Tag Archives: Executive Assistant

Mentors, Mind the Gap

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When Sheryl Sandberg’s blockbuster manifesto Lean In first came out, I was burnt out from years of being a single mom in a pigeonhole career, and I was in no mood to hear what she had to say.

My situation was not for a lack of trying. I followed all the career advice I could find…or at least as much of it as I could understand. I let my boss know I was looking to grow my career and earning power, and would be thrilled to make any move that put me on a growth career path. I accepted the challenge of covering maternity leave for one of my colleagues, proving my potential over a grueling six months. After this trial by fire, my boss gave me a great review and wrote a promotion into my official Career Action Plan. When that very job became available three months later, it was offered to an outside candidate. I never got an interview, and another opportunity never came up while I was with the company.

First, Acknowledge the Gap…

This experience – and others like it – made it very hard for me to sit through panels of senior executive women lecturing at “women’s empowerment events” sponsored by “women’s employee interest groups”. These executives spoke of work/life balance while wearing Christian Louboutin shoes that cost more than my annual childcare budget. They told mom-guilt stories about how hard it was to find just the right nanny, and explained the agonies of allocating their hours while relying upon spouses and hired help to take care of their households and kids. I struggled to juggle everything alone on an inadequate fraction of the salary. They spoke of Hillary Clinton and her famous chocolate chip cookies. During one particularly lean period, my sons were grateful to have anything other than ramen and oatmeal to eat.

When I had run out of sick time and vacation benefits for the year, I left my sick two-year-old in the care total strangers on the days when he felt the worst, because I couldn’t afford to lose a full day’s pay and his regular daycare wouldn’t take him. When my kindergartner begged me not to drop him off anymore at the local YMCA – the only before-school care I could afford – I told him he’d get used to it. Then one day I came in late, and instead of the quiet, cozy, alphabet-carpeted room where I usually dropped him off, we were directed to a massive, barely-supervised gymnasium teeming with children of every age from kindergarten through fifth grade. My young son just curled up in a ball on a bench as I turned away. I cried all the way to work that day.

When the COO of Facebook published a book called Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, it was just more of the same old red-soled execu-speak: it was not written for the likes of me.

…Then, Fill It

Since those days, I have become a big Sheryl Sandberg fan. Her PSA on the importance of mentorship and sponsorship[i] speaks to some of my most dearly-held values. I even run a website that is dedicated to promoting these values, and I’m leaning in” hard. Most importantly, though, I want to echo Sheryl’s message from that PSA: it is never too early in your career to start mentoring others.

Hearing from women like Sheryl Sandberg is amazing, and can give us something to shoot for, but even with equal representation at the c-suite level, the vast majority of women will never get there simply because those roles are themselves scarce. There are far more women out there who are like me and you, and they need to hear from women like themselves, too. We need to be available for each other: to share our struggles and, through our example, to provide hope of rising above them.

You may think you don’t have much to offer, but I assure you that you do! You may have no idea what that pleasant colleague down the hall from you is going through today, but it might just be the same struggle you yourself conquered a few years back. You may have no idea how or where or when your story could change someone’s life, but I assure you that someday it will.

Please don’t keep your story to yourself. Get the stories flowing and the healing going.

#BeTheMentor.

Let’s make this go viral.

Mind the Gap


References

Sandberg, Sheryl, “Lean In Together: Mentorship Matters” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9FIKLhx4hc


About This Series

“Be the Mentor” is a series in which I explore the joys and benefits of stepping up to be a mentor, and offer my insights on how to do it well. “Where Do Mentors Come From?” is the first article in th

Be the Mentor is published on the first Wednesday of every month at www.mentorsandmasterminds.com.

Meet Joyce Wenger

Today’s Member Spotlight features Joyce Wenger, an energetic and enthusiastic champion of the administrative support professions.  She currently works as Office Overhead Program and Administrative Manager for Arcadis, a Netherlands-based global engineering firm with offices all across the United States. Joyce is always on the lookout for ways to help her team of admins excel.

Joyce Wenger, Office Overhead Program & Administrative Manager
Arcadis, Raleigh, NC

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joyce-wenger/
Experience: 11+ Years in Administrative Support
Greatest Professional Strength:
People & Team Building. High Intuitive Nature, MBTI ENFP.
StrengthsFinder: Futuristic, Strategic, Restorative, Individualization and Ideation.
Current Professional Priority:
I love people and ideas. I can see potential in others, sometimes before they see it themselves. I love building teams to accomplish tasks that seem impossible but together as a team – organize, set the plan and let’s get it done!
Interested In: Peer Mentoring, Be A Coaching Mentor, Lead a Mastermind, Local Networking
Meeting Preferences: Face to Face, Online or Teleconference, Industry Events
Location: Raleigh, NC, United States of America

Where I’m From

Would love to connect with other local professionals.  I travel across the states, but mainly New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Denver.  I am originally from the Hudson Valley, NY and love going back to visit!

I have had a long time in the administrative field and I think that it was a natural fit for me, since my Mom was also very administrative as well.  (Is there such thing as the administrative gene?  Maybe so!)  I had many different jobs before starting my career in administration: McDonalds, a local delicatessen, retail and banking.  I’ve worked for non-profit, small business, R&D firms and IBM, as well.

In the administrative field, I started out as a receptionist; have been a secretary, executive assistant and an office administrator.

Where I’m At

I am now an Administrative Manager for Arcadis (a global engineering consulting firm) managing approximately 70 staff nationally.  I enjoy what I do and have an insatiable quest for knowledge, learning and connecting with people  – which I think is part of what has brought me to where I am currently on my life journey.  (Everyone has their own interesting life story!)

Where I’m Headed

I found Tara on LinkedIn through reading an article.  I reached out by messaging her and asking her to connect.  I am excited about her mission/vision.  What I hope to find here are ways to synergize with Tara (and others globally) on ways to grow & help bring about the realization of the greater mission of Mentors & Masterminds.

What I’m Most Passionate About

I’m most passionate about helping others live out / become all that they are made to be – living their authentic selves (with their unique talents/strengths) and helping them to connect with others to make their impact & difference in the world.

If you enjoyed learning about Joyce from this article, be sure to drop by her profile page HERE and leave her a message. (If you are a current or former administrative professional and would like to join our community and connect with Joyce, click HERE to register!)


Member Spotlight is a series of articles featuring the talents and accomplishments of our members at MentorsandMasterminds.com. Member Spotlight is published here on our blog on the second Wednesday of every month.

  • To be considered for a future Member Spotlight feature, members must complete their full member profile using the profile edit page. 
    • Members will be contacted for approval prior to being featured in Member Spotlight.
    • Members with incomplete profiles will not be considered for this feature.
  • Members who prefer not to be featured can  also select the “Please do NOT feature me in Member Spotlight” in the “MEMBER SPOTLIGHT” section at the bottom of the profile edit page. 
  • To access your profile edit page, cursor over your profile name at the upper right corner of any page on the site, then select “Profile” and “Edit” from the dropdown menus that appear. Be sure to save changes before closing out.

Mary Berard, Realistic Solutions MR

Today’s Admin Trailblazer features Mary Berard, an administrative entrepreneur specializing in medical billing, collections and credentialing. As an award-winning business owner who has recouped millions of dollars for her clients, Mary is a tremendous role model for those who seek to articulate the actual and potential value of administrative expertise.

What was your first experience in an administrative support role, and why did you choose to take that opportunity?

My first experience in an administrative support role was in 1994 as a Clerk in a nursing home. I took this role because I had just completed college and was asked by the administrator to work both the office and CNA in the same facility.

When did you first decide you wanted more out of your administrative career, and what did you decide to do about it? How did this lead you to where you are today?

I decided I wanted more out of my career when I was working with Worcester Fights Back, Friendly House as a Board Member, and Low Income United Inc. What did I decide to do about it? I went to college and earned a degree in Medical Office Services. This lead me into opening my own medical billing company, which I have operated and grown successfully for the last six years.

In pursuing this new endeavor, what was your greatest setback, faceplant or challenge, and how did you overcome it?

In opening my company the setback was trying to open the doors with no financial backing or money in the bank. The biggest challenge was overcoming others’ opinion of my failure before it happened. My company is going strong and is well-known nationwide. With over 25 years of experience in medical billing and making 1.8 billion dollars for medical providers, I received an award for Woman of Excellence in Dedication and Perseverance. I was also recognized as a Strathmore Professional of the Year in 2017, and included in the Library of Congress.

What mentors have you had, and how have they helped you to get where you are?

Some of the greatest mentors were my employer and colleagues, especially Michael Mikitarian and David Kession. Both of these men are outstanding and compassionate. They have each taken the time to help with any questions that I have, with side-by-side mentorship.  

What’s the funniest story you experienced on your path to success?

The funniest story that I have experienced on to my path to success is that when I say that I have made fourteen hundred thousand dollars for seven medical providers in ninety days, the providers all have an expression of incredulity. Then they ask, “So, can you do that for me?”. My answer is, “Yes!”

What advice would you give to other admins considering following this path for career advancement?

Believe in yourself even when others do not believe in you and you will be very successful.

ABOUT MARY BERARD

Ms. Berard is the founder and CEO of Realistic Solutions MR, a Western Massachusetts-based firm specializing in medical billing and collection projects, as well as providing credentialing services for private practices, hospitals, home health agencies nursing homes, fitness and wellness centers and pharmacies nationwide. Mary is a 2017 recipient of the Strathmore’s Who’s Who Worldwide Professional of the Year award.

Website: http://www.realisticsolutionsmr.org/home.html.


Admin Trailblazers is a series about serious administrative professionals who have excelled in their role and gone on to the top of the profession, management roles or entrepreneurial endeavors.

Admin Trailblazers is published on the fourth Wednesday of every month at www.mentorsandmasterminds.com.

The Map and Milestones of the Hero’s Journey

The wonder is that the characteristic efficacy to touch and inspire deep creative centers dwells in the smallest nursery fairy tale – as the flavor of the ocean is contained in the droplet, or the whole mystery of life within the egg of a flea. For the symbols of mythology are not manufactured; they cannot be ordered, invented or permanently suppressed. They are spontaneous products of the psyche, and each bears within it, undamaged, the germ power of its source.

Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces 

Where do mentors come from? One answer is that mentors are those who choose to share the treasures won on their own Hero’s Journeys. To become better mentors, then, we can use the Hero’s Journey as a lens through which to reexamine our own life journeys for gems of experience which we can share. To do so, we must begin by understanding the map.

The journey itself is a deceptively simple pattern, starting with a crisis, followed by a departure from home, a transformation of character, and a homecoming. However, as the opening quote of this article implies, the journey “bears within it, undamaged, the germ power of its source.” By reframing our stories in the context of the Hero’s Journey, we not only lay claim to the talismans of Universal Truth that lie within them, but connect to the power behind that truth2. Like the Sankofa Bird of West African legend3, let us see if we can learn to use this map, retrace our steps, and seek out the treasures that have been left behind.

Stages of the Journey

In the “4-Act Story Diamond” Hero’s Journey model used for this series of articles, the hero’s journey of transformation is accomplished in four distinct stages4:

  1. Preparation
  2. Separation
  3. Initiation
  4. Return

Within this framework, each leg of the journey is a kind of miniature hero’s journey of its own, characterized by a heroic archetype that informs the hero’s choices and ultimately transforms into the hero of the journey’s next phase:

  1. Preparation: The Orphan-Hero
    • A great crisis (dragon) drives the hero from his home.
    • Characterized by risk-aversion, powerlessness, and a dependence on others, the Orphan-Hero flees from the dragon, and is reborn as “the Wanderer”.
  2. Separation: The Wanderer-Hero
    • Having left home and the familiar behind, the hero voyages in search in search of a way to defeat the dragon.
    • Characterized by the search for individuation and personal power, the Wanderer-Hero rapidly develops adaptability, resilience and self-confidence; when he confronts the dragon, he gives chase and is reborn as “the Warrior”.
  3. Initiation: The Warrior-Hero
    • With growing confidence in his Ego identity and power, the hero now approaches the the dragon’s cave, where treasure and victory await.
    • The Warrior-Hero finds the tables turned as he must submit to the dragon and be reborn as “the Martyr”.
  4. Return: The Martyr-Hero
    • The hero must now grow beyond personal power to forge or claim his TALISMAN and prevail against the dragon; transcending his ego, the Martyr-Hero journeys back home as a very different person that the Orphan who set out.
    • The Martyr-Hero confronts the dragon for a fourth and final time. Through the transcendence of his ego and re-engagement with his role in community, he integrates the dragon’s power within himself and is reborn as the Magician.

The journey in its entirety yields a valuable lesson or Talisman which the Hero can use for the benefit of himself and his community, but so too does each leg of the journey. Indeed, even within each leg of the journey are smaller moments of choice and change that ‘bear within them the germ power of the source,’ and reflect the recurring pattern of of crisis, change and transformation . When we use this tool as a lens to review the great challenges of our past, we can recover many treasures indeed from each story we take the time to explore. By collecting these talismans, we build a rich store of treasures “where neither moth nor rust consume”, from which we enrich both ourselves and, if we so choose, our communities as well.


QUESTION: What experiences have you had in your life which, in retrospect, could be described as following the pattern of the Hero’s Journey? Which archetype resonates most with you at this moment in time?

CO-MENTORING CHALLENGE: Choose a problem you are facing right now and pick the archetype that most closely describes how you are responding to that challenge. Explore together ways that you can move past that challenge and move toward integration and claiming of your power in this situation, including the personal growth you may need to experience along the way. Commit to one concrete action you can take in this direction between now and your next co-mentoring session and report back on results when you meet again.


Endnotes

  1. Campbell, Joseph, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, pp. 1 – 2.
  2. Baron-Reid, Collette, The Map: Finding the Magic and Meaning in the Story of Your Life, pp. 111 – 112.
  3. I first learned of the Sankofa Legend from Dr. Frank Robinson, who used this motif as a key theme in his 2015 Martin Luther King Day speech at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA. See also: Wikipedia, “Sankofa” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sankofa.
  4. Ferguson, Andrew, The Four-Act Story Diamond. http://rageagainstthepage.blogspot.com/2006/01/4-act-story-diamond.html

For another excellent overview of the Hero’s Journey (and a terrific “Recommended Reading” list), see Nina Munteau’s 2-part article on the subject at blogspot:


Beyond the Hero’s Journey is a series that explores elements of Joseph Campbell’s classic Hero’s Journey as way to reclaim the power our professional “stories” for personal growth, and to bring the “Elixir” of our triumphs to benefit others by moving beyond the Hero archetype to become mentors in our own right.
Beyond the Hero’s Journey is published on the 3rd Wednesday of every month at www.mentorsandmasterminds.com.

Layne Tinsley Sparkles!

What was your first experience in an administrative support role, and why did you choose to take that opportunity?

I prepared to be a high-level assistant by attending college for their certificated Legal Secretarial Specialist program. It was a tough program. To graduate, you had to complete assessments for typing 60+ wpm and shorthand at 100+ wpm, along with legal, computers, accounting, English, writing, and speaking & presentation courses. I was young, married, and two little babies and determined to attain the Dean’s and Honor’s list every quarter. I wanted to do great work for great leaders. What better than legal?

Through a serendipitous meeting with the office manager of the city attorney’s office, I was invited to interview for the position as the assistant to the partner of the law firm, assistant city attorney, and premier eminent domain attorney in Minnesota (all one person). It was the one attorney in the law firm that none of the assistants wanted to work under. I was up for the challenge.

When did you first decide you wanted more out of your administrative career, and what did you decide to do about it? How did this lead you to where you are today?

Events in my life have taken me to move all over the country: Minnesota, Pennsylvania, California, Texas, Georgia, and Ohio that being an assistant has allowed me the ability to take my skills wherever I go and in demand. I started the change in the trajectory of my career when I accepted positions other than legal. Legal assistants would tell me that was risky, but I don’t like to be put in a box. I chose to expand my skill set and horizons. This provided me opportunities to work in legal, engineering, real estate, telecommunications, technology, government, medical, and education. I blew the box UP!

So here is where I have seen the two biggest obstacles in an assistant’s position. One is in supporting leadership also means that when they make a change, you are an extension of that leadership and the company has to figure out what to do with you. The second is company transitions: buyouts, mergers, acquisitions, and just plain going out of business. All of these constitute downsizing and assistants can be viewed as a luxury during a restructure.

I grew and grew up in the work that I love, I also embraced learning all the different aspects and industries an assistant serves. I was the first in my family (of my parents and the youngest of five children) to graduate from high school, attend college with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and Business Administration, and my mother was a small business owner (a gas and service station) when most agencies and businesses wouldn’t work with a woman-owned business.

Ultimately, I wanted to be independent – an entrepreneur. As I met and overcame my challenges, I wanted to be able to encourage and inspire other women to achieve their greatness and dreams.

My path, challenges, dreams, aspirations, people I have met in my journey, and God have brought me to where I am today. I am grateful for the people, challenges, and lessons learned along the way. It all has made me a strong and resilient woman.

In pursuing this new endeavor, what was your greatest setback, face-palm or challenge, and how did you overcome it?

I was married for ten years. It was great having a partner to make decisions with. He had his talents and I had mine. It was a nice mesh. But, after the divorce, I felt that I had to do everything on my own.

My biggest challenge would be that feeling all women have, that we are expected to do it all and we are supposed to be great at everything, which isn’t possible. Nevertheless, the face-palm is that you realize that you have access to a wide group of talented people through networking, social media, and just getting out and meeting people – developing relationships.

Because I feel this way, you will find others do too… if they can help, they will. There are a lot of people who root for the underdog.

Another face-palm is realizing, “You got this.” But this happens all the time when we face our fears.

What mentors did you have and how did they help you to get where you are?

I believe we have mentors throughout our careers and lives. Many informal, some more formal. My mother and my older sister (10 years older) were some of my early mentors. Others later in life have been teachers, instructors, direct reports or bosses.

Men are trained, guided, and nurtured to develop leadership and advancement skills to their underlings. What has been impressed upon women to advance is to “hold their cards close to their vest,” so to speak, for fear of another usurping their position. Which creates a hostile environment for women to encourage one another.

When we come from a position of lack (such as there is not enough room for more women in leadership positions), we stunt the evolution of women taking their rightful positions at the leadership table. When we share knowledge and nurture one another, we grow and expand our influence.

I mentor every chance I get. As the Millennials take over where we leave off, it’s important to provide the knowledge of our experience so they can take our collective fight to the next level. The fight that we are ALL “created equal.” Our refrain does a disservice to our daughters, sisters, and mothers.

What’s the funniest story you experience on your path to success?

While working for the City Attorney’s office, during the OJ Simpson trial, it was one of the rare moments when all staff and attorneys would collect in the conference room to watch. The fascination of a high profile case on tv with legal minds – it was entertaining! Another instance when the law firm put together an event and paid for everyone to see “The Firm” with Tom Cruise. When working for the engineering firm, whenever someone bought a house, everyone was invited to the housewarming. This probably happened once a year. Other than the the traditional Company Christmas (or holiday) party, it’s a great opportunity for everyone to mingle and interesting conversation.

What advice would you give to other admins considering following this path for career advancement?

As administrative professionals, our job is unique in that we work with a great deal of technology and various levels of professionals. It is important to conduct yourself in the highest degree of professionalism – in conduct and appearance. SOFT SKILLS – work diligently on soft skills (soft skills is a term often associated with a person’s “EQ” (Emotional Intelligence Quotient), the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, interpersonal skills, managing people, leadership, etc. that characterize relationships with other people.). HARD SKILLS – It’s so easy today to be continually learning and expanding skills with access to Lynda, Udemy, etc, and reading. Technology changes fast with constant developments and upgrades. NETWORKING – Put yourself out there and develop relationships through local networking events (Meetup), as well as online (LinkedIn). Get engaged with conversations and participate. A big part of networking is giving and sharing. These three things will take you far.

ABOUT LAYNE TINSLEY 

Layne Tinsley is an entrepreneur helping businesses with processes & procedures, increasing productivity, while focusing on alleviating and solving administrative struggles, and challenges. Layne’s career has comprised of administration, human resources, and office management with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management & Administration and has worked in legal, real estate, higher education, technology, coaching, and government. Layne’s mission is to inspire, teach, coach, and empower women to grow, lead, and embrace their unique talents. She lives in Georgia with her daughter and their two dogs, Honey and Lucy.

Email Laynehttp://Layne.Tinsley@mykta.com/
Sparkle Websitehttp://www.mykta.com/
Layne on LinkedInhttps://www.linkedin.com/in/laynetinsley
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Administrative.Sparkle/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MyKTA


Admin Trailblazers is a series about serious administrative professionals who have excelled in their role and gone on to the top of the profession, management roles or entrepreneurial endeavors.

Admin Trailblazers is published on the fourth Wednesday of every month at www.mentorsandmasterminds.com.

Meet Joan Hassler, PMP

Today’s Member Spotlight features Joan Hassler, an administrative support professional with 25 years of experience in finance and other business sectors.  She currently works for Wells Fargo in Charlotte, North Carolina. Joan Hassler holds a M.S. in Banking from Mercy College and B.S. in Business from the College of Staten Island.

Two interests I share with Joan are membership in Toastmasters International and planning administrative training events.

Joan Hassler, PMP, Senior Administrative Professional, Charlotte, NC

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedIn.com/in/joanhassler
Experience: 11+ Years in Administrative Support
Greatest Professional Strength: Includer. Wanting to make others happy and providing what I can to make their job easier, also being involved and sharing.
Current Professional Priority: Organizing a training conference for admins in the Charlotte, NC area.
Interested In:  Co-Mentoring.
Meeting Preferences:  No preference.
Location: Charlotte, NC, United States of America

 

Where I’m From

I began my career at Blue Cross Blue Shield.  Other companies I worked at were Federated Investors, Airborne Express and J.C. Penney.  Prior to joining the Wells Fargo organization, I worked for the Boy Scouts of America Supply Group.  I also worked for TIAA in their Charlotte location for the Finance Actuarial Team, and for their New York-based Asset Management Team.

Where I’m At

My goal is to continue my educational journey via networking and attending professional events. My hope is to share my knowledge with others and, at the same time, continue learning from them.

I’ve met so many people by networking and I have found that the information shared can be valuable. I had a few people in my life that were inspiring to me, never had a go to person (mentor), yet I was able to tap onto the inspiration/knowledge that has allowed me to always want more and share more.

Where I’m Headed

I am at a plateau, coming up to retirement in 3 years.   However that doesn’t mean I want to stop learning.   It means I want to start helping others and continue learning from others as well.  I invest in myself every year by going to a conference, taking free or low cost training when available, attending Toastmasters Meetings, and now I’m attending Project Management Institute local meetings since I received my PMP. Sometimes things do get in the way, however I never stop looking for that next networking or learning opportunity.

What I’m Most Passionate About

I started college late and found the importance of enhancing my knowledge. To this end, I have been an active VIP client/participant in Office Dynamics International training programs and conferences since 2010. I am also an active member of Toastmasters International, a non-profit educational organization focused on helping its members develop communication and leadership skills.

For fun, I love to travel, scuba dive, take photos, dance, and watch football. I make sure not to mix scuba and fishing, though: the fish should have a fighting chance!  I also love just sitting reading a book – mostly romance or mystery – for hours at a time.

Each year I participate in an annual Alzheimer’s’ walk in support of those who have the disease.  You see, my mom has Alzheimer’s. She is at the point of not knowing who her children are, yet she is happy.   The chances of getting the disease have increased for members of our family, and I hope to at least make a difference towards the cure.

I have lived in Charlotte with my husband Ray since 2013.  We are both from New York City, and have been together for 36 years.


If you enjoyed learning about Joan from this article, be sure to drop by her profile page HERE and leave her a message. (If you are a current or former administrative professional and would like to join our community and connect with Joan and our other members, click HERE to register!)


Member Spotlight is a series of articles featuring the talents and accomplishments of our members at MentorsandMasterminds.com. Member Spotlight is published here on our blog on the second Wednesday of every month.

  • To be considered for a future Member Spotlight feature, members must complete their full member profile using the profile edit page. Members will be contacted for approval prior to being featured in Member Spotlight, and members with incomplete profiles will not be considered for this feature.
  • Members who prefer not to be featured can  also select the “Please do NOT feature me in Member Spotlight” in the “MEMBER SPOTLIGHT” section at the bottom of the profile edit page. To access your profile edit page, cursor over your profile name at the upper right corner of any page on the site, then select “Profile” and “Edit” from the dropdown menus that appear. Be sure to save changes before closing out.

Where Do Mentors Come From? (Part 1 of 2)

When I launched Mentors and Masterminds, my goal was to answer to a common question among administrative professionals: “Where can I find a mentor?” I imagined myself as the behind-the-scenes administrator of an organically thriving community where current and former administrative professionals hooked up for mentoring “dates” and ultimately found “true love” in the form of long-term mentoring relationships: a career-oriented Match.com[1], if you will. I hoped, too, that community members – particularly those more knowledgeable than I – might be inspired to share their own stories, thereby creating a self-sustaining learning community. Like the Field of Dreams, I believed that if I built it, the community would come.

When I was first planning the site, I consulted my Toastmasters colleague, website builder and marketing guru Heather Turner, DTM for suggestions on how to build the site.  I got my first whiff of trouble when she described her own experience as a member of a similar site for small business startups: “The problem I’ve noticed,” she said, “is that everyone wants to have a mentor, but no one wants to be a mentor. When I was a mentor on the site, I was deluged with requests, because there were on average 1 mentor for every 150 mentees who wanted help.”

To answer the question “Where can I find a mentor?”, I would have to answer another question first: “Where do mentors come from? “That should be easy enough to solve,” I thought, “I’ll just create a category called ‘co-mentoring’ and encourage everyone to participate, giving us roughly equal numbers of mentors and mentees.”

After the launch in October 2016, it quickly became clear that, if I wanted my new site to mature into the community I had envisioned, there was a need to do more: to not only encourage members to step up as mentors to each other, but also to show them how. This kind of thought leadership was hardly what I’d signed up for. I just wanted to be the “techie-behind-the-scenes”. Who was I to offer myself as an authority on mentoring?! As I began to wrestle with this question, I was paralyzed by Impostor Syndrome[2]. The terror was not unlike that which I experienced when, nearly 18 years ago, I was a brand-new mom faced with the care of a healthy but helpless newborn boy: what have I gotten myself into?!

On the other hand, there was also a promise implicit in the launch of my site, and I wasn’t about to leave that promise unfulfilled. To help grow the community, I needed to become a mentor’s mentor. Having identified the problem, I knew I could tackle it. After all, I’ve survived eighteen years of motherhood…and I’ve done a damn fine job of it, if I do say so myself. In fact, parenting taught me more than a few good mentoring lessons along the way, lessons like:

  • You don’t need to have all the answers to be a mentor.
  • In mentoring, your greatest weaknesses become invaluable assets.
  • You can’t mentor everyone, and that’s okay.

The other thing that keeps me going is this: I deeply believe that everyone has creative potential, and that there is no more important work than encouraging the development of that potential.  As Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”[3]  Rather, we must challenge ourselves and others to thinking and doing things in new ways.  There is no more powerful tool in this endeavor that the personal encouragement of a mentor…and a friend.

Someone needs the gifts that only you have to offer, so join me as I explore the joys, rewards and methods of becoming a mentor.


 “Be the Mentor” is a series in which I explore the joys and benefits of stepping up to be a mentor, and offer my insights on how to do it well. “Where Do Mentors Come From?” is the first article in this series.

Be the Mentor is published on the first Wednesday of every month at www.mentorsandmasterminds.com


FOOTNOTES

[1] My personal inspiration was actually a less-known dating site, lavalife.com. Met my S.O. there in July 2004 and 14 years later we are still going strong! It’s less about the how and where you meet, and more about the time you invest into finding a good match and creating a great relationship.

[2] Wikipedia defines impostor syndrome as “an inability to internalize…accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_syndrome)

[3] Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alberteins121993.html

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/ .

Meet Jessica Dupre

Today, in our first ever Member Spotlight feature, I am delighted to introduce Mentors & Masterminds’ very first member ever, Jessica Dupre.

Jessica is also a colleague of mine at Baystate Health. When she first joined us a little over a year ago, I noticed her enthusiasm and willingness to try new things, and quickly talked her into helping me run an administrative professionals collaboration site I was building for the organization.  Our relationship as mentor & protege has blossomed since then, and has enriched both of us tremendously.

A few months later, when I asked for beta testers on this site, Jessica was the first to step up. (Thank you Jessica!) I am proud to work with her, and to introduce her to you today. Below, in her own words, is her career story.

Jessica Dupre, Administrative Coordinator
Baystate Health, Springfield MA

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/jessica-dupre-74966711b

Experience: 11+ Years in Administrative Support

Greatest Professional Strength: Organizational Skills

Current Professional Priority: Finishing undergrad degree by 2018

Interested In: Peer Mentoring, Be A Coaching Mentor, Local Networking

Meeting Preferences: Face to Face, Online or Teleconference, Industry Events

Primary Location: Greenfield, MA, United States

Other Locations: Springfield, MA/Northampton, MA

Where I’m From

I started my administrative career in high school by doing some part-time clerical work for the office my mother worked in.  My job was to review I-9 forms to ensure completion and accuracy of the information, file in the personal files and general office help.  I went to school in Boston and continued in an administrative capacity at a recruiting firm around the corner from where I was going to school. In addition to assisting with resume rewrites and onboarding new hires, I was introduced to mail merges and there started my self-teaching in the Microsoft Office suite of applications.  By the time I returned home from school in the summer of 2000 I began to be proficient in all Microsoft applications, and increased my typing speed to 75+ wpm.  I worked in the Human Resources Office of Yankee Candle Company for 15 years with increasing levels of responsibility in an administrative role.

Where I’m At

In 2016, I joined Baystate Health as the Administrative Coordinator to the Acute Care Pharmacy, and this is where I met Mentors and Masterminds founder, Tara Browne.  My first interaction with Tara was an email invitation I received in my first week of work asking me to join a “Scheduling Support Contacts” list on SharePoint – a platform I was unfamiliar with. I was totally lost.  When I called to ask about the platform, Tara invited me to help administer the resource list, which I enthusiastically accepted after a brief tutorial on using the platform.

Where I’m Headed

With Tara’s encouragement, I also joined Office Support Network, Baystate’s internal admin improvement group. We are excited to be launching our Administrative Knowledge Base via ServiceNow very soon.  This site will offer new administrative staff a central access point to get procedures and support while they learn the Baystate ways, and will serve as the go-to resource for all our Admins, creating consistency and standardizing best practices across the organization.

If you enjoyed getting to know Jessica from this article, be sure to drop by her profile page HERE and leave her a message!

NOTES TO MEMBERS

  • To be considered for a future “Member Spotlight” feature, be sure to complete your full member profile using the profile edit page. Members with incomplete profiles will not be considered for this feature.
  • If you have completed your profile, but would prefer not to be featured, please update your profile by selecting the “Please do NOT feature me in Member Spotlight” in the new “MEMBERS SPOTLIGHT” section at the bottom of the profile edit page. 
  • To access your profile edit page, cursor over your profile name at the upper right corner of any page on the site, then select “Profile” and “Edit” from the dropdown menus that appear. Be sure to save changes before closing out.

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