Editor’s Note: We're searching for the best and brightest admin professionals and workplace operators in the US. Know an outstanding Ninja? Nominations for the 2020 All-Star Awards are now open!
Today’s OfficeNinjas All-Star Award is presented by Delta Air Lines! Tailored travel services for your company’s needs.
Name: Verlance Friar
Title & Company: Office Vibe Manager, Kiva
Location: San Francisco, CA
# Years as an Office Ninja: 4
Recommends: Stress-relieving dance-offs, aka VerDance Parties
Fun Fact: Occasionally gives Kivans in-office haircuts, including the president of Kiva
Verlance Friar, Office Vibe Manager for Kiva in San Francisco, CA, wants everyone to stop taking themselves so seriously. That’s not to say he doesn’t take his work seriously. “I feel that what I do in and out of the office helps the people in my office who help people around the world,” he explains. “I see my work as Kiva’s Office Vibe Manager having a global impact. I get to help people help people.”
And when Verlance is managing your office’s vibe, you can effect change on a global level AND enjoy impromptu dance parties.
Managing an office of 100 is no small feat. Verlance thoughtfully ascertains various needs across the organization and strikes a perfect balance between providing solutions and empowering us to figure things out as a team, which really makes us all work better together. And when we’re feeling stuck, he’ll literally just start dancing! (Depending on who’s around, sometimes it will turn into a dance-off.)
Beyond making Kiva’s work environment more fun, Verlance’s approach to office management fosters an inclusive, welcoming vibe. Nearly all of his 30 OfficeNinjas All-Star nominations highlighted his ability to make everyone from interns to office visitors feel welcome.
Verlance doesn’t just care for staff. He cares for every single person at Kiva at all levels. You cannot step foot into our office without feeling totally welcomed and embraced by Verlance. Even our UPS delivery men and sanitation workers cannot wait to come into our office to see him!
Verlance is known for his outgoing personality and relentless positivity, but, like all Ninjas, he’s a bit of a double agent. For every seemingly effortless presentation he gives or fun event he plans, Verlance clocks hours of behind-the-scenes work to ensure Kiva’s daily operations and special events run smoothly and efficiently.
Verlance is a guy who makes every day more fun. He’s there to say “Hi” in the morning, he changes up the snacks around the office (when was the last time you had Fruit by the Foot!?), and I’ve never once felt like he was just going through the motions. He’s the only person in this office that everyone wants to hang out with AFTER work.
We doubt we’ll ever master any of his legendary dance moves, but we’ll settle for some insight on his Office Ninja mastery. Enjoy our Q&A with Verlance Friar, OfficeNinjas All-Star!
ON: Tell us about the craziest day you’ve ever experienced as an Office Ninja.
VF: There’s no such thing as THE craziest day. Many of them can be classified as such. Those tend to be on days that we happen to have an All Hands meeting where I have to present or say something, the huge food delivery wants to arrive early, guests randomly show up wanting to know more about our microlending nonprofit organization, and perhaps feeling a bit under the weather … but with colleagues like mine, you can make it through all that without a sweat. Unless it’s cold sweats because then you’re sick fareal! You should probably go get that checked out and get those germs outta my office. Please and thanks.
ON: What’s your favorite part of being an Office Ninja?
VF: People give you their trust, but you must know how to handle such a precious thing. People rely on me and trust that I have their best interest in mind at all times. People think I always want the spotlight, but this role requires a lot of behind-the-scenes work so that the things they do see, run super smooth and appear effortless.
ON: What’s the one thing that’s always on your desk and why?
VF: Candy and music. Just about everyone has a sweet tooth (or teeth depending on how much they want). And I keep tunes bumping just loud enough for those passing by to hear a throwback jam or some kind of nostalgic sound. It’ll generate conversations or bring about smiles and laughter because you hadn’t heard that show tune in years!
However, my main reason for playing music aloud as opposed to headphones is for guests. I greet them, make them laugh and smile, and ask them to have a seat while I inform the person they’re here to see. Just like in your Lyft or Uber, the music is a buffer in case you’re nervous for an interview, and you’re getting your words together, or a little shy, or maybe even tired. Perhaps a person just may not want to chat at the moment. Whatever it is, I’ve noticed people feel at ease when they can converse about my music choice or if they have permission to grab a Hershey Kiss or Hi-Chew.
ON: How do you handle it when you’re stressed or upset at work?
VF: Become a hugging machine since many of us know how important a physical embrace can be to our mental and physical health. If you don’t know, now you know! Other times I just turn the music up a little louder and dance. Sometimes I will prance around the office singing whatever song it is and just make people laugh or smile while they’re working. Every now and then, you’ll get a few to either sing along or join the VerDance Party!
ON: How do your team members help you succeed?
VF: They are always willing to lend a hand when bandwidth is an issue. Or to just help you when they need a break from their normal tasks. A little change of scenery never hurt anyone. They are all extremely supportive, whether it’s work or personal life-related. That means a lot and makes teamwork so much easier.
ON: Where does your drive come from? What keeps you motivated?
VF: The love to help people. I feel that what I do in and out of the office helps the people in my office who help people around the world. I see my work as Kiva’s office vibe manager having a global impact. I get to help people help people. That’s all the motivation I need.
ON: How do you see the admin profession evolving? What do you do to stay ahead of the curve?
VF: It is evolving because it is getting more recognition, and people are sharing best practices and technologies that make tasks easier and smoother. It is not an easy field. Any role dealing with people is not easy. Am I right? I try to stay in the loop with others in the field to bounce ideas off of each other and share successes and failures. You see what you can improve, and when others want to use your ideas, it encourages you—seeing that what you do works.
ON: What is your greatest professional achievement?
VF: This may be it. Fareal. I say that because I come into work every day just trying to help people the best way I can—making them want to be here. Whether they’re a guest, a volunteer, an employee, they all deserve the utmost respect, and I try to give them all a piece of me. I thrive off of knowing they feel good and would want to come back or rave about their experience while they were within our four walls.
With all these amazing nominations from all these amazing people, I see multiple examples of how I’ve impacted their lives. I get to hear and see how I’ve helped, encouraged, empowered, and supported others in different ways. These are the things we should always be looking to accomplish within any profession. Selfish gain is nothing but loss. If you seek to help others, you will always be fulfilled.
ON: What are you most proud of outside of work?
VF: I’d have to say being the first male in the family to go to college and to graduate school. I’ve always wanted to live up north and in California, and I made both of those things happen, which is HUGE coming from my little town in West Hollywood, Florida. Most people are comfortable doing the same ol’ same ol’. I strive to be a bit different, always have. And at different points, family and friends have told me that they’re proud of what I’ve done and who I’ve become, to where they live a part of their lives through me. Deep, right? But seriously, I’m extremely proud of how proud I’ve made them.
Another thing I’m proud of, which is not so serious, is the fun I have putting together color-coordinated outfits from dope thrift finds. My wardrobe probably consists of 95% thrifted items. #secondhandfirst Some friends at work thought it should be documented, so they’d chat me up while we take a pic to post. It’s nothing big, but to see some, follow @wear_lance on Instagram and tell me what you think! All the credit goes to the many Kiva iPhone photographers that had to deal with me. (Disclaimer: I’m not full of myself, I just like matching. Promise.)
ON: How do you balance work and personal life?
VF: By accepting the fact that my to-do list will NEVER be completed. As you check items off, it grows from the bottom. If I can honestly say to myself that I’ve given it my all, then I can walk out leaving work stress free. I enjoy playing basketball, and I enjoy my friends at work. This led to some of us joining a coed recreation league to show others what we’ve got! #ballinnn.
I truly believe it’s healthy to have friends at work. Gives you even more reason to want to show up and even hang out later. Did someone say karaoke? Roller skating? Bissap Baobab? Kivans definitely know what I’m talking about! One of the danciest places in the Bay Area.
ON: What are the top three traits of an OfficeNinjas All-Star?
1. Mindfulness → Clearly thinking of others and often a step ahead of the game. Most times, two to five steps ahead!
2. Unorthodoxy → Often doing things in a way others cannot or perhaps afraid to.
3. Weapon-savvy → Being able to use what you’ve got to get the job done. #nonprofitlife
ON: What’s one thing you’ve done that’s been the most impactful in advancing your career?
VF: Being open and willing to do things outside my comfort zone. I’ve learned that growth happens right outside of comfort, so you have to shake things up a bit in order to get better. Don’t be afraid. Welcome the growing pains, and it’ll be worth it. Your career is more than just your job. It’s who you become during the growth process.
ON: What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
VF: In life, you hear a ton of little nuggets … from your parents, friends, TV, movie quotes, shoooot … random people on a train not even talking to you. But I’d have to say, “If you are going to do something, big or small, aim to be the best at it.” I try to do just that. So, thanks, Grumma Eva!
ON: Office Ninjas often have tips and tricks of the trade. Any you care to share?
VF: Be firm but gentle. How you say things in person AND in writing should be thought out and crafted in a way that they can feel what you mean. In a way, they can even hear your voice and see your expressions through your words. Just like anything, it takes practice but it makes a huge difference. Saying things the right way and showing concern and compassion will result in people giving you full trust and support. True story.
ON: You went from being the Office Manager to the Office Vibe Manager. How would you recommend other Ninjas go about changing their office’s vibe?
VF: Instead of thinking you know everything about everyone, sometimes you just need to listen. Not just to what is said verbally but also to how loud body language can be. Be extremely attentive, and you will learn to pick up on things you cannot always hear or put into words. When people notice you being in tune with their vibe, things flow so much smoother.
ON: All of your nominators mentioned the energy you bring to the office. How do you stay so energized and positive throughout the day?
VF: Kiva is a special place. We have people from all over the world with super varied backgrounds. However, everyone brought on loves people and wants to use their gifts, talents, and abilities to help change the world for the better. I wake up every morning asking God to bless me to be a blessing to someone else each day: a smile, a high-five, a meal, a handshake, a compliment, a snack, whatever! Happiness may be based on one’s circumstances, but joy is from within. Coming into a workplace like Kiva feeds that joy, and I simply just choose to be happy. That’s what keeps me bumpin’ all day, errday!
ON: So you’ve given haircuts to… Kiva’s President. That shows a lot of trust. How did that come about?
VF: Yes, that happened a couple times. I’ve cut a few other people’s hair in the office as well. #NinjaWithTheClippersToo. But with Premal, he walked by my desk one day and I said, “Hey nice haircut, man. I see you!” And he thanked me, then came back and was like, “Thanks! But you know how much I paid for this? Thirty bucks!” I said, “Thirty bucks?! You trippin’! I coulda hooked you up for half of that!” Then he got pretty excited and said, “No, wait. Verlance, are you serious? OK, in three weeks I’m coming to you!” And he did. I brought my clippers in, set up shop, even played some tunes to give the barbershop feel. I remember the head of engineering grabbed a chair and a glass of wine to further enjoy the moment while others added it to their Instagram and Snapchat stories. It was fun and still occurs here and there when people bring it up. His wife approved, which was the main test, so I think I did an OK job.
ON: Your co-workers love the fun you bring to the office AND respect you when you lay down the law. (Bowls not put back in the kitchen? Not on your watch!). How do you maintain that balance between being the fun guy and keeping staff on the right track?
VF: Haha, yeah sometimes I do have to crack that whip! But maintaining the balance comes from reminding people that we’re all in this together. It’s not my office. It’s not yours. It’s OURS. Therefore, if someone wants to use what you just used, put it back better than you found it for the person after you. This shows you respect them, whoever it may be, and would want the same treatment in return. Being fun and silly lets them see a fun-loving side of you, but you can’t be afraid to set someone straight. Right is right, and wrong is wrong. So I let ‘em know!
ON: Your co-workers noted how you make everyone feel welcomed and comfortable enough to bring their full selves to work. What’s your secret?
VF: What’s the secret? Hmmm… not being a secret. Most people, especially at work, are reserved, thinking, “I can’t be too this, too that.” They tend to overthink, which kind of results in an “under-share” or “under-act.” Stop holding so much of your wonderful self back. Share it. That’s what I do, and it helps others feel more at ease. #whysoserious You don’t have to be. When a person feels comfortable and welcomed, they feel wanted and open to contributing. You get the best of anything from teamwork and collaboration, and the sooner people feel connected, the sooner we can grow together and get our amazing work done.
Verlance, we think you’re onto something—Kiva’s work is truly amazing, and so are you!
As part of his prize package, Verlance will receive $1,000 in Delta Credit, courtesy of Delta Air Lines, proud Admin Week partner!
View the complete photo album from our photo shoot at Kiva with Verlance!
All on-site photography of our featured Ninja and his workplace is courtesy of Oh Snap! Visuals. Oh Snap! is OfficeNinjas’ go-to photography company for headshots and events. They travel nationally, produce stunning photographs, and are a dream to work with!
Today’s All-Star is brought to you by Delta Air Lines:
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