Archive for the ‘alumni relations’ Category

on likeability and having a yes attitude

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Regular readers of my blog might be surprised to see the word yes, since in a past post, I focused on saying no. It’s a reminder that there’s always a time and a place for everything! I came across two of these articles by Guy Kawasaki in the same week, so I knew it meant that I needed to cover the topic.

First, he focused on how to achieve likeability – mostly on accepting others and smiling. He starts with an Oscar Wilde quote, “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.” 

I met one of these happiness causers during my Stanford interview more than 8 years ago and we remain good friends to this day. If you work at Stanford, you might know who I’m talking about – NaSun Cho. When I first moved to California, I didn’t know many people. NaSun is known for taking new people under her wing and making introductions and connections to everyone she comes across. She embodies this idea of accepting others, always bringing out the best in people and finding commonalities. I’m glad we’ve remained close, as she’s a constant reminder of how that positive energy feels infectious.

I like to think of this idea as expecting the best from people. If a colleague misses a deadline, doesn’t return a phone call, doesn’t understand what you’re requesting from him/her…the best response is always to expect the best from your team. That moment where you choose how to respond to a misstep is very important in building relationships. We all have bad days and each of us makes a choice on how to respond in various situations, let’s make the choice to be positive.

Smiling is a no-brainer for me. I’m lucky because I tend to smile a lot when I’m nervous, uncertain, etc – it basically covers my bases!

In my organization, the yes attitude certainly means you’re more liked and perceived as someone willing to partner on new ideas and it signals you’re a team player. We’re a matrix organization and it’s easy to put up walls or act defensively as a default during times when you’re short on resources or the scope of an idea feels overwhelming.

I wouldn’t call myself a yes lady, but I strive to embody the idea of “yes, tell me more.” Of course, I can be cautious in the beginning, but when it comes to action, I try to maintain a positive attitude and not say no from the beginning. If you keep saying no, people will stop coming to you with ideas.

In his LinkedIn post on a Yes Attitude, Guy Kawasaki notes that, “A “yes” buys time, enables you to see more options, and builds rapport….By contrast, a “no” response stops everything. There’s no place to go, nothing to build on, and no further options. You never know what may come of a relationship, and you will never know if you don’t let it begin.”

So let’s all try to say “yes” more often this week.

The Six People You Need in Your Life

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

This blog is a long time coming, as I’ve been in the weeds at work. If you find yourself visiting this page to see if I’ve written something new, did you know you can subscribe to e-mail updates when there’s a new post? Just enter your e-mail address on the right hand side.

Last month, I saw this great piece in Forbes, reminding me that you can’t get anything done alone in the workplace. It’s all about finding the right people to help you stay motivated, happy and successful in your job.

This photo represents the instigator. That’s the person I strive to be, as it’s more aspirational and forward-thinking. For most people, I probably fall into the category as the taskmaster, since I manage so many projects around the Alumni Association.

I think it’s an interesting exercise to go through the list and  first consider how your co-workers might see you, especially looking at how that relates to who you think you represent in the office. Beyond that, go through the list and see if you have your bases covered for these office advocates.

  • Instigator
  • Cheerleader
  • Doubter
  • Taskmaster
  • Connector
  • Example

For myself, I think I’m missing a good connector in my work life. Anyone want to volunteer to help me out? Otherwise, I feel like I have a strong base of people that keep me energized and focused around here.

here we go a-conferencing!

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Next week is our industry’s primary annual conference – the Ivy Plus Alumni Relations Conference. Cornell is hosting, and since I was snowed in last year while visiting, I’m looking forward to lovely weather and having more than two sets of clothes while there. In light of this upcoming visit, I wanted to post some suggestions about attending a conference – of course, some of these unique to being in a less-competitive industry like higher education.

99%, the think tank for Behance posted their 5 conference tips recently:

  • Separate the wisdom from the action.
  • Distill every talk down to one key takeaway.
  • Defy structure to mine the circumstantial.
  • Plan private gatherings with like-minded folks.
  • Process business cards for follow-up in real-time.

I think these are pretty good tips. Here’s a few best practices I like to follow, especially when there’s a group from your office all attending the same conference:

Prepare. Bring business cards, brush up on your numbers (for me, that means reminding myself about general statistics on our alumni population), and bring printed materials to share with others. If you have a successful program and you know others will be interested in learning more, bring some background material to have at your disposal.

Don’t skip out on any sessions. Work pays for conferences and it’s not a joyride. That sounds tough, but it’s true. You might have e-mails piling up or other work, but you need to put it aside and take advantage of all of the benefits of a good conference – great content, mingling with co-workers and networking with peers. Trying to squeeze in other work doesn’t allow you to get the most out of a conference.

Keep a running idea list for your organization. Conferences always give you some kind of notebook. I take notes during sessions, but I also keep a list on the back page of specific ideas I should consider for my own projects when I return. This puts all the ideas in one place and creates a set of action items or possibilities to think about relevant to your own work. If you have some involvement in organizing the conference in the future, it’s also a great place to list potential changes or additions to future meetings (maybe unique to my position, being in an events department).

Mingle with other people and spark up conversations. Professional conferences end up being a unique chance to bond with fellow co-workers. The challenge is in finding the right balance between sticking with your group and making sure to connect with others during your time there. I tend to gather with the Stanford folks at meal times (unless they are round tables around my professional area) and then sessions, sit next to people from other schools. If your organization has planned attendance thoughtfully, your organization should be spread out with not everyone attending the same session. Sometimes my best conference takeaways have been from lingering conversations after sessions or in the optional conference activities.

Write down all the conference followup with peers. How many times at a meeting have you said, “I’ll get back to you on that?” and how many times have you actually followed through? This happens a lot at conferences, so I keep a list of names and what I’m following up on a separate page of my notebook. Upon returning back to the Bay Area, I try to get to all of these follow-ups within a week. Your peers will appreciate it and you’ll be doing your best to keep the connection alive.

Speak up and share information. I’ve noticed co-workers in sessions sometimes withholding information and I don’t always understand that. Share and share alike is true, and the more knowledge you’re offering up, the more you’re likely to receive. In particular, if your industries are not competing, there’s nothing to lose.

Bring back wisdom to the office. The thing about conferences is that not everyone can attend. Usually 10-15% of our organization attend this Ivy Plus Alumni Relations Conference, and about half of these folks are regulars. Here’s a few things you can do to share:

  • Take time out of a staff meeting after you return to share some of your learnings, especially those relevant to your organization.
  • Connect your staff with other staff from institutions in similar roles
  • If there are LinkedIn groups, Facebook pages, listserves, etc – let your co-workers know so they can stay current as well.
  • Pass along readings, resources or other conference materials co-workers might find helpful.

Spreading the information will only make your organization as a whole better and stronger.