Managing Your Boss Saves You Time

EmployeeOfTheMonth

Today Paul Gordon Brown published a great post on What They Didn’t Teach You in Grad School: Managing Up. He is right on when he said, “learning to manage up entails a critical set of skills necessary to advance and be successful in your career.” I share the following tips on how to successfully manage your boss in my Time Management workshop. I have been presenting this information to groups of students and young professionals for years, long before I started working for my current boss. Regardless of your age or professional level, I think these tips are still helpful.

Why is it important to manage your boss?

•  An adversarial relationship with your boss can cause stress (which equals wasted time)

•  When your boss trusts you, you will be given more freedom to work independently (big time saver)

•  A positive relationship with your boss may result in additional resources or support (that may save you time)

9 Steps for Managing Your Boss

1. Bring solutions not excuses

Believe it or not, your boss doesn’t have all the answers. And if he/she does, it may not be the answer you want to hear. It is better to bring the solution you would like to see than to take a chance on the solution your boss may suggest.

2. Exude confidence

When your boss sees that you are confident, you are more likely to be trusted and given more autonomy. This creates more flexibility for you to do your work independently as well.

3. Prepare your “done” list

Be prepared to share your accomplishments with your boss. When you are asked “what have you been up to?” or “how’s it going?” you should have a positive response that demonstrates your contributions and productivity.

4. Clarify

Clear communication and expectations are paramount to your success. Be sure you understand what is being asked of you, who you can turn to for help, and how your success is being measured. If necessary, take notes in your meetings so you can refer back to conversations about these key expectations.

5. Approach your boss with honesty, respect, and empathy

Support your boss’s decisions. Do not bad-mouth your boss. Approach your boss in private if you disagree or have a concern.

6. Manage your meetings

Be sure you know when your next meeting is with your boss and what you need to have done by then. Be prepared with appropriate questions.

7. Avoid Interrupting

Your boss is a busy person. Do your best to find answers and resources independently before interrupting your boss.

8. Don’t draw attention to your mistakes

Avoid turning a mole hill into a mountain. Overall, your boss wants to hear your good news and positive stories. For every problem you bring to your boss, be sure you have shared 2-3 solutions or positive outcomes.

9. Learn to read social cues

Timing is crucial. Understanding how your boss behaves when he/she is working on a deadline vs. feeling sociable can increase your chances of gaining positive or negative attention. Do not attempt small talk if your boss appears stressed. On the other hand, if he/she is feeling sociable take the opportunity to share a few success stories.

Check out another great article on What Everyone Should Know About Managing Up at Harvard Business Review.

7 Lessons I Have Learned from Being a Mother 

IMG_2620

Today my daughter is celebrating her 7th birthday! I have learned so many lessons – big and small – from this spirited little person.

Here are some of the big ones:

1.  How to be an advocate. I could deal with annoying, disrespectful or immature treatment in my own life, but when my daughter was born I realized I had to confront these behaviors for the greater good. In both my personal and professional life, I began tackling difficult conversations and making hard decisions in order to create a better world for her.

2. How to listen more and fix less. My daughter has taught me that more problems can be solved by listening than fixing. Even at a young age she was capable of completing complex tasks if I offered my support from a distance rather than stepping in to “help.”

3.  How to be flexible. Little people are unpredictable. They get sick, have accidents, say things. I have learned it is necessary to let go of my agendas, plans, and expectations to create space for the unexpected wonders and frustrations that come with life.

4. How to recognize when I need sleep. I’ve always needed a lot of sleep. Being sleep deprived has helped me realize that any problem seems more manageable after a good night’s sleep. When I feel completely overwhelmed and cannot deal with one more thing, it’s usually time for bed.

5. How to accept help. When my daughter was six-months old, I broke my foot and could not walk or drive for six months. I am fiercely independent and accepting help was humbling. My friends and family came to do my laundry and take my daughter on walks. While it was difficult to admit I couldn’t do it all, I learned to graciously accept help and have become better at serving others.

6. How to be patient. Before becoming a mom, I kept a rigid schedule. My days were full and I was always on the fast-track. Now, getting out the door can be a production. I have learned to be patient with myself and others. I no longer begrudge the driver in front of me for missing the green light because we are all just doing the best we can.

7. How to be present. I am constantly working on this one. With so many distractions, it can be challenging to be present at all times. I have learned to designate times when my daughter gets my full attention and let her know that in that moment she is my sole focus.

 

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!

 

5 Questions to Help Make Tough Decisions

2015-03-08 16.49.02

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

 

 

 

 

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!

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!