Posts tagged mentoring

4 Tips That Will Turn You Into a Positive Leader

Shout out to my fabulous mother for sending this great read to me. This excerpt comes from Dr. Zimmerman’s “Tuesday Tips” (yes I am few days late), pertaining to leadership development and being effective in all that you strive to do. Dr. Z is exceptional and speaks on attitude, motivation and leadership for all individuals in multiple types of environments and or professional organizations.  Click here to visit his website.   The orAKAle has spoken….

Dr. Alan Zimmerman’s Personal Commentary:

Over the years, I’ve done a lot of research on the effects of being positive, and the research is clear. It really pays to be positive. The benefits include better health, a longer life span, greater happiness, faster career advancement, improved athletic performance, enhanced teamwork, and greater financial success. Being positive is not just A nice way to live. It’s THE way to live.

Unfortunately, for all too long, positive thinking and positive living have been considered “nice” things to do but not all that “critical” or “corporate.” They’ve been considered too “touchy-feely” for the average organization and not all that profitable.

As a result, according to Joyce Gioia, a strategic business futurist, “Corporate America has sacrificed the health and well-being of its employee populations on the altar of profitability. Some even go so far as to say they are ‘lucky to have jobs at all’.” And Bob Nelson, the reward-and-recognition guru, says over 80% percent of today’s workers feel over-worked and under-appreciated.

But things are starting to change. The Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan now offers an entire track of study on what they call “POS” or “Positive Organizational Scholarship” … because they’ve proven that positive thinking, positive living, and positive leadership really work. As Professor Kim Cameron puts it, “The results not only allow you and your people to flourish but also innovate and ultimately benefit the bottom line.”

The Ross School of Business is saying that an organization’s productivity and profitability are directly tied to the positivity of its leadership. So how can you become a positive leader … that brings out the best in others … on and off the job?

1. Start with a decision. Decide to be positive.

Positive leadership starts inside your head … with the decision to be happy.

Now that might sound pretty soft. In fact, it may seem to be a far cry from the toughness associated with traditional models of leadership. But positive leaders know that their happiness has a huge impact on everybody else in the organization.

Positive leaders know what researcher Terri Kabachnick discovered — that a huge portion or 68% of an employee’s productivity is directly related to the leader’s behavior and emotions. So positive leaders know that they had better be setting an example they want others to follow.

Professor Cameron even says, “You are perceived as more charismatic and effective when leading positively.” When you’re happy, it rubs off on others.

Of course, some of you may be thinking, “I’m just not the happy, bubbly type. So what am I supposed to do?” Glad you asked.

Author Jon Gordon makes it clear that your happiness has more to do with the decisions you make than the personality you have. Gordon writes: “Happiness is an inside job. Our happiness comes not from the work we do but from how we feel about the work we do. I’ve met bus drivers, janitors and fast-food employees who are more passionate about their jobs and happier than some professional athletes making millions of dollars.”

Gordon continues: “The way we think about work, feel about work and approach our work influences our happiness at work. We can be happier by focusing on what we GET TO do instead of what we HAVE TO do. We can realize that the ability to work is a gift, not an obligation … Each day we can come to work with the mindset that today we will be better than we were yesterday and tomorrow we will be better than we are today.”

He’s so right. But there’s more. Gordon goes on to say, “We can also enhance our happiness by tuning out negativity. Gandhi said, ‘I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet,’ and neither should we. Instead of listening to the negative voices let us focus on our positive choices … If we focus on the positive and tune out the negative our happiness will soar.”

Gordon concludes his essay by saying, “We can energize our jobs by working for a bigger purpose. The research shows we are most energized when we are using our strengths and talents for a bigger purpose beyond ourselves. Every job will get old and mundane (if we let it). But purpose keeps it fresh. Purpose fuels us. When we work for a bigger purpose we find an endless supply of happiness at work.”

In short, happiness is an inside job. It’s not dependent on anything other than your own decisions, and positive leaders decide to be happy. You would be wise to make the same decision.

2. Focus on taking people to a new and better place.

It’s the goal of positive leadership.

Before I delivered the keynote address at OneBeacon Insurance in Boston, I was preceded by the company’s Vice President Gary Black. He shared a story that epitomized the very essence of positive leadership.

Black talked about his third-grade daughter, Taylor, who came home from school one day rather upset. She had not been chosen as the “line leader,” a position that she really wanted. Dad tried to console her by reminding her that she had been chosen dozens of times before, to be the “line leader for lunch, for the bus, etc.

But Taylor said, “Dad, you don’t understand. This was for a field trip. I had the chance TO LEAD MY CLASSMATES TO A PLACE WHERE THEY’VE NEVER BEEN BEFORE.”

I thought, “Wow. That’s the best definition of positive leadership that I’ve ever come across.” After all, you don’t find positive leadership in a title; you find it in your passion to lead people to a new and better place.

3. Make sure your motivation comes from greatness rather than greed.

Positive leaders always do; they want to DO something great. So they’re more concerned with giving than taking. And they’re more concerned with making a difference than making their mark.

Personally, I like the way one of my clients, Jason Damkoehler, puts it. He says: “The world is looking for men and women of greatness to lead them. Companies are looking for men and women of greatness to lead them. Families are looking for men and women of greatness to lead them. Someone somewhere is counting on YOU to become a person of greatness!”

The problem is, too many people think that greatness is all about a title or a position. And they know they’ll never have the big title or the fancy office, so they don’t even try to pursue a life and a career of greatness.

If that sounds like you, Damkoehler has a word for you. He says: “You may never be president, but you can be presidential. You may never be a CEO, but you can be one who yields great influence. You may never be the most popular and you may never have the most recognizable face, but you can be a person who changes the face of the world around you.”

He’s right. If you want to be a positive leader, if you want to DO something great, let GIVING be your motivation.

By contrast, you become a negative leader when you’re out to GET something for yourself, no matter how much it costs or who it hurts. You become a negative leader when you’re driven by greed, TAKING whatever you want when you want it.

And the sad truth is … the world is filled with negative leaders. That’s why you see corporate leaders telling their employees to buy more of the company stock … when they themselves are dumping it. That’s why you see political leaders talking about family values at the same time they’re engaged in illicit affairs. And that’s why you see religious leaders preaching morality as they prey on children as objects of their sexual desire.

If you’re going to be a positive leader, make sure your motivation is coming from the right place.

4. Apply energizers to the workforce and the workplace.

After all, the status quo of “getting by” is no longer “good enough” in a world economy that is highly competitive. In today’s marketplace, we need positive leaders who engage and motivate their teammates to be their very best.

Among other things, positive leaders apply the following energizers to the workforce and the workplace.

  • They take time to connect.
  • They grab a few colleagues or gather their team and spend 30 minutes together. They talk about what’s going right, what’s needed, and how everyone is feeling. In the process of recognizing their achievements and recognizing the pressures they’re under, they connect as human beings. And good healthy sharing always puts some extra wind in their sails.
  • They add an element fun to the organization’s culture. I remember one leader who told his drivers he would give them ALL a cash bonus if they could ALL drive without any accidents until Labor Day. They did it … and the program was extended on a month by month basis because it really pulled the drivers together. You might ask yourself what you are doing to make work fun for your people.
  • They express gratitude on a regular basis.  Positive leaders look for things that are going well and make a point of expressing their gratitude for those things. They give positive feedback, send out positive notes, and keep a record of the team’s accomplishments. By doing so, positive leaders eliminate the number 1 job complaint … which is “you can do a hundred things right and not hear a darn thing about it.”
  • They exhibit contagious enthusiasm.  As the famous preacher John Wesley used to say, “I set myself on fire and people come to watch me burn.” That’s good psychology as well as good leadership because human beings are naturally drawn to positive energy. It’s called heliotropism … or the phenomenon of turning toward the “light.” Plants do it and so do people. When you’re enthusiasm shines through, you unleash smarter thinking in others, you foster their vitality, and you cultivate their extraordinary performance.

Action:  Set yourself a “mini-goal” for this week. Select one of the ideas from this week’s Tuesday Tip that you will focus on this week to become more of a positive leader.  Make every day your payoff day!

�2010 Dr. Alan R. Zimmerman. Reprinted with permission from Dr. Alan Zimmerman’s Internet newsletter, the ‘Tuesday Tip.’ For your own personal, free subscription to the ‘Tuesday Tip’ as well as information on Dr. Zimmerman’s keynotes and seminars, go to <>  or call 800-621-7881.

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I Am Women…Hear Me ROAR

I stand alone....

“We know that you’re good at your position, but you may want to tone it down a bit. You’re being perceived as bossy, aggressive and personally, folks just don’t like you”. This is a statement that was made to me a few years back as I entered my first professional position in the field of education. Apparently, some of the seasoned male counterparts were not thrilled with having a young black female leading the initiatives of the department. Granted I applied, interviewed and (rightfully so) was offered the position due in part to my qualifications; but still I was not considered worthy in the male dominated culture. Since there were no valid grounds for complaints, a few were determined to make my work life as difficult as possible with the hope that I would resign. Sadly for them, I had no intentions of leaving, and as a matter of fact, was just embarking on my journey.

Booysen and Nkomo’s (2010) theory suggests that an individual’s gender affects their social location and as a direct result their outlook on leadership. This couldn’t be a more accurate statement; for since my identity is rooted in the traditional female gender, I wouldn’t have a male outlook on leadership. This is problematic in cultures that foster a more traditional or “great man” leadership style, especially if it encompasses more male associated characteristics (i.e. aggressive, decisive, etc.). Since I consider myself a transformational leader, my method of leading could also cause tension between genders in the workplace; for females would consider me a change agent, while men feel outcaste due to my gender association.

You must stand out from the rest!

I’ve often wondered how I would be perceived if I were a male. Would the same qualities i.e., determination, commitment, assertiveness, good organizational skills, and ability to complete the task at hand be considered as aggressive? It’s unfortunate that “gender” was the underlining attribute seen by my male employees, instead of the leadership qualities that I brought to the table. While gender my play a role in the development of leadership styles, it does not prevent women from being capable leaders. I believe that our identified “sex role” spills over into how we interact, behave, and lead. However, one would think that leadership qualities were just that…qualities (whether male or female) of those who effectively and successfully lead others. Anecdotaly, men occupy the majority of leadership positions in this country; but, the tide is turning as the number of women leaders in prominent positions continue to rise.

Despite being judged and/or viewed through gender lenses, my determination to prove that I am not merely an example of Affirmative Action, but a woman who can successfully lead an organization. Although the transformational journey set before me is not an easy one, I will shatter the “glass ceiling” and achieve my destiny.

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“White is Right, Black Get Back”

“My lighter skin is better than yours; and I’m proud of my white side”.  You “black” skinned girls are just jealous that my light skin will help me in America…don’t hate cause it won’t for you”.  This was a statement made in a heated dialogue between two young girls that I am mentoring. The workshop (being given at the time) had nothing to do with ethnicity/skin color; but it seems that a simple and harmless discussion regarding goal setting and vision for the future, turned into a competition of skin color, culture and a rejection of one’s self.  Jessica (quoted above) is biracial and was convinced that her Caucasian culture (which she attributes to her lighter skin) made her superior to all her darker skinned peers.  Despite my feelings of insult/disgust, I had to take a step back and reflect on what I was witnessing.  Jessica failed to realize the bigger, under lining issues that SHE has with her black identity; rejection in part of who she is, and categorizing individuals according to physical attributes.  It was at this precise moment that I knew it was going to be a very long afternoon.

The atmosphere in the room was tense; as most of my fellow mentors mouths fell open in response to what we had just heard.  Immediately, eye contact was made with one of my colleagues; for the outburst seemed to confirmed our suspicion… that most of these young ladies were stuck between the “preecounter” and “encounter” stage of Cross’ Black Identity Development Model; and, the issues was being brought into the classroom/middle school setting.  The Black Identity Model depicts the stages that all black people move through as they develop their identity.  Jessica is considered to fall between the first two stages for she has clearly accepted the norms of the majority culture/group (her White heritage) and, without realizing it, is internally perpetuating negative stereotypes towards her black culture.  It is also at this stage that a young black girl may pull away or distance herself from anything or anyone resembling the negative, Black image that she has formulated in her mind.  It was evident that either the messages received at home or those within her community was confirming her view of her Black heritage; and was not only affecting her relationships with peers at school, but also hindering her overall development and, consequently would shape her vision for the future.  In order for young black girls, like Jessica, to reach stage five of the Cross’ Black Identity Development, “internationalization/commitment”, it is critical that they are afforded continued education to progress successfully through the stages, and also be surrounded by positive images of our black culture in their community. As mentors, we should not skate around these types of issues and should continue professional development of our own identity in order to be comfortable with leading our mentees through this difficult period; while assessing where WE fall in Cross’s model. It is my hope that by doing this we can reset the young girl’s way of thinking, spark positive self-image, and neutralize the negative categorization currently being displayed.

If nothing else, this controversial experience had confirmed how blessed I am.  My parents instilled strong family values, promoted positive self-images of Black people (especially women) and expose me and my sister to our culture in a manner that cultivated positive black identities.  However, what was experienced with Jessica is not an isolated incident.  Many girls struggle with what is right and wrong; and far too many times society is playing a major role in influencing our youth on who they are and what they should aspire to be.  The negative messages being transmitted are contradictory to the message that our black girls should be receiving; and, the results are slowly but surely causing them to formulate a negative identity with black people.

This experience reminds me of Shakespeare’s saying:  “To thy self be true”.  As a role model/example to these girls, projecting a sense of self confidence with who I am and where I AM with my black identity awareness sends a powerful message.  To girls like Jessica, displaying a strong sense of black identity will provide encouragement and foster a sense of self-worth.  It will also assist them with a positive transition to the next stage.  This task is not an easy one and will prove to have some pros and cons with the techniques used.  I am convinced that with diligence, while continuing to draw upon the positive black images in my life, a huge difference can be made in the lives of these young girls…

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Segregation or Mentoring….You be the Judge

Considering my residency on the East Coast has been a short one, I’ve had the opportunity to jump head first into mentoring young black girls academically and socially, and to support them in developing THEIR identity while transitioning to high school.  In my neighborhood, at the middle school there are 40-50 young black girls who are in desperate need of guidance, exposure to positive role models, mentorship and academic assistance.  These young girls come from all walks of life; home grown and newcomers to the area all within the last 3-5 years.  While the school is committed to assisting and developing ALL students, a group of professional black women in the surrounding areas were tapped to provide assistance to these young girls development; and we humbly obliged!

After meeting and interacting with the girls, it was apparent that there existed a need for positive identity formation, appreciation of their black heritage, analyze cultural values, and an understanding of how these components play into the young girls overall success at school.  Henri Tajfel’s Social Identity Theory proposes that individuals get their sense of self esteem, belonging and worth from being a part of a group.  So naturally, we wanted to form a network of women who reflected the diversity within the community and who would be positive role models for the girls.

From the beginning there was an understanding that we would not categorize these girls according to how WE felt they should identify themselves.  But rather, we should be cognizant of the fact that other outside and environmental factors would also contribute to their overall development.  This process of self-categorization has helped then form their own system of identifying themselves (either with an “in-group/out-group”) and would also set the framework for further comparison between themselves and peers.  It is likely that our efforts (mentoring, tutoring, enhancement of cultural awareness etc.) will be housed within the middle school setting; for the intent is to draw positive examples from within the existing environment from which the girls are expected to thrive (form a sense of “self”, and obtain academic achievement) before entering high school.  Through intentional mentoring, guidance and tutoring our stellar diverse group of women have made overwhelmingly progress in helping the young girls develop a sense of pride in their culture and positive identification of themselves

As a child, I too struggled with balancing a desire to belong and compared myself to what I believed to be “dominant” groups within middle school.  Like most young black girls in this country, it was a challenge for me to form a positive self-image and to develop a sense of worth.  It was the mentorship of other women, just like this group, who helped me to appreciate who I am (no matter the environment), appreciate how God made me, and to make positive comparisons between my culture and others.

This initiative ties in to a new movement happening around the country (Experimenting with Segregation); which confirms our belief that in order for our black youth to positively and  effectively develop their identity, it requires revisiting cultural values AND the positive influence of those who have chosen to categorize themselves in the SAME social identity group.  Despite some back lash regarding the segregation or establishment of an “outcast” group, suggesting that the majority was the superior or “in group”; I’m happy to report that the movement has not died. With continued support of the middle school, district and like minded supporters within the community, our initiative will continue to thrive, hopefully for years to come (or at least until the achievement gap is filled).

The orAKAle has spoken…………………….

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