Guest Blogger Friday: Melissa Forges

Guest Blogger Friday Villages

(Image by Magdalena Smolnicka from Pixabay)

Today my guest blogger is Melissa Forges who is one of my closest tree branches.  Melissa will be featured here for Guest Blogger Friday:

Villages:  A success factor

When you think about the factors that have helped you become successful, which one stands out?

For me it’s my villages. My personal villages always come to mind because it’s through the support, resources, and encouragement I continuously receive, that enable me to thrive in the many areas of my life. I strongly believe a community has the power to cheerlead you to persevere and be the candor, the frank wisdom you need to be guided in a specific direction. A group of people, whether you call it a village, or another name can be a success factor in your career and life as you Walk into the Future with others by your side.

As the old proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child”, so if child rearing, a noble yet daunting responsibility requires additional input and involvement, how much so for career, relationships, and other complex areas in our lives as well. The good news is there’s no boundary on what topic a village can be created around, how many villages you can be a part of, how many people in the village or how long it needs to last (it may serve for a specific purpose or time frame). The one ingredient is all must share the core identification of the group.

My villages are casual mom-groups to professional development organizations – and everything in between.

I’m part of a text-chat group with a handful of former coworkers and friends where we send jokes, encouragement, and levity during hectic work weeks. Another village is one that’s online via Facebook with 11,000+ members to provide networking opportunities, idea sharing and a safe space to feel heard and represented in our chosen career field.

Although I treasure all my villages as they are all unique, I appreciate one at work where we meet periodically throughout the day, especially at the end of the day to “check-in”, give feedback and provide advisement for each other’s projects and challenges, like a village think tank. The sincere support and sisterhood help each of us to shine, and I find that uplifting.

As one village makes me shine, another makes me sweat! This group of hard-working women are as diverse as they come but we all meet up three times a week, keep each other accountable and inspire one another to attain our fitness goals. I’ll never forget when we were tasked to plank for three sets of 60 seconds after an intense workout. Seems easy right? Well, not for me at that time! My arms were shaking from fatigue, sweat was dripping, and I was about to throw the towel in – but my village was not about to let that happen. Everyone began shouting my name and for me to not give up. I didn’t realize I needed a boost, but I sure used their energy and felt determined and was able to complete the exercise enthusiastically. The village helped me achieve the plank goal, shaky arms and all. It wasn’t about the planks; it was the group that helped me stay focused to achieve more than I thought I could in the moment.

That’s what villages can do. They call you higher to exist above mediocrity; they provide insight you may need for a decision or help you stay on your toes so to speak. Also, as villages call you higher, they become clusters of family whether they’re in-person or virtual because at the base of a village are the people, you’re building relationships with.

You may be in several villages and didn’t even know it. Think about the groups you periodically interact with and how you mutually serve one another. If you cannot think of one, maybe you can create one and it can even be online. Start with an interest or skill you enjoy or would like to develop. For example, it can be sports, business, or a hobby. You’ll find there are people, village people (pun intended) out there just like you looking to make a connection. Get out there and “raise a child”, metaphorically speaking, and build villages to incorporate into your success factor for life, career, and beyond!

What village(s) are you a part of?  How has your village helped your success?  If you’re not a part of a village, what type of village can you create?

Thank you Melissa for your outstanding insight on villages!

Follow Melissa here:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/mforges/

Mentors provide valuable lessons for us to share

man and woman discussing and sharing ideas
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“Our chief want in life is somebody who will make us do what we can”.

 (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

We all need someone to mentor and guide us on our journey.  I have had some great people step into my life and provide guidance needed for successful outcomes.  I reach out and thank them as much as possible because their lessons walk with me every day.

I purposefully relay those same messages to my tree branches when needed.  So, the tree started with my mentors, and my goal is to keep it growing with new branches who will grow additional branches.

Had an interesting conversation with one of my closest branches.  She mentioned she met with former students at their request and realized these students were branches from her tree.  I hope to continue to hear about additional tree branches sprouting in other areas.  How many branches have you added to the tree?

Greatest lesson learned

The greatest lesson I learned from my mentor is patience with others.  The pace of the world continues to accelerate but patient leaders provide direct reports the space to learn, make mistakes and grow.  Leaders who display patience in the work environment provide a space for reflection and active coaching when needed.  The exact lesson my mentor gifted me I call:  3 check-ins.  Sounds like a weird game for the work environment but I’ve seen it work and leverage it to this day.

So, how does 3 check-ins work?  Great question!

Example:

You assign a work project to one of your direct reports with a specific due date.  Instructions are provided but you allow the direct report freedom to get the project completed prior to the due date.  The assigned project will have 3 check-in points built in where the leader comes back to the direct report to:

  • Make sure the assignment was understood (reflection)
  • Answer outstanding questions (learn)
  • Offer support/guidance if needed (coaching)
  • Adjust goals (as needed)

The 3 check-ins are spaced out to allow for adjustments to the project if needed but keeps the direct report focused on positive outcomes.  Creating organized check points for the project shows the leader is a willing partner and seeks growth for team members.  This also eliminates the direct report from feeling like they are alone on the project.  We want them to take initiative but not feel they have no support.

The 3 check-ins approach is not designed as a fancy way to micromanage a team.  It provides a support system to enhance professional growth and ensure successful outcomes for the entire team.  Also, the approach allows the leader to serve their team and maximize individual talents.

How do you provide support when assigning projects to your team?  How can the 3 check-in approach enhance your operation?  (Please respond in the comments section below—thanks!)

“The best teachers are those who tell you where to look—but don’t tell you what to see”.

 (Alexander K. Trenfor) 

silver bitcoin
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“Play chess not checkers in the work environment.”

(Calvin Williams)

Thanks for walking with me!

Superhero work is tough but worth every minute!

boy child clouds kid
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“There is a superhero in all of us, we just need the courage to put on the cape”.

(Superman)

Who knew saving the world would be so tough?  Note:  I’m enjoying every minute of it!

My current Walk into the Future allows me maximum flexibility on projects I decide to tackle.  Leveraging my why daily provides a foundation to ensure I’m getting things done the right way.

Got a request to help a local high school student find renewed focus and create a schedule to enhance academic success.  I never ventured towards this demographic since my work with college students and experienced professionals fits my areas of interest.  I didn’t accept the request initially because I didn’t see how I could help.  My excuses were:

  • Not familiar with high school curriculum
  • Two parent home provides enough guidance
    • Why would a high school student listen to me and not parents?
  • My personal bias towards education
  • Not invested in this process

Well, once I got out of my own way and viewed this as another opportunity to help someone succeed regardless of grade level, the obvious choice was to put on my cape and shiny boots and get down to what true superheroes do—save the world! 😊

Decided to leverage the MBTI with my new tree branch and parents to determine a communication pattern in the household.  The MBTIs were extremely close, and this gave me additional information to begin our meeting.  Discussed the implications of the MBTI results and how we could leverage this information to create an action plan for success.

Next, we discussed ways to bring a more organized approach to studying and getting assignments completed.  I thought this would have been an area that would create a level of resistance but was pleasantly surprised with the overall buy-in.  I didn’t create the organizational approach but suggested some things I thought would work; consistent study times, area, length and scheduled breaks.  I let the family discuss and recorded highlights so we could follow-up; wanted to ensure the family took responsibility for the learning outcomes with me serving as their resident superhero (guide).

We were able to create a study schedule with predetermined breaks and a stated commitment from everyone to abide by this schedule.  Adjustments can be made as needed, but we need a consistent team effort to make this work for everyone.  Again, they agreed to the parameters and we moved forward as a unified group.

The commitment was further verified when they ask me when they should follow-up with me for a progress report.  I wasn’t going to push this aspect but believe this shows a new level of progress and willingness to put the work in for success. We agreed to have follow-up sessions in two-week increments based on assignment due dates.  The follow-up sessions allow us to adjust as needed or provide an opportunity to praise progress.

“Life doesn’t give us purpose.  We give life purpose”.

(The Flash)

Happy to report this process allowed me to stay true to my why:  to impact people in a positive way to leave them better than when I found them.

Doesn’t really matter if it’s a high school student, experienced professional or a random person on the street.  Superheroes save the world regardless of how hard it may seem.

spider man on top of building
Photo by Josh Hild on Pexels.com

“You don’t need to be strong like a superhero, you just need to be better than yesterday”.

(Spiderman)

Okay, enough superhero talk—need to take this cape off and my boots are hurting me feet!  Tomorrow’s another day! 😊

Who can you be a superhero to today?  What would stop you from helping?

 “Wakanda Forever.”

(Black Panther) 

Strong tree branches keep me moving forward

two brown trees
Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

“If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together”.

(African Proverb)

My collective tree branches continue to amaze me daily!

I enjoy watching the great things they are doing in their respective areas of higher education, mentoring, volunteering, speaking, podcasting, recruiting, leadership development and fitness to name a ‘few’ areas these outstanding folks are making a difference.

The one area that stands out to me today as I write this is the teamwork they constantly display.  My Walk into the Future has led me away from a physical office space—as noted, I primarily work out of coffee shops with Lucky Goat being first choice.  My previous work life allowed me to be surrounded by direct reports and colleagues every day.  There was always someone available to me whenever I had a question, concern or marketing idea I needed to hash out.

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself”.

(Henry Ford)

My current walk provides me unlimited freedoms to decide what I work on and when.  The one limiting factor is I don’t have ‘my’ team right down the hallway to bounce things off.

A great aspect of having so many tree branches is they are only a text message, email or phone call away when I need help.  Today was a perfect example of how great my tree branches are.  Needed some help generating a Presentation Value Proposition for a conference proposal I was working on.

I had no trouble describing my proposed presentation, highlighting learning outcomes and generating an overall summary.  Couldn’t generate the Value Proposition for the presentation for some odd reason—just couldn’t make it pop or even sound interesting.

Reached out to two of my most creative tree branches and described my dilemma.  Provided them with what I needed to do and my attempt to generate the Value Proposition.  They both jumped into teammate mode and sent me back appealing options for the Value Proposition that made the presentation sound exciting.  The point being is even without us being in the same cities, my team still has my back and we make each other better daily.

The ability to stress the importance of teamwork is something I’m proud to bring to every organization I’ve worked with.  It’s great to see my tree branches continue to embrace team concepts and help others grow.  Well done tree branches—keep up the great things you do daily!  Very proud of your efforts!

Thanks to my tree branches who return my texts, emails, phone calls and LinkedIn shout outs!  You’re fueling this journey one step at a time—Irie!

What are the most important team concepts you display daily?  How can you enhance the team experience in your work environment?  Thanks!

Respect Melissa and V’Rhaniku!

ER 2016

(2016 team bowling outing)

“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else”.

(Booker T. Washington)

Quotable Leadership philosophy!

FAU Leadership quote August 2019

“A leader is a dealer of hope”.

(Napoleon Bonaparte)

Always wonder if my leadership and mentor quotes travel well.

Received the image above a couple weeks ago from a Career Center friend in South Florida.  The Career Center had Graduate Assistants (GAs) present to leadership how they would incorporate National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) competencies into daily interactions with students and alumni.

One of their GAs researched the NACE site and found an Authentic Leadership article done with me and leveraged my words to make her point on how a leader truly inspires an organization.  I was happy to see my words helping the next generation of college students and future leaders.

You can find the full NACE article here:  https://www.naceweb.org/career-development/organizational-structure/authentic-leadership-hinges-on-listening/

  • So, yes, proud to say people are listening and putting these words into action! 😊

I continue to promote Authentic Leadership as a platform to enhance organizational success. The four variables are easy to understand and apply in daily interactions within the work environment.  True leaders need to be visible and available to engage direct reports to ensure everyone has input in how the organization operates.  Top down leadership may be needed in isolated situations, but your people want to be engaged.  The only way to accomplish this is to engage them—simple concept.

Leverage Napoleon’s words above and become a dealer of hope.

What’s your favorite leadership quote?  How does the quote impact your daily interactions?  I welcome your thoughts, thanks!

“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others”.

(Bill Gates)

photo of assorted letter board quote hanged on wall
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Take the meeting—unlimited opportunities are waiting for you

flat lay photography of macbook pro beside paper
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“If a window of opportunity appears, don’t pull down the shade”.

(Tom Peters)

My current Walk into the Future allows me to constantly look for opportunities to impact others and make a difference in this world.  My why was identified in June 2018 — to impact people in a positive way to leave them better than when I found them.  To stay consistent with my why I make a point to take meetings from everyone who requests a sit down with me.  Taking meetings is a form of reaching back to help someone else and it helps me continue to build tree branches.

Received a request via LinkedIn last week from someone I knew from my former role at FSU–we sat in several meetings together but never engaged much after the meetings were done.  Fast forward a year and a mutual friend suggested we get together because we both are making a difference in the world (different focus areas) and he thought it would be good for two like minded people to sit down.  Opportunities are all around us!

I happily accepted the meeting and let my new tree branch select the date, time and location.  We were able to quickly identify this meeting should have taken place a long time ago.  Sometimes career ambitions AND life get in the way of two people sitting down to talk about life, plans and focus.  Discovered quickly we have similar passions to help others in their walk into the future.  Shared my why with him and several of the projects (blog included) I like to work on and how my why guides my daily interactions.

I was able to listen with intent during our time together.  What I heard from him was a need to generate/identify a why to create the foundational model for his work.  Leveraged how creating my why gave me a renewed focus and helps drive my efforts.

The why concept was well received during our time together and resonated with my new tree branch.  It wasn’t rocket science, but I was able to listen to him and help strategize a way to gain the focus needed to take his operation to the next level.

My takeaways from our meeting:

  • Opportunity to help someone expand their message / focus
  • Opportunity to add another branch to my growing tree
  • Opportunity to share my why and leverage it in real time (application not just a theory)
  • Opportunity for future networking / interactions with a new tree branch
  • Opportunity to watch a branch grow and move towards goals
  • Opportunity for me to learn from someone doing great things in the world
  • Opportunity for me to continue to grow

So, when presented with an opportunity to take a meeting, go ahead and meet.  You may be able to help someone find exactly what they need for success.  You may also make a new friend which is awesome on its own.  Stay available to opportunities around you, they may provide the compass needed for your Walk into the Future!

Note:  I have taken 3 additional meetings since I originally wrote this article.  They have all been beneficial and I’ve added more branches to my tree.  Always looking for continued growth.

How open are you to accepting a meeting request from someone?  What benefits would taking this meeting have on your growth?  Curious, thanks!

“Keep your mind open to opportunities. They are closer than you think”.

(PictureQuotes.com)

woman wearing teal dress sitting on chair talking to man
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Making a Difference (Daily)

Make a Difference May 2019

I start each day with the purpose of making a difference.  Changing the entire world continues to prove to be beyond my ‘super powers’ so I focus on the small victories in life.

The picture above hangs next to my front door, so I must pass it on my way out into the world.  It is a simple reminder to ensure my focus remains on the small victories in life that can make a difference to someone.

My psychology educational background was selected because of a desire to understand others better.  My thought process has always been to understand what makes people do or think what they do.  Psychology provided me with the foundation to understand the importance of helping others.  Please note, helping someone can be as simple as asking them how their day is going.  Doesn’t have to get super deep to impact someone you cross paths with regularly.

I’ve written about the benefits of volunteering in the local community.  This small step can be a huge difference maker for your local community and especially someone who benefits from the organization you volunteer with.  Volunteer multiple times with an organization and you will begin to put smiles on the faces of people within the organization.

Mentoring others has always been a huge part of my daily routine.  My current Walk into the Future allows me additional time to reach out to my tree branches and put focus on topics they want to explore.  We always did this but now my availability enhances how often we get to check in.  I enjoy catching up with my tree branches and hearing the great things ‘they’ are doing in the world.  Following their progress and seeing how they make a difference is a highlight for me.

I’m able to expand my reach beyond my current tree branches because of my availability.  Students and organizations I was not engaged with prior are reaching out for me to help them move forward.  Some of the students knew me at FSU in passing or had a friend work with me and recommended they reach out.   I find this ‘underground referral’ process a bit flattering and it shows I’ve made enough of a difference for someone to put their friend in touch with me.  I never turn down these requests—the students have shown a tremendous amount of ambition by reaching out and requesting assistance.  Selfishly, I view this whole process as growing my tree—these new branches know they must help someone else move forward.

Working with organizations is an area I would like to expand in 2019.  I currently do some professional development/leadership consulting with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.  We have several workshops planned and looking to add more to help them grow as a group.  Coordinating with a few local groups to highlight the Authentic Leadership principles for them to incorporate within their leadership development programs.  This process would expand my reach and provide a larger group to ensure I’m making a difference.

So, until I gain additional ‘super powers’, making a difference daily is how I plan to conquer the world! 😊

What can you do to make a difference today?  Who would benefit from hearing from you?  Don’t make them wait—reach out and make a difference!

Make a Difference 2 May 2019

Always reach back and help others: Networking grows tree branches

‘You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.’

(Zig Ziglar)

A lot of times we discuss networking in terms of attending an event and meeting people face to face.  That is a version of networking and requires skills to be able to introduce yourself and discuss mutual interest items.  Students use networking events (opportunities) to make their elevator speeches for potential career options.  More experienced folks may attend networking events to secure future business, opportunities or leverage to make career changes.  There is an art to networking within this type environment and successful outcomes are available to all.

The quote above was intriguing to me as it covers networking from a more basic level.  Networking is available to us all but how many go out of their way to ensure we are helping others?

I pose this question because I view my current Walk into the Future as my ultimate way to get what I want out of life because I am willing to help others.  The Walk into the Future blog is designed to capture my thoughts, feelings and adventures—sometimes all done within the same article.  Topics are also designed to help others—they are based on real world interactions (good and bad) with intent to provide talking points to help readers process my words and put them into play as needed.

An interesting aspect of my current Walk into the Future is I have availability to speak with others (students, potential clients, consultants, etc.) to help them move forward in life.  Most of these people reach out to me based on a recommendation which is another form of networking.  Meetings are scheduled based on their current schedule to make sure we have enough time to discuss their needs.  This form of networking is exciting for me as it helps me generate additional ‘tree branches’ and keeps me energized because I’m making a difference.  Networking does not have to be a stuffy process and opportunities are available to us all.

Always remember someone helped us all get where we are today.  How available are you when someone reaches out?  How can you enhance a networking opportunity to ensure your ‘tree branches’ continue to grow?

I came back to networking as a topic because I believe it opens doors and provides a framework to make a difference.  I got agitated (for 2 minutes only) when I reached out to someone for information on a specific organization this person worked for previously.  Thought this was a simple request but they automatically referred me to someone else.  I never got the two questions I had answered because the person I reached out to wouldn’t help me get what I wanted/needed. Don’t be this person, help people as much as possible and watch how the positive vibes will come back to you MULTIPLIED!

Networking April 2019

How engaging are you when someone reaches out?  What opportunities are available for you to help someone else move forward?

Please Feed the Unicorns

Unicorns: something unusual, rare or unique. (Merriam-Webster)

The term or concept of the mythical unicorn comes up in my conversations from time to time.  The unicorn can symbolize different things for people; from the image of a horse like creature with a single horn, to a magical being or someone who is unique.

I’ve been called a unicorn in multiple settings.  I wear this designation as a badge of pride because being a unicorn means I have a uniqueness about me.

My life and career pivots have taken me from a computer analyst, classroom instructor, conference planner (US Air Force), career specialist (Macon State College), guidance counselor (Government contractor), adjunct psychology professor (multiple schools), employee development consultant (Goodwill), employer relations (UCF & FSU) and now a blogger/consultant/speaker.  The ability to adapt and believe I can pivot into different settings/outcomes generates the unicorn concept some associate with me.

I have a lot of great mentors and friends who provide advice and support to ensure I’m prepared for the next pivot.  The efforts from my mentors/friends/tree branches provide me with a platform to stretch my professional boundaries to ensure I’m continually growing.

How do they do that?  They feed the unicorn:

  • Display a desire to partner
  • Willing to share knowledge
  • Expert listeners
  • Words and actions match (Consistency)
  • Regular check-ins
  • Positive affirmations
  • Tough love when needed

The list above can be used by YOU to feed the unicorns you meet in your daily lives.  You can add more ‘feeding’ variables based on the unique situations encountered but my list is a starting point to engage others daily.  I’m sure there’s someone you work with who would benefit from being treated as a unicorn.  They may not realize their uniqueness or potential until you start to feed the unicorn.  You may be surprised by the number of unicorns around you once you start the feeding process.

FYI—I consider everyone who follows and/or reads the Walk Into the Future blog, unicorns.  My words, thoughts, and adventures are designed to help you forge your own unique path on your personal walk.

Thanks for inspiring and feeding me as well!

Unicorn

Leaders Build People

encouragement 3

How often do you make the time to encourage others?  What benefits can a kind word from you have on the daily outcomes for someone you know?  How do leaders build direct reports into valuable team members and future leaders?

Encourage them and watch them grow!

I look for ways to reach out and help my tree continue to grow daily.  Some days it’s just a simple text to say hello and other days jumping on a phone call may be a better option to be a people builder.

A simple ‘check-in’ can be the catalyst to help someone experiencing a difficult challenge in their day.  This approval process can be what they have been craving but didn’t know they needed.

Leaders can bring this concept into the work environment by having a complete understanding of their staff members. Knowledge of strengths and weaknesses can enhance this process.  Look for ways to emphasize and cultivate the strengths of your team to unlock hidden potential.  Also look for opportunities to encourage team members to stretch their skills for additional growth.  Leaders who encourage their people to test their limits and provide a foundation for growth are ‘people builders’.

I make it a point to tell direct reports, “I don’t care if you make a mistake, just don’t make the same mistake twice”.   This statement is my way to let people know they are encouraged and should explore additional ways to get things accomplished in the work environment.  We constantly hear about work place diversity but at times hinder the process of diverse thoughts, ideas and concepts.

‘Never let your ego get so close to your position that when your position goes, your ego goes with it’. (Colin Powell)

Everyone wants to be valued—plant the seeds today and watch the people around you grow.  Show an authentic belief in them and their overall success.  This concept can be utilized in the work environment and with daily interaction with family, friends and others you cross paths with.  Take the time to showcase the ‘positive’ when communicating throughout the day.  Go ahead and give that vote of confidence to someone who is considering making a big change in their professional or personal life.  Your encouragement may be the thing they need to move forward.

You become a ‘people builder’ when you provide the nudge, advice or encouragement needed to help them Walk into The Future.

Who can you build up today?

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