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Creating Successful Leaders

When things are tough, it’s easy to feel sorry for yourself. That’s a perfectly normal and natural reaction. However, problems ensue when that “woe is me” mentality becomes long-term and begins to affect other areas of your life. You might start to blame other people or circumstances for your problems while, at the same time, doing nothing to fix them.

How can you escape a “woe is me” mentality? Try the following 4 suggestions:

1. Take Ownership

Nobody likes failures, but it doesn’t do a lick of good to blame others. Take ownership for your role in the failure, even if others did contribute to it. This helps shift you from pointing fingers to problem solving.

2. Recognize That Pity Parties are Unproductive

Feeling sorry for yourself might feel good for a while (no harm in eating a few scoops of ice cream and watching a movie while you pout!), but it is ultimately unproductive. Recognize that what you’re feeling can and should be a non-permanent state. Allow yourself to experience those feelings of sadness or disappointment, and then resolve to move on.

3. Move Into Problem-Solving Mode

Though it can be tempting to wallow at times, remind yourself that you’re stronger than that. The next time you feel entrenched in sadness, challenge yourself to problem solve. This could be as simple as journaling about your situation, or as involved as creating a mind map or bringing together your team to brainstorm some solutions.

4. Focus on Your Wins

When you’re feeling down about a failure, attempt to focus on the positive. No matter how bad things get, there is always a bright side. Think about the things that have gone well recently, and how to replicate them. Remind yourself that you do experience little victories in life (landing a certain job, getting a positive annual review, earning a bonus, nailing a certain project, coming up with a creative solution, etc., etc.). Focus on those wins and use that energy to propel you forward. 

Failure isn’t forever. If you’re upset about a recent obstacle or pitfall, that’s okay. Allow yourself to feel that way for a time, and then move on. Get yourself into a problem-solving mentality and leave your failure in the dust.


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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It’s easy to let a few things slide. It’s easy to ignore a few missed deadlines, a few late meetings. But little mistakes can easily snowball into major issues, and soon you might find yourself having some tough conversations to straighten things out.

That’s why it’s best to draw a line in the sand right away and hold your team members accountable for their actions.

As a leader, enforcing accountability is part of your role. Not only does it help projects and tasks run smoothly, it also improves relationships among team members. Those who always complete their assignments and meet their deadlines might begin to feel bitter toward those who do not. It is up to you to convey that everyone is on the same level and will be held to the same standards.

To hold your team accountable, follow these Do’s and Do Not’s:

DO make your expectations clear. Set clear deadlines and make sure everyone understands their task or role.

DO act swiftly and fairly if someone falls short. Call that person into your office, ask them why they failed to meet expectations, and discuss disciplinary actions which fit the violation (failing to complete an assignment for a client is much different than showing up two minutes late for a meeting).

DO make reasonable exceptions. If someone spaces on a Zoom meeting because their child had a medical emergency, that’s understandable. If, however, this becomes a repeated pattern, it’s a good idea to have a frank and honest conversation with this person.

DO NOT play favorites. Everyone should adhere to the same set of expectations.

DO make consequences clear. Failure to deliver might directly affect a person’s bonus, lead to a restructuring of their responsibilities, or (in worse-case scenarios) lead to a dismissal.

DO NOT hold yourself to different standards. You are also part of the team.

DO hold one-on-one meetings to convey the seriousness of the matter.

DO convey that accountability is an important part of teamwork, and set your expectations right away.

Accountability is a crucial component of any effective team. Team members should not only feel accountable to their team leader and clients, but also to each other. The best teams are like a rowing crew—they’re all in the same boat, and need to work together to make it move forward.


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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How many times has a project or a meeting broken down because of either A) a lack of communication or B) a miscommunication? Unfortunately, this is commonplace and can completely derail conversations, relationships, or projects. What’s more, in the era of work from home, effective communication is getting even trickier. It can be difficult to read body language over Zoom and it’s no longer possible to pop into someone’s office to ask a quick question (thus, making communication that much harder).

How can we strive to improve communication this year? Here are 3 ideas:

1. Practice active listening

There’s a difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is physiological and can be passive—we can hear sounds or sentences without bothering to interpret them. Listening, however, is active. It involves hearing and interpreting what you hear. Practice active listening by paying attention and absorbing what others say without formulating a response. Too often we’re so busy thinking about what we want to say, that we do not truly pay attention to the speaker.

2. Ask good questions

Even if you think you understand what’s been said, it’s a good idea to ask clarifying questions. Make sure you understand the who/what/where/how of something, before moving on to the next subject. You might try using the “I think I heard” approach. This approach involves repeating back what you think you heard, and asking if that is correct. For example:

“Just to clarify, it sounds like we are going to be prioritizing XYZ this quarter, is that correct?”

For more on asking good questions, please see this blog post all about clarity.

3. Keep meetings to a minimum

You may already suspect this, but it is NOT necessarily a good thing to have more meetings. People are suffering from meeting burnout (especially lately, with so many video chats). What’s more, according to Harvard Business Review, “meetings have increased in length and frequency over the past 50 years, to the point where executives spend an average of nearly 23 hours a week in them, up from less than 10 hours in the 1960s.”

That’s outrageous, and it’s completely unnecessary. Instead of focusing on meeting frequency, focus on meeting quality. Create specific meeting goals, make sure everyone knows their roles and responsibilities, and set a time limit for the meeting. If the meeting involves gathering feedback from your team, try challenging everyone to summarize their thoughts in a minute or two. Concision is key!

Lastly, ask yourself if a meeting is actually necessary. What needs to be accomplished? Can it be achieved through a few quick emails? If so, consider skipping the meeting.

Good communication is often hard to come by. Practice good listening, keep an honest and open line of communication, and work to avoid meeting burnout. Effective communication can be truly transformative for a workplace.


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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