Articles

Mentoring Across Gender Differences

Jessica Winkler - Thursday, October 16, 2014

What difference does gender make and what should you do about it, if anything? There has been a great body of research done related to women and men, their leadership skills, their tendencies, and the value they bring to organizations. Mentoring has been shown to have a great impact on the effectiveness of the leadership of both genders. Here we bring you some best practices for mentoring across gender.

Best Practices:

Listening: Promote active listening. When you take the time to really hear each other, it not only builds understanding but also builds a relationship at the same time. Stronger relationships withstand challenges much more effectively.

Mentoring: Cross-gender mentoring relationships are a great place to practice clear communication across gender lines. You can learn from even tense interactions, which, when discussed and infused with respect, also help build respectful, productive relationships. Group mentoring can make the best use of the fewer women in top positions who can mentor.

"Mentoring is a tool by which women are given access to opportunities and exposure to traditional and alternative models of success." Stacey Blake-Beard

Stereotyping: Don't let gender stereotypes become self-fulfilling prophecies. Not everyone fits a strict gender stereotype. Things like personality, corporate culture, and upbringing influence behavior. View each person as someone from whom you can learn. This will keep you focused on being curious rather than boxing someone in.

Empowerment: Promote self-confidence through a true appreciation for what both men and women have to uniquely offer. Support the empowerment of all instead of traditional power-dependent hierarchies. Understand the power of being part of an accepting group. Help men and women find ways to grow and contribute to the organization.

Affirm the contributions of women. Where is collaboration working well and promoting synergies in innovative organizations? Where has relational power worked to further organizational goals? Highlight where a woman's specific leadership skill set fits into the success of the company.

Affirm the contributions of men as well and the cross-gender work that is contributing to the bottom line. Base leadership development and promotions on capability, not gender, while recognizing that both women and men both bring unique skills and attributes to the table.

Make sure mentoring moves toward organizational goals, not just the enhancement of women. Show visible support for female leadership, developing them in practice and in real job situations, not separately.

If organizations reach a critical mass of women in leadership, then women will be evaluated for their skills, not their gender. About a third seems to be what is needed. Ten percent is noteworthy, 20% still remains the exception, and 30% stops being unusual.

"Women leaders who are not at peace with their identities or confident in the choices they have made can doubt themselves to the point that they tear down others in an effort to boost their own worth." Nancy Beach

Integration: It will help your women and men if you promote the integration of quality of life and work/family initiatives into the workplace. They will be able to bring all of who they are to all of what is going on at work. They will not have to change roles or silo their lives and efforts, which will aid in their overall productivity.

Appreciate differences: Know your strengths as a woman or a man, and work with them. Stop debating and blaming. Work on solutions together. Create a collaborative environment where teamwork and joint decision-making is respected. Use more of a process decision-making model where differences are appreciated and discussed first, and decisions made second.

Cross-Cultural Connections

Amanda Dreher - Thursday, October 16, 2014

Working cross-culturally is a concept that continually creeps closer and closer to home. Many organizations, large and small, cross cultural boundaries on a regular basis. But the truth is, we don’t even have to look to large multi-national corporations to see the role cultural differences play in our lives.

For example: I recently attended an ordinary, run-of-the-mill meeting with a group of people heading up different outreaches in our area. As I sat listening to what people had been working on, who they were reaching and what was in store for the next couple of months, I began to realize the great diversity in that room. People came from many different geographical locations – the Ukraine, Burma, Japan, England and the United States. They were from different religious backgrounds – Methodist, Baptist, Catholic, Buddhist, Eastern Orthodox. The differences didn’t end there with nuances of family dynamics, life experiences, educational background, socio-economic standing all layering upon each other to create an incredibly complex atmosphere. However, amidst all of this diversity of background, of thinking, of belief systems, I was not struck by the challenges and disagreements, but rather the clarity of purpose and support. This group of people had found a way to put any uncertainty or angst away to focus on the larger cause at hand. It was really a beautiful thing to watch.
So what is the trick to cross-cultural appreciation? Here are three ideas.
  1. Appreciate uniqueness. Become aware of the fact that no one else is exactly like you. Not only does this mean that you are unique, it also means that everyone else is too. Every person brings a different frame of reference with them wherever they go, which serves to shape their understanding and interpretation of any situation. This realization affords you the humility to appreciate differing perspectives.
  2. Prioritize learning. Take the time learn about other cultural norms. How do other cultures interpret success, failure, family, money, change, time, etc.? Learning about other cultural belief systems not only deepens your understanding of them, but also of yourself.
  3. Find touch points. Acknowledge that you will never agree with everyone on everything and that is actually a good thing in that it continually challenges us to grow and develop while gaining a deeper knowledge of who we are. However, do not stop there. Do not get lost amongst the differences and disagreements. Be intentional about looking for touch points, items that you can agree with another person on. This will give you a basic place on which to connect and begin moving forward.

Landing That Dream Job

Amanda Dreher - Thursday, October 16, 2014

Navigating the rough waters of today’s job market is a tricky process. Whether you are a new graduate searching for your first job or a seasoned professional looking to make a career switch, jumping into the job-hunting process can be daunting. Although there are mixed reports out there, it appears that an average of 7 months and hundreds of resumes is what it takes to land a job. However, finding your dream job is not out of reach. Don’t get discouraged, there are steps that will give you that competitive edge you are looking for.

Here are a few tips to help you land your next job:

  1. Discover.The first step to landing a great job is to discover yourself. Invest time in tapping in to who you are. This step will take some time and introspection. Be sure to utilize the numerous assessments, exercises and tools that are available to help you explore your passions, skills, talents, strengths, weaknesses and dreams. Once you have a clear picture of who you are, develop clear goals. Define where you want to go, this way you have a focused target to work towards. Then create a list of must-haves and deal-breakers.
    For instance: You know that you are a skilled writer whose passion is teaching adults, you have created a goal of working in higher education, and the must-haves for you are staying on the East Coast and flexibility in schedule. Now you have a good foundation on which to build.
  2. Research. Now that you have established your frame of reference and understand yourself well, it is time to learn more about your target market. Dig into the industry you have chosen and uncover the options you have and who the potential employers are. You need to learn as much as you can about the key players in the industry, research being done, innovations being made, industry trends. This will also help you develop an understanding of the needs and gaps in your chosen field. The more learning you can gain the better.
    For instance: Now in step two you find out that they local college does not offer the program that you wish to teach in, but the state college an hour away does and is innovating. You now know that this is one of the potential employers you want to pursue.
  3. Prepare. At this point you are equipped with the knowledge of who you are and what is available in your chosen industry, now is the time to prepare yourself for the search. This is a crucial piece to the job search puzzle that is often under-estimated. Everyone knows to do the basics like preparing a resume and cover letter, but there is more to the story here. If you have worked through the first two steps you have now focused in on several key possibilities to pursue and you certainly want to give it your best effort. This is the time to carefully align who you are, with who the potential employers are. Consider finding a mentor with experience in the industry, build any necessary skills that you may be lacking, craft your resume with each potential employer in mind and adjust your social media and web presence to reflect your qualities as a potential professional in your chosen field. Being fully prepared is key to success.
    For instance: Throughout step three you begin meeting with a dean at your local college on a regular basis to get real world advice on pursuing your career dreams, you notice that your teaching techniques might be a bit old fashioned so you decide to audit a course on technology in the classroom and you change your email address from brainybabe@123abc.com to s.jones@123abc.com.
  4. Launch. Once you are prepared, go for it! Continually put your best foot forward, fruitful contacts come at surprising times. Be sure to cultivate contacts through networking opportunities and politely and gracious follow-up with any potential leads. In addition to networking, send your cover letter and resume when the opportunity presents itself, but only after you are sure you have personalized it to fit each individual employer. Consider taking part-time jobs, volunteering, or joining local, state or national groups in your industry as a way to make contacts and hone your craft as you search for that dream job.
    For instance: You now begin publishing short research articles through online learning websites, you follow-up on a chance encounter with a fellow writer and professor at a university several states away who has offered to have you guest lecture in his class.

The job hunt will certainly take time and effort. The jobs will not come looking for you, but if you take a considered approach toward gaining that competitive edge, you just might find your dream job.

 

Inspiration in Your Mentoring Relationships

Amanda Dreher - Thursday, October 16, 2014

We at MLT believe that there are 5 critical skills in mentoring relationships. These 5 skills are listening, building trust, setting goals, giving feedback and inspiring. These 5 are intentionally listed in this order as each builds on the previous skill. However, the final skill, inspiring, is an exception to this rule. Inspiration should actually be woven through the other 4 skills throughout your entire mentoring relationship. It is the spark that keeps the mentoring relationship progressing.Inspiration can completely transform a mentoring relationship from good to great. This is because inspiration is the thing that fuels the power behind mentoring relationships. It is what keeps both mentor and mentee motivated to action. Without inspiration the relationship may still cultivate a deep connection and may instill a feeling of value in the mentee and a sense of legacy in the mentor. However, without inspiration the relationship will not motivate the mentor or mentee to action, which is crucial to a transformational relationship.What is the key to making inspiration work?

  • Inspire through mutuality. Inspire each other. Inspiration must be mutual to be truly effective. This happens when the mentee expresses his passions, his motivations and his excitement and when the mentor communicates his belief and support of the mentee.
  • Inspire through stories. A mentee should share his stories of the difference mentoring is causing in his life, of the growth and progress he has made, of the things he is incorporating into his everyday. A mentor should tell compelling stories about both successes and failures. This allows a mentee to learn from the example of perseverance.
  • Inspire through feedback. Mentees and mentors should relay what each appreciates about the other. By describing what has been learned during the mentoring relationship and clearly articulating the things you value, the other person will feel appreciated and energized.
  • Inspire through aspiration. Sharing goals, expectations, hopes and dreams can motivate and inspire the other person. This also provides an opportunity to challenge each other to set more challenging goals, to dream bigger and to stay motivated to achieve.
  • Inspire through humility and confidence. When a mentoring partner has a firm grasp on who he is uniquely created to be, he is free to confidently encourage others. Life is no longer a competition, but rather an opportunity to step more fully into that unique purpose while helping others become all that they can uniquely become as well.

Inspiration elevates personal and professional interactions. It is what takes things from fine to fantastic. Choose to become more intentional about your impact on others, be motivational.

In A (Business) Relationship with an Iceberg

Amanda Dreher - Thursday, October 16, 2014

By: Hilary Strat Morgan

What does an iceberg and a cross-cultural business relationship have in common? A lot more than you might think! Picture an iceberg; not the cold, frozen part but rather the way an iceberg is made. With the naked eye, you can only see about ten percent of the iceberg from above the surface. Which leaves a whooping ninety percent below the surface, entirely unseen.

This is exactly what a cross-cultural relationship looks like when working with businesses and individuals who are different than ourselves. We may think we understand how an individual or a business works by looking at the outside but in fact, we must look much closer to understand and ultimately relate.

If the top ten percent of the iceberg is the visible or conscious part of the relationship we would only see a person’s behavior, tradition and customs. In looking at an individual who is eating a certain lunch item, saying hello to a co-worker or who is dressed a certain way, we my be able to distinguish their culture. This brief overview based purely on observation will leave us lackingin information about who this person truly is, what they represent and how to best communicate with them. It is vital to look below the surface.

In 1976, Edward T. Hall suggested the unseen ninety percent of culture includes core values, beliefs, and priorities, just to name a few. That means the unspoken parts of the relationship may include important topics to business such as their ideas on authority, communication, power, leadership and gender roles in the workplace. These are crucial topics to understanding how a business relationship is going to work!

Marcela Jenney-Reyes uses the acrynomn T.R.U.S.T. to explain how to have a thriving cross-cultural business relationship:

  • Tailor your communication style to the individual.
  • Respect cultural differences. Your culture is not better or worse.
  • Understand that trust is not built overnight. Be open and adapt ways of doing things in order to build cultural competency.
  • Strengthen relationships by adjusting personal behavior.
  • Take the time to learn what motivates people. Get to know their values and beliefs. Focus on what’s important to them.
  • As opposed to assuming and perceiving how something was meant to be said, it is important to engage with individuals different than ourselves to understand more about who they are and how they view life. When we look at the whole iceberg, not just the tip; we will better understand our partners in cross-cultural business relationships.

    Personal Money Management: Savings

    Amanda Dreher - Thursday, October 16, 2014

    By: Hilary Strat Morgan

    A penny saved is a penny earned. A popular idiom for many when speaking about saving money for the things you want not just need. There may be some “saving” techniques you may have learned you need to actually unlearn. There may also be some tips you have never thought of that may help you reach your saving goals.

  • No. 1: Use what you already have. Open your fridge, with some imagination you may find that you have enough for dinner tonight and lunch tomorrow! What about with those extras you get while on trips, use them. You may be surprised how very long those little shampoo bottle could last.
  • No. 2: Go without or combine services. We canceled cable at our house in 2009, altogether we have saved $3,000 in three years. Video services deliver to your house at tenth of the price and still deliver the same entertainment value.
  • No. 3: Never pay ATM fees. “If you're out of town and not near your bank, it may be possible to avoid ATM fees by using your debit card at a nearby supermarket,” says Susan Tompor from USA Today. Purchase an item you would use anyways and use the cash back option.
  • No. 4: Avoid clipping coupons. “This anti-coupon tip sounds counterintuitive, because so much marketing works against it these days,” said Laura Lee, author of Broke is Beautiful: Living and Loving the Cash-Strapped Life. The more store emails you sign up for, the more you make yourself available as the consumer. "Buying stuff involves spending money, not saving it," Lee said. If you clip coupons, make sure it is for things you will buy regardless if you have a coupon or not.
  • No. 5: Create a "no-spend-zone." One day each month, don't spend any money. If you are really brave pick one day a week. A family I have known for years does “No Spend November.” Since the month is right before the holidays, is a great way to save some cash and prevent pre-holiday impulse buys.
  • No. 6: Save gift or surprise cash. Instead of spending your tax return, invest it. Rather than burning through the surprise money from a relative, stash it. Money not in the budget to begin with does not need to be used, it can be saved.
  • You work hard for your money; you will need to work hard to avoid spending it as well.

    The Personalities of Change

    Amanda Dreher - Thursday, October 16, 2014

    By: Hilary Strat Morgan

    Changes are a common part of all of our lives in different ways, both big and small. Whether you realize it or not, you react to announced and unannounced changes in four generalized ways: 1. Enthusiastic 2. Accepting 3. Resistant 4. Destructive There are other variances and you may find your self in at least one category during a change cycle but these are the four types of reactions for most people. Based on the Jungian theory, there is a scale everyone falls on. One axis is task vs. people oriented, the other is reactive vs. proactive. Where you fall determines your reaction to change.

    1. Enthusiastic Response to Change

    On the task-oriented and proactive scale, this is the response of those who love change and will put themselves into new situations because they live in the present moment. They enjoy taking on opportunities to spread the word and get others onboard. They may be great for spreading a positive message but at times, equally hard to control. Reflective skills are a challenge for them but they make up for in energy. If allowed to run free, the message may move more quickly than planned. Those around them may perceive them as a bit forceful.

    2. Accepting Response to Change

    On the people-oriented and reactive scale, this group generally deals well with change and will work with you on implementation. As a part of your foundation, they can be used for promotion change with imagination, intuition and creativity. They will get onboard; it might just take them a little longer. In viewing the world, they see it in fresh ways and look to the future for inspiration. Those around them may see they talk a big story rather than delivering a big change.

    3. Resistant Response to Change

    This group is on the people-oriented and proactive scale and they will make noise when something is changing. Often they challenge the underlying reasoning and may comment there is nothing wrong with the current way. Rarely giving an alternative, they openly criticize the change because they have seen what it does to people. They are experts in maintaining relationships but their orientation is stability and ensuring other people’s needs are met. Those around them may be see that when they are pushed, they cave.

    4. Destructive Response to Change

    Last, these are the people who are on the task-oriented and reactive scale. They are analytical perfectionists who want to resist entry to the unknown until it is shown itself to be safe. They not only disagree with change but will go out of the way to try and stop it. They may even try to gain support on the opposition. Not only do they do not like the idea of the change, but often even the idea change is being considered. Longing for stability and consistency in everything in their life, they want to retain the ‘ideal’ situation at any cost. They look in the past for inspiration. At their worst, they can lose themselves in the task and lose perspective in the process.

    Now these four types are the extremes and most of us could relate to parts of all of these reactions. The challenge of a successful change is to moderate the destructors, manage the enthusiasts, move acceptors through their change curve as quickly as possible and narrow the field of resistance for resistors. Changes happen in every part of our lives and in everyone else’s life too! Knowing who you are working with and more about how they function will hopefully make your next change easier to maneuver through.

    Navigating Through Job Loss

    Amanda Dreher - Thursday, October 16, 2014

    After losing your job you may feel angry, unable to reach out or even depressed. Our jobs are many times one of the first things new people ask about us, “What do you do?” What do you say when the answer is that you are currently either, unemployed or underemployed for your experience level? Our jobs are many times a major definer of who we are as they bring much of our purposeful activity into our lives each week. And of course, they bring us our income source. Without our jobs, it is easy to see how our self-esteem and self-importance may fade without a constant need for our input and advice. Here are some tips to help you stay positive after a job loss and help you keep high spirits while finding a new employment.

    1. Acknowledge Your Emotions

    After losing your job, you may have several emotions needing processing. Whether you are overwhelmed, angry, or self-critical they are all real feelings to express. This may be the perfect time to get out an old journal and write about all the things you are feeling. No self-criticism. In order to promote yourself for a new job you will need to reestablish who you are as a person and the things you are intrinsically good at and enjoy doing. No one would hire someone who is not self-confident and aware of his or her stand-out skills. Learn the lesson in your loss. While it maybe hard to believe, this career change might be a blessing in disguise. Maybe you can finally apply for the jobs you have always wanted to do or go back to school to back your dream a reality.

    2. Turn Outwards

    Volunteer your time for a cause close to your heart. To have some interactions with others during the day, make time for others who are in difficult situations of their own. You may find in donating your time, you may want to look for employment where you are volunteering! Talk to people you trust, ask them for support and ideas about your future employment. Everyone knows someone who is hiring. Make sure you make it known you are seeking new employment and talk to as many people as possible. Use your social media resources. Log-in to your LinkedIn and place “Seeking Employment” in your job headline. Each time you do an update, LinkedIn sends a post to your contacts. The more people who know you are looking for employment, the better.

    3. Involve your Family

    Make sure to still play together as a family. Just because less money is coming in does not mean your family cannot have great times together. For date nights and family nights, look for free activities provided across the city. Incredible memories are around the corner but you need to look. Talk it out! Make sure everyone has a voice during this time. Everyone in the family may not be feeling the same way, it is important for every voice to be heard.

    4. Take Care of You

    Make sure to keep a regular routine as a priority. Still set an alarm in the morning to wake up at a regular time. Eat healthfully and go outside! Most importantly, workout your body as well as your brain. This may be the best time to meet some of your fitness goals. Get plenty of sleep, a rested brain is a healthy brain. Last, relax. It may feel counterintuitive but the more you know the right job will find you at the right time the more you can enjoy the now.

    Maintain a balance in all parts of your life now and it will help you find your next position. To review, make sure to acknowledge how you feel, acknowledged the other people in your life and their particular influence, include your family in the process and take care of yourself. With these helpful tips, we hope finding a job is more of a pleasure than a pain.

    How to Nurture Leadership Development

    Amanda Dreher - Thursday, October 16, 2014


     

    There is no one best way to develop leaders but the companies that do share certain key characteristics. No matter the time of year or success in the market, successful companies continue to make leadership development a top priority. Here are some tips for developing the leaders your team already has available.

     

    Position yourself and your team for the future. This may sound intuitive but many employers do not involve all levels of employees inside the inner workings of their plan for the next 30 days much less the rest of the year. Is the plan written down where everyone can see it? Does the potential leader know they are being considered as leader? Good intentions fade, important things are committed to paper. Write down your development goals and share them with those around you.

     

    Plans must tie into passions and motivations. Help your future leaders acquire a deep understanding of their current and future roles. If it’s important to the person, the person will take action. If not, it will be easy to tell because there will be no follow-through. It's about understanding the individual from a deep perspective. Get to know the people you work with, what motivates them?

     

    Expose your potential leaders to current leaders. Let your budding leaders see how the current leaders think and operate. Even the informal mentoring process and exposure to company executives helps to broaden people's perspectives and stimulate their passion about the job. The early the learning process begins, the better!

     

    Create an environment that drives performance. Are there prizes to be won, celebrations to be had if your employees reach their goals? What are the measurable, specific objectives and obvious signs of success? Make sure your developing leaders know when and how to reach their milestones and their goal time lines, that way you can mark the signs of progress and know when a goal is completed.

     

    Make it simple and make it visible. A plan that is too complex can be burdensome and will ultimately not be a good guide for improvement. Also make sure the plan is easy to see, post it around the office and encourage people to post it at home. Put encouragement in text reminders, put it the screen saver or on a post note. Encouragement and accountability will lead to success in the development of leaders.

    Respect in the Workplace

    Amanda Dreher - Thursday, October 16, 2014

    Acknowledging the differences between generations may be the answer to solving many issues that stem from workplace diversity.It's important for all the members of the organization to learn to work together harmoniously, creating an environment of mutual respect. The tendency is to not talk about the differences between generations but avoiding issues only increases the generational barrier. Instead reinforce the idea that all workers have valuable skills. This can be achieved by allowing your employees to build functional workplace relationships, creating a sense of understanding and acceptance.

     

    Consider these ideas and try to come up with others of your own.

     

    - Be open to the idea of letting younger staff work from home on occasion, or create open workspaces that allow everyone to on staff to work collaboratively with their team.

     

    - Allow older generations to work modified work schedules or part-time hours in order to allow them the flexibility of semi-retirement.

     

    - Have older generations take on mentorship roles with the younger staff so that they can share their experience and wisdom with emerging team members. Some employees are reluctant to teach their skills to younger generations for fear they will give up some expertise and therefore power in the organization. But as obvious as it may seem, co-workers helping each other ultimately strengthens bonds, opens communication and is good for the organization and for the employees themselves.

     

    - Create open feedback within the organization, allowing staff members to be open and honest with one another.

     

    - Make sure everyone knows the organization values all different perspectives, regardless of age.

     

    - Keep in mind that people from different generations like to communicate differently, so allow for a variety of communication tools within the office, everything from face-to-face meetings, email, telephone, or even social media or instant messaging.

     

    What you want to prevent is one generation thinking the problem is another generation’s issue when the responsibility is really mutual. We want to avoid allowing stereotypes to emerge causing generations to assume the worst intentions of each other rather than asking how they can meet in the middle. Applying negative individual traits to an entire generation is counter-productive. You'll find people with poor work ethic in every generation, just the same as you'll find truly outstanding workers who are both young and old. Diversity is valued in all aspects of our lives, and there is much to be gained from having a diverse workforce, including a wide range of ages present in your organization. Every person brings something to the table, and those from different generations bring with them their experiences from the past – with each person having learned something unique from the issues that were present during each specific time period.


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