"Allison McWilliams" Archive

Allison McWilliams offers observations, recommendations on 'getting back to normal'

Allison McWilliams

Allison McWilliams

In a Psychology Today blog this week, Allison McWilliams offers observations on how people are responding and adjusting (or not) to today’s “normal” as our world addresses the dramatic changes brought on by COVID-19.

“We are all, it seems, seeking a bit of normal these days.  We wonder when things will get back to normal.  We wonder what a ‘new normal’ will look like,” writes McWilliams, assistant vice president, mentoring and alumni personal & career development.

In the piece, she makes suggestions for “ways that we might emerge from this moment and hold onto some lessons, so that perhaps whatever ‘normal’ looks like in the future, it actually is better than what we had before.”

A brief summary of her suggestions include the following:

  • Be willing to work differently
  • Uphold and maintain the relationships that matter
  • Stop striving for (and expecting) unrealistic expectations of success
  • Pay attention to your health
  • Shut down and reboot

The entire Psychology Today piece is available here.

(Allison McWilliams is also a frequent contributor to Inside WFU, where she often writes on various topics related to mentoring.)

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Categories: Inside WFUStaff News

Mentoring in action: Mentoring as connecting

Allison McWilliams

Allison McWilliams

Allison McWilliams is assistant vice president, mentoring and alumni personal & career development. She writes occasional articles for Inside WFU. This is her last for the spring semester. In each, she shares observations and suggestions with faculty and staff from her professional experiences with students.

This spring I am exploring four distinct roles or strategies that mentors can put to use in their mentoring relationships, depending on the needs and the goals of their mentee: teaching, advising, providing wise counsel, and connecting. Great mentors always stay mentee-focused: keeping the mentee’s needs in front of them, and adjusting accordingly. And, great mentoring relationships are always about forward progress towards defined learning goals: mentoring happens in action.

In this post, I would like to look at one of the best, and actually one of the easiest roles that mentors perform for and with their mentee: that of the connector. Especially in this moment where we all perhaps feel a bit disconnected from one another, mentoring relationships – both virtual and in-person – can help to bridge this gap. Great connectors see the value in network-building, both for themselves and for others.

We used to think of mentoring as finding that one person who could be the be-all, end-all, supporter, champion, and developer. This is no longer an acceptable practice, for several important reasons. First, it limits the access to mentors and to opportunities. Only those seen as “high potential” or somehow “worthy” of mentoring receive it. Second, it limits the perspectives that any one mentee receives, which can lead to dangerous power imbalances and an insular way of viewing the world. And third, it unfairly burdens particular mentors with the work of mentoring, especially women and mentors of color. Today’s best practice of mentoring encourages all individuals to seek out broad, diverse networks of support which can guide, develop, and provide access to opportunities.

Effective mentors think about how they can connect their mentees to other people, to resources, and to opportunities which will serve their mentee’s goals. When your mentee presents you with a challenge or a need, ask yourself: Am I the person to help them to work through this, or can I connect them with someone else who is better suited to do that work? It’s not about passing the buck. It’s about being of value by broadening your mentee’s network and supporting the work that they want and need to do.

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Categories: Guest PostInside WFU

Allison McWilliams: Mentoring when the world is on fire

Allison McWilliams

Allison McWilliams

Allison McWilliams is assistant vice president, mentoring and alumni personal & career development. She posted this piece on the Mentoring Resource Center website on March 18.   

A dear friend and colleague asked me earlier what I was doing to support our faculty, staff, students, and others in their mentoring relationships right now. And, I must confess, my first response was something like, Uh, nothing? Because, quite honestly, right now it feels like the world is on fire. And it feels like maybe mentoring isn’t the most important thing to be focused on when the world is on fire. Even for someone who focuses on mentoring pretty much seven days a week.

But, upon further reflection, I am super glad that she asked and that she prompted me to think about it. Because, while, no, mentoring isn’t the most important thing happening right now, especially when compared to your health and the health of your friends and family, it is important. How we take care of one another, and connect with one another, in this time of social distancing, is critical to how we survive this moment in time, and to how we emerge from it, on the other side (and we will). Mentoring is all about relationships.Deep, intentional, relationships of care. And if there is anything we all need right now, it is more connection and less (virtual) distance, to feel that we are supported by a community of care.

With that said, I would like to offer up some tips, to those of you currently engaged in mentoring relationships, to those of you seeking the support of mentoring relationships, and to those of you leading formal mentoring programs. And I would like to offer a reminder that we are here to help and to guide you, to support you and to be a part of your network, so please do not hesitate to reach out and ask for help, either via @WFUmentoring on Twitter or at our website.

The entire column by Allison McWilliams is available here.

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Categories: Guest PostInside WFU

Allison McWilliams: Mentoring as wise counsel

Allison McWilliams

Allison McWilliams

Allison McWilliams is assistant vice president, mentoring and alumni personal & career development. She writes occasional articles for Inside WFU. This is her third for the spring semester.  In each, she shares observations and suggestions with faculty and staff from her professional experiences with students.

This spring I am exploring four distinct roles or strategies that mentors can put to use in their mentoring relationships, depending on the needs and the goals of their mentee: teaching, advising, providing wise counsel, and connecting. Great mentors always stay mentee-focused: keeping the mentee’s needs in front of them, and adjusting accordingly. And, great mentoring relationships are always about forward progress towards defined learning goals: mentoring happens in action.

Today I am sharing one of my favorite mentoring roles, that of the wise counselor. Now, to be clear, a wise counselor is not a counselor, as in a therapist. If you feel that your mentee needs actual counseling, seek out the guidance and expertise of the University Counseling Center, Student Health Services, the SAFE office, or the CARE team. Each of these resources have trained professionals and resources to support those needs.

A wise counselor might be thought of as more of a guide, or a guru, or a sage. Someone who is wise in the advice or the counsel which they provide. And, a wise counselor is not necessarily a mentor. Sometimes a person might need someone with more experience, wisdom, or knowledge than they have, as they work through a problem or a challenge. These wise counselors can provide immediate guidance and coaching to help the other person figure out next steps, but they aren’t necessarily going to be in a long-term relationship, or need to know about the other person’s goals or what the outcome of the problem or challenge is. Another way to look at this sort of interaction is as a mentoring moment, as opposed to a full-blown mentoring relationship.

That said, mentors can incorporate the strategies of a wise counselor as their mentees work towards their learning goals and encounter challenges or roadblocks along the way. Mentors use the strategies of a wise counselor when they draw upon their personal experience to illustrate possible action steps and share lessons they have learned from their own experiences. Of course, you always want to be careful not to move into the role of a “fixer,” or diminish the mentee’s ability to learn his or her own lessons because you are always swooping in to save them from themselves. Don’t pontificate. Remember: mentoring is always about the mentee’s goals, the mentee’s learning, and the mentee’s experience, not the mentor’s ability to feel wise or superior.

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Categories: Guest PostInside WFU

Allison McWilliams: Mentoring as Advising

Allison McWilliams

Allison McWilliams

Allison McWilliams is assistant vice president, mentoring and alumni personal & career development. She writes occasional articles for Inside WFU. This is her second for the spring semester.  In each, she shares observations and suggestions with faculty and staff from her professional experiences with students.

This spring I am exploring four distinct roles or strategies that mentors can put to use in their mentoring relationships, depending on the needs and the goals of their mentee: teaching, advising, providing wise counsel, and connecting. Great mentors always stay mentee-focused: keeping the mentee’s needs in front of them, and adjusting accordingly. And, great mentoring relationships are always about forward progress towards defined learning goals: mentoring happens in action.

Today’s post is all about how mentors can use the strategy of advising in their mentoring conversations and relationships. Mentoring isn’t advising. In fact, generally speaking mentors should try to stay out of the advice-giving role, since it shuts down conversation and can prevent learning from happening. A great characteristic of mentoring is that it is experienced-based, and it is perfectly acceptable to draw upon your experience in your conversation with your mentee. And, it’s important to remember how you gained all of that wisdom and knowledge from your experience. If you are always swooping in to save your mentee from potential mistakes, then you also potentially are robbing him or her of critical experience that he or she needs in order to learn and to grow.

But there are times that serving as an advisor is an appropriate role and strategy for a mentor. Great mentoring conversations, just like great advising, use a process of asking thoughtful, thought-provoking questions and providing objective feedback in order to deepen connections between experience and application of knowledge. Great mentors use those open-ended questions that start with who, what, where, when, why, and how to guide their mentees on a path of discovery, not to get to where the mentor thinks they should go, but to get to where the mentee determines that he or she wants to go.

But, it’s not like any answer will do. Just like an advisor would do, great mentors provide objective feedback to help their mentees make more informed decisions and to take appropriate next steps. Great mentors don’t want to fix their mentee’s problems for them. But at the same time, there is little value in letting one’s mentee step off of a cliff. The next time that your mentee is about to take a step forward that seems misguided, ask yourself: Is this a learning opportunity, or is it a time for advice-giving and redirection?

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Categories: Inside WFU

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