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In the Vault

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.  


WHO IS SOPHIA CONFIDENTIAL?

Sophia is an experienced professional who has worked in a variety of fields. Ask her anything. Sophia is not HR, your boss, your lawyer or your therapist. But, she IS the person who will tell it to you straight, even if it’s difficult to hear.

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Submit your question or situation anonymously, and our team of experienced international educators will post it with our best answer.

Watch  this space as well as LinkedIn and our e-newsletter for your answer!


SOPHIA SAYS....

  • 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.

  • 21 Apr 2021 8:29 PM | Anonymous


    Dear Sophia,

    The Covid-19 pandemic hit us like the hammer of Thor in 2020, pummeling us from every direction and ultimately affecting our financial life. Where do I go from here? How can I reinvent myself? Do I nurture only my strengths or build upon my weaknesses? The fear of failure in a career transition is very real. I want to be happy in my choice of employment but in a pandemic, following your passion does not guarantee profitability. Relocation seems almost a certainty to land the perfect job. How can I truly trust the long-distance move (once found) will work out? I know that with failure comes inevitable growth. I do not want a career transition to be paralyzing. I am an educated woman with many talents! I volunteer locally. I extend myself on social media platforms and online groups. The fear of the unknown is real. I ask myself: (a) Don't they see my talents? (b) Where is that perfect job? (c) Do I need to relocate to find my next employer? (d) What am I doing wrong? (e) Am I doing enough?

    Sincerely,

    Slowly Sinking

    Dear Slowly Sinking,

    The pandemic has, indeed, been a pummeling experience! I can’t name one friend who felt totally prepared or anyone who didn’t want to jump off the roller coaster ride at some point. It’s understandable why imagining a career transition strikes you with fear of failure. You’ve already identified you have lots of talents, education, and networks at your disposal. To minimize getting overwhelmed, let’s break this down into some bite size pieces:

    • Write down your priorities. What do you want most in a new job? Is relocation really necessary? Can you widen your search to include more types of positions in your current area? We have the pandemic to thank for more fully remote positions so be sure to consider this option too. I suggest focusing on a defined geographic area and remote positions first and dedicating more energy to identify transferable skills desirable in a wide variety of positions. Focus less on looking for the “perfect” job and more on the skills and talents you bring or can learn in a new role. 

    • What’s a potential timeline you are working with? Do you need a new job now, or do you have time to explore? If you need a new job quickly, then move to tailor your resume, LinkedIn profile and endorsements, and/or personal website to highlight your accomplishments and transferable skills. If you have more time, review several resources like books or podcasts centered on the topic of career alignment and transitions. Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans is a book I really liked. It teaches design thinking to use “prototypes” and test them to build a career and life that works for you. Don’t forget the Global Leadership League’s Career Connections matches League members to explore and discuss career paths. Never forget the power of asking your friends or colleagues for insight--they might have perspective on your skills or personality that you can’t easily see.

    • Does the perfect job really exist? It’s tempting to seek certainty that a job change will match your expectations. Stay focused on the knowledge you did your research to match your skills and capacity for growth, align the new role with your values, understand the organizational culture, etc., and you’ve made a well informed decision. If the new position doesn’t work out you’ve no doubt learned new skills, and built new networks that position you for the next opportunity. Don’t be afraid--once you clear the hurdle of preparing for a job change you can get excited to reinvent yourself!

    • How can you demonstrate your talents to potential employers? Once you’ve identified some possible new employers, use your network to request an informational interview to ask questions and share about you and your talents in 15-20 minute conversations. Informational interviews give you exposure in the hidden job market, boost self-esteem, and prepare for a future job interview.

    Try to look at the steps above like exercises that will define your muscles by increasing your self-confidence and gearing you up for what’s next. Eventually life will begin to feel “normal” again thanks in part to the vaccinations and the resumption of some of our pre-pandemic routines. Before getting too settled, consider the suggestions above. In my experience, the exploration will continue to serve you well no matter what is going on in the world.

    Confidentiality yours,

    Sophia

    P.S. Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’m curious what the amazing community of educators reading this post have to say. Chime in, folks! What thoughts do you have for Slowly Sinking? 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 Apr 2021 7:00 AM | Anonymous


    Dear Sophia,

    I am often invited to meetings because I am a senior woman - the organization believes in gender diversity in committees, councils etc. However, that does not mean there is equality in discussion. When I am in a meeting with mostly men (particularly faculty) there is rarely a way to get a word in. Sometimes they take over the conversation and only when they have exhausted all of their breath do they stop and ask the women around the table if we have any last words. Meaning, we feel like we are expected to be quiet until summoned or we have to somehow insert ourselves which ruffles feathers. And, if we try to disagree or add a new perspective, we have to be forceful/dramatic with our words to be heard. How does one interrupt or interject in these situations without being seen as a bully or disrupter?

    Sincerely, 

    Keeping Quiet... but Not For Long

    Dear Keeping Quiet... but Not For Long,

    Taylor Swift wasn’t lying when she said “I'm so sick of running as fast I can, Wondering if I'd get there quicker If I was a man.” Let me tell you, we all feel it. And for those that need facts, research confirms that women continue to be silenced or consistently interrupted in the workplace. In addition, women are very often perceived negatively for doing things that are praised in men. If a man interrupts and speaks up, he’s confident. If a woman does the same, she’s aggressive. This is completely ridiculous, but a part of the hypocrisy rooted in systemic issues that need to be addressed if the organization is seeking a culture of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. So knowing that it's not all in your head, what can you do?

    First, recognize that you have authority. You wouldn’t be in the position you are in if you weren’t smart, resourceful, committed, and powerful. You may not feel like you’re these things in situations like the one you’ve described, but don’t let anyone take away your power! Own it. 

    Second, have you pointed out the issues of inclusion of women to leadership? It’s not fun and the men in the room will probably get uncomfortable and potentially defensive, but it's important to do. Change needs to come from the top down and if you have some level of authority, use it. Consider building this into larger scale strategic initiatives for the organization. I’m going to sound like a broken record when I say this, but trainings on unconscious bias and DEI make a difference if the organization is fully behind them. 

    If the above all sounds too tough or too slow for you right now, that’s okay. Here are a few things you can start doing immediately:

    • Don’t wait for the men in the room to ask you to speak, just do it. We are conditioned to be polite and to wait our turn but speaking up doesn’t mean you are or need to be rude. For example, when you get the opportunity, say something like, “Great suggestion, Chad. That brings me to my point...” This will naturally give you space to speak. Do the research, come prepared, and create the opportunity to be heard.

    • Support other women. Build a shared understanding with the other women in the office. If a female colleague is speaking and she gets interrupted, step in by saying, “Sorry, Maya, you were saying...” Or, if you see another female colleague hasn’t had an opportunity to speak, ask them directly what their opinion is. Give them the floor. Create a culture where everyone has their voice heard by supporting each other. There is power in numbers.

    Build male allyship. Share your experience with the men in the office. Have them join your efforts to bring about change. I hate to say it, but the men that are perpetuating these biases will most likely listen to other men more than other women, so use that to your advantage. It can feel exhausting to have to teach others all the time, but if  you have men in your office that are open to having the conversation and change, then allow them to do so.

    Remember, it will take time for these things to change but don’t worry about feeling like you’re interrupting. Interrupt. Have your voice be heard! Own your power. You have a seat at the table that another woman may not. Use it!

    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 Keeping Quiet... but Not For Long? 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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