Case Study: How to Get Support from an Absent Manager

Case Study: How to Get Support from an Absent Manager

July 18, 2022

Periodically, I invite a small group of early to mid-career professional women for breakfast and what I call, “Career Conversations.” I want to hear about the challenges they are experiencing in the workplace so that I can understand how to better serve them and others like them through my coaching and training.

The women who join me for this event are always very gracious as they share stories about their struggles and concerns; In turn, I offer guidance and help them come up with some new ideas for how to handle their situations.

As a new feature to my blog, I’d like to share some of their stories with you here as case studies. I’ll also share with you the advice I gave to help them in each situation. My hope is that you will find these conversations useful as well. I do have their permission, though I will use fictious names to respect their confidentiality.

Here is one of their stories:

Elizabeth has a manager who is consistently canceling meetings. She is frustrated because the manager is not providing enough direction for her to reach her sales goals.

The manager knew it was a new industry for Elizabeth when he hired her, so her asking for guidance was expected. However, the business has been growing, and he had less time to spend with her. When she reached out to him, his response was: “I am too busy because we are growing, so I don’t have time to meet with you.”

My advice:

I recommended that she send an email expressing why she needs his time.

During our discussion, we spent some of our time wordsmithing the email so that she had clear steps to move forward. Here is what we decided:

She should open the email by acknowledging the good news that the company is growing and that she can understand why his calendar is getting busier.

She should then state the reason she needs his help. For example, she might say: Since I am your only salesperson, I need you to help me understand best how to get the attention of new clients.

I also recommended that she include the following in her email:

  • What she has done to get herself acclimated to the new industry
  • What she has been doing to increase her knowledge of the industry
  • How she is broadening her network
  • How she is using LinkedIn to increase the company’s visibility.

These details will show her manager that she is not solely relying upon him to help her.

I also suggested she mention to her manager in a diplomatic way that since he has canceled the last three meetings, that they meet at a different time even if it means coming in early or staying late.

She should end the email expressing excited she is to see the company growing and that she wants to continue to be part of its success.

And finally, I suggested that in the future she should not wait too long to address concerns with her manager. This will enable the challenges to be rectified sooner and prevent them from growing out of hand.

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I hope you found this case study helpful! If you would like to participate in one of these “Career Conversations,” sign up for the wait list and you’ll be the first to know when I schedule my next one.

Where do you want to go in your career?

Use this guide to create your own career path. You can choose your own adventure.

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Introverts: The Secret to Using Conversations to Build Relationships

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Introverts: The Secret to Using Conversations to Build Relationships

July 4, 2022

pictured: a business woman and business man in conversationAre you an introvert who finds it difficult to engage in conversation with someone new? Are you the quiet one in a crowd?

Perhaps you’re worried that you don’t have anything to say that would contribute to the conversation? Or maybe you have something to say, but it’s difficult to find an opening when so many people are talking?

Here is what I want you to know: You have something to contribute! And you don’t need to be talking in order to participate.

By being a good listener, encouraging others to continue to talk, and showing genuine interest in others, you will leave a more favorable impression than the person doing most of the talking.

At the same time, we don’t want you to be completely silent, right? So, let’s talk for a moment about balanced conversations and a framework that you can lean on to help you find space for your voice.

In my book, You, You, Me, You: The Art of Talking to People, Networking, and Building Relationships, I present a simple framework that can help you create structure in your conversations.

The rationale behind this framework is for you to invite others to talk more than you, which is a perfect fit for your tendency to be the quiet one.

How do you do that? By asking questions to help you learn about the other person before you begin to share something about yourself. There’s a rhythm to it… You, You, Me, You. It enables everyone to share, and it creates a sense of balance in the conversation. You can put this framework to use through the questions you ask.

I’ve put together a guide to help you quickly understand and apply the You, You, Me, You framework. You can request the guide here or use the form below. If you want to go deeper, you’ll find my book helpful.

As Dale Carnegie said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming more interested in others than you can in two years by trying to get other people more interested in you.”

How do you turn a networking conversation into an ongoing professional relationship?

Use the You, You, Me, You Framework to easily engage in smoother conversations that leave a great impression.

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How can I become more confident?

Three business women sharing a high-five

How can I become more confident?

June 20, 2022

Three business women sharing a high-fiveYour confidence plays an important role in your career, especially in terms of your success.

Having confidence allows you to take risks. It gives you the courage to request assignments on high level projects and to speak up for yourself when your boundaries are compromised. It is an overall feeling that you can manage most situations without fear of doubt.

If you feel like your confidence could be better, trust me that you are not alone. We all have areas in our lives where we wish we were more confident. Happily, you aren’t stuck with your current level of confidence. This is something that you can work on and improve!

What are you doing to become more confident?

Building confidence takes time, effort, and your willingness to take risks. You have to be willing to lean into the concept popularized by Thomas H. Palmer: “If you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again.” You must be willing to fall short (I am not a fan of the word failure) each time you attempt to do something new. That is what learning is all about, and confidence comes with working for your eventual success.

A recent conversation with one of my clients highlights the challenge that most of us face when it comes to our confidence. She was telling me about a stressful, difficult experience that happened to her one time in college. As she told me her story, she realized that many of the decisions she’s made about her career were based on that one, single experience. We talked about how important it is to not define ourselves by one moment in time; that we need to look at the many other moments that were positive and use those to ground our self-perception and our confidence.

How about YOU? Are you ready to begin building your confidence?

Use the process below to start growing your confidence one step at a time.

First, identify your unique challenge:

Grab a piece of paper and draw two vertical lines so that you have 3 columns.

  1. In the left column, identify the situations where you especially struggle with your confidence. Get really specific. The clearer you can be about where you struggle with your confidence, the easier it will be to focus on improving it. For example: If you lack confidence when speaking in public, list some situations that come to mind. Giving a speech at a conference? Being on stage in a play? Or being at a party with people you don’t know?
  2. In the middle column, identify what you believe may be the source of your lack of confidence in each of those situations. Was there one incident in your life or several that contributed to this struggle? What did someone say to you that affected your confidence?
  3. In the right column, capture your thoughts, emotions, and actions that you associate with each of those situations where you don’t feel confident.

Second, select one situation from your piece of paper that you want to work on, and do the following:

  1. Find opportunities to practice the thing that you envision. Now is your chance to take that risk. Start small and choose to be ok with the fact that it may not go perfectly the first time, or the second. But the more you do it, the more confident you will become.
  2. Before you actually step into that situation, visualize yourself doing it confidently. Be very specific! For example, if you want to become more confident with giving a speech at a conference, visualize yourself up on the stage giving a speech with total confidence. What would you be thinking if you were confident up on that stage? What would it feel like to be so confident? As you visualize, think and feel those things as if you were actually up on that stage, feeling confident.

Developing a stronger foundation of confidence takes time and it does not happen overnight. Celebrate your successes and learn from your challenges. You’ve got this!

Where do you want to go in your career?

Use this guide to create your own career path. You can choose your own adventure.

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How to Make Sure You’re on Track: An Assessment

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How to Make Sure You’re on Track: An Assessment

June 6, 2022

pictured: book with the word assessment on the coverThe journey to finding a job and career you love can feel like a long one. How are things going? Answering that question is something that we don’t do enough of. While I’m writing this at the half-year point (hello, June!), there’s never a wrong time to stop and assess your progress.

Here’s why:

First, it can confirm that you are still headed in the right direction. In this busy and distracting world, it’s easy to fall off track and wander away. Reviewing your progress can help you make sure you’re still on track and, if you aren’t, make the necessary corrections that will save you time and effort.

Second, I like to use these to celebrate how far you’ve come. An assessment, or as I like to think of it – an Accomplishment Review! – can bolster your energy and refresh your focus.

Are you ready? Grab a piece of paper… here we go!

PART I: IDENTIFY

  1. Identify all the steps you took over the last six months to move yourself towards your goal.
    These should be fresh in your mind so you can remember the details. List them out so you can see what you’ve accomplished!
  2. Identify any problems you experienced. Think of these as PARs (Problem, Action, Result) and capture them in that way. It’s important for you to not just see the problems you experienced, but also what you did about them and what happened as a result. These may be problems along your journey to building your career; they can also be problems you solved at work. It’s important to note those for future interviews!
  3. Identify any skills that you developed or strengthened. Consider both functional skills (head) and soft skills (heart). How have these skills contributed to your success? How have they added value to your team or organization?

PART II: EVALUATE

  1. Consider your work relationships with your colleagues, team members and, most importantly, your relationship with your boss. Has there been any conflict that you have not resolved? Are there relationships that you want to strengthen because they can help you achieve some of your career goals or they have a great network that you would love to get to know. Do they know of your talents and career aspirations?
  2. Evaluate how strong your network outside the company is. Have you been meeting with existing contacts regularly to stay connected? How many new contacts have you made in the last six months? Your network can be your powerhouse for finding your next role, but you have to keep it warm if you want to leverage it when you need it.
  3. Check in with your values. Are you following a path that you believe in? Are you maintaining clear boundaries? Have boundaries been crossed and you need to have a conversation with the person who might be unaware they are important to you?
  4. Are you clear about where you want to go? And if so, are you clear on what you need to advance in the direction you envision for yourself? Is your manager aware of what you need to help you in your career? If not, now is a good time to schedule a meeting with them to discuss your plans and any support that they may be able to provide.

Taking time now to assess where you are with your career goals gives you the chance to adjust before you get too far off track.

Work situations change, management changes, and you might have changed, too! Paying attention to what you have achieved and what you need to do to continue to develop will keep you marketable and prepared for pursuing new opportunities when they arise.

Where do you want to go in your career?

Use this guide to create your own career path. You can choose your own adventure.

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Asking Better Questions During Your Interview

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Asking Better Questions During Your Interview

April 25, 2022

In my last article, I talked about “behavioral questions,” and preparing for behavioral interviews.

I’d like to take this topic one step further, because YOU can ask behavioral questions during the interview as well!

During a formal interview, you will be given the chance to ask questions. This is an important opportunity because the answers you receive can help you determine if it’s the right job for you.

For example, let’s say your interview is with the person who would be managing you. Here are three standard questions that interviewees might ask:

  • Can you describe your managerial style?
  • How do you recognize your employee accomplishments?
  • What professional development opportunities are available?

Again, those are common questions, and they aren’t bad! But they also won’t get you a lot of information. How a person describes the way things are supposed to be is very different from how their employees experience it or the stories that emerge from the organization.

What if we turn these standard questions into behavioral questions?

Here are some ways that you might do that:

  • Can you give me an example of feedback you’ve given one of your employees before the review process?
  • What type of recognition or acknowledgement have you given your employees over the last couple of months?
  • Can you give me a couple of examples of how your employees have taken advantage of your professional development opportunities over the last year?”

If you’re thinking that asking these types of questions might be difficult to ask, I’m going to agree with you. It’s a different way of asking and so they take practice!

Asking behavioral questions like this can be very powerful for helping you determine if the company you are interviewing with is the right fit for you. So, take some time to practice, whether it’s with a friend or a career coach. That will enable you to ask your questions with confidence and conviction.

Where do you want to go in your career?

Use this guide to create your own career path. You can choose your own adventure.

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How to Prepare for a Behavioral Interview

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How to Prepare for a Behavioral Interview

April 11, 2022

Have you ever been in an interview and the interviewer asked a question that began with the phrase, “Tell me about a time when you…”?

That is a standard opening to what is called a “behavioral question” and the interviews that use this style of question are known as “behavioral interviews.”

Through these questions, the interviewer is asking about how you’ve behaved in certain circumstances in your past. They ask these questions to get an indication of your knowledge, skills, and even your beliefs, under the premise that your past behavior indicates your future behavior.

It is important that you give the correct responses to these types of questions. To respond correctly, you need to prepare ahead of time. Coming up with examples from your past can be difficult under the pressure of an interview, so going in with your stories already in mind will help you show up confidently.

HOW TO PREPARE FOR A BEHAVIORAL INTERVIEW

The best way for you to prepare for this type of interview is to break apart the job description and pay close attention to what they are looking for in behaviors.

For example, they might be looking for someone who:

  • Manages stress well
  • Organizes multiple priorities
  • Uses effective communication skills
  • Manages difficult customers with calm and grace
  • Makes sound decisions in urgent situations

After you’ve identified the behaviors that they are looking for, spend some time identifying examples from your past when you were in a situation that called for this behavior.

From the list above, for example, identify a time when you managed a difficult customer successfully or needed to make important decisions while things were moving quickly. If you can’t think of a work example, consider drawing from your volunteer or professional association work.

HOW TO PRACTICE FOR A BEHAVIORAL INTERVIEW

After you’ve identified the stories that you want to draw from, you need to practice telling them. It’s a good idea to mimic the interview environment so if it will be face-to-face or via video, set up your practice session in the same way. Invite a trusted friend to have the conversation with you so that you’re talking to a real person.

Answering this type of question isn’t easy if you aren’t used to it, so practice is important. When I do this type of work with my clients, I help them focus on the key points of their stories and make sure they connect their story back to the question.

It is very possible that you won’t get to tell the exact stories you’ve identified during your preparation, and that’s ok. The practice is as much about getting used to drawing from your past and telling those stories as it is identifying the specific scenarios you want to draw from.

You’re developing the skill of answering these types of questions, and that is the whole point. Without a doubt, you need to anticipate that you will be asked these types of questions. It will make an enormous difference if you are prepared. You’ll show up with calm and grace under the pressure of an interview and that will tell a story unto itself.

Where do you want to go in your career?

Use this guide to create your own career path. You can choose your own adventure.

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Getting Comfortable With Small Talk

5 business people talking and looking uncomfortable

Getting Comfortable With Small Talk

March 14, 2022

5 business people talking and looking uncomfortableAre you comfortable with small talk? I’m not a fan of small talk, and I’ve noticed that many people struggle with it.

The thing is, we can’t avoid small talk. It’s an inherent part of how we communicate, even if we hate it.

The answer to our discomfort with small talk is to understand its purpose so that we can leverage it to have the deeper conversations that we seek, and to develop new relationships.

So, what is the purpose of small talk?

It leads to deeper conversation and opportunities that you might not have had prior to what feels like an unimportant conversation that’s going nowhere.

If small talk is so important, why do we struggle so much with it?

For one, I don’t think we realize what purpose small talk plays, so it’s easy to discount it.

That’s the big misconception: We tend to think that small talk is unimportant and something we just have to endure. But small talk IS important! It is leading us to a rich opportunity.

When we engage in small talk, we’re working with our conversational partners to create a connection and get on the same page. It may just feel like chatter, but it can lead us into deeper conversation and it can serve as the beginning of a relationship with the other person.

And for another…it just plain makes us uncomfortable! We spend a lot of our time during small talk thinking things like:

  • “What do I say?”
  • “What if I say something wrong?”
  • “Why is this matter? It doesn’t sound important.”
  • “What do they think of me?”
  • “Is this going anywhere?”
  • “Is this worth my time? Should I be someplace else…?”

These concerns are normal. The realm of small talk is a vague, uncertain space where we’re all just trying to find some solid ground.

To help you (and your conversational partner) have a better small talk experience, I’d like to offer three suggestions that can make it less uncomfortable and also get you into the deeper conversation faster:

  1. Say their name a few different times. The most powerful word for any of us is our own name. It gives them an amazingly positive feeling and it will help you leave a positive impression. It also helps you remember their name for your next conversation with them.
  2. Give them a compliment. Whether you say you like their name, the color of a piece of clothing they are wearing, or are impressed by something they’ve accomplished, a compliment is another way to leave a positive impression. On top of that is the fact that they have the same concerns that you do. They’re thinking, “What if I say something wrong?” and “What does this person think of me?” Giving them a compliment eases these concerns, enabling the conversation to move more smoothly into deeper territory.
  3. Think of small talk as less about talking and more about listening. This is your opportunity to get to know the other person better. Bonus: When you ask your conversational partner questions that invite them to talk longer, you start moving beyond small talk and into the rich, deeper stuff.

I think the most important thing about small talk that we need to remember is that we are not the only ones who are uncomfortable with it. Most people are! But if we can be strategic about how we engage with that initial part of a conversation, we can get a lot more out of where it’s leading… deeper conversation and building great relationships that serve us.

Are you ready to move beyond small talk into building a professional relationship?

Use this step-by-step guide to easily engage in smoother conversation and improve your confidence.

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Where Are You Going in Your Career? Here’s How to Decide

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Where Are You Going in Your Career? Here’s How to Decide

January 30, 2022

clipboard with the words: "Where I'm going from here..."What are you doing to set your intentions for your career?

Setting your intentions for where you want to go in your career is essential.

This is your opportunity to get clear on what you believe will make you happy and to set your trajectory. Because yes – you do have a choice! And when we know where we are headed, it’s easier to make the best decisions to get us there.

So how do we set career intentions?

As we think about what we want for ourselves in the future, one of the best things we can do is look back.

Following the advice of the very wise Maya Angelou: “If you don't know where you've come from, you don't know where you're going.”

Here’s why: It’s when we look back at what we’ve done and how we feel about it, that we can make smart decisions about what we want to do next.

So, as you think about where you want to be in the future, use this Career Guide to look back at what you’ve been doing at work with regards to three specific areas that are known to drive (or undermine) career satisfaction:

  • Your skills
  • Your values
  • Your interests

When we can take these three important areas and align them with how we spend our time and how we connect with the company we work with, we can positively impact how happy we are in our careers.

This is a process of introspection… so download this guide, grab a pen and a comforting drink that inspires deep thought (my favorite is cup of black tea), and give your future the time and attention it deserves.

Sidenote: Setting your career intention not just an end-of-year activity. You can walk through this process anytime and plan your year ahead. Is it July? Cool. Keep going…

Where do you want to go in your career?

Use this guide to create your own career path. You can choose your own adventure.

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Marking Time: Reflections on a Year

Jayne Mattson writing her annual letter

Marking Time: Reflections on a Year

January 3, 2022

Jayne Mattson writing her annual letterWhat do you do to mark the shift through the New Year?

Especially in times like these, with a multi-year pandemic and the difficulties of connecting safely with our loved ones, I believe that tuning in to the New Year can help us more consciously embrace what’s good in our lives.

At least… I hope so.

I began a new ritual last year: I wrote myself a letter that I would open one year later, and I invited my readers to do the same.

What I’d like to do now is ask: Was it useful? Was writing myself a personal letter at the turning of the year a useful endeavor?

Let’s find out…

As I opened my letter today, I was surprised to see that I wrote a four- pager. I don’t remember doing that and I don’t think of myself as a writer but apparently, I had a lot to say!

And as I read through my message, three themes rise up: Gratitude; Relationships; and Innovation. I can see how these themes made sense last year, and they make sense right now as well.

Gratitude:

My letter tells me that I woke up early January 2021 with a heart full of gratitude because the three top priorities in my life of faith, health, and connection with family & friends were strong.

I am an optimist by nature and tend to look at what is good to make it better. Even last year, mid-pandemic, I chose to focus on the positive things that happened in my life that got me through what are some of the most challenging of times for all of us.

Like many people, I had lost friends and family. Not being able to grieve fully in person made the losses even more painful. Despite that, I still felt gratitude for having them in my lives for so long and I cherished each memory we had together.

Relationships:

The physical was certainly difficult, but meeting people virtually seemed to alleviate it in many ways. (Good to note as we head into our 2nd pandemic winter.)

Since my relationships with family, friends and colleagues are extremely important, I found ways to stay connected. I am known as “the glue that keeps people together” and I embrace that as part of my identity – so much so that I wrote a book about building relationships just a few years ago. Bringing people together is second nature to me.

Innovation:

The last theme in my letter was about how over the previous year I had leaned heavily into innovating as I created new marketing channels for my business.

I hired a Marketing Consultant and a Web Designer who helped me rebrand my business and create an amazing new website that I still am so proud of!

It was challenging work because it made me get very clear on who I help, how I help them, and how I want to find and connect with the people I serve.

That work was hard, but it was so worth it! I’m still using that marketing strategy now and I’m looking forward to leveling up in the new year with Live video on LinkedIn!

As I look over last year’s letter, I have some very specific takeaways:

Writing that letter was helpful. I feel like it’s creating some powerful cohesion between where I was at this time last year and where I feel like I’m going now as we head into the new year. I can see the flow of the themes and it brings confidence and clarity that I would not have had if I hadn’t written myself that letter last year.

Noting the themes between then and now is powerful. I can see the flow of ideas and direction. As I look back, it gives me a sense of accomplishment; as I look forward, I feel conviction about where I’m headed.

The themes of Gratitude, Relationships, and Innovation feel to me like a balance of past, present, and future. I like how that feels – being grateful for where I’ve been, cherishing what I have, and being planful about where I’m going.

Will I be writing another letter this year? Yes. In fact, I’ve already started it.

And I invite you to write one to yourself as well. The flow of time can sweep us away if we let it. Marking time with letters to ourselves can help us be more intentional about where we’ve been, what we want, and where we’re going.

Will you be writing a letter to yourself? Let me know in the comments! Then next year when it’s time to open my next letter, I’ll tag you and we can both open our letters and share what we’ve learned!

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Speaking Up: How to Confidently Assert Your Boundaries at Work

Speaking Up: How to Confidently Assert Your Boundaries at Work

December 13, 2021

Early in my career, I had a manager who would berate his employees during our staff meetings.

Whenever I saw him do this to my colleagues, I would talk ask them after: “Why don’t you speak up?” The answer was usually just a shrug, or a question: “What would I say?”

Then one day, it happened to me. My manager scolded me right there in front of my colleagues. I was embarrassed, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me.

As soon as the meeting was over, I went into my manager’s office and said, “I would like to talk to you about that you said to me in the meeting this morning. When you said _______, I felt disrespected, specifically because you said this in front of my colleagues. I welcome feedback, but can you please do it behind closed doors?”

He said: “I am sorry. You’re right. I won’t do it again.” I’m happy to say that he stopped speaking to me that way during meetings!

Sometimes people just don’t realize that how they’re doing something is having a negative impact, and they don’t see how else they might do it that could provide better results.

There are three elements at play here that I want to bring to your attention: boundaries, confidence, and assertiveness.

When my boss berated me in front of my colleagues, he crossed one of my boundaries: I will accept feedback, but only in private. As soon as he crossed this line, I knew I had to say something.

This is where confidence came in. Confidence is based in courage, and courage doesn’t exist without fear. Going in to talk to my boss wasn’t easy. I wasn’t sure how he was going to take it. But talking to him about it was essential. I had a boundary to defend!

And in fact, I demonstrated that boundary by talking to him in private. I like to think that me doing unto him the way I wanted him to do unto me is part of why it went well.

And lastly, we all need to be assertive. Assertiveness is about communicating in a clear and direct manner. It’s about using the right language so that we can get our message across with respect so that we are heard without hurting someone else’s feelings.

I think there’s a fine line between assertiveness and aggressiveness that we have to walk carefully, especially for women. If we push too much, they’ll be offended and put off; if we push too little, they won’t take us seriously. Walking this line takes practice.

I often help my clients work out how they want to respond to situations like this. Here are two things that I have them think about:

  1. What is the action or behavior that didn’t work for you?
    example: my boss berated me in front of my colleagues
  2. What is the action or behavior that needs to happen instead?
    example: I welcome feedback behind closed doors

Then use those two pieces of information to help you craft an assertive statement that clearly describes what you need.

Again, this takes practice. But if you work with these situations intentionally, you can help to promote an atmosphere at work that will enable you to thrive!

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