My Limitations Are Not Yours

I have heard many stories over the years about how people (women and people of color specifically) were held back due to the limitations of others rather than their own. 

Picture this. 

A group of leaders in an organization are huddled together in a room to discuss areas of growth for the organization. During their discussion, it is noted that additional leaders will need to be tapped to carry out the vision of the future. This immediately sparks a conversation regarding the “up and comers” and those “loyal” to the organization who would be ideal to accomplish the needed tasks. 

One by one, the talent is put up for judgment and scrutiny. 

  • What about Chen? He has been with us for 20 years and knows our history. Well, he is recently divorced and going through a hard time. I am not sure he can take on such a big task right now. 
  • What about Charlie? She’s bright, talented, and brings a good deal of positive energy. Well, she is pursuing an advanced degree right now and I don’t think she has room in schedule for this big task. 
  • What about Jamal? He consistently demonstrates strong relational and stragic leadership skills. Well, he hasn’t been here very long and would struggle getting up to speed with our history. 
  • What about Shelia? She has been with us for 10 years and has done good work. Well, she disagreed with us on that one policy. I worry she will be difficult to work with on this project of high importance. 

You see, what could be happening here is a projection of personal limitations onto others. Just because you had a hard time with your divorce, doen’t mean Chen is having the same experience. Just because you did not carry a heavy workload while pursuing your advanced degree, doesn’t mean Charlie will struggle. Just because you may have struggled to lead large projects earlier in your career, doesn’t mean Jamal will follow in your footsteps. Just because you don’t fee comfortable speaking truth to power, doesn’t mean Shelis should be penalized for saying what needed to be said. 

I have heard these stories many times. I have experienced similar stories along my own journey. It makes me sad that we can so easily hold someone back because of our own limitations. 

No more. 

I vow to critically examine each time I might hold someone back to ensure I am not doing so because of my own limitations. Sometimes, the opportunity is not right for a person at the present time. However, I will not let that become my excuse when in reality, your limitations are very different from my own. Mine will not hold you back! 

Don’t forget your perfect

The season is upon us. The time of year when many freshly or soon to be minted graduate students find themselves in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the job search. Many graduate students and new professionals will do as they have been taught:

  • Seek out mentors
  • Network
  • Review your resume
  • Have many, many people review your resume
  • Tighten up your cover-letter
  • Have many, many people review your cover-letter
  • Choose the best interview outfit
  • Participate in mock interviews
  • Talk search strategy with close friends and mentors

What many often wind up forgetting amidst all the noise is what needs to be remembered every moment of every day of the search process:

Don’t Forget Your Perfect!

Yes. Your. It’s not a typo. You each bring your own perfect to the table. Your own unique set of skills and experiences. Your own values and work philosophy. Own it. Keep in the forefront of your search. Let it shine! The cost of not doing so is winding up in a workplace that does not align with your perfect and that can lead to you burning out long before your time is up in this work (trust me, I wrote a dissertation about this stuff).

Write on the mirror, on post-it notes, or tattoo it on your arms. We will all benefit if you are able to stay true to your perfect, including and most importantly, the students we serve.

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Little Pieces of Paper

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Junior high or middle school is an interesting time in life. For everyone, we struggle to find out who we are in that moment in time, how we fit in the social structures of young teenagers, to try to be cool or own our weirdness, and so much more!

During my moment in this time, I was trying hard to fit in. My elementary school from the “country” joined with the elementary school from “town” for junior high. Suddenly my little class of 24 students was thrust into a much larger environment with very different social rules and ways of belonging.

Sometimes in an attempt to belong, we do things that are not kind to others.

I vividly remember being in a language arts class not paying a lick of attention to the teacher when the idea to be mean to the girl sitting in front me ignited me into action. I chose to put little pieces of paper all over her long curly dark hair. The ‘cool’ kids sitting around and behind me began to laugh. This encouraged me to continue.

After about two minutes, I saw a piece of paper hit the floor from the side of my desk. That didn’t come from my hand or the head of the girl in front of me…panic set in. I slowly reached up to feel the back of my head. There were little pieces of paper all over my very long curly red hair. I was immediately deflated and embarrassed. I wanted to run and hide.

It has taken a few years but as I look back on that moment, I learned a few lessons.

  1. Don’t try to be cool – Own your weirdness!
  1. Your actions toward others will come back to you…choose wisely!

As a leader, you cannot be anyone except yourself if you want to inspire and have others join you on your journey. Keep this post in mind if you are ever tempted to speak poorly about someone, including your boss. In making tough decisions that will have a negative impact on someone, reflect and ensure the decision being made is with integrity and care.

What lessons did you learn during your moment of time in middle school?

Leggo My Ego: A Look Inside Defense Mechanisms In Workplace Dynamics

Today’s post comes from the deeply thoughtful and intelligent Brianna Franklin. Her words will challenge you to think differently about your workplace surroundings and dynamics. I am grateful to be able to share her words with you!

The Origin of the Ego

Sigmund Freud first exposed the world to the concept of the “ego”, which, if you were to ask many people today, they would deem his research as antiquated. However, I believe this proves Freud’s point more than ever. Our ego can both serve as a primitive drive for success as well as an inhibitor of honest vulnerability and development.

In order to protect our ego, Freud ascertained the utilization of defense mechanisms. One example is called compensation. “The “fluid compensation” principle (Steele, 1988, p.267) posits that people can recover from threat in one domain (e.g., a failed exam) by emphasizing their positive qualities in a different domain (e.g., close relationships)” (Rudman, Dohn, & Fairchild, 2007). It is my assertion that compensation is prevalent in various social settings particularly in the workplace.

Professional Manifestation of the Ego

The use of this defense mechanism, as an example, can be seen in meetings wherein individuals have an audience to perform for, generally one’s peers and supervisors. The air can be filled with power dynamics, image maintenance concerns, and often, one’s own undisclosed desires. In order to cope with the experiential dissonance perceived during such moments, we begin to take subconscious control back.

A phrase often heard in meetings is “I just want to clarify…” followed by many “I know that but…” and head nods to prove the point that the only information requested was of minimal stature. It’s as if there is a need to send nonverbal messages that indicate what an individual already knows. Now, some of you might assume that I am overthinking someone wanting clarification on a topic. I’m not trying to eliminate the use or purpose of the word “clarify”. Rather than dismissing these seemingly isolated statements as traditional meeting nomenclature, let’s look to see what they might be pointing to, which could be a bigger issue than previously assumed.

Personal Intersections of the Ego

What purpose does cushioning one’s response with layers of selective comprehension serve, particularly in a public setting? Those cushions protect one’s ego from damage. What does a damaged ego lead to? Vulnerability. There are two types of power when someone says “I don’t know”. On the one hand, power can be perceived to be lost due to lack of knowledge or awareness. On the other hand, the power of vulnerability can be shown when we don’t try to accompany our unknowing with supplemental knowledge. This is the type of power that fosters relatability and self-awareness.

It is my assertion that we would rather cling on to one iota of self-efficacy at the cost of sacrificing time and authenticity, than appear inadequate. This has a correlation with our self-esteem and how we are constantly searching for opportunities to rebuild our walls (even if those walls don’t intersect). In another instance, we might subconsciously feel compelled to communicate to someone all that we know or have accomplished when we feel robbed of some control or respect in our personal lives. “Similarly, Tesser (2000) argued that threatened people draw on alternate sources of self-esteem and that this process can proceed effortlessly, without conscious awareness. This reasoning concurs with response latency evidence that people with high self-esteem automatically recruit their positive qualities (and repress their weaknesses) following failure feedback (Dodgson & Wood, 1998)” (Rudman, Dohn, Fairchild, 2007)” (Rudman, Dohn, & Fairchild, 2007). We are not making conscious decisions to use our verbal and nonverbal efforts to send messages to others; however, it is important to denote that we seek out our positive attributes when we feel we have failed or that people could perceive us failing to protect one’s ego. This contributes to a cycle of unrealistic expectations for ourselves and others.

Conclusion

In conclusion, many, if not all, of these examples are deeply rooted within our subconscious and thus, this is not a conscious effort to blame others but to draw attention and encourage self-introspection that focuses not only on strengths. What can we do about this if is it not a conscious act? I propose we embrace the ideal that ‘perfection is the enemy of the good’ and move away from the mindset that mistakes are metaphorical ammo waiting to be used against us. When we unlearn our core held beliefs about self-worth, we can begin to be more mindful and aware of how our ego-protecting phrases are contributing to a culture of comparison.

We are people who are highly influenced by our surroundings and we learn very quickly how to survive and mold and protect others’ perceptions of us, but at what cost? Through active attention to these instances, teaching teams through interactive activities, and conducting an emotional inventory of ourselves, we can combat our own defenses for our greater good. I believe this unlearning and relearning will enhance our self-awareness, emotional intelligence, social connectedness, and vulnerability in and outside of the workplace.

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Bri Franklin, M.A. is currently a Coordinator for Residence Life and Education at the University of Central Florida. She has two degrees from UCF, a Bachelor’s in Humanities-Philosophy, Religion, and Popular Culture and a Master’s in Counselor Education-Marriage, Couple, and Family Therapy. She has worked at UCF’s Housing and Residence Life Department since 2011 in various roles and has developed a passion for professional development and personal introspection. In her spare time, she likes spending time with family, friends, and her puppy, Mocha. If you would like to contact her, please email her at Brianna.Franklin@ucf.edu.

White Women in Leadership: A call to action!

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This topic is complicated and the following is simply a tiny drip in a vast body of water and is by no means complete. There is no short answer or quick fix. Only time spent in honest dialogue with one another to continue our growth as leaders.

Nearly 5 years ago I was sitting in a diversity training workshop where the facilitator, a white woman whose name I can not longer remember, proclaimed that it is the white woman in middle management that people of color dislike. Jaws of white women dropped. Heads of people of color nodded in agreement.

She went on to say that, we, as white women, are not allowed to ask people of color about this, if it is true? why? what can we do? Rather, we must sit with one another to unpack our privilege, unlearn racism, and do be better in the middle.

I have had a number of interactions recently that have caused me to reflect back on that training 5 years ago. My fellow white women, we must do better! While we still have a way to go to catch up to our male counterparts who hold senior level positions, our numbers are growing in middle management. Our voice can grow stronger as we gain more and more access to decision making tables. With this growth comes our responsibility to do as the diversity facilitator said; sit with one another to unpack our privilege, unlearn racism, and do better in the middle.

As I continue my journey of learning to improve my leadership, I have come across the following tips and associated resources that might help others on their journey as well:

  1. Unpack Mainstream Feminism and understand why it is racist.
  2. Understand the complexities of the wage gap and how it differs for women of color.
  3. Learn the history of the Pro-Choice Movement and its impact on women of color.
  4. Do your own self work to unlearn racism – do not ask a person of color to teach you.
  5. Understand how encouraging people of color to report incidents to police can be traumatizing.
  6. Examine the history of feminism.
  7. Critically examine the reality of systemic racism and the role it place in the workplace.

These are not in any since of the word a complete list of actions or resources. However, these should get you going down the path to self discovery and ultimately to strong leadership.

We have a responsibility to educate ourselves so that we can do better for all. People of color, and women, struggle in the work place. By taking the time, owning the discomfort of self discovery and learning, maybe we can help make the workplace a bit better for women and other underrepresented groups. We must use our voice at the tables we have access to as middle managers. We must also continue to educate ourselves and think critically about what it really means to lead in an increasingly diverse workplace.

Let’s continue to learn and grow together!

Is your resume ready for the mid-level search? 

The mid-level job search is hard. And that’s a huge understatement. During the entry level search there many jobs available and it is easy to land multiple interviews – lots of attention for the applicants, especially at placement exchanges. The mid-level search can take a year or more to land a job! There are drastically fewer positions available and the competition is much more fierce. As a result, an entry level pro looking to jump up to the mid-level, needs to showcase how much they are on top of their game and it starts with the resume (and cover letter, but today we are going to focus on the resume).

In the last year I have lead three searches for mid-level positions. Below are a few tips I have noticed that could improve the chances of me calling someone for a first round interview!

Entry level humans, please, utilize the many, many resources out there to help you have a resume that shines. If you don’t want to search for other resources, then please, follow the tips below.

  • No body uses objectives any more – get rid of them!

This includes personal narratives as well. These take up valuable real-estate on your resume and don’t exactly tell the reviewer what you have accomplished, which is most important.

  • Education goes at the top of a resume.

I have seen so many resumes that burry education in the middle or end, stop it! Why? Placing your education anywhere other than the top of your resume makes it hard for the reviewer to know (quickly) if you meet the first level screening criteria. This screening could mean revising hundreds of resumes and simply looking for education and years of experience. Don’t get thrown out because you hide your education.

  • Format your resume!

A resume that is difficult to read is not helpful to the reviewer. Save your resume as a PDF before you upload to a job listing to ensure your formatting remains in tact for the reviewer.

  • Make it easy for the reviewer to find the preferred qualifications in your resume.

If the job asks for crisis management experience, list your related experience near the top. If the job asks for assessment experience, list your assessment experience near the top…and so on.

  • Chronological order is king!
  • If chronological order is king then bulleted lists of accomplishments are queen!

Paragraphs make it hard for a reviewer to efficiently identify your fit for the position. On a related note, do not regurgitate your job description on your resume. Rather, tell the reviewer the scope of your responsibilities(amount of budget, number of direct reports, number of students in area of on-call responsibility and so on)  and the accomplishments you have had during your time in each position.

  • APA formatting.

Presentations and publications are to be listed in APA format.

  • General section headers to be listed on your resume include:
    • Education
    • Professional Experience
    • University Service
    • Professional Development – this section is best if it includes experiences beyond conference attendance, which is quite passive.
    • Awards and Honors
    • Certifications
    • Selected Presentations
    • Publications
  • REVIEW before submitting!

One of the single most important things to do with your resume is to have it reviewed…more than once! It can be scary to put yourself out there like that however the alternative is that you submit a resume with a typo or other errors. I am happy to review your resume! I will make it bleed for you so that you can work toward developing your best resume for this point in your career (Anne.R.Stark@gmail.com).

There are many more resources out there. Please use them! Make the reviewer excited to schedule you for an interview after looking at your materials! Look like a badass right out of the gate!

Additional resources:

  1. Dr. Patrick Love offers many great resources on his blog and his book.
  2. HigherEd Jobs provides guidance on resumes and cover letters on their website.
  3. A blog recent blog post from the Student Affairs Collective provides insight: Mid-Level Job Search – When you don’t get the job.

 

Making the most of your grad experience!

Today’s post comes from Laura Valle. Laura has just completed her first year as a Graduate Residence Coordinator at the University of Central Florida.  Laura shares her advice to new grads about making the most of their first year!

Making the most of your grad experience

“I wish that I could somehow tell the new graduate students coming in that everything will be okay.

As simple as an answer as that sounds, I have found that those words are the most comforting as a first year. Everyone will tell you how hard graduate school is going to be and everyone will tell you some horror story of an experience that they had throughout their assistantship. It is way too easy to let everyone’s negative experiences from graduate school paint a picture in your mind.

Packing up and moving my life across the east coast is already a scary process, but having those negative experiences in my mind was only adding to my anxiety.

Yes, graduate school is challenging. And yes, your assistantship will have interesting stories sometimes. But overall, being a first year graduate student is beautiful.

The amount of learning and development that will happen is something that can’t prepare for…it just happens. Let your experience as a graduate student be your own and don’t let it be shaped by the stereotypes of the position or the experiences of others.

Everything will be okay.”

Laura Valle

Laura’s career goal is to be a dean of students. When she is not at work or studying, she spends her free time enjoying the Orlando area and eating ice cream. You can connect with Laura via email or Facebook!

Transition Advice for Grads and Beyond

Today’s post comes from the one and only Alexandra Garney. Alexandra has served a Graduate Residence Coordinator at the University of Central Florida for 2 years.

As an outgoing grad, Alexandra shares her advice to incoming grad. Although she wrote this for incoming grads, all professionals will benefit from reading what she has to say as her lessons learned are salient to transition at all levels!

Transition Advice for Grads and Beyond…

“Ask anyone I have worked with and they will tell you I love questions. I love learning and questions are my vehicle. In the beginning, I asked questions to combat the confusion of starting a new role. I asked how to schedule my supervisee’s shifts. I asked how to submit maintenance requests. I asked how to fill out my timesheet. I learned the ins and outs of my new role. The nuances became more clear each day.

The answers to my questions helped quiet the voices in my head that said I didn’t know what I was doing. Still though, some of these voices remained. For all of the questions I asked, many questions stayed silent. Am I enough? Can I do this role? Are they sure they hired the right person? What if I mess up?

I’m not sure why I never told anyone I was scared or confused. Part of me thinks it was because I thought I was the only one that felt that way. I was afraid that if I admitted I had no idea what I was doing, then maybe someone would agree.

Time has passed since I felt lost. These days, I know how to complete my timesheet and submit maintenance requests. Completing my timesheet and submitting work orders are not the greatest lessons I have learned though. Starting your first graduate student affairs role is about more than learning the skills included on your position description. You will learn these skills. This will take time.

You must learn how to present your authentic, mistake-making, confused self. I have some great people in my life now that I have been able to talk to about feeling this way. In these relationships, I have learned I am not the only one that starts at a new place and is overwhelmed with feeling like not enough. So find great mentors. Admit that you are still learning. Sometimes the hardest part is saying that you are struggling. Once you share your experience, you can connect with other people who can support you through this new role, share their experiences, and help you feel like you are not alone.”

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You can connect with Alexandra via email.

5 Leadership Lessons of a Ragnar

In mid-April, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to run my first Ragnar race. What’s a Ragnar you ask? It’s a 200-ish mile race run by you and 11 of your closest friends…or strangers who become your closest friends by the end of the two days you spend traversing the course in two vans! Seriously!

I am typically a solo runner. I enjoy getting out there, putting in my earbuds and losing myself in my thoughts and cadence. I was nervous about joining the Ragnar team. I knew only 2 runners in my van and 2 runners in the other van…none of them well enough to be totally comfortable sharing my stanky butt in the close quarters of a van for two days! On top it that, as an introvert, when/how would I find alone time to recharge?

The race delivered! This was a fantastic experience !

As I look back on our time together, I am reminded of the following lessons in leadership:

You can’t do it alone. Well, you can, but it will be lonely and painful!

Running with a team is a great experience! The same is true in leadership. You can try to lead alone but just like running alone, it won’t be near as much fun, it will hurt more than it needs to, and you’ll miss out on feeling part of something bigger than yourself!

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“When you need me, call me! I’ll be there!”

My third leg of the race started long before sunrise. I had run in the dark before and was not too worried about it. However, this leg was 8.9 miles of hard terrain completely alone. I saw maybe 3 runners pass me the whole time I was out there. During the second mile, I was on a small one lane road with tall trees on either side and not a single light (street, house or car) in site. I was scared! I called my husband to have him talk to me for a while. That lasted for a mile. Our son needed his attention back home. A few miles later, I texted my van-mates to share how far along I was and how $%*&%# scary it was out there. A few miles more and there is my van! My team came to cheer me along! I was so grateful to see them! They helped pick up my spirits and my pace!

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Leadership is similar in it’s dark scary moments. I learned I can not only count on family but also my teammates to get me through! All I have to do is call (or text), and they will be there!

Sharing is caring!

Each exchange where we traded runners was filled with the excitement of welcoming the current runner in and cheering the next runner out! These races take true team work. As a runner, it is your job to stay focused on your current leg, run or walk it to the best of your ability and then hand over the reins to the teammate up in the rotation.

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It’s easy when leading to think you have maintain ownership over the whole project. However, do so robs others of their opportunity to contribute to the group. Any age, any skill level, any speed (sprinter or walker) can help carry the over all load with excellence!

Everyone stinks!

I am a very stinky person when I run. I was worried about sharing this part of me with my van-mates. Not long into our first set of legs was I reminded that we all stink, but we all have our own weird little habits that get us through! I learned a few new strategies to apply to my own running routine.

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No leader is perfect. We are all works in progress. When we open ourselves up to those close to us (literally in this case), we learn we are not alone in our areas of growth as well as new and effective strategies we might not have ever considered on our own.

The beauty is in the scenery!

One of the best parts of running through the foothills of Texas was the views! Our legs would be screaming out in pain, begging us to stop or slow down but just one moment to observe the surroundings could give you all the energy needed to move forward.

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Sometimes, leaders can get caught up in narrow focus of the road ahead and forget to look around. To take in the view. To smell the roses. These brief pauses in focus allow us to remember how small we (and our worries) are, how beautiful our surroundings can be, and all the things we are grateful for (like being able to run out there).

 

I carried a few worries into the race that were dispelled quickly as we began our run together. The team of The Road Goes On Forever will forever have a special place in my heart! I am grateful for their spirit, sense of humor, support, and friendship!

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When we travel the road of leadership with a team, 200-ish miles doesn’t seem so daunting! Together, we can do great things!

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6 reasons you should NOT hire a leadership coach

In my previous post, 4 lessons learned from a year in the director’s chair, I referenced the book “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful!” to make the point it was time to adjust my leadership approach now that I sit in the director’s chair. I took my own advice. I had never hired a leadership coach before. How would continuing to not hire a leadership coach get me to where I wanted to go? Where did I want to go? Why?

I initially struggled with the idea of hiring a leadership coach. Silly reasons like, “I can figure this out on my own…”, “What can a leadership coach tell me that mentors can’t…”, “I don’t want to pay for coaching…” and more got in the way of me making one of the best personal and professional investments in recents years.

I’ll tell you, hiring a leadership coach is not for the weak. There is hard work involved in every, single, session! There may even be times you spend nearly the whole session in tears because you have had a major break through and you are pushed to sit with the emotion – something you are not naturally good at doing! Leadership coaching is about making transformational, intentional decisions that lead to exponential pay offs. You can’t half-ass this and expect to get your money’s worth out of it.

In case you are where I was just a short while ago, creating every excuse under the sun NOT to  hire a leadership coach, here’s  a list of 6 reasons why you are making the correct choice:

  1. You enjoy the frustration of not moving forward; personally or professionally
  2. You don’t think you should have to invest your own money into your own development.
  3. There is no way you can fit in an hour a week or every two weeks to focus on you.
  4. You think the more mud in your field of view, the better! (and have no desire to become clearer in your purpose).
  5. Values, schmalues. Whose needs those!
  6. Oh! and you absolutely LOVE your inner critic. There is no way you are about to pay money to someone who can teach you how to quiet the voice of your beloved critic.

Of course I am being sarcastic with the list above. I am grateful I decided my personal and professional development mattered enough to embark on this journey.

There are several leadership coaches out there. I have chosen to work with Dr. Keith Edwards. His holistic approach challenges me to think about all aspects of my life, live true to my values and has been exactly what I needed at this point in time. I have friends who have also worked with Dr. Edwards who share in my high level of satisfaction with his work as a leadership coach.

A few things to note when choosing a coach:

  1. Fit matters! You need a coach whose style and approach work well with you and your goals.
  2. As my coach says, he is the best friend I’ll ever pay for! Meaning, I don’t have to work for the relationship. This relationship is strictly one-sided and I get to be incredibly selfish about it. After all, he and agreed this is all about me! This type of agreement is not something you get with supervisors, mentors, and/or sponsors.
  3. It. Is. Worth. Every. Penny!

Best of luck as you make the decision to invest in your development. I hope you’ll check out my coach as a potential option for you. He offers a free sample session to test the idea of leadership coaching and fit before you commit. If he’s not the one for you, I hope you find a perfect fit.

You are worth it!