Skip to content

UXL Blog

Creating Successful Leaders

volunteerism and purposeThis past Tuesday, I headed to Kraków, Poland to work as a volunteer for World Youth Day (WYD). This worldwide event takes place every three years and is a gathering of like-minded youth who value service, love, and faith. The festivities are actually held over the course of a week, so the name World Youth Day is a little deceiving. During my time in Poland, I will be mentoring youth from my hometown of Stillwater and volunteering my services to help make WYD 2016 a success.

It will be a long, tiring trip (among thousands of youth!), but I’m certain it will be worth it. I have found that any time volunteering is NOT time wasted. Volunteering is one of the things in life that keeps me energized, motivated, and (most importantly!) gives me purpose.

I firmly believe that the path to a happy life is to find a purpose. For me, that means spending time giving back to my community and the world at large. Even in my work as a career coach, I try to give back to my clients. I approach my work with the mentality, “How can I help YOU?”

Part of the reason I became a career coach was because I wanted to give back. After retiring from my career at 3M, I knew I wasn’t finished. I had spent nearly 30 years building up a skill set, and I wanted to share it with others!

For many people, retirement doesn’t mean “quitting,” it means opening up a new chapter of your life and giving back in different ways. I am reminded of a story I heard of a couple that retired, purchased an RV, and began traveling around the country. After only a month or two, they began to grow bored and anxious to do something more meaningful. At the same time, they also realized that they kept bumping into other retired couples who were doing the same thing—traveling around the U.S. in their RVs. That’s when they were struck with the idea to form a volunteer group with their fellow travelers and do something meaningful at each of their stops.

They decided to work with Habitat for Humanity (since nearly every city has a local chapter) and formed a group called the “Care-A-Vanners.” That group spends one or two weeks in each city they visit, building homes for those in need. And, since they are traveling as a group, the Care-A-Vanners have developed meaningful relationships, while at the same time utilizing their talents and making a difference.

Having volunteered several times through Habitat for Humanity, I am aware of the profound impact their projects can have on other’s lives. My husband (who is a carpenter by trade) and I frequently travel to Clarksdale, MS to help with Habitat’s building projects and we often see and reconnect with the same group of people. I even have a pen pal in Clarksdale—a young woman who I mentor. You might say that we’re accountability partners for each other! I help her focus on her dream of going to college and she reminds me of the very real impact of volunteering and spending quality time with another human being.

Do you know your life’s purpose? If you’re having trouble nailing it down, I challenge you to try volunteering. There are so many causes that need your help—environmental, educational, political, social justice—that you’re bound to find something that motivates you and gets you excited to make a difference.

Let me know how your purpose-seeking is going! Write me a note in the comments section, or send me a message. Happy volunteering!

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

Tags: , , , , , ,

wanted2

You’ve probably heard phrases like, “You don’t get what you don’t ask for” or “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” There’s a reason those idioms are popular—they’re absolutely true!

It isn’t enough to secretly wish for something; the best way to get what you want is to take clear, direct action. Oftentimes, that means having the courage to call upon others for help or guidance. It means starting a dialogue and expressing your desires.

Why do we so often hesitate to ask for what we want?

This hesitation can stem from a fear of feeling vulnerable or unworthy, or the belief that successful people never ask for help. All of these fears work within us to maintain the status quo and prevent us from seeking the change we desire.

Don’t let your pride keep you from asking for what you want. This is a lesson I learned as a senior leader at 3M and one that I now apply to my current work as a career coach. It’s okay to lean on others and ask for help. You don’t have to do everything on your own!

Whether you’d like to ask for a raise, take on a new project, or revamp an outdated work system, have the courage to speak up. Seek out the areas where you desire change and begin asking the right people for help.

Harder than it sounds, right?

In order to overcome the hesitation you might feel to ask for what you want, I’ve put together these 9 guidelines:

  1. Be honest with yourself about your current dreams and needs—know what you want.
  2. Seek support from the experts and professionals around you who can best support your goals.
  3. Always believe that what you’re asking for is possible.
  4. Be genuine about your wants and honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses.
  5. Consider sending an email or making a phone call to introduce yourself to those who you think may be of service. Outline your needs, but don’t be pushy. Take the time to build a trusting relationship.
  6. Always be passionate about what you request.
  7. Never let fear prevent you from acting.
  8. Anticipate that not everyone will be able or willing to help, and always allow for a gracious opportunity for others to bow out.
  9. Be persistent—try, try, and try again until you achieve success.

Don’t let your inner saboteur get in the way of your own success—believe that you are deserving of what you want, and have the courage to ask for it.

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

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Find your spark.UXL blog

I hope you had a chance to watch the fireworks over this past Independence Day weekend. I know I always find inspiration and awe when I’m watching the bright colors burst across the sky. It makes me think of possibilities and all the wonder we can find in the world if we just take the time to look.

What sparks your imagination? If you’re feeling a little lackluster lately, maybe it’s time to find inspiration in the world around you. Try a few of the following activities in the next couple weeks and reclaim your imagination and motivation!

1. Take a walk WITHOUT your cell phone. Observe the world around you and notice the different colors, shapes, types of people, houses, and landscapes.

2. Visit an art gallery and really take the time to immerse yourself in the paintings and sculptures. Get up close and look at the brush strokes or the texture of the bronze/wood/metal.

3. If you’re able, work in a new location today. Bring your laptop to a coffee shop, library, or other public area and notice how you work differently in the new environment.

4. Add some spice to your life by taking a cooking class! Enroll in a class that teaches you how to cook a brand new dish or uses a technique with which you’re unfamiliar.

5. Call an old friend. Talking with someone who you haven’t spoken with in a while can spark old memories and get your mind churning.

6. Attend a concert. Whether it’s a rock show, a piano recital, or the symphony, music can tickle parts of your brain that you don’t often use and give you a healthy dose of inspiration.

7. Talk with a child. If you’re not often around small children, the complicated and insightful things they say might take you by surprise.

8. Learn a new skill. Be it wood working, stained glass-making, or Microsoft Excel, it’s a good idea to stretch your brain and get inspired by something new.

9. Travel! Get outside your comfort zone AND your zip code. Learn about new cultures, foods, and ways of living by traveling somewhere brand new. Challenge yourself to venture outside the tourist zones and mingle with the locals.

10. Join a meet-up group with the intention of making a new friend. When we become completely entrenched in our routines, it’s hard to find room (or motivation!) for making new acquaintances. Facilitate a new friendship by joining a local meet-up group that interests you and start talking with the other attendees. Check out Meetup.com for a long lists of clubs and meet-ups.

11. Open yourself. At the core of this list is YOU. Your attitude, your outlook on life, your optimism—those are the driving forces of a truly inspired life. If you open yourself to new experiences and new ways of thinking, you’ll surely find your own personal spark of inspiration.

 

Good luck on your search.

 

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

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

magnifying-glass-106803_640

Our society greatly emphasizes perfection, or striving toward perfection, so it’s very common for people to feel that they need to do everything without flaw. This way of thinking is taught to us right away as children when we are told things like:

“Color inside the lines.”

“Don’t wear your pants inside out.”

“Ride your bike in a straight line.”

From there, we go to school where we are not only expected to strive for perfection in academics, but also keep up with our peer group in music, sports, and the latest trends. So much pressure to appear perfect, according to others’ measurements!

Many people rebel against the pressure to be perfect, but some of us never shake it. Not that it’s inherently bad to strive for perfection—it’s just that, you have to know when to let go and let the little things slide.

The true perfectionist thinks in all-or-nothings. If something they do doesn’t live up to perfect standards (which translates to impossible standards), then they believe they are a failure and their efforts were a complete waste. This becomes a vicious cycle: the perfectionist sets unrealistic goals, fails to achieve them, feels that they failed utterly, and becomes discouraged and less confident in their ability to succeed in future endeavors.

Even when a perfectionist does great work, they have trouble seeing it as success, because their work will always appear subpar alongside the unrealistic expectations they set for themselves.

In fact, perfectionism hinders productivity as a result of this mental cycle. Those who set realistic goals are better able to perform because their goals are strategic, manageable, incremental. On the flip side, perfectionists are often so overwhelmed with their need to get everything perfect that they have trouble getting started. Perfectionist paralysis.

A few ways to get past this paralysis are to:

  1. Break down your task into bite-size chunks. Even breaking it up into one component per day works well. If you make a list to coincide with your breakdown, you’ll also have the pleasure of being able to check off accomplishments as you go.
  2. Give yourself some space from your work. This helps you keep the task in perspective. It is only a task, whatever it may be, however important, and you are not the task. Your value as a person is not tied to how well you perform.
  3. Provide ample time to nitpick. If you know that you fuss over the details, break your work into two general categories: the “just getting it done and not thinking” work, and the “going back over and obsessively getting it right” work. This way, you’ll be able to move forward without worrying about how perfect it is, since you know you’ll have time to get it great after it’s all thrown together.
  4. Know when to let it go. At some point, you’re going to need to stop your task and turn it in if it’s an assignment, deliver it if it’s a speech or presentation, or finish it in whichever other way you finish it. It will never be perfect, since nothing is perfect. You must learn to let go and trust you’ve done your best.

If perfectionist traits apply to you, remember: you simply cannot be good at everything. Some people will always be better-suited for particular skills than you. And this is okay! This is okay because your value is not determined by doing things perfectly, and if you tend to think this way, you’ll only continue to disappoint yourself. This is also okay because once you accept your weaknesses, you’ll be able to know your limits, set more reasonable goals, and hone in on the areas in which you thrive.

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

Tags: , , , , , , ,

depression-get unstuck from life's ruts

When you’re in a rut–be it in a job, in between jobs, or just in general–becoming “unstuck” can be very difficult. While in this position, you may feel trapped, unmotivated or defeated. You may be tempted to settle. Don’t!

We all get in ruts, at times feeling trapped by our circumstances, and that is okay. However, the worst thing to do in this situation is to remain engaged in whatever it is that is making you feel unsatisfied. Something needs to change and change requires action. Today, I’ll give you five tried and true ways to free yourself from the funk so you can get back to living a rewarding life.

Get out of the comfort zone! 

Often the real cause of feeling stuck comes from the very habits we’ve created to be more comfortable. Our comfort zone feels good, but also has the potential to keep us from experiencing life. When we see too much of the same thing day after day, it’s easy to fall into the doldrums. Do something new! Try painting or photography or learn video editing. Attend a networking event or retreat. Work through your reservations and put yourself out there. In doing so, you’ll prove to yourself that you’re adaptable and resilient to setbacks. And, who knows, maybe you’ll find a talent or passion you were not even aware of.

Exercise, exercise, exercise 

We often forget that the brain is part of the body, and the body was made to move. Research continues to confirm that the brain performs better, and the body feels better, when we exercise.1 Whether it’s yoga, jogging, taking a walk or lifting weights, daily physical activity will motivate you to get out of the funk by stimulating your brain.

Travel somewhere new

Like exercise, travel stimulates the brain as well (probably due to the fact that we humans were nomadic creatures not too long ago). It’s in our nature to crave a change of scenery. It doesn’t need to be an expensive, extravagant trip. It can be something as simple as a weekend trek to a neighboring state, a train ride across the country, or a camping adventure with the family.

Make a point to be kind to those around you 

This obvious step is easily ignored when we get trapped in ruts. We become so wrapped up in ourselves, we forget to reach out and engage with others. Taking time at work, at home, and with friends to connect and share is one of the best ways to enrich your life. Kindness is reciprocal, after all.

Try reading for pleasure (every day!) 

Reading for pleasure forces your brain to create entire worlds out of thin air, and books offer differing perspectives on life that you may have never considered. What’s more, reading gives you time to recover from life’s little struggles and have a moment to yourself. It also works as a great sleeping aid if you get into the habit of reading right before bed.

These suggestions promote positive change, but the key to each of these is your attitude. You must eliminate the words “wish, hope, maybe, and should” from your vocabulary and replace them with “can, will, and do.” In most cases, feeling stuck is temporary and common.* You have the power to get yourself out of it. Trust that you will!

1 “The Human Brain,” The Franklin Institute, accessed October 22, 2012, http://www.fi.edu/learn/brain/exercise.html

2 “Staying on Top of Your Game,” Psychology Foundation of Canada, accessed October 22, 2012, http://www.psychologyfoundation.org/pdf/TopOfYourGame/3.pdf

*It should be noted that a “rut” is much different than dealing with depression or other mental disorders that cause a permanent “low” feeling. When in doubt, consult a physician.

 

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

Tags: , , , , , , ,

business-lunch-meeting-1238188_640

When organized and executed well, the power lunch can be a perfect mixture of work, play, and hunger-quenching. To improve your power lunch performance, read the easy list of business lunch basics below.

The Basic Rules of the Business Lunch

  1. Place the Focus on Lunch: Consider calling it something besides a “power lunch” to avoid making your lunch partner feel like they’re about to endure another interview or staff meeting.
  2. Don’t Be Late: If you’re the host, show up early to double-check your reservation and make sure that your table is appropriate.
  3. Select the Perfect Restaurant: Choose somewhere convenient for your lunch partner and, preferably, somewhere with which you’re already familiar. Aim for a restaurant that’s not noisy or overcrowded. Inquiring about your lunch partner’s dietary preferences or limitations is also a great move.
  4. Don’t Jump Straight into Business: Let your lunch guest be the first to breech work subjects. This keeps things comfortable and sincere.
  5. Know Who Pays: Simply put, if you’ve made the reservation, you should pay. Consider leaving card information with your server ahead of time to avoid snafus or confusion.
  6. Show Some Respect: Show wait staff (including your hostess, server, food runner, manager, etc.) the utmost respect. How you treat these people says leagues about how you do business.
  7. Avoid Online Reservations: Always make and confirm your reservation over the phone or in person to ensure that your table doesn’t fall through the cracks. Make any requests concerning your seating preferences during this conversation.

Do you have questions about developing your career, business, or landing the job of your dreams? Would your career benefit from informed advice about finding more customers and building a network that gives back? Contact UXL Today to transform the future of your business or career through guided professional coaching.

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

Tags: , , , , , ,

give-a-better-champagne-toast

We’ve all been there. Someone stands up or leans over the table to give a toast and it falls absolutely FLAT. Maybe there are too many inside jokes in the toast, or maybe the speaker crosses the line between funny and just plain raunchy. Or, maybe the speaker forgets their lines, fumbles their words, or loses their concentration. Or the microphone cuts out. Or the speaker mumbles. Or no one laughs at the jokes…

The list goes on and on! It makes you wonder why anyone in their right mind would agree to give a toast.

But, fear not. There are just as many ways to give a good toast as to give a horrendous one! The trick is to put a little thought into the occasion and look at it as an honor instead of a burden.

Because I’m a career and life coach, I often help people to deal with difficult or touchy situations with as much finesse, sensitivity, and effectiveness as possible. Being the “Toast-Giver” at your next special event is a perfect time to make an impression and send a message to a group.

How can you ensure that the toast you give during the summer wedding season (or any other season, for that matter) stays the impressive course and avoids turning into a train wreck? Start with these 7 handy tips:

The Toast-Giver’s Survival Guide

What’s Your Subject?

Every toast should have a subject. This should not be difficult to discern—for what reason have you all gathered today? Whether for a holiday party, wedding, graduation, or birthday, the major message of your toast should reflect the event’s specific occasion.

Practice Makes Perfect

If you’re anticipating being called on to make a speech, prepare one ahead of time and practice. Say your speech out loud (you’ll find that the pacing is much different than when you read to yourself) and practice in front of a mirror or with a friend.

Know Your Audience

Always assess the formality of the group and event. Take a cue from others who made toasts or speeches before you and, when in doubt, always keep your comments as respectful and professional as possible.

Don’t Burn the Toast!

When giving a toast, brevity is always key. Avoid causing waves of rolling eyes by sticking to your main message to avoid rambling.

Be Sober

I don’t think I need to paint a picture for you here—it’s pretty obvious what happens when someone misjudges their level of inebriation and subjects a room to their long, blush-inducing speech. If you hope to make a toast, abstain from the sauce until you’re finished.

Ditch the Inside Jokes

If only one or two people understand a reference you make during your toast, you’re alienating everyone else. If you decide to refer to a certain story or event, be sure you frame it properly so that everyone feels included.

Speak From the Heart

Avoid canned quotes or cliché phrases. Instead, be genuine, focus on the positive, and speak from the heart.

 

Follow these rules and make sure that your toast is remembered for the right reasons!

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

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 394 other followers

%d bloggers like this: