to going to any association meetings and or scheduled leave. Thanks DM

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Staying Focused During Challenging Times"

By now every County Extension Agent in the state knows that Texas AgriLife Extension Service is currently facing some challenging economic times which has necessitated a staffing realignment.

This past week has certainly been challenging as I carried out the difficult task of informing those agents, staff members and commissioners courts of the realignment of their Extension positions. It is extremely hard to inform four highly productive agents of the elimination of their position due to no fault of their own. I understand that the morale of agents is very low, but we must work together to continue to provide assistance to our clientele of District 11. During challenging times, agents need to be confident in their leadership, that shows a clear and concise plan for the future!

The following are strategies that we have previously discussed but are certainly worth revisiting as we think about dealing with challenging times;

- Prioritize or re-prioritize. Agents should establish clearly defined goals and ensure that they are  focused with  priorities that align with Texas AgriLife Extension’s Strategic Plan.

-Develop the leaders. During economically challenging times leaders are critical at every level of the organization. These are volunteers in your program that you should invest in their capabilities and leadership. Developing volunteer leaders and cooperators, within your county has a positive impact on morale and productivity. It will also keep your volunteers looking forward with a futuristic focus.

- Don’t reconsider whether you will conduct training; rather, reconsider the method of training delivery. Contemporary methods for delivery provides an alternative way to eliminate costs. Delivery methods such as teleconferences, virtual or remote classrooms, e-learning and podcasts can help to optimize training while avoiding the costs of travel and accommodation.

-Focus on Program Outcomes. Ensuring that programmatic efforts result in measurable programmatic outcomes is critical during economically challenging times.

- Renew focus on communication. Our programs need agents that are confident during challenging times to communicate to clientele that there is a plan for the future.

-Explore methods to increase and diversifying funding sources such as grants for county programs.

-Focus on clientele satisfaction. Clientele talk to each other, elected officials, donors, foundation directors etc. The most effective interpretation is provided by satisfied clientele who voluntarily communicate how Extension has impacted them in a positive manner.

-Focus on program interpretation. The formula for support of elected officials includes good programming, program visibility, and effective interpretation.

As an agent told me yesterday, what concerns me most is the loss of one of my Extension family members. I too am concerned for those four agents, however, their is always a place for good hard working people, I am confidant that these individuals will be able to find another position within our agency or in another area of their choosing. If you have any questions please give me a call.  DM

Friday, July 9, 2010

Monthly Hot Topic Centra Agent Training

Our Regional Program Directors put together a Hot Topic Centra Training each month. This month the training will consist of the Organizational Development Centra scheduled for 10 am this morning July 12th, as a public event on "Identifying Issues with the Leadership Advisory Board"conducted by Dr. Jeff Ripley. Go to Public events on our Web Conferencing Site. There are many good centra programs on the public events calender that you can attend. These trainings can also assit in developing your dossier and curriculum vitae as you look toward applying for promotion. I encourage you to take a look each week at the public events calender and attend the trainings that will benefit you in your job responsibilities.

District 11 Junior Leader Lab is being rescheduled for Thursday, July 22, 2010

The event will still be held at Rockport Beach Saltwater Pavilion on Thursday, July 22, 2010.

If families have a conflict with the new date, the family or the county office will need to email Jodi directly
( NO LATER THAN July 19 to request a refund. Please include the county name and list of registered participants requesting refunds.

All information regarding Jr. Leader Lab including the schedule, map, medical forms, etc can be downloaded from the district 4-H website at:

Registration for Jr. Leader Lab has been re-opened until midnight on Friday, July 16, 2010. Some families that were not available for the original date are interested in attending now that the event has been rescheduled for July 22.

Multi County 4-H Council Officer Training

We received great reports form this past weeks Muti-County Council Officer Training held at the Coleto Creek Park 10 counties were represented - Aransas, Victoria, Nueces, Goliad, Bee, DeWitt, Calhoun, Matagorda, Jackson, and Refugio....over 70 4-H members and 20 leaders participated.
Thanks to all the agents that promoted participation in this event, and especially to Becky , Sarah B., and Kyle for your leadership in organizing this event, Jodi for your support and to Brian for cooking!

Better Living For Texans Reminders

The deadline for match reports for the 3rd quarter (April 1 - June 30) is July 30th. Please remind all co-workers on the proposal of the deadline.

Teacher match hours, for those county's submitting, will also need to be entered by July 30th and forms due to the Regional office by the 30th as well.

The last day to request a PO for educational supplies is also July 30th. All items will need to be ordered by July 31st and must be delivered on or before August 31st. If items are not received by August 31st, any items on back order or the PO will need to be canceled. Contact Norma for more information.

County Emergency Publication Management Plan

Those coastal and next tier counties that received and email last week concerning your “County Publications Management Plan” need to complete the plan and submit a request for publications to the district office by the end of the week. Thanks to those counties that have replied with your prompt attention to this matter.

Coastal Bend Classic
District 11 agents will provide a new district wide oppertunity for our 4-H livestock project members and leaders . This event is an educational opportunity for youth livestock exhibitors and their families to learn more about caring for and exhibiting livestock.  All 4-H youth in AgriLife Extension District 11 will receive an invitation. However the event will be open to any 4-H and FFA members in our area. Cattle,Goats and Lambs will be the projects featured in the clinics and shows. The event will be held on Saturday December 4, 2010 at the San Patricio County Fairgrounds & Event Center, Sinton, Texas.
A planning meeting of the agents committee will be held during lunch at this weeks recodbook judging in Refugio on Thursday.  Agents on the original planning committe and any other Ag and 4-H agents are welcome to participate in the meeting. Topics of discussion will be programs topics, judges, and sponsorships.

Texas Agrilife Extension Travel Vouchers
Occasionally you will have a need to submit Texas Agrilife Extension Service travel voucher. Please note that the instructions for completion of the travel voucher have been updated. Please pay attention to item 11 (regarding blank 9 on the form) which states that we can now use the UIN in place of the Social Security number for the payee identification number. This is a further move to protect confidentiality of Social Security numbers. More information is located at this link

Friday, July 2, 2010

Agent Reports Due July 7th

Your reports are due by July 7th, complete your TExAS reports, county commissioners reports, and travel. You are reminded that your activity and travel reports are designed for your County Judge and county commissioners. Reports should be sent or hand delivered to your County Jjudge and commissioners on a timely schedule each month. Your monthly 4-H newsletter, timely Ag and FCS newsletters are great interpretation pieces please include copies of your informative materials to your local court members.

Please continue to inform me of contacts with your state representatives, state senator, and or county governmental officials. I want to thank those of you that have kept me informed of your legislative contacts. It is important to include your county and state funding partners in your showcase events.

Weekly Crop Reports

I have not had the opportunity to remind ANR agents of their responsibility to complete weekly crop reports. It is an expectation that you complete this short, timely reports every week. These reports must be completed by early Monday morning. These are very short reports that are used to complete state statistical data. In our recent experience with Hurricane Alex the weekly crop reports are used to gage the progress of agricultural production across our region. The situational reports that are completed prior to a hurricane can be used in conjunction with our weekly reports. If we are to have other disasters such as a tornado, and or fire, we wont have the lead time to complete situational reports. The only documentation of crop conditions we may have would be our weekly reports. I am monitoring your weekly crop reports, it is also important that comments are included in the report as we at the district office musts compile a summary for the state office.

Texas Section Society for Range Management Recognition

Texas Section Society for Range Management is seeking award nominations for outstanding County Agents involved with rangeland management. Winners will be recognized at the Texas Section Annual Meeting in October. The nomination form was sent to all D11 Ag and NR agents, The form is quite simple to prepare. The deadline for submitting nominations is July 15th. Completed nominations and any questions can be directed to:

Jason Hohlt
Grass Roots Awards Committee Chair

D11 Agents in the Spotlight

Most of you have been to the Texas 4-H Center in Brownwood, and have seen the names of agents on the dormitories and plaque in the main building. These are considered Top Ten agents in the state by a nomination process conducted by the 4-H Center staff. We are extremely proud of Sarah Womble for her 4-H program support as she has will be honored as one of the Top Ten Agents. A sign will be placed on one of the dormitories at the Texas 4-H Center in Brownwood in her honor.

The National Association of Extension 4-H Agents has announced the award Excellence in Urban 4-H Programming for the Nueces County, La Armada Gardening and Nutrition project has been selected as a regional winner! The NAE4HA South Region consists of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and the Virgin Islands. This was the second of a three level judging process - it is now being forwarded to the National level for judging. The project has already been awarded 1st place in Texas. Great job and congratulations to Rusty Hohlt, Michael Potter, and Gloria Fernandez-Van Zante.

2010 Texas Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences state award winners. Communication Award Newsletter 2nd place Kathy Farrow, San Patricio County, 2nd Place Written Press Release, Kathy Farrow, Communication Award-Educational Curriculum Package, 1st place Rusty Hohlt, Nueces County. Educational Publication, 1st place Rusty Hohlt. Congratulation's to Kathy and Rusty, agents should follow their lead in applying for these association awards, We do great work in District 11 , agents take advantage of your association agent recognition award programs.