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Candid Answers to your most Candid questions

A Safe Place to Ask Candid Questions


Every professional - entry level, mid-career, and experienced - faces situations where they wish they had someone they trusted who would listen to their challenge and thoughtfully suggest solutions or offer a new way to consider the situation.   In the Vault is a safe, anonymous space for you to submit questions and receive candid practical advice from Sophia Confidential for even the most sensitive of issues.  


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SOPHIA SAYS....

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  • 15 Sep 2021 2:00 PM | Anonymous

    Dear Sophia,

    I have been working remotely for 18+ months and return to a hybrid work schedule in one week and a full return to students just 1 week later. While I am excited to be back in the office because I miss valued relationships with colleagues, I am not excited to work on a college campus while the pandemic is raging in my community. My campus has experienced massive Sr. leadership turnover in 12 months and has many new hires everywhere. Pre-pandemic nearly everyone had individual offices and now, due to organizational growth and changes we are often sharing offices or working in more public "hot spot" spaces. We have a vaccine requirement to return to campus that has no teeth and a mask indoors requirement that Sr. leadership have already expressed won't remain throughout the fall. I have an unvaccinated child at home and will be welcoming international students without access to vaccines before arriving to the U.S. I am comfortable wearing my mask everywhere, requesting social distancing, or similar needs with individuals I know. I have less comfort doing this with new colleagues for fear of coming across in a negative way. I am a ball of anxiety about how I'm going to make it through another roller coaster semester and don't want my anxiousness to impact building relationships with my new colleagues. What suggestions do you have about approaching new colleagues and the situation overall?

    Sincerely, 

    Masked Up and Not Ready to Go

    Dear Masked Up and Not Ready to Go,

    Going back to any kind of social environment where it is unclear who has been vaccinated and who hasn’t, or how people feel about wearing masks vs not, is something that is causing many people to be apprehensive and even fearful, myself included. This is very much uncharted territory for all of us, but keeping in mind that your safety and that of your family and those around you should be the number one priority, here are a few suggestions:

    As I’m sure you know, one of the big pieces of connecting with new colleagues and building rapport is genuineness. What do you do when you normally have new colleagues? One thing would be to ask them out for one-on-one coffee, lunch, a drink, etc. (perhaps in an outdoor venue for safety reasons!) and spend some time getting to know them a bit. This will hopefully make it easier for you to bring up your concerns around safety and get a sense of where they stand on the issue and share your concerns in a way that is more natural and honest. Even if they don’t agree with you on your stance, perhaps they will be sympathetic to the fact that you have kids and be supportive in following the safety protocols. 

    If meeting like this doesn’t make sense because of safety concerns, then what? Well, then I would express those same concerns one-on-one but in a way that is, again, genuine, and that will maintain your professional boundaries but still get your point across. Point out that this is an awkward thing to ask or to say, if that’s how you feel, and then say it. In a work environment, hopefully, professionalism will allow people to respect their colleagues' wishes, even if they don’t agree, without causing any negative feelings. If they do react negatively, and you did everything in your ability to be calm, non-judgemental, and professional, then I would have some serious concerns about your coworkers which may go beyond their ability to respect your safety concerns.

    Beyond talking to your coworkers, I would also speak to your supervisor about your concerns and see what they are willing to do to address them. If the current office climate is putting you, your children, and your fellow colleagues at risk, then this is a serious issue, especially with the now rampant Delta Variant. I’m betting you aren’t the only one feeling anxious. Maybe a survey needs to be done to do a pulse check on how people are feeling about being back in the office. Multiple voices expressing the same concerns will hopefully prompt management to do something.

    Finally, if all else fails, do what you need to protect yourself. This could be anything from asking for an exemption to work from home, purchasing better masks for yourself, finding the farthest desk from people, bringing your own air purifier if one isn’t being provided, etc. Do whatever you need to be safe even if that means pissing a few people off. Your health is more important than a few bruised egos.

    Confidentially Yours,

    Sophia

    P.S. Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’m curious what the amazing community of educators reading this post has to say. Chime in, folks! What thoughts do you have for Masked Up and Not Ready to Go? Share your thoughts on the Global Leadership League’s LinkedIn page. Have a question for Sophia yourself, ask here!

    Please note: This response is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice or legal opinions of a licensed professional. Contact a personal attorney or licensed professional to obtain appropriate legal advice or professional counseling with respect to any particular issue or problem.

  • 01 Sep 2021 2:00 PM | Anonymous

    Dear Sophia,

    I work on a very small team that helps develop professional development coursework and programming for students. One of my colleagues is consistently late to meetings and is always dropping the ball on deadlines. When asked about why something wasn't done, they always have an excuse as to why they couldn't get to it. I've tried to put deadlines on the team calendar, remind this individual during meetings, and even spoke to my supervisor but nothing seems to work. My supervisor just gives this individual a pass and says they've had a difficult time. This not only impacts my ability to get my work done but also impacts our students and instructors who then end up with last minute changes to their activities and schedules. I'm hitting my wits end and don't know what to do.

    Sincerely, 

    Struggling with Slackers

    Dear Struggling with Slackers,

    I’ll be honest. I had to consider this question for a bit and really dig deep to answer in a way that I hope will be helpful to you. I, along with everyone else in the world, havehad to navigate working with this person you describe. Have I grown in my ability to handle a challenging colleague effectively over time? Probably. Do I have a silver bullet answer for you? Certainly not. What I can do is give suggestions that, if you’re willing to deploy, may help improve the situation.

    1. First, it is critical to thoroughly evaluate the situation. Identify to what extent the colleague’s work, missing deadlines, or lateness you referenced is directly impacting your team’s ability to meet deadlines or complete projects to the established criteria. The last thing you want to do is to be perceived as the nagging colleague to your team members because you seem unable to flex to different work styles or values within your team. For example, if the quality of work is high but the timeliness is off, focus on your own work and growth and push the other colleagues’ behaviours out of focus. You may also consider praising the colleague for the successful outcome while seeking incremental improvements on their timeliness or seek greater understanding about their work values to contextualize their behaviors. 

    2. If you’re certain their work is directly impacting your ability to do your job or succeed, then start by documenting the behaviors. This will require you to note actual situations with as much detail as possible--what the established expectations were, how this person has failed to deliver, and how it has impacted the team’s outcomes. While this is not your job, as the person that is affected most by this person’s professional behavior, you’ll need details on the actual scenarios where their performance (or lack thereof) has been most egregious and any attempts to work with them to achieve individual and team goals before speaking with them and if necessary their supervisor.

    3. With the information you’ve documented, reach out and request a meeting with this person. Be upfront that you’re interested in talking about teamwork and opportunities you see to improve team outcomes. Set your intention for the meeting in your mind and be sure you feel calm and balanced in your approach. You won’t get anywhere if you’re accusatory and exasperated. Now more than ever, we need to consider all the things that might be contributing to this person’s lateness and propensity to make excuses for their work. Remember that everyone has challenges in their life that you know nothing about. Your job is not as judge and jury, but as a colleague who truly wants to understand why this is happening and how you can help reverse the trend. Share your list of situations that you’ve documented and how it undermines the team.

    4. If meeting with this person doesn’t seem appropriate to the culture of your organization or realistic in providing positive outcomes, take your documentation to your supervisor and lay it out for them. Ask them to set up a meeting between the three of you to discuss these situations that keep occurring or ask your supervisor to take this up specifically with this person one on one. Although you may have raised concerns with your supervisor already, be direct with your supervisor that you would like to find a solution to this as it greatly affects your work and the work of your team. If you keep having to circle back to this, do so. Doing so doesn’t make you annoying and whiny, it makes you committed to finding solutions and supporting your team.  

    Ultimately, it’s time to engage with your colleague, understanding it may be perceived as confrontational no matter how hard you try for it not to be. But confrontation, done thoughtfully, can yield huge results and maybe the only thing that can. A last resort option that won’t fix the problem is to take away high priority or time-sensitive assignments from this person. As much as possible, decide as a team to simply take on the work and avoid relying on the colleague who cannot and will not deliver. If asked, tell this person that it seems like they have a lot on their plate and you're taking on the additional workload temporarily. Again, this is not a long-term fix, but it may help you advance the situation towards a resolution. Most of all, it might help you regain some of your wits!

    Confidentially Yours,

    Sophia

    P.S. Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’m curious what the amazing community of educators reading this post has to say. Chime in, folks! What thoughts do you have for Searching for Safe Partners? Share your thoughts on the Global Leadership League’s LinkedIn page. Have a question for Sophia yourself, ask here!

    Please note: This response is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice or legal opinions of a licensed professional. Contact a personal attorney or licensed professional to obtain appropriate legal advice or professional counseling with respect to any particular issue or problem.

  • 18 Aug 2021 2:30 PM | Anonymous

    Dear Sophia,

    I'm trying to find trusted in-country providers and tour guides with whom I can partner, but I honestly don't even know where to look or how I know I can trust their services (and the price quotes they give me). I don't want to go through an American or other foreign company to get to the local providers, but how do you know who you can trust? Is there anyone else out there who has built their business from the ground up and wondered who they can trust? Does anyone who has searched for local providers before have any wisdom for someone starting out? Help!

    Sincerely, 

    Searching for Safe Partners

    Dear Searching for Safe Partners,

    This is where networking becomes a very important tool! You mention trust, and starting with people in your personal network, or another trusted network, can get you moving with much more confidence than starting from scratch.

    Reach out to anyone you know who runs programs in your target location or is locally based such as local university partners, friends, colleagues, etc. Ask if they have on-site partners or US-based providers they’d recommend. Provider services may be invaluable if you’re building a program from the ground up, and costs vary, so don’t discount them until you’ve talked to your network and have done a few price comparisons. In weighing pros and cons of using different providers, in addition to cost, consider things like what they include in their packages, reputation in the industry and locally, how long they have been around, whether they include things like liability insurance, what their emergency protocols are, whether they work with institutions such as yours regularly, etc. There are a lot of things to consider and you may not know what they are until you’ve spoken to a few folks. That’s completely ok!

    If you don’t know anyone who runs a similar program, you can search online for other US institutions that do. Program web pages usually show up in Google searches, along with contact information. Reach out to explain your situation and ask for an honest review of their on-site partner or US-based provider--have they had a positive experience with them so far? How do their prices compare to other providers? Although study abroad staff are usually busy, they are often willing to help out a fellow professional who needs advice. Similarly, look up local providers directly online. Many organizations will have reviews and ratings online that you can look into. If you see an organization that seems to be a good fit, call them and ask them for references and documentation and carefully check all of these. Ask colleagues, in-country or in the US, if they’ve heard of the organization. While it may be more of a risk, sometimes you can find an organization that isn’t as well known State-side, but is locally, that is a great fit. If your institution is one in which familiarization trips are common prior to starting new programs, then you can add a few organizations to that list to check out when you are in-country. Now, this may not be a luxury your office has, in which case, you will really have to rely on your research and references. When it comes down to making a decision, make sure you have a few options to compare. You’ll find comparisons between providers will give you insight into what you should be getting for what you’re paying and ways to negotiate price as well as what they are offering in services. Remember you get what you pay for! Cheaper isn’t always better but you also don’t want to be overpaying for services you don’t need.

    If your Google search is fruitless, or even if you find a few potential options, you can post a request for help on SECUSS-L, a national listserv dedicated to the discussion of education abroad, with a reach of 7500+ members. Readers who have advice can reply to your email. I have used this tool many times in my career, and find it a great way to access sometimes obscure information! You might also consider posting a request on a discussion board for your local NAFSA region. 

    Best of luck getting started!

    Confidentially Yours,

    Sophia

    P.S. Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’m curious what the amazing community of educators reading this post has to say. Chime in, folks! What thoughts do you have for Searching for Safe Partners? Share your thoughts on the Global Leadership League’s LinkedIn page. Have a question for Sophia yourself, ask here!

    Please note: This response is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice or legal opinions of a licensed professional. Contact a personal attorney or licensed professional to obtain appropriate legal advice or professional counseling with respect to any particular issue or problem.

  • 04 Aug 2021 7:19 PM | Anonymous

    Dear Sophia,

    I work as a manager but sometimes feel I am more of a leader than my boss. On paper, they have the leadership duties, but since I have more experience and context with the day-to-day operations and their primary role is quite different, I end up doing most of the work. They are often unwilling to learn new things they should know for their role and sometimes fail to prioritize key responsibilities to our office since they are busy and their main interests are elsewhere. I am trying to be a leader, but since I am juggling so much, in the end it feels like we have no leader. Do you have any suggestions for “managing up?"

    Sincerely, 

    In a Leadership Vacuum

    Dear In a Leadership in a Vacuum,

    Being in a position where you feel the work you are doing to keep a unit and projects functioning isn’t valued, or even noticed, by your manager is hard. It is essential and often not easy, for your day to day sanity and your career, to develop and maintain an effective and productive working relationship with your manager. This requires a relationship where you trust the individual is interested in your work and development as much as their own. Reflect on the saying, “employees don’t leave companies, they leave their manager.” 

    You’ve shared that your manager’s focus is not on the operations you lead for your unit nor prioritizing understanding or learning key aspects of your office. While you find this frustrating because you seek more involvement from them as a leader during these uncertain times, I encourage you to re-frame this in your mind and consider how your current state is freeing. You’re not being micromanaged which likely means your manager trusts you and your work. 

    I see an opportunity to manage up, or figure out how to capitalize on the traits of your manager to help you perform your best and demonstrate your value to them and your organization. There is no one size fits all formula to manage up. Test out some new strategies considering the aspects below:

    Know your manager’s style

    Have you ever taken notes on or sought clarity from your supervisor about their preferred operating style? This is key to identifying what you may need to adapt, and it might help you understand better how you can work within that context while still growing and expanding your skills. How does your supervisor communicate, what are their preferred channels, what have they shared about their needs and expectations of you and your unit? You may need to call upon active listening to read into your conversations if they are not direct in their communication with you.

    Humanize your manager

    Your supervisor is human with strengths and weaknesses. You’ll find that being authentic, honest, and caring with your supervisor can go a long way to developing a deeper connection. If you’re not clear about their goals, expectations, or aspirations then find ways to ask for clarity that stress how your desire is to exceed their expectations and limit any additional time or resources they may need to spend down the road as a result of a lack of clarity. Also consider that matching the tone, language, and terms you hear from your manager can help you to be heard by your manager.

    Share feedback and seek support

    Give positive feedback to reinforce things you’d like to see more of and try to remain calm and productive when stress is high for either of you. Convey that you appreciate autonomy, and you're concerned because you want to keep things running smoothly and are seeking their direction. Ask for their insight on organizational issues they see from their vantage point and let them know you’ll use this information to prioritize and decide what can take a back seat. You also might decide to share that you desire more mentorship to increase confidence with the uncertainty that is so prevalent in your work and ask for suggestions of leaders they have worked with.

    Convey your technical skills, results, and future plans

    You seem to be handling the day to day operations with little involvement from your manager. How often do you update your manager to highlight the unit work that is getting done, under your leadership, without their supervision? Where are the opportunities to talk about the unit goals, achievements, convey outcomes, and solutions to problems you’d like their input on? Managing up results in your supervisor seeing you as an indispensable member of their team. 

    Ultimately, a big part of making it work with your supervisor is recognizing we all see our work and that of our colleagues through our own lens. The manager may benefit from a stronger relationship with you to help them see some things they have not previously, and my guess is you too may benefit from the same. 

    Confidentially Yours,

    Sophia

    P.S. Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’m curious what the amazing community of educators reading this post has to say. Chime in, folks! What thoughts do you have for In A Leadership Vacuum? Share your thoughts on the Global Leadership League’s LinkedIn page. Have a question for Sophia yourself, ask here!

    Please note: This response is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice or legal opinions of a licensed professional. Contact a personal attorney or licensed professional to obtain appropriate legal advice or professional counseling with respect to any particular issue or problem.

  • 21 Jul 2021 8:30 AM | Anonymous

    Dear Sophia,

    How do I further my career & leadership possibilities when I don't specifically want to manage people?

    Sincerely,

    Advancement Without Managing People

    Dear Advancement Without Managing People,

    I commend you on your self awareness. Acknowledging that your aspirations for advancing your career do not involve managing people is going to save you, and likely the people you would manage, from unnecessary frustration. While managing people may be the most common track for increasing professional responsibilities or advancement in a career, it is not the only track. If more managers pushed themselves to reflect on the reasons they pursue a management position which requires supervision, I expect teams in every industry would be way better off! Although you didn’t share why you aren’t interested in managing people, I assume it is likely because your skills, confidence, or passions don’t lie in navigating people dynamics or managing other people’s goals. Instead you likely perceive yourself as a doer who excels at managing your projects and tasks, seeks to launch new ideas, and thrives as a content expert, and establishes a reputation that extends beyond your team or company. Are you comfortable training others, developing strategy, managing projects, or promoting your knowledge and skills as a consultant or influencer? If any or all of these things are more enticing than managing people to reach their goals, you are already well on your way to having the right conditions for advancing your career without supervisory responsibilities. 

    An important step to take is to talk early with your current manager. Work together to develop an individual plan for growth in the company. Be explicit about seeking opportunities to grow your responsibilities and develop as a company leader without supervision. Spell out what you think you excel at currently or where you aspire to be a recognized expert. Don’t be afraid to seek support from your manager to consider gaps so you can focus where you increase your expertise. An example may be to propose a compliance area or an innovative program idea you can take responsibility to master and then demonstrate your skills through training others to build capacity or mitigate risk. Don’t miss any opportunities to emphasize how your expertise, influence, or reputation helps the company achieve goals and support the overall mission. You may decide that additional value and career progression makes it necessary to leave your current organization after a period of time and pursue work at a larger company or pursue work as a consultant or independent contractor. Ultimately, the path you choose to advance may not be as clear as you’d like right now but hopefully after some deeper exploration and discussions with your manager you can begin to map out the road ahead. 

    Confidentially Yours,

    Sophia  

    P.S. Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’m curious what the amazing community of educators reading this post has to say. Chime in, folks! What thoughts do you have for Lilly? Share your thoughts on the Global Leadership League’s LinkedIn page. Have a question for Sophia yourself, ask here!

    Please note: This response is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice or legal opinions of a licensed professional. Contact a personal attorney or licensed professional to obtain appropriate legal advice or professional counseling with respect to any particular issue or problem.

  • 07 Jul 2021 1:30 PM | Anonymous

    Dear Sophia,

    I want to be supportive of my staff. I care about them as people and I am interested in them, but it seems like we are more friends than professional colleagues. When it's time for performance reviews (now!), I find it so hard to be objective and not let our personal relationships influence how I review them. I justify it to myself by thinking of the wonderful things they do, and they do many wonderful things, but I know in the back of my mind that they (and I) can always grow and there are things they could do better...but it feels like they will be hurt if I tell them openly and especially during performance review time. Help me separate personal relationships from the professional, and change my relationships with my team so that I can better fulfill my obligations to our organization. 

    Help Me Rhonda

    Dear Help Me Rhonda,

    You’ve touched on a sticky issue that almost all managers will have to face at some point in their career. While giving feedback may never be easy for you, I assure you that taking steps to shift your own mindset and taking steps to shift the mindset of your team to look at feedback as a gift can forever change how you prepare for a performance review with every type of colleague (friend or not). Once you choose to regularly welcome and collect feedback, you model for your team what is often a missed opportunity to gather data from others that is necessary to grow.  Unfortunately, performance reviews tend to be a single annual event where supervisors are expected to evaluate an individual’s performance and goal attainment. The anxiety that comes from this time of year is definitely a reflection of our mindset about giving and receiving feedback. In addition to shifting our mindsets about feedback, there are several ways to preserve friendships with colleagues while not compromising your professional responsibilities.

    Let’s start with the most basic rule of any relationship you have with anyone anywhere: effective communication. We all know that resolving any human relationship issue starts and ends with communication. As the manager, it’s your job to communicate in a respectful and clear manner referring to behaviors and actions, not personality. This is  especially necessary with employees you're most worried about. Be honest and be explicit about your responsibilities as a manager at your company. Tell them you recognize giving constructive and positive feedback could make for some awkward space within your relationship when feedback is perceived in a negative way. Be willing to hear their concerns about this and be open with your own. This will help them recognize the tricky spot you’re in as well as allowing you to hear any of their worries about the relationship dynamic.

    On the heels of communication comes setting expectations. To remove the personal from the professional as much as possible, be clear about the things you will be assessing in the reviews with all of your employees equally. When giving feedback, consider how you're highlighting the positive and pointing out areas of needed improvement, think about the manner in which you would want a friend to judge your performance. Try couching the comments in ways that are supportive such as, “We are having issues with follow-through in our department. How do you feel you perform in this area? Are there things that we could adjust to make it easier for you to feel successful in this area?” Reviews are a great way to share feedback you’ve noticed, and also ask employees to be self-critical. What areas do they feel they can improve upon? Chances are these will overlap with the things you’ve noticed, and you can then help support them in meeting these new goals.  

    And don’t be afraid to add in lightness and humor. If it starts to get sticky because you need to address something they’re not seeing, remember this is a person who trusts you.  Your trusting relationship can help you to say “you and I both know things get tough for the team when everyone isn’t following through on their commitments, and I see you're overloaded at times. What can I or other members of our team do to help?” An advantage of knowing your staff well on a personal level is that you likely have a better idea how to provide feedback in a way that they’ll understand and feel that it comes from a place of care and not criticism. Your friendships will help you customize your approach to management.

    There are other things to consider as you move from friend and manager so that you are keeping a balanced approach to your work and not showing favoritism in the office. As a manager, it’s important that all of your employees can trust you to be fair and just. For example, if you socialize with certain colleagues outside of work, keep your social media about those activities to a minimum. When it’s lunchtime and you’re headed out, invite all of your colleagues to go along, not just the ones who are your friends. It may not be as fun, but as a manager you have responsibilities beyond your work friendships and those need to come first. The bright side is that you have friends at work and that should be celebrated. You don’t have to forfeit those relationships at work. In fact, if you’re honest and fair, those relationships will only get stronger.

    Confidentially Yours,

    Sophia  

    P.S. Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’m curious what the amazing community of educators reading this post has to say. Chime in, folks! What thoughts do you have for Lilly? Share your thoughts on the Global Leadership League’s LinkedIn page. Have a question for Sophia yourself, ask here!

    Please note: This response is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice or legal opinions of a licensed professional. Contact a personal attorney or licensed professional to obtain appropriate legal advice or professional counseling with respect to any particular issue or problem.

  • 23 Jun 2021 4:00 PM | Anonymous

    Dear Sophia,

    I'm a mid-career professional that has spent so many years striving to "get to" a leadership role that I'm not facing one bit of culture shock in turning my talents to leading others. I'm very motivated and don't need a lot of check-ins with my own boss, so my struggle in particular is managing others who need more of a hands-on approach. What are some strategies? Do you have any suggested readings?

    Sincerely, 

    Lilly the New Leader

    Dear Lilly,

    Congratulations on landing the leadership position you’ve worked toward! Leadership roles can be quite rewarding, but managing others is a challenge, especially when they have a different learning or work style than you. Since every individual has their own way of thinking and approaching relationships with colleagues and managers, you will need to adapt your management style for each person you lead. Here are some ideas to get you started:

    Check with HR at your organization to see if they provide any management training. Many large organizations and universities offer management courses and certificate programs through HR. You may also find management courses through continuing education departments at your local university or online. Working through scenarios and chatting with other managers in your class can help give you insight and allow you to get used to different management techniques. In particular, you might look for courses on professional coaching, a technique that may help you empower your employees to do more with less involvement from you.

    Although you should strive to be fair, you don’t need to manage everyone exactly the same way. Feel free to schedule more one-on-one time with your employees who need a hands-on approach, and less time for those who don’t. When onboarding new employees, ask how they learn best and how they prefer to work with management. You can explain your management style and preferences, but let them know you’ll do your best to meet their needs. Be sure to continually evaluate how things are going and adjust as needed. It may be wise to schedule more frequent check-ins at first, then reduce them later if they don’t seem necessary. 

    There are many excellent books on management out there, so browse to see what might best help you learn about your situations. Here are a few I’ve found to be helpful:

    Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High

    The One Minute Manager 

    The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever

    It sounds like you’re motivated, so I’m confident you’ll use all your resources. Managing people may never be easy, but keep learning and you’ll feel like a seasoned leader in no time!

    Confidentially Yours,

    Sophia

    P.S. Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’m curious what the amazing community of educators reading this post has to say. Chime in, folks! What thoughts do you have for Lilly? Share your thoughts on the Global Leadership League’s LinkedIn page. Have a question for Sophia yourself, ask here!

    Please note: This response is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice or legal opinions of a licensed professional. Contact a personal attorney or licensed professional to obtain appropriate legal advice or professional counseling with respect to any particular issue or problem.

  • 09 Jun 2021 7:30 AM | Anonymous


    Dear Sophia,

    How do I deal with being new in an environment where everyone else has known each other for decades and are not receptive to newcomers or change?

    Sincerely, 

    Transplanted Wanderer

    Dear Transplanted Wanderer,

    A new job is a huge transition and can be very overwhelming especially if you aren’t feeling welcomed into the new environment. As a newcomer, it is easy to conclude that team members aren’t open to change when they’ve worked together for many years. Learning a new role and office dynamics with colleagues that are seemingly cliquey and not open to new people or ideas makes the adjustment to a new environment considerably harder. Let’s talk through what you can consider doing in this situation.

    First, you were hired because of your skills and anticipated contributions to the work and team. Don’t lose sight of this and recognize that showing an openness to learn and curiosity to understand the new people and environment is a starting point to connect with team members. How you are perceived by the team contributes to how successful you’ll be in contributing new ideas and encouraging innovation. 

    Have you considered reaching out to your colleagues to set up 1:1 chats? It can be easier to get to know someone one-on-one. Schedule time with new colleagues to get coffee or lunch and get to know each other. Ask them about their role, what they enjoy most about their colleagues, how specifically you’ll work with or support them, and any tips they have for a newcomer to the team. Your supervisor should also support your onboarding by sharing a list of critical partners and connecting you to people. This will help build your professional network as well as rapport and trust with your colleagues. Be prepared to share information about yourself that will help you build connections. This can include what drew you to working in this role, something you really excel at, or something you’re eager to put into action in the new role.

    Establishing initial trust and rapport will hopefully open these colleagues to your ideas. If not, when it comes to making changes, start small. I can see someone being turned off if they’ve been at an organization for decades and the newbie is (they feel) one-upping them or trying to bring about sudden change without knowing the history of the organization. I’m not saying you shouldn’t make suggestions--just be cognizant of how you come off, who’s in the room, and understanding/giving value to the history (easier said than done, I know!). Maybe there is old animosity somewhere that is making it harder for people to accept you. Sometimes when I’m not sure, I bring up suggestions to my supervisor first and get their perspective about whether it makes sense to bring something up to the larger group. Your supervisor is hopefully someone you can go to for tips and support in general. Oh, the messes I would have unknowingly walked into if I hadn’t had those conversations beforehand!

    If, after a few months, despite your best efforts in trying to build rapport and asking for support, you still feel left out and not heard, then ask yourself: Is this interfering with you doing your job? If it is, then it's a problem that needs to be addressed with management. If it’s not getting in the way of your work, do you need to feel connected to your colleagues in order to be happy? Or, are you OK doing the work and then logging off to your own social support systems and fulfilling life outside of this job? I know colleagues that work 9-5, pick up their paycheck, and then go home to their social network and hobbies. They are as cordial as necessary with their colleagues and nothing more. While others, yours truly included, can’t work in a place without a community that listens to and appreciates them. Ask yourself these questions and if you find yourself struggling, maybe at the end of the day this job isn’t the best fit for you. You need to decide what is best for you.

    Confidentially Yours,

    Sophia

    P.S. Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’m curious what the amazing community of educators reading this post has to say. Chime in, folks! What thoughts do you have for Transplanted Wanderer? Share your thoughts on the Global Leadership League’s LinkedIn page. Have a question for Sophia yourself, ask here!

    Please note: This response is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice or legal opinions of a licensed professional. Contact a personal attorney or licensed professional to obtain appropriate legal advice or professional counseling with respect to any particular issue or problem.

  • 19 May 2021 11:30 AM | Anonymous


    Dear Sophia,

    I am currently working full time and during lockdowns am caring for my family also, which means I have to be flexible with work. Whilst overall work colleagues have been hugely supportive, I am working with some colleagues that cannot facilitate my need to connect out of normal office hours. There is no flexibility being offered for the fact I need to work evenings and weekends as I am caring for family during the day for the most part. Whilst I respect their need to have free time in evenings and weekends, I am also challenged with trying to carve out time during the day. I have been trying to meet them in the middle but it seems there is no room for flexibility here. We are working on group projects so communication and meeting halfway is key but no give.

    Sincerely, 

    Homeschooling Working Mother

    Dear Homeschooling Working Mother,

    Your situation highlights how WFH and motherhood during a pandemic with homeschooled kids mix like oil and water without interventions to help the ingredients to blend together. Ask a working mother and you may hear their company has continued business as normal throughout the pandemic without necessarily promoting flexible work policies and extending grace to millions of working parents, specifically women, which may not be surprising when men hold a majority of executive leadership and manager positions (62%). While many companies are working toward better policies, the current circumstances are unchartered territory and there just isn’t a well established road map. To find a middle ground with your colleagues, I first suggest coalition building with other WFH parents at your company. Leverage the power of numbers when you advocate for a call to action with your HR department or manager to promote existing or new flexible work policies. Most global companies already have a considerable amount of flexibility in the work day to meet the demands of working across time-zones. Compile a few examples of flexwork policies as this will provide management a starting point to expand on policies. Overwhelmingly, flexible work policies (job sharing, meeting-free blocks, compressed work weeks, flexible working hours, etc.) improve the workplace for ALL employees across all demographics because they give employees the power to manage their time. Meeting employees where they are and ensuring an inclusive workplace is not too much to demand. In the end, your efforts will impact both your employee experience and that of your colleagues. 

    Keeping all this in mind, many people who work during the traditional 9-5 pm block may not want to work evenings and weekends because for them it’s part of their work-life balance. So asking someone who has established these boundaries for their own mental health to shift their hours may not be received as reasonable. If a meeting is scheduled well in advance and occurs just once or twice, then colleagues may be more likely to accommodate. But if it’s a regular request, then I can see why it would be met with resistance. In this case, while management is considering your request for more flexibility, be open with your colleagues about your situation and see if they are occasionally willing to make an exception to their work hours. They may not fully be aware of what you’re dealing with. In addition, if they are unable to accomodate alternate times and, quite frankly, even if they are, then explain that you may have the occasional screaming child you have to attend to during a meeting. This is your current reality and your colleagues should be understanding of that. It’s also important to evaluate if meetings are really essential and add value to the desired outcomes. Are there different or creative ways you and your colleagues can work together? Consider using tools like Slack, Google Docs, Sheets, and Presentations that allow multiple people to provide feedback and work on projects together at the same time. Everyone is so Zoomed out at this point, I’m betting if you suggest fewer meetings and more online collaboration, it’ll be a blessing in disguise for most including yourself! Think about it. Your colleagues may even have other solutions.

    Confidentially Yours,

    Sophia

    P.S. Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’m curious what the amazing community of educators reading this post has to say. Chime in, folks! What thoughts do you have for Homeschooling Working Mother? Share your thoughts on the Global Leadership League’s LinkedIn page. Have a question for Sophia yourself, ask here!

    Please note: This response is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice or legal opinions of a licensed professional. Contact a personal attorney or licensed professional to obtain appropriate legal advice or professional counseling with respect to any particular issue or problem.

  • 05 May 2021 9:30 AM | Anonymous


    Dear Sophia,

    Working remotely is great for so many reasons. It can also be tough to stay connected to the home office and colleagues, and truly be/feel part of a "team." How can I help my manager/director make the best decision possible post-COVID for new office policies? Are there any guides you can offer or questions to consider? I am trying to be a good employee and think about what would help my boss pitch this to her boss!

    Sincerely, 

    Pajama-Clad in Pittsburg

    Dear Pajama-Clad in Pittsburg,

    First, congratulatulations on taking the initiative on this important topic! Now’s the time to begin working on a plan, but this is uncharted territory which can make it feel like both a grand opportunity and a daunting task. But getting started is often the hardest part so let’s jump in. 

    Things will never return completely to the way they were and that’s a good thing. This is an opportunity for managers to re-engage teams and re-imagine the workplace. You are on the right path in starting this process and supporting your manager in these transitions. So share your ideas with your manager and let them know you’re willing to help if needed. 

    Your manager can start by assessing your organizational chart and deciding if the right people are doing the right jobs. The last year has changed the way we work, along with many job descriptions. Now is a great time to make sure the team is the right group doing the right tasks. Next, do a survey of staff work styles, perhaps as a casual conversation over Zoom, or via formal survey. Many people love working from home, but many do not, and many more like a hybrid. Help your manager get a sense of where your workforce lands on that scale. Keep in mind most children will go back to school so most parents will no longer be home-schooling and working at the same time. Therefore, it’s likely okay to require standard working hours even for those working remotely. Maybe your manager is fine with people setting their own schedules but make sure that whatever the policy is, be sure it is set with consistency and clarity.

    Next, your manager should map out roles and responsibilities within your company and note the jobs that require more on-site time and the ones that don’t. Are the people that want to work remotely the ones whose tasks are suited to that? If not, return to the organizational chart. Consider the challenges that have been most acute over the past year: are they a result of remote work or are they symptoms of other concerns that need to be addressed?

    There’s also the question of office infrastructure. Once there’s a plan for where everyone will be working, consider the physical office space. Do you still need that many desks? Would a more open, shared space promote productivity and be useful for hybrid workers? Do you have adequate audio-visual equipment to accommodate meetings with a group in the room and a group off-site? These may seem like potentially expensive considerations but your goal is a healthy, happy workforce with optimum productivity so this investment may have significant payout over time.

    Finally, your manager should continue thinking about the physical and mental health of staff as you make these transitions. Clear communication as to what changes will be made, along with when and why, will help ease the tension of rolling out a new model. Evolutions of this plan may need to happen and that’s OK--staff should know that management is open to feedback. It’s also worth thinking about ways to support staff down the road after the initial transition has been made and a natural cadence is underway. Is there one day a month when everyone is on site and you have lunch together? Are there professional development opportunities that bring pods of people together in person? How about group volunteering in the community? There are many suggestions online to support this exploration so factor it into your planning.

    This is only a start but you’re on the right path just by asking the question. How your company handles this recovery phase will be recognized by staff, clients, vendors, investors, supporters, and partners. For that and so many other reasons, it’s worth doing well.

    Confidentially Yours,

    Sophia

    P.S. Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’m curious what the amazing community of educators reading this post has to say. Chime in, folks! What thoughts do you have for Pajama-Clad in Pittsburg? Share your thoughts on the Global Leadership League’s LinkedIn page. Have a question for Sophia yourself, ask here!


    Please note: This response is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice or legal opinions of a licensed professional. Contact a personal attorney or licensed professional to obtain appropriate legal advice or professional counseling with respect to any particular issue or problem.

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