The Student Becomes the Teacher: Mentoring and Mentorship

There is no such thing as a solo journey in life. We receive assistance along the way from our parents, friends, teachers, and coaches. And when we reach the professional stage in our lives, mentors like coworkers and bosses help us succeed. 

As we progress in our careers, we may be asked to mentor others, but it may be intimidating to take the role, whether it occurs during employee orientation or throughout an employee’s tenure. Sometimes we don’t know what to say, what to do, or how to ensure employees understand their roles.  

Moving from student to teacher 

At many points in our lives, we are students. Being a mentor moves us from the role of student to teacher and trusted advisor. As a mentor, we act as a guide for a person (a mentee) in their career. We answer their questions, offer advice, provide resources, and brainstorm solutions to whatever problems they might face. In turn, the mentee gains confidence and feels secure knowing they have someone to turn to if they have any questions or concerns. 

But what makes a good mentor? How can we be good mentors? 

Practice clear communication and listening 

Being a mentor doesn’t mean interrupting people or talking over them. Great mentors establish guidelines for the mentor/mentee relationship and understand what you both want—and need—out of the relationship. For instance: 

  • Do they want support and advice? 
  • What goals do they have? 
  • What do they want to learn? How can you help fill in the gaps? 
  • What kinds of resources will help them get closer to their goals? 

You’re the expert in your position, and you should help your mentee learn about their role, not do it for them. As a mentor, you’re the coach, standing off the field, and your mentee is the person holding the ball and executing the plays. Be a listener—better yet, be an active listener. Any concerns or problems your mentee has, validate them. For example, if they’re having problems keeping up with multiple tasks and the pressure that comes with them, make them feel heard. Then, work with them to devise a solution. Once they feel confident knowing they can come to you about anything, they will feel comfortable with taking on more challenging tasks. 

Give constructive feedback 

Mentees are still learning about themselves and their career. One of the most effective ways to offer constructive feedback is to be honest. Openness about your struggles and what you’ve learned along the way lets them know their struggles are valid, builds trust, and strengthens your bond.  

See them as a person 

You may work closely with your mentee and know their goals and aspirations and what they need to succeed on the job—but do you know what makes them tick? What about their life outside of work? Their hobbies? What do they like to do on the weekends? Getting to know them personally contributes toward building a solid relationship and understanding who they are. 

Celebrate their successes 

Mentorships and the conversations that come out of them can often revolve around problems and how to solve them. But what about when your mentees do well or achieve workplace success? Congratulate them! Don’t hold back. Let them know that they did a good job and why they did a good job. 

Have good character  

The saying goes, “Character is who you are when no one is watching.” Your mentee learns from watching you and your actions, whether you realize it or not. They see how you communicate with others and how you handle workplace stress. Make sure you show character by how you handle situations; show them they have a choice regarding how they react. On the flip side, tell them what actions you took to achieve that outcome and display humility when things turn out well. 

Know what you’re getting into 

Mentorship is a rewarding task to take on, but approach it as something you want to do rather than as a task to check off on your to-do list. Being a mentor takes practice and patience, but the more you work with your mentee, the more you’ll learn about them as a person both in and outside the workplace—and it will be a rewarding experience for both you and them. 


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Photo by kasto

Five Tips for Balancing Work and Big Life Changes

We’ve all been there. Whether you’re moving into a new house, preparing to have a child, getting married, supporting a sick family member, or going back to school, finding a practical strategy for managing your workload is crucial. Big life changes happen to everyone and take up a surprising amount of mental (and often physical) energy. This can lead to difficulty managing and balancing personal responsibilities with work responsibilities. Finding a good balance can be a real challenge, especially if you’re already feeling like you’re drowning under the pressure of managing it all.

If you respond to the change early and take steps to prepare yourself, you’ll be much better off in the long run. Below is a list of five things you can do to help you succeed at pulling off that big life change while staying on top of work.

1. Communicate with your team

So much of what creates a strong team is clear expectations. Be sure to communicate with them about what they can expect from you during this period of change. If you’re unsure, then communicate that—often. All they’ll need to know is that some things may be different for a while.

It can be tempting to keep life changes close to the chest. They’re personal and can take vulnerability to talk about—even if it’s something positive. But you don’t have to share everything with your team to get them on the same page. Sharing just enough to let them know you may have limited availability or might be slower to respond is all they need to adjust their expectations.

2. Set weekly priorities

Ever have a big task to get done and find yourself doing everything but that task? It’s a common experience. When we feel overwhelmed, many of us get sucked into busy work instead. Maybe it’s because we want to distract ourselves from the anxiety of the Big Task, or maybe it’s because we have a buildup of energy (excitement, anxiety, stress). You don’t want to find yourself cleaning out all the random files on your computer when you need to spend time on a big project with a deadline fast approaching.

At the start of the week, make a list of everything you want to get done. Then make a list of everything from your first list that you must get done. Breaking out your priorities in this way helps clarify what you should spend your time on each day. Make sure to spend a few minutes every day prioritizing what’s on your list so you can keep your eye on the target throughout the week.

3. Block out your time

Excellent time management is a huge part of successfully managing a life change in the workplace. Block out time on your calendar to protect your priorities from being encroached upon. Time blocking is a great practice for:

  • Creating accountability
  • Providing uninterrupted periods of highly focused time
  • Communicating with your team about what you’re working on
  • Protecting your time from filling up with meetings

At the beginning of every week, review your top priorities and add blocks of time into your calendar for each priority you’ve outlined. Doing this will allow you to relax into your week; knowing that you’ve set aside enough time to get everything done will help you focus on the task at hand.

4. Ask for support

Whether it’s from your boss, coworkers, or friends, asking for help during a time of change can make or break your success. The truth is most of us can’t do everything all the time. Admitting to yourself what your capabilities are and then asking your community for support can get you through the most challenging periods of change. At some time or another, we all need a little help. Big life changes take a lot of energy and time, so there’s no better, more qualified time to ask for help.


5. Lean on your boundaries

For people pleasers or those who have difficulty saying no, periods of big life changes can be especially hectic. If you are tempted to take on another project or offer up your time to a coworker or friend, ask yourself if it’s reasonable, given the context of your current life. It can be hard to make the mental switch between ‘this is my normal life’ and ‘this time in my life is especially difficult,’ even if you have a good reason.

We want to be able to function the same no matter what we’re going through. But you won’t thank yourself if you have that same mentality in the middle of a big transition. Even if you have the time, do you have the mental capacity to take on something new? Chances are, you don’t.

So, practice saying no until you can trust yourself to do so when it counts. You’ll thank yourself in the end.



Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by jankovoy

How to Write Content for a Boring Industry

Buyers want and expect engaging, valuable content from companies they choose to do business with. So you need to create that content for your potential customers and audience. If you’re in a “boring” industry, you may be thinking, “People think my industry is so boring. The content I create will sound boring.” Stop right there.

No industry is as boring as you think it is.

When you create content, whether it’s a/an:

  • Blog
  • Ebook
  • Whitepaper
  • Newsletter
  • Much, much more

You create it to give people solutions to their problems. When someone does a Google search for a topic in your industry, and they click on your link, boom. You’ve helped solve a problem.

And if you still don’t believe that creating content for a “boring” industry will do any good, look at this stat: 66 billion dollars. This is how much global revenue businesses made because of content writing and marketing last year.

Let’s learn how to solve problems and write engaging content.

Write for your ideal customer and audience

Who’s your ideal customer and audience? You probably already know; in fact, you probably have buyer’s personas already created to help guide your content tone and voice. You know what stage of the buyer’s journey they’re in, what problems they want to solve, and what solutions you can offer them. So provide those solutions with your content! Establishing trust will help gain your audience’s attention and keep them engaged.

Cut out the industry jargon

Let’s say you’re writing a copywriting blog about how to write 503 error messages for websites. Compare these two sentences:

  • When constructing your sentence, use the following words: “Due to a plethora of incidents, the online platform has been temporarily disabled.”
  • When writing your sentence, try this example: “Oops! Sorry! Our platform’s temporarily down because we’re clearing some bugs. We’ll be up again soon.”

Which sentence do you think would appeal to your audience?

If you picked the second sentence, good. Both sentences say the same thing, but the second sentence is written in conversational, easy-to-understand terms.

Your industry has jargon and business-speak that you use with colleagues, clients, and employees daily. However, when you’re writing, you want to tell a story with your content, not have your audience drown in jargon and business-speak. Overly technical language will alienate them, and make it difficult for them to absorb any information. As HubSpot says, “You establish professionalism by providing solid advice, not by sounding like you got hit in the face by a briefcase.”

In other words, establish professionalism by writing how you speak. It takes practice, but it gets easier over time.

Have a sense of humor

We’re not telling you to go out and invest in stand-up comedy classes. But writing with a bit of humor can inject new life into your content. If appropriate for your brand, include some jokes. Use idioms. Infuse pop culture into your writing. Humor can spice up a piece of content and keep an audience’s attention. One piece of advice—go easy on the sarcasm. Sarcasm can be hard to detect in writing, making your content sound unintentionally mean. 

Edit, edit, edit

Shakespeare once said, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” What does that mean? If you can be concise, so much the better. With anything you write, you want to edit it—or have someone else edit it for you. See what can be edited and what can be said in fewer words. A paragraph that has 50 words may, with editing, be whittled down to 30.

Editing is important to ensure quality content. Also, with people spending 5 to 6 hours a day on their mobile devices, attention spans are short and you want to keep your audience engaged and interested. A speedier reading experience is important and editing your content will help keep people on the page longer.

Chop up your content into chunks

Take a look at how this blog is structured.

Instead of writing it all in one big block of text, we have used bolded headers, links, and bullet-pointed lists. Chopping up your content into chunks helps your audience digest your content, keeps them interested, and helps them more easily absorb the information. You can also add items such as:

  • Bolded and italicized words and phrases; e.g., to help a definition stand out
  • Videos, images, and infographics, to help tell your story visually
  • Tables and charts to help break down data

Be educational, be helpful

When people are looking for a solution to their problems, no industry is ever truly “boring.” Writing content that is educational and helpful to your audience will help them learn and establish trust. And trust is key to gaining advocates and disciples of your brand.

Now, get out there and write amazing content!


Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by belchonock

Why Self-Reflection Matters in Leadership

Leadership comes with great responsibility, and great responsibility calls for regular reflection upon who you are as a leader, how you are developing, and your impact on the organization.

Regular periods of self-reflection are needed to ensure that you are heading in the right direction regarding empowering your people, making progress towards your vision, and creating a sustainable legacy over the long term.

Asking purposeful questions that challenge you and get to the heart of what it means to be a leader can uncover how well you measure up and highlight areas for self-improvement.

Has my “Why” evolved since I started?

Change is constant and inescapable. Processes, plans, goals, and even team members will change or evolve over time. Your ‘Why’ is what drives your emotions, actions, and behaviors. It’s the key to unlocking the purpose that leads your organization and the foundation upon which everything is built. Every decision you make is influenced by your purpose, which is why it’s crucial to reflect on it regularly.

Ask yourself, “Is the ‘why’ of what I’m doing the same as it was when I started?” If your ‘why’ has shifted, then you may have strayed from your values or vision. If that’s the case, it’s time to strategize to ensure a successful re-alignment, so your purpose continues to drive your organization. If you want to inspire people to get behind your purpose and vision, they need to believe in what you believe in.

Am I developing as a leader?

There are no perfect leaders. If there were, they wouldn’t need followers. So if you think you have it all figured out and that you’re at the pinnacle level of leadership, then reflect on how you’re developing. Leaders who value continuous development, and who remain agile and curious are capable of adapting to the most significant and unexpected challenges.

Contemplate how you’re developing. If your list is limited, explore opportunities that will help you grow and develop your skills as a leader in your organization.

Am I as accessible as I can be?

Take a moment to reflect on this question.

Did you think of physical availability? Perhaps, you considered yourself available because you have an “open-door policy” or a “virtual communication policy” if you’re remote. If so, you need to differentiate physical availability and accessibility.

Accessibility goes beyond physical availability because it’s everything that happens the moment someone walks in your door and your accountability that follows. Now reflect on this question again and ask yourself:

  • Does the culture I created encourage people to talk to me?
  • Am I providing enough support?
  • Am I actively listening to others’ input? 
  • Do I consistently follow up with people?
  • Do I show genuine appreciation and gratitude for my team members?

If you encourage your team to share their input and ideas because you read in an article that you should, ask yourself if you’re genuine. In the case of leadership, actions speak louder than words.

Do I seek enough feedback?

Countless people avoid feedback because they worry it may bruise the ego or harm their self-confidence, but as the saying goes – no pain, no gain. One of the bravest acts you can perform is to explore honest and constructive feedback on your performance as a leader. You can do this during team performance reviews or one-to-one employee check-ins.

Embrace the discomfort and seek out suggestions on how you can improve and support your team. Just as you would follow up with someone on their need to be accessible, It’s critical you follow through and integrate feedback for it to make a meaningful impact. Take this feedback, reflect on it some more, and embrace how you can grow as a leader.

Self-reflection translates into a powerful organization

Just as leaders expect certain standards from their people, their role as a leader holds them to greater standards.

Dedicating time to self-reflection fosters self-awareness and helps leaders ensure they’re holding themselves to this greater standard and walking on the path they paved.

Regardless of whether you’re a leader, manager, or team member, asking these questions can help you boost your strengths, emotional intelligence, and integrity, and can make any necessary improvements that will enhance your ability to be of greater service and benefit to yourself as well as others.


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Photo by peshkov

What Behaviors Great Leaders Avoid

The saying goes “People don’t leave their jobs. They leave their bosses.” A survey given by BambooHR affirms that saying—44% of people said their boss was the primary reason for leaving their job. There are more job openings than there are people looking for jobs, and you want to be an employer of choice, rather than one frantically searching for employees to fill empty positions.

Look at the poor leadership and management behaviors you’ll want to avoid—and learn how to fix them.


Micromanagement is a management pattern where there is excessive supervision, control over employees’ work and processes, and limited delegation of tasks. Imagine a helicopter, circling and hovering over the same spot—in this case, micromanagers are the helicopter, and the spots they’re hovering over? Their employees. Micromanagement, in the long run, leads to a lack of trust and slows a business down.

Does the above sound like you? – For your employees to excel, give them the freedom and flexibility to complete their tasks, based on objectives and deadlines you set. Trust your employees to complete their work—and then verify that it’s been done well. “Trust but verify” can be a great way to wean yourself off micromanaging.

One-size-fits-all management style

One-size-fits-all is good for hats, but not for managing a group of employees. The one-size-fits-all employer is stuck in their ways, wants all their employees to be like them, doesn’t want to learn, and won’t invest time in helping their employees improve. Great leadership is flexible and can respond to different needs and personalities in a positive, constructive way.

Does the above sound like you? – Every employee is different, so identify their strengths and put them in the best position to use those strengths. Consider how to remove rigidity around your approach to managing the different people on your team so you can take advantage of the diverse approaches and skills each team member can offer.

Not leading by example

A good leader listens to their employees’ challenges and leads by example because they know actions speak louder than words. Employees who see their leader acting in conflict with what they’re saying will feel confused and frustrated.

Does the above sound like you? – Your employees will have great respect for you if you choose to lead by example. If you want your team to use the database for tracking sales, be the first one to enter your leads. If you want them to hold one on one meetings with their direct reports, you need to hold one on one meetings with your direct reports.

Playing the blame game

Things go wrong—no business operates on 100% perfection all the time. But as a leader, if you choose to play the blame game, you use what goes wrong to deflect blame that might come your way, and you remove the opportunity for growth.

Does the above sound like you? – Instead of playing the blame game, help focus on solutions such as professional development, reviewing/changing strategies and goals, and improving business processes. This way, mistakes result in an improved system.

Taking all the credit

Employees help keep an organization running—and they want to feel valued and appreciated for their work. In fact, lack of appreciation is a top reason why employees leave their jobs, and when you show your employees a lack of appreciation by taking the credit for their work and using them to bolster your own advancement, you will experience turnover.

Does the above sound like you? – Praise your team often, individually and as a whole, for the work that they do. Make the feedback meaningful and intentional; for example, if an employee did a good job on a challenging project, tell them! Give specifics as to what they did well.

Lacking focus

It is good to have strategies, priorities, and goals. They keep everyone on the same page and let everyone know what direction to go in. But changing things up every day, or having a disorganized company vision and goals, will leave employees feeling confused and unmotivated.

Does the above sound like you? – Meet with other leaders in your department to establish a clear vision and clear goals for what you want to accomplish, whether it’s putting new opportunities into your pipeline or adding a certain amount of revenue to your book of business. Plan each day around moving closer to those goals.

Be a strong leader

If you’re in a leadership position, you’ll always have behaviors to improve upon. You have the power to turn around and change course when necessary. When you are open-minded and willing to learn, you’ll perform better, and your employees will perform better and become more engaged at work.

Don’t be the reason your employees leave. Be the reason they want to stay.


Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by milkos

Be A Self-Aware Leader in the Face of Stress

We’ve all felt the pressure of heavy deadlines and important projects pulling our attention in too many directions. An entirely stress-free workplace doesn’t exist, so how do we set our organizations up to best handle the inevitable stress that’s bound to affect your team? One of the biggest barriers that prevent regular stress from becoming a driver of burnout is company culture. A strong culture will subtly work to create an environment where employees can handle stress in a healthy, sustainable way.

This type of company culture comes directly from leadership and is nurtured, maintained, and fiercely protected by everyone in a leadership position. Without leaders’ support and constant attention, the culture will waver and fade. It’s not that individual employees don’t play significant roles in protecting, promoting, and creating a positive culture, but their tone and approach only affect them and those closest to them—not an entire team or organization.

Leaders must be especially aware of their responses to stress because their reactions and approach will set the tone for everything.

The attitude trickle-down effect


Whether we like to admit it or not, employees must be constantly attuned to their direct manager—interpreting signals, communication, and behavior to ensure they’re meeting expectations. It isn’t the most comfortable thing to admit, but it’s true. It’s built into the social structure of our organizations. Whether they like it or not, leaders within organizations have a much more significant impact than simply helping their team meet deadlines.

The way leaders manage stress will be directly reflected in their team’s behavior. We naturally pick up on the energy of those leading us—it tells us whether we need to be rushing or taking our time. It sets the tone for how we feel about our tasks and how we approach them.

If leaders are responding to stress by:

  • Becoming accusatory and looking to place blame on others
  • Cutting people off and rushing communication
  • Micromanaging other peoples’ responsibilities
  • Working extreme hours
  • Becoming scattered and disorganized

Then their team will begin to respond to stress in the same way.

The harder it is to do, the more important it is to do it

No one is perfect, and leaders are no exception. They must learn to navigate their own unhealthy tendencies while continuing to be strong leaders for their teams. That means cultivating self-awareness and tools and resources to lean on to help them maintain a healthy leadership style in stressful situations.

The harder it is to maintain healthy responses to stress, the more critical it is to do so. Because if it’s stressful for the leader, you had better believe it’s stressful for the team. And when a leader poorly responds to stress, the team is forced to deal with the added and unnecessary burden of their leader’s stress on top of what stress is already there.

As leaders—and anyone for that matter—it can be helpful to practice some techniques to help catch themselves before they fall into unhealthy stress responses.

  • Check in with yourself. Use a mindfulness practice like journaling or daily self check-ins to keep track of your emotional pulse. The faster you can identify that you’re feeling stressed, the easier it is to remind yourself of the tools and resources you have access to.
  • Communicate with consistency. Set boundaries around how and when you communicate. Avoid communicating in the middle of the night and during personal time. If you find that you’re compelled to do so, ask yourself if it’s going to help or if it’s just your stress making you feel like it will help.
  • Pause before getting involved. If you feel compelled to check over someone’s work or ask them how things are going, slow down and ask yourself if it’s for a good reason. Stress can often trigger us to want to control or take over a situation, even if capable people are already on it.

Be consistent

As leaders, it is crucial to have the self-awareness to realize when we are exhibiting signs of stress and take steps to manage it appropriately. Sometimes we make mistakes, and it’s just as important to take responsibility for them after the fact as trying to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Knowing yourself and your tendencies is the first step to appropriately responding to stress. A cool, calm, and collected leader generates a balanced and sustainable workplace that can handle obstacles and challenges with confidence.


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Photo by ammentorp

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome in the Workplace

70% of people will experience imposter syndrome – the gut-wrenching feeling of self-doubt and belief that they are not as competent as others believe them to be despite their experience, education, and accomplishments. They feel like a fraud and await the moment they are “caught” or found out. Even when others praise their talents, they still cannot shake their feelings and write off achievements as “dumb luck.”

People will pressure themselves to work harder and strive for perfection to avoid getting caught as an imposter. What if, instead of coping with imposter syndrome, people learned how to put an end to it?

Take the first step in ending imposter syndrome (IS) in the workplace by understanding the types of IS and implementing strategies to help others overcome the phenomenon.

Five types of imposter syndrome

IS is not “one size fits all”—it can appear in several interconnected ways. The five most common types are:

  1. The perfectionist: Perfectionists are never satisfied. They always believe they can be better and do better. Since perfection isn’t always realistic, they start fixating on their mistakes rather than their strengths. Even minor errors reinforce their belief that they’re putting on a facade.
  2. The superhero: These people link competence to success and commonly feel inadequate. So, what do they do? Push themselves to the limit. All the hard work and effort still do not resolve their feelings of “imposterism.”
  3. The expert: Experts always underestimate their expertise. Since they are never satisfied with their level of intelligence, they want to learn everything there is to know on a topic. These people may devote more time to a task because they spent too much time on their quest to “know it all.”
  4. The natural genius: These individuals pick up new skills with little effort and believe they should understand new information and processes right away. Their belief that competency equates to picking things up naturally makes them feel like a fraud when they face an obstacle.
  5. The soloist: These people are very individualistic. Their self-worth stems from productivity, and they tend to see asking for help as a sign of weakness. In their eyes, if they can’t succeed solo, they’re unworthy. If they accept help, they’re showing others they’re phony or inadequate.

 Do any of these sound like you or someone you know?

Overcome imposter syndrome head-on

Both leaders and team members can experience imposter syndrome and the negative feelings that impact their work and environment. Fortunately, you can implement strategies to help overcome IS.

Share your feelings

Talking to someone about your distress can help you get outside context on the situation. Maybe you’ll find someone you can overcome IS with as you share strategies and challenges you encounter.

Build connections

Avoid the urge to do everything solo. Turn to your peers to create a network of mutual support, and you’ll find your network can offer guidance, validate your strengths, and encourage your growth efforts.

Assess your abilities

Make a realistic assessment of your abilities in social and performance situations. Write down your accomplishments and skills, then compare that with your self-assessment (what you think about yourself). You’ll find that the realistic assessment of yourself is the one that shines!

Challenge your doubts

Ask yourself, “Are my thoughts rational?” Does it make sense to believe that you are a fraud, given everything you know is true about yourself? When IS feelings emerge, consider whether the facts support your beliefs.

Avoid a “comparison competition”

Whenever you compare yourself to others in social situations, it can turn into a “comparison competition” where you will find issues that fuel feelings of inadequacy. Everyone has unique abilities. You are where you are because someone recognized your talents and your potential.

Be a mentor and help others

It’s hard to encourage someone to see their unique talent, achievement, and creativity when it doesn’t align with their self-perceptions. Here are several strategies for mentorship that can help:

  • Normalize imposter feelings: If someone confesses feelings of IS, welcome them to the club! Feeling like a fraud at times is normal. Remind them it’s okay to say “I don’t know” and ask for help.
  • Be relatable: Go a step further and share your imposter stories (if you have them). It goes a long way for a mentee to discover that their mentor has also tackled the feelings of IS and pushed through.
  • Positive affirmation goes a long way: Affirm and encourage your employees. The key here is to affirm the individual as a human being by acknowledging their inherent worth and then affirm them as professionals. Persistently call out their achievements and celebrate them.
  • Counteract stereotype threats: Stereotype threats are when a person feels at risk of conforming to negative stereotypes about their race or gender. Marginalization can make people feel like imposters, regardless of how self-assured, smart, and confident they are. These feelings can be mitigated by reminding the mentee that their role is not affected by race or gender and never will be.
  • Give and take credit when deserved: People with IS are more likely to attribute their success to luck or give credit to someone else. You may even notice them downplaying their talent and achievement. If you find someone doing this, give them the recognition they deserve and explain why!

Be who you’re meant to be

If you’re in the 70% of people with IS, remember your accomplishments are not a product of dumb luck or efforts to maintain the “illusion” of your success. Genuinely recognize and acknowledge where you are today, not how you think you got there. That was all you!

Don’t stop your journey there. You can always become an excellent leader and mentor who helps others overcome their IS feelings. With warmth, affirmation, and patience, you can help your team members see themselves through your eyes!


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Photo by airdone

The Power of “I Don’t Know”

When we’re kids, asking questions comes naturally to us. Anyone who’s ever met a toddler would recognize the endless “Why, why, why” anywhere. But somewhere along the way, many of us begin to censor our questions. The reasons change for us as we grow:

  • We become afraid.
  • We don’t want to look stupid in front of our friends.
  • We don’t want to appear like we don’t know how to do our jobs.
  • We’re don’t want to look incompetent.

This is a habit that builds up slowly over time. It’s related directly to insecurity, which can be challenging to face. And for those of us who have a hard time admitting to others that we don’t know, it can be hard to admit to ourselves when we’re avoiding the truth.

Holding back hurts more than it helps

When we hold in the fact that we don’t know, we do things like nod along when we’re really lost in meetings. Or we say we’re fine to start on a project before we have all the information we need. These reactions will eventually compound on themselves, making it even more difficult to do our jobs. Think about it:

  1. You say you understand a request before you do.
  2. You start working on it with only a partial understanding of the desired outcome.
  3. You flounder, spend way too much time trying to come up with a result that makes sense.
  4. You eventually hand it back to your team only to have it handed back to you, and the whole process starts over again.

The desire to react in a way that shows your competence is extremely human and very normal. However, when we allow this reaction to begin working its way into how we navigate our jobs, it has the exact opposite effect we want it to have.

When we are too afraid to ask questions, we limit ourselves to the tools we already have. We remove any possibility of gaining more understanding, cutting ourselves off from learning and development, stagnating our growth.

You’ve got the power

Saying “I don’t know” does not make you weak. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Learning to say “I don’t know” actually gives you power!

  • It provides an opportunity for you to develop relationships with your colleagues, creating space for collaboration and connection.
  • It empowers your teammates to ask the questions they might be holding back.
  • It encourages deeper critical thinking and more intentional decision-making.
  • It challenges your team to fill in the gaps, define foggy reasoning, and find more effective solutions.
  • It gives you a chance to learn and grow.

If you find yourself constantly reaching for an answer, even when there isn’t one, then you may want to evaluate your motives. Are you trying to position yourself as a leader? Are you attempting to look competent and knowledgeable? Are you worried your job will be in jeopardy if you reveal you don’t have the answer to something?

If any of these ring true, then consider two things:

  • Are you in a toxic workplace that discourages people from asking for help? Will your job really be affected if you ask questions? Are your colleagues going to stop trusting you if you say you don’t know something? If so, it’s time to find a better, healthier workplace.
  • If the above doesn’t seem right, it may be time to have a conversation with yourself. Ask yourself why you’re motivated to fill in the blank when you don’t have a real answer. Dig into what’s driving you. Find out what you’re afraid of and face it.

No such thing as a foolish question

Next time you feel yourself searching for an answer that isn’t there, or suppressing a question that’s arising, take a moment to pause and consider. Is your question foolish? Probably not. Try taking a risk and asking, then pay attention to what happens afterward.

Did the sky fall? Did you lose your job? Or did your team member light up and give a great answer that started a lively discussion? Did you get what you needed?

Do you feel more empowered now that you have an answer?

You deserve to feel secure in your knowledge and in what you bring to the table. Each of us comes with our strengths, and you have yours. Asking questions is a part of life, and it doesn’t detract from who we are or how capable we are of getting the job done. It does the opposite. It’s a part of growth. And it’s a crucial part of allowing yourself to be human, happy, and successful.


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The Key to Purposeful Communication

When it comes to communication, are you a first responder? Do you answer emails instantly and pick up your phone no matter what? Are you proud of your 24/7, lightning-fast response times?

If so, you may be selling yourself and your business short.

Speed doesn’t always equal quality

Being speedy is relevant for certain situations—like if your house is on fire. The faster the fire department can get there, the better. But what about if you’re getting a massage? Or smoking your famous ribs? Or driving through a school zone?

Speed doesn’t necessarily equate with quality. And it sure as hell doesn’t equate with accuracy. Bottom line: The faster you go, the easier it is for you to lose control.

If you’re speeding through your communications, it’s easier for things to get missed, skipped, or lost in translation. Worse yet, in the rush to respond, you not only lose control of the conversation, but you also lose control of your time. In essence, you’re letting everyone who contacts you call the shots. Instead of carefully following through on the things you need to do, you’re constantly on your heels, jumping from one thing to the next, based on the agenda of whoever is contacting you now.

This kind of behavior may be optimal when speed is highly valued. Think paramedics, call centers, and fast-food employees.

But in many cases, speed comes at a cost. Consider this: Do your coworkers want a quick response or a thoughtful, honest, and accurate response? Do they want fast food, or would they rather have those award-winning, slow-cooked ribs?

Practice proactive, not reactive, communication

Ask any therapist, and they’ll tell you the key to quality communication isn’t spewing out ultra-quick answers. It requires active listening, careful synthesis of information, and clear responses.

If you’re skimming emails, firing back text messages, and responding hastily to keep your response time numbers up, you’re engaging in sub-par interactions. The fallout from this kind of fast-paced, reactive communication includes:

  • Confusion and misunderstandings
  • Missing details and erroneous information
  • Additional back and forth for clarification and corrections

It’s the ultimate irony. In your quest to save time and be efficient, you’re making more work for everybody.

Stop and take a breath

In a world where lightning-fast technology and instant gratification are hailed as the ideal standards, it can be hard to wrap your head around the idea that slower might be better. But unless you’re a firefighter or an ER doctor, your clients probably aren’t benefitting from a 911 emergency communications approach. This is doubly true if you are in any kind of problem-solving or consultative role.

Think about it. When it comes to the following professionals, do you want the fastest service or the best service?

  • Your auto mechanic
  • Your hairstylist
  • Your therapist
  • Your surgeon
  • Your lawyer
  • Your bank
  • Your insurance advisor

Don’t sell your customers, co-workers, employees, and significant others short with timely but inefficient communication tactics.

Reset your mindset

Sometimes, this is the most challenging part of implementing new processes. You need to change the mindset and expectations of those around you, and you also must change your mindset and the expectations you have for yourself.

If your business currently promises instant, around-the-clock response times, it’s time to consider whether that policy is doing more harm than good.

  • Is your commitment to speed hindering your forward progress?
  • Is requiring instant replies impacting the accuracy and quality of your client communications?
  • Is being in constant reactive mode exhausting your team, keeping them off-balance, and quietly sucking the time and life out of everyone’s day?

If any of these questions caused you to raise your hand, nod your head, or hesitate a bit, it’s time to make some changes. Stop promising fast responses and dedicate yourself to fantastic communication instead.

  • Implement new policies for acceptable response times
  • Encourage periodic email and phone checks instead of constant monitoring
  • Provide education and training on active listening and other communication techniques

When you drop the focus on instant replies, you give your team the freedom and focus they need to respond with more comprehensive, well-thought-out answers. Which is a gift to your customers as well.


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How to Stop Reacting and Avoid Burnout

Whatever role you play in your company, you know how hard it is to avoid the creeping sensation of burnout, even if you love your job. Burnout has steeply risen over the last two years, meaning it’s more crucial than ever to find ways to fight back.

It’s easy to get stuck in a snowball effect of trying to do too much at once, then failing to do anything well, then scrambling to fix errors and keep moving ahead. There’s a saying you might have heard: “Throw ten balls at someone at once, and they’ll catch zero. Throw ten balls at someone one at a time, and they’ll catch them all.”

Over the past year, you may have felt like too many balls were thrown at you at once—managing requests, maintaining forward motion, and producing quality work. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to do all three things for an extended period. It can damage your wellbeing and the health of your organization.

So what can you do about it? It starts with taking command of how you respond to new tasks, ideas, and requests.

1. Pause

When you receive a new request, your first reaction might be to add it to your to-do list and start working on it right away. Or you might want to set it aside and forget about it, thinking, “This is just another thing I can’t get done.”

Before you do any of that, pause. Take a moment to reflect on your state of mind and your initial reaction. Give yourself the time to perceive your reaction, then set it aside so you can respond with more intention.

This is a crucial step because it can illuminate how you’re already feeling and how that might be affecting your work. If your first response was to start immediately, then you might be stuck in a frantic, disorganized state, feeling a sense of urgency to move forward quickly without reason. Alternatively, if your first response was to sigh heavily, this might mean you’re already feeling the effects of burnout. This self-awareness is the first step to taking the necessary steps to protect yourself.

2. Evaluate

Before starting on any task, take the time to evaluate its level of importance and urgency. President Eisenhower created a strategy for this that’s still useful today. While the person handing the task to you might be extra excited about getting it done, it may not fall into an urgent and critical category in the grand scheme of things. This can come in very handy when you’re trying to balance a busy schedule and endless to-do list.

3. Prioritize

Once you’ve identified the level of importance and urgency, take a moment to review the task in the context of your other work. Where does it fall on your to-do list? Depending on the structure of your organization, this might be different for you than for another team member. You might have cross-departmental duties, or maybe you’re working on several various projects that are all competing for your time.

4. Assess

Now that you’ve moved through the first two steps, decide the best course of action. No one likely knows the full shape of your to-do list, so you’re the expert on whether you’re the best person for the job and when and how it should get done. Maybe it makes more sense to hold off until the next quarter or to have a different team member work on it. Or perhaps the timeline needs to be adjusted, so you have a reasonable time to complete it. Steps two and three should provide you with confidence when deciding the best next move.

5. Respond

While you may be thinking, “I’m not the boss, how am I supposed to respond to requests if I’m not in a position to say no?” Whether or not you’re able to say no, your opinion and evaluation still hold weight. Good leaders trust their team members and will welcome your insight. A well-balanced team means a productive and happy team, leading to quality work, retention, and satisfaction.

Your manager has probably heard the saying you can have it fast, cheap, or good, but you can only pick two! The same goes for getting work done. You can get something done quickly, but it may mean other things need to be pushed to the side. Your valuable insight can help them do their job better, clarifying challenges and creating a clear path forward.

These five steps will take you out of frantic reaction mode and put you into a leadership mindset. They’ll help you gain confidence and control over your workload and empower you to set and identify crucial boundaries to protecting your wellbeing as an employee (and a human!).


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