Category Archives: Mentors & Masterminds

Mentors & Masterminds Gets Real…

Calling all Administrative Professionals along the I-91 Business Corridor:

From Hartford, CT to Deerfield, MA, administrative professionals are supporting every manner of business in the area. But are we supporting ourselves? MentorsAndMasterminds.com is proud to announce its first local meetup, the Connecticut River Valley Admin Network. Our goal is to help administrative professionals connect in mutually supportive relationships to advance their careers and elevate the profession through training and social networking events.

On Administrative Professionals Day 2017, Mentors & Masterminds launched its first ever on-the-ground networking group via Meetup.com, the Connecticut River Valley Admin Network, and tomorrow (May 24th), we will hold our first networking event at The Foundry in Northampton, MA (CLICK HERE TO RSVP for this and future events).

Two weeks later, we sponsored the Greater Charlotte Admin Network meetup for Joan Haessler in the Charlotte, NC area, and that group already has almost 20 members, with no promotion apart from announcement within the Meetup forum.  Check it out here: https://www.meetup.com/Greater-Charlotte-Admin-Network/ 

Plainly Administrative Professionals are hungry for real-life connections and professional support! If you’d like to start a Meetup in your area but aren’t sure how to get going, I’d be happy to share what I know: email me at tara@mentorsandmasterminds.com, or connect with me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/taraebrowne-dtm/ .

Are You a Culture Cultivator?

What would happen in a business that was run as though each individual had the potential to bear fruit, rather than simply bearing a load?

First published at EXECUTIVESECRATARY.COM on March 24, 2017 in LEADERSHIP / MANAGEMENT
(c) Marcham Publishing 2017

Are You a Culture Cultivator?

“Company culture? Sure, we could do better,” you may think, “but I’m just an admin.  What can I do about culture?”

As it turns out, you can do quite a bit!

Due to the prevalence of permission-based operations[1] and the strict pyramid of hierarchies found in most organizations, many administrative professionals do not think of themselves as influencers. Administrative support roles are both structured and commonly perceived as subordinate, so it is easy to make the mistake of thinking our influence is limited by this relationship.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

For Growth, Think “Garden”, Not “Pyramid”

The pyramid offers obvious analogies to the way most organizations are built: a large base (workers) supports ever-smaller layers (management and executive leadership); the shape (goals and strategy) of the organization is defined by the capstone (c-suite) of the structure. Then there is the unintentional irony: a pyramid is a tomb…and many large organizations are indeed tombs full of untapped personal potential and good ideas left to die. Workers are slotted into place like blocks. A really good block may eventually be relocated to an empty spot higher up on the pyramid, but the ultimate function of the pyramid is to support the pyramid…not to grow.

What if we were to flip that pyramid and imagine the organization as a garden container instead, designed to concentrate resources to support growth? What would happen in a business that was run as though each individual had the potential to bear fruit, rather than simply bearing a load? Executives would act as master gardeners, asking what is needed to create optimum growth conditions to maximize fruit from each plant; as strategic partners to these executives, administrative professionals could actively foster that growth in many ways.

As the go-to problem solvers for our departments, administrative professionals are in a unique position to answer the key question, “What is needed to create growth?” With our in-depth knowledge of how things work (and don’t work!), we can use our creativity and skills to solve problems.  Moreover, being privy to the challenges and frustrations of our colleagues, how we choose to respond has a clear effect on the culture of our departments and, by extension, the organization as a whole. If we participate in gossip, feed fears and amplify complaints, we break down team spirit and undermine our executives’ ability to effectively lead. Conversely, when we choose to redirect negative talk, counter fears with positive suggestions for improvement, and seek common ground to resolve conflicts, we create a fertile soil for collaboration and growth.

Why Be a Cultivator?

Because we combine expert operational knowledge with an extensive network of working relationships at all levels of the organization, admins are in an incredibly powerful position to influence culture and create change…if we choose to do so. Take Mimi[2], for example: when she joined my department, it didn’t take long for me to notice that Mimi felt overwhelmed and underappreciated. At the time, I felt much the same: a long-promised promotion had just been given away to a new hire from outside the company; the economy was in a major slump; and unemployment rates were at record highs. I felt betrayed by my manager, and trapped in my job.

Recognizing my own vulnerability to negative talk, I made a choice to use my conversations with Mimi as pep talks, both for her and for myself. When Mimi complained that her training manual was inadequate and her supervisor unavailable, I empathized, but observed that it was very rare to find a training manual for any role in our organization, and staff reductions had reduced our manager’s availability for personal time. By doing this, I both acknowledged and depersonalized the issue. I then applied my operational knowledge to help Mimi document her processes and create some collaborative tools to streamline her work. Having an ally made all the difference to Mimi, and helping Mimi realigned me with my mission at work.

On another occasion, Mimi needed some reports from some senior colleagues, but she was acting as if her request was an imposition on them. I helped her to craft an email that focused on the common business need instead, a peer to peer communication. As we worked through this process, I saw her posture literally change before my eyes: standing straighter, walking more confidently and decisively editing the language of the final email to make it truly her own.

Over time, Mimi even began to consistently mirror that positivity back to me. She pulled me out of my own attitude slump more than once and, more importantly, began to change from a victim of circumstances to a person in charge of her own career. Knowing she was not alone gave her the courage to stand up for herself. As she did, she earned increasing respect from her supervisor and colleagues, and the entire department began to see her as a valued contributor instead of as a burden they didn’t have time to carry. Our overall culture improved directly as a result of my choice to cultivate possibilities instead of problems.

Can you imagine if I had instead given in to my own depression and indulged in a mutual pity-party with her? It would have been easy to do, but I would have missed out on seeing this amazing transformation! I would have missed out on one of the greatest successes of my career.

Cultivation Starts With YOU

One of the best things you can do to become a culture cultivator is to practice your communication and feedback skills. Co-mentoring – a mentoring relationship formed by two persons of similar experience and background – is especially valuable for this, because it requires many of the same skills: active listening, collaborative problem solving, and providing feedback, to name a few.  If you connect with a mentor outside your organization, you will have the added benefits of expanding your network and gaining a truly fresh perspective on your challenges and opportunities.  This can be especially valuable if your own work culture is currently stressful, draining or negative.

About now you may be wondering, “Where on earth am I going to find a mentor?”

Happily, there are many resources available today just for administrative professionals, and more being created by the moment. The Associations page[3] at ExecutiveSecretary.com aggregates admin-oriented resources from around the world, and can help you locate and connect with both established and up-and-coming professional organizations in your area for training and networking.  These, in turn, can lead to many wonderful mentoring opportunities. Also, be sure to check out the comprehensive list of conferences[4] for administrative professionals at TipsForAssistants.com. Pick one or two conferences that are accessible to you, and start making your plans now: conferences are a great way to connect with like-minded admins and build your culture-cultivating mojo!

I also invite you to check out MentorsAndMasterminds.com[5], a website I created specifically to make it easier for administrative professionals to connect with each other in professionally supportive relationships. Membership is free, and includes the Mentors and Masterminds Co-Mentoring Quickstart Guide, packed with advice and tools to get your co-mentoring relationship off to a great start.

Conclusion

It’s easy to assume that responsibility for creating a great corporate culture is the job of executives and managers; the truth is, everyone within the organization contributes to the culture that emerges. For better or for worse, we are all culture cultivators.

Choose to be a conscious cultivator:

  1. Recognize your influence. Wherever you are in a position of trust, there you have influence.
  2. Show up authentically. When negative situations arise at work, respond thoughtfully from your core beliefs rather than reflexively reacting to the negativity.
  3. Be present to others. Take no one for granted: empathize and offer support where you can, and celebrate successes whenever possible.
  4. Develop your “culture cultivator” skills. Use professional organizations, networking events and mentoring relationships to grow your skills in collaboration, giving and receiving feedback etc.

Not only will you positively impact culture where you are, you will open new and unexpected doors of opportunity for yourself!


[1] Microsoft Modern Workplace, Season 2, Episode 9, “Management in Motion: Building an Energized Workforce” Interview with L. David Marquet; episode time code 16:50,

[2] Names used in this article have been changed.

[3] http://executivesecretary.com/associations/

[4] http://www.tipsforassistants.com/single-post/2016/12/30/Conferences-for-Assistants-Get-Energized-in-2017

[5] http://mentorsandmasterminds.com/register 

Additional References & Photo Credits

Holzhauer, Christina, “Conferences for Assistants: Get Energized in 2017!”, December 30, 2017 http://www.tipsforassistants.com/single-post/2016/12/30/Conferences-for-Assistants-Get-Energized-in-2017 

Hyatt, Michael, “Why You Need to Take Care of the People Who Take Care of You: Customers, Bosses, Boards, and Investors Matter—But They Can’t Come First” https://michaelhyatt.com/take-care-of-your-team.html

Microsoft Modern Workplace, Season 2, Episode 9, “Management in Motion: Building an Energized Workforce” Interview with L. David Marquet, https://vts.inxpo.com/scripts/Server.nxp?LASCmd=AI:1;F:SF!42000&EventKey=176659 (free account and login required to access; interview starts @ 13:35).

Great Pyramid of Giza (photograph) by Mstyslav Chernov used under terms of Wikimedia Commons License @
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Great_Pyramid_of_Giza_(Khufu%E2%80%99s_pyramid),_Pyramid_of_Khafre,_Pyramid_of_Menkaure_(right_to_left)._Giza,_Cairo,_Egypt,_North_Africa.jpg

Apple Orchard (photograph) is a Public Domain Image by Scott Bauer, USDA ARS,  used under terms posted @ Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Apple_orchard.jpg

 

 

Introducing the Mentors and Masterminds Comentoring Quickstart Guide!

CLICK HERE to join MentorsAndMasterminds.com for FREE,  and receive The Mentors and Masterminds Co-Mentoring Quickstart Guide as our gift to you!

More often than not, it is a situation that does not meet our expectations that teaches us what we want and need; so it was for me and my introduction to mentoring. I expected mentoring to be rather like school tutoring: I would have a learning need, and my mentor would supply me with the necessary knowledge. What I found was much more complex – a give and take that has benefits for both the mentor and the protégé.  Peggy Vasquez, author of Not Just an Admin, describes it this way: “You’re not there to solve each other’s’ problems. You’re going to listen and collaborate and help each other discover your own solutions.”

When I first joined Toastmasters International in 2008, I was assigned a mentor from among the more experienced club members. As a “late bloomer” professionally, I had long struggled with many of the activities I was told would contribute to my career advancement: for instance, I knew that “getting a mentor” was important, but just how to find a mentor remained a mystery to me. When I found out I had been assigned a Toastmasters mentor, I was eager to jump right in!

Unfortunately, although my assigned mentor was considerate and encouraging, he was not a good match for my energy and drive. Whereas I was ready to meet from day one, to get guidance on meeting roles I was taking on and start planning my first speech, my mentor was distracted and hard to reach. Even after I initiated contact, he remained inaccessible, and had little to offer way of feedback or a plan for progress. After about two months of getting nowhere, I decided to request a new mentor, and I’m so glad that I did, because it led me to new relationships and opportunities I could never have imagined when first I set out on this road.

Co-Mentoring Quickstart Guide Overview

I created MentorsAndMasterminds.com to help make it easier for administrative professionals to find the mentoring we need to advance our careers and help elevate our profession. Now, I’m thrilled to introduce the Co-Mentoring Quickstart Guide as a map to forming productive professional mentoring relationships with the people you will meet there!

In the section titled Getting to Know You, I cover how to create a professional profile helps you to attract the best potential co-mentors to help with your professional goals. Once you have connected with a prospective mentor, it’s important that you get to know each other a on a more personal level, and critically examine your respective goals to see if there is a good fit. If the answer is yes, then you will want to agree upon objectives for the relationship, and define how you will work together. The section Roles and Responsibilities covers both roles and commitments of the mentoring partners, and addresses the memorialization of these commitments in a written agreement. In Following Through, we look at strategies you can use to ensure you get the most out of your partnership, and deliver the same to your co-mentor in return. Finally, the Appendix contains tools and resources you can use to put your mentoring plan into action.

Best of all, the Co-Mentoring Quickstart Guide is my gift to you when you claim your FREE membership at MentorsAndMasterminds.com!

Welcome to the #AdminNation.

CLICK HERE to join MentorsAndMasterminds.com for FREE…

and receive The Mentors and Masterminds Co-Mentoring Quickstart Guide as our gift to you!

Lessons in Revolutionary Thinking

lirt-headerby Tara E. Browne, DTM

When I was awarded one of three scholarships for the 2016 Conference for Administrative Excellence, I was beyond excited. I looked forward to acquiring strategies and tools to advance my administrative career. I expected to be totally blown away by insights and techniques from thought leaders on the cutting edge of the administrative professions: new measures for peak performance; creative methodologies for problem solving; fresh perspectives for relating to those I work with every day.

What I got was all of the above…and so much more.

As speaker after speaker challenged our assumptions about administrative work, and I found myself being inspired by a profession that I had so long ago wandered into with neither purpose nor ambition.  There were so many  “AHA!” moments in this conference that it would be impossible to do justice to them all in a single blog post, but I’d like to share my top three with you here.  These were paradigm-shifting moments that sharpened my sense of mission, strengthened my commitment to cultivating professional community, and expanded my vision for our potential to impact our careers, the companies we work for and the communities we serve.

Ownership and Mission

Dr. Daren Martin’s presentation on showing up like an owner – and not “just an admin” – provided many great examples of how we can choose to show up, from dress and grooming to meeting etiquette to original professional contributions.  At the heart of it all, though, he underscored that we must become clear on our personal mission.

In my “other life” as an artist, I have a clearly defined mission statement: I create art and experiences that help others to recognize their creative potential, and I help them to manifest and celebrate that potential in ways that make our world more beautiful, joyful, loving and abundant.   As an administrative professional, however, applying this mission statement to my daily work is a stretch, to say the least. Often I feel torn between my personal mission and my professional reality. So when Dr. Martin casually remarked, “In fact, I have a couple of mission statements,” he kind of rocked my world.

Wow. You mean I can have more than one?!

I was, however, concerned about diluting my effectiveness by having conflicting missions. Instead, I realized, I could translate my artist mission statement to the fit the needs of specific focus areas. First, I broke it down into three parts:

  • What I Do: I create art & experiences…
  • Why I Do It: that help others to recognize, manifest and celebrate their creative potential…
  • End Result: in ways that make our world more beautiful, joyful, loving and abundant.

Then I translated that to fit a task at hand – developing MentorsAndMasterminds.com:

  • Experience I Create: I help administrative professionals connect…
  • Activate Creative Potential: through the power of their stories…
  • Make Our World Better: to become heroes of their careers and mentors to others.

I help administrative professionals connect through the power of their stories to become heroes of their careers and mentors to others. 

Now that feels like a mission I can accomplish!

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT

  • What are the core elements of your personal mission statement: the “What”, “Why” and “End Result”?
  • Are there areas of your life that might call for a supplementary mission statement?

 

Part of the Admin Nation

Of all the presentations, I was perhaps most excited to hear Peggy Vasquez expand on her May 2016 webinar and the subject Develop the Power of Your Inner Circle: after all, it was her webinar that inspired me to create Mentors And Masterminds! As she shared her stories, I was transported right along with her, from her earliest DECA mentoring experience, to the challenge of writing her first book, to her vision for an #AdminNation. It was this third element that truly inspired me.

In particular, Peggy talked about the concept of Ubuntu, which Wikipedia describes as “a Nguni Bantu term roughly translating to “’human kindness’…often used in a more philosophical sense to mean ‘the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity’”. Further, Peggy argues, “human beings didn’t become the dominant species by competing, but by collaborating.”

Certainly in my own career I have to avoid the most prevalent forms of competition in our profession: information hoarding, adherence to obsolete processes, and the vicarious exercise of executive privilege, to name a few. Unfortunately, many colleagues still seem to struggle to understand the value of collaboration, and that’s where this succinct value statement fits in.  This message – “Human beings didn’t become the dominant species by competing, but by collaborating.” –  paints a powerful word-image of how collaboration creates success that I can share to bring still more administrative professionals on board the “Admin Nation”.

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT

  • Where would you like to see more collaboration among your administrative peers? 
  • What methods – both direct and indirect – could you try to help foster that increased collaboration?

 

A Revolutionary Vision

The most impactful moment of the conference, however, did not come from one of the scheduled presenters, but from surprise guest and Marcham Publishing CEO, Lucy Brazier, whose presentation about the Isipho Admin Bursary in South Africa created a true paradigm shift in the way I see the administrative support professions as a whole.

I understand the value of the work that we as administrative professionals do, of course…but the tribute paid to that value by colleagues and executives has often felt like little more than lip service. Many administrative professionals provide years of service with ever-increasing skills and responsibilities, but no corresponding path for career advancement and compensation. Having wandered accidentally into this career, I saw no way forward, up or out…and I struggled to rid myself of an underlying sense of professional deficiency and self-doubt.

When Lucy shared the life-changing impact that the Isipho Admin Bursary will have for the scholarship winners who will attend this training in the coming year, I felt true appreciation for the privilege I have to be secure in my own job.  Moreover, I was reminded of Erick Gray’s famous words:

Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater. If you give her sperm, she’ll give you a baby. If you give her a house, she’ll give you a home. If you give her groceries, she’ll give you a meal. If you give her a smile, she’ll give you her heart. She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her.

According to the US Department of Labor, Secretary/Administrative Assistant remains the #1 job for women in the United States, and although recent data is harder to find, a 2011 Monster.com article estimates that 95%+ of administrative support roles are held by female employees. Given that so many women rely upon this profession, I realized that this role holds the potential to change the lives of not only women and the families they support, but even for healing communities around the world.

In just a few short minutes, I gained a completely different perspective on the value of this work we do. For the first time ever, I felt truly proud to call myself an administrative professional, and inspired with a conviction that yes, I am a Revolutionary Assistant, and I can help change the world.

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT

 

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Getting to Know You – With Audacious Admin Debbi Shaffer!

The Office Dynamics conference was SO much fun!  One of the highlights for me was meeting Audacious Admin Debbi Shaffer. Be sure to check out her website, www.audaciousadmin.com, after you watch the video!

 

 

Make Your Profile Interesting, Not Empty!

Great relationships start with mutual interest – so make sure your profile is interesting, not empty!

Just like on a dating site, a well-written profile at MentorsAndMasterminds.com will tell people you are serious about your professional results, and will make them curious to learn more about you!  By contrast, an incomplete profile may even discourage connections. Follow the steps below to complete your profile at MentorsAndMasterminds.com.

STEP 1: Navigate to the Members area using the link on the left side of the Home Page.

profile-screen-1

STEP 2: Navigate to your personal profile by clicking on your profile picture or  name

STEP 3: Select “Profile” from the Ribbon under your Cover Photo

NOTE: To update your Profile Picture or Cover Photo, click the camera icons in this view and follow onscreen instructions to change.

STEP 4: Click the orange boxes to complete the 4 profile areas.profile-screen-4

For an example of a completed profile, check out mine at http://mentorsandmasterminds.com/members/emmeranhawkes/profile/. We look forward to learning more about YOU!

Join Our Admin Network!

Thanks for visiting Mentors and Masterminds.com.  If you’re not yet a member, why not consider joining? Membership is free, and always will be.

CLICK HERE TO CLAIM YOUR MEMBERSHIP!

Here are  a few ways you can use our site to build a powerful Personal Advisory Board:

Co-Mentoring

To connect with lots of like-minded professionals to share success stories, get a fresh perspective and provide mutual support, select the “Co-Mentoring” option. You will get most of the benefits of a traditional Mentor/Protégé relationship, but without having to compete for the comparatively limited supply of senior mentors. A co-mentoring relationship is much easier to form, because even if someone doesn’t feel ready to be a mentor quite yet, most people are more than happy to be a sounding board and accountability partner to a peer – and gain those same benefits in return!

Coaching

A Coaching relationship more closely fits the traditional Mentor/Protégé model, with the senior partner providing coaching in specific skills and strategies of the trade in addition to the kind of support described in the Co-Mentoring model above. If you are a senior administrative professional, consider sharing your wealth of knowledge and experience with other in a Coaching Mentor capacity. There is truly no reward like seeing a protégé grow and succeed!

Mastermind Groups

If two heads are better than one, then how about three…or four? Similar in nature to a Co-Mentoring relationship, but expanding upon it to tap the collective energy and insights of a group, Masterminds can become especially valuable resources for those who participate in them. One member’s project is often another’s inspiration! Join (or form) a powerhouse team of motivated peers, focused on big goals and committed to helping each other along the way.

Networking Groups

For some much-needed fun and laughter after a hard day’s work, what could be better than socializing with others who know the tribulations and triumphs of your job? Networking groups are a great way to get to know other administrative professionals in your area, and benefits can include connecting to new sources of information, having inside contacts for event planning or services, or even getting a lead on a great job opportunity. Starting one can be as simple as finding a good happy hour at a local restaurant, picking a date and emailing some friends.

Las Vegas, Here We Come!

MentorsAndMasterminds.com will officially launch next week at The Revolutionary Assistant, Office Dynamics’ 26th Conference for Administrative Professionals. Office Dynamics CEO Joan Burge and her wonderful Vice President, Jasmine Freeman, have been incredibly generous to afford me this opportunity, and I hope I may pay it forward by creating a valuable community space where we as administrative professionals can offer and find the support we desire and need.

(Wish you could be there, but stuck at your desk? CLICK HERE to register for the Conference on Demand and enjoy from your own location!)

When the idea of an online networking forum for administrative professionals started to percolate last May, I had no idea it would turn into a full-blown website launch by October. It’s been an incredible 2 months designing, building, writing and more; in many ways, we’re still “working out the workings” of this site, and I look forward to your feedback. Over time, it will help us create an even richer and more valuable member experience for you.

Beyond the launch, I hope this site will become a place where the stories and talents of our community members are uncovered and shared. Story is one of our most potent sources of teaching and learning, and will be an integral part of this site experience. In line with that belief, we will be offering our first mini-workshop in November 2016: a multimedia getting-to-know-you experience: “Hero’s Journey: Discovering the Teachings of Your Story”.

For twice the fun and twice the learning, pair up with a peer mentor and take the workshop together!

 

Supporting Colleagues in Difficult Times

notice-what-people-do-well-and-suggest-how-it-might-meet-a-need-in-your-community

My employer has announced it will be laying off up to 300 employees within the month.

This kind of uncertainty takes a huge toll, both for individual employees and for the organization as a whole. I’m amazed and inspired to see how many among us are bearing it with grace and compassion, if not without fear. Whether we personally stay or go, it’s going to be hard either way when “the announcements” are made.

The truth is, though, that the days of relying on employer to get us through a lifetime of work have been vanishing for decades. Personal creativity is more important than ever. Unfortunately, employment itself is so demanding that it leaves little time or energy to cultivate our true passions; and so few are given the encouragement and means to cultivate their creativity. It can make facing a situation like this truly frightening.

My own situation has taught me a lot about uncertainty in the last few years, so I’m probably in a better place mentally than many. I’m trying to focus on ways to inspire curiosity about what opportunities may arise, and maybe even serve as a kind of creativity consultant / life reset resource for friends and colleagues.

One of my favorite practices is to take note of what people do well – whether it’s related to their job description or not – and compliment them on it. Where I can, I try to suggest how it might even meet a need in our community, and open up new avenues of possibility for them!

As an administrative professional, I touch so many people’s work. I impact morale every day, either by decision or by default. It is my choice to be a force for good. Eloquence is a great asset in this, but it’s not everything. People always sense when someone cares, so the intent is far more important than the form of the words.

For those of you who, like me, are in uncertain times, my ask of you today is this: spread hope where you can.

Please share your ideas and thoughts for how we can support and encourage each other in the comments below.

Providing Effective Feedback

One of the most important skills for us to develop – both as mentor and as a protege – is the art of giving constructive feedback.  In this presentation from December 2015, I review some principles and techniques for effectively delivery evaluations in a way that both upbuilds the recipient, while still offering specific suggestions for improvement.