The Power of Mentoring

Recently, I provided a workshop on the topic of mentoring.  Mentoring by far is one of my favorite topics to speak about because I have personally experienced how vital a mentor is to being successful!  Over the years I've sought out many mentors, some I had a personal relationship with and some I had never meant and considered to be my mentor from afar.  

My first mentor outside of my family was my DECA teacher.  Through DECA, I received my first part time job working as a secretary.  I had been working for a few months when my teacher asked to speak to me after class.  He asked me how my job was going and I told him it was going great.  He then showed me a file full of letters and asked me if it was my work.  To my embarrassment each letter was filled with typos and grammar errors.  Humiliated, I said, "Yes, this is my work."  He then asked me the most impressionable question I've ever been asked, "Is this what you want your reputation to be?"

I don't remember anything else my teacher said, all I felt then and know now is that he cared about me and wanted to help me succeed.  He didn't berate me and he didn't make me feel small.  He was kind and compassionate.  He showed he cared enough about me to talk my employer into letting me keep my job.  Because of a mentor, I had the opportunity of a second chance to prove my abilities, to reshape my reputation and ultimately my future.

That one moment of feedback, compassion and mentoring was life changing.  Never discount the power of a mentor.


The Best Conference You'll Ever Attend!

Congratulations!  You’ve succeeded in obtaining conference approval from your manager.  Great job. Now what?  Whether you are a first time attendee or you’ve attended training conferences in the past, I have some advice for you to make this the best conference you’ve ever attended!

Your first step is to prepare.  Do some research to find out what to expect.  You can do this by reading through the conference website, marketing materials, conference social media sites, and by asking past attendees.  Some of the things you’ll need to know are:
  1. How many attendees will be there? 
  2. Will we be in one conference room, or several different break out conference rooms? 
  3. Is there a dress code? 
  4. Will there be a great deal of walking? 
  5. Do I need to bring any printed material or will the materials be provided at the conference? 
  6. Should I bring my laptop, tablet or writing portfolio?
  7.  Do I need a rental car or will a shuttle service or cab suffice?
Establish a Reason for Attending
To determine your reason or goal for attending, consider the feedback you’ve received from your manager or administrative colleagues, as well as your past annual review.  As you browse through the conference materials you’ll likely resonate with a speaker or topic.  Establish a goal based on these insights.  You may have 1 goal or 5 goals; it’s completely up to you.  Your goals will help guide your concurrent session attendance and will keep you focused. 

Make a promise to yourself that no matter what ~ you’re going to walk away from each session learning something.  It might be from the speaker, the emcee, the attendees, conference or the AV staff!

Connect, connect, connect!
One of the benefits of attending a conference is the opportunity to connect with others in the administrative profession.  I’ve had the opportunity to attend several conferences over the years and the people I’ve met have been key to my growth and development and have become good friends. 

To capitalize on this opportunity, have a planned approach, such as bench marking.  You may want to learn how other administrative staff manage their email, lead their administrative teams, or about their job description.  If you have 3 questions in mind to ask the people you meet, developing a meaningful conversation and therefore a connection will be easy.  You may want to take the time to have your questions printed on a 3 x 5 card so you can refer to it easily and make notes to record what you’ve learned. 

If you don’t have business cards, get them ordered or make them yourself.  You want to make it as easy as possible to help others connect with you.  The time to ask for someone’s business card and to provide them your card is after the conversation starts flowing.  Simply walking around a large conference room and passing out your business card and asking for their card, is not a way to create a meaningful connection.

Show Up with Confidence and a Positive Attitude
You are much more likely to be confident when you take the time to prepare, know what to expect, have a goal for attending and know how to create conversation so you can connect with others.  This prep work will help you to be able to relax and be authentic.  Demonstrating a positive attitude will increase your connection and likeability factor and will enable you to be open minded and ready to learn.

Follow Up by Implementing What You Learned
Make a plan for implementing what you learned so you won’t slide back into your routine.  One of the best ways to make the learning stick is to provide a “teach back” or a summary to your administrative team.  If you aren’t the lead of your administrative team, ask the lead if you can share what you learned with the team the month of your return.  When you know you are on the hook for a teach back, it will drive you to take great notes and be engaged so you can deliver meaningful content to your team.

Thank you
On the trip home, review your notes and determine your top 3 take aways.  What were the highlights of your learning?  These can be things you learned from the speakers or from administrative colleagues.  Once you’ve identified your top 3 take aways, write a thank you card to your manager, not an email, stating something along the lines of: 

Mr. Manager, 

Thank you for the opportunity to attend the Conference.  I learned a great deal, my top 3 take aways are:

I look forward to sharing more information with you as well as my plans for implementation.

Thank you,

Your Administrative Extraordinaire

I guarantee you that if you follow up with a thank you card and do what you say you’ll do; your manager won’t hesitate to invest in your education in the future.

The world belongs to those who show up!

Your life can be completely different based on the people you meet, so show up!

“Put me in Coach! Put me in!”

Those were the words I said to my basketball coach years ago.  I loved basketball, being part of a team and playing competitively.  I got pretty good and felt confident but I wanted to get better, so I started playing ball with the boys.  I certainly wasn’t a tom boy, far from it, in fact I’ve always been a girly girl.  Playing with the boys was hard, they were quicker and stronger than me and more aggressive and skilled than me.  I never did get as good as the boys, but I became a better player because of that experience.  Their skills were so much better than me that I had to raise up my game just to be able to stay on the court and play. Everyone once in a while I surprised them with a three point shot or a quick steal and drive to the basket, those were good times!

I learned a lot of lessons from that experience:
  • When you play with someone that is better than you, your skills improve.
  • If you are in an environment that challenges you, you become stronger.
  • When someone is quicker than you, your focus improves.
  • Playing with someone smarter than you causes you to get mentally tough.
  • When you are challenged you work harder than you do in a complacent environment.
As they say, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going!”

So the next time you are in a challenging environment or are working for a boss with high expectations, just remember how much you are growing and how strong your skills are becoming.  You’ll likely look back and thank that boss for all that he or she did to help you move your career forward!

Having conflict with a co-worker?

Often the biggest problem is the person looking back at you in the mirror!

An effective way to mitigate the conflict is to ask to meet with the co-worker to discuss how to communicate more effectively.

The next step may be even harder than the first and is absolutely vital for a successful outcome. You must alter your attitude and perceptions toward the other person. If you do not, you’ll bring negative energy and baggage into the meeting. Instead of creating an opportunity to re-build trust, you’ll actually take a step backwards because your verbal messages don’t align with your attitude and body language.  What will come across is an insincere plea.

Begin the conversation by stating something along the lines of:  “There seems to be tension between the two of us, as well as differences. Even though there are differences, there is also commonality. We both want to be successful, valued and respected. Let's talk about how to create a more harmonious work relationship where we can both reach our desired goals and be successful.”

Once you are in a healthy mental and emotional state you’ll be ready to listen for understanding, instead of listening to defend or reply with a rebuttal. Focus on the future and what you can both do to create a professional, healthy and productive relationship.

Wake Up Everybody!

While I was going through security at the airport, I couldn't help but notice one TSA agent that really stood out.  Her eyes were glazed over and she was robotic in her verbal and non-verbal messaging.  As I stood in line, I continued to observe her to see if she would choose to break her routine, let her guard down, drop the wall she had put up to shield her and show her humanness to those standing right in front of her.  When I was an arms length away from her I did my best to make eye contact with her and offer a smile, nothing registered, she was completely closed off.  She had chosen to "check out" and just go through the motions, repeating the same message over and over again. 

It caused me to wonder how often we "check out" while we're working.  Choosing to only focus on our area, completely disinterested  in engaging with those who come across our path.  When we make this choice, we miss out on the opportunity to communicate, connect and engage with others.  Let's all "Wake Up" and be aware of the world around us!

"No more backward thinking, time for thinking ahead."


Striving or Embracing?

I love the energy of the New Year and the positive messaging that is flooding my LinkedIn and Facebook feeds.  Isn’t it interesting that at the New Year we wish one another a Happy New Year?  What if we had that same sentiment of well wishes throughout the year?  What if we had the same positive, non-stoppable attitude and self-discipline as we do at the first of the year?  Things would be vastly differently in all of our lives if these attitudes prevailed for 365 days instead of 30 days or less.  How do we hang onto the positive energy?

I’ve learned that more often than not resolutions don’t stick and that goal setting plans gets dusty.  For years I’ve gone through days of goal setting, creating deadlines and planning that would make some weary just talking about it.  Although goal setting can be beneficial, for me it had become more of a chore instead of an exciting activity to look forward to each year.  That is, until I added an element that had been missing from the process…Feelings!  Isn’t it bazaar that most of us create goals without any thought to how we want to feel when we obtain that goal?

One of the most strategic, creative, freeing and utterly brilliant questions I’ve asked myself is, “How do you want to feel?” Once I turned my focus toward how I wanted to feel and understood what I needed to do to feel the way I truly desired to feel, the idea of goal setting became exciting again.  I had new energy.  The process became completely different than it had in the past.  Instead of creating a long page of text and measurements, which often made me feel heavy with responsibility and guilty if I didn’t measure up to my long list of goals, it became much more emotionally based and freeing. 

This new process is about embracing the possibilities instead of striving and pushing.  When I’m pushing and striving and striving and pushing I grow weary.  The goals seem too hard, too big, too much!  When I’m focused on having the types of feelings I want to have in my life, it’s about embracing the moments, the possibilities and the success of living a life you want instead of a life about measurement.

Here’s what I did and you can too:
1.  Determine your values.  Here’s a link to worksheet to help you with this process.
2.  Identify how you truly want to feel.
  • Ask, “How do I want to feel?”  Repeat the question 5 times to uncover your true desired feelings.
  • Ask, “When have a felt this way before?”  “What do I do now that creates those feelings?”
3.  Create Vision Board. 
Now that you have clarity about your values and feelings, you are ready to create your vision board to guide your activities, choices and all that you desire.   

You will need:
  • A large stack of magazines.
  • An 8x10 or larger sheet of card stock
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • The understanding that there are no limits, no right or wrong choices; the only guide is your passion, values and feelings.  Use these to steer you towards what your heart and mind desires.
Begin your vision board by tearing out the images and words in the magazines that speak to you.  The images should evoke a feeling of excitement, tug at your emotions, cause your heartbeat to increase, prompt you to say, “WOW!”  The images only need to speak to you; no approval is needed from anyone but you.  The images may represent something to you that is entirely different than what the picture conveys to others.  What is important is that the image conveys how you want to feel and expresses what you want to achieve in your life.
Assemble your images on your sheet of card stock in a way that makes your heart sing with possibilities.

Your vision board is now ready to post in a place that you will see daily.  Your vision board is a work in progress and can be updated as often as you like. 

I encourage you to explore this new process.  Find out your answers to the question, “How do I want to feel?” and “What do I want/need to do to experience my desired feelings?”  Discover or re-discover your values.  Get creative.  Let go of boundaries and measurements. 

Let’s resolve the feelings of guilt and needing to stop doing something and instead 
embrace the possibilities for 2015!
Peggy's Vision Board
I’d love to hear from you and learn about your thoughts and possibilities.  Leave me a comment below to start the conversation.

Thank you to all Veterans!

Ten years ago, my son Matthew joined the Marines. I remember feeling proud and overwhelmed with fear about his decision. I remember the two hour drive to the signing in process and wishing with all my heart that he would change his mind before we arrived. As my husband and I drove away, we knew that our son’s decision had forever changed his life.

Another vivid memory was when we attended his boot camp graduation in San Diego. When we drove through the entrance we saw a large group of young men running as part of their daily physical drills, each one was dressed exactly the same and had the same haircut, yet we could still pick out our son!  We were so happy to see him, even if it was at a distance. 

There was a bit of a wait before the graduation ceremony began and we were sitting in the stands with the other families, feeling nervous and proud all at the same time.  There were hundreds that graduated that day.  As we sat in the stands our hearts were overwhelmed with pride towards these young adults for what they had accomplished and the commitment they were making to be a Marine.  As our son’s name was called, our family respectfully rose to our feet and tears streamed down our cheeks as we honored our son.

The most vivid memory was also the one I had feared the most – the day when he received his orders to be deployed to war. The only thing besides faith that got our family through those uncertain times was the support and love we received and knowing he was also receiving strong support from our friends and family.  I am blessed and thankful to say he served our country proudly and returned home safely. 

Yesterday was the 239th birthday of the United States Marine Corps, as a proud mom of a Marine, I would like to say, Thank you to all of our Marines! And today is Veteran's day, what a perfect time to thank all of our family and friends that have served or who are still serving our great country. Regardless of our views on warfare, we cannot deny the commitment and sacrifices of our military. Let's remember and respect the great sacrifices made by our veteran's. Let's show compassion to the military families. Let's honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives while serving our country. 

"Thank you" to all who have served our great country.  We appreciate you and respect you for all you’ve done to protect us and our freedom!

Entertainment or Inspiration?

A few weeks ago, my husband and I had the opportunity to attend an incredible Cirque Du Soleil show featuring talented dancers.  We were excited for an evening of entertained and to enjoy celebrating some recent achievements.  What we received was much more than expected.   We were not only thoroughly entertained - we were inspired.   The dancers performed with grace and strength in movement and art.  It was completely captivating and beautiful.  We couldn't help but notice how   sculpted their bodies were, which gave us a glimpse into the hours spent behind the scenes.  My husband and I were dancers many years ago and we know that having the strength to move with such grace and precision doesn't just happen, it takes hours of dedication and commitment to make the moves look effortless and magical.  It takes teamwork and harmony to work with the other dancers to make sure each movement is in perfect timing with each other.   It takes trust and dependability to know your team will be there to catch you when you leap in thin air waiting for another dancer to catch you.  It takes respect for each other knowing that each dancer is critical to a successful performance.   And last, but not least, putting yourself out there on a stage for everyone to see takes strength, courage, passion and confidence.

It's the same for each of us in our art, our craft, and our profession.  We all need to put ourselves out there and perform at our optimal levels.  We all need to be dedicated and committed to what we've chosen to do in life.  We all need to have teamwork and harmony with those on our team.  We all need to be trustworthy and dependable to our team.  We all need to respect those on our team and ourselves. 
What a difference it would make if we treated our art, our craft, our profession the same way as a Cirque Du Soleil dancer!