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Creating Successful Leaders

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By now, I know my fellow extroverts are going half-mad from being cooped up in quarantine. If you’re like me, you thrive on human interactions. Talking to others gives you energy and motivates you. It carries you through the day.

If we’re talking about this from the Insights Discovery lens, extroverted folks typically lead with Yellow Energy. Translation: their normal state of being is energetic, sociable, and dynamic. They typically enjoy brainstorming ideas or doing activities with other people. In an office setting, they’re the one with the candy dish on their desk.

Enter quarantine…

Most of that energy has been zapped from us extroverts. Yes, we might have family members around, but it’s just not the same. We might feel rudderless and sad. We might dive into social media for just a taste of human interaction. This COVID quarantine is taking its toll on extroverts, both mentally and emotionally.

If you have extroverted friends, make an effort to reach out. Schedule a video chat happy hour, send them a good old-fashioned letter, meet in an open park and have a conversation six feet away from each other (with masks on!).

Better yet, get a group of people in on the action. Form an online book club or do a weekly video check-in. You might even play a game or watch the same movie together.

These small gestures can and WILL help. Your extroverted friend might put on a happy face and pretend that they’re ok, but chances are, they’re lonely and need a little boost. You can be that boost. A few minutes of your time could make a world of difference.

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. 
NOW 50% off: MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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NOW 50% off: MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

Cats climbing over keyboards, children screaming in the background, co-workers nodding off while your boss is talking—these are the realities of a world governed by video conferences. We are faced with any number of distractions (from dirty dishes to dirty diapers!) that we wouldn’t normally face in the workplace. It might seem impossible to control the video chat chaos, but there are certain steps you can take (whether you’re in an official leadership role or not) to improve the online conferencing experience.

You might not be able to control whether or not your co-workers are wearing pajama pants, but you can control other aspects of video conferencing.

Here are four steps you can take:

1. Start with a check-in

Get team members involved right away by checking in with each person (if you’re meeting with a relatively small group) and asking for a two-minute update. This will help people feel involved right from the get-go, and help them be more connected to the group, even at a distance.

If you’re working with a larger number of people, you might ask everyone a simple question that can either be answered through the chat feature or by giving a simple “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.” For example, you might ask, “How many of you are actually enjoying working from home?” Or, “How many of you cooked or baked something fantastic this past week?”

Engaging the group right away sets a precedent. It shows that they are important, and you’re happy they bothered to join the conference.

2. Encourage Video Use

It’s tempting to shut off the video function during an online chat, especially if you haven’t combed your hair or your house is a tad messy. Even so, it’s a good idea to keep it on and to encourage others to also keep theirs on.

Why? Because seeing other people helps the meeting be more interactive and engaging. It also holds people accountable (they can’t just turn off their video function and leave for an afternoon siesta). What’s more, if you’re the speaker, it is completely discouraging to talk at a wall of black screens. You’re already feeling distant, as it is!

Help people overcome their fear of the video camera by speaking openly and honestly about it. “Video might feel uncomfortable at first,” you might say, “but you’ll get used it. Besides, we’re all in this together, and your presence is important.”

3. Ask Questions

I am always a proponent of asking questions, whether in a video conference or an in-person meeting. Questions help clarify information and also help people become more involved with the information. Beyond asking good questions, you can also encourage others to ask questions by specifically calling out a particular group, i.e. “Does anyone from the IT Department have any thoughts on this?”

4. Treat Distractions with Grace

Distractions are inevitable. Someone’s dog is going to bark; someone’s child is going to break a dish. Instead of letting the group get completely off track and pulled into the distraction, acknowledge it right away and deal with it appropriately. There’s no need to either A) make the distraction-causer feel bad or B) make a big deal of the situation. Instead, address the person who caused the distraction (or whose child/cat/dog/parakeet caused the distraction!) and say something like this:

“Oops! Looks like you have to go deal with that situation. Do you want to turn off your video and microphone for a little while and take care of it? Come back whenever you’re ready.”

Then, move on. There’s no use dwelling on a distraction, getting angry, or letting it go without acknowledging it. The best course of action is direct, swift, and calm.

Virtual meetings are our current reality, but I’m guessing they’re not going away anytime soon. Now that we’ve grown accustomed to working from home, there’s a chance we’ll continue doing it more often, even after the COVID pandemic has passed. If that’s the case, we’d better get used to virtual meetings and how to make the most of them. Otherwise, we’re doomed to endure black screens and petty distractions, instead of quality engagement with our virtual community.

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. 
NOW 50% off: MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Two women having coffee

Mentoring might seem like a one-sided deal on the surface. You put your heart and soul into training a new hire, you meet with them and provide resources, you answer questions. It all seems very time-consuming and, perhaps, a little annoying, BUT what if I told you mentoring is not a one-sided deal? What if I told you both parties—you and your mentee—benefit from your relationship?

Note: Ultimately, mentoring is about building up confidence and skills in another person. It’s not a selfish act. As a mentor, you’ll put in a few extra hours and some extra effort. A good mentor truly cares about nurturing and guiding their mentee.

However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few benefits for you! If you’re on the fence about mentoring, these 3 unlikely benefits might push you toward doing it:

1. It’s a chance to set a precedence

If you think the office is in need of some changes, you can set a new precedence with your mentee. If you think there’s too much gossip, a poor work ethic standard, or too many people handing in their assignments after they’re due, NOW is the time to start changing that. Helping instill good habits in your mentee not only helps them in the long run, but improves the office overall.

2. It can reveal knowledge gaps

One of the best ways to prove you know your stuff is to explain what you do to others. If you find you can’t answer all your mentees’ questions or cannot fully explain a certain aspect of your job, that might mean you need to brush up on that particular area.

By the way, if your mentee stumps you with a question, don’t fudge an answer. That’s doing both of you a disservice. Instead, use this as an opportunity to deepen your knowledge and learn something new.

3. It builds your reputation

If you volunteer to be a mentor, you’re demonstrating that you’re willing to go the extra mile to help the company. You also position yourself as a leader—someone who knows their stuff well enough to tutor others. Building this kind of reputation is not only good for your standing in the office, but also makes you more promotion-worthy.

Aside from the benefits I listed, mentoring can be a rewarding endeavor in itself. Helping someone learn and grow within your company is the kind of valuable work that can’t be assigned a price. Mentoring might give you a few personal benefits, but ultimately, it’s about building the competencies and instilling confidence in a new co-worker.

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dandelion fluff

I know. Things are difficult right now for many families. Millions are unemployed or underemployed, the stock market is volatile, fear is rampant, and many are struggling to make ends meet. That’s the reality…but do you really have to dwell on the reality every day? Do you have to spend hour upon hour watching the news, combing through social media, or reading the headlines?

No, you do not.

That doesn’t mean you should stuff your fingers in your ears and go, “La la la,” until things are back to normal. What it does mean is that you are allowed to take a break from bad news and frightening statistics. You are allowed to stay optimistic and look on the bright side (we will get through this).

One of the best ways to stop yourself from falling into a “woe is me” state of mind is to focus on others. Even if the COVID crisis has negatively impacted you, there’s always someone who is worse off than yourself. There’s always someone who is homeless, sick, or wondering where their next meal will come from. There’s always someone who is too weak or frail to mow their own lawn or weed their garden. You have an opportunity to help these people, and by helping them, you can also distract yourself from your own personal plight.

Do you have an elderly neighbor who needs help picking up groceries or doing yardwork? Volunteer your time and services (making sure you stay six feet away from your neighbor, of course).

Are nearby indie bookstores struggling to keep their doors open amid the quarantine? Consider ordering a few books from their online shop to keep them afloat (and keep you entertained!).

Are local restaurants suffering? Make an effort to order takeout from them at least once per week.

Do you know of any couples who are completely out of work right now? If you have money to spare, you might consider purchasing them a restaurant gift card (for takeout, of course!) or a gift card for groceries.

Do you know of an elderly person or someone who lives alone who might be feeling isolated during this time? Write them a letter or send flowers.

These small gestures can make a world of difference. By reaching out and putting your time and energy into volunteerism, you will not only improve someone else world, you will put yourself in a better frame of mind. And that’s a win-win if I ever heard of one!

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. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Girl with sparklers

If there ever was a time for an acronym like GLAD, it’s right now. These four letters signify a positive outlook and a forward-thinking mindset. Though some may have different interpretations, I have seen this acronym stand for the following words:

G =  Generosity

Even if you’re going through a hard time right now, what are you able to share? It doesn’t have to be a monetary gift; it could be as simple as writing positive messages with sidewalk chalk or putting a teddy bear in your window for children to find in a scavenger hunt.

L = Letting go 

What is truly important in your life? What are the things you have control over and the things you can NOT change? Focus on what you CAN do right now (practicing shelter-in-place, social distancing, safe shopping practices, working as best you can from home, etc.) instead of what you can’t (other people, the status of your job, etc.).

A = Attitude

Do you need to adjust your mindset? You have the power to see the good in anything, even a prolonged quarantine. Think about the family dinners you now get to enjoy, the friends you can connect with over video chat (something we were not able to do only a few years ago!), and the money you’re saving by not going out to eat or attending expensive events. Figure out how to make isolation time YOUR time.

D = Different

The corona virus pandemic is changing the world. Things are, and will continue to be, forever different. Embrace the differences! Perhaps employers will be more open to occasional work-from-home days. Maybe you will continue to connect with friends through virtual chats. Maybe your family will continue to find comfort in each other’s company.

Word Challenge:

Now that I’ve given you a few words that represent GLAD, I challenge you to think of other words that might represent G, L, A, and D. Gratitude comes to mind, as does learning, adapting, diligence, and listening.

Pick a few of your favorite words and write about how you will make them a part of your life. How will you become more grateful? What will you do to be a better listener for your spouse, friends, co-workers, or children? How will you dedicate your time to learning something new?

Even though these are unprecedented times, we are all in this together. Keep in mind the “A” of my GLAD acronym, and let your positive attitude dictate how you will spend your days.

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. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Man looking at wall of plans

If you’ve found yourself working from home all of sudden, you might be feeling disoriented or downright unproductive. This isn’t your typical workspace. This isn’t your daily routine. Now, you’re free to wake up later, work in your pajamas, and browse social media or watch TV without fear of someone catching you. Even the most disciplined of people may be having difficulties making the adjustment. How can you possibly put in a solid day’s work when you’re distracted by bad news and feelings of dread?

One of the most powerful ways to anchor yourself and increase your productivity is to establish your Goals + Routine.

This is a trick that work-from-home folks are quite familiar with. Set your goals (both your macro and micro-level goals) and fit them into a set routine. Just don’t forget to build some flexibility into your goals and routine because life happens. Maybe your son or daughter drops a stack of dishes. Or your boss requests an extra Zoom meeting. Or you hit some kind of snag in your current project.

Building flexibility into your Goals + Routine helps you navigate through the bumps in the road, rework your plan, and keep on moving.

How do you begin planning your Goals + Routine? Start with these steps:

1. Outline your big-picture goals

What things would you like to accomplish by the end of the year, or even further out? Which objectives will occupy a good chunk of your headspace and time over the next several months?

These objectives could be professional (finish a major project, earn a promotion, etc.) or personal (get in shape, read 25 books this year, learn a new language)

2. Break down your big-picture goals into smaller steps

What are a few steps you’ll need to take to reach your big-picture objectives? Think of these are your milestones.

3. Outline your quarterly goals

What smaller goals would you like to achieve? (This step is optional if it overlaps too much with Step #2).

4. Outline your weekly goals

This is HUGELY important. When people make a to-do list, they are often thinking of THAT day, and not the week as a whole. By laying out what you’d like to accomplish this week, you allow some room for flexibility.

5. Outline your weekly STRETCH goals

If you are highly productive and everything goes according to plan this week, what could you accomplish? If you don’t hit your stretch goals, don’t beat yourself up; if you do reach them, celebrate!

6. Outline your daily goals

Start your day by creating a to-do list. Include both personal and professional goals you’d like to achieve today. If you have any time-sensitive commitments, be sure to include those first, and then work around them with other tasks. It can be helpful to add a timeframe for these tasks (i.e. work on a proposal for one hour, go jogging for 45 minutes, etc.)

7. Establish your routine

Once you’ve finished your goal-setting (keep in mind that the daily and weekly goals will be continuous), write up a daily routine for yourself. Your mornings are particularly important for setting yourself up for a good day.

PRO TIP: Include both the things you DO want to do and the things you do NOT want to do. Here’s an example:

DAILY ROUTINE:

  • 6:30 a.m: Wake up
  • 6:45-7:15 a.m. Do yoga/stretching
  • Get dressed, make coffee, and eat a healthy breakfast
  • 7:30 a.m: Check and reply to emails
  • 8:30 a.m: Write out daily task list
  • 12:30 p.m: Break for lunch
  • 3:00 p.m: Take the dog for a walk
  • 5:30 p.m: Start wrapping up work
  • 6:30 p.m: Make dinner
  • 8:30 p.m: If the day did not go according to plan, use an hour or two at night to do work I meant to do earlier.

DO NOT:

  • Stay in pajamas
  • Snack throughout the day
  • Forget to write my daily to-do’s
  • Neglect to move around
  • Get frustrated by distractions
  • Neglect to connect with others

To help you prepare your Goals + Routine, I’ve created the following printable handout. Enjoy!

Click to Download PDF

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Woman reading

How is everyone doing? In my last post, I discussed how, despite the troubled and anxious atmosphere, this is an excellent time for deep reflection and self-improvement. This week, I want to discuss a resource we sometimes forget about: books.

Sure, you could hop online and read any number of articles on how to improve your skills, professional development, or leadership, but a book takes you to another level. It gives you the kind of depth and insight that’s impossible to find in an article AND, chances are, the book has been worked, reworked, and edited so much that the information in it is more carefully put together than your average internet article.

Plus, it’s so much easier to curl up with a book than a laptop!

So, let me share with you some of my favorite personal development books. If you have recommendations of your own, please feel free to leave a comment.

Professional Development:

Daring Greatly, book by Brene Brown

The Trust Edge, David Horsager

Daring Greatly, Brene Brown

True North, Bill George

Straight Talk for Smart Business Women, Cheryl Leitschuh

The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg

Leadership Development:

The Ten-Minute Leadership Challenge, book by Margaret B. Smith

The Ten-Minute Leadership Challenge, Margaret Smith

Love Leadership, John Hope Bryant

Start With Why, Simon Sinek

Inspiration/Self-Help:

You Are Worth It book by Louise Griffith

You Are Worth It, Louise Griffith

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert

The Art of Happiness, by Dalai Lama

The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz

Building Financial Acumen:

Self-Wealth book by Heidi Helmeke

Self-Wealth, Heidi Helmeke

Think & Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill

Women & Money: Owning the Power to Control Your Destiny, Suze Orman

Happy reading!

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