Thursday, March 24, 2011

What if...examine your excuses

We all have excuses for not doing things. I am a prime procrastinator; I'll happily spend hours talking about why I can't do something when it might only take me a few minutes to actually do it.

So when mentors or mentorees tell me how they hesitate to do whatever... I tell them about the "what if..." game. It's how my son prepped to ask for his first date; how I got up the nerve to ask for my first mentor; and a great way to realize how silly some of our fears and stumbling blocks can be.

This is how it works:
Imagine the situation you have been avoiding.
Ask yourself "What if I actually do/say/try this, what's the worst thing that could happen?"
Then answer yourself "What would you do if that worst thing happened?"
Then imagine the next worst outcome... and so on.

 This is how it worked with my son...

What if you actually ask her out?
She could point a finger at me and laugh.
And what would you do then?
I'd die of humiliation.
Really die?
Probably just be embarrassed.
And then what would you do?
Walk away probably.
What else could she do?
Tell her friends I'm an idiot.
Then what would you do?
Probably agree with her and ask someone else out.
What else?
She could slap me.
What would you do then?
What else?
She could say "yes".
What would you do then?
Ask you for money to take her to a movie....

He got the date. She liked his confidence.

I got the mentor.

A friend talked her way into a job. Another started approaching strangers at networking events and just introducing herself.

If you're not prepared, your fears will get the best of you. Take a good look at what's really stopping you and walk yourself through it. You'll be surprised how many barriers "what if" removes.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Listening - a lost art

if you’re asking questions or drawing conclusions you’ve stopped listening.

Does that make listening passive? No. It takes effort to keep focused, in the moment and absorbing the information before attempting to process it.

I'm a terrible listener. I interrupt. I get impatient as I can see the conclusion coming a mile away (makes it hard to read poorly written murder mysteries). Non-sequitors pop out of my mouth as ideas flow. I want every moment to be a two way conversation.

Listening is part of having a conversation. Listening provides a mirror; allows the other person to complete a thought and prepare for yours; listening offers a means of showing respect and building trust. Listening is a great skill to offer as a mentor and to use when networking.

The next time there's a pause in a conversation, don't jump to fill it. See what happens if you simply nod and say "Take your time; I'm listening."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Influence the outcome

Some folks call it the butterfly effect. Some say 'karma'. Today, let's call it dominoes.

Each action or choice opens a new set of doors. Each interaction can create chains of reactions. Each idea ripples beyond the initial impact.

Every time you share an idea with someone - suggest a perspective - support a person/project - you can't always control the outcome but you do influence it.  And leadership isn't about span of control as much as it is about influencing outside that span so that people and projects mesh better and more broadly.

So what does that mean in terms of mentoring or networking?  It means that you can create change one person at a time. The little discussions that resonate with folks - that are deliberately sought or not - are the ones that become embedded in plans, philosophies and attitudes.

Which always makes me feel that I should be more deliberate in my interactions... but it's really not about that. It's about approaching everything while being true to my passions and beliefs and being open to the input of others to change/shape them further.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

FYI - National Mentoring Month... missed it again...

National Mentoring Month celebrated its 10th anniversary during January 2011.

I missed it. Did you?

We're swamped with "day of.." this and "month of..." that. Even the causes to which we're attached get lost in the shuffle.

However, as terrific a cause as promoting and celebrating mentoring is... the main idea is to participate - year round!

Check out this Canadian site that looked at mentoring month and offers some resources.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

International Women's Day 2011

Another year has passed. Do you think the world has changed for women?

Women are a moving force behind the economy, societies, creativity and so much more. We inspire men to love, to hate, to think, to feel... as they inspire us in turn. We can grow life in so many ways.

We're not perfect. We're not all the same. We don't have the same dreams and aspirations. We come in all shapes and sizes.

WiL men share more in 2011? WiL women speak up more? Is the gender difference disappearing or requiring more debate?

Today is a celebration of a fertile global community which includes everyone.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The “R” list

Exploring the different kinds of mentors there are... We either do these things for others or we seek them for ourselves.

Continuing with "R":

Rapprochement-or: Leader of harmonious relationships

Ravagement-or: Aids in rebuilding after a large setback

Readjustment-or: Support during the first stages of change

Realignment-or: Politically savvy ally

Reconcilement-or: Helps to make whole again

Recruitment-or: Shows the best in networking skills

Refinement-or: Polishes and finesses

Regiment-or: Teaches good habits

Repayment-or: Knows the fine art of the the “thank you”

Rousement-or: Pushes you out of your comfort zone

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Being direct and being "nice"

I had a great conversation this weekend with a very talented woman who felt she needed to become better at "sugar coating" things so folks would listen more.

This made me think... I've seen both pure candor and "spin" help someone take advice or hear a new idea with a more open mind. But really, isn't candor what we're seeking most often?

Perhaps we associate straight talk with being "pushy" or "bossy" or just sometimes serving no one's interests but those of the speaker.

It's all in how you are trying to share information. If you present information from the point of view of your audience, you have a great chance of getting their agreement - even if you are telling it to them 'straight'.
For example: "You should read these books - they'll give you the insight you're missing" could change to "I've found some great books that might offer some insight into this issue."

Move from the directive and the blunt to the direct and the considerate. That's not sugar coating; that's just making sure everyone at the conversation still has a voice!