Tips How to Receive Feedback from Your Mentor, Manager, and Peers

Two consultants, coaches and first-generation Americans Jane Hyun and Audrey Lee wrote their first book “Flex: The New Playbook for Managing Across Differences.” The authors offer lessons on the vital skill of “Flexing”—the art of switching leadership styles to more effectively lead and manage multicultural teams. Their book is a helpful resource for the adaptive leadership behavior. Learning how to receive feedback from our peers, managers, and mentors is an essential skill. I believe that fostering a healthy mindset for receiving critical feedback involves utilizing your listening skills. Moreover, it opens an opportunity for growth. According to Hyun and Lee feedback can help an individual reach their desired goal, be more creative, and come up with innovative solutions. Below are some tips from Hyun and Lee that can help you foster a healthy mindset of being receptive to feedback:

  1. Adopt a mindset for continuous improvement
  2. Any feedback is valuable; you are responsible for validating and determining what to do about it.
  3. Feedback is a snapshot, not definitive verdict on you.
  4. Don’t agree and disagree too quickly.
  5. Treat each objection as a question or a request for further information, not a close case scenario.
  6. Ask questions to clarify your feedback.

Hyun, J., & Lee, A. S. (2014). Flex: The new playbook for managing across differences. Harper Collins.

What Questions Do I ask Myself as a Leader?

Flying back to State College from my conference that was in Savannah, GA, I spent five hours at the Philadelphia airport waiting for my next flight. In the few hours of waiting, I found myself reading John C. Maxwell’s book Good Leaders Ask Great Questions in the airport bookstore. The author distinguishes between personal and leadership maturity. He described a personal maturity as an ability to see beyond yourself while leadership maturity as an ability to consider others before yourself. Maxwell (2014) emphasized that it is essential to embrace asking critical questions of yourself as a lifestyle if you would like to reach your leadership potential. I want to share with you Maxwell’s (2014) list of questions that he recommends asking yourself as a leader:

What Questions Do I ask Myself as a Leader? (Maxwell, 2014, pp26-47)

  1. Am I Investing in Myself? (A question of personal growth)
  2. Am I Genuinely Interested in Others? (A question of motivation)
  3. Am I Grounded as a Leader? (A question of stability)
  4. Am I adding Value to My Team? (A question of teamwork)
  5. Am I staying in My Strength Zone? (A question of effectiveness)
  6. Am I Taking Care of Today? (A question of Success)
  7. Am I Investing My Time with the Right People (A question of ROI (return on investments))

Take some quiet time to think and reflect on Maxwell’s questions about yourself as a leader. I have faith this will help you improve yourself greatly.

Maxwell, J. C. (2014). Good leaders ask great questions: Your foundation for successful leadership. Hachette UK.

Creating Positive Moods

While visiting my family during the Christmas holiday season in Columbus, Ohio, I stopped by the Half-Price Book Store on Lane avenue. I remember spending hours in this store while in graduate school at Ohio State. This time, I looked for specific books related to Stress Management, which will be a topic of one of my upcoming workshops. In a couple of hours, I found myself reading Melanie Greenberg’s book The Stress-Proof Brain: Master Your Emotional Response to Stress Using Mindfulness and Neuroplasticity. The author describes a program to build a stress-proof brain. Dr. Greenberg emphasized that positive emotions help to recover physiologically from stress, encourage an individual to engage and explore new things, and think more broadly. Here are three suggestions to create different types of positive mood.

Creating Positive Moods

Create interest through exploring and trying new things that help you integrate new information and expand your horizons

Create contentment through enjoying nature or beauty, practicing gratitude, or recalling positive memories, which help you have a positive focus and find a new perspective

Create engagement through challenging tasks that help you have confidence, be focused, and feel a sense of flow

Source: Greenberg, M. (2017). The stress-proof brain: Master your emotional response to stress using mindfulness and neuroplasticity. New Harbinger Publications.

Fostering Collaboration in the Workplace

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Collaboration is necessary to generate new ideas and to produce more impactful work. Teamwork and conflict management are areas where organizations often find themselves facing challenges due to a variety of team members’ perspectives. Better collaboration can help mitigate these issues. We adapted Bennett’s (2019) Collaborative Problem-Solving Strategiesthat will help you foster better collaboration within your workplace.

  • Think before responding. Assume the best in all people and situations. Check your emotional response before verbally responding. Reread emails before sending to make sure they are not conveying an unintentionally negative tone.
  • Make sure the other person knows you are listening. Practice empathetic listening. Ask questions. Stay focused during meetings. Set your phone and email aside during important discussions.
  • Share your ideas sincerely and objectively. Explain why and how you think your ideas can benefit the organization, rather than saying “It’s the way we’ve always done it” or “I want to try something new.” Present data to support your points.
  • Identify common interests. Focus on the commonalities that unite you rather than the disagreements that divide you.
  • Compromise. Don’t get overly attached to your own ideas. Be open to other ideas that may emerge from group discussion, especially ideas that may modify your original approach to a solution.
  • Document end agreements on major issues. Writing out an agreement helps make sure everyone is on the same page. It prevents disagreements later. Creating the document can also help with teambuilding, which will better foster future collaboration.

Source: Bennett, C.W. (2019). Collaborative problem-solving handbook. Retrieved from

Enrich Employees Satisfaction

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A couple of weeks ago, I was browsing Harvard Business Review while having my morning coffee, and the following short sentences caught my attention: “Forget praise. Forget punishment. Forget cash. You need to make their jobs more interesting,” and I felt curious to discover what would come next… Frederick Herzberg, former head of the department of psychology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, wrote the interesting article – “One More Time How Do You Motivate Employees?”. After reading this article, I felt like I wanted to share Dr. Herzberg’s advice with my readers about how to help employees charge themselves up. He suggested applying the following principles that help to enrich employees’ job satisfaction:

•Increase individuals’ accountability for their work by removing some controls.

•Give employees responsibility for a complete process or unit of work.

•Make information available directly to employees rather than sending it through their managers first.

•Enable people to take on new, more difficult tasks they haven’t handled before.

•Assign individuals specialized tasks that allow them to become experts (Herzberg, 2003, p.19).

Herzberg. F., (2003) One More Time How Do You Motivate Employees? Harvard Business Review. Product 12 575.

Volunteer Management Tips, October 28, 2019

by Dr. Suzanna Windon

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 in the Public Domain on

Using Facebook to Help Improve Volunteer Communication

Social media can be an effective way to improve volunteer communication. Social media should be used to enhance your communication to volunteers not to replace your existing volunteer communication mediums (Ferree, 2015). Ferree shared her findings about using Facebook Groups that can be applied to various volunteer organizations. A Facebook Group is an online platform for group communication and for people to share their common interests, express their opinion, discuss issues, share photos and related content (Elise Moreau). Below is an adapted summary of tips to help you utilize Facebook groups in your volunteer work.

  • Set restrictions on the social media Group. Ensure the Group has closed access so only volunteer coordinators and volunteers with your organization can be part of the group.
  • Determine who will be the Facebook Group administrator(s). If you decide to let volunteers assist you with administration, be sure they have a proper understanding of your organization’s risk management policy for social media.
  • Use the Group for virtual volunteering opportunities. For example, the Master Gardeners volunteers used Facebook Groups to virtually volunteer by answering Extension client’s questions about plant identification in minutes. Consider if there is volunteer work you can do via the Facebook Group using pictures and posts rather than meeting up in person.
  • Use the social media group to provide updates. If your group does not meet often, this can help maintain and strengthen community among volunteers between meetings.
  • Use the group to keep volunteers inspired. Share client success stories and photos. Make sure these clients have signed a photo release.

Ferree, R. (2015). Facebook groups improve volunteer communications. Journal of Extension53(1). Retrieved from:
Moreau, E(2019). Using Facebook Groups.

Leadership Tips, October 2019

 Tips to Manage Your Stress

Happy anti-stress balls. Photo credit:

Over half of the U.S workforce reports experiencing work-related stress (Charlesworth & Nathan, 2004). Stress can negatively impact health, productivity, quality of life, and relationships, both at work and within our personal lives (Charlnesworth & Nathan, 2004). Stress management can be difficult, and it can take time and practice to find ways to help manage work related stress. We have adapted their tips to help you better manage stress for your intrapersonal leader development.

  • Understand how stress affects your life. Reflect on how stress presents affect your life.  What are patterns of behaviors, thoughts, and emotions that occur when you are stressed?
  • Do you need professional help with managing stress? Ask yourself if stress is impacting your ability to complete your responsibilities and enjoy your quality of life each day. If the answer is yes for the majority of the time, you may want to consider relaxation or stress management classes or seeing a mental health professional.
  • Understand your emotions. Set aside time each day to process the events of the day. If there is a person you feel you need to communicate with after this processing time, speak with them as soon as possible rather than letting any negative feelings build over time.
  • Make your health a priority. Keep up with medical appointments. Make sure you are spending time on important relationships, social activities, spiritual well-being, and activities to keep your mind active.


Source: Charlesworth, E. A., & Nathan, R. G. (2004). Stress management: A comprehensive guide to wellness. New York: Random Huse Digital, Inc.

Cultivate Leadership Workshop at the 2020 Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention

Hershey, PA, September 2020 – Penn State Extension’s Leadership Network will be
teaching a workshop titled “Cultivating Leadership: Sowing Seeds of Success in Your
Specialty Crop Enterprise” as a pre-conference workshop for the 2020 Mid-Atlantic
Fruit and Vegetable Convention. The workshop will be held Monday, January 27, 2020
from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Hershey Lodge in Hershey, Pennsylvania. This
workshop is for specialty crop growers, managers and supervisors looking for strategies
for quality management and leadership.

Participants will have the opportunity to network with other horticultural professionals.
At the workshop, participants will learn how to alleviate farm stress and cultivate
productive mindset, strategies to provide better mentoring practices with your agricultural
workers; tips for maintaining a motivated workforce on the farm; information and
strategies to enhance your agricultural operation’s cultural competence; and practical
skills to promote powerful team performance.

The fee for the workshop is $40 per person, which includes lunch.

To register, please visit the conference website,, and click on Pre-
Convention Workshops, or register with your state trade association. Please contact Dr.
Suzanna Windon at or 814-863-3825 if you have questions regarding the

Volunteer Management Tips, October 2019

Photo credit:

Hosting a Continuing Education Event to Retain Volunteers

 The 4-H Volunteer Continuing Education Academy was created to help motivate and retain current volunteers by providing them with new skills. Participants in this program reported wanting to continue and make improvements to the program. The following process, which was used by Culp and Bullock (2017), can be mirrored in your organization or program to develop and implement a continuing education academy in your organization to help retain volunteers.

  • Develop a survey to determine the format and content of the program. Distribute the survey to volunteers at the end of a training event.
  • Include current research and topics in the training. Be creative when planning training activities.
  • At the event, determine ways that volunteers can improve their work with clients. Provide volunteers with opportunities to brainstorm together.
  • Networking is important so invite many volunteers. If your program is statewide, invite people from different counties.
  • Re-energize and motivate volunteers.  Just ask volunteers reflect on why they volunteer, impacts they’ve seen with clients, and where they’d like to see the program go.
  • Providing an appreciation gift for volunteers if funds are available.

 Continuing education benefits volunteers, and effective and educated volunteers benefit your organization. Always remember to verbally express gratitude for volunteers’ time and ideas.

Culp, K. & Bullock, L. (2017). 4-H volunteer continuing education academy. Journal of Extension, 55(4). Retrieved from:

Volunteer Management Tips, September 2019

by Dr. Suzanna Windon

Source: in the Public Domain on

Strategies for Short-Term Community Volunteer Recruitment

Yesterday’s volunteer management system was designed for a different world. New development and trends for the last few decades have brought many changes and transformations.  The many obligations and limited flexibility of busy community members may prevent new volunteers from wanting to serve community programs. However, Extension and other non-profit organizations are beginning to implement episodic or short-term volunteer opportunities, which may be more attractive to the modern volunteer. These opportunities allow volunteers to only commit to one or a few events, rather than commit to a project for a whole year.

We adapted the following tips from Hart (2005) to help you recruit volunteers for short-term projects.

  • Identify your program volunteer needs.
  • Prepare a volunteer job description.
  • Conduct a brainstorming session or survey with current and past volunteers. Ask them how they were recruited and ask them to share the best way to reach them now.
  • Use as many communication mediums as possible, including social media. Follow community Facebook pages that your target audience may follow, and ask administrators of these pagers to share your information.
  • Attend community activities of your target audience as physical presence and recognition in the community is crucial. Introduce yourself to community members, and ask them about their talents. Share information about volunteer opportunities in your organization or program.
  • Provide volunteers with promotional materials and talking points to share with others.
  •  Update your promotion materials often.

Hart, D. (2005). Recruiting strategies for short-term volunteers. Journal of Extension, 43(6). Retrieved from: