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.
While mentoring relationships often focus on a mentoring plan with specific objectives, the true goal of mentorship is to provide mentorees the skills and confidence they need to proactively pursue their goals, now and in the future. When mentoring pairs recognize their plan as a starting point rather than the full extent of what can be achieved in their partnership, they lay the groundwork for empowering mentoring. The word “empower” means to give someone the authority or power to do something, or to make someone stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life. When mentorees feel empowered, they believe in themselves and their ability to chart and steer their own professional path. Done well, mentoring can empower mentorees to recognize and leverage their strengths and resources, and to feel confident stepping into the unknown or uncertain and navigating barriers and challenges. Below are key mentoring behaviors that empower mentorees: Develop trust. The cornerstone of a strong mentoring partnership—is trust. For mentoring to be effective, both parties must feel they can be open and honest. Mentorees need to feel safe sharing their goals, questions, challenges, and concerns. They must believe that they can trust their mentor’s guidance and advice. Conversely, mentors need to feel safe sharing their experiences, lessons learned, and feedback. They need to know that their mentoree will respect and consider their input. While it takes time to develop trust, mentors can accelerate this process by being brave enough to “go first,” modeling trust and vulnerability. By listening proactively, sharing openly, and being fully present, mentors foster safe environment for the mentoree to reciprocate. Balance direction and support. Mentorees often come to the mentoring relationship with at least a vague sense of where they want to go and how to get there. While some may need direction and guidance to get moving or overcome a roadblock, many are also (consciously or subconsciously) looking for an added layer of support. It is important for mentors to provide both, and to do so in a way that empowers the mentoree to do the heavy lifting on their own with the reassurance that their mentor is there to spot them. For example, rather than outlining the steps a mentoree will need to take to accomplish a specific goal, mentors guide the mentoree to develop their own list, identify potential roadblocks and brainstorm ways to get past them. The mentor can still provide direction, but in a supporting role that places the mentoree in the driver’s seat and places the responsibility for decision-making squarely on their shoulders. The mentoree learns how to map their own path forward, while developing crucial skills like problem-solving, critical thinking, and risk assessment. Ask, don’t tell. In the same vein as balancing direction and support, asking rather than telling creates opportunities for mentorees to lead—and trust—themselves. This concept can be challenging for mentors, who often look forward to sharing their experiences and offering advice and guidance. But empowering often means doing more listening than telling. Asking questions forces the mentoree to think critically about their plans and perceptions. Why do you want to achieve that goal? What do you hope to gain? What are some possible outcomes? Mentors can use questioning to better understand their mentoree, but they can also ask questions intended to nudge their mentoree toward discovering new ideas, potential blind spots, or alternate courses of action. While mentors will share their anecdotes, advice, and feedback during the relationship, empowering mentors will commit more time to serving as a sounding board than offering up their own opinions. Offer feedback. When it is time to talk, feedback is a powerful tool for empowering mentorees. Effective feedback can inspire, uplift, and motivate. It can also increase self-awareness and confidence. In “Seven Characteristics (and Six Tools) That Support Meaningful Feedback,” Professor Esther Ntuli writes that effective feedback is constructive (focuses on instruction rather than correction), specific, measurable, sensitive (avoids negative language), balanced (points out strengths and weaknesses), and applicable. Mentors are in a unique position to provide meaningful and effective feedback because they have the full picture of where the mentoree is and where they hope to end up. They are privy to the mentoree’s goals, challenges, fears, concerns, and so on. This allows them to evaluate the mentoree through a wider lens and thus provide feedback that speaks to the bigger picture and overarching themes. Share information and resources. Mentors can also set the stage for continuous growth and development by demonstrating how to obtain information and resources in support of accomplishing a goal. Mentors empower mentorees by helping them broaden their professional network and connecting them with situational mentors, then encouraging them to continue to grow those networks and relationships on their own. The more expansive the mentoree’s network, the more connected they will be to the bigger picture and the more information they will receive. And the more they interact with situational mentors, the more comfortable they will be reaching out to subject matter experts when they have questions or a request. Understanding what resources are available and how to ask for them is a mentoring outcome that will have a lasting impact.
In our day to day adulting lives, we all have had days or even weeks where we felt like we are being pulled in a million and one directions. With the holidays in full swing, many of us find ourselves juggling more obligations than ever. You might be worrying about finances or the health of a loved one, while managing endless emails and working through lengthy to-do lists. Add that to the shopping, traveling, or scurrying from one meeting or appointment to the next and many of us find there just aren’t enough hours in the day. No wonder why these demands leave many of us feeling overwhelmed and drained. However, as the title states, you cannot pour from an empty cup! How would you define stress? According to dictionary.com, “stress is a state of physical, mental, and/or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” Some stress is beneficial (eustress), because it’s short term, exciting and motivates us to focus our energy to attain our goals. It’s the taxing challenges such as relationship woes or being overwhelmed at the attempt to balance work and life commitments that cause distress. Persistent stress can make us both mentally and physically sick. In fact, the American Psychological Association reports that 72% of Americans say that they are experiencing physical symptoms of stress including headaches, upset stomach, muscle tension, chest pains, rapid heartbeat. Stress can also cause digestive and reproductive concerns. If left unmanaged, ongoing, chronic stress can affect hormones and lead to cardiovascular disease- such as high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. Chronic stress also promotes obesity and other eating disorders along with mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression. Strategies for Managing Your Stress Stress is a part of life and although we may have varying triggers, learning how to manage stress is the key to keeping healthy and cultivating harmony in and outside of the office. Making gradual changes that merge self-care with stress management can help to do just that! What self-care/stress management tips will you implement? Consider the following: Prioritize your Tasks - Create a system that works for you. Make a to-do list, categorize your tasks and be sure to manage those important and urgent tasks, but also do not forgot to focus (at least some time of your day) on the important but not urgent tasks. Which includes putting yourself on that list—to work on planning, personal and professional development and self-care. Delegate if you can and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Focus your time and energy on what is important to you and let the rest go. Manage your Commitments - It’s empowering when you can take charge to get things done. Again, decide what works best for you. Will you compile all of your tasks on one list or have separate lists for work, personal or family obligations? Some people prefer writing everything down because it feels good to cross things off. However, if having too many tasks on your list stresses you out, then focus on 3-4 tasks for the day. Use your Smart phone, Google calendar or even the tasks in Outlook to help manage your commitments. Control Procrastination - Recognize what tasks you procrastinate on and why. Let go of the excuses and just do it. Be mindful of time wasters and distractions such as mobile phones, social media, and YouTube. Schedule time for breaks to play a game, check your Twitter or YouTube, but don’t get sucked in! Reward yourself for getting things done, even the small tasks. Be A Mentor and Give Back - Identify a cause that is meaningful to you, mentor, volunteer in your community or find ways to give back. According to Volunteerhub.com, research has shown that those that volunteer on a regular basis benefit from having a longer lifespan, better heart heath, and it improves mood. Get your Body Moving - Take walk breaks or implement active meetings during the workday. Trying a hot yoga class or going on a hike or nature walk can all do wonders for the body and the mind! Remember, your body can fight stress more effectively when it’s fit. Be Present and Positive - Meditative practices such as mindfulness, deep breathing or stating positive mantras in your mind, such as “This too, shall pass” can be energizing and empowering. Decompress and Recover - The body and mind need time to recover from stressful situations and events. In addition to scheduling massages, a pedicure or a haircut for yourself, be sure to also schedule your annual health exams and ask to check for vitamin D, iron, and B-12, as these are common deficiencies. Limit Fast or Processed Foods - Refuel the body and the mind with more water, fruits, vegetables and wholefoods. Nourish your Relationships with Coworkers, Friends and Family - We are social creatures by nature and making the time to cultivate these relationships and support systems are also crucial to our wellbeing. Get started today! Over the next 21 days, put your self-care a bit higher on your own to-do lists to ensure your health and wellness needs are being met. Doing this will not only help to mitigate stress but also aid in leading healthier, happy lives; not just during the holiday season, but all year long! ASK A MENTOR! Effectively managing stress is paramount to your overall health and wellbeing. Making a point to purposely manage stress will quickly become a habit. The next time you meet with your mentor, plan to share what you both see as potential stressors and discuss ways you can prevent or manage them. Consider the following: What situations do you find most stressful? At work? At home? Could any of them be avoided with forethought and planning? What are some ways to prevent them from happening? What is your go-to for lessening stress or decompressing after a challenging day? Are there any group activities that you find helps to alleviate stress? What mindfulness techniques or exercises do you regularly participate in? What obstacles are getting in the way of investing in your mental and physical wellness? How can you overcome them?
By now we all know about the importance of Emotional Intelligence in the workplace (also known as Emotional Quotient or EQ). How you master your emotions at the office governs the perception that your peers and supervisors have of you. In fact, how you master your emotions can establish your reputation and may dictate how far you will progress within the organization. Leading with emotional intelligence goes far beyond just keeping emotions in check when stressful and contentious events occur. Managing with EQ requires that leaders not only master self-awareness and self-management skills, but they must also use those skills to help guide and develop EQ in the professionals they manage. The following are some examples of how emotionally intelligent leaders can get the most productivity from their teams based on the work of psychologist Daniel Goleman, Ph.D.: Mindful self-awareness. Effective leaders are acutely aware of their emotional strength and weaknesses. They are able to take a humble view of their own strong points and shortcomings and regularly identify and chronicle certain triggers and behaviors and where they are rooted. This allows them to consistently check-in to their emotions therefore creating a higher level of self-awareness to practice and fine tune. Systematic self-regulation. EQ leaders have learned to know when, where and in what manner to appropriately express their emotions. Not only have they mastered the art of cool, calm and collected, but they hold themselves accountable and can acknowledge their own missteps therefore giving them the ability to understand that mistakes can and do happen with anyone. They listen with an open mind and do not pre-judge or stereotype when discussing an issue or problem. Savvy social skills. Charismatic leaders have exceptional social skills. They make it a point to continually make new connections at all levels throughout an organization and work to bridge communication gaps. They are also open to feedback – both positive and undesirable. They are generous with their praise and support and have studied conflict resolution skills to deftly diffuse potential argumentative situations. Emotional empathy. Emotional intelligent leaders – through their own elevated sense of self-awareness are able to understand what influences their employees’ behaviors, emotions and decisions. They also have the ability to put themselves in another one’s shoes. They are perceptive to the nuances of body language and respond accordingly. They champion and support the development of others and welcome everyone’s unique perspective. Deep-rooted motivation. Motivated leaders know their why. They have defined goals for themselves that align with their core value system. They hold themselves to high standards and have the ability to rally and champion the organization’s mission with great passion. They also practice optimism and find the best in all members of the team. Leading with emotional intelligence provides all members of a team with a safe environment for innovative collaboration and creates a culture of positivity and productivity. It also earns and fosters respect at all levels. ASK A MENTOR Leading a team successfully – and gaining the respect and cooperation of each individual member – takes an emotionally intelligent leader who can successfully navigate and promote emotional intelligence within their team. It also takes practice to develop those skills on a personal level and to promote those skills in others. The next time you meet with your mentoring partner, ask them how they employ these skills and what ideas and strategies they have for you to take your own emotional intelligence to the next level. Here are a few questions to start: What are some practices that heighten your self-awareness? How do you take stock/inventory in your strengths and weakness both personally as well as within those you manage? How do you determine triggers and roots of behavior? What strategies do you employ to keep calm in situations? Deep breaths? Revisiting a situation/challenge at a later time? In what ways do you hold yourself and others accountable? Timelines? Status reports? How do you respond to negative feedback? What are some effective networking strategies? How do you meet and build connections at all levels? What measures/conversations do you have with others to understand their point of view? What are some nuances to deciphering body language? How do you respond to those cues? What is your motivation? Your why? How does your current position align with your core values? How can I adjust alignment in mine?
Here at The Training Connection, we talk about the impact and value of mentoring – a LOT. This is the heart of what we do, of course! On a regular basis, mentors share with us how much they are gaining from their mentoring partnerships, often reporting they themselves feel they have benefitted more from the relationship than their mentees. How can that be? The word "Mentor” is analogous to the word "Parent” in that it is both a noun and a verb. To mentor another is an act of generosity, and highly altruistic. So, what do these mentors know that others don’t? We can all agree that coworkers who are kind and generous are more likeable than those who are not, but does kindness equate to professional success? Can being kind and generous be a prescription for career advancement? There is a plethora of research and articles that conclude that kindness and generosity of spirit can positively transform the workplace as well as give those who practice these virtues a competitive edge in the following ways: Kindness Helps Us Work With Others Whether you are new to your organization or a seasoned veteran, you’re likely going to work with many different personalities; co-workers, managers, supervisors, contractors, etc. The truth is, you aren’t always in sync with all of the people you interact with on a daily basis, but in a professional setting, you need to find ways to not only be cordial, but also work as a team to accomplish shared goals and objectives. The first step is always kindness. It costs nothing and even if the recipient of your generosity of spirit is not receptive, others will be inspired by the effort – and over time your continued kindness will be seen as a valuable strength. Kindness Draws Others In You can’t expect to be best friends with everyone, but you can still develop real, solid connections with coworkers and teammates. When you are kind and show you care about your peers and colleagues, it motivates them to make time for you when it comes to collaborating on a complex task, or simply lending a hand when you are feeling overwhelmed and need help. For example, in a previous position, some coworkers and I donated leave to a fellow coworker who was facing a medical crisis and just didn’t have accrued leave. The colleague was very well-like, in addition to being a conscientious and valuable team member. Kindness is Contagious You can choose not to sink to an unkind person’s level. Although it can be your first defensive reaction – it won’t pay off in the long run. People who demonstrate emotional intelligence elevate their reputations by being assertively kind. This reduces traction for a negative person to keep pushing against. In addition, when others witness acts of kindness, they also get a surge of well-being and will often feel encouraged to perform an act of kindness of their own. From a professional perspective: would you rather work with or promote someone who is disengaged or someone who is thoughtfully responsive? Kindness and generosity aren’t just good for individual success, they’re also beneficial to an organization: Kindness Improves Creativity Respectful engagement with individuals and teams enhances creativity – the engine of innovation. Respectful engagement, a fancy way of saying kindness, is conveying presence, communicating affirmation, effective listening and supportive communication. All foster a more positive work environment and a higher sense of worth and creativity! Kindness Fosters Loyalty According to a recent U.K. study, eight in ten workers would not accept a position, even if it paid more, if it meant working with people with whom they did not get along. The fact is, salary/compensation is pretty far down the list in terms of factors keeping employees loyal. The vast majority, according to the research, prioritize good relationships over concerns about money. If your boss, teammates or company acknowledged when you were out sick, lost a loved one or celebrated a life-event (e.g., the birth of a baby, wedding, birthday, etc.), then you know first-hand the impact kindness can have on your desire to stay. By being intentionally kind and generous, you inherently bring out positive qualities in others. Like ripples on the pond, kindness from one person can expand and positively affect others around you. This is one of the many reasons that mentors are so very remarkable – they not only recognize this concept, but also practice on a daily basis. They continuously plant the seeds for trees from which they might never enjoy the fruit – but they enjoy being kind and generous anyway.
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.