Prayer breakfast emphasizes teamwork

Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Mayor Joe B. McNeal presents Derek Harris with a memento in appreciation for providing the keynote address at the Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast on Saturday.

More than 50 people showed up on a frigid Saturday morning to take part in the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast.

Held at the Elk's Lodge, Mike Whitfield served as master of ceremonies for the early morning event, which offered ministers, pastors and priests offering a variety of prayers for the country, community and family, and a featured speech by Derek Harris, a former Air Force senior master sergeant and currently manager of the Boise office of the Idaho Department of Labor.

Capt. Dominic J. Vitaliani, the Catholic Chaplain at Mountain Home Air Force Base, in his invocation, noted that Dr. King always sought non-violent justice for all, "no matter what the cost," and noted that the legacy of his sacrifice is "part of the soul of this nation."

On the day before his formal inauguration, a toast to the president was offered by former mayor Joe B. McNeal, and then his grandson, Joe McNeal V, recited Dr. King's famous "I Have a Dream," speech.

Music was provided by No Limits Christian Ministries.

A prayer for the family was offered by Deacon Brian Vergies of Love Abiding Church, and a prayer of thanksgiving by Vincent Gordon, minister of the Church of Christ.

In his keynote address on the dinner's theme, "Teamwork makes the Dream Work," Harris discussed what it takes to form an effective team, and how teamwork at the Idaho Department of Labor helps get Idahoans back to work.

First, he said, "a culture needs to exist that fosters collaboration. The culture is the office personality, made up of the values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors shared by the group.

"It's a powerful element that shapes your work environment, your work relationships and your work processes.

"If built correctly," he said, "the members of the team will look forward to going to work, feel energized by what they do, feel their contribution is respected and appreciated, feel proud when describing their work to others (and) enjoy and respect the people they work with."

A teamwork culture, he said, is built by hiring the right people -- those that will fit in with the current team members. He urged those doing the hiring to include "diverse people, with different backgrounds, cultures (and) experiences, men and women."

Asking the right questions during the hiring interview will give you insight and usually that "gut feeling" if the person is right for your team or office, he said.

"It amazes me how often employers tell us during Unemployment Insurance fact finding, they let someone go because 'they were not a good fit'.

"These mistakes lead to additional training costs to replace that person, not to mention that it also impacts the unemployment insurance tax rates for that business."

Harris said one of the keys to finding good people is to "seek individuals with certain characteristics. He or she should be enthusiastic, driven, have a positive attitude, a sense of humor, and related experience."

Enthusiasm, he said, plays a huge part in the selection process.

"Often, it is not necessarily the person with the best skill set that gets the job, but the person that demonstrates the most passion for the work that we do.

"If you made it to the interview, I've already determined you probably have the skills and enough related experience to do the job. I'm now trying to decide if you would be a good fit for the team."

Another way to avoid making a bad selection is to hire temps, which gives the employer to try potential employees out. If fact, he got his original job at the Department of Labor as a temp, he said.

He said he was proud of the work he and his teammates do.

"Day in and day out we deal with people that have not only lost their jobs, but their self-esteem and pride. And far too often, many have lost hope.... Many of the people we serve are caught up in the tyranny of the moment.

"They are dealing with today's crisis, about to lose or have lost their home, they are unable to put food on the table, etc. They are so caught up with these immediate needs they are unable to plan for tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year. This is where we step in and provide direction -- help them map their way out of their situation.

"Many of these issues are outside our scope of responsibility. That's where our teamwork extends beyond our Department and we connect them with partnering agencies or other providers that can address their needs. We always seek to tell them what we can do, not what we can't do."

Furthermore, he noted, " We are not like most businesses -- we don't necessarily want repeat customers (job seekers) so we strive to give our best service the first time we meet a customer."

When putting together a team, Harris said, "never lose sight of the purpose. Assemble the team with your head, not your heart. And remember there is no 'I' in we. No one individual is smarter or has more ideas than the collective minds of a team."

The morning concluded with a benediction by Rev. Clark Williams of No Limits Christian Ministry.