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  • 15 Oct 2017 10:30 PM | Rachel DiGiammarino (Administrator)

    In October 2014 I published a blog entitled Let’s Ban Multitasking.  It was filled with advice (from high up on my soapbox) about how we should eliminate distractibility that inevitably arises when we multitask in favor of adopting a singular focus. The examples cited were all from the workplace – don’t multitask in meetings, don’t document multitasking as a required skill in job descriptions, etc. I still stand by these suggestions –and I make a conscious effort to apply this logic to increase my effectiveness as situations present themselves.

    All that said, a related concept has caught my attention - “switch tasking” –which seems to have a more accurate ring to it.  In an article published on Psychology Today’s blog, Nancy K. Napier Ph.D. stated, "Much recent neuroscience research tells us that the brain doesn’t really do tasks simultaneously, as we thought (hoped) it might. In fact, we just switch tasks quickly. Each time we move from hearing music to writing a text or talking to someone, there is a stop/start process that goes on in the brain. "

    You might consider that this is just giving a different name to what we previously labeled multi-tasking. However, since we’re getting down to brass tacks, technically speaking, I think if we’re not doing things simultaneously but are actually performing them quickly one after the other then “switch-tasking” is the more exact label. And no matter how you slice it, the outcome is likely to be similar – suboptimal results.

    Emotional Wellbeing

    So, besides arguing semantics, what’s my theme this time? Well, aside from the fact that I’m probably only operating at a 50% success rate when it comes to rejecting the lure of multitasking/switch-tasking, I’m finally ready to admit another aspect of my world that is impacted by this ineffective behavior – my emotional wellbeing.

    Again, I’m probably stating the obvious. Intellectually, we all know the element of truth in the proverb “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” That proverb is thought to have been recorded as early as 1659. That was long before the current era of technology allowed us to be connected at every turn. Being connected to work 24/7 can make us feel important and it can also deprive us of valuable time we need to detach and concentrate on other important areas of our lives – ourselves and our personal relationships.


    This past summer, I gave myself a wonderful opportunity to spend two separate weeks on vacation with different family members “unplugged.” It wasn’t a necessity driven by our location – surprisingly there was plenty of internet connectivity and WiFi where we went. Regardless, I made a conscious decision to delete incoming work email from my mobile phone. I went cold turkey. It was extremely liberating – my mind and body were free to focus on my time with my family members and our adventures. I honestly didn’t give a minute’s thought to what was happening anywhere else. (I won’t kid you, that first day back in the office required a bucket loader to dig out from all the emails in my inbox, but I’d still say it was worth it.)

    I haven’t completely reformed. Now that I’m back from vacation mode, email has been reinstalled on my phone, and the tendency to switch back and forth between tasks is more the norm throughout my day and evening, though for the more challenging assignments I try devote a singular focus. In another attempt at self-preservation, I have recently started turning off my phone when I go to sleep so those alerts of incoming emails at 2am don’t lure me. What a novel concept!

    Older and Wiser

    I really like my job, and I know that I’m a valuable member of the organization, but let’s face it, I’m not saving lives. I remind myself that some things should wait. I want to continue to leverage this self-awareness to be more in the moment, whether the moment is at the family dinner table, on a hike with my dog, while writing a performance review, in a project debrief, or in a Board meeting. Each of these deserves my undivided attention.  

    This is definitely not a one-size-fits-all prescription (i.e., I’ve hopped off my soap box). I certainly didn’t have an epiphany that struck at once. It’s a personal lesson that I’m learning more about all the time. Amidst all the jargon of multitasking, switch-tasking, singular focus, neuroscience and the like, I’ll chalk up my progress to getting older and wiser.

  • 10 Sep 2017 11:41 AM | Rachel DiGiammarino (Administrator)

    As the summer comes to an end, so does our journey with Appreciative Inquiry. Let’s review what we have from our AI blog series:

    1. The Constructionist Principle: words create worlds. There is no Truth, our reality is co-created through our conversations.
    2. The Poetic Principle: what we appreciate appreciates. We have endless opportunities to re-write our stories.
    3. The Simultaneity Principle: inquiry creates change. The future changes the moment we ask a question.
    4. The Anticipatory Principle: images inspires action. Creating vivid, positive images of our desired future will lead us there.

    Today, let’s delve deeper into the last of the core AI Principles: The Positive Principle.

    Positive Psychology: In order to understand the Positive Principle better, we need to take a little detour in the field of positive psychology. Traditionally, psychology has been a deficit-based science, looking at what constitutes disorders, illnesses, or abnormal behaviors. Flip this concept on its head, and you find a science that is studying what it means to be well, healthy, and thriving. This is exactly what Martin Seligman did about 20 years ago, giving birth to the positive psychology movement.

    The positive effects of positive emotions: No positive psychology discussion is complete without mention of Barbara Fredrickson and her broaden-and-build theory that suggests that positive emotions expend our cognitive abilities, leading to short AND long term, mental AND physical health benefits. In her research, positive emotions are more specific and measurable than happiness, they include: joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love. The fight or flight response triggered by stressful events when our sympathetic nervous system takes over is fairly well known. Fredrickson’s research is about the responses of our parasympathetic nervous system, when there is no threat and we are in a rest state, and we are experiencing positive emotions. Results show that micro-moments of positivity make us more creative, helpful, flexible, resilient, socially integrated, generous, and even physically healthy. In other words, when having fun or feeling good, we work more efficiently, we learn quicker, make more effective decisions, and are better able to resolve conflict.

    The positive core: The reason this background is important here is that Appreciative Inquiry builds on the positive core of individuals and situations—and everyone and everything has one! Yet it is a concept that is constantly evolving. In Appreciative Living: The Principles of Appreciative Inquiry in Personal Life, Jackie Kelm describes the positive core as “the wisdom, knowledge, successful strategies, positive attitudes, strengths, skills, aspirations, resources, and capabilities” of all people and situations. If what we pay attention to appreciates, then by focusing on the positive core, and asking positive questions, we bring out the best in others and situations. This type of reframing to see the positive core takes some effort, but it’s a muscle we can develop with regular practice.

    Strengths for change: Part of our positive core are our strengths. Putting our strengths to use is often a sure way to create positive emotions. If curiosity is a strength of yours, you will most likely experience interest, maybe even joy or amusement, as you learn a new skill or new facts. To find out what your strengths are, check out the VIA Strengths Survey (free), a questionnaire based on the work of Dr. Seligman. (I highly recommend purchasing the more detailed VIA ME and/or VIA Pro reports, as they provides not only a description of each strength, but also tips on how to use them and how not to overuse them.) Understanding our signature strengths can explain a lot about our emotions and behaviors and is an effective tool to bring out our positive core. For example, if fairness is your signature strength, you probably expect tasks and chores to be divided equally and feel upset when they are not. Only, there is a risk of overusing this strength and being too rigid, potentially harming your relationships. What if you balanced this strength with others that are also in your top five, like perspective, curiosity, or creativity? You may find new ways to assign responsibilities that satisfy your need for all things being equal, while meeting others’ needs as well. Can you think of two strengths you have that could balance each other out?

    The Positive Principle suggests that we look for positive cores and strengths, in ourselves, in others, in situations and systems. Asking positive questions is a way to generate positive emotions and create momentum that put us in the best possible state to lead positive change and move toward our desired future.

         Alexandra Arnold has a background in travel and is now an  Administrative Concierge at PwC. She holds a Certificate in  Positive Organizational Development from Champlain College and is working toward her Master’s in Industrial-Organizational Psychology. She facilitates Appreciative Living Learning Circles, small group workshops designed to teach the principles of Appreciative Inquiry and exercises to develop positivity and resilience.     

  • 14 Aug 2017 10:31 PM | Rachel DiGiammarino (Administrator)

    Last month, we learned through the Simultaneity Principle how impactful our questions can be in shaping our reality. Now we’ll look into the power of images with the Anticipatory Principle, #4 of the five main Appreciative Inquiry principles.

    Positive images create positive futures. We’ve all heard that images are more powerful than words. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said it best: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” This quote beautifully captures the essence of the Anticipatory Principle. Indeed, Appreciative Inquiry suggests that having a clear, inspiring, positive image of what we want in the future is much more effective than creating a to do list. Commonly used by athletes and backed up by scientific research, visualization is a technique that uses the power of images to help us reach our goals.

    Appreciative questions create positive images. As we have learned with the Poetic Principle, our tendency is to think about what we don't want (which is impossible to visualize: if you try not to think about a green bus, what image comes to mind?!), so the key is to have a clear mental image of what it is that we do want. The questions we ask help us do that (Simultaneity Principle). One in particular, which is often used in solution-focused therapy, is the miracle question. While there are many variations available, the idea is to imagine that a miracle happened during your sleep, and when you wake up, your dream came true. What does it look like?

    Make a movie. For maximum effectiveness, imagine as many details as possible about what your desired future looks like: who is involved, what are people doing, thinking and saying, what does it feel, smell, and taste like? Complete the experience with a spiritual element: why does it feel good, what does it mean to you, how does it reflect your values or align with your purpose? As you make this movie, play with the images in your head: make them small, big, black-and-white, colorful, fuzzy, clear, still, animated, dull or dramatic. Notice the impact on your emotions. Dream big, this is the place to let your imagination go wild!

    The future starts right now. In the AI methodology, the image of the future is not only a destination, but a creative power, a force that propels us forward and influences our present thoughts, conversations, and actions. For example, spending a few minutes every morning setting intentions for the day helps us stay focused on our goals, instead of giving way to impulses and short-term gratification. “When we act from an expectation, we move towards what we anticipate” says Jacqueline Stavros and Cheri Torres in Dynamic Relationships: Unleashing the Power of Appreciative Inquiry in Daily Living. To practice, start conversations (with yourself or others) by asking for one’s desired outcome.

    Better decisions. We know that what we focus on grows (per the Poetic Principle). With a clear vision, we notice more what aligns with our desires. This changes the choices we have and saves us from having to consider all options (a big time saver!). With practice, we’ll naturally be drawn to the better decisions—the ones that take us in the direction of our most positive future.

    Better performance. The Placebo and Pygmalion (or Galatea) Effects are well-known examples of how what we believe, and what others believe about us, influence performance. Our images are often limited by our beliefs of what is and is not possible. Appreciative Inquiry invites us to challenge those beliefs to create a vision that is beyond what we thought we were capable of. This is one of the reasons why AI succeeds at bringing organizations to life while reaching unprecedented goals.

    Small wins. While imagining our future seems like a grand endeavor, we do it all the time. We think or talk about our to do list, our next meal, errand, vacation, job, relationship... Our internal dialogue is constant. And we can be more intentional about it. I invite you to pay attention to the conversations you have, even those that seem mundane, and see how they may change once you have created a clearer image of your goal in your mind. Whether we call them reinforcing loops, amplifying feedback loops, snowball effect, small wins, or upward spirals, it is the small and sometimes unnoticeable changes that lead to more major transformations.

    Take your future in your own hands: take the time to step back to clarify what you really want, then anticipate it by creating a vivid image in your mind. Let this vision inspire you to reach your wildest dreams by being more intentional in all the choices you make every day. Remember that what you believe, about yourself and about others, is powerful in determining what is possible—be bold, and have fun!

    Alexandra Arnold has a background in travel and is now an Administrative Concierge at PwC. She holds a Certificate in Positive Organizational Development from Champlain College and is working toward her Master in Industrial-Organizational Psychology. She facilitates Appreciative Living Learning Circles, small group workshops designed to teach the principles of Appreciative Inquiry and exercises to develop positivity and resilience.

  • 25 Jun 2017 8:49 PM | Rachel DiGiammarino (Administrator)

    This post could be enough of a brain workout if you only practiced pronouncing the word “simultaneity”! Try it: si-mul-ta-ne-ity, again, simul-tane-ity, simultaneity. Let’s consider that a sufficient warm up and delve deeper into the Simultaneity Principle, the third principle of Appreciative Inquiry (AI), following the Constructionist Principle, and the Poetic Principle (on which we've previously published blogs).

    Ongoing questioning. Whether aware of it or not, we are continuously asking questions. These can be conscious and outspoken such as when we ask our child “did you finish your homework?” or our colleagues “how did the meeting go?” In addition to our inquiries to others, we ask ourselves questions all day long even when on auto-pilot: “what should I wear today?, when will this meeting end?, why is she giving me that look?” All of our choices, our actions, and even our emotions, result from those implicit questions. So what happens if we rephrase them?

     We live in the world our questions create, is a common phrase in the AI world. Just like the Constructionist and Poetic Principles empower us to change our reality, controlling our inner Q&A brings awareness. Our decisions and actions become deliberate. The future that unfolds is the one we chose intentionally, not out of habit. Of course it isn’t realistic to monitor every thought we have, but depending on our goals, practicing new questions can help us develop new behaviors. By asking deliberate questions, with genuine interest and openness, we unleash our curiosity, so that we start seeing the world with the same sense of awe children have.

     There are no neutral questions. Even seemingly neutral questions are fateful. Depending on their wording, they can hold us back, leave us unchanged, or propel us forward. Whether evaluating yourself or someone else, asking “what went well during this conversation?” creates growth versus “what should I have said differently during this conversation?” focuses our attention to its shortcomings, and “good thing this conversation is over, what’s next on my to-do list?” makes the conversation less meaningful. Check this article in Harvard Business Review for more examples of questions leaders should never ask.

     Inquiry and change are simultaneous. The very first question is critical. The moment it is raised, it sets the tone for the rest of the dialogue. It influences our relationships. It is not the answers that matter most, it is the very first step of formulating the question. Yet it is not about asking the perfect question either, it is about “finding the question that takes us to the right place” says Jackie Kelm in Appreciative Living: The Principles of Appreciative Inquiry in Personal Life. Rainer Maria Rilke invites us to “Love the questions themselves” because change happens inside of us the moment the words are spoken.

     The unconditional positive question. As the phrase Appreciative Inquiry suggests, we want our questions to be appreciative, or positive. The goal of the unconditional positive question is to uncover the best, or the positive core, in people, situations, or organizations. As we have learned already, AI wants us to ask what we want more of, not what we want less of, because what we focus on grows. In this interview, Kathy Becker, CEO of the Center for Appreciative Inquiry, speaks with another AI practitioner, Robyn Stratton-Berkessel, and demonstrates the power of unconditional positive questions.

     Appreciative Inquiry is generative. Positive questions build on past successes to generate positive emotions like wonder, curiosity, excitement, and inspiration. A small shift from “did it go well?” to “what went well?” can make all the difference in the energy that is generated by the conversation. There is no doubt that appreciative questions challenge our assumptions and get us to think more deeply. That is why the changes they generate are longer-lasting. This is particularly true if the process is shared with others.

     Since we are constantly asking ourselves and others questions, why not harness this potential and be more conscious about our inquiries and how they impact our lives? Perhaps the most important lesson of the Simultaneity Principle is that our questions have an immediate effect on how our reality unfolds. I invite you to play with your questions today, here is a fantastic resource for inspiration the Encyclopedia of Positive Questions (Whitney, Trosten-Bloom, Cooperrider, & Kaplin, 2004).


     Alexandra Arnold has a  background in travel and is  now an Administrative  Concierge at PwC. She holds  a Certificate in Positive  Organizational Development  from Champlain College and is working toward her Master in Industrial-Organizational Psychology. She facilitates Appreciative Living Learning Circles,

     small group workshops designed to teach the principles of Appreciative Inquiry and exercises to develop positivity and resilience.  

  • 29 May 2017 2:36 PM | Rachel DiGiammarino (Administrator)

    Welcome back to our Appreciative Inquiry (AI) journey. If you’ve missed it, our first blog introduced us to the Constructionist Principle, which reminds us that our reality is the one we create for ourselves, it is not one and the same for all of us. In this post, we discover the second principle of AI, the Poetic Principle, which takes this idea a step further.

     Life as a poem. The Poetic Principle invites us to view the world as a poem that can have endless interpretations. There are as many ways to describe a situation as there are unique individuals. Every time a story is told, there is more to be discovered, there are new details that can inspire us, there is something to learn. Every moment there is an infinite number of details we can choose to pay attention to, and our choices are fateful. In her book Appreciative Living: The Principles of Appreciative Inquiry in Personal Life, Jackie Kelm says “what we choose to notice creates our experience.” 

    What we focus on grows. We have all experienced the frequency illusion phenomenon: if you’re considering adopting a dog, all of sudden you notice dogs everywhere, including many in your neighborhood that you feel you’ve never seen before. What we put our attention on becomes a larger part of our reality. So if we focus on the shortcomings of a person or situation, resulting feelings and actions are likely to be a lot less pleasant than if we watch for what is valuable. In our society, we strongly value problem-solving and critical thinking. Sure, from an evolutionary standpoint, detecting dangers ensures survival, but this instinctive response may not be the most productive in modern society. By digging deeper into our negative emotions we can find very valuable information (learn more about it in The Upside of Your Dark Side, Kashdan and Biswas-Diener).

    AI suggests that there is an important difference between affirming and appreciating. Developing an appreciative eye means more than noticing what is there; it means being curious and inquiring deeper into it. When tasting wine, for example, you consider its many characteristics. Appreciating is a creative process. To practice your appreciative skills, think of a time you were at your best. What did it look like? How did it feel? What did you do or say? What did others do, say, or feel? Taking the time to relive those moments of bliss solidifies the memories, lifts our spirit and gives us strength in the present. Stavros and Torres list more appreciative exercises in Dynamic Relationships: Unleashing the power of Appreciative Inquiry in Daily Living.

    Finding what we want more of, not less. Sounds obvious, right? A lot of times, it is harder than it seems to identify what we want, instead of what we don’t want. We often notice the things that make us uncomfortable, then we know right away that we that we want less of it: less stress, less noise, less work, less arguments. But what we focus on is a choice. When we deliberately rephrase these statements into what we want, we’ve already taken the first step in creating this reality. Thinking “I want the audience to be attentive during this meeting” instead of “I hope people won’t get bored” will automatically shift your attention to the most engaged participants in the room. To positively influence your relationships, think of someone you have difficulties with and identify one small thing you value about them and why, then share it with them. Observe the impact this “tracking and fanning” technique has on future interactions. AI tells us that thoughts tend to spiral up or down, so appreciating something very small and simple like a smile can lead to another grateful thought, and another, and another. A powerful way to develop our AI muscles indeed, is by practicing gratitude. This is not to suggest that we ignore challenges, but that we sincerely try to find the lessons within them. The way Appreciative Inquiry differs from positive thinking is that it trains us to look for the good that is already there instead of what we wish was there.

    The Poetic Principle is about acknowledging that there are endless ways to interpret reality. It is about inquiring into past successes and truly appreciating what is, to create upward, life-enhancing spirals. It is about being more deliberate about where we put our attention in the now, because that’s what shapes our future.

    Alexandra Arnold has a background in travel and is now an  Administrative Concierge at PwC. She holds a Certificate in  Positive Organizational Development from Champlain College and is working toward her Master’s in Industrial-Organizational Psychology. She facilitates Appreciative Living Learning Circles, small group workshops designed to teach the principles of Appreciative Inquiry and exercises to develop positivity and resilience.  

  • 16 Apr 2017 4:01 PM | Rachel DiGiammarino (Administrator)

    Just like we keep our bodies healthy with regular exercise, why not get our brain in shape? You may be familiar with self-fulling prophecies, the Placebo effect, or the Halo effect. All are well researched tricks that our brain plays on us such that our beliefs directly impact our reality. Appreciative Inquiry (AI) - a philosophy, a methodology, and truly, a way of life - builds on the plasticity of our brain to do just that: develop positive mind muscles. AI is made of 5 core principles: The Constructionist Principle, the Poetic Principle, the Simultaneity Principle, the Anticipatory Principle, and the Positive Principle. In this blog, we’ll delve into the fundamentals of The Constructionist Principle.

    The Constructionist Principle is the foundation of Appreciative Inquiry that states that the way we know is fateful. In other words, we create our own reality and see the world through our unique lenses based on our experience, beliefs, values, traditions, and assumptions.The way we interpret situations and conversations for example, determines our response, either positive or negative, constructive or destructive. With our reactions, we shape our future, immediate and long term.

    Reality is co-created. What changes our views are our interactions with others, as well as the conversations we have with ourselves. We are constantly influenced by others, whether we like it or not. This is not only true about family members, teachers, or colleagues, but also anyone we make eye contact with (or not), exchange a smile with (or not), or hold the door for (or not). Communication, verbal and nonverbal, plays a major role in the reality that we create for ourselves. The good news is that since we construct our reality, we have a choice to construct it the way we want it. We are active players in our life stories.

    Words create worlds. According to the Constructionist Principle, not only do we construct our reality, but we can reconstruct it: by using different words to tell our stories, we have the power to change the past. There are endless possibilities to create new understanding and meaning of events long gone. How we modify our interpretation of the past will set in motions changes in who we are and what we believe in the present. This principle reminds us that nothing is fixed and that everything, including ourselves, continuously changes as we interact with others in the world, even if those shifts are so subtle that we don’t notice them.

    Truth is local. It’s easy to forget that we are all connected and that we have that much control. It’s easy to stop questioning our reality and start believing that our truth is THE truth, which can be dangerous. It is tempting to believe that experts hold THE truth or that numbers don’t lie. But science is not perfect. Even data needs to be selected, gathered, and interpreted. This is not to say that our beliefs and those shared by our communities are not valid. They are actually necessary pillars of our society - and keeping us sane. But it does mean that they are not absolute, and that everyone’s unique view deserves consideration. The thought of an infinite number of opinions is quite overwhelming, but not if we choose to see others and their differences as opportunities for learning and growth instead of threats.

    The Constructionist Principle invites us to grow self-awareness instead of living on autopilot. It empowers us with the realization that every moment, every word, intonation, and body language can change the direction of our future. It reminds us that questioning our assumptions is a way to expand our knowledge. It suggests that being genuinely open to another’s reality is what makes us better listeners and builds deeper relationships. It challenges us to regain the curiosity of children.

    Ready to go to the brain gym? Short and easy exercises to incorporate these principles into our personal and professional lives are available in Jackie Kelm’s book The Joy of Appreciative Living. Jacqueline Stavros and Cheri Torres also offer practical advice in Dynamic Relationships: Unleashing the Power of Appreciative Inquiry in Daily Living. Check out VT Chapter ATD’s blog again for future blogs on the four other AI principles.

     Alexandra Arnold has a background in travel and is now an  Administrative Concierge at PwC. She holds a Certificate in  Positive Organizational Development from Champlain College and is working toward her Master’s in Industrial-Organizational Psychology. She facilitates Appreciative Living Learning Circles, small group workshops designed to teach the principles of Appreciative Inquiry and exercises to develop positivity and resilience.  

  • 13 Mar 2017 7:31 PM | Rachel DiGiammarino (Administrator)

    Daylight savings time came to town this weekend, signaling a shift in the seasons and shining a light on new possibilities. Longer days and warmer temperatures are perfect for rethinking stale habits and rebuilding lost boundaries. Try one (or all) of these hacks for a week and watch yourself spring into wellbeing:

    Unplug: Enjoy long evenings and warm sunny days by taking time to completely unplug from the office. After work is a simple place to start, progress to weekends, then go pro with an actual vacation. Auto responders, outgoing messages and apps like Siesta Text help you fearlessly disconnect while keeping others in the loop.

    Get Out: Anyone familiar with being easily distracted, forgetful and mentally flighty? This common condition, a result of busy schedules and endless distractions, is called “Brain Fatigue”. The good news is that studies show how experiencing green spaces allays this malady. Try taking a twilight walk, stretching those legs at lunch or having a meeting in a park or on a patio.

    Go Green: If getting outside sounds good but isn’t really your jam, bring springtime inside with desk plants. Indoor plants (cacti count) are easy to care for and deliver bursts of “micro restoration”. These tiny refreshers lead to increased productivity, decreased stress and overall wellbeing.

    Let’s face it, no matter how much love we have for winter, abundant darkness and freezing temperatures are limiting. Luckily, daylight savings time and spring come along; keeping the lights on after work and warming our cold bones. Use these simple hacks to take advantage of the shifting seasons; if you dial in clear and focused ways now, you’ll enjoy them all through the summer.

    This post was originally published on Think NewCo's blog.

    Eli Shostak serves as the Operations Director for Think NewCo. Creating custom retreats in beautiful, off-the-grid locations is a core element in Think NewCo's Framework for Focus™. We believe that lasting change comes when we combine new and inspiring experiences with an actionable curriculum delivered by excellent facilitators. To learn more about us, please visit Think NewCo's website.

  • 28 Feb 2017 7:04 PM | Rachel DiGiammarino (Administrator)

    To what do you attribute your professional success? (check all that apply)

    • Formal education & training
    • Mentor
    • Grit & determination
    • Luck (right time, right place)
    • Other

    As a hiring manager, I’ve begun asking this question of job candidates. Of course there isn’t a right or wrong answer. I find that responses and corresponding explanations offer insight into the individual’s self-awareness, adaptability and growth. In almost every case the person being interviewed identifies “mentor” as highly relevant.  Usually the respondent is eager to share examples of the qualities that specific mentor possessed and the wisdom they imparted. The accolades are so powerful. I often wonder if they’ve ever told their mentor how they influenced them. (I hope so!)

    When I reflect on my own experiences, there most certainly have been mentors who had a profound and lasting impact on my growth. There’s the female leader of a non-profit who conveyed such optimism and persistence, which taught me the importance of vision. There’s the director of organizational development who demonstrated the power of asking provocative questions, which taught me how to encourage thinking and reflection. There’s the seasoned industry executive who surrounded himself with a management team that complemented his strengths and weaknesses, which taught me you don’t always have to be the smartest person in the room.

    Over several decades as both an employee and a manager, I have discovered how much I value personal integrity, open communication, and decisiveness. Today, I have a great boss. I haven’t always had great bosses. Sometimes I learned from them what not to do. Nevertheless, I’ve learned from all my bosses. That said, not every boss is a mentor (or a role model).

    The act of mentoring is a conscious, bi-directional effort. There are many definitions and the one that I subscribe to for the workplace comes from a long Wikipedia entry on mentoring:

    Mentoring is a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protégé)" (Bozeman, B.; Feeney, M. K. (October 2007). "Toward a useful theory of mentoring: A conceptual analysis and critique". Administration & Society. 39 (6): 719–739. doi:10.1177/0095399707304119).

    I find that most engaged professionals, no matter where they are at (myself included) in the spectrum from early career to late stage, look for ways to improve themselves, broaden their perspective, and/or hone a skill. That said, the higher up your position is in an organization, it’s possible the less likely you are to be mentored (unless you are being groomed for succession or you have a very mature organization with a formal mentoring program). In fact, the higher up you are, the more likely you are to be asked to be the mentor to someone else (also a good thing). In the absence of having a mentor within your organization, an alternative is to identify an industry mentor, which has additional potential (think future networking opportunities).

    Knowing your motivation for mentoring is important. What do you hope to get out of it? What are you willing to put into it? Ultimately, whether you are the mentor or the protégée, being receptive to, as well as intentional and transparent about, the mentoring process and the feedback is essential. While the mentoring relationship may be temporary (i.e., at a fixed time in your professional career) and people are apt to move on to new jobs, new companies, new industries, and new cities, the benefits can be long lasting.

    Have you acknowledged your mentor today?

  • 12 Feb 2017 7:48 AM | Rachel DiGiammarino (Administrator)

    A virtual instructor-led training (VILT) event can be a powerful and economical tool for supplementing the benefits of traditional learning for your employees. Yet doing it right requires a keen grasp of the technological underpinnings of VILT, adequate preparation on the part of both instructor and students, and the organization’s support — particularly in terms of available resources and encouragement to participate.

    Here are five factors to consider for a successful VILT event (see the infographic below for details):

    1. Create an equal environment. In all likelihood, your training event will involve students in the classroom and at remote locations. It’s imperative that remote students can launch and run programs without interruption, and that they can share content and interact with onsite students via video, chat features and private messaging.

    2. Prep the content. Generally speaking, text-heavy and lecture-driven content is less successful in a VILT event—where students will more enthusiastically embrace content that is visual and interactive in nature. Focus on providing content that lends itself to small group activities (thus increasing engagement) in a structure with enough time flexibility to avoid causing stress to participants.

    3. Prep the instructor. In a VILT event, the key requirements for the instructor are:
    • Comfort in operating virtual training technology
    • A willingness to engage remote and physical audiences equally
    Having an in-depth familiarity with equipment enables instructors to direct the in-class and virtual conversation so students feel at ease engaging, resulting in a more positive learning experience. 

    Instructors should also be adept at keeping participants engaged by emphasizing key takeaways and asking open-ended questions that spur additional discussion and reflection. Where available, they should utilize file-sharing, chat rooms and virtual breakout sessions to further stimulate participants’ interest.

    4. Prep the student. A “preflight checklist” helps ensure that all systems are functioning as they should and that students know how to operate the interface. It’s also important to establish ground rules for the event, including:
    • Promote a distraction-free environment by turning off all mobile devices
    • Do a “test run” of remote classroom technology
    • Prior to the event, provide expectations for each student’s active involvement 
    • Encourage students to interact with the material and offer feedback on their learning experience
    • Describe the proper way for students to alert the instructor should they experience any equipment issues or if the need to temporarily step away from the classroom arises
    5. Support the event. To be truly successful, a VILT event must include pre-testing the virtual system and supplying participants with the right equipment (headsets, microphones, etc.) prior to the start of the event.

    Perhaps just as important are related post-event activities. Record the learning session so instructors can review their performance and make adjustments in technique, as needed. To ensure the event’s long-term effectiveness, put together a program of supplementary online exercises and links to content (webinars, video, podcasts, etc.) that reinforce the key points of the event. Many participants also welcome downloadable handouts.

    There’s no question a VILT event can resonate powerfully with attendees in a physical venue and a remote setting. The key is comprehensive preparation and agreement on what constitutes a successful learning experience for everyone involved.

    Author bio: Hugh McCullen, President of MicroTek, is responsible for expanding the customer services portfolio and global presence while accelerating the company’s ability to provide best-in-class training solutions designed to enhance the learner experience. McCullen continues to position MicroTek as trusted partner of choice, with focus on providing speed and flexibility for training, meeting and event management to help customers evolve non-core services into strategic assets.

  • 31 Jan 2017 6:09 AM | Rachel DiGiammarino (Administrator)

    Star Trek: Next Generation fans remember episodes that included an alien race called the Borg in which their stock phrase was “Resistance is futile” where they would assimilate other cultures into their world forcing them to become part Borg.  I think they were right in that generally resistance is futile. In my experience, there really isn’t a way to stop the sensation or feeling of not wanting to comply or accept something. When resistance (a force that opposes or slows down motion) arises, it is difficult to prevent the energy from taking over us and halting the ease and flow.

    Resistance comes up in many circumstances. We may feel it in ourselves and we may see it in our counterparts and colleagues. In the workplace, it surfaces when:

    • change is proscribed, such as to systems, processes or protocols,
    • people are doing something new or face something unfamiliar,
    • there is exposure to stressful situations,
    • misunderstandings crop up from assumptions or miscommunication, and
    • tension is present in relationships.

    During these scenarios, resistance manifests as a sensation or emotion in which we don’t want to do something or feel angry, upset, annoyed or frustrated. Behaving in distorted manners (appearing lethargic or complacent, showing up late to meetings, missing deadlines, not communicating or responding to emails or calls, or avoiding people altogether) are a way of acting out the feelings that are not actually being expressed. This plays out in many different places and may surface in both implicit and explicit ways. Sometimes we don’t even know we are in a state of resistance nor have any sense that we are stuck in that perception.  In fact, often the reasons cited for resistance, particularly when facing change in the workplace, are usually external in nature (inadequate process, disorganized leaders, and unreasonable timelines). Unfortunately, the critical internal factor of the feeling of discomfort and fear given the perception of change as personally difficult is typically overlooked.

    While resistance serves as a marker for looking more deeply at something going on inside, if we don’t get a handle fairly quickly during these moments, it will be counterproductive to remain in that state, as it can get in the way of productivity, morale, engagement, and achievement on the job. So, what can we do to resist resistance when it comes up?


    The first step requires awareness that it exists.  When the feeling of resistance erupts, it truly is futile to attempt to not feel it or be impacted by the sensation in that moment. The quicker we recognize that we are in resistance or see it in someone else, and let it flow through or around us and stay present to it as simply energy that is happening now, we can move toward other steps to resist the resistance.


    The second step is to shift from a negative perspective on feeling resistance to a more accepting stance. It may seem counter intuitive to agree to the idea of resistance because if someone feels unhappy or scared or worried about something new or different, the concept of allowing it or not resisting the discomfort may seem impossible. However, if they can metaphorically “sit next to it” and treat it as an old friend, perhaps more ease and comfort will surface.  They may recognize with the appearance of resistance it is a signal that there is something going on that is scary or upsetting.


    A third and final step to resisting resistance, once there is awareness that it is present and after accepting that it is biological and unavoidable, is to take a few moments to get back into a calmer state through deeper breathing or sitting quietly for a minute, and then consider what might be going on and where the fear is coming from, in order to find a new perspective and ideas for reassurance. 

    Ultimately, the way to resist resistance is an internal path. Even though the instinct is to blame and point the finger at everything that is wrong going on around us, and assume the problem is out there or in others, we are in charge of our perspectives and reactions. By catching ourselves, we can make the effort to shift to the other side of resistance through awareness, acceptance and assurance.

    This blog was originally posted on

     Heather Meeker Green is the Managing Director  at Accordence, Inc., a global training firm  specializing in negotiation, communication and  personal effectiveness skills. With over 20 years  in the world of interest-based negotiation, conflict resolution, self-leadership, trust and relationship effectiveness, she has facilitated, mediated, trained, and presented to a variety of public and private sector audiences such as business leaders, project managers, sales representatives, managers and nonprofit staff. 

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