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  • 0 Lean into Gratitude

    It’s almost Thanksgiving and, at TTC, we often like to underscore the gratitude season by seeking balance and appreciation in our professional lives. This month, we are going to map our way to thankfulness by cutting out the static and zeroing in on the things that are working well and staying steady, no matter how small. When it comes to life, grief, disappointment, and fear can strike at any time: the unexpected illness of a loved one, being passed over for a promotion or a project not going the way we hoped. Whatever its source, taking a measured approach to managing disappointment can foster personal and professional growth and push you to a place of gratitude. First, manage your expectations A few years ago, the Harvard Business Review HBR published a list of strategies for coping with work-related disappointment. They urged readers to arm themselves against the lingering effects of disappointment by first managing their expectations that any situation will be free of it. Even when something goes as planned, we might not feel as satisfied by the experience as we hoped. Though disappointment is sometimes unavoidable, the worst thing that can happen is that it festers, morphing into resentment and apathy. “When we catch ourselves thinking negatively,” HBR advised, “we should redirect our energy and focus on positive solutions.” While it might be difficult to let go of a disappointing experience, not letting go of it creates unnecessary stress and makes it harder to find forward momentum. Keep in mind that disappointment is an occasion to build resilience and widen perspectives. It can even help you make better and more informed decisions in the future. Rally around your long-term goals. Though this particular situation did not end up as planned, it is not a derailment. You might simply need to reframe your path. Bring the growth mindset to the front Shape shift your thinking! Stanford Psychologist Carol Dweck developed the notion of a growth mindset which is centered on the belief that talent can be improved over time. People with a growth mindset look for opportunities to develop their talent through hard work and feedback, both good and bad. A fixed mindset, on the other hand, leans into feelings of inferiority and the belief that each of us has only a certain capacity for success or a finite level of intelligence. People with a fixed mindset begin to doubt their abilities compared to those around them. If you notice others are finding greater success, don’t slip into insecurity. Use your growth mindset to find inspiration in the steps they’ve taken. Examine their experience and network as possible factors. Focus on the positive Navigating a challenge or obstacle is a powerful opportunity to demonstrate your leadership capacity. Start with being candid about your disappointment and what needs your attention. Consider setting measurable goals to gain more experience in a specific area, better your knowledge or improve your outlook. Shift your language so that you talk about what has happened with positivity and persistence. Make sure those around you understand your awareness of why this has happened and be sure to convey your openness to grow from the experience. Let them know that this experience has motivated you. Now, welcome gratitude Seek out the positives. Think about the things that are solid at the moment. What is going well? Where are the bright spots? What holds steady even as the situation evolves? Lean into your successes, no matter how small, as you prepare to make your next move. This is your opportunity to launch a new and grow. If you’re finding it hard to access gratitude in your current situation, it might help to write down your next moves. Eventually, you will probably be able to see why something turned out the way it did but, until that happens, here are some productive steps to take: Consider your expectations. Do they need to be adjusted? Are you being too hard on yourself or others? Are you being unrealistic? Open up to a friend or mentor. It can help to seek emotional support. Try to talk to someone who isn’t directly related to the issue or in your office. Do something different. Map out a new project and set goals in another area. Taking some time away might be refreshing. Examine what is getting in the way of your contentment. What, specifically, is causing you unease? Is it something temporary? Is it in your control? Can you think of a different perspective on it? Sit down with your supervisor. If you are hoping to achieve something different, talk to your manager. Don’t be grim, choose positive and energetic language so they understand your genuineness.

  • 0 WISE @ UCF Mentoring Program

    • Mentoring
    • by Kathy Wentworth Drahosz
    • 10-04-2021

    Kathy Wentworth Drahosz traveled to Orlando this week to kick off a formal mentoring training session for the University of Central Florida’s (UCF) Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Mentoring Program!  The WISE mentoring program matches successful professional women in STEM related positions with young women in their sophomore and/or junior year at UCF.  Due to the pandemic, last year’s program was all virtual, this year we were able to facilitate a hybrid program (both live and virtual).  “The use of technology has been a game changer the past 18 months”, comments Drahosz, “partnerships who may not have had an opportunity to meet face to face, were able to enjoy connecting through Zoom.  Mentors from government and industry (Johnson and Johnson, Duke Energy, Blue Origin, Naval Air Warfare Center, Lockheed Martin, and more) signed up to help the students this year.  The sophomore and junior year can be challenging for some students.  “It’s always wonderful to see our industry and government partners take such interest in growing our future STEM women leaders”, said Melissa Dagley, Executive Director, Initiatives in STEM. 


    People often ask us- “how do I choose the best mentor for me?” This question is broad, but understandable. There are multiple metrics that contribute to a successful partnership. Experience is important, but is it more helpful to have years of experience or a certain type? Maybe it’s easiest to collaborate with a colleague who shares a similar communication style, but would it make a bigger impact to absorb attributes from someone who operates a little differently?Set developmental goalsThe best way to get started is by setting your developmental goals. Jot down some notes:What are your career aspirations?Where do you want to be in five years?What will it take to get there?Pull your story together as a pitch that you can lay out quickly. For example, “I would eventually like to be a supervisory IT specialist, so I am working toward a technical detail. I enrolled in this program to hone new technical skills that will help me get there.”Identify your ideal mentorThink about the capabilities or functional background your mentor should possess. Consider whether you are looking to stay in your area or bridge into a new career field. Weigh the merits of seeking specialized experience versus a rich and varied organizational background. Forbes Magazine ( pointed out that it doesn’t always matter how many years of experience they have, its more about whether their knowledge and expertise is going to be helpful to you in the job you’re doing or the job you hope to get. Identify a mentor who will push you outside of your comfort zone and who is willing to give honest, candid feedback.Create a list of potential mentorsOnce you’ve prepared your pitch and identified the characteristics of your ideal mentor, create a list of potential candidates. Research your candidates’ backgrounds. You might even solicit advice from an outside source like your supervisor or people in your professional network. Try to collect information from articles the mentor may have written or explore their contributions to highly visible projects. NPR reminds mentees to “recognize the difference between a mentor and a sponsor.” The purpose of a mentor is to give you guidance and impart their own experience, not to get you a promotion or a raise.Arrange Meetings with your Top Two or Three ChoicesOrganize a list of five potential mentors and arrange meetings with your top two or three choices. The purpose of these meetings is to explore the possibility of establishing a partnership. When speaking with each candidate, find out as much as you can about their accomplishments and character. Partnering with someone who shares some personal commonalities- such as charity work or raising children- can make relationship-building easier too.Ask guided questions about the mentor’s background such as:How did you get to where you are today?What factors and skills have made a difference in your career?What have you found to be the secrets to your success in this organization?Then be prepared to share some information about your background, accomplishments, and areas in need of improvement. Be honest and forthcoming as a good mentor will also be evaluating you to see if the match will reap worthwhile benefits.Prepare as if you were going to a job interview. Lean in and give it your all. Be warm and enthusiastic so that the mentor has an idea of what it would be like to work with you.Prepare for “The Close” with Your Elevator SpeechAn advantage of using an elevator pitch when speaking about your career or aspirations is that you can show you are capable of taking the lead. Instead of waiting on the other party to direct the conversation, and potentially away from what you would like to discuss, you can assertively explain what you need and have to offer.Communicate your interests in being mentored by this person.Share your expectations of the mentoring partnership.Estimate how much time you plan to commit to the partnership.Explain why their talents suit your developmental needs.Once you have narrowed down your mentoring choice, e-mail a message to the mentor expressing (or reaffirming) your interest. Be prepared for the possibility that your potential mentor will not be able to accept so that you can respond with grace and professionalism despite the initial disappointment. Likewise, if you find after speaking that the mentor is not right for you, be prepared to communicate that directly and respectfully.Identifying and selecting the right mentor is both critical to the success of the mentoring partnership and a challenging task. Doing your homework ahead of time will ensure the process moves smoothly for you.

  • 0 Navigating Challenging Conversations

    Some conversations are downright terrifying. Even if you are a confident person with competent communication skills, trying to fulfill a need without being able to predict the outcome (“Will she say yes?” “Is he going to be upset?”) can be overwhelming. When returning from maternity leave after the birth of my first child, I was fraught with worry over letting my boss know that I’d need to take the 4:50pm train out of the city every day to relieve the babysitter on time. When I tried to find the words, all I could see is how this new schedule made me less. It was a busy Manhattan office where few had children and many routinely worked well past traditional business hours. I agonized over the timing, the verbiage, the perfect rationale. The more I tried to get the request just right, the more I spun circles, moving from anxiousness to avoidance. Eventually, I couldn’t spend another second trying to perfect this question that I had convinced myself would mark the end of my career. There was a job, a newborn, a train, and a babysitter. No amount of handwringing was going to change those variables. And, as it turns out, my supervisor was great. She just wanted to know if it was okay for her to get in touch with me after 5:00 pm if something came up. Capitalize on the moment A lot of us are currently on the edge of transition. Many have summer vacations in the pipeline and we’re beginning our re-entry after many months of working and schooling from home. There might be something you are looking to ask your supervisor but don’t know how to get started. Perhaps you want to work remotely more often, take time off for a trip, or ask to be considered for a new position with more responsibility. We’ve spent over a year accomplishing our work completely differently than ever before which leaves us with a strong position for any changes we want to make. If you are seeking more authority or responsibility, articulate the way you’ve navigated the recent obstacles. If you are hoping to expand your remote working routine, quantify the output you managed this year from your home office. Be respectful and persuasive. Take the conversation into your hands In the TED Talk series “How to Be a Better Human” series, Daryl Chen says that sometimes we avoid difficult conversations because, even if something hasn’t been going our way for a while, we’re worried we might make things worse. He urges us to “move toward- not away” from the conflict. Be informed but stay humble. When asking for something, ask the other person about their experiences. Keep quiet, especially in the beginning. Once you address the question (for example, transitioning to a new project?) be quiet for a few minutes. Give the other person a chance to talk. Try to see things from their perspective. Why might there be hesitation on their part? What other issues could they have going on in that moment? If you sense things aren’t going your way, try to slow the dialogue by paraphrasing the other person’s points. Taking time to show that you are listening and thinking critically demonstrates your genuineness. A recent Harvard Business Review article described how asking questions can also be a persuasive tool. It requires humility to give the other speaker space to elaborate on a position that contradicts your own. They said, “When you listen deeply and sincerely, others feel less of a need to resist you in order to be heard.” Prepare and research No matter what the nature of your conversation, take the time to prepare and practice: Understand your organizational landscape as it relates to your request. What are the trends? Do you know anyone in your situation? Can you ask them about their experience? Explain how this change could help you do your job better. What are the benefits to the organization? How would it make you more productive? Is it a good business decision? If so, what is the return on investment? Write a workplan. How might you adjust your day to absorb this change? What would each day look like in the coming weeks? How will you take charge of this? Explain how you will prove your success. How will you demonstrate a positive outcome? How will you stand out? Articulate- for yourself- why this matters If you’re still having a hard time getting started, jot down three reasons why this is important to you. Project how your situation might be different in a few months- or even after a year- if things work out the way you want. Why is this worth the conversation?  


    When we talk about balancing our personal and professional lives, we tend to think of these areas as separate. In mentoring relationships, this can translate to concentrating on a mentee’s career path and where they see themselves in the future without exploring more personal topics like relationships or self-image. Focusing exclusively on professional objectives can overlook habits, beliefs, and other aspects that impact our perspective and behavior both at work and at home. The most effective mentoring adopts a whole person approach that recognizes that people have multiple “domains” that can be strengthened to realize greater overall performance and potential. This holistic method helps mentees identify how behaviors and beliefs in different areas of their lives overlap and how improving in one area can help improve in others. This may sound more challenging and intensive, but whole person mentoring simply expands the scope of mentoring discussions, which are still rooted in asking targeted questions, sharing personal experiences and resources, and helping mentees develop skills to continue their growth after the partnership ends. Here are some of the “domains” partnerships can examine to mentor the whole person. Professional. The focus here is on professional and leadership development. Mentoring conversations center on career ambitions and soft skills that come into play in the pursuit of those goals. Pairs work to define the mentee’s goals, interests, and skills, and develop a plan to achieve their objectives. Some pairs also lean into leadership development, exploring concepts like team building and motivating others. Learning activities could include developing a mentoring action plan, technical training, leadership interviews, or attending a professional conference. Social. The social domain encompasses relationships, community engagement, and civic responsibility. Many partnerships at least touch on this domain, particularly regarding interpersonal communication and relationship building. But those conversations can be expanded to help the mentee better understand how they function within a team or could help uncover underlying motivations that connect career choices to a desire to serve a higher purpose. Learning activities could include training on soft skills, like communication or conflict management, or identifying a volunteer opportunity within the organization or in the community. Psychological. This domain focuses inward, examining the mentee’s emotional health and self-appreciation. Here, mentors ask questions crafted to help mentees recognize, manage, and regulate their emotions and better understand how they see themselves. These conversations can help draw a clearer picture of beliefs or behaviors that may be holding a mentee back from actualizing their goals. Learning activities could include assessing personality strengths and weaknesses, reading a book on emotional intelligence, completing a self-concept questionnaire, or identifying opportunities to build confidence. Intellectual. Mentoring in this domain means unpacking the mentee’s broad-based knowledge and aptitude for analytical, critical, and creative thinking. Expanding these abilities is helpful in any professional (or personal) endeavor because they feed the mentee’s capacity for problem solving and innovation. Learning activities could include a critical thinking workbook, diagramming a problem, or discussing ethical dilemma scenarios. Physical. Physical condition has a ripple effect on the mentee’s ability to work in any of the other domains, impacting their energy and self-confidence. Health maintenance and physical fitness can be key to ensuring the mentee has the bandwidth to take on the extra work of personal and professional growth. Learning activities could include working to develop a new health habit or setting a physical fitness goal and arranging accountability check-ins.

  • 0 Polishing Your Writing Style

    Effective communication is a major topic in mentoring. Success at everything we do- giving and receiving feedback, wielding political savvy, networking, seeking career advancement- comes down to our ability to thoughtfully say what we mean. Over the past year, many of us have polished our online presence and dug deep into our toolboxes to work productively in a virtual world. In this month’s newsletter we are going step back from technology and address good-old fashioned writing fundamentals. Don’t worry the rules have relaxed Admittedly, texting and social media posting have forever altered the writing craft. Some of the hard-nosed grammatical rules we learned in school have been lifted, for example: it’s okay to start a new sentence with a conjunction (“But let me know if you can’t access the server.”) if it adds gracefulness to your message. You can end a sentence on a preposition (“Which session were you in?”) if it makes the sentence clearer. Even capitalization can be optional depending on the medium. The north star for correspondence in the modern world is clarity. In other words, your emails need not sound Shakespearean for the sake of proper grammar. Please do not misunderstand relaxing the rules for rushing your process. Be a careful writer and an even more careful editor of your own work. The final chapter of Strunk and White’s prized writing guide, The Elements of Style, urges: “Write in a way that comes easily and naturally to you, using words and phrases that come readily to hand. But do not assume that because you have acted naturally, your product is without flaw.” Be concise: fewer words make a bigger impact Say what you mean and say it quickly. Be polite and conversational but try not to couch your point in too many niceties because the meaning could be lost. Consider these two passages: Example A: “I hope you are well! Let me start by saying how grateful I am for the opportunity to work on this project. I have really enjoyed getting to know everyone and the very challenging work and hope to continue working with this team for a long time. I did want to let you know that I’ve actually had some trouble accessing the platform. Do you have any idea who I should contact for help with this? Thank you again. I really hope to see you soon!” Example B: “Hi- Who should I contact for password help? Thanks! Enjoying the experience and the work!” The second example quickly outlines the sender’s needs. Their straightforward phrasing also better expresses their genuine appreciation because it’s easier to see what they’re saying. Taking too long to get to the point is confusing and frankly, you lose the reader’s attention after a while. Be genuine but also direct and succinct. Here are a few tried and true tips for eliminating wordiness: 1. Qualifying words such as “really”, “very,” and “definitely” are distracting. If a situation needs more emphasis, then find a better word. If you are “really happy,” maybe you are “thrilled.” If you are “very concerned,” perhaps you are “worried.” 2. It takes more words to be vague. Asking for the item “somewhat quickly” sounds clunky and offers no answers. If you need your colleague to step on it, advise them to expedite or fast-track. Better yet, tell them you need it by Friday at noon. 3. Lean on key nouns and action verbs to cut down on unnecessary words. Notice how trimming Example A made the purpose of Sue’s spreadsheet much clearer. Example A: “Sue made a spreadsheet in an attempt to keep us organized.” Example B: “Sue’s spreadsheet will keep us organized.” 4. Keep prepositions under control. Prepositions are those little words that show the relationship between a noun or pronoun and some other word or element in the rest of the sentence. These words (with, into, up, of, for, about, because of, during, concerning…) should be attached to an object. While it is important to say things precisely, too many prepositions can cause a reader’s eyes to glaze. See how eliminating at least six unnecessary prepositions transformed Example A from a weighty overbearing sentence to a powerful point (Example B): Example A: “An understanding of what the organizational mission is about will be necessary for any employee working with the team who wishes to move up in this division.” Example B: “Team members looking for advancement will need to understand the mission.” Avoid the passive voice Passive writing, though hard to identify, can quickly weaken your message. The sentence subject should be the person or thing taking action rather than an action happening to the subject. One trick is to reduce the distance between the subject and the verb: Example A: “The brief was filed by Mark on Tuesday.” Example B: “Mark filed the brief on Tuesday.” In example B, Mark is one word closer to the brief. You won’t always be able to avoid passive phrasing, but overdoing it makes for dull reading. Check your writing to make sure most of your sentences are active. Cut diminishing words from your vocabulary There are certain words and phrases we should limit because they dilute our meaning and diminish the importance of our needs: Just Hopefully Actually Kind of Consider how those words can come across as nervous and undeserving, “I just wanted to check in.” No way. You needed to check in. Not just. “I am checking in because the staff meeting is tomorrow.” Or even, “Hopefully you saw my note.” If they have not responded to you, stronger language will urge them to prioritize: “Did you see my note?” Similarly, you aren’t “actually writing because” you are “writing because.” Also cut sentence openers such as “I feel…”, “I think…”, and “I believe…” Be convincing with your words and put your salient points out in front. Not “I feel we are on target for our goal,” but instead “we are on target for our goal.”  

  • 0 Building resilience into your Mentoring Plan

    It’s been a rough year full of challenges, changes and setbacks. But in all of this darkness, one bright light has been a new sense of permission to talk openly about struggle and hardship. To say out loud, without fear of judgment—This is hard. I’m lonely. I need help. The hard truths that once made us feel vulnerable and exposed now help us feel connected because, no matter who you are or where you live, we’re all going through this in one way or another. In the mentoring community, this cultural shift sets the perfect backdrop for starting an important conversation about one of the most critical skills a person can build in life—resilience. Resilience is the capacity to not only cope with difficulties, but to recover from and overcome them. And like any other skills, it takes practice and intention to develop. Below are some ways that mentoring partnerships can make resilience a focus in their mentoring work. Start the conversation and be ready to listen. Finding opportunities to talk about resilience won’t be hard. Even in ordinary times, life is full of challenges and setbacks. Despite this, partnerships often focus their discussions on how to prepare for success and spend a disproportionately small amount of time talking about how to bounce back from failure. Mentors can bring resilience into focus by making it a regular practice to ask mentees to share the challenges they are currently facing, as well as how they are dealing with those challenges. What coping strategies do they use? Do they have a strong support system? What actions have they taken to overcome the challenge? What did they learn and what did they change to carry that experience forward? Acknowledge negative feelings. Part of building resilience is learning how to share our troubles with trusted members of our support system. It can be hard to talk about problems, failures, and hurts, and few things can be more dissuasive than a listener who responds by advising you to keep a stiff upper lip or reminding you that at least you have your health. It is always important to be an effective listener, but especially when you invite someone to share something difficult with you. Effective listening means acknowledging that challenges, big or small, can generate negative feelings and practicing compassion for the person experiencing them. Phrases like, “It sounds like that was a tough time,” or “That must have been really difficult,” validate a person’s feelings of hardship without dismissing or, conversely, magnifying them. Accentuate the positive. While it’s important to acknowledge negative feelings, it’s also important not to focus on them exclusively. Every challenge is an opportunity for growth. Mentors can help their mentees take advantage of that opportunity by helping them find and accentuate the positive in their hardships. With a mentor’s objective perspective and guiding wisdom, a challenging relationship with a supervisor or colleague can become a chance to learn how to work with different DISC styles. A blundered presentation can become the genesis for a three-way partnership between the mentee, mentor, and supervisor to identify ways to improve, chances to practice, and an opportunity to try again. Both of these examples illustrate that finding the positive is key to building resilience, and that being resilient is not just about how you cope with a challenge, but how you move past it. End your conversations about challenges or failures with a clear vision of the good that can come from this problem and an actionable plan to carry out a resilience behavior or strategy to bring that vision to fruition. Draw on personal experience. When it comes to getting through a challenge, advice is nice but hearing about how someone else overcame a similar barrier can be even better. Even the most accomplished among us has experienced failures and setbacks and has something to offer in the way of anecdotal evidence that this, too, shall pass. When it’s the mentor’s turn to talk in a conversation about resilience, they should be open and honest about the stumbles and hard times they’ve dealt with on their journey. Dig deep into your memory bank and pull out the failures, fears, insecurities, and bad habits that threatened to hold you back at one point. Share what you learned from those challenges and how you adapted your behaviors, thought patterns, and coping strategies from one challenge to the next. What did you gain from those hard times that you might have missed out on had you not experienced them? Revisit the conversation and celebrate the victories. Mentees will likely not master resilience in one conversation, and even the most resilient mentee can benefit from thinking critically about how to build or maintain their tolerance for change and challenge. Revisit challenges regularly to evaluate how resilience behaviors or strategies have worked, and celebrate their progress or tweak their approach as needed.  

  • 0 Staging a Reboot

    This week, I took a back-to-school photo of my three children- right there on the porch, next to the flowerpot, in front of our pink door, as we do every year. Only it isn’t September, it’s March. My kids are among the throngs of school children returning to school after nearly a year of learning on their computers in the kitchen. Returning to school was a big milestone! My sons shoved their belongings into their old backpacks. One resisted brushing his hair and the other tried to get away with a pair of mismatched socks. They were excited to walk into their school building but also understood that today was merely the day after the weekend which followed Friday- a string of ordinary days, halfway through the school year. My daughter took a much different approach from her brothers. She purchased a new set of colored pencils, straightened up her spiral notebooks, organized her binder, set out her clothes the night before and fussed over her lunch to ensure it seemed special. How different kids can be from each other, I thought to myself. But then I realized what was really happening: my daughter was creating a fresh start. Halfway through the year, during a transition, she saw an opportunity to begin again, jump start, rev up, reboot. It was brilliant, actually. Staging a reboot through mentoring We don’t need to wait around for new years’ or a job change. If we’re looking for a reboot, we can capitalize on a transition, the way my daughter did. Participating in a mentoring program, for example, presents an opportunity. Mentoring work expands our perspectives on our organizations and enhances our access within them. The middle of a mentoring program is a good spot to position a start line. Fresh start “buckets” Consider some of the major outputs of mentoring work such as professional development, enhanced networks, and technical skill-building. Think of them as buckets from which to pull a fresh start. Here are some strategies: Professional development- One of the first tasks upon joining a mentoring program is writing professional and career goals. Planning thoughtful progression toward meeting them does not need to end with the program activities. Let these goals be the launching pad for targeted discussions with your supervisor about the kinds of projects you want to work on and competencies you hope to gain. Put a standing date with your supervisor on the calendar to address your goals regularly. This will demonstrate your focused determination. Networking- You’ve been introduced to your mentoring partner and likely aim to make new professional contacts beyond. Setting and meeting networking goals in a mentoring program requires some advanced work. You need to articulate your experience and intentions quickly and efficiently. You also need to express your needs: “I want to learn more about…” “I hope to meet someone from this department because…” Once you put together this story, keep it close and continue to use it. Meet people in all directions, not just where you’re headed but where you’ve been. Whether encountering people in the halls or on zooms, keep using that advanced legwork to show your authenticity and drive. Continue to be an active networker. Remember: Look for opportunities to help others. Ask questions in meetings. Follow-up after meeting someone new. Be yourself. Technical skills- A diverse Mentoring Action Plan (MAP) should include at least a little bit of skill-building. Once the activities are complete, you might narrow in on one single skill such as time management or public speaking and commit to making that “your thing” this year. Say to yourself, “starting today, I will look for any opportunity to polish my public speaking skills.” Here are some ways to do that: Pick up the phone- at least once a day- instead of sending a text or email. Prepare comments ahead of meetings and spend extra time ensuring they are clear and concise. Use fewer words and be direct. Be mindful of posture and looking others in the eye. Minimize fidgeting. Put away your phone. When you hear a good public speaker, jot down a few notes on why they were effective. Practice what you plan to say. Rehearse the anecdotes and gestures you plan to use. Show charisma.

  • 0 Driving the Mentoring Relationship

    I will never forget my first meeting with my first formal mentor. To set the scene, I was new in my career, new to my organization, and new to participating in a formal mentoring program. Painfully aware of my overall lack of experience, I arrived at the meeting expecting my mentor to tell me what to do. I sat across from him, notepad open, pen poised, ready to write down all the wise things I was sure he would say. So, imagine my surprise when it turned out that he had not prepared a lecture or even a list of things we should discuss. Furthermore, he had no intention of doling out wisdom or the secrets to success. Instead, he wanted me to do the talking. He wanted me to tell him what I needed to work on, what I intended to get out of our partnership, and how I envisioned achieving my goals. I was dumbfounded. I was the wide-eyed new mentee, and he was the seasoned expert—shouldn’t he be taking charge? My initial naivete about mentoring roles is all too common among new mentees, who often come to the partnership with either a conscious or subconscious expectation that their more experienced mentor will take the reins and drive the relationship. To dispel this misconception of the mentor’s role, we need to look no further than the definition of a mentor: A mentor is defined as an experienced and trusted adviser. Mentors use their expertise and knowledge to advise and support—not to direct, decide, or do. If a mentor is directing outcomes, they inadvertently defeat the purpose of mentoring, which is to help mentees learn to lead themselves. Thus, for effective mentoring to take place, the onus for driving the relationship must remain with the mentee, with the mentor seated firmly in a supportive role. Here are some things mentees can do (or mentors can encourage them to do) to take initiative and responsibility for building and maintaining mentoring momentum. Define goals and expectations. Chances are, if a person signs up for a formal mentoring program, they have at least some idea of what they hope to gain from it. Mentees should commit time to reflecting not only on specific objectives they would like to achieve, but also their reasons for those objectives and how they hope the mentor will be able to help. This introspection will enable mentees to clearly articulate their goals and expectations and prepare them for larger conversations with their mentor about their partnership and the Mentoring Action Plan. Initiate meetings and discussions. A mentoring pair’s first meeting should include a discussion of how much time they would like to commit to the partnership and how often they would like to meet. Once these parameters are established, the mentee is responsible for initiating meetings and discussions. This could be as simple as sending a recurring calendar invite or creating a calendar reminder to reach out after certain events or milestones. Another best practice is to end each meeting by answering the question, “When should we meet again?” Come prepared. Mentees who make the most of their mentoring experience will come to meetings with clear goals (“Today, I would like to accomplish…”), a list of topics or questions to discuss, and their own ideas or solutions for which to seek feedback from their mentor. They won’t show up unprepared expecting their mentor to do the work for them or tell them what to do, but rather will take the initiative to identify their own thoughts and ideas and arrive ready to ask for feedback, advice, and new perspectives to help them decide their next steps. Take initiative. Mentees sometimes comment that they wish their mentor would reach out more often or suggest more learning activities. However, these mentees may not have communicated their expectations to their mentor nor taken any action to resolve the issue for themselves. Have they increased their own outreach or researched and suggested additional learning activities to their mentor? The most successful mentees are those who take initiative rather than waiting for someone else to intuit what they would like or make it happen for them. Follow through. Mentees can drive the relationship forward and keep the partnership on track with one simple behavior: following through. By doing what they say they will do when they say they will do it, mentees demonstrate that they are serious about their goals and value their mentor’s time.

  • 0 Staying positive and standing out as a leader

    After bidding adieu to 2020, many of us look to the new year as the thing that will invigorate and set us free. But the truth is, while many good things await, 2021 still requires resilience and flexibility. Some of us will be transitioning into our offices after many months away, others might be shepherding children back into the groove of in-person school, and almost all of us will still be waiting for some signal that everything has returned to “normal.” In some ways, the most demanding part of managing these historical circumstances is the endurance run. Coming up on nearly a year since the pandemic changed life indefinitely, at times it seems as though the needle has barely moved. It might be harder to see through traditional news years’ resolutions… but do not despair. The coming days offer an opportunity for getting on track while being a light for others. As we continue wading through these challenging times, how can you stay positive and stand out as a leader? Avoiding overthinking Right now, even the most decisive personalities can fall into the pattern of over-thinking. Every time we leave our houses, we weigh calculated risks: “Should we sign up for this?” “Is that safe?” “Should I just ask someone else what they think about it?” There are opportunities to second-guess ourselves at every single turn. It makes it even worse that we are not getting the kind of positive reinforcement that goes along with face-to-face interaction. When it comes to work, seeing facial expressions at a conference table or bumping into people in the hallway is sometimes how we know a colleague likes an idea or isn’t frustrated. Without those subtle cues to assure us, we can overthink a reaction- or lack thereof- for a long time. That kind of circular thinking can cause decision-paralysis. Psychology Today recommends setting aside time to “ruminate.” Clinical psychologist Dr. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema says that scheduling daily rumination time will bring on the process of either moving on or finding a resolution. For example, if you’re nervous to put something on your supervisor’s calendar (Was she annoyed by my email earlier? I wonder if I should wait on this?), stop. Take a deep breath. Put the meeting on her calendar and commit to thinking through this action at 4pm during the 30-minute rumination time. Tell yourself you do not have time to worry about that right now. You can now successfully complete the rest of today’s tasks without fretting about what is worrying you and it is no longer taking up mental real estate. Take control of the work/life pendulum Professional and personal lives jumbled up in one big heap is a sign of the times. But even before all this, finding work/life balance was an endless journey. Perhaps the word “balance” sets too high an expectation. Life and work are on a pendulum and sometimes one side is swinging higher than the other. That is okay- just remember to give an occasional push to swing it back. If a work project is going to take tremendous focus and energy, let your family know. Ask them to share in the effort by giving you some extra quiet time  and approximate how long you’ll need whether it’s an hour or two weeks. If something at home is continuously slowing down your workload, maybe loop in your supervisor by asking for patience and tips for keeping the ball moving. Map out the estimated duration of a commitment to prevent over-promising and under-delivering. Proactiveness demonstrates to others that you have a handle on things but also might truly help you get a handle on things. Be a beacon. It’s hard to imagine taking on one more thing right now but staying positive can lift up the people around you who are experiencing the same transitions. Here are some simple ways to encourage others: Make time. If a colleague attempts small talk over email or even during a work-related call, make time for it. They might need a sense of connection. Ask how things are going for them too. Don’t complain. Resist the temptation to join in when others are commiserating. There could be clumsiness in getting the office back on track and there’s no reason to contribute to negativity. Be observant. If you hear it’s someone’s birthday, write a quick text or e-card. If a colleague makes a great point in a meeting, tell them. Being noticed makes people feel really good. Find empathy. Even if you find your way, not everyone is having the easiest time right now. Consider how their personal situations are playing out in their behavior at the office. Each of us is steering our own ship.

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