10 Ways to be Powerful that I Learned from My Mom

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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

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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!

5 Ways to Treat Students Like Family

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Giving my daughter cheap advice at the Live Oak Music Festival

When I look into the eyes of my students, I often imagine my six-year-old daughter sitting on the other side of the desk in eleven years. It’s unlikely that she will be sitting  across from me, but she may be sitting in another office somewhere. What will bring her to the dean’s office? What experience do I want her to have? What advice will she get?

My daughter is just entering the public school system. She will be completing first grade in a few months. She loves school and is an avid reader, but last week she received a behavior ticket. I won’t say what it was for, because years from now when she runs for presidency I don’t want her campaign tarnished by her mom’s blog post that disclosed she threw applesauce down the slide and soiled another girl’s clothes (oops! there I said it!), but it has me thinking about behavior and choices.

Personally, I’m hoping my daughter makes all her mistakes in first grade, and it’s smooth sailing from here into adulthood. But since I realize that’s likely not going to be the case, I’m embracing these incidents for what they are…teachable moments. I also realize I will not always be around to clean up the metaphorical applesauce and, as a mom, I hope that there will be caring adults throughout my daughter’s life who will also help her navigate through the messy, sticky situations that come up.

Whether it’s a mistake, a personal challenge, an academic setback, or another life event that  brings someone else’s child to my office, I try to treat all students with the respect, compassion, and attention I would provide to my own daughter in these five ways:

1. See their potential. Students who have been admitted to the university have already demonstrated they have great potential. Students also each possess unique strengths they can draw upon during challenging times. Looking for strengths and encouraging students to envision what is possible demonstrates our belief in them.

2. Believe them. It takes courage for students to share their stories. When we listen and validate their feelings, emotions, and concerns, students can ask for what they need and tell us how to best support them.

3. Give accurate information. Myths, out-dated information, and misunderstood policies can create stress and confusion for students. Empowered with information, students can make educated and appropriate decisions.

4. Advocate. Advocacy can take many forms. It can be connecting students to resources, speaking up for underrepresented students, creating a safe environment for students to express themselves, or educating ourselves on critical issues  in order to contribute to positive change.

5. Offer unconditional positive regard. Psychologist Carl Rogers developed the term unconditional positive regard, which means showing complete support and acceptance of a person. By showing students our acceptance and setting aside our judgment, we create a safe space for students to take risks, explore their possibilities, and maximize their full potential.

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.

It’s All About Relationships

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My favorite fortune

A short trip down memory lane takes me back to the small liberal arts college where I earned my undergraduate degree and to the two large public institutions where I earned my advanced degrees. While I am grateful for the technological advances that allowed me to email my professors, upload my assignments, and research my dissertation through the library’s online catalog, the experiences I remember most are my conversations and interactions with faculty.

My first psychology professor was a young doctoral student named Dr. Swan from the adjacent graduate school. She was recently married and just establishing herself as a faculty member. She was someone I could relate to and wanted to emulate. I hung on her every word, dissected her wardrobe, listened intently for clues about her life as a new wife and mother, and basically remembered very little about the developmental life stages and Freudian theory.

Fastforward ten years. My dissertation committee chair was a leading researcher in special education and disabilities. He held high positions in organizations leading the way in this field. He advised countless doctoral students, yet always gave me his full attention. After spending hours editing my dissertation and pouring over each chapter while being mindful of his critiques, what do I remember most about my committee chair? He taught in a hospital in Malawi, raised two daughters, bred golden retrievers, and liked to wear Hawaiian shirts.

I remember the personalities of my professors more than the equations, formulas, and theories they lectured about for hours. When I hear students talking about taking a class from a well-known professor, I know they are often drawn to the professor’s character more than the class content. Powerpoints, digital projectors, laptops, and wireless internet are powerful tools but they can’t replace the people behind them.

Students can find the answer to almost any question with a simple Google search. Our challenge as educators is to help them understand which questions to ask. And that happens in relationship – the way we model critical thinking, our response to complex social issues, and our commitment to life long learning. The information students need is already at their fingertips, but the transformation that takes place in higher education still requires a human connection.