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No doubt you’ve heard the saying, “Two heads are better than one.” Today I’m going to share a practical way to put that idea into action.
The concept of a “Mastermind” group has been around for a long time but was popularized by author Napoleon Hill in the early 1900’s. Hill wrote that a Mastermind group is, “The coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony.”
You can tap into the power of a mastermind group for mutual support, ideas, inspiration, feedback and accountability. You have endless options for how to “meet” with your group (face to face, over the phone, Skype or Google + sessions, etc.).
Want to start your own Mastermind group? Here are some tips:
•Keep it small: Aim for two to six people.
•Choose your focus: Career, health, writing a book, job search, etc.
•Be consistent: Meet at the same time.
•Keep your eye on the prize: Stay on track and make it a “No Complaining” Zone (It’s okay to “vent” every now and then, but stay focused on solutions and progress.)
•Reflect regularly: set aside time each week for each person to identify:
-Successes and “wins” from the prior week.
-Challenges/frustrations you want to address.
(Example: After one person shares for ten minutes, the group responds for ten minutes, then moves on to the next person.)
You have enough to get started! Get your group together, and you’ll wonder why you haven’t been involved in a master mind group all along.
— Alan Allard, Career Coach
Remember those colorful pianos from Sunday's Sing for Hope Exhibition at Lincoln Center? Here's the video we promised, featuring a unique piano design by Girlometry.
Martha VanEtten, Nerissa Tutiven and Katelyn Lewis make up the artist collective known as Girlometry. These young women have created a brand targeted toward empowering positive self expression for tween girls. In June 2013, Girlometry collaborated with the Sing For Hope Project, creating a unique piano which was displayed on Randall's Island. Listen to Martha and Nerissa describe Girlometry's mission and their work with Sing For Hope.
-Video Editor: Elena Havas
It’s natural to think of what you want from your company or—after all, you work hard and are a valued employee. But your manager is also thinking of what they need from you. Keep these four things top of mind and you'll know what they want:
·Solutions: Never take a problem to your boss unless you have at least one solution to offer. Why? If you bring up problems without solutions, you can easily be viewed as a complainer.
·Positive Feedback: Let your manager know what she is doing right and what strengths you see in her. Why? Because your manager doesn’t hear positive feedback often enough from her boss.
·Customized Communication: Some managers prefer the bullet points first and they don’t want the details unless they ask for them. Adapt how you communicate so it matches your manager's style. Why? You will have greater influence and impact.
·Explain the “Why” behind the “What”: When you make a request, frame it in the context of how it benefits your manager. Why? Address the “what’s in it for me?” and you will greatly improve the odds of getting your request approved.
– Alan Allard, Career Coach
Many of us tend to undermine the power of politics at work. We tell ourselves that we simply will not give in to it. But choosing not to abide by these informal rules won’t change how things work. You can say it’s “Not fair” and accuse a colleague or two of being a “Brown-Noser,” (or worse) but the one who’s likely to lose out is you.
Instead of fighting it, stick to these three rules:
Grow up. Just because you don’t like office politics doesn’t mean you’re exempt from them. If your company promotes those who work long hours and on the weekends from home, do you really think you’re going to be the exception?
Identify the “Power Brokers.” Whether they have “earned” their titles or not is irrelevant. Its crucial that you forge useful relationships with powerful figures even if you feel that they don’t deserve to be where they are.
Fit in or move on. Every company has a culture with spoken and unspoken rules. If your company tolerates those who claim credit for what others have done, you can't do anything to change that. You have to decide if it’s a deal-breaker. If so, it’s time to move on.
It’s been said that “rules are meant to be broken.” True enough. But from years of coaching employees from the CEO down to recent college graduates, I can tell you that more often than not, trying to break these three rules will only end up breaking you.
– Alan Allard, Career Coach
We asked Bronze Metal winner, Jill Kintner, (2008 Olympics) about her relationship with her coach and father Peter Kintner.
Read this heart-felt interview.
How did you get involved in BMX (Bycyle Motocross Racing) initially?
Initially my brother and I were just normal kids on junky bikes riding around the neighborhood with other kids. We lived about 5 miles from a bmx track, so it was easy to ride down there. Of course our parents would watch us, picking us up when we fell. Seemed like a pretty mellow way to get exercise and have fun. Think the dog came too! My dad took over coaching us when we were a few years into it, going every day.
How did having him as a coach strengthen your bond?
We had a lot of fun doing this sport. My dad was as into it as I was, so we had a really tight bond. He was a downhill skier, raced go-carts, and played tennis. He had a lot of knowledge to pass on about sports and competition, which was awesome.
How do you see his influence in yourself today?
Probably more than I could say. He was always pretty calm, never raised his voice, and was a tough competitor.
When your father passed away, how did you handle your grief and what made you compete again?
That was such a brutal time in end of 06, then 07-08. I was lost trying to cope with my grief. Riding bikes helped me be present and gave me something positive to focus on. My dad really thought I should pursue the BMX olympics, but at the time, I didn't want to switch back to BMX from mountain bikes. When he died, it took me awhile to come around, but I decided whole heartedly to qualify for him. His spirt helped me along the whole way, and the stars aligned in Beijing. I take satisfaction in knowing that he had a front row seat.
My father was and is really important to me. I dedicated the whole experience to him for a lifetime of hard work.
I watched an interview this week of Sonia Maria Sotomayor, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Talk about a hard job to land. Whether you agree with her leadership, we can all learn from here example.
It’s not where you start, it’s where you end up:
She was born in the Bronx and grew up with an alcoholic father who died when she was nine. That wasn’t easy but she never let it to limit her thinking. When she went to Princeton University there were few women students and even fewer Latinos—about twenty. According to Wikipedia, she said that being at Princeton (in the beginning) was like being "a visitor landing in an alien country." She didn’t start out at the front of the line when it came to pedigree, money or connections.
Strong beginnings don’t always have strong endings and just because we start out from behind doesn’t mean we can’t end up in a winning place.
It pays to be stubborn:
Justice Sotomayor was asked about her scholarships to both Princeton University and Yale Law School in relation to Affirmative Action. She encountered prejudice and rejection from some people who wondered why she was chosen for endowments while those with higher academic achievements were passed over. When asked how she managed to handle criticism, disappointment and rejection along the way, she smiled and said, “I’m probably the most stubborn person I’ve ever met.”
Being stubborn can keep us in the game when others are trying to throw us out.
How often do you find yourself wondering about the future or dwelling in the past? Probably, like most of us, you do this quite a bit, and it takes you out of the "Now". The result: undue stress which can create disharmony in your life.
Here are some tips to bring yourself back to what's in front of you as your mind wanders:
I'm a student of poker because it's fun, it's challenging, and because it requires a great deal of both people skills and “technical" skills. Whether you're a fan of poker or not, you need to remember these three lessons that come from sitting at the poker table:
• If It's Not “Fun,” Find Another Game
If a game isn’t fun, we usually move on to the next one. So how about we apply this logic to life? Are you having “fun” with your life and at work? Not every minute of the day, but overall? It's easy to get consumed and so distracted by what we "have" to do that we let go of what we want to do. Assess the "fun" factor in your life and make sure you're not missing out on the party.
• Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Lose
No matter how skilled you are at poker—or anything else for that matter—you can’t win every hand. Fortunately, you don't need to. We don’t have to win every hand to get ahead, but we do have to know how to lose well and get back in the game with a winning mindset. It helps to remember there’s always another hand, another opportunity and another win coming our way.
• Go All In, Give It Your All
In poker, going “all in” refers to betting all your chips on the hand you're holding. In life, that’s rarely the case. But the principle holds true—we have to give something before we expect to get something—we have to "give it our all." In life, the sequence is always, “Give first, get later.” When you go to a business conference or to a networking event, go with the attitude of "What can I do for you?” Be interested in the person you just met and keep the conversation on them. Find out how you can help them without asking for anything in return for now.
I know you want “more” from your work and your life; we all do. The good news is that we can get more if we are willing to give more. At work, that doesn’t necessarily mean more hours—it could mean finding ways to work smarter, to be more innovative and to collaborate more. If you want a raise, you have to justify your request with something other than “It’s time for a raise.”
— Alan Allard, Career Coach
A Father's Day Special:
Successful New York City attorney Kenneth Sonnenfeld and his daughter Jessica discuss the ins and outs of their relationship. From growing up with two brothers to figuring out her future career path, Jessica shares what she has learned from her father's guiding lessons. This story points to the importance of the father-daughter bond in the development of strong, confident women.
Video Editor- Elena Havas
What if I told you that whatever your situation at work or in life, you have the ability to profoundly change it for the better? Or that if things are going quite well for you, you could take it to a level that right now, might seem impossible for you to even imagine. Does that sound good for other people, but not necessarily for you? After all, you might be thinking, “You don’t know me and you have no idea what I’m facing at work, at home, or anywhere else for that matter.”
You would be right, I don’t know you. But I do know that you have the ability to look at any situation in a different way. You have the capacity to look at the “facts” and draw a different conclusion. Unlike what the words suggest, "distorting reality," is about interpreting circumstances in the most useful way possible. That’s what Steve Jobs did and in fact, he lived in what others called a "Reality Distortion Field." He was known for making things happen even when others told him that they couldn't be done.
It’s not that Jobs refused to see the problems at hand—he saw things as they were—and then he imagined the way he wanted them to be. Was he able to do that with everything and every time? Of course not, but to focus on that would be to miss the entire point.
The point is that you have distorted reality many times in the past even if you didn’t realize it. For example, every time you felt defeated but kept going despite the mounds of evidence telling you to quit. When you lost your job, got demoted or got divorced and felt like you were all washed up--you kept going. When you felt like you couldn’t take another class in college--did it anyway and kept going until you graduated.
If we don’t like what’s going on in our life, we can either give into it or we can say “I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I’m going to change this. It might take me a while, but I’m going to do it.” You’ve done that before and you can do it again. You can redefine your reality--imagine any reality you want and then take actions to get there. Even if you can’t see doing that on a grand scale, realize that doing so on any scale is amazing.
Allan Allard, Career Coach
Heed the advice of our Fashion Guru, Pamela Watson
Stacking is a trend that is all the rage lately for accessorizing your wrists and fingers.Th e concept is to wear layers of jewelry all at the same time. I am concerned about this trend in the workplace. I believe there is a fine line in taste vs. tacky and I wanted to show you how to stay “tastefully in trend” at the office.
Here are a few tips and tricks to help master the art of layering bracelets:
1. Create a Theme: Try sticking with complementary hues or a single color story; this will keep you from looking like a candy factory!
2. Add a watch! Might as well be functional AND fashion forward!
3. Focus your look around one statement piece and work around it. Add metals and textures with elements like beading or leather in different widths and colors to give your look some depth
4. Keep the number of pieces you wear to no more than 4-5 pieces. If you are wearing especially chunky items keep it down to 3 (even 2) and maybe add a thin pop of color to break it up! The change in size adds a little dimension!
Another big stacking craze is the assorted, stacked ring look. You have seen it all over the red carpets with Hollywood style-setters like Solange Knowles, Kristen Stewart, and Nicole Richie.I find this to be another trend worth wearing but tastefully understated for the workplace.
Here are a few tips for stacking your rings the right way for work (and any other time if you like):
1. Mix and match your rings, pile them on a single digit and you are free to wear them on both hands preferably one digit each hand.
2. Try some eclectic rings in varying sizes, stay clear of too chunky ones. Some of the knuckle length rings can make it difficult to write or type with them on.
3. Medium width to dainty memory rings (the ones that sit at the top of your finger, above the knuckle) are great options and add intrigue to your stacked look without interfering with your ability to easily type, write, juggle or whatever you do at work…it works!
A handful of gorgeous stacked rings leave you wanting more and that is ok for after the work clock stops!
Statement Necklaces, arm candy or stacked rings are not to all be worn together all in one look either. Less is more is always my mantra.
Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox, talks about growing up with a perspective that was different than many of her peers. But that helped her attack problems in a creative way. Here's what she said on our television program Make It Happen: Mentors, Dreams, Success.
Whether it’s at work or in life, when things go wrong, most of us want to take charge and fix things. However, in my work as a consultant and coach (and as a former psychotherapist) I’ve found that while we think we’re taking responsibility, often we’re actually blaming ourselves.
The problem with self-blame is that it can disguise itself as progressive thinking. It seems like we’re holding ourselves accountable and setting ourselves up to make positive changes—but in reality, we're making things more difficult for ourselves. It makes us feel awful, when what we want is to feel awesome. Look at these three ways we can go from feeling awful to feeling awesome, simply by adjusting our mindset.
1. Criticizing Self Is Blaming: “I wouldn’t be overweight if I ate less and exercised more; my problem is I’m just not disciplined.” Criticizing ourselves is a subtle form of blaming.
Supporting Self is Taking Responsibility: “I’m twenty pounds heavier than what’s healthy for me. By the end of this week, I will have a written plan to get healthier, including what steps I’ll take for success, how to measure progress and ways to celebrate along the way.”
2. Pushing Self Too Hard Is Blaming: “I need to work eighty hours a week if that’s what it takes to be successful.” Pushing ourselves too hard is a form of punishing ourselves—and it only results in additional stress.
Setting Realistic Expectations Is Taking Responsibility: “I am willing to work eighty hours a week if there’s a real crisis. Otherwise, I will work about fifty hours so I have time for other important things in my life.”
3. All or nothing Thinking Is Blaming: “If I don’t hit my goal, I’ve failed—even though I made some progress.” When we engage in all or nothing thinking, we’re blaming ourselves for not being perfect.
Healthy Thinking Is Taking Responsibility: “Whatever progress I make is success and I will use that momentum to fuel even more success.”
Blame focuses on the past and generates shame, guilt and fear. This accomplishes nothing, and only brings us down.Taking responsibility focuses on creating a successful future and energizes us.
The next time you’re wondering whether you’re taking responsibility or falling into the self-blame trap, ask yourself, “Am I feeling awful or awesome?” The more we learn to support ourselves, set realistic expectations and engage in healthy thinking, the easier it is to avoid self-blame and to embrace taking responsibility. You'll not only be more productive, but happier as well.
–Alan Allard, Career Coach
We spoke with Rebecca Shambaugh, President and CEO of Shambaugh Leadership, to discover how to get the most out of a sponsor/sponsee relationship.
You wrote your first book, “It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor,” in 2007. What is the “sticky floor,” and how does it affect women?
After more than 18 years of research, we found that there was a certain point in women’s careers when they realized that they were being passed over for opportunities. Somehow their aspiration levels were decreasing, and they weren’t making the progress they wanted to see in themselves. Many thought that this was due to the “glass ceiling,” but these women were actually suffering from an internal belief system that forced them to hold themselves back – that’s what we call the “sticky floor.” It’s the internal voice that self-limits our abilities to take a risk and get out of our comfort zones.
What differentiates a sponsor from a mentor?
Mentors provide guidance, feedback, and help you think long-term in your career. A sponsor is committed to pulling you up in the organization and finding opportunities that would provide you with greater visibility.
Where do you look for sponsors?
They need to look outside of their day-to-day environment. Sometimes we get comfortable with our manager or boss and assume they can be a sponsor, but that may or may not happen. You need to look at other areas of the organization to find the people who are respected – when they speak up, everyone listens. Those individuals not only know where the opportunities are, but can influence who gets those positions.
How do you build a strong rapport with a sponsor?
It’s not just about making sure that your sponsor knows your career goals and aspirations, but you also know about them. You know what success looks like for your sponsor. You know what their responsibilities are – so much so that you might be able to take something off their plate to support them. Look for opportunities where you can demonstrate your value and your strengths, so that your sponsor can see you in action and trust you can do the job.
How willing must the sponsor and sponsee be to stepping outside of their comfort zones?
A sponsor needs to step out of their routine and broaden their lens. If you look for a sponsee like you, then she will likely act like you, think like you, and behave like you. But today you need diverse talent and balanced thinking within teams and organizations. Sponsees need to be willing to take on opportunities with which they aren’t familiar. You have to say “yes” and be confident that you will develop the skill sets along the way.
How does the gender of a sponsor affect this relationship?
There are benefits to having a cross-gender sponsor because he may have a different lens, but not all men will see the value in bringing women’s unique leadership styles to the table, and vice versa. We must all be aware of gender differences, and know that even if someone’s talents don’t align with yours, they still contribute something unique to the conversation.
What kind of personal relationship is there between a sponsor and sponsee?
You don’t have to necessarily like your sponsor, but you have to respect them, and your sponsor has to respect you. If you don’t have that mutual respect and honesty, then it won’t be a lasting relationship.
I had an interesting conversation with my client Paula* yesterday. The week before had been tough at work, and she was down on herself for not “doing better.” Then, yesterday, Paula was in a much different place and told me about all of the great things that had happened in a week’s time. Curious, I asked Paula how she had turned things around.
Here’s what she said: “I asked my manager to give me more positive feedback on how I was doing – and I’ve been getting it now.” What a simple solution. What do you want? Do you want more consistent, positive feedback at work or home? Do you want more responsibility? Do you want a raise? Do you want someone at work or elsewhere to communicate more effectively with you?
If so, you can make magic happen just by asking. If you feel intimidated by the thought of directly asking for what you want, follow these guidelines:
Do it now. The longer you put it off, the most difficult it might become.
Make it specific. “I would like positive feedback twice a week,” will help others know precisely what they can do to help you.
Keep it positive. “I would like to meet once a month with you for continued coaching,” versus, “We don’t communicate often enough and I’m confused over what you expect from me.”
Expect success. Positive expectancy is powerful; believe others want to help you and you will be right more often than not.
Who knew getting positive feedback (or something else) was so easy? Ask for what you want now, be specific and positive, and then wait for the magic to happen.
*Name has been changed.
–Alan Allard, Career Coach
You've been at your job for quite some time now and feel that a promotion is bound to be coming up in the near future. You're credentials are impeccable, and your performance has been top notch. What else can you do to ensure you're doing all that you can to advance your career? Emotional intelligence, or more simply, people smarts, is a distinct advantage in any field.
About ten years ago, I had the opportunity to take a nationally known speaker and author to the airport. This was someone who I'd admired throughout my career from a distance. Over the years, I had read several of his books and listened more than once to several of his audio programs.
Unfortunately, he was rude and condescending. He made undermining remarks about my profession, stating that “The only reason someone becomes a therapist is because their own lives are messed and they think they can find some answers for themselves.” What a shock that was! Here was someone who's career focused on teaching others how to be more successful with people. Someone who I had high regards for. In person, he did not reflect his own advice in the slightest.
This experience reminded me of the significance of emotional intelligence. Knowing how to get along with and inspire others are integral to bettering both your life and your career.
EQ > IQ. According to Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, your IQ (and professional skills) might get you hired, but your emotional intelligence will get you promoted. Figure out specific ways to bond with others at work. Learn how little confidence boosters, such as small compliments, can foster more productivity between you and your colleagues.
Put that knowledge to use. The speaker and author I mentioned earlier knew all the right things; I still read his books and listen to his audios because he knows how to connect with others and make them feel good. But he certainly did not reflect this knowledge while I accompanied him to the airport. Use your people smarts to your advantage. After inquiring about a co-worker's interests for example, recommend a related article he or she might take a liking to. Little acts such as these reflect genuine interest while demonstrating your ability to serve as a reliable resource to others. These qualities might just give you that extra edge when an opportunity for a promotion comes around.
– Alan Allard, Career Coach
Hello! I'm Alan Allard, and I'll be your career coach for the month of June. This month will be all about you, but before we get started, you might want to know a few things about me as well.
For the past eight years, I have worked as a consultant, executive coach, speaker, trainer, and life coach. My current work deals with helping companies, teams, and individuals thrive in challenging times by improving performance and building resilience. I have a master’s and a doctorate in Counseling, and I spent 12 years working in private practice as a psychotherapist. I also wrote a book called Seven Secrets to Happiness!, which can be purchased here. On a personal note, I am married to my high school sweetheart, and we have two incredible daughters (as well as two equally incredible son-in-laws).
Over the next few weeks, we'll be taking a look at what you can do to increase your success, fulfillment, and happiness—both in your career and in your overall life. Please let me know in the comments if if there are any specific topics you'd like me to address. Thanks, and I look forward to another great month!
—Alan Allard, Career Coach
Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. So why not surround yourself with some truly amazing people? Soak up the positive vibes of your closet friends and family members for a truly memorable weekend, and read these thoughts on the subject from notable celebs including Heidi Klum, Michelle Obama, and more.
–Video by Elena Havas
In the office, I have had moments when I just had to rant. You know the feeling – you’re so angry/frustrated/resentful that you just had to say it out loud to release energy and tell it like it is. Some of us can write, walk, or run when the feelings pile up, but for me, I’ve never really known what I’m thinking until the moment it comes out of my mouth.
These rants can take up precious time with others and generate a feeding frenzy of sympathetic story telling. Irresponsible ranting can create unintended negative consequences as well – the offender might be in earshot, or we might fire off a nasty email. Our need to rant comes from negative feelings such as frustration, anger, or resentment. When this occurs, we can instead choose to “responsibly rant” by finding a safe place and an objective person with whom to sound off. Whether you’re the listener or ranter, here’s what works best:
Rant and listen. It’s important for the listener to follow the ranter’s story without interrupting with her own similar story. The only time to speak is to ask clarifying questions. These should be questions that the ranter isn’t asking herself. Also the listener can indicate that she can see the ranter’s point of view but SHOULD NOT solve the problem or give advice. The beauty of this kind of listening is that it gives the ranter a chance to hear her own thinking and get a new point of view.
Notice your emotions. The purpose of a responsible rant is to find an acceptable solution in the form of an adaptive action. If you are angry, then what “right” do you feel you have and how can you confidently assert this right? If you are frustrated, what is the obstacle blocking your objective, and how can you find a strategy you feel will help you achieve it? If you are resentful, what is the basis for your grievance, and how can you air it so you have confidence you will be heard?
Keep mum. Thank the generous listener, and be sure to request that she not share this information without your express permission. If you’ve chosen your listener wisely, she will feel great having helped you through a challenge and you can return the favor sometime.
–Andrea Zintz, Career Coach
Dreaming is an unalienable right. We knew this as children. We believed we could be or do anything we imagined. Astronaut, Egyptologist, prima ballerina, mother of a dozen children, President of the United States – sure, why not? Unfortunately, as adults we often put our dearest dreams away, as life hands us unexpected challenges or circumstances and the harsh realities of economic necessity whittle away at our energy and our hopes. Dreaming truly becomes a dare.
In her new book, Dare, Dream, Do, Whitney Johnson addresses the importance of dreaming for women. You must learn to create a time and a place to dream. Need help? Here’s how:
Step 1. Clear the clutter and create a space where you can dream: this space – or spot or place – can be a desk, an office, your car, or your bed.
Step 2. More importantly, create a space in your day: this space – or time – can be early in the morning, after the kids go to school, while exercising, or late at night. Children make time (or we make them make time) to do homework. We need the same discipline.
Get into the dreaming spirit by asking yourself these questions:
Excerpted with permission from Dare, Dream, Do: Remarkable Things Can Happen When You Dare to Dream by Whitney L. Johnson (Bibliomotion, 2012).