- Team Management
- by Nicole Chamblin
How do you prioritize your work when everything is a priority? A few years ago, I attended a conference where the keynote speaker, Dan Thurmon, used a juggling routine to illustrate a very important lesson. Usually he juggles sharp objects and names them as he tosses them the air: Career, Health, Family, Education, etc. As he juggled, he taught us that we juggle in our day-to-day, trying to catch everything at once. At any given time, you can only manage (or have your hands on) maybe two big things at a time. When we try to catch it all together, we end up feeling what he called "off-balance” and "off-purpose.” The trick is to be intentional and throw some things higher than others so we can catch the important things—ending up off-balance, but on-purpose. As Steven Covey said, "don’t prioritize your schedule; schedule your priorities.” Using the juggling analogy, "how can you be deliberate about what you throw up into the air so you can be focused on the things that you are catching in your hands?” For example, at different points in life, you might decide that you have to focus on your career, so starting a family would have to wait; or you might decide that you need to go back to school, so you have to cut back on community work. You need to be purposeful about what you’re going to be off-balance about. Give yourself permission to throw some things up in the air. It will help reduce your stress levels. A proven method for prioritizing your workload is the ABCDE Prioritization Method, taught by Brian Tracey in his book Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time. The name of Brian Tracey’s book was inspired by this Mark Twain quote: "Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” Eating a live frog refers to completing a task that is challenging to get it out of the way so that the rest of the day can be more productive. With the ABCDE method, you prioritize your work according to the severity of the consequence for not doing the task: A - something important that you have to do that has serious consequences B - a task that you should do as it has some consequences C - a task that would be nice to do, has few, if any, consequences D - something that can be delegated E - something that can be eliminated If you get in the habit of evaluating your priorities and commitments with this method, figuring out your next step becomes easier. The ABCDE Method in Action When it comes to priorities, you are typically dealing with how long things take, who you have to work with or keep informed, and what tasks get your attention first. Here are some things to keep in mind as you apply the ABCDE method: Spend the appropriate amount of time in something according to its priority. Don’t give A-level attention to a C-level task. Create a daily list of A-level tasks and tackle those first. Each time an "emergency” or "urgent” request comes up, evaluate it against the A-level tasks on your list. Schedule time to begin working on the B-level tasks before they become urgent. Work them into your schedule before their deadlines. Look for things you can eliminate and get off your list. If a task keeps getting rated a C-level (nice to do/no consequence) task, consider if it’s worth your energy to keep it on your list. Leverage your team and delegate those tasks that don’t absolutely require your attention. Maybe you can assign a B-level task to someone to get the ball rolling. Or you can have them evaluate the C list and inform the decision on whether they should be dropped. Delegation will let you extend your efforts from what you can do to what you can control. Be sure to set aside time in your calendar for your A-level work by applying the 80/20 Rule. In the 80/20 Rule, 20% of your efforts produce 80% of your results. Set aside 20% of your day, roughly 90 minutes, and use that time to focus on your A-level priorities. Consider blocking a standing appointment on your calendar 3 times per week. There are times when what’s considered a priority is out of your control and you end up juggling more things than you’d like. Our brains like things easy. While we try to convince ourselves that we can handle multitasking efficiently (we really can’t), our brains are designed to seek completion. So if we keep a long priority list, we increase our stress by trying to keep track of all these things. Create a Someday/Maybe list and park all those C-level, "nice to do” tasks there so they are less of a distraction. As your priorities change, evaluate the risk level. Be intentional about when you’ll get the work done. How do you prioritize an overwhelming workload? Pick your biggest A-level task and eat that frog first!
- by Jennifer Sellers
Is finding the perfect mentor like finding a needle in haystack? It doesn’t have to be. Seeking out the right mentoring match may seem like a daunting task at first, but with a little time investment and self-reflection, the process can yield multiple options. Mentors are plentiful. They come in all shapes and sizes. Thinking through what you want to get out of a partnership before you begin your search usually results in the most rewarding and productive match. So, what type of mentor are you looking for? Technical mentors – People you turn to for professional advice. These mentors generally have a strong reputation for technical excellence. Consider – do you want to connect with a subject-matter expert? Or maybe you are looking for broad-based experience across a variety of skills and competencies. Relationship mentors – People you can turn to and learn how to develop strategic relationships and partnerships. Relationship mentors also provide a safe environment for you to learn how to deal with difficult people, manage conflict, influence others. Selecting a mentor with whom you can have authentic, honest conversations requires a certain level of chemistry and trust. Navigational mentors – People who can help you understand how to navigate the unwritten rules, corporate culture, and can help you strategize next steps for success within the organization. This mentor can decode the unspoken organizational culture – an agency Sherpa, if you will! It is important to remember that although you might originally have one type of partner in mind (for example, someone like you) being open to new perspectives often yields a perfect and powerful match. A recent study provided by The Training Connection, Inc. discovered that it is actually the differences that make the best matches: 84% responded favorable in response to differences in experience. Mentors are likely better able to offer mentorees a different point of view through their own experiences. 71% responded favorable in response to differences in behavioral style (DISC). Finding a partner who brings a different behavioral style to the partnership (not too similar, but not too far apart) is very beneficial to the growth and success of the partnership. (One obvious example - if you are quiet and shy to look for someone who is more outgoing and charming.) Differences in gender, cultural background, and generation have also made a positive difference. Below are some additional thoughts to keep in mind when beginning your search: Be proactive. Mentorees need to be proactive not just in their mentoring search, but in the partnership as well. In formal mentoring programs, the programs do not fail, the partnerships do. This occurs when parties are not committed up-front to the process, or clear with their partner if something has changed and they need to end the partnership. Look for someone outside of your chain of command. It goes without saying that your boss should always be your informal mentor, however in a formal mentoring partnership, the best matches are outside one’s chain of command. Mentorees are more likely to open up and feel comfortable confiding in someone who does not have input to their performance reviews. Mentorees need someone who can create a safe space to bounce ideas off of and a mentor who is outside of their immediate day to day work environment can provide that. Thoughtfully commit to the mentoring partnership. The most successful mentoring matches are ones in which both the mentoree and mentor are given a voice in the partnership - meaning the match is not forced and both are willing to give their full attention to the partnership. Be sure to thoroughly research the mentors background and availability. Don’t be discouraged if a mentor says they are unavailable. When requesting a mentor let them know you have others in mind if they are unavailable, this will allow a mentor the option to say no if they do not have time to dedicate to the partnership. You may find it helpful later on to see if they are available as a situational mentor to enhance a formal partnership. A situational mentor is the right help at the right time and is usually available to help solve a quick problem, uncover a hidden talent or learn a new skill or behavior. They can be the perfect enhancement to a formal mentoring partnership. As I mentioned earlier, finding a mentor doesn’t have to be like searching for a needle in a haystack - you simply need to do the homework. Carefully thinking through what it is you are looking for in your mentor is sure to result in a fruitful partnership for both you and the mentor.
- Work/Life Balance
- by Kerry Wekelo
Making a Great Day starts with turning your focus to your own personal well-being and how that plays out in your daily quest for (work/life) balance. When we challenge our balance by splitting ourselves in two or more directions, we tax our emotional and physical stability. With so many of us experiencing the high stress of life’s challenges and current events, it’s critical that we take time to make ourselves our first priority. Our personal health and careers depend on balance.When we experience balance, we find ourselves exclaiming, “What a great day!” But, on the other side is imbalance and you might notice that when you feel out of balance you state, “I am having a bad day.” There is a direct correlation between balance, feeling good, and being the best version of yourself. Balance is elusive. We often feel disappointed at our attempt to live a balanced life. But what I have come to know is that complete and constant balance is impossible to achieve. What is possible, however, is a balance on average, over time. Our lives are not steady, and work is constantly changing, so the reality is that some days will require you to focus more on work, and other days more on personal life. Fluctuations are to be expected. Having an awareness of where you are on the scales of balance will enable you to adjust.Through much trial and error, I have landed on six guiding principles (with accompanying exercises) to help you infuse balance into your life:1. Breathe: In times of stress, we can turn to our focusing on our breath for relief. It’s free, easy to access, and an effective antidote to the anxiety and physical symptoms of stress. Breathe control can be used when you feel stressed, upset at a co-worker, or wanting to hide under your desk. Exercise: Balloon Breathing: Raise your arms high from your sides up over your head as you take a deep breath. As you exhale, let all the air come out like a balloon as you drop your arms.Take a long breath in and as you exhale, say “ahhhh…”2. Challenge: Another helpful way to keep your work/life balance healthy is to handle issues as they come up instead of letting them simmer. For example, if you have a disagreement with a co-worker and don’t address it directly with them, chances are that you will take that frustration home and keep thinking about it. Exercise: 3 “P” Method for handling conflict: Step 1: Pause and notice your current emotions.Step 2: Pivot out of a negative spiral.Step 3: Consider positive possibilities. 3. Move: Movement is another way to care for your own well-being. When you are feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, stressed or just blocked, take a moment to physically move away from the situation. Movement will free up creative space where solutions flow.Exercise: Take a few minutes movement break every hour. Stretch at your desk, take the stairs, or go for a walk.4. Nourish: Healthy and balanced food choices support a healthy mental state.Exercise: Pause before making an unhealthy food choice. Instead of eating sugar to reduce stress, reach for a glass of water with fresh lemon.5. Communicate: One of the most vital aspects of success in our personal and professional relationships is communication—the thread that connects us together. Poor communication causes unneeded stress. Exercise: Practice focused listening by giving your full attention to the individual speaking to you without interrupting them or offering your advice. Just listen.6. Routine: A daily routine that includes space for personal well-being will allow you to flourish. Taking time for yourself should be part of your routine. When you do something that inspires you throughout your day, you will be inspired.Exercise: Put well-being time on your schedule. Make a list of activities you love to do and keep it on your desk for easy access.If you are working too much, you will not have the energy to do things when you are not at work. If you play too hard outside of work, you will not have the energy for your job. It might seem like having to pay attention to your work/life balance is just one more thing to add to the list, but I can promise you it is worth adding. When your life is balanced between work and other activities, you will be more satisfied, more motivated, happier, and healthier.
- Career Planning
- by Alison Sfreddo
With every new year comes the opportunity to reflect and anticipate what you want the next year (and beyond) to look like. You may even create a list of lofty goals and brace yourself for the looming sacrifices that will have to be made to achieve those milestones. This process can, however, be much more pleasant if you shift and redirect your thinking. Instead of thinking about what you have to give up, you should instead visualize those achievements actually coming to fruition. Envisioning can be a powerful tool in turning your dreams into reality. Sound silly? Not really. According to a study conducted by TD Bank, https://www.forbes.com/…/survey-shows-visualizing-success…/…visualizing success (often through a Vision Board) does in fact work. Imagining attainment of the things you want most in life will quickly turn into reality when it becomes a part of your awareness, and the best way to do that is to create a visual reminder that helps keep your eyes on the prize. Creating a Vision Board is one of the most effective (and fun) ways to manifest your vision as it serves as a constant reminder of the goals you want and plan to achieve. Meaningful images and mantras in your daily line of vision gradually become an energy source and ultimately evolve to become part of your subconscious awareness. When this happens, you will find yourself focusing on the specific things that you want to attract and will begin to take the actions needed to attain them. The trick of course is to stay positive as negative thoughts can often derail your plans. Your Vision Board is your creation and there is no “perfect” way to create one. There are a few steps however that can help you to design the one that is most meaningful to you. Start envisioning. Begin to list all of the things that you would most like to achieve and acquire in all areas of your life and keep in mind that the sky is the limit! For example, you may ask yourself, “What position do I want next in my career?” What does my dream home look like?” “What types of relationships do I want to nurture?” “How do I want my body to look and perform?” What places do I want to travel?” These are the first steps in the envisioning process. Be sure to focus on the things or places that you want most in your life – not on the things you don’t. You attract what you think so again, only positive thoughts please! Find your visual inspirations. This is the fun part. Refer to your vision list and find those images that best represent what you want. The sources can be from any medium. Pursue through magazines or online images and stock photos. Websites like Pinterest and Google images are loaded with ideas. Be sure to include meaningful words or inspiring quotes. Compile visual prompts that speak directly and powerfully to you. Create your own custom Vision Board. Decide the size of your board (some may like a giant easel of images while others may prefer a smaller 8x11 framed version.) Some may be ultra creative and turn theirs into their tablet’s wallpaper. This should be your personal preference and should include any aesthetic that will have you looking at it daily. Arrange the images in a way that is pleasing to your eyes. Be sure to add a mantra of your best self and place that squarely in the middle. For example, if you want to supervise your team, physically document the following affirmation: “I am managing my team with great success and positive energy.” Documenting these goals is the best way to affirm them as you are creating a contract with yourself to move toward these changes and outcomes. Formulate a plan of action. While envisioning is a great way to galvanize your goals, it is equally important to map out a plan that outlines the stages that will culminate toward your final goals. By strategically planning your next steps, you are in effect getting closer to making your goals a reality. For example, if your dream is to rise to the next level of management, you must first research what the prerequisites are to get you in the running. If it involves taking a class or working on a special project, then map out that plan and take the first steps to tackle it. Be in a state of constant gratitude. Always be grateful for the things that come your way. Every material and non-material success we achieve is a gift. Expressing gratitude for these gifts energizes the Universe and strengthens our vibrations to receive more of the same. Be sure to share your good fortune with others. It doesn’t need to be material and some of the most rewarding gifts are time, support and a listening ear. ASK A MENTOR Let this be the year of the positive promise! At your next mentoring meeting, share with your mentor the goals that you have for yourself and ask them what they envisioned for their own success and how they achieved their vision. You will also want to see if they have any ideas on how you canmove forward with yours. In the areas that you find yourself feeling stuck, ask your mentor if they have any strategies to help you stay positive and stay the course. Here a few questions to get you started but feel free to add to the list: What are my ultimate goals and/or vision? If I don’t already have a clear vision, am I working toward creating one? What would make me the most satisfied professionally? Personally? Financially? Do I have a clear sense of my ultimate goal? Do I run it through my mind on a continual basis? Do I actually envision myself living my dream? What am I doing to achieve my ultimate goals? Does it seem to be working? If not, how can I redirect? Do I seem to be moving in the right direction? Or do I experience reoccurring setbacks? What are some approaches to stay positive? How have I assisted others with their goals and dreams and how has this helped me? Am I grateful of where I am thus far? How do I express this gratitude?
- by Nicole Bridge
As the year winds down, pause and reflect on your career goals. Think back to when you were first hired. What kinds of plans did you set? Have you made progress against them? Are you content? What might bring greater satisfaction? Through this lens, begin setting professional intentions for 2019. While you organize, commit to enhancing your networks by making new connections and taking an active role in your community. In this newsletter we will share some tips and strategies for getting out there and making the most of every chance to meet people who can widen your perspectives and make a difference in your work experience. Stay Open-Minded Remember that networking won’t bring instant gratification. In other words, don’t measure your success by whether you secure a promotion or a new job after a first encounter. Think of networking as relationship-building. You can’t possibly know by reading a nametag or email signature line who might be of help to you. Be open to people who work in different divisions or unrelated job functions. Take time to get to know them, asking questions about what they do and about broad pressing issues like juggling family commitments and managing busy travel schedules. The truth is, these are topics people generally like to chat about- more than the technical functions of their job- and your taking the time to ask questions will make them feel comfortable and ensure that their meeting with you is memorable. Plan Networking in Your Calendar Write it down as a commitment because, honestly, that’s the only way you will make time for it. Set even small steps as a firm event in your calendar. For example, "Research organizational charts on the intranet.” Or, "Send congratulatory notes on LinkedIn.” Maybe even, "Check in with former cubical mate.” Maintain your network on a monthly basis. Have a Canned Opener Make introductions easy. To avoid sounding like a bore or fumbling over an explanation, have a loosely prepared opening statement. And be interesting! For example, "Hi, I’m John. You’ll be surprised to know I work at the tech desk. People think I just eat over our keyboards and never leave our screens. But I’ve worked in computer support for a long time and actually started as a travel support technician before coming to this organization.” Don’t Just Take, Give Them Something Too Be a thoughtful networker. Ask your new connection: Is there anything I can do to help you? You might offer a different perspective on a project they’re handling or even forward to them one of your best sample meeting agendas. If you meet someone for coffee, bring a third person- even if it’s just your regular lunch buddy. They will both benefit from meeting someone else. Consider inviting people to things outside of work such as yoga classes and museum lectures. Share powerful articles and book recommendations. Networking- Even for Introverts If the word "networking” makes you cringe and shrink uncomfortably in your seat, we have some tips and strategies to help even the most blushing introvert to network like a boss. Be Genuine. When making a new connection, you don’t need to sound like you’re looking for a favor or a job. Ask about things you really want to know. Chances are, if you’re interested in it, people are likely interested in talking about it. Arrive early. If you’re shy in large social situations, your knee-jerk might be to arrive 15 minutes late to networking events and socials. Next time try something different. Be one of the first to arrive. You’ll have an easier time speaking and connecting with one or two people at a time as they trickle into the event. Be on. Each of us has certain times of the day when we’re "on” or more energetic than others. If you’re an early bird, try to connect with someone for coffee before work. If the end of the workday puts a spring in your step, meet for dinner. Listen well. Want to know one of the best ways to stand out at a networking event? Let your listening skills shine. Instead of clamoring to be heard above the chatter, show your ability to stay cool, listen, and ask meaningful questions. Follow-up. Following up after making a new connection is a critical part of networking. If the social, face-to-face aspect leaves you feeling anxious, then take comfort in the follow-up. Back in the comfort and tranquility of your own office compose a short, thoughtful email letting your new acquaintance know how much you enjoyed meeting them. This is an easy opportunity to make sure they don’t forget you. Quick Guide to Creating Your Own Networking Opportunities Take your networking skills out of the office, but don’t wait for opportunities to come to you. Take a few minutes each month to research events in your area and organize them in your calendar. Here are some ideas: Attend an Agency Sponsored Event or Program. Make a connection in a variety of diverse environments: town halls, retirement luncheons, office picnics. Volunteer to lead a cross-functional team or project. Join an employer sponsored affinity group: Blacks in Government (BIG), Federally Employed Women (FEW), Veteran and Military Affinity Groups, etc. Around the office Plan a "brainstorming” session with a co-worker. Ask them about their career goals and share yours. Can you introduce them to anyone in your network who might be helpful to them? Can they do the same for you? Make a point to introduce yourself to new employees or maybe even invite them to lunch. Smile! Earn a reputation as a "friendly” colleague- not only will your positivity set you apart from others, you will get to know a lot of people too. Collegiate Alumni Association Visit their website and register as part of their online community. Search the list of alumni chapters. Find yours? Check out upcoming events such as monthly football watch parties, crab fests, and community service opportunities. Reach out to leadership team to introduce yourself and let them know you want to get involved. Neighborhood Association Reach out to the board members to ask about upcoming initiatives that might need extra hands. Consider your own gifts- like to entertain? Consider hosting the spring barbeque. Are you a baker? Deliver baked goods to new neighbors. Prefer working with your hands? Organize a spring grounds clean up. Professional Associations Research organizations that are relevant to your industry, read their FAQs, pay close attention to membership guidelines and fees before joining. Look for instructions on joining their discussion list and signing up for job list emails. Subscribe to the organization’s monthly newsletter or periodical and share valuable pieces with people in your network. Eventbrite Visit Eventbrite and sign up for events in your area. Check out the section called "Business, Get Connected” to find out about networking events and workshops. Peruse upcoming events for TED talks or lectures that are relevant to your industry and invite a work friend to join. Nurturing your networks will get you in shape to achieve your 2019 career goals. Cast a wide net, be thoughtful and show them your authentic self. Someone you meet today just might be able to help you down the road. ASK A MENTOR Brainstorm with your mentor on some ideas for expanding your network. As them about their experiences and how networking has helped them in their career. Some questions you might ask: Do you attend any regular networking events? How do you “check-in” or maintain your network? What is your favorite opener when you meet someone new? How do you describe your job function succinctly to a new encounter? What kinds of things can you offer to help someone else who is hoping to expand their network? Do you ever connect with people outside of your division? Outside of this organization? What community clubs or organizations have you joined outside of work? What connection have you made that proved to be the most powerful in your career?
- Self Awareness
- by Nicole Bridge
It might seem like an unusual topic but the way you organize your workspace may say more about your personality than you think. Look around at yours right now. Is it perfectly neat or does it have a more “lived-in” look? Do you display personal mementos? Or prefer plain walls? Do you hang professional certificates and awards? Or have you designated a drawer for items of organizational recognition? Whether you share cubicle space, work remotely from a corner of your home or are tucked inside a private office with a door, your work space paints a picture of your personality and working style. To make sure your desk is saying what you want it to say about you, we will share some ideas for organizing and personalizing your space: Communicate Power and Efficiency with a Clean Workspace If you are interested in communicating power and having command of your workload, keep your space open and streamlined. Declutter your desk by getting rid of things you don’t need. Go paperless if possible; scan important documents and file them electronically on your desktop. Pick one spot for digital devices, cords, and chargers. Keep in mind some clutter is virtual, like the clutter of icons on your desktop. Having too many icons may make it difficult to find things quickly and can even slow down your computer. De-clutter your desktop frequently. Encourage Openness by Sharing Your Friendly and Unique Flair There are a couple of ways to add some personality to your workspace and express to your colleagues that you are an outgoing and interesting person with a happy life inside and outside of work. For example: 1. Pick the perfect wall calendar: A wall calendar makes it easy to reference dates and double-check commitments without always having to pick up your smart phone. Pick something that reflects your interests or aesthetics. Run a search on Etsy, check out a local stationary store, visit your favorite museum’s gift shop, or even make your own on Snapfish (or other photo website) with pictures from your phone or social media accounts. 2. Display 3-5 photos: Of course, you don’t want to clutter your desk with pictures from college or a wild summer barbeque, but just a few photos of a beloved pet, family members, or a scene from a recent vacation are great conversation-starters and can make you feel happy throughout the day. 3. Curate a small collection of your favorite things: If you love poetry books or collect Star Wars memorabilia, displaying just a few of those items in your office communicates that you have rich interests and a unique personality. Establish Stability and Harmony With their dreary corners and humming equipment, offices can feel at once hectic and stale. To brighten things up and balance the environment, add simple flourishes from the Chinese study of dynamic energy flow by adding a bit of Feng Shui: 1. Air-purifying plants: Low-maintenance is a must. Try cacti, spider plants, jade, or peace lilies, which do not require full-sun or daily watering. 2. Ion-neutralizing Himalayan salt rock: Believed to counteract positive ions produced by your computer and smart phone, many are outfitted with small lights that emit a peaceful glow. 3. Happy family photos: Communicate that you are a family-oriented person who treasures and draws support from your loved ones. Curate them into nice frames in a single spot. 4. Small mirror behind your desk: Ideally, your desk should face the door so that you see everyone who passes or enters. If that furniture layout is not possible, place a small mirror next to your computer so that you can see behind you, eliminating any feelings of uneasiness. 5. Desk lamp: natural light is the best alternative to Narsh fluorescent lighting in an office, but a small task lamp also produces a calming light. Demonstrate that You Are Organized and On Top of Details There is more to being “on top” of your projects than simply having completed them. Being able to communicate to your supervisor where your projects are in the process and reporting critical details will make you feel more confident about your workload and sound competent to your team leaders. For this reason, having an inbox and an outbox is not enough to encapsulate the middle of projects. Engineer a three-step routine at your desk that will make it easy for you to touch each project on your plate daily and report back on them concisely: 1. File: Create a master list for each project, either as a hanging file or electronic list or both. In it, take the time to break your project into a series of smaller tasks. It will make your work seem less overwhelming but also give you the freedom to take on easier tasks on already busy days. 2. Board: You can hang a simple wipe-off board or download an online task board like Trello, to color-code tasks according to priority level and move them through the process from “start” to “submitted.” 3. Tray: Take a day, weekly or bi-weekly to review progress against the project plan. Is the deadline still manageable? Will you have enough resources? Flag any issues and place them in a tray on your desk so that you remember to raise them with your supervisor or team leader. Taking the time to situate your desk will demonstrate competence in your job but can also make you feel more content and satisfied while you’re sitting there! Ask a Mentor!Your mentor has seen a lot of desks in their professional lifetime. Talk to them about what they like to see and what irks them. Here are some possible questions you might ask: Who has the neatest office space you can think of? What stands out most about it? What are the challenges you face when trying to feel at home and satisfied with your own office space? Do you have any personal items hanging in your office? Organizational certificates? What is an absolute must for you to feel productive when sitting at your desk? What is your pet peeve when you look into someone else’s office?
- Mentoring Action Plan
- by Roger Cote
"Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” Lewis Carroll—Alice in Wonderland. Creating a practical plan for a mentoring relationship starts with building your vision. What do you hope to get out of a mentoring partnership? Providing clear descriptions of where you are going with your career will in turn help identify mentors who can optimize this journey. This vision then serves as the basis for developing a plan. But oftentimes, we find ourselves thinking, "I’m not sure where I want to go,” or "I don’t know what I don’t know,” or "Where do I start?” Lewis Carroll provides the idea for the first tip, and we’ll add a few more to get you started: Begin at the beginning. It matters not where you are in your career; you had a starting point—a beginning. Most likely, that beginning had a job description, and you might even have had some career goals at that time. Check that description, those goals, and review what you’ve accomplished. As you check things off your list, what remains can be used as a new beginning for revealing your vision. Your performance reviews can also provide insight into your strengths along with areas needing improvement. Put aside any personal feelings you might have about them and use them as a starting point—a beginning. Uncover opportunities. Review your job description (or perhaps one for another job of interest) to identify the competencies, knowledge, skills, and abilities required. Again, be objective. Which of these items can you check off your list, and which could you use some help improving? Perhaps you want to explore other career opportunities. If so, use similar resources to identify job elements that match your skills to give your exploration a starting point. Look at your strengths and talents. Ask yourself if your natural talents are being used to their fullest potential. Are there opportunities to showcase your talents? How can you let others know that you would like to help out by applying your strengths and talents to their needs? Uncover blind spots. Don’t worry about what you don’t know; start with what you do know that will point you towards areas and topics you want or need to learn more about. Ask for help. One of the best ways to uncover blind spots is to ask your supervisor, manager, co-workers, or even someone you supervise for specific and useful feedback. "What am I doing that is holding me back?” or "What could I do to manage you better?” Write down those growth opportunities and thoughts until you finish with what you know. Before you know it, you’ll have the building blocks you need to create your mentoring plan.
- by Eileen Marshall
There’s power in a pause. A pause can come in many different forms – the pause for summer or holiday break, the pause of a good night’s sleep – even the visual “pause” of the white space a graphic artist might use as a design element. But interestingly enough, one of the most powerful pauses can come in the form of a simple pause in a conversation. All excellent listeners are masters of the pause. They are comfortable with silences. When the other person finishes speaking, they take a breath and relax before saying anything. They know that the pause is a key part of good communications. Pausing before speaking or responding has many benefits, including: 1. Avoiding the risk of interrupting the speaker if he or she has just stopped to gather his or her thoughts. One of the pillars of good communication is building trust - and active listening does just that. When pausing for a moment before responding in a conversation, the speaker will often continue speaking. He or she will be sharing additional information and insight which greatly improves the chances that your response will speak directly to the points the speaker is trying to convey. 2. Showing you are giving careful consideration to what the speaker has just said. By carefully considering the other person’s words, you are paying him or her a compliment by giving them the gift of attention and contemplation. You are implicitly saying that you consider what he or she has said to be important and worthy of quiet reflection. You can often give the speaker a feeling of value with your silence, raising their self-esteem and confidence in the process. 3. Giving you, the listener, time to actually hear, absorb and understand the speaker more fully. The more time you take to reflect upon what has just been said, the more conscious you will be of their real meaning. You will be more alert to how the speaker’s words connect with other things you know about them, increasing your ability to craft your response with a more holistic approach that takes into consideration many factors. And pausing isn’t just useful for listeners, it can be a powerful tool for a speaker as well: 1. The easiest way to pause effectively is to use the moment of silence to take a deep breath. A deep breath sends oxygen to the brain, which can help a speaker to be more functional and alert, think more clearly and even reset the timbre and tone of voice. A deep breath can also calm nerves – which tend to result in speakers talking too quickly and breathlessly, which becomes a vicious cycle. A pause for a deep breath can break this cycle. 2. Pausing increases credibility. A pause suggests a speaker is thinking about what they are about to share. It requires a tremendous level of confidence to purposely pause during a presentation, as there is enormous pressure to talk continuously when in front of a group. Inserting periodic pauses when communicating with others, or when presenting to a group, will convey a level of composure, poise and confidence – it’s also an effective tool for grabbing or refocusing attention. 3. A pause can substitute for those “filler” words – the "you know," "um," "ah," "like," "so," "whatever" – words that add no value and, when repeatedly uttered, will distract your listeners. The secret to eliminating filler words is to use a pause instead. This sounds simple, but it's not always easy and will likely take practice and diligence. But the results will be well worth the investment.
- Emotional Intelligence
- by Roger Cote
The practice of mindfulness has been around for centuries, dating back to 500 B.C. as an integral element in Buddhist teachings. It has been woven into many cultures and philosophies since then, and made its way into American considerations in 1979 via the efforts of Jon Kabat-Zinn, creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Over the years, Kabat-Zinn and others have helped mindfulness grow in popularity, partly by playing down the religious and philosophical elements that often turn off prospective practitioners, and focused on its potential to help people reduce stress and increase focus on everyday tasks. A quick internet search generates a plethora of books and articles on the subject. They all center on the same core premise that practicing mindfulness involves learning how to be more aware of what is going on around you in the present moment. And a key element in every approach is making an intentional effort to be aware of your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations without passing judgement or making commentary. Many resources teach you to implement mindfulness techniques into your daily life, and how the practice can improve physical and emotional health as well as improve relations with friends, family, and co-workers. Some resources delve into diet, exercise, and leveraging everyday opportunities to practice awareness. So how do you choose which path is right for you? Start with your own search and tug on the threads that catch your eye. Are you interested in the roots of mindfulness as they relate to Buddhist teachings and the practice of Vipassana and Metta meditation? Or do you just want to learn a few exercises that can help reduce stress and improve focus? Perhaps you are interested in recent studies conducted that show the science behind the potential benefits of practicing mindfulness. Learning more about practicing mindfulness can benefit mentoring partnerships in at least two ways. First, it can help partners discover ways to be more in tune with their mentoring moments, and more aware and present for each other during their meetings. Second, partners can explore the topic together, identifying things about practicing mindfulness that they share an interest or curiosity in.