Thoughts on Heroes and Men

Somehow last week I managed to hide under a rock, and I did not hear about the death of Dave Goldberg until this weekend. Dave Goldberg was chief executive officer of SurveyMonkey and husband of Sheryl Sandberg, author of NY Times bestseller Lean In: Women, Work, and The Will to Lead. According to many media sources, Dave was the man behind the successful woman. He was a supportive and involved spouse. And, Forbes said, “[his feedback] played a critical role in giving the book its heart.”

I’ll be honest and say I have not fully bought into the  Lean In movement, since I’m not sure that encouraging women to increase their ambition and acquire more power is going to solve the inequalities we face in our current culture. However, what I do buy into is the role of men in the movement. Men who want to support and encourage women, to do their part in building an equal world, and to be true partners in marriages, families, and relationships, are critical to achieving equality.

I believe we gain the most ground by inviting men to be allies in any feminist movement. We also gain ground by allowing and encouraging men to step outside the gender box – to be stay-at-home dads, share domestic responsibilities, and be involved in family life. Fortunately, I have had these types of men in my life, starting with my dad. I have also had male mentors, teachers, advisors, co-workers, and friends who have supported my ambition and success.

When men are partners with women at home, encourage them to seek growth opportunities, use respectful language, and praise their accomplishments, men become heroes in the movement towards equality. It takes a man who is smart, brave, confident, and fair – all qualities of a great hero – to embrace an equal partnership. It is with supportive men behind us, or better yet beside us, that women can have it all.

 

10 Ways to be Powerful that I Learned from My Mom

WonderWoman

In honor of Mother’s Day, I wanted to share some lessons I have learned from my mom. My mom was my first role model. She started a successful real estate business and showed me that working moms could do it all. She cooked, cleaned, cared for the family and embraced the role of a full-time career woman.

In addition to paving the way as a business woman, my mom is a first-generation college graduate. She came to the United States on a scholarship and navigated her way through college primarily on her own. She embodies hard work, risk-taking, and family values. I could say so much more about my mom, but instead I’m going to share 10 lessons she taught me about being powerful:

1. Be financially independent. Live within your means, budget, save, invest. Being financially independent means you do not rely on anyone else to support you, and this is the most powerful position of all.

2. Don’t take things personally. Developing thick skin is part of being powerful. What people say and do says more about them than about you.

3. Surround yourself with great people. A team is more powerful than an individual. Picking the right people for your team is the key to success.

4. Do what you say you will do. Your word is your brand. You must follow through on your word in order to establish trust – the most important aspect of a relationship.

5. Get an education. No one can take your education away from you. You will be more marketable, credible, and powerful with each degree you earn.

6. Trust your instincts. If you feel you are being taken advantage of, you probably are. You cannot control others, but you have the power to avoid putting yourself in an unfair situation.

7. Don’t give in to bullies. Bullies do not only exist on the playground; they can be found in the boardroom too. Do not allow yourself to be intimidated or manipulated by letting bullies get under your skin.

8. Success is the best revenge. If someone undermines or betrays you, do not waste one second lowering yourself to their level. When you give someone the satisfaction of watching you suffer, you are giving your power away. Instead, channel your power into your own success.

 9. Look for the win-win. Life is not a zero-sum game. Seek opportunities to bring other people up with you. Helping others is the highest purpose of power.

10. Stay positive. The number one life lesson my mom has taught me is about choosing my attitude. Our power to choose our attitude is the greatest power we possess.

Thanks Mom! Happy Mother’s Day!

 

3 Ways to Strengthen Your Relationships and Grow Your Influence

Handshake

Last week, there was an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education written by two seasoned college presidents. In the article, both presidents highlighted the critical role of relationships, which reminded me of this previous post on the importance of relationships. For presidents, relationships are crucial to being an influencer.

The president is often seen as the most influential person on a campus. However, we all have influence. Whether we have positional power or are trying to influence someone in a higher position. All members of the campus community can be influencers.

Some people we can influence through relationship are donors, supervisors, and peers.

How do we improve our ability to influence through relationships?

1. Our presence. Our ability to influence is affected by how others perceive us. How do others see you? What qualities do others admire about you? These qualities may not be the same characteristics that we see as our strengths. For example, you may believe that others most admire you for your expertise and experience, but they may actually love your sense of humor the most!

2. Service. When we think about donors, we may focus on what they can provide us. But when we ask what we can give them, we may be surprised that we have a lot more to offer – opportunities to reconnect with faculty and alumni, recognition at campus events, or networking opportunities. When we serve others, we are proactively building our relationship with them.

3. Shared interests. One of my favorite quotes is “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” When we impose our influence through rules and positional power, we take away other people’s dignity. When people share an interest, the shared solutions can be greater than one person’s alone.

5 Questions to Help Make Tough Decisions

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That’s me standing on the Porch of Indecision

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

As Student Affairs professionals, we are often faced with some tough personal and professional decisions. In my career, I have had to decide whether to pick up part-time teaching work, when was the best time to start my family, would I consider relocating for career advancement, was I ready to get my PhD, should I accept a time-consuming volunteer role, and should I take on my family’s business. I firmly believe  we cannot be satisfied with someone else’s answer to these tough questions – we must make these decisions on our own.

Friends and family can offer advice, but the best thing they can do is ask you the right questions. A big decision can feel…well, BIG. But like a big goal, it can be more easily achieved by breaking it down into smaller pieces.

Here are 5 questions that can help to make tough decisions:

1. What would you do if you couldn’t fail?

Fear of failure often keeps us paralyzed. It prevents us from maximizing our full potential and fully exercising our strengths. When I was considering a Ph.D. program, the fear of failure was my biggest limitation. I have come to accept and embrace failure as an essential part of learning. Often our failures are not as irreversible or detrimental as we make them out to be in our minds.

“Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.” – Tony Robbins

2. How does this decision fit into your greater purpose?

Indecisiveness or resistance to making a decision can often be rooted in an underlying value or belief. When a choice seems logical and clear, yet we are still resistant, there may be some deeper inner conflict going on. When my mom approached me about being more involved in our family business, I wanted to honor her and was attracted to the earning potential of a career in real estate; however,  real estate was not my calling. There were aspects that I would have enjoyed, and I could probably have been successful, but my passion is working in education with students.

“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.” – Steve Jobs

3. Is this the right time?

Some decisions seem crystal clear, except for the timing. One of my toughest decisions was declining the invitation to be the volunteer coordinator for my friend’s mayoral campaign. I wanted to do it, it felt aligned with my greater purpose,  and it was a great match for my skill set, but the timing was terrible. I was a full-time working mom, struggling in my relationship, and had several other commitments. On the other hand, there isn’t always a perfect time. Timing is an important factor, but it’s not the only factor. When an opportunity arises, you may not feel fully prepared but it may be the time to take a risk.

“You can do anything but not everything.” – David Allen

4. How will you feel after you have made this decision?

Visualizing the outcome of the two or more scenarios when trying to make a decision can help us tap into our “gut” reaction. The power of intuition is discussed in a lot of decision-making research, including Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink. According to Gladwell, the more expertise you have on a topic, the more likely your gut will predict the most accurate outcome.

“There will be a few times in your life when all your instincts will tell you to do something, something that defies logic, upsets your plans, and may seem crazy to others. When that happens, you do it.” – Judith McNaught

5. What role does your ego play in this decision?

Fear, anxiety, expectation, regret, guilt, and anger are the manifestations of the ego. Ego causes us to compare ourselves to others. Ego takes everything personally. It wants to be right. It needs to feel superior. And, it can lead us to make poor decisions. When we make a decision because we want what someone else has, or we think something will make us happy, the ego is in control.

“You create a good future by creating a good present.” – Eckhart Tolle

 

 

 

 

12 Self-Promotion Strategies for Introverts

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Introverts are awesome! They are the calm, humble, thoughtful people who are quietly doing a ton of work and taking very little credit! Introverts tend to be deliberative and self-aware; they tend to be detail-oriented; they spend a lot of time thinking and reflecting; and, they can give intense focus and concentration to a task.

Introverts are also the best leaders for proactive teams because they listen to their followers and are receptive to the team’s ideas (Harvard Business School, 2010). Introverted leaders view their positions as a responsibility to take care of the people and organizations entrusted to them. And, they tend to be great problem solvers – developing solutions based on observations, research and reflection.

Given these characteristics, how do introverts make connections and sell themselves in the workplace? Here are 12 self-promotion strategies for introverts:

1. Use social media. Introverts tend to excel at writing. Excellent social media content can set you apart from others. Another advantage of social media is you can choose to engage when you feel inspired or schedule a regular time to be active when you feel most sociable.

2. Give a presentation. Introverts tend to be more creative and energized when they can think alone. Planning a presentation for a conference or staff training allows you the time and space to research, plan and prepare (all things that introverts are great at doing!) and then showcase your knowledge and skills.

3. Be prepared. Introverts are thoughtful processors, which can create anxiety around events or conversations that require thinking on our feet. Prepare for meetings or social events with one or two ideas that you can contribute based on the topic or purpose of the meeting.

4. Be confidently quiet. Being quiet can sometimes be misinterpreted as being insecure, annoyed, or uninterested. Although you may be thinking deeply about the topic being discussed, be aware of your body language, non-verbal cues, and other signals you may be unintentionally sending to others.

5. Build one-on-one relationships. Introverts prefer deep meaningful relationships rather than having lots of contacts. Focus on developing strong connections with influential people in your life – mentors, stakeholders, supervisors – rather than trying to please or engage with everyone.

6. Provide solutions. Introverts are keen observers. They miss very little, although others may assume they are not engaged. Introverts are also great at connecting the dots and executing. Use the information you learn, observe the gaps, connect the missing pieces, and use the information to propose solutions or improve your work.

7. Create your community. Identify the other quiet observers around you and take intentional action to make a connection. Other introverts are likely to understand your needs and can help provide support and encouragement. Also, seek out other self-proclaimed introverts who are successfully navigating the extrovert world and who can give you guidance and suggestions (such as Keith Ferrazzi).

8. Build a portfolio. Introverts tend to avoid tooting their own horn. A portfolio does the talking for you. Use examples of your work to demonstrate your skills during an interview or meeting. It can include photos, certificates, writing samples, lists of projects, or letters of recommendation.

9. Schedule meetings. Spontaneous meetings can derail an introvert. In order to stay in touch with other staff members, schedule time into your calendar for catching up or reviewing projects. If you miss your opportunity in an impromptu meeting, you can also follow up afterward in an email or one-on-one.

10. Network intentionally. Introverts are great at research and asking poignant questions. Before you attend an event, pick one or two people you want to meet. Research the person(s) and develop a few potential talking points or questions.

11. Create trust. Introverts are great listeners, and by using your listening and empathy skills you can make others feel calm and secure. People remember the way you make them feel more than what you say. When you can establish trust with others, you become seen as fair, ethical, and competent.

12. Serve others. Introverts are characterized by humility, a desire to serve others, and the ability to empower others. These are  also the traits of servant leadership – a powerful style of many leaders of high-performing companies. The best leaders treat others with respect and acknowledge the contributions of others. When you find ways to make other people successful, help them accomplish their goals, and support others, your load becomes lighter, your path becomes easier, and you become unstoppable!

9 Quotes About Being Light

HeartLight

 

Definition of Light: 1. something that makes vision possible; 2. something that enlightens or informs; 3. having little weight, not heavy; 4. capable of moving swiftly or nimbly; 5. free from care.

Make yourself light. During my darkest times, this is a mantra I used to remind myself to let go of things I could not control, to let my strengths shine, and to be that which I was trying to attract. To me, light symbolizes hope, faith, leadership, and love.

My daughter likes to sing  this  Sunday school song, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.” My heart swells when I hear her little voice sing with such clarity. Hearing her reminds me that while this is a song about sharing our gifts with others, it is also about confidence. Letting our own light shine means being unafraid and courageous.

Light is silent, yet it is so powerful. Light helps things grow. Light eliminates darkness. Light can be a beacon. As a leader, being a light is about shining the spotlight on others so  their strengths can be illuminated.  It is being a lighthouse that steers others from danger and also leads them to shore. It means using your own flame to ignite the passions of others.

Here are 9 inspirational quotes about light:

1.

A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle. – James Keller

2.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

3.

Be a light, not a judge. Be a model, not a critic. – Stephen Covey

4.

Even

After

All this time

The Sun never says

To the Earth

“You owe me.”

What happens

With a love like that.

It lights the

Whole

Sky.

-Hafiz

5.

As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. – Nelson Mandela

6.

Even the

darkest night

will end

and the sun

will rise.

– Victor Hugo

7.

Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart. – Kahlil Gibran

8.

You have to find what sparks a light in you so that you in your own way can illuminate the world. – Oprah Winfrey

9.

Nothing can dim the light that shines from within. – Maya Angelou

7 Blind Men and An Elephant

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Working in a large public institution has given me the opportunity to observe several leadership styles. Given the segregated nature of the functions of the institution, it is not surprising that many leaders have adapted their leadership style to ensure the survival of their department. At times, this can be frustrating because in my experience it creates seemingly unnecessary conflict.

I was recently reminded of the story of seven blind men and an elephant. In the story, each man is feeling a different part of the elephant. The one touching the tail thinks it is a rope. The one at the leg thinks it is a tree trunk. They start to fight about it. Whether or not the conflict between the men and their perspectives was resolved depends on which version of the story you believe. The lesson I take away is that we all think we know how it is but in reality we only see a piece of the whole.

I like this story because each of the men was right. In my own work life, I have recently started trying to identify the elephant. How can it be that we are viewing the same issue from opposing positions? What could the issue look like from your side of the elephant? And how can I best describe my side in a way that helps us both get a better idea of what the elephant really is?

In some cases, this has required assembling an elephant that doesn’t yet exist. In creating collaborative programs within the institution, different departments bring their components or values. Sometimes they are open to integrating these components and often they want their components to be the whole elephant.

I have recently encouraged the students I work with to see how they could combine their seemingly different perspectives to create a greater outcome. This is especially challenging because the temptation is to recreate our existing structures – silo-ed departments, specialized colleges, two-party systems. Everywhere we look we can find examples of people holding on to their piece of the elephant.

5 Reasons You Need to Pull Weeds in Life

“With life as short as a half taken breath, don’t plant anything but love. ” – Rumi
In 2014, I was part of a countywide leadership program. For our legacy project we are planting a milk thistle garden for monarch butterflies. The site will be a place where the butterflies can feed and lay eggs, as well as an outdoor classroom for hundreds of local children.
This weekend we had our first work day. We had forty volunteers, including 12 crew members from our local California Conservation Corps. We spent the majority of the morning pulling weeds. While on my hands and knees in the rain pulling invasive grasses, I started thinking how important it is to pull the weeds in our daily lives.

Here are 5 reasons you need to pull the weeds:

1. To make space for what you desire. This beautiful site holds so much potential (which our group is totally going to make happen), yet the ground was covered with weeds. There was no place to plant the desired milk thistle. Similarly, when our lives are filled with meaningless activities, relationships, and worries, it takes away from our ability to spend time doing the things we love.

2. To see the landscape more clearly. With the weeds removed, the natural landscape became more visible. It was easier to see where to plant the milk thistle and to strategically place them. Likewise, it’s harder to gain perspective when our lives are filled with clutter, both physical and emotional. It’s difficult to see where we should place our priorities when our daily lives are already full and busy.

3. To increase your yield. The milk thistle is the crop we want to harvest. The milk thistle is crucial for the reproduction of the monarch butterfly, and as land has been developed the prevalence of this plant has been severely reduced. In order for our milk thistle saplings to survive, the weeds that compete for nutrients and other resources need to be removed. In life, our negative thoughts hinder our ability to yield the most enjoyment and happiness. Negativity and other distractions prevent us from maximizing our full potential.

4. It feels good. Pulling weeds felt great! I felt satisfied with each small patch that I cleared. I liked seeing the piles of weeds build up, and it was exciting to think of the potential for the new space I had created. Clearing away the unwanted activities, distractions, negativity, and other less than desirable aspects of our lives feels exhilarating. Even carving out a few moments of uninterrupted time can create the necessary space for new ideas, inspiration, and energy.

5. It’s a reminder that life goes on. I overheard one of my peers commenting, “Why are we doing this? The weeds are all going to come back.” It’s true that weeds will always grow back in our garden, just as problems will always emerge in life,  but that’s just the way it is. The hope is that fewer weeds will grow once the milk thistle takes root. However, we will never be able to stop the weeds entirely. Weeds are part of life. It’s not always fun, but it can be made easier with friends! and it’s a necessary part of leaving a legacy!

Thoughts on being a "model minority"

Today I was the MC at the Asian Pacific Islander Faculty and Staff Association (APIFSA) Professional Development Luncheon, which is one of my favorite events of the year. The APIFSA was formed by a small group of professionals who at one time or another had all attended a leadership institute for Asians in Higher Education. I attended the leadership institute in 2007. I was skeptical because although my mom is Chinese and she was born and raised in Thailand, I myself am only half Asian and often don’t feel like I fit the API stereotype in terms of appearance. However, at the institute I realized that my mom’s influence had a profound impact on the way I see the world. My values, personality, and daily interactions have been shaped by her strong cultural influences.

Ever heard of a Tiger Mom? Well that was my mom. I played the piano and violin. I was expected to practice every day. In my mom’s book, “A” was for Average. And I wasn’t just expected to receive A’s – I was expected to be number 1 in the class. There was no questioning whether or not I was smart enough or capable of being number 1, if I wasn’t number 1 it was either because I wasn’t putting in the effort or my teacher had made a mistake. In 7th grade when I transitioned to middle school, my mom found out I was placed in regular math instead of pre-algebra and she demanded that I be retested. And my favorite story is when I graduated from my Master’s program my mom gave me a graduation card with the pamphlet to a PhD program inserted inside.

Not all Asian moms are Tiger Moms. That’s because the Tiger Mom is a stereotype, just like the “model minority” is a stereotype. The model minority myth leads mainstream America to believe that as a group we have overcome racism and discrimination and achieved success, and we no longer struggle to access education or financial security. Sure…some APIs have achieved financial stability, and there are many Asians earning advanced degrees. But the model minority stereotype can be misleading and dangerous.

Even after being acknowledged as the “model minority,” Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been accused of being enemies, aliens, spies, and terrorists, and subjected to special reporting requirements, incarceration, and deportation. While there are varied and historical reasons for lumping APIs into one category, the individuals who comprise this group represent the full socio-economic spectrum, from the poor and underprivileged to the affluent and highly skilled.

API is a broad term that is typically applied to any person having origins in the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent, or Hawaii or other Pacific Islands – which includes over 40 different ethnic groups, such as Hmong, Laotian, Vietnamese, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Japanese, and peoples of Hawaii, Guam, and Samoa.
As an aggregate group, APIs are well represented in higher education. Asian American and Pacific Islander students make up 16 percent of the CSU student populations. In 2010, the CSU conferred more than 11,000 degrees to Asian students and 3,400 to Filipino and Pacific Islander students. These CSU graduates are helping to drive California’s aerospace, healthcare, entertainment, information technology, biomedical, international trade, education, and multimedia industries.

This should be a source of pride for our community, yet there is a myth that APIs are “taking over” higher education. The data shows that the increase in APIs in higher education has mirrored the increases found among other underrepresented populations during the same time period. This perception is created because APIs tend to be more concentrated in a small number of schools. There are over 4000 universities in the United States, yet 2/3 of all APIs are concentrated in just 200 institutions with nearly half of all APIs attending college in either California, New York, or Texas.

APIs are the fastest growing minority population in the United States. According to the 2010 Census, the Asian American population in the United States grew 46 percent between 2000 and 2010, faster than any other major race group in the country, including Hispanics. The Census Bureau’s latest population projections estimate APIs to reach 41 million by 2050. APIs represent about 6% of the US population and 6.9% of management and professional occupations.
However, while the API population is growing and becoming more educated…we still face challenges, and continue to consistently be underrepresented in leadership positions. While there are many API students doing well at the top of the academic curve, there are just as many struggling at the bottom of the curve who are being overlooked. There are significant differences in degree attainment between these 40+ sub-groups.

There are significant numbers of API students who struggle with poverty, who are English-language learners increasingly likely to leave school with rudimentary language skills, who are at risk of dropping out, who are subject to violence and discrimination on account of race, class, gender, ethnicity, or language. Yet the “model minority” myth continues and often shrouds the real needs of APIs.

Research also shows that APIs aspire to leadership at lower rates than other race groups. APIs continue to be under represented on the Board of Directors of Fortune 500 companies. In 2012, APIs held only 144 out of over 5,500 total board seats, which is only 2.6% of the total Fortune 500 board seats. In the nonprofit sector, only 47 of the top 100 nonprofits have any API representation on their boards. And APIs hold less than 3% of the total board seats in the top 100 nonprofits.

Why is this important? Let me go back to my Tiger mom. My mom may be highly critical and have high expectations, but she also came to this country as a teenager with little to her name other than her student scholarship. My mom was a first generation college student, and she built a successful business while taking care of our family and our extended family. My mom would haggle over the price of a pair of socks, but she is also the most generous woman I know. She came to the US alone to attend high school, and she worked hard and sacrificed to be where she is now.

Whether you had a tiger mom or not, I guarantee that you are where you are today because someone (a teacher, an aunt or uncle, a friend, or maybe someone you’ve never met) has stepped up and maybe even sacrificed for you. This is why today is one of my favorite days of the year. Each year an accomplished leader in higher education comes to our campus to offer mentorship, share inspirational words, and remind us of our responsibility. We have a responsibility to be that person to someone else. Be a leader, a mentor, a role model. Find opportunities to take risks and practice your leadership skills. Volunteer in your community. Whether you’re passionate about advocating for APIs or another cause, I urge you to put your education and position of influence to use to improve the lives of others.

Hello World!

Launching a new blog is always exciting and a little daunting. The first post is like the first brushstroke on a blank canvas. It holds all the potential of becoming a brilliant masterpiece and risks becoming cast aside with the half-knit sweaters and unfinished scrapbooks.

I have been a hobby blogger for almost six years. Writing has always been my creative outlet and stress reliever. So it made sense for me to create an outlet for the ideas, thoughts, and musing I have about work.

I decided to start this blog to share my own experiences and also to create a conversation and build a community. I have worked in student affairs for more than ten years, and I feel privileged to work with some of the brightest students in the country. I know that I am not alone. My days are filled with touching, hilarious, and hair-pulling moments…and I hope to share them all here!