Books I am Reading – Our Kids

I recently attended City Year New Hampshire’s Starry Starry Night gala with my employee colleagues.  At the event, Robert D. Putnam, New Hampshire resident, and Malkim Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University, was honored with the Lifetime of Service Award in recognition of his work across the country to examine the growing opportunity gap between the children of the wealthiest and poorest in our society.  Putnam describes this program in Our Kids:  The American Dream in Crisis, and this is what City Year Corp Members witness every day while working with students in one of six public schools in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Unfortunately, this story is not unique.  Fifty or sixty years ago when communities were talking about “our kids” they meant every child in the community.  Now, more and more, when a person says “our kids” they really mean my own children.  The focus has shifted from wanting every child to succeed to wanting only the best for THEIR children. Putnam’s work is critical and I hope that it continues to have a positive impact on a growing problem.   I encourage all of you to read Putman’s book.  While it is disheartening what has happened to many communities in the United States, I think we can slowly move things in the right direction to make sure all of “our kids” have access to extracurricular activities, responsible mentors, and, most importantly, a bright future.  IMG_2839

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“I touch the future, I teach.” – Christa McAuliffe

On January 28, I attended a special event hosted by one of Northeast Delta Dental’s favorite neighbors, the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center. The event was held on the thirtieth anniversary of the Challenger launch to remember Christa McAuliffe, one of New Hampshire’s most beloved teachers, and celebrate her many accomplishments.

Christa was a dreamer and she encouraged students to think outside of their comfort zone and reach for their dreams. She thought of the world as a whole and not in siloes and was a pioneer in using the community’s resources to expand the classroom. Because of this, it is fitting that the Discovery Center serves as the State of New Hampshire’s memorial to Christa McAuliffe and many schools attend the Center for field trips and extended learning opportunities which the Department of Education and Board of Education fully support and endorse.

In my high school yearbook, it said I wanted to be a teacher. Today, I am able to “teach” through mentoring my employee colleagues and celebrating their successes with them. I enjoy this as I am able to help employees follow their dreams, challenge themselves to make a positive difference, and meet their personal goals. Christa did the same with her students and we are lucky that she spent much of her tenure in New Hampshire.

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A Healthier, Happier 2016

I was recently joined by Certified Personal Trainer, NHTI Cross Country Coach, and Fitness Coordinator at Northeast Delta Dental, Tom Walton on Northeast Delta Dental Radio. We spoke about the concept of change: how to make change feel more comfortable and changes for a healthier life in 2016. The thing about change is that it isn’t easy – for anyone! I believe in small changes over time as I find that too many “big” changes at once become overwhelming and can hinder success. Slow, small, changes, are more manageable. An example of where I have reluctantly watched many in my life fail is surrounding a New Year’s resolution to lose weight. Health and fitness is a billion dollar industry and I have heard many gym owners apologize to regular patrons for the increase in volume after the New Year, while at the same time explaining that the crowd will dissipate when the “resolution” crowd eventually stops coming. Why does this happen?

Coach Walton would probably say the reason this happens is because many who resolve to lose weight in the New Year, have gone straight to the Action phase of the Transtheoretical Model (TTM) of Behavioral Change, instead of first enduring the Pre-Contemplation, Contemplation, and Preparation stages.

Additionally, many turn to “quick fixes,” and so-called miracle diets. As you will hear Coach Walton mention, there is not a quick fix or a “silver bullet.” The best way to lose weight is to increase your physical activity level, reduce your calorie intake, and be consistent. To do so, it is important that your exercise of choice is something you can enjoy doing for an hour or so each day. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t do it, and you won’t meet your goals!

If you have goals to improve your health this year, I commend you. How have you prepared yourself to make this change?

Click here to listen to my complete conversation about exercise and fitness goals with Coach Walton.

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Happy New Year

It has been a productive year for us at Northeast Delta Dental and with the New Year tomorrow, I wanted to reflect on 2015. We have much to be thankful for this year and I am proud that we were able to make some key investments in the future of quality oral health care in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, while remaining a financially sound organization. This year we also effectively engaged the Affordable Care Act by adding more than 10,000 lives on the public (Healthcare.gov and VermontHealthConnect.com) and Northeast Delta Dental private exchanges (DeltaDentalCoversMe.com). These individuals didn’t have access to dental coverage before.

We invested in improving access to quality oral health care in the communities we serve through supporting the Expanded Function Dental Auxiliary (EFDA) program at NHTI Concord’s Community College, to allow Dental Assistants to expand their skill set through performing certain restorative functions. We are pleased to partner with NHTI, the NH Dental Society, and the NH Dental Society Foundation to make this program a reality.

In Maine, each year, we provide two dentists with a $20,000 loan repayment administered by the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) as long as the dentists continue to meet program goals. Radip Uprety, DDS, and Nicole Emery, DDS, are currently participating in the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) Maine Dental Loan Repayment Program.

Northeast Delta Dental also has committed to scholarships in the amount of $2,000 for students in the Expanded Function Dental Assistant Program at the Center for Technology in Essex, Vermont. Additionally, Ronald St. John, DDS, and Cheyanne E. Warren, DDS, were selected and each received $10,000 to reduce their educational debt through the Vermont Educational Loan Repayment Program administered by the University of Vermont Area Health Education Centers Program, which we support.

We were also proud to collaborate with the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine (TUDSM) to establish the Northeast Delta Dental Endowed Scholarship, enabling TUSDM to offer up to five scholarships to students from Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont each year.

We are looking forward to 2016 as Northeast Delta Dental will continue to transform the dental benefits/oral health industry with our new evidence-based, Health through Oral Wellness Program®.

Wishing you a happy and healthy New Year!

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Happy Thanksgiving

In addition to spending time with my family and close friends on Thanksgiving, I enjoy running in a road race (or two). This year I will be at the Bow Police Association 5k Turkey Trot and Bishop Brady High School’s Galloping Gobbler.  The air is usually cold during these races and sometimes it can be challenging to find the motivation to get out there and run; however, the camaraderie of other runners and the sense of accomplishment I feel at the end of the race is always worth it.  While I have found my exercise niche in running, I understand that one size does not fit all when it comes to physical activity.  Regardless of the exercise you choose, it’s important to stay moving, despite the weather.  After all, we are hardy New Englanders!

If you are looking for a motivating run or walk to participate in this week, I have included a few below.

Wishing you and your family a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.

Maine

New Hampshire

Vermont

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There Are No Do-Overs Recap

My book, There Are No Do-Overs, that I co-authored with NBA Hall-of-Famer, Dave Cowens, and my former Northeast Delta Dental colleague, Barbara McLaughlin, was released over a year ago so I thought it appropriate to recap what is discussed throughout my book here on my blog.  What follows is a recap of Chapter Two, “Develop Your Players’ Skills”

In my last column I discussed how to find the right employees for the right position within a company. While you are hiring dependable and capable employees, you must also be willing to take the next step in your commitment to them by developing their skills. At Northeast Delta Dental, we regularly monitor what training employees need through evaluating performance reviews, communicating with managers, and we even ask the employee what they would like to learn.  From there, we develop a training plan.

Depending on your business’ product and your clientele, I suggest offering training that will help your employees do their jobs more efficiently and effectively.  For example, we offer dental terminology courses and training for employees to earn or maintain professional licenses and certifications. We also have a substantial repository of helpful books and other materials related to anything from business savvy to retirement planning.

Don’t forget that managers need training, too, as they must be able to mentor and train their employee colleagues.  We train our managers on situational leadership so they are able to deal with others in a non-cookie cutter manner.  This has been especially helpful in recent years as there has been a greater number of the millennial generation (born in the early 1980s to early 2000s) entering the workforce and the baby boomer generation (born in the late 1940s to early 1960s) is slowly retiring.

Because of this, we train our managers to understand these generational and cultural differences – especially because the millennial generation has started to transition to managerial roles, and often times, this requires baby boomers to report to an employee colleague who is younger than they are, something that may be uncomfortable for both parties at first.  The training we offer allows for all employees regardless of race, gender, age, religion, or a disability they may have, to be coaches and mentors — not dictators. Employees want their managers and co-workers to respect them and see them as a person and not just someone who exists to get a job done.

If you are utilizing financial and human resources on training, I recommend you monitor how you are doing and determine if you are achieving the goals of the employee and/or manager and if this translates to success for the company.  For example, our customer service employees receive about 300 hours of on-site training before they are answering customer phone calls by themselves.

The bottom line is if you invest in your employees, they will invest in you. Another way you can develop their skills and encourage them to meet goals in their professional and personal lives is through offering a formal tuition reimbursement program.  When one of your employees advances in their role or earns their degree you should celebrate this as a company success story.  My company is fortunate to have many success stories like this and sometimes this results in an employee leaving the company to advance their career.  While you will miss the employee and their contributions to the company, instead of being disappointed about it, we celebrate with them and note this as a “promotion outside of the company.”

In summary, any successful business needs to demonstrate a commitment to its employees.  If you invest in them through training and/or tuition reimbursement, they will always remember you for this.  It will make their work lives easier and you can rest assured knowing you are giving your employees the tools and encouragement to be successful in their personal and professional lives.

Thomas Raffio, FLMI, is president & CEO of Northeast Delta Dental, northern New England’s most trusted name in dental benefits.

There Are No Do-Overs:

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Books I am Reading: Mind in the Making

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of participating in a special conference, Transforming Tomorrow’s Workforce Today: A First in the Early Learning Nation. The conference focused on early learning in relation to workforce development. I have been volunteering and working towards change in the education realm in New Hampshire for more than 15 years and while there is still more that needs to be done, I was happy to see so many education, business, early childhood, community leaders, and political leaders such as Senator Shaheen and former Secretary of State Clinton, come together in support of this important initiative. I believe the proper investment in the zero to four years takes care of most, if not all, longer term issues.

One of the speakers at the conference, Ellen Galinsky, of the Families and Work Institute, wrote a book titled “Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs.” I picked-up a copy and her book is most certainly on-par with the abilities every child needs to become a successful adult. I have paraphrased these seven life skills below.

1 – Focus and Self Control: In today’s world, we are faced with distractions 24 hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year. A child must learn to avoid these distractions to help them pay attention, remember rules, and free-up their mind to think at their own pace and in their own way.

2 – Perspective Taking: It is important for children to be empathetic and be able to anticipate and react appropriately to their peers. This includes their friends, teachers, and parents.

3 – Communicating: This skill is what many educators and employers feel is most absent today. This skill involves more than simply understanding language, speaking, reading, and writing, it is to determine what one wants to communicate and knowing how this communication might be understood by others.

4 – Making Connections: Instead of simply knowing information, an individual who is able to use this information well will be more successful. This skill involves the ability to interpret information, notice connections between information, and sort this information into categories.

5 – Critical Thinking: This skill involves one’s ability to question the validity of information and a hunger to understand why and how certain things happen

6 – Taking on Challenges: We live in a challenging world. When a child learns to see a challenge as an opportunity and not a hindrance, this will prepare them to be more successful in life.

7 – Self-Directed, Engaged Learning: Our potential is realized through learning and the world is constantly changing. If a child is able to be present and enjoys learning, it will greatly benefit them.

As a father, I have seen my four children navigate through life, and I am proud that they are all successful, thriving adults. As I mentioned above, more needs to be done to move the needle in the right direction for the early years which will improve high school graduation rates, and ensure New Hampshire’s future workforce is prepared and able to meet the staffing needs of our state.

Mind_in_the_Making

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