A note from Kathy Wentworth Drahosz: Working from home is presenting many new challenges including figuring out ways to stay productive and communicating virtually with your supervisors, team members and customers. Sharing office space and technology resources with your loved ones is creating another dynamic that you may not have had to deal with in the past. With so many competing priorities, your mentoring relationship might seem like the easiest thing to postpone until things get back to normal. When actually you may need to connect with your mentor (and they with you) more now than ever! Mentors can provide a sense of community, connection and support in the midst of all the chaos that surrounds us these days. In this newsletter, I have invited one of TTC’s strategic partners, Ellen Kandell, to share her thoughts on resilience and how to thrive in this new environment. Social distancing is almost two months old and it doesn’t look like it will be ending anytime soon. Your hair is shaggy, your roots are showing and you’re not looking your best. If you are a leader you may be concerned about employee productivity and how you will regroup when this crisis is over. It’s causing lots of stress for everyone. Resilience is about getting through this challenging stressful time, adapting and eventually thriving. What is Resilience? Responding well in the face of adversity, trauma or significant stress is how psychologists define resilience. Handling the challenge and bouncing back is part of resilience. Learning from adversity and the ensuing personal growth is also involved. Resilience isn’t necessarily a personality trait that only some people possess. Rather, it is an ordinary trait that can be learned. Increasing our resilience requires time and intentionality. Our ability to learn and grow from trauma is what resilience is about. Resilience Killers Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant have researched resilience, written about it and developed an organization to foster resilience. Psychologists have found that there are three beliefs that kill resilience. They are personalization-we are at fault, permanence-this crisis won’t end and pervasiveness- it impacts everything. In actuality none of these beliefs are accurate. If you get stuck on these tracks your resilience will suffer. The strategies below will help foster this important human trait. Strategies to Foster Resilience Connection: Prioritize relationships with people you care about. Reach out to those individuals during good and bad times. Find groups of people who share similar interest or passions. Pick up the phone rather than sending a text because it builds a stronger personal connection. Focus on deep listening and empathetic communication. Lately a lot of groups have been meeting for virtual lunches on Zoom. Foster community: Teams often have their own culture and traditions. Sometimes these can be replicated or reinvented in an online environment, such as the Friday Zoom happy hour that my husband’s office organizes. These connections are important to remind you of your purpose. Organized clapping sessions have begun outside of hospitals to show love and appreciation for healthcare workers, see #clapbecausewecare. Wellness: Stress influences our body and mind. Exercise helps release stress. Getting outdoors changes your perspective. Try a new activity like Tai Chi or Qi Gong. Purpose: Scientific research on resilience has shown that having a sense of purpose and giving support to others has a significant impact on our well-being. Research calls it the helper’s high. Donate to a food bank or a shelter. Make masks and give them to a senior residence. Embrace healthy thoughts: Practicing gratitude has been shown to lift our spirits. Try to maintain a healthy perspective and watch out for irrational thinking that trips you up. While taking that perspective learn from your past consider, “What has helped you deal with adverse circumstances previously”? learn from that and accept what can’t be changed. My cousin from Germany sent a family message recently containing the following quote from Yosef Kanefsky, a Los Angeles rabbi: “Every hand that we don’t shake must become a phone call that we place. Every embrace that we avoid must become a verbal expression of warmth and concern. Every inch and every foot that we physically place between ourselves and another, must become a thought as to how we might be of help to that other, should the need arise.” Ask a Mentor 3 TIPS to ask your mentor: Connect with your mentoring partner—set weekly partner meetings for the next couple of months. Set new mentoring goals-commit time to focus on a new skill or project listed in your Mentoring Action Plan that you haven’t gotten to yet. Write down 3 things you’ve accomplished each week and share with your mentor.
When our son decided he wanted to become the goalie for his lacrosse team, my husband and I were thrilled that he’d set such a challenging goal for himself. We supported him, encouraged him, and believed he could do it . . . but we also knew he would need more than our cheerleading to achieve his goal. He needed someone with knowledge and experience to help him develop the skills and technique that we couldn’t teach. He needed a coach—a situational mentor. This scenario is every bit as common in professional mentoring relationships as it is in parenting. Mentors often encounter opportunities to help their mentees grow and develop by enlisting the help of other colleagues or leaders in the organization. In fact, in many formal mentoring programs, identifying and recommending situational mentors is an encouraged or required part of the program. A situational mentor is a subject matter expert who can offer knowledge related to a specific task, skill, or topic. This type of mentoring relationship is generally a short-term partnership that focuses on achieving a particular purpose or goal. Partnering with a situational mentor supplements an established mentoring program or relationship, and allows the mentee to gain a new skill, perspective, or relationship. There are different types of situational mentoring that mentors can recommend. Here are a few examples. Job shadowing. Shadowing involves observing another employee at work for a set period (from a few hours to a few days) to gain a better understanding of how that employee performs a specific task or process. People often think of shadowing as an opportunity to spend the day with a senior leader or attend a high-level meeting with a manager, but shadowing can be done with any employee at any level for any task. For example, in one agency where report writing is a critical focus area, employees can sign up to shadow editors or statisticians while they review reports, or to attend another team’s in-process review to take notes on the types of questions and feedback the team receives. Observing these activities without being directly involved in them allows employees to filter the experience through a different lens and gain valuable insight that they can apply to their own reports. Setting up a similar experience for a mentee is as simple as identifying the activity the mentee would like to shadow, what they hope to learn from the experience, and the right person to ask. Informational Interviews. Interviews are great for mentees who have questions about a concept or program, or who are seeking career advice from people who have already accomplished objectives they hope to achieve. When I was a mentee in a formal program, a few of my mentoring colleagues met with a successful female executive from another agency. The executive shared her professional story, detailing how she rose through the ranks and learned along the way. Meanwhile, my colleagues and I were able to ask questions and solicit her advice. This type of situational mentorship can also be helpful for a mentee considering a significant job change. Connecting with a professional in the field or position they are considering could help answer their questions and identify issues or considerations they weren’t aware of. Project-based. Project-based mentoring involves soliciting technical expertise from a subject matter expert to help a mentee complete a project, or to provide feedback on a project the mentee has completed independently. This type of situational mentoring can be longer lasting and more in-depth depending on the breadth and scope of the project. For example, when one mentee was tasked to help present a briefing to the head of the agency, her mentor recommended that she meet with a situational mentor to help her prepare. The mentee met with her situational mentor several times in the weeks leading up to the briefing. The situational mentor listened to the information she needed to present, helped her organize an effective slide presentation, hosted “dry runs” to let her rehearse her section of the presentation, and provided her valuable feedback and advice based on his experience regularly briefing the agency head. With so many of us working remotely and socially isolating, you may be tempted to postpone recommending or facilitating a situational mentor until things are “back to normal.” But now could actually be a great time to consider your mentee’s goals and objectives and evaluate where in their mentoring plan a situational mentor could add value. The same applications that allow us to attend meetings online can enable mentees to meet situational mentors virtually—mentees may even be able to shadow through screen sharing! And with the delay or cancellation of so many meetings, conferences, trainings, and extracurricular activities, mentees and potential situational mentors might find it easier to schedule a time to meet. These examples highlight how situational mentors can enhance a mentee’s growth and development. Situational mentors don’t replace a formal mentor, but they can add an element of diversity, dimension, and a different perspective—hallmarks of an effective mentoring experience. In any event, to stay engaged and maximize the benefits of a situational mentoring experience, be sure to follow up with the mentee to discuss what they learned from the experience and how they can apply—and share—the new knowledge or skills that they gained.
If a leadership position is something you hope to achieve, signaling this goal to others is a powerful first step. Talk to your supervisor or a mentor (informal or formal) who can offer insights to management, facilitate network-expanding introductions, and plan assignments that hone leadership competencies. Show your dedication and seriousness by actively seeking leadership experiences that you can measure and quantify on your resume. In this month’s newsletter, we will map out some universal leadership competencies and share strategies for cultivating them through hands-on learning and mentoring work. We will also suggest best practices for relating these experiences. Speaking competently about your accomplishments will assure current and future managers of your capabilities. Most Valued Leadership CompetenciesBoldness, decisiveness, effective conflict management...when we reflect on the best managers we’ve encountered, these attributes often come to mind. The best leaders show confidence in their work. The Harvard Business Review asked nearly 200 organizational leaders from around the world to consider which leadership competencies they have found to be most important. Their feedback boiled down to a thematic list that we will share here in ranking order. According to the survey, an effective leader: Maintains high ethical standards while creating a safe environment. Is able to delegate and rely on others to get things done. Communicates frequently so that employees feel connected. Is open to new ideas, willing to learn. Helps others to grow and meet their potential. In other words, being an effective leader takes more than being self-assured. It’s about holding up the organization’s values and mission while nurturing others’ growth and development so that they can do the same. To show your capacity for leadership, consider opportunities to weave these competencies into your mentoring goals. Writing Leadership into Your Development GoalsWhen writing measurable goals that lean into leadership, be practical. Include benchmarks and clear activities that you can easily report back to your supervisor or mentor. For example, if your objective is to expand your network, you might attend an organizational event at a level higher than you would normally (a Director’s meeting, strategic planning session, or budget hearing, for example) to learn new perspectives on your agency’s mission and future. While the primary aim is to expand your network, you will also gain insights into the trends that are impacting the agency’s mission and shape the views and priorities of key stakeholders. Once completed, analyze and summarize your experience so that you are prepared when a supervisor or mentor asks, “Can you tell me about how you are building coalitions?” For example: I attended a Director’s staff meeting to learn about their initiatives and meet the key players who participate. Learning about the department’s contributions to the agency illuminated a new perspective on the strategic direction our organization is going in 2020. It also gave me some ideas for things we can prepare for on our team. More Examples of Leadership-Oriented ActivitiesLooking for more ways to weave leadership into mentoring goals? The best way to make sure your mentoring plan covers leadership opportunities is to actively pursue them. Make time to brainstorm with your supervisor and talk about what you want to accomplish. Here are a few ideas for meaningful assignments to tackle with your supervisor’s support: Form and lead a cross-sectional task force to tackle a division-wide initiative (for example, training on a new procurement system or organizing the summer internship program). Offer assistance to an agency leader to plan a quarterly town hall or state of the organization meeting. Foster new technical skills by partnering with a colleague in a different division to complete a project. Organize a networking event with a small group of program participants to discuss the impact of specific legislation on your agency’s mission. Keep track and be prepared to speak confidently about how the assignments you choose are contributing to your leadership potential. Plan an Informational Interview with an Organizational LeaderDemonstrate your curiosity by speaking with one of your organization’s leaders to find out what qualities they most value. Ask for your mentor’s help in setting up an informational interview. Ask direct questions, such as, “What is the profile of someone you most recently hired into a management position? What stood out about their abilities and experience?” or, “What experience best prepared you for this job?” and maybe even, “Who depends on you most? In turn, who do you depend on most?” Getting acquainted with the leadership culture where you work will flesh out your understanding of what it takes to succeed in a leadership role. Show Passion in All You DoWhen talking about what makes a great leader, we can’t underestimate the impression that passion makes. Energy, optimism, and zeal for learning often mark the divide between those who are simply doing their job and those who have enough charisma and positivity to lead. Smile, mind your posture, get to know your colleagues. Show excitement for the work and ask questions. When you’ve completed an assignment, solicit feedback from your peers and managers. Tell them how their comments will help you do an even better job next time.
For many of us, working from home presents a myriad of new challenges including staying productive and collaborating from afar, all while sharing spaces with our loved ones, fighting temptation to check the news, and possibly even taking on a new role as a homeschooling parent. With so many competing priorities, our mentoring partnerships might seem like the easiest thing to push off until later. Truthfully, however, some of us need mentoring right now more than ever. Mentors can offer advice on staying focused, stepping up with division work, and making sure extra effort is visible to our organizational leaders. It isn’t just about giving us strategies for staying productive; our mentoring partners can offer companionship during a period in which working from a home office may seem disorienting and isolating. At The Training Connection (TTC), we are always advising geographically distanced partners on keeping momentum and making progress against their mentoring goals even when they aren’t able to meet face-to-face. In truth, we sometimes find that meeting virtually can be more efficient than drifting into your partner’s office for a chat. Partners tend to be less likely to cancel a phone call and, in turn, more likely to prepare for it. Mentees usually only dial the phone when they are ready with a list of questions, mentors might come with an article they earmarked, some will even plan to use the mentee’s Mentoring Action Plan (MAP) to orient their conversation. Things you can do over the next few weeks: Check in with your partner. Call them up. Be candid- ask how they are faring. Do they have a peaceful workspace? How is their family and/or roommates? Tell them what this temporary landscape means for you and why you hope to keep the partnership moving. Use technology to stay focused. Facetime is more intimate than a traditional phone call and makes it easier to gauge interest and reactions. Share your screen in a zoom meeting so that you can both look at the Mentoring Action Plan or Mentoring Agreement without losing your place. Establish new norms. Texting might have seemed too casual a couple of weeks ago, but it might be easier and more intimate now. Perhaps you used to catch up during lunch, but if school is closed and the house is noisy at lunchtime, look to plan morning meetings instead. Be candid about your limitations and ask your partner to do the same. Get out your calendar. Set weekly partner meetings for the next couple of months. It might be surprising how much easier it is to keep a regular meeting schedule when it’s planned in advance. Mentees might even jot down a “theme” for each to ensure that the topics are interesting and relevant to their professional development.
If you take a moment to reflect on the people who have had the most positive impact on your career, you will likely think of people in whom you had a high degree of trust. When we trust someone, we know that we can communicate openly with them, that we can rely on them to follow through when they commit to do something, and that we can believe and act on their input. Not coincidentally, these are also the building blocks of an effective mentoring partnership. Trust is the foundation of any successful relationship, but especially so in mentoring where mentees must feel safe asking questions and sharing concerns and must have confidence in their mentor’s feedback. While the mentee will drive many aspects of the mentoring relationship, it is the mentor’s responsibility to proactively build trust. Mentors must foster a relationship in which trust can grow steadily. Below are some mentoring behaviors that are key to gaining your mentee’s trust. Start strong. We’ve all heard it before—first impressions are lasting impressions. The level of sincerity and credibility you demonstrate during the initiation, or “getting to know you,” phase will set the tone for the duration of your mentoring relationship. Seemingly simple behaviors, such as being on time, being attentive and interested, and listening more than you talk, communicate to the mentee that you care and are committed. Conversely, being late or canceling meetings, interrupting or dominating the conversation, or forgetting important details from your previous meetings can signal that you don’t take the process (or the person) seriously and can create doubt about your intentions and level of investment. Treat your first few interactions with your mentee as you would a job interview—be on time, be prepared, be focused. Put your best foot forward from the start and you will take a huge step toward gaining your mentee’s trust. Build credibility. To build trust, you must first establish your credibility. In his best-selling book The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey defines the four cores of credibility as integrity, intent, capability, and results. Convincing people of your integrity, Covey writes, includes not only being honest, but also congruent—does your behavior match who you say you are and what you say you believe? Showing trustworthy intent involves acting with (or stating outright) motives that are straightforward and based on mutual benefit. Sharing your talents, skills, and knowledge demonstrates your capability. And providing results is simple—do what you said you would do when you said you would do it and invest the effort to do it well. When you exhibit the cores of credibility over a sustained period, your mentee will begin to trust you and see you as a person who is willing and able to help them reach their goals. Be consistent. Trust is not something you earn once and have forever. Trust must be built, nurtured, and maintained. Keeping a person’s trust means consistently demonstrating the characteristics and behaviors (the four cores of credibility) that led them to trust you in the first place. This doesn’t mean that you can never make a mistake—even mentors are human. But it does mean that you should follow through whenever possible, and be willing to take responsibility for mistakes when you make them. (In fact, admitting fault is such a difficult thing for many people that doing so could actually increase your mentee’s trust in you.) Consistent, reliable mentoring behavior will become increasingly important as your relationship deepens and your mentee begins to share their questions, concerns, and challenges. Listen to them without judgment. Be honest in your feedback. Keep what they tell you confidential. Follow up to check on their progress and ask how you can help. Connect them with additional resources or situational mentors. These behaviors will demonstrate your commitment, maintain your mentee’s trust and confidence, and help your mentee grow and achieve their goals. Extend trust. Another key tenet that Covey sets forth in The Speed of Trust is that extending trust to someone else is one of the best and fastest ways to establish and grow trust. “Not only does it build trust,” he writes, “it leverages trust. It creates reciprocity; when you trust people, other people tend to trust you in return.” Extend trust to your mentee by sharing information about yourself. Mentoring means being open and honest about your experiences—including relevant professional missteps or regrets—opinions, and feedback. When you are willing to share, you encourage your mentee to do the same. Trust also means believing that the other person will follow through with what they say they will do. Believe that your mentee is capable of achieving their goals and trust that, with the right resources, guidance, and support, they will do the work they need to do to get where they want to be.
January is National Mentoring Month! What a perfect time to pause and celebrate the impact your mentors have made in your life. As I am writing this post, I’m thinking of one of my past mentor Bill Bonnstetter. Bill was a big part of my personal and professional support system. Whether it was helping me gain confidence standing up in front of groups, consoling me when a project went south, or pushing me out of my comfort zone—Bill was there to help me reach my full potential. It goes without saying, mentors boost our spirit, touch our hearts, turn us around and give us honest feedback. Not always feedback we “want” to hear but “need” to hear. Mentors are also catalysts. They help us discover “why our work matters” and how to stand in front of our competition. But mentoring is not just a “nice thing to do.” It’s a good business decision. Studies have shown that employees stay longer at organizations when they feel their work matters and they are making a difference! They are not just putting in their time –they are plugged in on many levels (emotionally and intellectually). Healthy organizations, high performance organizations, the best places to work organizations, know this and create conditions where mentors can do their thing—whatever that thing is (guide, listen, challenge, or teach). These high performing organizations acknowledge, recognize and support mentors because they know they are making a difference! Happy National Mentoring Month!
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?
Happy Thanksgiving! It’s that time of year when we get together with friends and family and give thanks for our blessings and well-being. As I sat down to write this article, I wondered “what if” we were grateful or thankful all year round? Every night before dinner as a family we go around the table and say what we are grateful for --or- wait a minute-- are we saying what we’re grateful or thankful for? As I began to write I realized I wasn’t exactly sure if there was a difference between the two. According to Webster, giving thanks, is an expression of appreciation. “Thanks for holding the door,” or a friendly wave when another driver lets you cut into the turning lane. It’s a reaction. Gratitude, according to Psychology Today, is an emotion. Feeling gratitude is a two-step process: first recognize that you’ve been the recipient of something good and then acknowledge that there is an external source responsible for this outcome. They call gratitude, “an affirmation of goodness.” That feeling of appreciation can extend to broad categories such as life, health, relationships and work. I have realized I really want my children to go beyond “thanks” and feel grateful for the things they value in their lives. My six year old son almost every night says he is grateful for the roof over our head, and although I sometimes roll my eyes, I also look across my dinner table and see my father in-law who grew up in a house with a dirt floor and no running water and realize, yes, this is something we should indeed be grateful for. Here are some ideas for reflecting and feeling grateful all year round: Always be kind. I recently met someone from Seattle, Washington who knows one of my acquaintances. You always hear people say there are only six degrees of separation among people. So, just think- here we are living on opposite sides of the country in completely different walks of life, but we were still able to make this unbelievable connection. This was a good reminder: you never know who you may be talking to or corresponding with and always being your best will portray you in a positive light. It is a hard thing to do but studies have shown that when we focus on what is going right and what we are grateful for, it helps us to be kind to others. Pause. We are so busy day in the hurry of our everyday lives I think we often forget to stop and take the time to reflect. At the end of each day, I take a moment to think about and verbalize my gratitude. Without making space for this acknowledgement I would find myself in the trenches all day, never looking up to see what makes my life wonderful. Be present in all you do. I am not referring to being physically present, but mentally present. When we are not present, we cannot be grateful because we miss what is going on around us. It is important to not just go through the motions of something, but really be an active participant in all you do. If you find yourself not being present at an event or a meeting – take a deep breath and center yourself back in the moment. Spend time with family and friends. I wouldn’t be here today without the love and support of my family and friends. Gratitude strengthens relationships. Be sure to express your gratitude with the people you love – both big and small – for the impact they have had on everything you do. Reflect on the past. Sometimes people say don’t look back because you won’t be able to see where you are going, but I can’t tell you how many times a week, I think back to all the people who have come into my life who have left a mark. Some of my fondest relationships are with those who have gone on and, although the pain of losing them is great, the gratitude I have for the lessons and strength they have given me is one of remarkable gratitude. Science Supports Gratitude Greater Good Magazine at UC Berkeley uses science to uncover the meaning of life. A recent article examined the link between gratitude and employee satisfaction, health, and happiness in the workplace. As research about the benefits of mindfulness and gratitude is growing, CEOs of major corporations have started to take notice. Nationally-recognized brands like Campbell Soup and Southwest Airlines are making investments to change the culture of their companies. They might try a simple gesture such as top-down thank you notes where senior leaders show appreciation for their employees. Some have taken a training approach, hiring consultants to help employees sift through their circumstances in times of transition and uncertainty to pull out the “good things.” For many, the philosophy is that when gratitude emerges, other emotionally intelligent outputs tend to follow. For example, people who are grateful tend to be quicker to forgive. And those who feel appreciation for their work find it easier to show compassion toward those who don’t. Set up a Gratitude Routine at Work Be intentional about your gratitude practice at the office. But at first, it might feel awkward or out of place in the office. Pepper your schedule with acts of appreciation so that you are doing something at least once or twice a month. It won’t be long before “gratitude” becomes a natural part of your routine. Not only will it contribute to your happiness, but those around you will begin to recognize you as a positive, encouraging force in the workplace. 1. Thank your mentor, past and present. Stop in to visit them or pick up the phone and give them a call. Tell them what you’re working on that’s exciting. See how their family is doing. Explain to them the impact they’ve had on something you have accomplished. Give specific examples, such as “the article you suggested really had an impact on me completing that big project” or “I can’t explain to you how much the guidance you provided on the project I was working on helped get me to the finish line.” Oftentimes, mentorees forget to tell their mentors what an impression they left on them. Taking the time to give them that affirmation would mean a great deal to the mentor. 2. Acknowledge personal events of your colleagues. Send an eCard for their birthday, congratulate them on their work anniversaries, surprise them with coffee when their son gets his first college acceptance. We spend a lot of hours with our colleagues. Taking the time to show you care about their lives beyond busy meetings and project work will make them feel good and remind you how much you appreciate them. 3. Send thank you notes. Show appreciation to a manager who helped you overcome a challenge or to a key stakeholder who asked you to join a new project or team. Take time to express your gratitude to the front desk security guard for ensuring a safe work environment. A handwritten note can be the most genuine way to give appreciation for small acts of kindness. 4. Make a Difference. Community outreach is a straightforward approach to show gratitude and appreciation. Ask about the service opportunities in your organization. Sometimes we worry that we don’t have enough time to take on volunteer work- even if we wish we could. Finding initiatives that are sanctioned by organizational leaders might give you the confidence to sign up for something. There might be youth mentoring programs, donation drives or even local entertainment events where proceeds go to a good cause. Working to make a difference not only helps the community but also encourages a positive perspective in our own lives. ASK A MENTOR As you begin to think about what you are grateful for both personally and professionally, I would recommend talking to your mentor about the things they are grateful for, why and how they share that gratitude. Here are some questions to get you started: What are you grateful for professionally? Is it a time? Is it a person? What makes this significant? If it is a person have you told them? What are you grateful for personally? Is it a time? Is it a person? What makes this significant? If it is a person have you told them? How often do you reflect on what you are grateful for? Yearly, Monthly, Weekly, Daily? What things do you do to flex your gratitude muscles? Do you journal? Do you volunteer?
Leading a successful team can be like directing a musical performance. In the same way that orchestra conductors pull diverse musical instruments into one cohesive sound, a manager needs to create harmony between individuals who often bear little resemblance to one another. The most successful managers are able to recognize the differences between their group’s members and, in turn, respect what each can offer to the group. Diversity in style and substance, when properly organized, makes beautiful music. Just as a conductor can identify who plays what instrument, managers need to know the behavioral (work) styles of the individuals they manage in order to understand how they can best contribute to the organization. Behavioral styles, such as those outlined in the DISC, tell a lot about how a person tends to behave a majority of the time. The DISC indicators can be considered predictors of how a peer or colleague might approach a challenge and influence others to their way of thinking. The ability to adapt to different behavioral styles is the key to success in both professional and personal relationships. Since behavioral styles are observable, we will show you how to determine someone’s style and react accordingly. While the examples below illustrate the mentor/mentoree relationship, these skills can be applied between any two people communicating no matter the setting. DISC Defined DISC is an acronym that stands for Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance. The science of DISC explains the “how” a person does what they do and can be a strong predictor of future behavior. When someone scores high in one particular area of DISC compared to the others, they are considered “high” in that particular factor. A basic understanding of these “high” styles helps to illustrate how to identify various behavior styles when entering a room with other people. High-D’s are all about results. High-I’s are about interaction. High-S’s seek stability while the high-C is all about following rules. Working with an Opposing Behavioral Style in a Mentoring Partnership Sometimes, you might be paired with someone because of their career trajectory or technical expertise but find that you share little else in common. Here are some ideas for working with a partner whose DISC style seems in opposition to your own: A high-D and a low-D - For the high-D adapting to the low D: Slow down. Drop the intensity. Create a safe learning environment. If the low D feels calm and comfortable, they are more likely to admit “I don’t know” or “This is where I need help.” Low Ds like lessons to follow and a forum to discuss problem-solving options. A high-I and low-I - These two styles are polar opposites - one is people-oriented and the other is task-oriented. One tends to trust indiscriminately while the other often remains guarded and slow to trust. The high-I will need to respect the low-I’s reserve at the start of the relationship and work to build trust gradually. Ask the low-I for their input while planning development activities and for their impressions on how comfortable they are with stretch assignments. A high-S and a low-S - In this relationship, the calculated decision maker must adjust to a high-risk taker. In other words, someone who prefers a slower pace (high-S) needs to learn to work with someone who moves quickly. The high-S will need to pick up the pace when communicating with the low-S by covering only the high points and striving for directness. A high-C and a low-C - Because the high-C and the low-C are both task-oriented, the area of potential conflict lies within the scope of compliance and risk taking. The risk-averse high-C competes with the low-C’s need for independence, many times causing a considerable amount of tension. The high-C will need to give feedback if the low-C is, in the interest of making a quick decision, tackling problems with little regard for the possible ramifications. Using DISC to Design Developmental Activities No matter which style each partner brings to the relationship, savvy mentors will look for opportunities to move the mentoring meetings beyond philosophical chats and/or venting sessions. In other words, to maximize learning, mentors should engage the mentoree in a variety of situations and developmental experiences. To keep your mentoree engaged, consider their DISC style (both highs and lows) when designing development activities. For example: High-D’s, high-C’s or low-I’s - Tend to put tasks before people, so they struggle with interpersonal skills. If the goal is to enhance people skills - ask your mentoree to consider investing one day each month listening to the concerns and needs of his/her employees or peers. Encourage them to look for opportunities to help someone talk through a project with which they are struggling. High-I’s or high-S’s - These two behavioral styles have trouble setting clear standards and holding others accountable - particularly people over whom they have no authority. In this case, perhaps the goal would be to work with your mentoree to create a project management system for following up on outstanding tasks and action items. Low-S’s or high-D’s - These two styles tend to struggle with maintaining emotional intelligence during difficult times/situations. The ideal developmental activity would be to identify someone for the mentoree to shadow who is going to lead a team through a difficult conversation about a failed project. Low-D’s, high-S’s or high-C’s - These styles need time to think things through before making a decision or taking a risk. To help build confidence in decision-making and risk-taking, encourage your mentoree to journal about what holds them back from making a decision. At your next mentoring meeting, discuss the pros and cons of the decision and an action plan for moving forward. DISC as a Guide for Mentoring Meetings When meeting with a high-D or high-C: Expect these meetings to be brief and to the point. Be sure to show up on time and prepared to dive into business. When meeting with a high-I: Provide a friendly and fun environment. Give them plenty of time to talk. Remember they get pretty excited about things – lots of things – so you might need to ground them a little. When meeting with a high-S: Just like the high-I’s, they need a friendly environment. Don’t rush headlong into business, give them a chance to break the ice and warm up to you. Always give them time to think things through. Be sure to send an agenda ahead of the meeting so they know what topics you would like to discuss. When meeting with a high-C: Show up on time and stick to business. Don’t expect the meeting to run a full hour if there’s nothing left to discuss. Be careful of appearing too lighthearted, casual or showy and follow through on your promises. Just like the high-S’s, they will appreciate an agenda sent ahead of time. Whether you are in a mentor/mentoree relationship or simply communicating with a friend or co-worker, understanding and being able to adapt to differing behavioral styles is the key to great communication success in work and in life. ASK A MENTOR Who do you relate to the best (someone with a similar DISC style or different)? What techniques do you use to put people at ease when someone is a different DISC style? Have you ever gotten into trouble behaviorally with your manager? If yes, how did you recover? What adjustments can you make to improve your communication skills with your peers, colleagues and key stakeholders? What resources do you most appreciate in advance of a partner meeting? What types of developmental experiences would give you a chance to communicate or learn from someone who has a different communication style? Based on “our” collective behavioral styles, how would you prefer to run our mentoring meetings (structured, spontaneous or somewhere in between)?
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?