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Creating Successful Leaders

Holding on to anger

Fist image (without text) courtesy of Teerapun at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Every day we are given opportunities to forgive. Whether we’re faced with a driver that cuts us off on the freeway, a rude comment from a coworker, or our own lack of preparation for a work presentation, it is often best to let go and learn from our experiences.

It’s tempting to hold onto anger and sadness as protection—to make sure we never feel a certain way again, or to hold as collateral for an apology. But like the analogy of holding a hot coal with the intention of throwing it, we only hurt ourselves when holding onto these negative feelings.

Forgiveness is not forgetting. Practicing forgiveness does not mean you’re a pushover, and it doesn’t mean you accept negative behavior in others. There is a difference between forgiving someone, and opening yourself up to the same hurt in the future.

We can all hope that offenders realize their mistake and feel remorse, but this isn’t always the case. Some people may never apologize, and we’re left harboring ill-will. Forgiveness is for your well being.

Imagine this scenario:

You’re at the office. It’s a busy time of year, and your schedule is packed, but you decide to cut your lunch break short so you can meet with a new client for the first time. You finish your lunch and do some busywork while waiting for her to arrive. Forty-five minutes pass, and you finally see her pull into the parking lot. Right now your breathing is shallow, your fists are clenched and sweaty, your posture is hunched, and you’re angry—angry at her for not respecting your time, angry at yourself for scheduling too much in one day, and suddenly angry at your co-workers for not taking more meetings so you wouldn’t have to. This client may or may not apologize upon entering the room, but you can still practice forgiveness in order to take away a lesson from this experience, while releasing tension and stress.

Forgiveness requires intention and practice, but by lowering stress you are also lowering your chances of a high heart rate, high blood pressure, body aches, depression, and fatigue.

And don’t forget: mistakes are what make us human. Mistakes help us improve: our products, our processes, and our attitudes. Without forgiveness we would still be holding onto hurts from long ago—forgiveness helps us grow.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Female Leader

How can you hold a position of power at work and live a full, rich life outside the office? How can you balance career leadership with family, volunteering, travel, friends, and personal wellbeing? It may seem intimidating or even impossible to achieve a good work-life balance if you hold a lot of responsibility in your company, but it IS possible and it’s absolutely worth it.

Take it from me—I’ve lived it. My leadership experience at 3M came with a lot of responsibility, but it helped me grow as a person and develop a wide range of skills. And yes, it was possible to have a life outside of work, even when I was managing a huge sales team in the eastern U.S.

Unfortunately, many women believe that they shouldn’t hold a position of power at work. According to a recent study at Harvard Business School, women “perceive professional power as less desirable than men do” and “women anticipate more negative outcomes from attaining a high-power position.” One of the reasons? Women, on average, have a “greater diversity of pursuits” than men do. We are typically not singularly-focused and want to accomplish many different things in our lives, beyond the workplace walls.

But should you really pass up a leadership opportunity because you think it might interfere with your goals? In my opinion, no.

Even though leadership might seem like a lot to take on, it doesn’t have to be all-consuming. As a leader, it’s up to you to practice smart time management, delegate when necessary, and perform decisive actions. You call the shots, which can give you a certain amount of flexibility and freedom in your schedule.

Additionally, if you surround yourself with a great team, you shouldn’t have to worry about stretching yourself too thin and taking on more than you should.

And if you take on a leadership role and discover it’s not for you? At least you tried. There’s no shame in backing down if you’ve given leadership your best shot and it just didn’t work.

In the words of Kate White, former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan Magazine, “Professional power does involve tradeoffs and sacrifices. But the thrill that comes from ownership and autonomy, of creating something according to your own vision, offers fabulous rewards that can make the trade worthwhile.”

Well said. Are you ready to lead?

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Curiosity cat

Curiosity is a…curious thing. It’s a personality trait that is often overlooked. It’s easy to measure intelligence, and there are several tests that can more or less determine your EQ (emotional quotient), but how do you measure curiosity?

Even though it’s not easy to measure, we shouldn’t brush aside curiosity. Various studies have shown that certain personality attributes associated with curiosity are linked to career and life success. Here are a few ways that having a curious personality can bolster your success:

Better Relationships

Curious people are typically good listeners and are great at asking questions. They genuinely want to know about the person sitting across from them and learn about their experiences.

A Happier You

According to Emily Campbell of Berkeley University, research has shown curiosity to be “associated with higher levels of positive emotions, lower levels of anxiety, more satisfaction with life, and greater psychological well-being.”

It Helps You Learn

Curious people ask questions and tend to be more engaged with new material that comes their way. This leads to higher academic achievement, as well as greater learning, engagement, and performance at work.

It Triumphs Over Anxieties

Even if you’re a naturally anxious person, curiosity can help you overcome your fears. By taking a genuine interest in the world around you, you set yourself up to enjoy new experiences, instead of shying away from them.

The overall lesson: DO let your curiosity get the better of you! Don’t be afraid to ask questions, take unexplored paths, and put yourself in the middle of a new experience. Your natural curiosity will help you succeed in the workplace and in your personal life. What would you like to learn today?

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Selling your wow factor

The other day I ran into a former colleague of mine who recently made a pretty big career transition. When I asked her what the main contributing factor to her success was, she told me it was her ability to put herself out there and sell her strengths to potential employers. Here was someone who had no experience in her newly chosen field, but was able to easily snag a job.

I know, selling yourself sounds intimidating, right? But in today’s workplace, you have to be able to peddle what you preach. As Liz Ryan, CEO and Founder of Human Workplace, says, “You’re going to sell yourself over and over during your career, and you’re going to sell your ideas, too. You sell yourself every day on the job — not just when you’re job-hunting. Your boss and the rest of the people you work with don’t form an initial opinion of you and leave it at that. You sell yourself in every interaction.”

This may seem challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few tips to help you successfully sell your “wow” factor:

Be a Storyteller:

Think up 3 stories that showcase your key strengths and make them authentic to you. Who knows the topic of you better than YOU? For example, let’s say your strengths are in collaboration, communication and creativity. These can be pretty broad statements alone, so weave some intimate stories that prove you have these skills. And don’t shy away from personal as well as professional accomplishments. Training for and completing a marathon can be just as important as implementing a new process at the office in showcasing your talents.

Practice Your Stories:

Get out there and meet people! This is a great way to practice telling your personal story. The more you do this the more confident you will be and the easier it will be to stand out from the competition.

Be a Good Listener Too:

When you are selling your brand, make sure you keep the audience in mind. Remember that you are trying to fill a need. “Good selling requires listening and aligning yourself with another person’s needs,” says Ryan.

You don’t have to be afraid to market yourself with poise. Being genuine will go a long way with any interaction. With a little self-reflection and practice, you can have your “wow” factor and sell it too.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Don't just hibernate in your career

It’s winter. This is the time of year when many of us wish we could morph into a bear and hibernate for a few months. Instead, I propose we use this time to reflect on the past year and consider any changes we might like to make in the future. What is one of the most common desires? A career change.

This move can seem daunting and risky, but the risk can be worth it. Being stuck in a career that doesn’t let you shine is more detrimental to your personal well being than trying something new. It can dim your light and leave you feeling more like that sleepy bear. It doesn’t have to be a complete career overhaul; it can be small steps such as taking on a new project more aligned with your interests.

How to get started? By finding your niche, that “wow” factor that allows you to shine brightly.

Listen to your heart; what did you love to do as a child, when the world seemed full of endless possibilities? Discovering your true self is where you should focus your attention first. Do a personal inventory of your passions and skills and see if you can turn any of those into a rewarding career.

To truly move forward in your endeavors, take note of anything holding you back. Are you anxious about finding people who can help you on your journey? Are you nervous about your lack of experience? Start a journal to get these fears out of your head. To create balance, make a list of the positives, such as more satisfying work, better health or less stress.

Once you have weighed the pros and cons, take action! Researching career possibilities is important, but you will learn more by putting yourself out there. Try to enjoy the process and reach outside of your comfort zone. This will open up more opportunities to ignite your niche.

Don’t hibernate your true passions. Being your authentic self will help you stand out above the rest and lead to a successful career and life!

Check out my blog post next week to learn how to market your niche.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Don't lie to yourself. You CAN keep your New Year's resolution! Image courtesy of careersingovernment.com

Don’t lie to yourself. You CAN keep your New Year’s resolution! Image courtesy of careersingovernment.com

It happens to all of us, doesn’t it? We start out the new year with the best of intentions: “I’m going to exercise and eat better!” “I’m going to get more sleep!” “I’m going to learn another language!” But by week 3 or 4, we start to lose steam. Then, February hits and the resolutions of the month before begin to fade. By mid-February, most people have given up their resolutions and carry on as normal…

It doesn’t have to be that way! You CAN keep your resolutions; you CAN make permanent life changes this coming year. How? Here are four steps to set you up for success, but ultimately it all boils down to you. Do you want to succeed? Do you want to make a long-term difference? Then you can, and you will. Let’s get started…

1. Don’t bite off more than you can chew

You might have lofty goals (and I’d certainly like you to achieve them!), but it is crucial to be realistic. Don’t resolve to go to the gym every day, only eat fruits and vegetables, and cut out television entirely if you don’t think those goals are sustainable. Don’t aim to go “all out” for a month, and then crash back into your old habits. It’s much better to work towards something (i.e. start by going to the gym twice a week, and then increase your attendance as the year goes on) then to plunge in and back out again.

2. Break your goal into twelve parts

A year may seem like a long time, but a month goes by in the blink of an eye. If you have a substantial goal for the new year, break your goal into smaller pieces so that you feel a sense of accomplishment each month. For instance, if you’d like to write a book this year, make a plan like this:

January: Complete book outline and attend one writing class

February: Write chapter one; attend one writing class

March: Write chapter two

ETC.

Don’t forget to reward yourself in some small way after you achieve your monthly goal!

3. Hold yourself accountable

There are a few ways to check in on your goal progress. One effective method that I’ve used is to enlist the help of an “accountability partner.” This is a person who will check in on you every once in a while and make sure you’re on track. This could be a close friend, your mother, a co-worker, etc.–someone who isn’t afraid to keep you on the ball. In turn, you can offer to be their accountability partner.

If you’re a more private person and would prefer to tackle your resolution solo, consider setting up a series of notifications in your Google calendar, iCalendar, or whatever program you prefer. Create an event that says something like, “Have you completed X this week? Keep going!” and set a notification to remind you of the “event.” These regular check-ins will help keep your resolution top-of-mind. Just be sure they aren’t so frequent that you’ll simply delete them without a second glance.

4. Make your game plan

Really, this should be step number one, but I’m closing the list with this one so that it’s the first thing you do when you finish reading this post. MAKE A GAME PLAN. Don’t go into the new year with a vague resolution and no idea how you’ll achieve it. Take the time to sit and reflect about your goal. Ask yourself why you want to make a positive change in your life and then ask yourself how you are going to make that change. The how is important. This is where all the action comes into play. How will you reach your goal this year? What steps will you take? How will you accomplish those steps. Only by really thinking about the logistics of your resolution will you be able to achieve it successfully. By crafting a game plan (and posting it somewhere that you can see if every day), you’ll start to turn a vague wish into a reality.

Start today! The new year is coming up and I’d love for you to dive into it with confidence, knowing that you have the tools to achieve great things this year.

If you’d like additional help creating a road map for this year, please give me a call anytime and we can discuss your strategy.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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May the holiday season fill you with love, peace, and happiness.

May you spend this time with family and dear friends.

May you take the time to reflect on what is truly important.

May this time bring you joy, instead of stress.

May you thrive.

All the best to you as 2015 winds to a close and 2016 greets us with a clean slate. Are you ready to take on the new year?

MB Headshot

Happy holidays, from Margaret Smith and UXL!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, LICENSED INSIGHTS DISCOVERY PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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