Mentoring and people building daily

People Builder March 2020

(Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay)

“We’re here for a reason. I believe a bit of the reason is to throw little torches out to lead people through the dark”.

(Whoopi Goldberg)

Had an interesting conversation with a good friend today about why I consider myself a People Builder.  My explanation comes down to this is something I was destined for—my purpose if you will.  There it is—I’m a People Builder!

Got invited to speak with 3 Student Success classes at Tallahassee Community College in December 2019.  The professor and I worked together at FSU years ago and reached out to see if I could energize her students.  I never turn down speaking roles so decided to work on some new material to help students find the why in their studies.

The invite came the week prior to finals so most students were ready for the semester to end–then I enter the arena.  Always love a challenge and the end of a semester provides plenty of them.  Didn’t let this deter me as I prepared for my full day working on the TCC campus—I’m built for this! 😊

The main message I wanted the students to take away is they control their destiny.

Education and life are active endeavors and the more they participate, take charge and act the more empowered they will feel in all aspects of life.  Wanted to ensure the students understood empowerment by having them create a life and educational why statement while I was with them.  Some never heard of this concept but were quick to embrace it since the professor made this an extra credit project prior to finals—it takes all types of motivation. 😊

Had several students share their why statements with me during the class sessions—came away impressed with what they generated during our time together.  Also introduced the concept of SMART goals (Simple, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) to the students to help them with future educational and life pursuits.  Leveraged SMART goals to help the students understand how written goals would impact their why statements.

The professor conducted a survey to get the students to identify what they took away from my visit.  See a sample below.

Sample student survey results:

  1. What was your favorite part of the Leadership Presentation? My favorite part of the presentation was what Dr. Williams proved to us. He proved that all of us are leaders of our own lives. He made me believe that I am far more capable of doing great things than I give myself credit.
  2. What did you take away from the perception vs. reality part of the presentation? The perception of a person is how they carry themselves such as how they walk, talk, and dress. For example, Dr. Williams walked in confident, dressed in professional attire, and he was very well spoken. Yet he is a very introverted person.
  3. In your own words, what was Dr. Williams’s why statement? Dr. Williams’ why statement was simply that he wants to leave a positive impact on every person that he meets.
  4. What is your why for your education (including this class)? My why for my education is so that I can grow into a mature and responsible adult and to be able to become an officer in the United States Army. My why for this class is to help make a smooth transition into college which has been interesting.
  5. What is your why for life? My why for life is to recognize that I will not live forever but I want to create something positive that will.
  6. How long did it take Dr. Williams to learn his why? It took him 20 years.
  7. In your own words, describe what happens when everyone in an organization agrees on everything? Everyone stops learning, they all stop growing, and eventually all become complacent.
  8. How was the presentation helpful to you? It helped me realize the many things that I can do right now for my future. It was very eye opening and motivating. Thank you for having Dr. Williams come in.
  9. If you were a tree, what kind would you be? Explain why you would be this tree. I would be a pine tree because I may not be the toughest, but I am flexible and dependable.
  10. Share something you learned that you can put into action this week. I made a game plan of how I can get into ROTC at FSU. After class today (December 2nd) I made an appointment with the recruiter at FSU ROTC for tomorrow.

Happy to report most of the students I spoke with left with the same energy and got active making positive things happen.  Several reached out to me on LinkedIn to stay connected for mentorship opportunities.  Got invited to coffee recently for additional insight on goal setting—progress was made at TCC!

People building closely resembles being a superhero—Inspiration Man strikes again!

How can you become a People Builder?  Who in your circle would benefit from a little construction?

“Our chief want in life is somebody who will make us do what we can”.

(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

 

Life is short—spend your ENERGY wisely!

Energy

(Image by Myriam Zilles from Pixabay)

 “The energy of the mind is the essence of life”.

(Aristotle)

 Dictionary.com defines energy as the strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity.

Have you ever examined how much energy you invest in others?  Are your energy investments being deposited in the correct places?

I ask these questions because I’ve had some interesting conversations with several close tree branches over the past couple weeks.  I view my energy and time invested in others as valuable commodities.  I’m mindful of how and when energy (time, thoughts, actions) will be invested to ensure I have the energy (time, thoughts, actions) for the right people.

Please note, I still envision myself as a People Builder but also understand energy can’t be expended equally to everyone.  Finding the proper balance can be tricky but is necessary to ensure a proper life flow.  This balance also provides the ability to move your energy focus and prioritize how and when you decide to expend energy.

I perform a yearly PURGE to ensure I concentrate my energy investments in the correct places.

So, on December 28, 2019 I went through my phone and LinkedIn contacts to identify contacts without mutual interactions within the past year.  Mutual interactions can be defined as texts, networking requests, phone calls, simple conversations, etc.  I took this action to remove potential clutter and reinforce why I have saved contacts in my phone and LinkedIn.  These are the people who should get the energy investments mentioned earlier.  I’m not on Facebook so no need for a PURGE on that platform.

Removing the miscellaneous (without a better word) contacts allows me to invest energy on the right people moving forward.  Now, I don’t have to scroll through as many people to send out a text or LinkedIn message.  This may seem like a small thing, but it reminds me of the importance of tree branches and why pruning is needed in life.  It seems I always get a random text from someone in the PURGE a couple days after—it never fails.  I don’t automatically add them back—I give them a test phase to see if they add energy to me—if not, they stay purged.

“Become more aware of what’s really worth your energy”.

(Pinterest pin, January 2020)

My example focuses on contacts in my phone and on LinkedIn.  Don’t overlook the importance of the energy you expend on people in real life.  I’m looking for people who display positive energy and are moving forward in life.  Negative energy people can drain the life out of you and should be addressed or removed from your environment.  Life is too short to continue to drag or tolerate negative energy on your Walk into the Future!  Go ahead and have the tough conversations but make sure your time, thoughts and actions are focused on positive outcomes.

Get that #2020 vision you deserve!

How do you ensure your energy is invested in the correct places?  Where can you adjust and ensure your energy is spent wisely?

“It’s a waste of energy to be angry with a man who behaves badly, just as it is to be angry with a car that won’t go”.

(Bertrand Russell)

Please note:  this post was inspired by a conversation I had with one of my mentors who is 80+.  She was able to apply my energy concept to her daily life and move forward in a specific situation where she was spending unnecessary energy.  Life is funny, I’m providing mentorship to my mentors now. 😊  Irie!

Wormhole for Energy

(Image by Genty from Pixabay)

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/

Master the art of public speaking

auditorium benches chairs class
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“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking.  Number two is death. Death is number two.  Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy”.

(Jerry Seinfeld)

Public speaking is difficult, public speaking is scary, public speaking is not my strong skill.

I hear these and similar things daily when talking with people about public speaking. I’m sure I had similar thoughts when I started my journey standing in front of people to speak.  The good thing about the fear of public speaking is all your fears can be overcome.  Trust me, if I can get over the fear of standing in front of people and talking, everyone can.

My first exposure to public speaking came as part of my instructor role when I was in the Air Force.  My actual job knowledge (data analyst) was needed to train the next generation of Air Force data analyst.  I was forced to come out of my natural introvert shell and learn how to engage a room full of students who depended on me to help them grow professionally.  No pressure, huh?

“Best way to conquer stage fright is to know what you’re talking about”.

(Michael H. Mescon)

I learned the more I practice the less nervous I am when I stand in front of groups.  Decided to always err on the side of overpreparation as oppose to being underprepared for speaking engagements.  I constantly review notes, transitions and potential questions I may receive during every speaking engagement.

I view anticipating questions, lulls and technical difficulties as war games.  I find it easier to overcome these things by acknowledging they can pop up at any point.  This additional groundwork helps me get comfortable before and during my speaking engagement.  I still get nervous but know I can handle the task because of my preparation.

Researching the organization and people you’re speaking to helps you learn more about the audience so a tailored approach can be taken.  This helps when incorporating examples and stories into a speech.  Knowledge of the organization and audience helps generate talking points that fit so you can connect with them.  I also target specific audience members based on my research.  A quick LinkedIn search can provide an inside nugget I can use to connect with an audience member and seems to put others at ease because I took the time to learn more about them.  This simple rapport building technique can be leveraged to help alleviate anxiety as well.

The ability to read the room is another critical component for public speakers.  There will be times when you will need to adjust to match the emotions, reactions and body language of your audience.  I go into every speaking engagement with a plan of action but because of practice, anticipation and knowledge of the group, I’m able to adjust on the fly (if needed).

I don’t put a lot of written content on slides to avoid limiting myself without a way to pivot if needed.  I started incorporating key words and pictures into my presentations to focus attention back to me—the presenter.  This always provides me with a pivot channel since I’m not tied to slide verbiage.  The key words and/or pictures are used to guide me through the presentation.  Practice provides the foundation to make this process work when standing in front of an audience.

Nonverbal communication can make or break your presentation.  I make a point not to carry anything in my hands (pen/paper/etc.) except the audiovisual clicker.  I try to put the clicker down until I need it to transition to the next slide.  Carrying objects can distract your audience and I’ve seen these things distract the presenter as well.

Eye contact with audience members helps convey confidence and credibility as a subject matter expert.  Speaking rate, pitch and effective use of pauses can help keep the audience members engaged and wanting to hear more from the speaker.  I learned the benefits of audience engagement during my speaking roles in the Air Force and continue to add more tools to my speaking toolkit daily.  Don’t be afraid to move around when speaking—this really conveys confidence but should be done with purpose.  Too much moving looks like you’re trying to get away from them. 😊

These are a few things I’ve used to help eliminate speaking anxiety.  Please note, I still get nervous, but I use my nerves to help fuel my public speaking.  The one thing I ensure happens when speaking is to have fun.  Might as well enjoy myself while I’m standing in front of a group—having fun seems to counteract anxiety and I’m able to press forward.  Try it the next time you must speak in public!

    • FYI: Don’t forget the impact Walk up Music can have on public speaking:

https://walkintothefuture.blog/2018/11/22/walk-up-music

What techniques do you use to overcome speaking anxiety?  How do you prepare for big speaking roles in your work environment?

Thanks for walking with me!

“Speech is power:  speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel”.

(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

TCC presentation

Walk into the Future deep dive

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“I blog because I’m not a good rapper”.

(Anonymous)

Why I blog

Being a lifelong learner is a badge of honor I wear proudly!

I’m always looking for ways to improve myself (mentally and physically) and have a passion for reading.  I realize podcasts present a popular medium for people to receive information and learn.  I listen to a few, mostly sports related but still gravitate to blogs to expand my world view and learn from others.

I started the Walk into the Future blog on May 21, 2018 as a creative outlet for myself and to share my views, adventures and expertise with anyone willing to read my words.

The Walk into the Future title is my way to embrace the future and showcase the courage to move forward in life.  Didn’t know who or how many people would be interested in me chronicling my adventures or sharing my views but I’m pleasantly surprised to keep growing a small following via the Word Press platform.  I smile every time I receive a comment or like on my posts—lets me know people are reading my work and I’m connecting with them.

I focus blog posts on things I see, do, have interest/knowledge and topics from tree branches.

Started requesting input from tree branches because I’m walking with them daily and want to capture topics of interests to help them as well.  This process keeps me energized as I research topics and learn in order to write a blog article.  Please keep sending me ideas and I will work to incorporate your inputs into the blog rotation—thanks!

Note:  if you haven’t seen your topic published it’s because I’m still working/researching for content—it’s coming!

When I blog

My research on blogs identified the most successful bloggers maintain a consistent posting schedule.  Some bloggers post multiple times a day, once a day, once or twice a week, monthly, etc.  Everyone agrees the key is consistency so readers know when articles will be posted.  Adjustments can be made (holidays, vacation, etc.) but it helps to set a schedule and stick to it.

I decided to post once per week on Thursdays.  Believe I’ve only missed two Thursdays since I started—was having fun in Jamaica and Christmas week 2019! 😊  Thursdays give me additional editing time during the week so I can fine tune articles prior to publishing.  I’ve contemplated posting multiple times per week but decided against it—hope my followers look forward to a weekly article without bombarding their inbox multiple times each week.  Also, this gives me more time to research and write content without feeling pressure from a self-imposed deadline.

“Don’t let the fear of striking out hold you back”.

(Babe Ruth)

How I blog

My goal is to always have two months’ worth of articles in my Walk into the Future vault.  Most of these articles are not fully developed but provide a shell I can go back to and edit over time.

I normally post the articles in the order of creation but allow myself flexibility to move things around especially after I travel—I don’t like posting about an actual event (vacation, half marathon, etc.) months later so I move those articles up in the rotation.  Soapbox moments or topics can get moved up in the rotation depending on how hot it is to me.

I write about things that pique my interest, travel locations, leadership topics and ask tree branches for things they would like to read about.  I maintain a growing list of potential topics alongside the two months’ worth of written articles in my vault.  I currently have 37 potential topics I still must research, vet and then develop into a published Walk into the Future article.

Thanks to everyone that provided me with topics you’re interested in.

Blog articles start with a potential topic.  I then look for quotes and images to help generate inspiration for what I want to write about.  The next step is to research the topic to make sure I can bring a personal approach to the article.  The last step is for me to sit down and write the article.  When inspired I normally write an article (draft) in one sitting and then go back to check content and edit.  (FYI, this article was started on 11/5/19.) I adjust the title and make final edits the week the article gets published.  Don’t know how others produce and publish content but this process works for me. 😊

Updated blog stats:

Here’s a snapshot of what has been happening behind the scene for the Walk into the Future blog:

Walk into the future blog stats

Excited to enter my second full year as a blogger!  Look forward to continuing to develop content others want to read and engage with me.  This platform helps me on my journey to Walk into the Future.

Thanks for walking with me!

What is your favorite Walk into the Future blog topic so far?  How has the Walk into the Future blog impacted your daily interactions?  Curious!

Looking to incorporate guest bloggers in 2020!  More information to follow—thinking about Guest Blogger Fridays.

“The currency of blogging is authenticity and trust”.

(Jason Calacanis)

happy-new-year-2020

We all win with diverse work environments!

brand trademark cobblestones community denim pants
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“Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without”.

(William Sloan Coffee, Jr.)

Merriam-Webster defines diversity as the condition of having or being composed of differing elements.  Clear as mud, right?

Organizations with diversity initiatives need to ensure they fully understand what diversity means.  Simply making a statement does not ensure diversity in the work environment will happen.  Diversity must be examined in order to identify how it can be fully implemented and embraced in the work environment.

Some organizations define diversity on very short-sighted components i.e., men, women, race.  These components are all intertwined when discussing diversity but there should be more components included in a truly diverse work environment.

Leveraging background dynamics, educational and life experiences as well as demographic components will help generate a new level of diversity for organizations who truly seek this in the work environment.  There are some organizations who say they want diversity but continue to hire clones of the staff currently working there.  This is the opposite of the Merriam-Webster’s diversity definition.

“We need diversity of thought in the world to face the new challenges”.

(Tim Berners-Lee)

Diverse work environments value different perspectives. This includes skills, experiences, backgrounds and education.  This concept brings a variety of ways to get things done.  Bringing diversity into the work environment allows the organization to grow and avoid the groupthink mentally that stifles new thoughts.

New thoughts in the work environment leads to increased creativity when facing a problem, change or new procedure.  True diversity brings together people who will see the same problem from different perspectives and sharpens everyone because of this exposure.  The creative impact on the organization increases because staff hear, see, feel, think differently and exposes others to different ways to get things done.  This creativity process may also impact innovation within the organization.

Decision making and problem solving are other areas a diverse work environment can enhance.  Again, a diverse work force brings new thoughts, ideas and ways to get things done to the workplace.  Leadership receives diverse solutions to organizational problems and has multiple options to select from.  This leads to faster problem solving and allows the organization to tackle new challenges.

A caution, leadership must be willing to accept the diverse solutions and not revert to business as usual.  The worse thing that can happen is for leadership to say “we always do it this way OR that will not change as long as I’m here”—the quickest way to deflate staff and eliminate their voice in the work environment.

A diverse work environment can also help retain staff members.  A diverse and empowered work environment helps staff members feel accepted and valued.  This creates a happier work force and may lead to staff staying with the organization longer.

So, let’s examine the Merriam-Webster diversity definition again:

  • The condition of having or being composed of differing elements.

A few elements to consider for workplace diversity:

  • Race
  • Gender / Identity
  • Education / Educational Institutions
  • Geographic region
  • Age
  • Experience

A final thought on diversity is it impacts your clients as well.  A more diverse work force can enhance an organization’s ability to attract diverse clients.  Example:  an office with diverse staff will be able to attract diverse clients because they see someone similar.  Don’t overlook the importance of how diversity impacts your clients.

What does your organization do to ensure a diverse work environment?  How can diversity be improved?

“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance”.

(Verna Myers)

Thanks for walking with me!

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The Big Gulp: How do you handle it?

View life situations from all angles before making a decision.

“I never do business with anyone where I have to take a big gulp to move forward”.

(9 Things You Simply Must do to succeed in Love and Life)

The quote above comes from a book written by one of my favorite authors, Dr. Henry Cloud.  It is a piece of advice he received from a mentor when faced with a big business decision.  This concept can be used in multiple situations and has been a big part of my life.

I was able to leverage this quote with one of my most positive ‘tree branches’ last week to help with a decision she was facing.  I’m encouraged with my ability to shape this quote to help my tree branch and others when faced with tough choices.

I was introduced to the written works of Dr. Henry Cloud during a career development course while finishing my masters program in Counseling/Human Relations.  The book was so influential it was the first college text book I decided to keep for my personal library.  Most days you will find this book on me as I refer to it constantly for additional insight.

The Big Gulp can be defined as the apprehension you may feel prior to making a commitment.  The commitment could be business related, personal or a combination of both.  How you handle life’s Big Gulp moments can increase your level of happiness as you move forward on your Walk into the Future.

My personal Walk into the Future has been defined by leveraging Big Gulp moments to my advantage.  I never accept deals, offers or partnerships with anyone I would have to take a Big Gulp before moving forward.  I didn’t heed this concept a few times and moved forward and regretted every minute of the partnership.  It took me a few times to experience this before I became a firm believer in this process:  when offered something I would have to take a Big Gulp before moving forward, I do not accept it.

The opportunity may seem like the best thing ever, but the Big Gulp reaction should identify additional research is needed.  The Big Gulp reaction comes from past experiences where things didn’t seem quite right or the person offering you the deal has done things in the past to make you cautious.  Trust your instincts when faced with these situations.  Better yet, run the situation by your mentors for additional insight.  I recommend you share your apprehensions with your mentors so they can provide advice to cover all angles of the decision.  The ultimate decision belongs to you but remember the Big Gulp came from somewhere.

Can you isolate the Big Gulp to something tangible?  Can you trust the person offering you the opportunity?  There are other things to consider, but these are a few to help jump start the process.

Have you ever experienced a Big Gulp moment and still moved ahead?  How did that experience work out for you?

How can you leverage the Big Gulp moving forward?  I welcome your thoughts—thanks!

References

Cloud, Henry. (2004) 9 Thing you simply must do to succeed in love and life. Brentwood, TN: Integrity.