strength-based Archives

Daughter of a wealthy industrialist, she married, raised a family, and then chose to enter the field of social work and dedicate her life to serving her community.

Revered by many throughout Houston, Maconda B. O’Connor was born on May 4, 1930 and passed from this life on May 19, 2012.

The Houston Chronicle and others have listed her long list of achievements.  She received over two dozen awards and honorary degrees, served on Houston’s and the nation’s most prestigious boards, and founded or helped start innovative programs dedicated to helping people improve their lives. As Angela Blanchard, president and CEO of Neighborhood Centers Inc., was quoted as saying, “There isn’t a place to go to in this city where you can get help that she didn’t help nurture.”

A colleague introduced us while Maconda was completing her doctoral studies at Smith College. She was looking for a research project for a required internship, and the colleague suggested my grant from the National Science Foundation might meet the requirements. Maconda was immediately interested in my project and, over time, in my work. She provided or helped arrange financial support for my research every year since.

Saying she supported my work, though, doesn’t quite get what she meant to me. We became friends. I loved her – still love her — dearly. We shared a similar fire for helping others improve their lives, and for setting up systems and organizations that would foster people’s growth and development. I see the world differently because of her, approach my own work differently because of her, have a deeper commitment to what I do because of her.

For me and many others, she has been an inspiration and a model of personal achievement and success. Following are some of what we can all learn from her:
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Preface: This continues the previous post, How to Reduce Stress at Work through Conscious Use of Self: Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Hudson, and the Blizzard, Part 1, in which I described how Oprah Winfrey  coped with an nerve-wracking incident at work. Superstar Jennifer Hudson was unexpectedly late for a scheduled taping of the Oprah Winfrey show, throwing off the entire day’s schedule.  The unfolding events were shown in “Episode 116” of Season 25, the highly acclaimed reality show.

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In Oprah Winfrey’s 25th and final season of her award-winning show, superstar Jennifer Hudson was scheduled to appear to discuss her amazing weight loss. Unfortunately for all of them, the taping was scheduled a day after the largest blizzard that Chicago had seen in 25 years, resulting in a textbook-like study of stress at work.

A behind-the-scenes look at what transpired that morning was shown on “Episode 116”of Season 25, the highly acclaimed reality show showing the makings of The Oprah Show’s 25th season.

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When you see the phrase “motivators at work”, what do you think? Most people may think of things like pay or time off from work. These are external motivators. Others may think of personal characteristics such as work ethic or drive for success. These are internal motivators.

In previous posts, I described the lessons in integrity, self-regulation, and deferred gratification that Morgan, my seven-year-old granddaughter, is learning. She is developing these internal motivators through her participation in National Lemonade Day, a national event designed to teach children entrepreneurial skills and help them develop positive character traits.

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Last year, Morgan, then aged 6, participated in the National Lemonade Project, a program established to teach entrepreneurial skills to kids. I described what happened in a previous post, Morgan’s Lemonade Day Project: Integrity as a successful character trait.

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Preface:  Workplace Undercover is a recurring segment of this blog, featuring a workplace scenario and a response by a guest consultant. This scenario was written by Carole Marmell. Jennifer Joyce, cofounder of LeadershipSmarts responds. This is the third of a three-part segment.

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Part III – Support for Bank’s Feedback System

In Part I of this Workplace UnderCover scenario, Molly, a bank employee, received harsh criticism instead of the supportive feedback she had expected during her yearly performance appraisal.   In Part II, Jennifer Joyce, a leadership development coach and consultant, described three steps that Molly might take.  In this segment, Jennifer discusses the bank’s role in supporting Molly and her supervisor in giving and receiving more effective feedback.

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Preface:  Workplace Undercover is a recurring segment of this blog, featuring a workplace scenario and a response by a guest consultant. This scenario was written by Carole Marmell. Jennifer Joyce, cofounder of LeadershipSmarts, responds. This is the second of a three-part segment.

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In the previous post, Molly, a young bank employee, had expected supportive feedback from her manager during her yearly performance appraisal. Instead her manager strongly criticized her and accused her of acting arrogant and believing she is smarter than everyone else. What can Molly do?

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Preface:  Workplace Undercover is a recurring segment of this blog, featuring a workplace scenario and a response by a guest consultant. The scenario below was written by Carole Marmell. Jennifer Joyce, cofounder of LeadershipSmarts responds. This is the first of a three-part segment.

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Molly is a 30-year-old bank employee. The bank has a very structured environment, with formal performance appraisals after every project as well as every year. The appraisals go both ways, for supervisors as well as line staff. All appraisals are done by committees consisting of supervisors and line staff. In addition, the supervisors have procedures for providing coaching and feedback to all line staff to help them advance step by step.

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In the previous post, we met Tracy who is having a hard time getting along with Sasha. As Tracy complained to her partner, “how am I supposed to work on a charity event with someone who has nothing to say and has such a superior attitude?”

The response today is by Sandra Lopez, a licensed clinical social worker and consultant.

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Tracy’s scenario is just so typical of what any one of us might encounter. Clearly as she shares her feelings with her partner, we can see that Tracy has become frustrated, stressed, and is even experiencing some sense of helplessness in knowing how to make the situation better. Like many of us in these kinds of predicaments, she has formed negative assumptions about her co-worker. Given the current status of her relationship with Sasha, she raises a good question in wondering how she will survive the stress of working on this charity event.

How do we work through these challenging interpersonal conflicts when they happen? Tracy can relieve a great deal of her stress in this working relationship by consciously using herself to more effectively manage the situation.

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In the previous blog entry, I listed advantages of reaching out to others about our private troubles, despite our fears of exposure and shame. Suppose you know intellectually that reaching out is best for you, but you just can’t muster the willpower to do so. You feel scared of being negative judged or humiliated. As a matter of fact, you feel humiliated just having the problem or thinking you can’t handle it alone.

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When is it okay for people talk about their problems?

Most people say they don’t want to talk about their personal problems because they are too private.  Some people put talking about *any* problem with anyone at any time off limits.  They endure their troubles alone.  Others will talk only with a very few trusted friends and family members, keeping everyone else at bay.

Then there’s the common admonition about not being one’s personal problems to the job, so that talking about difficulties in doing one’s job or even undue stress at home is verboten.  The assumption is that we are supposed to already have the answers or be able to handle our jobs or take care of ourselves without anyone’s help.

Is that true?  Can we handle it all without help? 

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Preface: Workplace Undercover is a regular feature of this blog. The scenario below was written by Eillen Bui, our research associate. Responding to this scenario is Stephanie Foy, Project Manager for Leading Consciously and Principal of Foy and Associates.

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Preface: Workplace Undercover is a regular feature of this blog. The scenario below was written by Eillen Bui, our research associate. Responding to this scenario is Stephanie Foy, Project Manager for Leading Consciously and Principal of Foy and Associates.
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The scenario: Kathy was running a little late for her first annual review. She hurriedly pushed the door open to the meeting room and smiled apologetically to her manager.

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Preface:  Workplace Undercover will be a recurring segment of this blog, featuring a workplace scenario and a response by a guest consultant.  The scenario below was written by Eillen Bui, our research associate.  Mary Harlan of Harlan Consulting is guest consultant for this scenario.

The scenario: Thomas just began working at XYZ Corporation and still had not met everyone who worked there.  Today he decided to eat in the cafeteria instead of bringing his own lunch and sitting alone in his office.  He spotted Michelle, someone that he had spoken to briefly the other day and decided to go over to say hi.  Michelle was sitting with a group of her friends and they seemed to be in a deep conversation. As soon as he got near though, the group at the table suddenly became quiet and no one would even look up at him.

Thomas felt uncomfortable so he passed by the table without even acknowledging Michelle. At first he felt saddened by the fact that his new coworkers were being unfriendly to him but then he became angry.  “Why are all Asian girls so stuck up and rude?” he thought.

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