Invisible Disabilities

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Three weeks ago to date, I threw my back out. Yes – I am a 32 year old with a 90 year old spine. I know it sounds like something someone should overcome in a matter of days, but I have been down and out of commission for at least 2 weeks. The first couple days were excruciating. The only respite I could find was getting on my hands and knees or laying flat on my back. Not cool. During my time, I couldn’t help but think about other people who have similar conditions, or even other conditions that prevent them from doing typical things everyday. I can say my respect for them doubled.

During this time, I also had the opportunity to attend a conference where I learned about effective coaching and advising. We were asked to create a workshop, and I chose: Helping students with disabilities find jobs. We decided that our focus would be to target students with visible and invisible disabilities. After discussion, we realized that with our Universities combined, the percentage of students with mental and behavioral health issues is forecast to rise substantially in the next couple of years (at least 30%). A lot of these issues are emotional and not seen. We also discussed how some employees are not aware of how to employ someone with chronic illnesses, or that may have special circumstances requiring special attention. Our 45- minute discussion did not even begin to tap into the unknown illnesses that pervade in our current society.

Invisible Disability

It was not too long ago I had a student who would miss work, or come to the office late because of an invisible disability. We worked together to identify a schedule that would help her better perform her job responsibilities, and examined current expectations of missing work, or arriving late. It proved to be a fantastic working relationship. I also recognized that I may have been a more forgiving supervisor and made sure my teammate was aware that familiar opportunities with a future employer may not exist.

I just don’t feel like we are there yet as a society.

I am so proud of people like Carly Medosch, who are trying to start the conversation about what it means to have an ‘invisible disability.’ I was truly inspired and hope this conversation continues, particularly in regards to HR policies and federal rights and regulations. Read the article on NPR.

FAVE QUOTES from NPR:

“It is hard to pinpoint the number of Americans with an invisible disability, but it’s estimated there are millions. Their conditions may range from lupus to bipolar disorder or diabetes. The severity of each person’s condition varies, and the fear of stigma means that people often prefer not to talk about their illnesses.

But in employment disability discrimination charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission between 2005 and 2010, the most commonly cited conditions were invisible ones, according to analysis by researchers at Cornell University’s Employment and Disability Institute.

Conclusion

I know this flies in the face of human rights, a hot topic on all accounts, but I feel very strongly that society needs to be better at working with persons with disabilities in general. In asking my employer what they thought about the staggering statistics, and what we need to do to prepare for these populations, the answer was, “We need to educate ourselves on what they are, so we will know how best to respond.”

Please understand, I get that if someone cannot perform their job responsibilities that it places a major strain on production, keeping up with goals, and efficiency. BUT, I also believe in proving periods, coaching, and direction.

  • Does it mean we need to be more emotionally intelligent in our jobs? Probably.
  • Is that a sacrifice future employers want to make? Perhaps, and hopefully!

I am just so glad this conversation is moving forward. Thank you!

Black and Blue Goes to a Whole New Level

I was super impressed by the brilliant PR idea of the Black and Blue dress. You know the one I am talking about. It took the world by fire on FB and my entire office and many of our students were talking about it for days. In fact, I am sure my student advisors could have had their own podcast the way they debated the issue.

Amazing PR, right!?

Well take a look at this – the Salvation Army takes a very timely issue to the next level, bringing an awareness that may stun most with its sad, but true statistics.

Again, sad message, but great PR.

Eliminating Stereotypes with Hugs

One group is creatively conducting a social experiment to breakdown the barriers in an effort to eliminate stereotypes of people of Muslim decent. They recently posted this video. What do you think? Could this creative and innovative approach benefit their cause?

I think it can at least start the conversation, right?

Conflict is not a four letter word

conflict1When we hear the word conflict, it is natural to think of its negative connotation. It is typical to think of conflict the way Merriam-Webster describes it, as “a struggle for power, property, etc., or a strong disagreement between people, groups, etc., that results in often angry argument.” Seldom do we think that conflict is actually good in order for a conversation or idea to progress.

How boring would it be to live in a world where there wasn’t some voice of conflict? It might be better for us to see conflict as “a difference that prevents agreement: disagreement between ideas, feelings, etc.” (also from Merriam Webster dictionary).

The Millennial Pastor, author of the blog post Christians need to disagree with each other, stated, “I am always surprised by people who get uncomfortable or upset with disagreement. We have all seen those moments, we have all witnessed a disagreement change the dynamic of a conversation.

And no, I am not talking about conflict, but genuine disagreement. Imagine, three or four people having a conversation and a particular opinion or point of view is brought forward by one or two. Then someone says, “I disagree.” And the disagreement isn’t about conflict, but a difference of perspective. One opinion is put on the table, only to be followed by a contrary opinion. No fighting, no conflict, just two opposing opinions existing in the same space.

These disagreement moments make us uncomfortable. Often, we just don’t know how to move forward. Living in the tension of opposing opinions feels uncomfortable.”

Conflict-resolution1During a recent all Employee Conference at BYU-Idaho, Brent Bean discussed the subject of Asking Questions of Authority Without Questioning Authority. During his presentation he discussed how natural it is for human beings to become married to a position so much that when we challenge someone else,  it is hard to have a healthy disagreement.

He also discussed that when one person goes into a debate or disagreement and the motivation is power, the people involved end up more separated and attached to their own personal views than ever before.

In order to have an effective conflict, it was suggested that those involved should set the standard of:

  • Focus on truth (this eliminates he said, she said)
  • Focus on discovery of truth (this can happen without blame, believe it or not, as part of a fact-gathering process). There is such a thing as coming up with good questions in order to figure out what the other side wants without it turning into a debate.
  • Separating the person from the problem

He presented this great quote: “When we are debating an issue, loyalty means giving me your honest opinion, whether you think I’ll like it or not. Disagreement, at this stage, stimulates me. But once a decision has been made, the debate ends. From that point on, loyalty means executing the decision as if it were your own.” Colin Powell

On the same token, it was also said, “Rarely can a response make something better. True connection is what is important,” and I would add, it keeps the conflict emotion-free.

Conflict does not have to be seen as a bad thing. Learning how to communicate effectively by asking the right questions and trying to understand where the other person is coming from, is a better approach for everyone. These goals can really drive and add value to the conversation. If at the end of the day you and the person you are debating with still disagree about something, realize that it everything is going to ok.

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Great Commercial: Service Dogs to the Rescue, Literally

There is not a week that goes by where somehow someone mentions having a ‘service’ dog. When I first heard about them, I wasn’t really surprised that dogs are being trained to understand and respond to human emotions. Several communities now have organizations, for profit and not for profit that also understand this need.

Recently, employees at BYU-Idaho met during an all employee meeting during one of the breakout sessions to talk about how we can help troubled employees. Some staggering statistics show a dramatic increase in patients with anxiety and depression. These are conditions that these students will battle far into their adulthood. What are we doing to help support them? For now, the hope is to educate leadership groups as much as possible so we can make decisions that will aid those who are bound for jobs over which we have stewardship. I am not sure what the answer will be, but the rise in persons with these needs is apparent and palpable. The need for any support is going to sky rocket.

In the meantime, watch this beautiful commercial about the positive affects of having a Service Dog. Good PR?

Another video shows you one Service Dog in action as he feels his owner becoming agitated. Watch what happens…it’s beautiful.

P2B: Dave Blanchard

BecomingThe first speaker of the P2B Conference at BYU-Idaho was Dave Blanchard, the CEO of The Og Mandino Group and managing partner of Intentional Creation, LLC.

Summary

  • The first step to ‘becoming’ is to come to yourself

This statement was not intended to be selfish. It was more about finding the true me in order to be authentic. Authenticity in this case was described as who we are when glory of everything and everyone around us withdraws. Dave spoke to developing the understanding that we are nothing, and the meaning of “nothing” is meaningless. When we recognize that we are nothing, it allows us to come to ourselves and be more real with who we are.

Why Millenials Are Different, and Why That Difference is Awesome

I was intrigued by Dave’s observations and research on the upcoming generation, which he refers to as Millenials.

  • 98% of millenials have high levels of empathy

    What this means: the up and coming generation may experience more vulnerability to forces that could cause doubt, fear, and indecision – which inhibit truly “becoming,” taking risks, furthering progress no matter how hard it would seem

  • 99.5% of millenials are intrinsically resisting structure

    What this means: resisting structure sound bad, but it isn’t. Dave’s generation grew up in the era of “have to, must do, should” where  laws, policies, and order were obeyed and followed, and not questioned. Millenials grew up in the era of “I choose, I want, I will.” They ask questions not to argue, but to understand why. Bottom line – millenials are problem solvers because they ask questions and resist the structure, which can make them successful.

  • 97% of millenials are ALWAYS thinking – their brains never shut off

    What this means: Because millenials are always thinking, they tend to get attached to their ideas. Then their ideas somehow get attached to their self-esteem, and therefore they must be right, right!? Dave says that the up and coming generation has a gift of being able to vividly visualize, and when used the right way, it can lead to taking an inspired idea and using it to open the windows of possibility. Possibility allows an idea to become a reality: from an idea to creation.

My Takeaways

Dave’s speech opened my eyes once more to the principle of creation. As I open myself up to the realm of possibility, and can lay my fears behind me, I have the ability to become a creator. On a more spiritual note, Dave also spoke about how earth is a laboratory of creation. Right now, we have been given the opportunity to create ideas and see them through, and how amazing it will be to see how this laboratory is preparing us for another time and place – if only we could recognize our strengths and weaknesses in order to become.

In the end he said: Passion is what we are given in order to truly become.

Power to Become: P2B BYU-Idaho Conference

This past weekend, BYU Idaho celebrated the journey of “becoming” during its first ever P2B Professional Development Conference. With speakers/leaders from around the nation, I was inspired, motivated, encouraged, and determined to do better and be better.P2B

A couple weeks ago, I attended a youth conference where we were asked to write down goals we want to achieve in the next 5 years. One of my goals is learning how to be a better leader, and putting it into practice. I have had several mentors in my career who have been amazing examples of what it means to be a leader, not just a manager or supervisor. My hope is that I can emulate their leadership.

I went to the conference looking for answers on how I could become a better leader. Over the next week or so, I will post some thoughts and impressions I received as I listened to the speakers that have helped on this path to achieving my goal.

First Time Boss/Team Lead? What to do and what NOT to do!

As a leader, making mistakes is part of the job. However, there are some things that you can do to avoid some mistakes that often  Leader-1times become deep rooted and set the culture for the teams you lead.

The BBC article, by Elizabeth Garone, Five Sins of First-Time Bosses identifies tips of the leadership world including:

Taking Charge When You Should Take Charge

There is a time to make decisions. The article suggests not waiting to make important decisions. BUT it is also important not to make unnecessary decisions right off the bat just demonstrate your authority.

Going to Your Head

Garone suggests that just because you are in charge doesn’t mean you should be a boss – it means you should strive to be a leader. Telling people how to do their jobs every minute of the day, or “dominating decision making,” is not going to make you a leader, it is going to make you a member of the team that is demanding and unpleasant.

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The “I can do it myself mentality”

This needs little explanation. Delegation is key. It also gived the team learning opportunities they might not otherwise have. The important takeaway from this article is finding mentors.

During my first week at my new job, I had a mentor stress the importance of not saying, “my employee, my staff, they, boss,” and use words like, “team, we, leader, steward.” I have fantastic mentors in my life who shape the way I view the workplace. During my employment in Washington D.C., the concept of being a team was not lost on me. I was and continue to be part of a fantastic team with leaders as employers.

Decision Paralysis

When in a leadership role, you are responsible for making decisions, particularly making hard decisions. Hopefully, if you have established a team-like atmosphere, and the decision you make ends up taking the business/company/organization in a direction that is not good for business, you can admit the problem, take responsibility for the issue, and come up with a new plan as a team.

This is easier said than done as pride tends to get in the way. I have seen bad decisions made and covered up – and blame becomes the name of the game. To help mitigate decision paralysis, it is so much easier for a leader to admit the decision mistake and work as a team to make a better one.

Above The Rest

As a leader, “your job entails much more than just management tasks.” Garone says that most first time managers want to do everything they can to succeed, but “[t]hey remove themselves from the production side of their job and devote themselves entirely to managing. But this is a bad idea. Instead, stay involved and be a player/coach as long as possible.”

The Forbes article 6 Ways to Make Your Leadership and Workplace Fun Again by Glenn Llopis, provides several other ideas that will help leaders develop a culture of work and encouragement, including:

  1. Allow People to Fail – encourage team to test ideas
  2. Build Teams that Last – allow them to be think-tanks
  3. Be a Great Communicator – hold no secrets
  4. Don’t Hide Behind the Title – be the real you
  5. Awaken the Organization – keep people on their toes
  6. Keep it simple – make it fun

Conclusion

There are many things that contribute to being a great leader. I have had opportunities in my personal and professional life that have strengthened my leadership skills, and have had hard conversations about what I need to be the kind of leader that people would want to follow. It has been important for me to actively seek those learning moments that drive motivation and improvement.

Messed Up on the Job? Helpful Tips for What to do Next!

Maybe some of you haven’t ever messed up on the job (if that is the case….you are amazing). But for those of us who have, it can be quite daunting.

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My first several years as a young professional, I messed up a lot! I was an overanxious young adult whose main drive was to obey and please my fellow co-workers, managers, and bosses, while getting the job done at the same time. While my intentions for business success were good, it was inevitable that I would mess up, because guess what – I was new at the job thing. While I could go into a long argument about how our current social and education models don’t necessarily prepare us to fail well, the focus of this blog post is more about what you can do to overcome mess ups and failures on the job.

First, messing up and making mistakes WILL happen. So, before setting expectations too high, please, please know that messing up is not just part of the job experience, but also part of life.

Second, it is what we do with these mess ups and failures that determine what happens next.

The article How to recover from a big career mistake, by MSN.com, gives five things someone can do when they mess up terribly at work, including:

  • Diagnose
  • Fess up and apologize
  • Keep communication flowing
  • Wait and watch
  • Remain positive

The article The ‘Just Right’ Reaction When you Mess up at Work by Forbes, demonstrates three scenarios based on  case studies, supporting some tips the MSN article mentions. Some similar and important aspects were: taking a deep breath, and owning up to the mistake.

I  cannot express enough the importance of honesty. Honesty and integrity in the office may seem hard to find, and hard to do. The article Honesty at Work by Career Success for Newbies, talks about what honesty in the workplace can do for you.

Over time, I have learned that mistakes in the workplace are bound to happen. I have been able to develop how I approach each of these situations, and though I haven’t perfected my response, I have found that honesty is the best policy. Because I understand that mistakes do happen, I can approach this issue with the expectation to learn from my mistakes, which in turn will make me a better worker, employee and person.

Creating More Positive Stereotypes Using Media

Perhaps some of you have seen the Dove and Always commercials taking over FB posts and social media by storm. One of the latest and greatest is about dismantling and really having the conversation about what it means to do something like a girl – taking already existing stereotypes, dissecting, and creating a new stereotype based on turning something negative into something positive. There are several other ideas that are trying to create new social norms and perspectives, like how it is considered cool to get a period (have you seen that video about period care packages - HelloFlo by Always?),  or how owning a mini-van is pretty rad (remember the swagger wagon commercial by Toyota?).

One my favorite recent trends is the lazy/idiot dad stereotype diminished with the new Peanut Butter Cheerios Commercial. Good PR Cheerios….a lot better than that other ad that sparked controversy when really it shouldn’t have.