0 You Cannot Pour from An Empty Cup: 10 Tips to Cultivate Work-Life Harmony
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)?
0 Leading with Emotional Intelligence
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?
0 Balancing Career and Home: A Village vs Board of Directors
Career woman to career woman, wife and mother, that is what happened to me – as I am sure it has happened to many. In 1998 I was going to college and working as a waitress/manager at a restaurant when given the opportunity to work for a newly developed woman-owned company. Jumping at the opportunity, I couldn’t imagine that I’d spend the next twenty years helping to develop the company and advancing my career. After getting married in 2008, things began to change. I had someone else to consider in what time I would get home from work, what we would have for dinner and quite literally every decision in my life. Luckily, my husband knew just what it means to have a career and love what you do as he owns his own business (as well as being a full-time Firefighter/EMT). This understanding between us made the transition from “me” to “us” pretty easy. In 2010, when we welcomed our first child, into the world, this transition was not as easy. Now I had a career and two people who depended on me, and one of whom especially needed a lot of attention - - no, not my husband. This was the crossroad: I knew I did not want to give up my career, so I had to figure out how to be a full-time wife, dedicated mother and still a dependable employee. After many months, maybe even a few years (and the addition of our second child) I finally figured out that I needed to run my family life just as I run my business life. It is important to keep in mind that balancing career and home applies to everyone, not just people who happen to have significant others and children. Everyone has lives, interests and responsibilities outside of the office and everyone has a desire to manage both successfully. Below are some tips to keep in mind when tackling the hurdle of balancing career and home: Leave it at the door. Wow, that seems like an easy one. Walk out of work – leave everything there; walk out of the house, leave everything there. Of course, it isn’t easy at all. If you make an honest attempt, however, the goal is attainable. When you achieve this, it allows you to focus your attention where it is needed. To assist you in doing this you may want to read 4 Ways to Leave Work at Work by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. Unplug to be present. If you don’t unplug, you can’t recharge. Interesting metaphor, right? This is so very true. The inability to unplug does not allow us to “leave it at the door.” As I mentioned above if you are always looking at emails, always answering the phone, looking at social media, etc., you are not giving your attention to what may be right in front of you and requiring your attention. I was taught about unplugging by my children – when they said, “Mommy, stop looking at your phone.” That was the wakeup call I needed to unplug and be present, especially during family time. Take time to re-refuel/re-energize. Over and over again you hear how important it is to take time to re-energize. Re-energizing is different for different people, but some of the most common ways to re-energize is to exercise, get a massage, turn in early for a good night’s sleep, or eat healthy. For me, it is calling an old friend and catching up or even coming up with a new routine to keep me focused. Just like a car, if you do not take the time to refuel, you end up running on empty! Use an app. I know there are a ton of applications out there for time management, managing sporting events, managing grocery lists, etc. As they say, “There’s an App for that.” My husband and I have been using a shared calendar. This allows us both to know where we and our children are or need to be by certain times. As I mentioned before, between the nighttime work required of his job and the busy days in mine, we sometimes go a few days without seeing each other. Working off the same calendar helps us stay connected. Develop a board of directors or a village. A board of directors is a group of people who you have identified as your biggest supporters – the people who have your back and are going to look out for you. Once I understood the function of a board of directors and how they could help my career, I started seating mine around the table. They have provided tremendous support in my career growth over the years and I realized a board of directors could help me at home too. In my home life, I have an amazing village that supports me and I can trust. The most supportive village will keep your best interests in mind, whether that’s family, health or anything else, pick a village who will help you see it through. My village is made up of the people who can come to my assistance when I’m feeling overwhelmed or need help with my children. If you don’t already have a personal support system, make this the first step in regaining control of that balance between career and home. Invest in your relationships. Have you ever had a rough day where you feel sensitive or prickly and you accidently offend others who you care about? The people in your life will forgive you- as long as you have built an emotional bank account with them. Stephen Covey refers to an emotional bank account as “an account of trust instead of money.” Just as with any account you begin with a zero balance and you make deposits and withdrawals. These deposits and withdrawals build or destroy trust in your relationships. When you have made lots of deposits with someone, your trust level with them is high and communications flow without effort. You can make a mistake or offend them, because you are able to withdraw from those deposits and maintain the relationship with minimal repercussions. The bottom-line: invest in your relationships. Protect your identify and reputation. Be mindful of what you post on social media. People are constantly looking at your social media and sometimes it isn’t the people you planned. Keep this idea in mind as you post. One idea for managing your online reputation is to use LinkedIn for business contacts and Facebook for family and friends. Juggling a thriving career and a busy personal life is a balancing act. With careful planning, a strong village and a willingness to take care of yourself during busy times you can have it all-- a successful career and a happy home! ASK A MENTOR As you begin to explore ways to successfully balance career and home, talk to your mentor about the good and bad experiences they’ve had and how they have been successful at both. Here are some questions to get you started: How do you balance career and home? Do you feel you are successful? If so, what tips or advice do you have? If not, what adjustments are you making to be successful? Are there any time management systems you use? What are your favorite apps? Time saver ideas? What steps do you take to leave your work at work and home at home? What do you do to “unplug”? How do you practice being present? Who makes up your village? How do these individuals help you balance career and home? How do you invest in your relationships? How do you make deposits? How do you recover from a withdrawal? How do you protect your reputation? Are you mindful of what you are posting? Will your posts offend others? How do you separate home from work?
The great philosopher Lao Tzu wrote, “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” Change can make us feel disoriented, unbalanced, anxious. Digging in heels and holding on to “the way it was” is often an attempt to control our circumstances even while things keep moving “in whatever way they like.” In this month’s newsletter, we will tackle strategies for grounding ourselves through transition without being obstructionist and being flexible without losing morale. Change versus Transition First, let’s make the distinction between change and transition. Change is something that happens to you. It could be something positive- such as purchasing a new house or being promoted- or even something painful like losing a loved one. Transition is what is going on in your head and your heart as you go through change. Change can happen quickly, while transition usually takes a while. Bridges’ Model for Managing Change Dr. William Bridges, author of Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, explains that the difference between change and transition is at the center the way people behave during organizational shifts. Based on Bridges’ model, once a change has occurred, people move through three stages of transition: Stage 1: The Ending – As Bridges points out, every change process begins with ending of the old way. Digging in and resisting change-sometimes to the point of emotional strain- is most likely to happen during the ending. Without letting go of the way things used to be, however, it is impossible to move onto the new. Stage 2: The Transition Zone – This is the critical space between the ending and the new beginning. People report feeling disconnected from the past, but not emotionally ready for the present either. Bridges urges that the best way to successfully navigate this phase is through self-awareness. Stage 3: New Beginning – By this stage, you have successfully embraced the changes that are occurring and begin to welcome the benefits the change has brought you personally and/or professionally. While you sort through the stages of transition, here are some strategies for conveying optimism and an open heart to the change: 1. Determine what is in your control and what is not. When you’re overwhelmed by change, make a list of the things that are in your control versus the things that are not. For example, when your favorite manager retires, who is hired to replace her is not in your control, but getting to know them better is. While you can’t control which new system or technology is brought in to replace an old one, you can control how much time you set aside to learn how to use it. Recognizing the difference will help you take ownership over the things in your control and make a plan. 2. Understand your reactions to change and transition. Your DISC style predisposes some behaviors during times of change. Self-awareness can be half the solution. Here’s how: These DISC four elements of human behavior are as follows:D: How one approaches problems and challenges.I: How one interacts and influences people.S: How one responds to change and levels of activity.C: How one responds to rules and regulations. High D: Appreciate changeFeel bored with things stay the sameCan change directions easilyGet frustrated when others aren’t comfortable High I:Embrace change with optimismCan see the benefits of the new directionAre able to communicate positivity to othersFeel frustrated with negativity High S:Need time to prepare for changeMight react negatively when change is unexpectedEven when stressed, might come across as non-emotional High C:Need to see data in order to accept the change is wiseGood at planning and designing change effortsPrefer to have a backup plan Have a healthy skepticism of “the unknown.” Using the DISC to better understand your reactions to change makes it easier to find opportunities to create positive outcomes. For example, if your natural tendency is to get frustrated or impatient over the way those around you are reacting or adjusting to change, take time to lift up your worried colleagues a bit. Listen to what bothers them most and offer emotional support. Conveying Competence During Times of Change Here are some tips for maintaining balance and expressing your dependability when things feel uncertain: 1. Think ahead, be a leader. Understanding the larger context of organizational changes will show that you care about the organization and remain passionate about its mission. Consider what your manager might ask you to do during a transitional period. Attend training and briefings so you are prepared on an emotional and intellectual level. Prepare notes on projects that are moving to a different department. Take initiative and prove your ability to lead. 2. Show positivity. Demonstrate optimism with your body language (mind your posture, smile), actions and words. Ask your manager if there is anything you can do to help facilitate the change. Reach out to colleagues who seem overwhelmed and provide mentoring and support. Staying positive and focused on your current (and future) workload will assure managers that you are someone upon whom they can count. 3. Take care of yourself. Even positive change can be draining. Research has shown that individuals who incorporate self-care into their lifestyle are able to maintain a positive attitude even in times of great stress. Get to sleep on time, maintain your exercise routine, and pack healthy snacks to keep you energized throughout the day. Once they understand and buy-in to a change, they are good at following through ASK A MENTOR Anyone who has earned a leadership position in the workforce has weathered change either as an employee or a manager. Talk to your mentor about their good and bad experiences with change. Here are some questions to get you started: What has been the most difficult professional change you’ve experienced in your career? What was most disappointing and disruptive about the change?What were the positive outcomes?How did your organization prepare you for the transition? Is there anything they could have done differently? Could they have made it easier? How did you adjust your working process to accommodate the change? Did you network? Look to others for advice? Organizational research? Rework your project files? What steps do you take to prepare your team for change?What behaviors best demonstrate that an employee is flexible and positive through transition?
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.
0 Making Meetings Less Painful - One Work Session at a Time
I once worked for an organization that ran everything by meetings. We had meetings to plan meetings. We had stand-up meetings in our regional plants and sit-down meetings at headquarters. We huddled, we had "tag-ups," we aligned, and we conferenced, virtually or in person. If there was a way to meet or a topic to meet about, we did it. In the words of the trainer who facilitated our new employee orientation, "We make two things here: our product and meetings. So get used to it." In that type of culture, it's no surprise that people love to hate meetings. Meetings can feel like a giant time suck that pulls you away from "real work." Many leaders burn the candle at both ends-starting work in the early morning and continuing late into the night-because their working hours are consumed in meetings, and action items keep piling up. Some organizational cultures have tried to address this issue by replacing meetings with alternative ways of communicating. The problem there is that alternatives like texting and email are often no more effective than meeting in person. In fact, research shows that they can easily decrease efficiency and increase distraction. Despite their flaws, meetings are generally more effective than other forms of communication for fostering collaboration, breaking down cross-functional silos, completing projects requiring multiple sources of input, and building strong working relationships. While it might not make sense to eliminate your meetings, there are steps you can take to make them much less painful. If you search for ideas on how to make meetings more effective, you'll find thousands of potentially useful tips and techniques-including strategies for streamlining agendas, assigning roles, facilitating discussions, managing time, and so on. Today, I'll focus on a powerful technique called OPO (Objective, Process, Outcome). OPO is a proven method created by the consulting firm Corentus and used worldwide across a variety of organizations and industries. The Corentus OPO The purpose of the Corentus OPO is to design a better meeting by thoroughly planning all the individual work sessions within that meeting. What do I mean by work sessions? A work session typically shows up as a single topic on an agenda. Some brief meetings are dedicated to a single topic, and therefore have just one work session. Longer meetings often include multiple work sessions. For example, if I were planning a weekly project meeting in support of creating a formal mentoring program for my organization, the agenda might include four distinct work sessions: * Steering committee* Marketing* Scheduling* Funding Let's walk through the process of creating an OPO for Marketing. The first step is determining who owns the work session. In this example, although I own the overall meeting, I'm not the best person to lead a work session on marketing. I would assign ownership of this session to Pat, who is leading the marketing effort for our mentoring program. It then becomes Pat's responsibility to develop the work session OPO. Let's review the three key elements of the work session design one by one. Objective An objective articulates why the work session is needed and indicates the general direction the session will take. It should be aligned with the overall direction of the meeting. Typically, an objective will fit into one of six categories: 1. Information Sharing: presenting, informing, explaining, notifying, updating 2. Idea Generating: brainstorming, exploring, conceptualizing, visioning 3. Planning: forecasting, preparing, scheduling, organizing 4. Problem Solving: analyzing, assessing, evaluating, deciphering, resolving 5. Decision Making: selecting, approving, agreeing, committing 6. Producing: developing, producing, building, crafting For the marketing work session, Pat has two objectives: 1. Update the team on the results of the mentoring lunch and learns (Information Sharing)2. Approve the layout and content for the mentoring flyer (Decision Making) Outcome After identifying the work session objective(s), we move to the final O: Outcome. An outcome identifies what the work session will result in, including any deliverables. Outcomes should be as specific as possible and should be realistic to achieve in the time available. Here are some possible outcomes that correspond to the six categories of objectives. In the marketing work session, Pat may tie her objectives to the following outcomes: All too often, outcomes are absent from meeting agendas. Even when people set the general direction (objective) for a work session, they frequently fail to clarify exactly what outcomes they hope to achieve. If you find yourself in a work session where outcomes aren't clearly defined, it can be helpful to simply ask, "What outcomes are we aiming for in this discussion?" Getting that one thing clear, before any discussion starts, can make the meeting much more productive. Process The final step in the OPO is Process. Once you've identified an outcome, you can go back and define the process you'll use to achieve that outcome. This includes outlining the specific activities that will take place, the individuals who will engage in those activities, and how long you expect the activities to take. Here are a few examples of activities that correspond with the objectives and outcomes defined earlier: This list is far from exhaustive; there are countless different activities you can engage in during work sessions. Once you're clear on your objectives and outcomes, try doing a Google search for relevant options-e.g., various types of brainstorming methods, decision-making protocols, or creative problem-solving techniques. Without a clearly articulated process, many groups default to having loosely defined, unstructured discussions, which often aren't the best way to achieve results. Below is a full OPO for Pat's marketing work session, with the Process component completed: The next time you plan a meeting or an individual work session, I encourage you to try applying the OPO framework. See what happens to your effectiveness and efficiency when everyone in the room is clear, right from the beginning, about exactly why you're meeting, what the session will result in, and how you're going to get there. There's wisdom in the old saying that sometimes you need to slow down to speed up. By investing a little extra planning time up front, you can help make your meetings not only more productive, but a lot more satisfying and enjoyable as well.
0 The ABCs of an Overwhelming Workload
How do you prioritize your work when everything is a priority? A few years ago, I attended a conference where the keynote speaker, Dan Thurmon, used a juggling routine to illustrate a very important lesson. Usually he juggles sharp objects and names them as he tosses them the air: Career, Health, Family, Education, etc. As he juggled, he taught us that we juggle in our day-to-day, trying to catch everything at once. At any given time, you can only manage (or have your hands on) maybe two big things at a time. When we try to catch it all together, we end up feeling what he called "off-balance” and "off-purpose.” The trick is to be intentional and throw some things higher than others so we can catch the important things—ending up off-balance, but on-purpose. As Steven Covey said, "don’t prioritize your schedule; schedule your priorities.” Using the juggling analogy, "how can you be deliberate about what you throw up into the air so you can be focused on the things that you are catching in your hands?” For example, at different points in life, you might decide that you have to focus on your career, so starting a family would have to wait; or you might decide that you need to go back to school, so you have to cut back on community work. You need to be purposeful about what you’re going to be off-balance about. Give yourself permission to throw some things up in the air. It will help reduce your stress levels. A proven method for prioritizing your workload is the ABCDE Prioritization Method, taught by Brian Tracey in his book Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time. The name of Brian Tracey’s book was inspired by this Mark Twain quote: "Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” Eating a live frog refers to completing a task that is challenging to get it out of the way so that the rest of the day can be more productive. With the ABCDE method, you prioritize your work according to the severity of the consequence for not doing the task: A - something important that you have to do that has serious consequences B - a task that you should do as it has some consequences C - a task that would be nice to do, has few, if any, consequences D - something that can be delegated E - something that can be eliminated If you get in the habit of evaluating your priorities and commitments with this method, figuring out your next step becomes easier. The ABCDE Method in Action When it comes to priorities, you are typically dealing with how long things take, who you have to work with or keep informed, and what tasks get your attention first. Here are some things to keep in mind as you apply the ABCDE method: Spend the appropriate amount of time in something according to its priority. Don’t give A-level attention to a C-level task. Create a daily list of A-level tasks and tackle those first. Each time an "emergency” or "urgent” request comes up, evaluate it against the A-level tasks on your list. Schedule time to begin working on the B-level tasks before they become urgent. Work them into your schedule before their deadlines. Look for things you can eliminate and get off your list. If a task keeps getting rated a C-level (nice to do/no consequence) task, consider if it’s worth your energy to keep it on your list. Leverage your team and delegate those tasks that don’t absolutely require your attention. Maybe you can assign a B-level task to someone to get the ball rolling. Or you can have them evaluate the C list and inform the decision on whether they should be dropped. Delegation will let you extend your efforts from what you can do to what you can control. Be sure to set aside time in your calendar for your A-level work by applying the 80/20 Rule. In the 80/20 Rule, 20% of your efforts produce 80% of your results. Set aside 20% of your day, roughly 90 minutes, and use that time to focus on your A-level priorities. Consider blocking a standing appointment on your calendar 3 times per week. There are times when what’s considered a priority is out of your control and you end up juggling more things than you’d like. Our brains like things easy. While we try to convince ourselves that we can handle multitasking efficiently (we really can’t), our brains are designed to seek completion. So if we keep a long priority list, we increase our stress by trying to keep track of all these things. Create a Someday/Maybe list and park all those C-level, "nice to do” tasks there so they are less of a distraction. As your priorities change, evaluate the risk level. Be intentional about when you’ll get the work done. How do you prioritize an overwhelming workload? Pick your biggest A-level task and eat that frog first!
0 Finding the Perfect Mentoring Match
Is finding the perfect mentor like finding a needle in haystack? It doesn’t have to be. Seeking out the right mentoring match may seem like a daunting task at first, but with a little time investment and self-reflection, the process can yield multiple options. Mentors are plentiful. They come in all shapes and sizes. Thinking through what you want to get out of a partnership before you begin your search usually results in the most rewarding and productive match. So, what type of mentor are you looking for? Technical mentors – People you turn to for professional advice. These mentors generally have a strong reputation for technical excellence. Consider – do you want to connect with a subject-matter expert? Or maybe you are looking for broad-based experience across a variety of skills and competencies. Relationship mentors – People you can turn to and learn how to develop strategic relationships and partnerships. Relationship mentors also provide a safe environment for you to learn how to deal with difficult people, manage conflict, influence others. Selecting a mentor with whom you can have authentic, honest conversations requires a certain level of chemistry and trust. Navigational mentors – People who can help you understand how to navigate the unwritten rules, corporate culture, and can help you strategize next steps for success within the organization. This mentor can decode the unspoken organizational culture – an agency Sherpa, if you will! It is important to remember that although you might originally have one type of partner in mind (for example, someone like you) being open to new perspectives often yields a perfect and powerful match. A recent study provided by The Training Connection, Inc. discovered that it is actually the differences that make the best matches: 84% responded favorable in response to differences in experience. Mentors are likely better able to offer mentorees a different point of view through their own experiences. 71% responded favorable in response to differences in behavioral style (DISC). Finding a partner who brings a different behavioral style to the partnership (not too similar, but not too far apart) is very beneficial to the growth and success of the partnership. (One obvious example - if you are quiet and shy to look for someone who is more outgoing and charming.) Differences in gender, cultural background, and generation have also made a positive difference. Below are some additional thoughts to keep in mind when beginning your search: Be proactive. Mentorees need to be proactive not just in their mentoring search, but in the partnership as well. In formal mentoring programs, the programs do not fail, the partnerships do. This occurs when parties are not committed up-front to the process, or clear with their partner if something has changed and they need to end the partnership. Look for someone outside of your chain of command. It goes without saying that your boss should always be your informal mentor, however in a formal mentoring partnership, the best matches are outside one’s chain of command. Mentorees are more likely to open up and feel comfortable confiding in someone who does not have input to their performance reviews. Mentorees need someone who can create a safe space to bounce ideas off of and a mentor who is outside of their immediate day to day work environment can provide that. Thoughtfully commit to the mentoring partnership. The most successful mentoring matches are ones in which both the mentoree and mentor are given a voice in the partnership - meaning the match is not forced and both are willing to give their full attention to the partnership. Be sure to thoroughly research the mentors background and availability. Don’t be discouraged if a mentor says they are unavailable. When requesting a mentor let them know you have others in mind if they are unavailable, this will allow a mentor the option to say no if they do not have time to dedicate to the partnership. You may find it helpful later on to see if they are available as a situational mentor to enhance a formal partnership. A situational mentor is the right help at the right time and is usually available to help solve a quick problem, uncover a hidden talent or learn a new skill or behavior. They can be the perfect enhancement to a formal mentoring partnership. As I mentioned earlier, finding a mentor doesn’t have to be like searching for a needle in a haystack - you simply need to do the homework. Carefully thinking through what it is you are looking for in your mentor is sure to result in a fruitful partnership for both you and the mentor.