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Creating Successful Leaders

Buzzwords lack clarity

They come in the form of KPIs, ROIs, or CTAs. They are the low-hanging fruit, the synergy, and the ballpark figures. They want to help you drill down, push the envelope, create a survival strategy, and do some heavy lifting.

This is the corporate speak that tends to spin its way into our conversations. It’s fine to use it every once in a while—especially if your audience is familiar and comfortable with the language—but it’s usually best to keep jargon to a minimum. It ends up clogging up conversations, confusing potential customers, and muddying the meaning of a sentence.

Simply put: If too much jargon is used, clarity is lost.

Instead of using a euphemism for a term, express what you actually mean. Instead of asking someone if they have “the bandwidth” to perform a project, ask them if they have the time, resources, and appropriate support. You’ll end up getting a more specific, straight-forward answer rather than a simple “yes” or “no” reply.

Be especially careful with corporate speak when you’re meeting with prospects, new clients, or potential new employees. Businesses tend to use industry-specific terminology which may be difficult for others to interpret. For instance, a company with a global presence might use the term “business process outsourcing” (or BPO), while a company specializing in education might use the term “digital literacy.” In both cases, the terminology may feel natural to those within the industry, but could confuse those outside the industry.

Language matters. The terms you use can contribute to an open, inclusive environment, or they can obfuscate meaning or leave certain people feeling confused or irritated. Do your best to use clear terms and don’t forget to ask for clarification when you need it. Chances are, if you’re confused by an acronym or unusual turn-of-phrase, others will be too.

Let’s aim for simplicity and precision in our workplaces! If you’d like some additional guidance, be sure to check out my short video on clarity.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Whether we’re talking about an individual or a large corporation, branding is important. As an individual, your personal brand is what others see—the qualities (whether good or bad!) and the characteristics that comprise your reputation. As a company, branding is similar. It’s the reputation that people associate with the company when they hear its name or see its logo.

When many people hear the word “brand,” they think of a logo or tagline. They might see the McDonalds arches, the Nike swoosh, or the green and yellow of a John Deere tractor. But there’s more to it than that. Much more.

On an individual level, how you look and what you say make a difference. Of course they do. BUT, your appearance and your words pale in comparison to what you DO. You might be the sharpest dresser in the office, but if you fail to turn in your work on time, you’ll be perceived in a negative light.

Your appearance and your words pale in comparison to what you DO.

Similarly, a company may have a knock-out logo and a great tagline…but those elements mean nothing if they can’t deliver a quality product or service.

So what does make a quality brand? What are some of the factors you can put into place to elevate your personal brand in the eyes of others? (The same guidelines apply to both individuals and businesses!) Consider these four…

1. Put others first

Make other people the center of everything you do. Whether co-workers or clients, consider their needs and how best to serve them. In order to do this, it’s essential to get to know others on a deep level. Listen carefully to any concerns and frustrations, as well as positive experiences. Constantly ask questions and begin to develop an understanding of those with whom you work (be they your customers, team members, or boss).

2. Be authentic

Others can see right through a faux personality. Let your best self shine!

3. Check your ego

As much as you’d like to take credit for the success of an entire project, be sure to give credit where credit is due. Acknowledge the achievements of your team members and be sure to tell them you appreciate their contributions.

Additionally, keep in mind that your ideas are not the only ideas. Build a positive personal brand by being inclusive of others and open to their thoughts and opinions.

4. Be bold with your ideas

Much like a company, individuals are more likely to be successful if they are innovators. If you have a bold new idea, talk about it! Create action. Present your idea to your boss and ask permission to pursue it. This kind of bold, self-starter behavior is what many bosses look for when considering who to promote. Just make sure to present your ideas in a respectful way that opens the door to a discourse…not a “my way or the highway” speech.

5. Focus on the day-to-day

How you act, what you say, and what you do every day can either build or detract from your personal brand. Don’t underestimate the importance of your daily interactions. Your consistent, positive presence is important for building and maintaining your brand.

Make sure your daily actions are, in general, supporting your big-picture goals. If you’d like to, for example, rise to a leadership position, think about how your typical to-do list offers opportunities to achieve that goal. What can you do to put your big-picture goals in the center of your day?

 

As you work on building your personal brand, remember: success doesn’t usually come over night. Focus on small actions and interactions. Everything matters.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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build a good reputation

Your reputation may sound like something that’s out of your control. It’s the way others perceive you, right? It’s the culmination of every interaction, victory, failure, good deed, and (criticism?) harsh word, all rolled into one. How can you contain this many-armed monster and make it your own? Start with these six steps:

1. Pay attention

Although this may seem like a basic concept, it’s an absolutely crucial one. Pay close attention to how you treat others, from your co-workers to your boss to the custodian staff to your barista at Starbucks. Every interaction has the potential to either build-up or tear down your personal brand. Start seeing yourself through the eyes of others and work on a vital little skill called empathy.

2. Be consistent

When you consistently put your best foot forward, you will find that your reputation will fall under your control. If, for example, you show one side of yourself to certain co-workers and another side to others, you’re bound to run into problems somewhere down the line. Be your best, authentic self, no matter if you’re having a conversation with a potential new client, chatting with a co-worker, or posting on social media (yes, that matters too!).

3. Be on time

Whether for meetings, projects, or the start of the work day, BE ON TIME. Punctuality matters and your timeliness can boost your credibility in a big way.

4. Stop making excuses

No one likes an excuse-maker. If you make a mistake or fail to deliver on a project, own up to your error and ask how you can set things right. If you vow to be excuse-free (more on that in a past blog post), you’ll also tend to be a better planner so that you won’t feel the need to make excuses in the first place.

5. Don’t gossip

Nothing kills a good reputation faster than gossip. People will quickly begin to distrust you and may be hesitant to confide in you or entrust you with a team project. And if you find yourself surrounded by gossiping co-workers, do your best to change the subject or simply remove yourself from the conversation. You are above that.

6. Extend small kindnesses

Whenever you see an opportunity for a kind gesture, make it. Say thank you, offer to help, or ask about someone’s day. Make sure your gestures are authentic and heart-felt. You should actually want to help and uplift your co-workers and clients.

 

Are you in control of your reputation? Although credibility takes a long time to build, you can start taking steps immediately to build a healthy, promotion-worthy reputation. Feel free to contact me for more ways to build a stellar reputation.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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I’ve worked with a variety of different teams over the past thirty years, from sales to marketing to creative. Although it’s tempting to gather people together who are like-minded, I’ve found that the most capable, innovative teams are those with a diverse set of perspectives and personalities. When several different personalities are balanced (and everyone has an opportunity to voice their opinions and ideas), teams tend to flourish.

Who to seek out when you’re putting together a team?

Think about personalities from a macro perspective. What are your co-workers like, in general. What are their strengths? What have they accomplished that stand out in your mind? How do they interact with others?

Getting to know your co-workers on a personal level is key to assembling a powerhouse team. The more you know about them, the better equipped you’ll be to compose a well-balanced team. This process, of course, doesn’t happen over night. Take your time building authentic relationships with others and you’ll make a long-term investment in your leadership.

Let’s say you know your co-workers fairly well. What then? Who, exactly, do you want on your team?

A good guide to use is the Insights® Discovery color wheel. This wheel represents the four major personalities we typically find in others, represented by the colors blue, red, yellow, and green. For more on the basics of this remarkable program, please refer to my past blog post on understanding Insights® .

The basic traits of each Insights personality. Everyone has a little of each color in them!

Let’s take a look at the four Insights® colors and how they can contribute to creating a balanced team:

Cool Blue:

Those who tend to embrace the blue quadrant of the Insights® wheel tend to be thoughtful and analytical. They dig into the details of a project, ask probing questions, and help the group to consider many different paths to success. They are typically driven by data and numbers, which can be helpful in many different types of projects.

UTILIZE THE BLUE:

Those who lead with blue energy may seem quiet or even disengaged. As a group leader, make sure to specifically ask “blues” for their input and make sure they are given ample time to express their views without interruption.

Fiery Red:

Red-energy folks like action. They are usually bold, motivated by progress, and make decisions quickly. “Reds” are often natural leaders and can help carry a conversation, delegate tasks, or make executive decisions when the group is waffling.

UTILIZE THE RED:

When working with red-energy people, make sure their voice is heard and considered, but not over-represented. From time to time, it may be vital to remind reds that the first viable option may not necessarily be the best one and that considering multiple options may save the team time in the long run.

Sunshine Yellow:

Your yellow personalities are the ones who enjoy socialization and teamwork. They work best when they collaborate with others and can talk out their ideas. “Yellows” are crucial to your team’s success in the early stages of a project when brainstorming and idea generation is key. They also have the effect of motivating a team through their bright personalities and high energy.

UTILIZE THE YELLOW:

Throw yellow personalities into any mix of people and they’re bound to stand out as the social leaders. As I mentioned, that’s great for idea-generating and motivation, but make sure they don’t control every step of the process. One step you might take with yellows is to challenge them to get everyone involved during every meeting. Task them with calling upon those who haven’t spoken up in a while.

Earth Green:

Green personalities are vital to the team because they are highly empathetic and caring. This natural propensity for putting themselves in others shoes can help them see the project from the customer’s perspective and think about ways to best serve a company’s client base. They are also good at making sure all perspectives on a team are heard and considered.

UTILIZE THE GREEN:

Oftentimes, green personalities are quiet—not because they have nothing to say, but because they want to hear others’ perspectives first. Because of this, they sometimes don’t get the opportunity to speak up and share their viewpoint. Make sure to engage your “greens” and let them know that their opinions are valued.

 

When you create a balanced team, you lay the groundwork for innovation, creativity, and productivity. Although teams with various personalities may clash from time to time, the overwhelming benefits that can be achieved from a balanced team far outweigh the risks. How will you start building your balanced team today?

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Mentoring and leadership

It comes as no surprise to me that businesses and organizations of all types have set up mentorship programs to increase meaningful relationships among the members of their teams. Why? Because mentoring is one of the most powerful, effective forms of leadership.

Yet I’ve noticed that many are hesitant to adopt the role of mentor. They may feel that they aren’t good enough teachers, or that they lack the confidence to take ownership of their skill sets.

The truth is we’re all mentors, whether we know it or not. And while we may not have fully developed this trait, we all possess the potential to become effective mentors and, at the same time, enrich and empower our leadership.

How does mentoring another give your own leadership a boost?

1. It encourages you to always lead with a good example.

Sometimes we slip into bad work habits and mentoring another causes us to be aware of those bad habits and avoid them.

2. You discover knowledge gaps.

Your mentee may ask questions to which you don’t know the answer. That forces you to research or reach out to co-workers to find the answer, thus expanding your knowledge base.

3. You build communication and people skills.

Mentoring helps strengthen your communication skills in one-on-one situations. Since you are the authority figure, it can also build your confidence and even your public speaking skills.

4. You build credibility

Not only will you build credibility in the eyes of your mentee, but other people around the office will see you as reliable, a go-getter, and someone who knows their stuff. You have enough knowledge and poise to tutor another; you must have what it takes to perform your job well (and maybe even land a promotion!).

How to be a Mentor?

Now that we’ve discussed the benefits of mentoring to your leadership, let’s look at the best ways to be a mentor:

Mentors Lead By Example

In an article from The Journal of Leadershipeducational consultants John C. Kunich and Richard I. Lester detail some key aspects of strong mentoring.

A mentor must behave at all times, both publicly and privately, as if the protégé were the mentor’s shadow.

Even in your life outside of work, when people might not be watching, you must stay consistent with your values. At the end of the day, good leadership relies upon a life of integrity. When you take a protégé under your wing, you give them clearance to assess your actions. Don’t take this lightly! It’s a big responsibility, yes, but it’s also immensely rewarding to be able to show your mentee the ropes simply by doing the work you do best.

Mentors Share Their Networks

One of the greatest resources an “old head” owns is a network of people who can help cut through the usual tangle of red tape and quickly obtain the desired result.
Networking usually relies upon sharing contacts and leads, so what better way to give your protégé a head start than equipping them with contacts? Set them up with meetings or informational interviews, give out contact information, or hand them one of your friend’s business cards. I’m sure you can think of people in your life who’ve let you into their already-established network, and I’m just as sure that you appreciate that they did.

Mentors Set Goals And Instill The Value Of Goal-Setting

It should become apparent to the protégé that there are significant differences between workable goals and pleasant but less reality-based dreams, hopes, or wishes.
Because great leaders are able to transform bold visions into reality through the implementation of planning and goal-setting, as a mentor you must also stress the importance of this skill, and work with your protégé on developing goals for themself. A good way to do this is to guide them through the process of differentiating between wishes and workable goals. Get a feel for your mentee’s hopes and dreams. Have them transfer their dreams into workable goals, and write out a long term program with them to get there. With you there as an adviser and a guide, your mentee will learn that visions truly can become reality, but only through long term planning, consistency and gradual steps.

 

Reference

Kunich, John C. and Lester, Richard I. “Leadership and the Art of Mentoring: Tool Kit for the Time Machine.” Journal of Leadership 1-2: (2001) 118, 125, 126.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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confidence, the key to success

Think of someone who is wildly successful. You might picture Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Brené Brown, J.K. Rowling, Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of your company…or any number of people who have made it big.

What do they all have in common? What traits could an author possibly share with a techie?

The answer is simple on the surface, but difficult in practice. All of these successful people have an underlying firm belief in themselves and what they do.

Much of success is a mind game. If you are confident in your beliefs and your actions and you exude that confidence, others will be confident in you. If you move forward boldly, you will be perceived as a leader and someone who can be trusted.

The power of confidence is real. It’s what drives entrepreneurs to create start-ups. It’s what helps people step up and lead a team. But can you really switch on your confidence? Aren’t some people naturally more confident than others?

While you may not feel naturally confident, you DO have the tools to boost your self-assurance and step into your leadership. As Margie Warrell of Forbes says, “Confidence is not a fixed attribute; it’s the outcome of the thoughts we think and the actions we take.”

Warrell goes on to discuss research into brain plasticity and says that, “we can literally rewire our brains in ways that affect our thoughts and behavior at any age. Which means that no matter how timid or doubt-laden you’ve been up to now, building self-confidence is largely what psychologists called volitional. Or to use layman language: ‘By choice.’ With consistent effort, and the courage to take a risk, we can gradually expand our confidence, and with it, our capacity to build more of it!”

How can you start building your confidence and working toward success? Start with these four steps:

1. Have a clear mission.

What do you believe? What drives you? What is your vision for yourself and the future of your company? Create a roadmap of where you’d like to go and keep it at the forefront of you mind. Enlist the help of a career coach or counselor.

2. Fill your thoughts with positivity.

Practice building up your confidence every morning (or every time you’re feeling self-doubt) by telling yourself positive affirmations and actually believing them.

3. Stop limiting yourself.

Reach outside your comfort zone. The only way to achieve growth is to constantly stretch yourself.

4. Have courage.

Courage is one of the ten leadership attributes in my book, The Ten-Minute Leadership Challenge. Having courage means that you’re willing to stand up for your beliefs and defend others, if necessary. It means taking the occasional risk, even if you’re not feeling brave.

BONUS: 5. Start seeing setbacks as opportunities, rather than obstacles.

If your ideas are challenged, your project faces difficulties, or you’re told “no,” don’t give up! Instead, look at your setback as an opportunity to reframe your idea or your work. Author Stephen King was rejected dozens of time and told that “no one is interested in horror.” What did he do? He edited his work and kept on submitting it, standing firmly by his genre. It’s okay to rework your ideas, but stay steadfast to your core beliefs.

 

YOU have the power to be successful. Your internal monologue can either drive you toward success or make you shrink back into your comfort zone. Be bold, be confident, and above all BELIEVE in yourself, your capabilities, and your ideas.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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quit saying no problem

You’ve rearranged your schedule, taken the time to prepare, and said “no” to other commitments. You’re just about to head into the meeting for which you’ve worked so hard to get ready and then…you get an email: “Something came up. Can we postpone the meeting to next week?”

Many of us have the tendency—even if we’re frustrated by the situation—to respond, “No problem. We can do next week.” But the thing is, there is a problem.

Sometimes people have legitimate excuses for not showing up, canceling something at the last minute, or not getting an assignment to you on time. BUT, if you tolerate this kind of behavior regularly, you are essentially giving other people permission to walk all over you.

Not to mention, many people cancel or postpone meetings simply because they don’t feel like going. They see the meeting as a low priority item—something that can be blown off. And THAT is a huge problem.

So what do you do?

How can you convey your frustration to your client, co-worker, or boss without coming across as a complete ogre?

It’s a tricky situation, especially in my Midwestern home base where politeness is the norm (even at the expense of your own discomfort or annoyance!). But, the issue must be addressed. Otherwise, this kind of cavalier attitude toward meetings will continue. You will be at the mercy of someone else’s whims.

Start putting your foot down. Try these four different approaches (or a variation) and begin holding others accountable.

1. Express that you’ve been inconvenienced.

Try responding with: “Actually, I rearranged my schedule and was counting on this meeting to direct the rest of my week’s work. Next week is pretty packed for me, so I won’t be able to meet then. Is there any way you can make today’s meeting, even if you’re a few minutes late?”

2. Tap into the other person’s emotional side by telling them how the situation made you feel.

Try: “This is the second time we’ve pushed back this meeting. That makes me feel as if my time isn’t valued.”

OR: “We’ve had to reschedule this meeting multiple times. I’m beginning to get frustrated, since I end up wasting time each time we reschedule. Can we make a firm commitment to meet next Tuesday?”

3. Tell your side of the story.

“I spent most of the morning preparing for our meeting instead of working on the XYZ project, which is due next week. This cancellation really throws a monkey wrench into my schedule. Is there any way you can shuffle some things on your end and make at least part of today’s meeting?”

4. Come up with an alternative plan.

“Since it seems like you’ve had to cancel several in-person meetings, why don’t we aim for a phone meeting next time? Say, tomorrow? 10 a.m?”

 

Your time and presence are valuable. If others tend to drop appointments or not follow through with their commitments, it’s time to take a firm stand. Let them know, as tactfully as possible, that yes, there is a problem.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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