5 Guiding Principles of Creative Leadership

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Last week, Dr. Leeanne Bell McManus, Chip Rouse, and I gave a three-hour presentation to an organization entitled, “Event Planning: A Seminar in Communication.” Centered around ideas from our textbook, Event Planning: Communicating Theory & Practice, we talked about communication theory, ideas, tips and case studies, and offered strategies for leaders in event planning.

Additionally, one of the aspects we talked about was creativity, and our textbook includes a chapter dedicated to leadership. I like to talk about the combination of the two: creativity & leadership.

One of my favorite articles I’ve read to date on this topic is from the Harvard Business Review and it’s entitled Creativity and the Role of Leader. It’s a terrific piece that examines leadership in creative roles, such as those at Google, IDEO, and XM and Sirius. If we can take away one thing from this article, it’s that creative leadership requires you to be a visionary.

After researching and reading about this topic for years, as well as presenting on the topic at conferences, I’d like to offer my take on creative leadership, for I believe it is the cornerstone of any successful organization or endeavor. I also come to the table a bit biased and in favor of creativity, as I have the privilege of working in two fields I believe offer tremendous opportunity to unleash your creativity—that of teaching and fictional writing.

That said, I believe creative leadership requires those in power to possess these types of characteristics.

1.  Creative leaders have open minds.

They are open to ideas and suggestions. They understand that the people they have hired or are working on their organization’s behalf are good at what they do and believe in the organization’s mission. Rarely is one person the innovator; it take a couple or more visionaries to make things go—just look at the early days of Apple. Creative leaders are able to examine a variety of ideas and appreciate the dedication that has been put forth by individuals and teams, and they always stay open to newer and better suggestions.

2. Creative leaders are not afraid to change and break habits.

In order for any organization or business to thrive, creative leaders must welcome change and not get bogged down by habits. In an event planning business, can you imagine if the leaders did not commit to this type of excellence? Events would be the same, and events of distinction would never be created. However, change for the sake of change is rarely a good idea unless it is grounded, researched, substantiated, warranted and undeniably necessary. Remember when they had to bring former CEO Howard Schultz back to his original role at Starbucks because things got out of hand?

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3. Creative leaders value their teams.

Rarely will you come across satisfied and passionate employees whereby there is no creative leadership. The stifling of creativity can prove deadly when individuals are stripped of creative measures. Workers and creative teams must be allowed to do their jobs to the best of their abilities, and removing aspects of creativity could lead to decreased motivation. Teams need to feel that their contributions to the organization’s success are vital to the organization’s continued growth, and that their input is valued.

4. Creative leaders are motivators—and it’s a team effort.

I recently watched a “60-Minutes” piece on my former O’s colleague and friend, Theo Epstein, the current GM of the Chicago Cubs and former GM of the Boston Red Sox, who broke the curse of the Bambino. In that piece, Theo talked about how he builds his team and how important the cumulative sense of the team’s character is to the team’s success. That sense of choosing the right people leads to motivation that is unsurpassed, as was witnessed by the Cubs winning the World Series in 2016. Theo’s energy spills over into all those involved in the team, and as he states, no one person is solely responsible for the success. Perhaps that is why Fortune magazine chose Theo Epstein as its #1 World Leader in the March 2017 issue. I’m proud to know him. There is no denying that team spirit has the power to win it all, as has been proven time and time again in athletics. That same energy works in organizations, as well.

With Theo at an O’s Reunion gathering.

5. Creative leaders are constantly looking to the future for the next story.

Creative leaders can’t stay in the moment for too long—they are always looking to the future for the next project, idea, or task that will prove meaningful. There’s always another story to tell, if you will, and they are ready to move on to creating something even more meaningful than the last project. If they sit still for too long, they get itchy. Creative leadership means forging ahead with the next plan, because they know what it means to build on success.

Stephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn Significant, Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

My Obsession with Barn Weddings Continues

I designed our wedding invitations and had them printed to open like barn doors. This is a rendering of the barn where we held our wedding reception.

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DISCLAIMER: Please forgive the quality of the photos today. I took pictures through the plastic of our wedding albums. I love you all, but not enough to take them out of their sleeves and destroy my albums. The quality of the actual photographs is gorgeous. 🙂

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On November 1, 1997, my husband and I tied the knot in a small, quaint Methodist church in Arnold, Maryland (outside of Annapolis), and then held our reception in the Ulmstead Barn–a barn in my parents’ neighborhood. I’d always imagined having the reception there; there was something romantic and nostalgic about hosting our family and friends in a unique place that not everyone has access to (you can only rent the barn if you live in the neighborhood).

Asbury United Methodist Church…before the reception.

However, there was one problem: it was a functioning barn with horses on the ground floor, and on the top level, there were two rooms that could function as space for a reception. But that was it. We had to bring everything in to make it work. But I was up for the challenge, was an avid reader of Martha Stewart Weddings, and had an idea of how I could make it feel like the final scene in “White Christmas” (which my dad later told me the reception reminded him of that movie).

The barn had no air conditioning, and so we felt safe picking November 1. It rained and it was warm that day–not at all what we had expected. But nevertheless, it came together, albeit that we were all little toastier than we thought we would be.

I had visited a farm outside of York, PA, and picked all of my plants, pumpkins, gourdes, etc. which would be used as decorations for the event. My bridesmaids and I lined the stairs in bacopa plants and white lights. We strung white lights throughout the room, decorated the fireplace with fall colors, and put white linens on every table. People’s placecards were mini-pumpkins with their names on them as they entered the barn on the main level. It definitely had the feel of a rustic, fall, quaint barn wedding, and many of my huband’s relatives who were used to big, extravagant weddings in hotels in New Jersey said it was the most intimate and sweet wedding reception they had attended.

I took it as a great compliment.

The ground level of the barn where you entered through the double doors. You had to go up to the second floor to the reception rooms. We decorated the stairs and entryway with all of the fresh plants from the farm and gave them all away at the end of the night.
The cake cutting in the cocktail/dancing side of the barn.
This was the dinner side of the barn. Tables were set up with white twinkle lights and Italian food was served.
This was where we held the cocktail hour and dancing; the two rooms were connected by double doors that we left open for flow.

Today, with Pinterest and Instagram, two social media platforms that didn’t exist back then (I was tearing things out of magazines and Googling, but there wasn’t anything like those!), people can get all kinds of amazing ideas for weddings. And barn weddings seem to be quite popular. My cousin Lizzy also was married and had her reception in a barn. It was stunning.

As I have begun to draft a sequel to Inn Significant and am playing around with the idea of a barn on the site of the Inn which will hold weddings and parties, I have done a lot of research on barns and barn weddings via Pinterest and the Internet. Also having written a textbook on Event Planning (Event Planning: Communicating Theory & Practice published by Kendall-Hunt) with my colleagues and friends Chip and Leeanne, I have a lot of experience in event planning from my days working at the Baltimore Orioles doing large-scale event planning, along with masterminding my own wedding from start to finish, I think I may be able to bring realistic touches to my novel.

And so, I continue to be obsessed with barn weddings. You see, it doesn’t go away just because my own wedding happened almost 20 years ago. And now I can take that love and roll it into fictional storytelling and make it exactly how I want it.

It’s good to be a writer. 🙂

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Decorated the outside for the wedding.

Some of my current favorite barn venues for weddings include these three…

The White Sparrow Barn, Texas
Long Ridge Farm, Kentucky
The Rustic Barn at Prairie Gardens, WI

Stephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn Significant, Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

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Some Highlights & Appreciation

RoberUlcerThis past week began with a bang as viewers were treated to another outstanding episode of Downton Abbey. With Robert’s bloody collapse at the dinner table, we were left wondering if all will be okay in the great house in England. If you are like my family and me and are becoming sadder and sadder with each passing episode because there are only a few episodes left of this A+ show, you can become even more filled with grief because when it is over, you will no longer be able to read the wonderfully entertaining recaps written by Joe Heim at The Washington Post. Each Monday, my father, mother, and I wait patiently to hear Mr. Heim’s snarky, intelligent, insightful, and crafty review of the episode that aired the night before. Trust me when I tell you that if you are a Downton Abbey fan, you will read these recaps and laugh out loud, smile, nod, and know that Mr. Heim is a fan, despite his ability to poke fun at the show or use his own self-deprecating sense of humor to make us chuckle.

Book Launch
Speaking before our guests at the book launch for “Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice.” Stevenson University, Rockland. Wednesday, February 3, 2016. From left: Dr. Leeanne Bell McManus, Stephanie Verni (yours truly), Chip Rouse, co-authors.

On Wednesday night—amid some very serious February fog—lots of supporters came to Stevenson University to support the publication of our textbook, Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice. Chip Rouse, Leeanne Bell McManus, and I hosted a celebration of the launch of the book we co-authored which was published on January 3. Students of our Event Planning course, members of 47 House, our communication club on campus, friends, family, and colleagues came out to hear us give an overview of the book. President of Stevenson University, Dr. Kevin J. Manning, offered the welcome address, and Dr. Heather Harris, Professor of Business Communication, introduced us. There was coffee and delicious cake with our book cover on the icing, and our contributors who wrote case studies were in the audience and received a thank you gift bag. The textbook was a result of two years of work, and we all were so pleased to receive so much love and support from those who were there. It was one of those nights I won’t ever forget.

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Some of our amazing alums and students who attend the book launch.

I just want to take a moment to thank my immediate family for their constant support of my projects—whether I am getting an MFA to help my academic career, writing fiction, or co-authoring a non-fiction textbook, they are right there beside me offering words of encouragement and doing what they can to be flexible with our busy schedules. Matthew, Ellie, and Anthony—I love you all to the moon and back. I look forward to a little down-time this year and to doing a little travel with you.

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So thrilled to be connected to over 7,000 amazing people who write, publish, are entrepreneurs, business leaders, inspirational speakers, and so many more. Having more fun on Twitter these days…join the fun!

To my wonderful social media followers—thanks for hanging in there with me, and thanks to all new followers on Twitter, Instagram, and to the blog. I look forward to spending more time connecting with you and getting to know you via these platforms.

I’ll be getting to work now on proofing my collection of short stories and poetry that will be available soon in paperback and for the e-reader. I put this off while I was completing other projects, but I’m ready to begin the process of editing and publishing.

I hope you all have a great week, and I’ll be back next week with some new posts.

Until then—

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BaseballGirl
Baseball Girl, my second novel. Somehow, book promotion never ends! If you haven’t read my latest novel, pick up a copy! It’s still $2.99 for the e-readers on Amazon and Barnes and Noble…With baseball season around the corner, it’s an inside glimpse into the workings of professional baseball, with a nod to love, wonderful fathers, and a love triangle. Let me know what you think. xx

 

Writing Can’t Be ‘Thin Love’

Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all. ~ Toni Morrison

TMorrisonAuthorI admire writer Toni Morrison. She is smart, insightful, and willing to write for herself. Her books are powerful and influential…and from the heart. After sitting here reading many of her quotes, I keep coming back to the one above along with this one:

If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it. ~ Toni Morrison

You have to love to write in order to take an idea and watch it come to fruition. Anyone who has the fortitude to do it and publish it deserves at least a little pat on the back, don’t you think? In a couple of pieces I’ve previously published on the blog entitled “Why I Write Part I,” “Why I Write Part II,” and “Why I Write Part III,” I did my best to articulate my passion for it. As Ms. Morrison says, it ain’t thin love. Writing has got to be part of who you are and what you want to do.

I’ve taken a little time away from writing this holiday season, but I’m ready to get back to it. I’ve got a collection of short stories that I’d like to publish soon, and I’ve been working on another novel as well. With a full-time job and a busy family, it’s challenging to find the time to sit and tell a story.

But I know one is brewing, and soon, I’ll be ready to fully engage.

Those of you who are writers on the side like me, how do you balance writing, blogging, work, and your social life? I’d love to hear how you do it. That’s what a writing community is for–to share ideas.

In the meantime, I haven’t plugged my work in a while, so below are my latest books.

I’ll see you on the flip side…and let me in on your secrets.

HOT OFF THE PRESS…

E V E N T   P L A N N I N G:  C O M M U N I C A T I N G   T H E O R Y   A N D   P R A C T I C E 

by Leanne Bell McManus, Chip Rouse, and Stephanie Verni

In this textbook, readers will learn the “why” behind the practice of event planning. Chapters include topics such as interpersonal relationships, nonverbal communication, conflict and negotiation, integrated marketing communication, and entrepreneurship. Special thanks to all our wonderful contributors who wrote case studies for each chapter. Published by Kendall Hunt Publishing, January 2016.

To learn more about the book, visit Kendall Hunt Publishing by clicking here.

Event Planning Text

BRONZE MEDAL WINNER, READERS’ FAVORITE CONTEST, CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE, 2012

FINALIST, NATIONAL INDIE EXCELLENCE AWARDS, ROMANCE, 2013

B E N E A T H   T H E   M I M O S A   T R E E  by Stephanie Verni

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Annabelle Marco and Michael Contelli are both only children of Italian-Americans. Next door neighbors since they were both five years old, they both receive their parents’ constant attention and are regularly subjected to their meddlesome behavior. In high school and then in college, as their relationship moves from friendship to love, Annabelle finds herself battling her parents, his parents, and even Michael. She feels smothered by them all and seeks independence through an unplanned and unexpected decision that she comes to regret and that ultimately alters the course of her life, Michael’s life, and the lives of both of their parents.

Set in Annapolis, Maryland, New York City, and London, England, in the 1980s and 1990s, Beneath the Mimosa Tree examines both Annabelle’s and Michael’s journeys over the span of ten years as we hear their alternating voices tell the story of self-discoveries, the nature of well-meaning families, and the sense of renewal that can take place when forgiveness is permitted.

To order your copy of Beneath the Mimosa Tree, click here for Amazon  or here for Barnes & Noble.

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HONORABLE MENTION WINNER, READERS’ FAVORITE CONTEST, SPORTS FICTION, 2015

B A S E B A L L    G I R L  by Stephanie Verni

HMAwardFrancesca Milli’s father passes away when she’s a freshman in college and nineteen years old; she is devastated and copes with his death by securing a job working for the Bay City Blackbirds, a big-league team, as she attempts to carry on their traditions and mutual love for the game of baseball. The residual effect of loving and losing her dad has made her cautious, until two men enter her life: a ballplayer and a sports writer. With the encouragement of her mother and two friends, she begins to work through her grief. A dedicated employee, she successfully navigates her career, and becomes a director in the front office. However, Francesca realizes that she can’t partition herself off from the world, and in time, understands that sometimes loving someone does involve taking a risk.

To order your copy of Baseball Girl, click here for Amazon, or here for Barnes & Noble.

On the Road to Event Planning

CamdenYards
Beautiful Camden Yards, where I planned many an event. Photo credit: Stephanie Verni

This week, my colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus, Chip Rouse, and I received page proofs of our textbook entitled “Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice” which is being published by Kendall Hunt. The year plus of work on this book has been interesting for me, to say the least. As someone who was trained in academia later in life, having worked in the field of public relations, community relations, and publications first, writing a textbook required a whole different set of skills than does writing fiction. And yet both endeavors are rewarding.

TextbookI wanted to take a moment to thank Leeanne and Chip for working with me on this project. I had not written a textbook before, and so there was definitely a learning curve for me, particularly with regard to research. Nonetheless, I persevered, and I can’t think of a better pair to work with, particularly with regard to event planning.

Those of you who know me (or have ever attended any parties I’ve thrown) probably know this was something that was a no-brainer. How could I pass up the opportunity to write about something I love doing? I’ve been called “The Cruise Director” for years by my good friends who know I am an organizer and social coordinator. During my time at the Orioles, I was blessed to have worked on several event committees that planned events for both Memorial Stadium and Camden Yards. Leeanne brings a tremendous amount of scholarly expertise to the table, as she has already published two textbooks and helped plan the Eastern Communication Association conference in Baltimore in 2010 (and she is about to do it again in 2016); Chip has been the department chair at Stevenson for years and also works a secondary job at a local country club during the summers planning events. The three of us brought different aspects of event planning to the table, and I’m excited about this textbook and what it potentially offers students.

Likewise, I would like to thank personally my dear friends from the community who work for a variety of organizations and handle aspects of event planning. These folks were willing to help out and write case studies for each of the chapters. Stacey Haines, Julie Wagner, Kristen Schultz, Roz Healy, and Charles Steinberg—thank you for allowing us to hear and to learn from your own experiences with event planning. Additionally, a big thank you goes to Kendall Hunt for publishing our book.

And so now we wait for the finished product to emerge. I can’t wait.

Just wrapped up two years of coordinating social events at our pool. Jen and I had a good time together as co-chairs, along with Kelly (not pictured).
Just wrapped up two years of coordinating social events at our pool. Jen and I had a good time together as co-chairs, along with Kelly (not pictured). Pictured here are a group of our co-horts, relaxed and chilling.