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Creating Successful Leaders

promotion worthy actions at work

Work. We all know to go above and beyond, we all know to be on time, meet deadlines, and dress for the job we want. But what about the things not everyone is keeping in their mental rosters? Things that have the opportunity to set you apart and give you an edge? Start with these four out-of-the-box tips:

1. People Like Being Around Likable People

Remember the cursed group projects of high school or college? Remember the characters you got stuck with? The slacker who never showed up, the bossy pants who refused others’ contributions, the walking vanity incapable of seeing beyond their lip gloss, or the one who was so emotionally strung out they spent most of their time crying in the bathroom? Don’t be those people!

Yes, you’re going to have a bad day. Everyone is going to have a bad day. But remember that people like to be around people who make them feel good. People feel easier working with someone engaged, easy-going, prepared, and generally friendly. When those new projects come up, chances are co-workers are going to opt for someone pleasant to be with and work with on their team. The better you can make someone feel at work, the more they’re going to feel good working with you.

2.Pretend This Is Your Favorite Underdog Movie

Someone needs to show Russia who is boss? Rocky punches in. Someone needs to herd a bunch of sheep? Babe the pig starts running in circles. Whatever your film genre, you’ve seen it – a job needs to be done, and someone unexpected comes along to do it. Now, don’t sign up for designing posters if you’ve never opened Photoshop. But, do get out there, take a chance on accepting a new responsibility and succeeding in it. Yes, there might be a learning curve or surprisingly unpleasant aspects to the job, but show you are willing to fill gaps. Show you are a more valuable asset than your coworkers by having a broader range of skills and greater willingness.

3. Manage Your Time

Engage in your work. By no means should you morph into a workaholic, but when you’re working, get to work. The best way to do this is to cleverly manage your time. If you have multiple projects, make a guesstimate of how long each one will take, rate their priority, organize the steps for each one, and maybe throw the more entertaining ones between the snore-fests.

Then, block out your time. Excel spreadsheets can be great personal tools. Keep track of what you do with your time so you can use it most efficiently, and hopefully clock out a little earlier. This also comes in handy when the boss comes knocking with another task. Simply shoot her your schedule of the things you are already doing, show her how much more still needs to be done, and convince her that another employee might have more time to do a good job on it.

Keep in mind: businesses want organized managers. Having proof of your time management skills might come in handy when a promotion opens up.

4. Take Care Of Yourself (Treat Yourself Like a Human Being)

The work day is long. No one can sit and stare into the abyss of a computer screen for eight hours and maintain their brain power. Do things to keep yourself somewhat functioning. Try:

  • yoga on your lunch break
  • going for a walk
  • reading your favorite magazine or a book for a few minutes
  • drawing a few pictures while you brainstorm

Each person is going to feel rejuvenated by something different. Yeah, a full spa treatment probably isn’t going to fit into the workday, but maybe grabbing a foam roller and getting those office chair kinks out of your back will make the rest of the work day easier.

 

Now, get out there and start using these tips to get ahead of the pack and to be a better YOU.

 

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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support working moms

We’ve all heard it – being a mom is a full time job. So what do you do when you already have a 40 hours per week gig, and then you get motherhood thrown into the blender? You get a mess, that’s what. You get a toddler in a panda bear suit, trying to make a bamboo smoothie in your kitchen.

Transitioning to parenthood is like the terrifying transition years of junior high all over again, but amplified by the high stakes pressure of being responsible for the emotional, physical, and mental wellbeing of another human being.

You might be thinking: What could I possibly do to support the working moms in my office? Where do I even begin?

As a coworker, manager, or leader, YOU have many opportunities to be a role model when it comes to supporting the moms on your team. Below are four ways to get started.

1. Respect That Babies Have Priority

We get it, you don’t want your meeting interrupted by a mom stepping out to take a phone call from her child’s teacher, babysitter, or pediatrician. We get that when a woman is at work, you want her to be working. The desire is a reasonable one, but here’s the thing: moms don’t get to clock out of the mom job from nine to five. No matter what time of day or night it is, that mom (and dad) are the ones ultimately responsible for what is happening with their child. They don’t get to delegate the task to someone else. And when it comes to the wellbeing of your meeting, or the wellbeing of a child, I hope you’ll agree that the child is priority.

2. Respect That Babies Are Out Of Control

As an adult you probably feel at times that you have lost control of things. Your car, phone, friends, or waistline won’t cooperate. This is normal. No one is ever going to have their life tied up neatly with a bow. Now, add in a child and the chaos amplifies.

Babies are chaos masters. They wreak adorable havoc on almost everything they encounter. And that’s fine—it’s what they’re supposed to do. So when mom calls in to say she’s late because little peanut threw up on her as she was walking out the door, you must understand this is unavoidable. Don’t huff and puff and sigh when she comes in late. That mom didn’t want to be late to work either. She certainly wasn’t expecting the vomit, or she would have wrapped herself in trash bags.

3. Respect that Mom is Trying Her Best

Believe me, if a mother is working after having a baby, which is no small feat, then she is working because she wants to be working. With the cost of child care, it often makes little financial sense to return to work after a baby. So mom is there because this job means something to her. The dividing of motherhood and professional responsibilities is not easy for moms.

Working mothers make hard choices on how to use their time every day. Be supportive. Be encouraging. Be vocal about the things that are going well. Ask how you can assist in helping other things run smoother. Appreciation goes a long way in maintaining a valuable asset.

4. Respect That Improvement Takes Time

We are human. We all want things to be comfortable and convenient, and we struggle when we don’t get those things right away. Understandable. Who likes a rough patch? No one likes it when their smooth-running life hits a glitch. But no matter what, the rough patch is going to come. And this is true in business as well.

Returning to work after a baby is definitely a transition period. Mothers have to learn an entirely new way of being employees. It’s not easy to retrain yourself, or come to terms with your new reality. Give mothers time.

Good change takes time. Let them have the space to find the best way to do their job in their new situation. You’ll receive the payback for years to come when you have a master problem-solver on your hands.

 

Gone are the days when mothers have to stay home. Now, women get to work, and I hope we can all agree this is a benefit for everyone involved. After reaching this milestone, our next task is to make it better. Better for the company, the coworkers, the parent, and the child. With a little creativity and a little patience for the curve balls of life, I think the task of supporting new mothers in the workplace is not only feasible, but worthwhile as well.

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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BBQ and Delegation

Your perfect barbecue goes something like this:

  • You create the perfect guest list (people you enjoy hanging out with and who get along well with each other)
  • Each guest takes on the responsibility of making a different dish (something they’re good at making!)
  • On the day of the event, everyone enjoys a delicious spread of food and each other’s company.
  • Even if it rains or someone spills the potato salad, you’ll still have the makings of an excellent get together.

Of course, not every BBQ turns out this way. You might encounter drama between guests, or you may end up with seven different desserts, but no potato chips or veggie tray. The trick is knowing your guests’ personalities, knowing their strengths, and delegating effectively.

You can probably already draw parallels between the perfect BBQ and delegating to a work team, but let you give me my take on it:

When you’re leading a team, it’s difficult (and frankly inadvisable) to do everything yourself. If you tried to cook everything for a twenty-person barbecue, you’d end up pulling out your hair and not having much fun.

At work, the stakes are higher. If you’re working on a project, you’ll have deadlines to meet, stakeholders to please, and a team to attend to. Instead of taking on the bulk of the work yourself, TRUST that your team is capable enough to shoulder some of the burden.

Not only will delegating tasks to others lighten your load, it will help your team members feel like they are important parts of the work (just like the people at your BBQ who are providing the watermelon or deviled eggs).

Furthermore, delegating adds diversity of thought.

Your team members will inevitably do things a little differently than what you might have done on your own, and THAT’S OKAY. It’s great to work with a diverse set of ideas—that’s what drives innovation. Just like the person who brings a unique dish (grilled asparagus and ricotta pizza, anyone?), you will find creative new ideas through your team that you might not have found on your own.

Just make sure everyone is well-suited to their tasks.

In the workplace, certain people will love crunching numbers and digging into strategy. Others will love idea-generation. Still others will take pleasure in the artist elements of a project.

The better you know your team members, the better you can assign tasks. Just like you know Bill makes delectable beer-battered chicken, but you wouldn’t trust him to know merengue from tapioca pudding, so too should you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your team.

Don’t forget to make things fun.

One of the keys to successful delegation is making sure people are working well together, connecting, and facing any issues with a positive attitude and a problem-solving mentality. Day-to-day work doesn’t have to be a grind. If everyone is well-suited to their tasks and the team is keeping an affable, open line of communication between one another, the work can actually be (gasp!) fun.

You can also amp up the fun factor by hosting lunch-and-learn meetings, creating light-hearted challenges, raising money for a cause, or going on the occasional team outing. Though these may seem like frivolous activities to some, they are actually great ways to help your team members connect with one another, build a sense of camaraderie, and help YOU better understand what makes the people on your team tick. Having a deep understanding of your team members is crucial to effective delegation.

 

So, make a plan, start delegating, and get ready to fire up that grill!

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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maybe someday

How many times have you said something like the statements below?

“I may start searching for a new job.”

“I may take a leadership class this year.”

“I may do                 , like I’ve always wanted to do.”

I know I’m guilty of the occasional case of the “mays!”

The thing about statements like these is that there’s no muscle behind them. There’s no clear goal or strategy to get there. Sure, you can start with a dream or an idea, but after that, you have to put in the legwork.

How do you turn “mays” into action?

Start by making your vague ambitions more concrete. Give yourself a clear goal with a stated deadline. For instance:

“I will start searching for a new job by the end of the quarter.”

“I will sign up for a leadership class this month.”

“This week, I will figure out how to get started on                 .”

Once you have more directed statements, develop a plan to follow through with them. Break down your goal into bite-sized pieces and tackle them one at a time.

Don’t forget to refer to your goal often and track your progress.

If you’re looking for a great way to get started, try creating a 90-day quick plan. An idea created by David Horsager, the 90-day quick plan helps you achieve one focused goal in 90 days by using “why” as your driver. Why do you want to accomplish a certain goal? What are the motivating forces surrounding it? Why would reaching this goal make a difference in your life?

Instead of continuing to say, “I may,” start saying, “I will.” Create a plan, set deadlines, and see what you can achieve in the next few months.

Go get ‘em!

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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Compromises that work

Ever witnessed a child being told they must share their toys with another child? Their reaction to this news wasn’t too pretty, was it?

Although we’ve grown to understand that the world doesn’t revolve around us and we don’t always get our way, that small child’s voice is still inside us, protesting whenever things don’t go how we want them to.

But the truth is, in order to lead in any real sense of the word, you must learn the art of making compromises. But how do you effectively make a compromise? How do you ensure that both parties feel satisfied with the outcome?

  1. Express yourself fully, and listen intently. Explain your reasoning behind your viewpoint. Often our views are skewed by our emotions, which makes it harder to make effective decisions. Articulating your view to another person forces you to take a good long look at your position, and in many cases this allows you to see where your view may not be perfect. On the same token, listen to what the other person is actually saying, not what you think they’re saying. Hear them out before you rush to judgment. Open communication is crucial to getting things done.
  2. Think from the other person’s perspective. If it continues to be difficult for you to accept the other person’s position, do your best to put yourself in their shoes. What’s the reasoning behind their thoughts, ideas, and opinions? Even if you disagree, can you see why they hold these views?
  3. Be committed to results. Compromising pushes two opposing viewpoints past a gridlock into a region where they can move from ideas into actions. In this way, compromise is one of the most powerful tools we have to getting results. A compromise is a mature way of acknowledging that we can never fully get what we want all the time, but we can get more of what we want if we work together to achieve it.
  4. Be prepared to be disappointed, but give it time. At first, you might only see what you didn’t get out of a compromise. This is understandable, but don’t give up on it just yet. In the long term, compromising pays off for both parties, as you’ve established an alliance and proven to one another that you are capable of working together and taking steps forward.

Have a great week!

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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Put learning agility into practice

Leaders who “refuse to let go of entrenched patterns or who do not recognize the nuances in different situations tend to derail.” This quote from the Center for Creative Leadership is absolutely true. In today’s global, interconnected market, leaders must be agile enough to navigate a diverse range of disciplines, cultures, and skill sets.

Learning agility is a term that often gets bandied around, but how, exactly, can a leader learn to be agile? How can this concept actually be put into practice?

First of all, learning agility is as much a mindset as it is a practice. For instance, if you’re in a rut with your career, it’s possible you aren’t taking full advantage of learning opportunities. There are many possible reasons for this: perhaps you’re afraid of failure, or worried about getting outside your area of comfort and expertise. However, without allowing yourself to encounter new experiences, you’ll have no shot at developing the necessary life skills to navigate through an increasingly interdisciplinary economy. You can’t expect different results from doing the same thing over and over again; Albert Einstein defined insanity as such.

So, to be agile in practice, you must first retrain your brain to be open to newness. It may not be comfortable at first, but hopefully you’ll find that new experiences are rarely as daunting as we build them up in our minds.

When aiming for “brain retraining,” consider four different attributes of learning agility (as discovered in a study by Colombia University): Innovating, Performing, Reflecting and Risking.

Innovating:

This refers to challenging the status quo. Instead of going along with what’s worked in the past, an innovative leader embraces new challenges and is open to new ideas. An innovator asks questions, takes on new tasks and experiences to increase their perspective, and constantly tries to approach issues from multiple angles.

Performing:

To possess learning agility, you must be able to perform under  stress and deal with the inevitable ambiguous or unfamiliar situation as it arises. An agile learner does this by staying present, engaged, and a keen observer of new information. This includes listening skills; a good performer must embrace, not avoid, verbal instruction.

Reflecting:

This goes beyond simply thinking about the new things you’ve learned. Reflecting means using new information, skills, and experiences to generate a deeper insight into yourself, those around you, and any problems you’ll face. Good reflection should always ask the question, “What kinds of changes do need to make in order to  accommodate  these new experiences?”

Risking

Learning agility is a body of skills and attributes that can be boiled down to one character trait: the ability to put yourself out there. This means that you volunteer for opportunities that don’t guarantee success. In fact, an agile learner values the experience of failure, as it is a much better catalyst for growth than continual success. Risk here means risk that leads to opportunity, not thrill seeking.

If these attributes don’t describe the way you operate, don’t panic. “Being open to failure” isn’t natural, fun, or frankly, very common. Don’t think of these traits as a list of must-do’s in order to be successful. To put it in perspective, these are the conclusions derived from studying a large and diverse group of leaders; no one leader perfectly reflects all these qualities.

That said, staying humble and open to change is the most important starting point to attaining agility in leadership and learning. If you can do that, the rest will follow.

Mitchinson, Adam and Robert Morris, Ph.d. “Learning About Learning Agility.” Teachers College, Colombia University, April 2012. http://www.ccl.org/leadership/pdf/research/LearningAgility.pdf

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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The wrong way to say thank you

You’re probably aware of the power of appreciation. It can motivate others, elevate moods, and actually improve employee retention rates. Employees who are recognized for their achievements report increased happiness at work and greater satisfaction with their superiors.

But—believe it or not—there IS a wrong way to express appreciation for your employees. How?

  • If the recognition seems forced or insincere
  • If the recognition is ubiquitous (EVERYONE gets a gold star!)
  • If someone is left out (part of a team is recognized for their achievements, while some are not)
  • If the recognition is generic or impersonal (a mass email)
  • If the recognition does not suit the individual (some people do not like being called out in front of a group, while others thrive on that type of recognition)

The last thing you want to do is come across as phony, insincere, or misinformed when you’re showing appreciation. How, then, do you, as a leader, demonstrate your true appreciation?

  • Be observant and aware (know who is performing above the norm and deserves recognition)
  • Regularly check in with your team and get to know them (this will help you understand when someone is personally excelling and how best to recognize that individual)
  • Pay attention to the little things
  • Focus on both work-related and non-work-related activities (if someone helps out a coworker who just had surgery, that deserves recognition too!)
  • When you say thank you or write out a thank you card, mean it. Your sincerity will shine through.
  • Be specific. Don’t just say “thanks for a job well done.” Point out specific achievements or contributions.

Employee recognition is important, and it’s crucial to go about it in an authentic, personalized way. Build trust with your team by being sincere, specific, and candid when you give praise. Believe me, people will notice and appreciate your authenticity and effort.

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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