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Cory J. Anderson writes about practical ways to think about and implement equity, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace. He has always lived in a multicultural environment which he credits as his inspiration to bring diverse groups of people together. Cory is passionate about using facilitated conversations as a tool to increase understanding and personal development. He has held various leadership positions with several nonprofit organizations and universities facilitating multicultural education. He is the founder of Diverse Dialogues, an organization focused on breaking down barriers one conversation at a time.  Follow him on Twitter @mrca12. 

Whenever I hear someone say, “I don’t see color”, I cringe. I take a deep breath and begin to unpack, understand, and hopefully inform the person why NOT seeing color is a challenge for me to hear and can be offensive to others as well.

Recently I asked this question on my personal Facebook page and had nearly 50 comments on the topic. There were varying opinions, but these are the three commonly expressed themes.

1. Not seeing color erases history and context

Coley posted, “I think it is a subtle way of overlooking and downplaying one’s history and culture. It’s a diversity killer…”

Unfortunately, in many of my conversations, I come away with the sense that the history of People of Color is rarely taught or it’s glossed over in school. This lack of awareness creates a void of information and people who ‘don’t see color’ make the statement from a place of ignorance.

Also, without historical background, there is little to no context about how our issues today have evolved. For example, understanding how race came to be, helps us put things into context. Ta-Nehisi Coates said in his book ‘Between the World and Me,’ “But race is the child of racism, not the father. And the process of naming “the people” has never been a matter of genealogy and appearance so much as one of hierarchy.”

In short, the colors we associate with race were created to suppress one group over the other. To ease this fact doesn’t allow for an honest conversation on how to dismantle systematic racism.

2. Not seeing color discounts a Person of Color’s identity

Shareia posted, “To not see my color is to not see me. So, what’s next, you don’t see gender, ability/disability, etc? These identities make the person and to ‘not see it’ is offensive.”

As a Black man, the color of my skin is not something that I can take off, or change on a whim. Being Black is an experience, and for me carries the weight and responsibility of all those who came before me. To say you don’t see color says my hiSTORY is not valid. As Shereia mentions, it also begs to question what else are you neglecting to see?

3. You may not understand the privileges you are afforded

Carrie posted, “Privilege. It means color doesn’t impact your life so you don’t see how it could affect others.”

I heard the actor Mahershala Ali explain it this way, “People of color often have to go through life playing defense. We are on guard, looking for the moment when our life may be disrupted. Being on guard makes you aware that the world views you a certain way. In contrast, going through life playing offense means there is freedom, to build and grow without restriction.”

———-

When I hear, someone make the statement “I don’t see color,” a series of questions run through my mind.

· How do you identify yourself?

· Are you trying to be polite?

· What’s the problem with being a different race and culture?

I try not to ‘assume’ because I recognize that we are all on a journey and some people are well-intentioned, but also ill-informed.

So, if you are someone who has made the statement here are 3 tips for self-reflection:

  1. Take some time to learn more about other racial groups. Look up how race came to be in the United States. Learning about Bacon’s Rebellion is a good starting point.
  2. Explore your own racial identity and what that means to you. If you need help in that area, you can seek out a coach, such as myself, to guide you through the process.
  3. Take a moment to be more aware, ask questions and listen to the experiences of People of Color.

Marjorie’s comment sums it up, “Nothing wrong with seeing color, it’s the treatment of People of Color that matters.”

If we are to move forward we must see each other, not through colorless glasses but, in full view with all the scrapes and bruises that accompany experiences of people different than ourselves.

In a time when just about every aspect of our identity is politicized in some way, it’s necessary for each of us to affirm who we are while respecting the uniqueness of others.

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SparkVision by Marybeth Hyland - 1M ago

As the year comes to a close, I’m in full reflective mode on the passing of time. One of the most thrilling parts of the last 12 months has been the new attention and connection that is coming to and through my writing.

We nearly doubled our newsletter subscribers to close to 5,000 members. We have been recognized as a Top 100 Millennial Blog across the entire online community.  We receive kudos and thanks for the content every time it’s put out into the world. As a result, we’ve sparked some powerful dialogues from dining rooms to boardrooms.

To say ‘it’s humbling’ is to put it too lightly.

I was always told I was a bad writer. My first year in business I shied away from all writing because I didn’t want to embarrass myself from my lack of skill. Everyone told me to start a blog for thought leadership, but I didn’t think my thoughts would resonate. I was a terrible writer, after all.

After a few months of entrepreneurship under my belt, big, clear ideas came to my head. I pushed through my insecurities and put those ideas out there. The reception wasn’t overwhelming at first. In fact, it was almost nothing.

Now that I’m in the rhythm of how, when and what to write – it feels like I’m punishing myself when I don’t take the time to get it out. Now that it’s become a habit, things got pretty darn good in 2017.

Here are the seven posts (click to get to the article) that had the most traction in the last year:

  1. Five Signs You’re in a Toxic Company
  2. Four Messages You’re Sending when you Email After Hours 
  3. Total Eclipse of the Soul
  4. Where Baltimore Leaders Go to Retreat
  5. Five Crucial Components for your Holiday Party
  6. Three Free Quizzes to Understand Yourself and those Around You
  7. Four Ways to Lead Millennials in the Workplace

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We’re halfway through the month and I’ve already gone to a ton of holiday parties. They’ve ranged from intimate gatherings at friends’ homes to gala-like corporate celebrations. It’s amazing how much positive energy is created in the month of December.

It’s a natural time to reflect on the year’s ups and downs. A time to start setting goals for the year to come. And, most importantly, a time to gather up the people you care for and have a little too much eggnog together!

On the other hand, there are also celebrations where you feel obligated to attend and desperate to find an excuse to leave early.  We all know the difference between a fun party and a sparse get-together. So how do you craft an environment where all guests can thrive at your holiday party?

We’ve made a list and checked it twice.  See what I did there? These are the 5 crucial components to ensure your holiday party is a success!

  1. Creature Comforts – Make sure the space is not too hot and not too cold. The bathrooms are clean and stocked. Food and beverage are plentiful. And everyone knows how to get there and where to park.  These are the most basic yet most important aspect of any environment. Believe it or not,  they are often overlooked which is why they are the very first thing to take care of. Creature comforts are the things that we need to stay physically comfortable.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  2. Atmosphere – What tone are you trying to set? Answer that question with your choice of music, the lighting, and the layout of the space. This is the next level up from creature comforts. When considering your atmosphere, think about your senses as they relate to what sets the tone of a space.                                                                                                                                                                                     
  3. Purpose – Have clear messaging around the reason for the party. Relate it to the big picture. How does the moment in time that you’re together ultimately impact or connect to something much larger than that moment itself? You can make that clear in the wording of the invitation AND formally addressing the guests through a toast. Don’t miss that opportunity to unite everyone in attendance! Simply put – what’s the point? Does your gathering have meaning?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      
  4. Connection – Stories are the oldest form of relating and continue to be the best way to evoke an emotional experience while engraining a lasting memory of a person or concept. Engage your guests through storytelling and connecting them to one another through those stories. Your party greeter should be someone who has some good stories up their sleeve to make people feel welcome the moment they arrive and throughout the event. Connection is the glue that bonds another person or experience to someone’s heart and mind. It’s that “warm fuzzy” that shows up when a true link is fused.                                                                                                                                                        
  5. Experience –  How can you get people excited about the experience BEFORE it starts, DURING the party and AFTER it’s over? Think through all stages – not just the main event. The little things are the big things. What are small touches, like a themed game or even a themed cocktail, that relates back to something everyone in the group would get a laugh out of? The moments that are just as easily brushed off can become the best moment of someone’s day. An event is a planned public or social occasion. An experience is an occurrence that leaves an impression and solicits an emotion from someone. 

Feelings have a major impact in our ability to enjoy ourselves at social gatherings. When you consider these five major impact areas to creating a positive emotional experience for yourself and others, you will without a doubt create a kick-butt holiday party that will be remembered long past the time the dance floor was swept up!

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SparkVision by Marybeth Hyland - 1M ago
As the founder of OutGrowth, Anna Fitzgibbon partners socially-conscious farms with students for one-month immersive projects. She is also a fitness and wellness coach, Johns Hopkins MBA student and volunteer with Back On My Feet.  Anna’s work focuses on empowering communities with skills and tools to become their best selves.

Data shown above depict the featured individual’s age, preferred form of acknowledgment, top three values of organizational culture, principal values sought in their profession, and what they feel is the greatest misconception of the Millennial generation, as reported in SparkVision’s High Achieving Millennial survey.

What does personal growth mean to you and how can a workplace support that experience? Personal growth requires a targeted approach in the workplace. In my experience, most work cultures create a divide between what is seen as personal versus professional development, with personal development being reserved for off-work hours. In order to create a workforce that is engaged, active, and fulfilled, companies will be challenged to pivot and embrace a more holistic view of growth.  So much of the time, employers don’t make that link between employee wellness and the company’s bottom line.

It also means creating an environment where risk-taking and failure is commonplace.  Employees need to be encouraged to vocalize not just where they want to go in their careers, but who they want to be. Getting involved with more decision-making, taking steps toward multidimensional growth, carving out weekly time for networking and mentoring- all of these pieces need to be built-in components of a work week.

We need to shift the focus from mandated job descriptions to growing lifelong learners and intentionally crafting a meaningful day-to-day. When we start to measure expanding perspectives and diversifying talents, we can send a clear message of what is encouraged and supported. We also begin to cultivate a workplace of more dynamic, interesting people who feel empowered to take action.

What does your ideal work/life balance look like and what are the barriers to achieving it? My ideal work/life balance is in mindset.  It starts with a realignment of my priorities and shifting my calendar.  I decide the balance between what gets my emotional attention and not just my physical presence this week.  I conserve energy for my top three tasks in a week and ensure that these aren’t all work-related week after week. 

Perhaps most importantly, a proper work/life balance includes “free space”, which is the space to create, to walk, to dream, to explore.  Free space is the first thing to go when our schedules become overwhelming.  When you lose that space, it’s easy to lose sight of what brings you joy, inspiration, and purpose. Don’t let go of that free space. Don’t forget why you were put here.

The primary obstacle to managing this balance is the set of external expectations that we all face. We are rewarded for quick response times, seven-day work weeks and what is seen as an unwavering commitment to the work that we produce. There exists this struggle to be seen as credible, attentive, reliable and successful, while simultaneously balancing that out with health and happiness.  Each one of us has an obligation to find our own balance and stick to it, disregarding what it may look like to the outside. Your home life, health, and joy are on the line.

What makes you feel valued in the workplace? The most fulfilling jobs in my life have incorporated guidance and mentorship balanced with trust. I have always sought creative control and did my best work when entrusted with decision making and crisis management duties.

For me, value stems from the pride I take in my independent work and its contributions to the greater good. In order to feel valued and fulfilled in a professional environment, I need to dedicate my skills and knowledge to the greater organizational vision. When entrusted with components of that vision, I am able to take ownership of my position and produce meaningful output. Coupled with that trust is an investment in future development. I have felt the most valued in workplaces that ensure future leaders are not only gaining important competencies but are also seeking fulfilling work that builds on their current skills sets and interests.

Finally, appreciation and gratitude are big factors when looking at value. While I have never needed a constant pat on the back, helpfulness combined with appreciation breeds healthy work culture. Thanklessness breeds resentment and discourages a “we” mentality.

‘Opportunity for Growth’ was the second most important professional value to HAMs in our Phase I research findings.  Anna feels strongly that personal and professional growth should not be separated in the workplace.  She listed growth is one of the top five values she acquired from her upbringing and believes the best employers provide opportunities for personal growth. How do your personal and professional growth impact one another?
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“Santa is real as long as you believe in him.”

This was the perfect response my mom gave me when I started to get old enough to have my doubts in the big guy. My next door neighbor had taken me into the woods and told me that Santa wasn’t real and he had proof. He was about 3 years older than me and I had no idea what to think. I didn’t want to believe him, but he had some solid points.

Feeling uneasy and always willing to ask questions I went straight to my mother. I told her what happened and she didn’t skip a beat. With complete calm and ease she gave me, what I still consider, the best response possible.

“If Scott doesn’t believe in Santa, then he’s not real to him. And that’s okay. But if you believe in him, he is real. You just have to decide what you believe in and whatever you chose, it is okay. Christmas will go on either way.”

I still had questions, but it clicked right away.

This is something that has stuck with me for decades and was much more profound than I realized in the moment.

It wasn’t about Scott bursting my bubble. It wasn’t about anger or sadness. It was about reality. And the reality is, whatever we choose to believe in is real to us.

Whenever someone talks to me about something that falls into the category of “mystical” or “extreme,” I think back to that moment where my mom had the answer. And I make a choice in what I believe. That choice can change over time, but it’s still a choice.

I chose to believe many things, without needing proof.

I believe…

…meaningful relationships are the most important resource in the world

…a powerful conversation can change your life

…we are simply and completely a reflection of our values – either in alignment or conflict

…wounds can turn into wisdom, when tended to with love

…our stories are all we have

And yes – there are studies and research to back some of these statements up. But I don’t need to read a word of it to know it’s true. They’re all real because I believe in them.

I don’t need to try to convince others to believe in these things.  They typically either get it or don’t. And if they don’t, that’s okay. I don’t need to turn them. But I can show up, every day in my values and beliefs. And I can surround myself with those who believe in the things I believe in.

What do you believe in?

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SparkVision by Marybeth Hyland - 3M ago

In a recent keynote address on “Workplace Culture: What’s Your Fit?”, I spoke to an audience of eager young professionals all looking to land an internship that aligned with their professional goals. We went through the disconnect between personal values and corporate values, then helped to connect the dots to understand that values are a reflection of culture.

Remember this: when your personal values don’t align with your company’s values, there will be a bad cultural fit. Easier said than realized, right? 

I also spoke to the “entitled” and “lazy” stereotypes they’re all going to face when they start almost anywhere. It is going to be their responsibility to confront those misconceptions through action! Basic examples like showing up a little early to be on time or giving total attention with no distractions from a smartphone were given. However, the piece I drove home the hardest was the lost art of a well-written thank you note and how crucial that is in every interview they ever go on, even if they don’t want the job.

I can’t begin to tell you how many employers come to me frustrated and confused with statements like;

  • “We had an amazing interview but they didn’t ever follow up after. They must not really want the position.“
  • “They seemed like a good fit, but then spelled my name AND the company’s name wrong on their thank you email. So they were removed from the pool immediately.”
  • “Their thank you letter was so mediocre it made me think I’d be hiring a mediocre employee. No thanks!”

AHHH!!! This is so hard for me to hear on both sides of the coin. I was taught how to write a thank you note with extreme care by my mother. Since the time I knew how to write, I was sending my own thank yous for every single thing I was ever gifted. Then as I became an adult I understood the anatomy of a personal thank you and simply adjusted it to a new audience and a goal ahead of me.

Young professionals today are not being taught this skill. And it’s not their fault that they have a learning curve, but it is their responsibility to learn how to do it. Thank you notes in every form or fashion express gratitude and appreciation. Everyone needs to learn that skill. Everyone. Whether it’s a beautiful card or an email, saying “thank you” goes a very long way. It speaks to your character, your values and your ability to develop meaningful relationships.

I challenged the audience to all email me a mock “thank you for the interview” communication and I would personally provide them with feedback. I am pleased to say that many took me up on my offer. And I’m surprised to say that they almost all had the same missing pieces when it came to making it personal, appreciative and another opportunity to remind the reader of why they’re THE right choice.

So I decided to create a cheat sheet to cover the major points I just reviewed. Please for the love of growth, share this with anyone in your life (millennial or not) who needs some work in their follow up communications post-interview!

Check out it out below or you can download a copy of it here: Thank You Cheat Sheet 

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There’s a wide range of emotions that typically occur during the holiday season. They can range from excitement and bliss to angst and stress. Oftentimes at family gatherings, there’s a sense of obligation and maybe even a pinch of “this again?” depending on the personalities that surround the dinner table. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, it’s important to note the things we have the power to control and those we do not.

For example, we can control wearing stretchy pants to ensure maximum bloating comfort but we cannot control whether or not there’s a blizzard. More personally, we can’t control Uncle Frank’s offensive political comments, but we can control how we respond to him and direct the conversation back into a space that feels good. Whenever we take action on the things we can control, it pulls us back into excitement and away from angst.

As humans, we crave connection, especially with our loved ones. So why don’t we own the fact that we can ignite more purposeful conversations and therefore connection around the dinner table? More directly, we can control some of the topics of conversation. If you show up ready and willing to set the tone by asking the type of questions that can lead to reflection and storytelling, you’ve taken a big step in the direction of connection!

Consider asking any or all of these three questions to spark more meaningful conversation around your Thanksgiving dinner table next week.

1. What are you grateful for? Yes, I know this is a standard for Thanksgiving, but the care in people’s responses make a huge difference. It could be shallow, with one-word answers like, “baseball” or “weekends.” OR you could set the tone by kicking things off with describing what you’re grateful for, explaining why and sharing a story associated with it. If you start it off, others will follow your lead.

2. What is your love language? Have your family and friends take the quick and free online 5 Love Languages Quiz! There’s even a version for kids to take. Your love language profile will explain your primary love language, what it means, and how you can use it to connect to others. Then once everyone knows their results discuss them with one another. I’ve done this with my inlaws and it was awesome to learn about them in this way and then do something with that knowledge in the future.

3. When were you brave this year and how did it turn out? Let’s get inspired, people! Being brave is directly related to having courage. Sharing these types of stories humanizes all of us through empathy. This is permission to brag about an emotional experience where someone chose to take the hard route. Whether or not they got the result they were looking for isn’t nearly as important as encouraging people to celebrate vulnerability.  Given that there’s typically a range of guests experiencing different stages of life, it’ll add some amazing perspective and shared an enthusiasm for their act of bravery. I bet you’ll even get some stories you weren’t expecting!

Based on past experiences, and the thoughts of “they wouldn’t go for that” or “we don’t need that kind of thing” might populate in your head. The season is officially upon us and we need to decide what types of experiences we want to have throughout the next two months. And while many may seem obligatory, your mindset and the way you show up is always a choice! So let’s ask some questions that solicit deeper conversations and ignite stronger bonds between us.

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Try saying the word ‘quest’ out loud. Doesn’t it sound romantic? So short and yet so big with wonder and hope for that ‘something more’.

It’s a calling that starts as a whisper and elevates in volume as you take each step. The itch for a quest is within all of us. It holds novelty and challenge in our lives, creates a sense of accomplishment and helps us to see the world in a new way. As humans, quests are a critical part of work and life.

One of my quests has been whispering to me since I can remember. It was a calling to mountains, to horses, to hats and boots. It is my quest to become a Cowgirl…

Many of you already know that Idaho has become my happy place. It’s a place I’ve been visiting since I was about three and the place where I fell in love with the concept of being a Cowgirl. My great uncle was a bona fide Cowboy and held this air of intelligence and authority when it came to anything he did with his hands. Among many other things, he introduced me to horses, the rodeo, western life and the mountains.

Upon his passing 5 years ago, I felt a deep calling to go back to his ranch in Idaho. And I’m so glad I answered.

Idaho is the place where my mind is calm, my body is active and my heart is full. The surround-sound of birds chirping, cows mooing, ground squirrels scurrying, antelope running and the occasional wolf howl fills my pores and seeps into my soul. It’s the ultimate rejuvenation of my spirit. I go as often and as long as I’m able to.

Two years ago on one of my solo trips, I heard voices (real human voices, not in my head). Now, this is the kind of place that if you hear voices when you’re not expecting them, you go on high alert. It’s private property and there are no neighbors for quite a ways. I got up, anxiously looking around and listening to where the sound was coming from.  A short walk later and my binoculars in tow, I spotted them. And it was the most beautiful sight.

In complete awe, I watched a woman, her young daughter, and their dog wrangle a heard of cattle from one side of the mountain to another. My heart just about stopped. It was, and still remains, the most badass female profession I’ve ever witnessed from afar.

They were too far away to introduce myself, but close enough to feel a spark reignite inside of me. I needed to understand this more. I had to know these amazing people. And, as a city girl, I had a new perspective of what life could look like.

Another year went by after that moment of admiring these Cowgirls on the side of our mountain and I finally had the chance to meet them. I was like a teeny-bopper meeting Justin Bieber. Totally unsure of whether or not I’d be able to play it cool or just embarrass myself.

Everything I heard about Chyenne and, her husband, Jay Smith was true. They are some of the kindest, most welcoming and appreciative people I’ve gotten to know out there. As young professional cattle ranchers, they are the complete package of agriculturalists, ranchers, and entrepreneurs.

When I mustered up the courage to tell Chyenne about my major girl crush on her, and how amazed I was to watch her work, she was oh-so-cool and reminding me, “well, that is my job.” Why of course it is, but it just so happens to be the job that I have had fantasies about since I was 3.  And I never saw a woman do it!

After we got to know each other better and I confessed about my inner desires to be a “pretend Cowgirl for a day”, Chyenne quickly and kindly confronted me. And it went a little something like this:

“What do you mean, ‘pretend Cowgirl’?”

“Well, you know, like follow you around and just admire what you do for a living?”

“How about next time you’re out, you come out with me and I’ll show you around? You won’t be a pretend Cowgirl, you’ll start to become a real one.”

Below is an image of us last week. Chyenne was not only true to her word, she spent a day educating me on what it really means to be a Cowgirl, a rancher and an agriculture advocate in 2017. She listened to my desires and is now a mentor and friend in my quest journey. And while I’m not gunning to change professions, I am elated that my quest to become a Cowgirl is now coming to life.

But what if I didn’t see her on the mountain that day? What if I didn’t tell her how it made me feel? What if I didn’t share that I wanted to understand it more?

I’m a firm believer that you must say what you want out loud, to as many people that will listen, at as many opportunities you have. Magical things happen when you do your part and the universe puts you in alignment with those who can support your innermost quests.

So what journey are you on? What quests have you started to take and which do you hold secretly?

I encourage you to own them out loud,  take steps in making them a reality and bask in the joy that comes from it.

Stay tuned as I continued to reflect and write about the next steps in my Quest to Become a Cowgirl!

To learn more about the coolest Cowgirl I know, Chyenne Smith, and their Ranch visit: www.facebook.com/JLazySAngusRanch/

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SparkVision by Cameron Pollock - 3M ago

Emily is the Account Director at Rooftop Communications, a boutique marketing agency in Baltimore. She’s spent 7 years in the role handling client and resource communication, working with creative directors, and acting as a go-to on a day-to-day basis, while also overseeing high level strategy. After a few years of pathfinding and dedication, she landed her dream job with a strong female-led company. Check out the full story and what keeps her and her family going below!

Data shown above depict the featured individual’s age, preferred form of acknowledgement, top three values of organizational culture, principal values sought in their profession, and what they feel is the greatest misconception of the Millennial generation, as reported in SparkVision’s High Achieving Millennial survey.

Are there any special traits, qualities, or limitations of the Millennial generation you’ve noticed in supervising Millennials?
At Rooftop I think there’s an eagerness to jump into things. As a team member of a small business, you know that you have to wear many hats and your work is likely going to fall outside of your position’s typical role, in my case – Account Services. I think small business can be appealing to Millennials because of the hands-on nature of each day’s tasks, but I think there are some communication differences with this generation that can affect the work flow. I’m referring to a hesitancy to in-person communication and to phone communication. Through support and encouragement, they can practice that skill and build confidence. Everything is so digitally-based now, so giving Millennials the experience of picking up a phone to make calls or talk to the media can be an invaluable experience in rounding out their skills.

Explain why you chose “resistant to long term commitments” as the greatest misconception of our generation?
Historically, I noticed a tendency in young professionals to change jobs around the 2 year mark, for reasons such as pay increases, promotions to a higher level, etc. With the state of the world right now, I think young professionals are eager to hold on to something and not let it go. The world is more expensive and complicated, and sometimes the “itch” to change positions may not be as strong anymore based on job security. I’ve noticed Millennials are more likely to hold on to something good if they’ve found it.

Tell me more about what drives you to succeed.
I like to know I’ve done a good job at the end of the day. I chose to go back to work after having my first child because I crave the appreciation and gratitude of doing a good job. Simple as that. I also love who I work for, which is extremely motivating. My boss has a wealth of experience in the marketing and communications industry. She has opened up many doors for me. I thrive in the environment she’s created, where it’s more about making sure the client is happy than doing things a certain way. It allows for more creativity in the account services position. And lastly, supporting my family and making sure they have what they need is an enormous motivator to succeed. Showing my kids what hard work looks like is a part of my job as their mom & while hard work looks different family-to-family, this is how I have chosen to lead by example.

Tell me more about how your upbringing may have influenced your career and professional motivations.
I’m the youngest of 5; it was just craziness all the time growing up in our house. I feel like it shaped a lot of who I am: I can be a bit competitive, I like a challenge and that was the atmosphere growing up. We were always competing at a sporting event, simply playing in the backyard, or maybe for attention! My parents instilled in us that it didn’t matter what you did for a living, as long as you worked hard. It didn’t matter how much money you brought home at the end of the day, as long as you could live the life you wanted to live, you can feel good about that.

Tell me about your relationship with both having a mentor and looking to mentor others – how has it made a difference?
I’ve been lucky to have 2 professional mentors in my life. My first job was a stressful environment to work in especially as a newbie, and until I found my mentor, I never felt like I had my feet under me. It was a sink or swim mentality and finding that support from higher up was really critical. We still keep in touch.

My mentor now is my current boss, Barbara. I interviewed with her years ago but was too wet behind the ears for the job. I kept in touch with her over the years because I always wanted to work for a female-led company. I just had this really good feeling about Barbara, what she could teach me, and the opportunities she could provide. So in 2010 I emailed her during a transition time in my career and was able to start right away. She is a big part of what drives me to succeed. It’s this ability that she’s given me to create my own way, to develop my relationships in this business, to work with the media, etc. She has created this environment for me, and more importantly stepped back and allowed me to build upon it and make it my very own. I can go to her to talk about anything, personally or professionally. She frequently says to me, “my job is to make you feel better about this situation”. It’s comforting to know she has my back, in the autonomy of my position.

How has your ethnic identity impacted your professional life?
I think everybody is affected by their race or ethnicity; there’s no way to avoid it – we’re human. The way that the world has been exposed in its raw form in the last couple of years, socioeconomically and racially, politically, etc., has exposed my own privilege in a way I was not aware of before. Living and working in a uniquely diverse place like Baltimore City is a huge part of my growth as a person. I raise my kids here for the same reasons that I work here.

How do your personal interests and activities play a role in your professional career?
I’m a planner, I’m an organized person; those aren’t necessarily my interests but it’s who I am. I love relationships, getting to know people and nourishing those relationships. This is what my entire job is about. This isn’t a sales position; I don’t want your money if we’re not going to do a good job for you. My goal is making authentic relationships, and that is where the long lasting client partnerships come from. So that’s my personal interest in life; I believe in community, and that’s how I like to do business as well.

“Connection to Others” was the third most important professional value to HAMs in our Phase 1 survey, behind “Meaningful Experiences” and “Work/Life Balance”. Emily’s work reflects her own personal values because she loves making a connection to others. Aligning her work with her values helps keep Emily motivated and on top of her goals. How do your values inform your work?

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Time after time, people are asking for me advice on how to “deal with” their Millennials in the workplace. Typically, I know a big part of their issue simply by the way the question is worded. “Deal with” immediately gives off a negative connotation. How quickly does that question’s emotional volume change when you replace it with “Lead” or even “Manage”? It reframes the responsibility and removes the idea of just checking a box or getting on with it. This isn’t a broken furnace we’re talking about.

Millennials are humans and the sooner we stop treating the generation like an alien race, the sooner we’ll realize how much more we have much more in common than not.

If you want some heavy-hitting mental shift tips on how to lead Millennials in your workplace, check these out:

  1. Stop referring to Millennials as “kids”. I know we may be your children’s age, but we’re NOT your kids. Just like you’re not our parents. The next time you catch yourself referring to a colleague or volunteer as a “kid” stop yourself and replace it with “young professional”. This slight change will make a big impact on your own association to those in their 20’s and 30’s in your office. We’re not your kid and (even if you’re the most amazing person) we don’t want to be.
  1. Don’t assume you know someone’s intentions. As the old adage goes, “to assume is to make an ass of and me”. Intentions are hugely important and a place where misunderstanding occurs often. This is not to say those good intentions can’t go wrong, but it is to say that most people don’t wake up in the morning with the intention of causing another person frustration. So, before assuming where someone’s coming from simply say something like: “Help me understand your intention behind this?” Then pay attention to their response. It’ll clarify a lot for you and them!
  1. Ask more questions and listen to the answers.  This has a strong tie to #2 but applies to nearly all aspects of frustration. For example, if you have a person who is consistently not turning their timesheet in on time. Instead of getting fed up, annoyed and writing that person off as a lazy, entitled Millennial, have a conversation. Ask them, in person, “Is there something going on that’s creating a barrier for you to turn in your time sheet each week?” then LISTEN for their response. After you heard them, respond with advice, support and problem-solving that directly relates to their response. Empower your team member to own the solution and hold them accountable to it. Since they’re not your kid, you shouldn’t do it for them!
  1. Take time to educate each other on how behaviors are being interpreted. Oftentimes we interpret a behavior a certain way based on our own biases. Regardless, our emotions are valid no matter what the intention or explanation is for the experienced bad behavior. So next time that time sheet isn’t turned in and you’ve had the conversation and listened to responses it’s time to be more direct about your experience. “Ashley, I know you’re not a disrespectful person. But this is the fifth time I’ve had to talk to you about your timesheet and it’s gotten to the point where it now feels like you don’t respect me. I want us to have mutual respect for each other and would want you to tell me if I was doing something that made you feel this way, too. Can you help me understand your thought process on this and why it’s still an issue?” This technique is one of my favorites that I’ve used personally and coached others to use with their team members. Usually, the receiver of the feedback had no idea that this was creating that level of frustration and emotional stress. When you’re coming from a place of honesty, it creates empathy for both of your situations.

Oh and by the way, in case you didn’t pick up on it, all of these except for #1 are things you can do to improve your leadership with EVERYONE – humans from all generations!

Do you have any tips for executives who struggle with managing their young people?

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