Tag Archives: Feedback

How Weaknesses Make us Better Mentors

One of the most surprising things about being a mentor is that it turns our weaknesses into strengths. It’s not that our weaknesses are magically transformed simply by donning the mantle of “mentor”, but rather that our struggles become our areas of expertise. In addition, the teaching process itself embeds the lessons more deeply within us, often leading to new insights and allowing us to further refine our own work as a result. In the words of Yogi Bhajan, “If you want to master something, teach it.”

The reasons our weaknesses serve us so well in mentoring others are two-fold. First, the struggle itself breaks down barriers and establishes a common ground with our protege. Second, the struggle to learn forces us to articulate knowledge in a way that being gifted does not.

Establish a Common Ground

In her TED Talk “On Being Wrong”, self-styled wrongologist Kathryn Schultz says, “Most of us do everything we can to avoid thinking about being wrong, or at least to avoid thinking about the possibility that we ourselves are wrong.” Our need to “be right”, she proposes, robs us of tremendous creative, intellectual and moral potential. Certainly the fear of being wrong and its corollary, the insistence on being right, rob us of many opportunities for meaningful connection. We may feel safer on our “Pedestal of Rightness”, but it comes at the cost of remaining remote.

As parents, we often see our teaching discussions with our children as very black and white, wrong and right. Being more experienced in the harsh realities of life, we can try to drill lessons into them by sheer force of will. It is, however, when we admit to having the same struggles that they begin to open up to us, and become open to our guidance.

In the cartoon above, for example, ”Mister Man” is teaching a very important lesson to his son, but the lesson backfires when it starts a mental feedback loop in which the boy sees no way to succeed. Mister Man has provided the “what” without providing the “how”. Mom breaks the mental loop by admitting she shares the trait of forgetfulness; moreover, she is a credible teacher because she’s learned ways of coping with forgetfulness. Mom embodies the possibility that things can get better.

When we as mentors share our struggles with our proteges, we do the same for them. We step down off of the pedestal of perfection and ask them to see us in a new light, right there with them struggling with the very same problems. We can show them the path, instead of shouting at them from a high distance.

Embrace the Struggle to Learn

In the cartoon scenario, the breakdown of Mister Man’s lesson comes because he provides the what without explaining the how. This leads us to the second benefit of getting comfortable with our weaknesses: the struggle to learn forces us to articulate knowledge in a way that being gifted does not. As a reasonably gifted painter, I have rarely been challenged to articulate my technique: I just ”get in the zone” and “let it happen”. When I am asked to explain what I do and how I do it, I sense there is often no expectation that I will communicate something my listener can imitate; rather, I am explaining the mysteries of something “other” and “special”. Since I am guided by intuition rather than discipline, I often find myself at a loss for words.

Not so with my maestra Shiloh Sophia. For Shiloh, the process of earning her skill as a painter impressed upon her a clear knowledge of what she does and why. She articulated her knowledge as part of the process of acquiring it, and as a result she can teach what she discovered to others who face the same struggle.

When she was younger, “experts” told Shiloh that she had no talent as a painter; she enrolled in art school, then dropped out and eventually settled for a corporate job. Shiloh’s calling was to create art, however, and it would not be denied. When she finally found her style, it came in the form of a simple visual language, combined with layering and design techniques that were extremely teachable. Ultimately, Shiloh not only developed an extremely successful career as a fine artist, but founded the Color of Woman school of painting and established the Intentional Creativity Foundation and Power Creatives TV to help others learn to become creators in their own right. Today she is a mentor to thousands of women who, like her, had been told they “have no talent”.

While most of us will not go on to create an entire teaching methodology or business from our struggles, we can still learn to use our weaknesses as an asset in our mentoring. When in doubt, as yourself this question: would I rather be right or helpful? In truth, it’s not an either/or proposition, but a question of starting with the right priority. If you start with the desire to be helpful, you will find the way to the “right” place for yourself and your protege. Your heart can show you how to be both.

#BeTheMentor


REFERENCES

“If you want to master something, teach it.” Yogi Bhajan https://www.harisingh.com/newsYogiBhajan.htm

“On Being Wrong”, TED Talk by Kathryn Schultz https://www.ted.com/talks/kathryn_schulz_on_being_wrong#t-132401 


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 this series.

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

Mentors Don’t Have All the Answers

Taking the step from being a professional to becoming a mentor – proclaiming yourself an expert in your field – can be really intimidating.  Certainly, this has been my experience. As I mentioned in last month’s “Be the Mentor” article, I had a major confrontation with the “WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?!” bogeyman[i] when I realized that I couldn’t just take a back seat and hope this community would grow itself.

If there has ever been an experience that prepared me to do things for which there is no possible way to prepare, it’s parenthood. And in parenting, as in mentoring, the rewards are commensurate with the risks. In this series, starting with mentoring lessons from being a mom, I hope to provide you with the inspiration and encouragement to take that next step and become a mentor.

You Don’t Have to Have All the Answers

As they grow into teenagers, the children you thought you knew can seem to become near-strangers as they withdraw and individuate themselves in preparation for adulthood. The things they used to love are irrelevant. When you ask what they are most passionate about now, the responses can be, well, less than impassioned…

All of this can conspire to make you feel pretty helpless as a parent.

As my older son Andrew worked his way through of high school, I asked him all the questions a good mom is supposed to ask. Have you started thinking about colleges yet? Do you know what you’d like to study? And so on… His answers – often sounding more preverbal grunts than actual words – left me very anxious. Had I missed some opportunity to help him explore his interests? Had I somehow inadvertently put the kibosh on his heart’s true calling, just as a tender seedling was, unbeknownst to me, beginning to sprout?  Doing my best to keep my freak-out to myself, I decided the best course of action would be simply to stop pushing on the questions that weren’t working, and focus on the things that allowed us to spend more time together instead.

Our conversations during those relaxed times began to reveal who my son was growing up to be. At his suggestion, we made several trips to local museums: what a delight! I would never have thought to propose it. He seemed to be especially talkative in the car, so I took every opportunity to drive with him and our conversations ranged from current events to history to Latin etymologies to deliberately mangled French. He knows I love to write, and sought my editorial advice on many a school project: I was free with the red pen, and he felt free to take or leave my suggestions.

In his last year of high-school, he wrote a 10,000-word novella, volunteered with a friend’s campaign for Select Board in our home town, and got an after school job. In February, he received full tuition scholarship from the University of Massachusetts Boston, and when he was ready he came back to me and his stepdad with questions that led him to a decision to major in Political Science and minor in Creative Writing as a pre-law course of study.

The truth is, Andrew has come to all these answers in his own way and time, and in the 4 years to come, all of those decisions may turn completely around.  My job as his mentor during this time was never to have the answers for him, but just to be available. I provided honest feedback about his plans and ideas based on what I know of him. I offered advice when – and only when – he asked for it. Above all, though, my job was to provide loving support and a dose humor to relieve the pressure of this major transition. Ultimately, my job was to care.

Take this attitude into your own mentoring and you will find that as the pressure comes off, the relationship blossoms. There is no greater joy than seeing your protégé arrive at the solutions and answers they need in their own way in their own time!

You don’t have to have all the answers. Be a good listener and, in due time, your protégé find their own answers.

[i] This is otherwise known as Impostor Syndrome, which Wikipedia defines as “an inability to internalize…accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_syndrome)

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.

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

Hero’s Journey 4-Act Story Diamong by Andrew Ferguson (http://rageagainstthepage.blogspot.com/2006/01/4-act-story-diamond.html), shared under Creative Commons License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/)

As I explored in Where Do Mentors Come From? Part 1, if I am to keep my promise to serve the growing community of administrative professionals at Mentors & Masterminds, I must answer this question. I have been forced to dig deep to find the Mentor within me, to reshape and polish what bits of value I find there, and to courageously share these treasures (so they seem to me), so that perhaps I may help others conquer their own challenges.

Whenever I do this kind of deep personal inquiry[i], I am drawn back to the work of Joseph Campbell, and his articulation of the world monomyth, or as it is more commonly known, the Hero’s Journey. in fact, “Meeting With the Mentor” is a pivotal moment in the Hero’s Journey. In The Writer’s Journey, Christopher Vogler’s classic writer’s guide to the Hero’s Journey, the Mentor is introduced as follows:

An archetype found frequently in dreams, myths and stories is the Mentor, usually a positive figure who aids or trains the hero. Campbell’s name for this force is the Wise Old Man or Wise Old Woman. This archetype is expressed in all those characters who teach and protect heroes and give them gifts. Whether it’s God walking with Adam in the Garden of Eden, Merlin guiding King Arthur, the Fairy Godmother helping Cinderella, or a veteran sergeant giving advice to a rookie cop, the relationship between the hero and Mentor is one of the richest sources of entertainment in literature and film. [ii]

By reviewing my life in the light of this framework, I have indeed reclaimed many “elixirs” of truth that have helped me to navigate my own path, and to be of support to others. Now, I discover therein the germ of an answer to my core question, “where do mentors come from?”:

Mentors are wisdom-givers who have completed their own Hero’s Journeys.

The Star Wars movie series is often cited as the textbook example of this Hero’s Journey, and repeatedly demonstrates this truth.  Heroes of the Clone War movies – Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi – become Luke’s Skywalker’s mentors in the rebellion movies A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. In Disney’s 2015 reboot of the series, The Force Awakens, Luke himself is introduced as the probable mentor of Rey, the heroine for a new generation.

The gifts which Vogler references are also a product of the mentor’s Hero’s Journey. Whether they take the form of physical objects, wisdom stories or prophecy, these gifts always come from the Mentor’s personal treasure store, imbued with a sense of history and great value. They are direct bequests to the Hero of the treasures won by the mentor own their Hero’s Journey.

Taken from this perspective, then, we are all mentors – or can be, if we are willing to do the deep work to unearth the treasures of our personal Hero’s Journeys. In this series “Beyond the Hero’s Journey”, I will explore the 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. Each article will include a question for your personal inquiry, and a co-mentoring challenge designed to help you and your co-mentoring partner transform your stories into a gift that you can share with the world. I hope you will choose to make this journey with me.

QUESTION: What mentors have you had in your life, and how did their own experiences (as far as you knew them) equip them to become a mentor to you?

CO-MENTORING CHALLENGE: Pick one professional challenge you have overcome and, as simply as possible, share that story with your co-mentor at your next monthly meeting. Discuss your lessons learned, and ask your co-mentor what insights they gained from the story.


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.

Endnotes

[i] Here I would like to acknowledge the influence of my teacher, artist Shiloh Sophia (http://shilohsophia.com/), and her process of Intentional Creativity.  To learn more about intentional creativity and the Color of Woman Method, go to http://www.intentionalcreativityfoundation.org/.

[ii] Vogler, Christopher, The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers (2nd Edition), Michael Wiese Productions, Studio City, CA, 1998. (page 47)

 

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.

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.