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Creating Successful Leaders

We live in a world where kindness is often lacking. We tend to dwell on differences–the things that divide us–instead of finding commonalities or learning to listen to others’ points of view. The tendency to see people as “others” has led to many a fighting match on social media, and that tension is now reaching a fever pitch with the upcoming U.S. presidential election.

In this contentious and often heated atmosphere, it’s easy for people to lose their tempers, become defensive, and begin name-calling and initiating personal attacks. This kind of response will lead nowhere, of course, but it is a natural, knee-jerk reaction.

How do you step back from the fray and choose kindness over maliciousness?

1. See Humanity

Instead of making snap judgments and generalizations, I encourage you to pause, truly consider the other person’s point of view, and begin to develop understanding and empathy. It helps to view that person behind the screen as a HUMAN BEING–someone with a family, pets, a mortgage, grocery bills, and health concerns. Someone with hopes and fears.

When we start to see Twitter usernames and Facebook profiles as people (bots excluded!), we can begin to treat them with dignity. Surely, if you were having a face-to-face conversation with someone at a restaurant, you wouldn’t begin calling them nasty names (hopefully not, anyway!). You would do your best to keep the conversation civil or steer it in another direction.

2. Know When to Fold ’em

Sometimes, stating (or reiterating) your point of view is futile. If someone has demonstrated that they are wholly unreceptive to your perspective, gracefully exit the conversation. End on a high note; something like: “Thank you for your thoughts. I don’t agree, but I’m happy you shared them with me.” Then, leave.

Exiting toxic conversations isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s simply recognizing that you’re talking past one another and going nowhere. Better to excuse yourself and move on.

3. Take the High Road

When others resort to name-calling and shouting, don’t go there. Vow to take the high road and be the adult in the room. Hopefully, your behavior will inspire others to do the same but, if not, there’s no shame in ditching the conversation (see point #2). Better to spend your time and energy elsewhere.

4. Pay Attention to Tone

When you post something on social media, is your tone contentious and one-sided? Or is it respectful/factual? If you’re belittling or putting down a group of people, that will only invite arguments and cause contention.

Rather, stick to the facts and avoid personal attacks. No one likes to hear that their beliefs make them “evil” or “stupid.”

5. Engage Others One on One

The best way to truly understand another’s perspective is to engage them one on one, in private. Start a private chat, or take it a step further and invite them to talk over a video chat or in person (if they are a friend, and if you feel comfortable doing so). Let the person know that you’re aiming to understand, and you hope that they, too, will be open to hearing your point of view.

6. Make Kind Gestures

There is a big, wide world beyond social media. Let your kindness emanate beyond the screen, and practice little acts of kindness. Rake an elderly neighbor’s lawn, pay for groceries for the young mother at the grocery store, donate your time or money to a nonprofit, etc., etc.

If you’d like to show kindness to your colleagues or friends, send them personalized notes, telling them why you are grateful for their presence in your life.

In the world of social media, share uplifting, kindness-focused pieces of news and pictures. You don’t have to sugar coat things, but it IS an act of kindness to give people joy and hope every once in a while!

These actions (whether in person or virtual) have a way of spreading. Make an extra effort to be kind this month, and notice how it tends to comes back to you.

The world needs your kindness. Let’s all make an effort to find common ground. Take the high road. Reach out. Be a kind, decent human being.


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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gain control of conversation

We’ve all had conversations that didn’t go quite as we’d planned. Maybe you were trying to talk to a client about a new product, and they insisted on steering the conversation toward politics. Or maybe you were leading a Zoom meeting and certain people continued to interrupt and overtake the discussion.

How can you cope with those interrupters and take back control of the conversation?

Start with these 4 steps:

1. Believe that your voice counts

Enter every conversation with the confidence that your voice (your thoughts, ideas, and opinions) matters. Believe in what you have to say and you will find a way to bring it up in the conversation. Keep in mind: there’s a difference between confidence and arrogance. What you have to say is important, but it’s not the only opinion that counts. Your listening ear is just as important as your voice.

2. Acknowledge what the other person is saying

It’s important to let the other party know that, yes, you hear what they have to say. You can also use this tact as a way to step in and take control of the conversation. For example:

“What I hear you saying, Bill, is that you’d like to implement more customer service surveys. I think that’s a great idea that warrants more discussion. I’d like to focus on that more during our next meeting so we give that topic the time it deserves. In the meantime, let’s finish going over our quarterly reports and see what other ideas crop up…”

3. Keep your audience engaged

What you have to say is important; make sure your audience hears it! Instead of lecturing at others, make an effort to engage them. Ask questions, request feedback, and ask your audience if any clarification is needed. If you’re leading a Zoom meeting, request that everyone leaves their video feed on, so active engagement is easier (more tips for Zoom meetings HERE). Make others a part of what you’re doing, not just passive observers.

4. Be direct

Oftentimes, the best way to refocus a conversation is to be direct. Acknowledge what the other party is saying (see tip #2) and then transition into what you’d like to say. Your interaction may go something like this:

“Your family vacation sounds great, Susan, and I’d love to discuss it more tomorrow, but I’m afraid I have to shift the conversation back to business…”

Remember: What you have to say is important! Don’t sell yourself short. Have the confidence to interject when necessary (in a tactful way!) and let your voice be heard.


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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Woman looking out window

It’s been a rollercoaster year and, if you’re like me, you’ve oscillated between feelings of frustration, joy, hope, anger, and sadness. Though it may be easy to fall victim to your negative emotions–to let them pull you into despair–that doesn’t have to be. Instead, you can use those emotions to fuel action.

1. Catch Your Emotions

First, it’s a good idea to pay attention to what you’re feeling and when. What sets off your feelings of frustration? What makes you deeply sad? When do you feel most joyful and at ease?

These are the areas that can inspire action. Lean on these intense feelings of joy/anger/frustration to make positive change.

2. Establish Your Scope of Control

Focus on what you can control and what, potentially, you can change. You may not, for instance, be able to singlehandedly stop the wildfires raging along the Western U.S., but you can donate to organizations that are either fighting the fires OR working on rehabilitating the forests or damaged properties. You can also make an effort to learn about fire prevention and the best practices you can take in your own life.

This is just one example of establishing your scope of control. Focus on the small things you can do to help better a situation, such as donating time or money, volunteering, taking an active role in a local organization, or spreading the word via social media. Small efforts can lead to big change.

3. Learn to Let Go

While you can establish control over some things, it’s useful to recognize that other things are simply out of your hands. You can’t, for instance, change everyone’s mind through social media posts (but you might be able to sway a few people through meaningful one-on-one conversations). You also can’t bring people back from the dead, change the past, or have conversations with people who don’t want to listen.

When it comes to these kinds of things, it’s best to let go. Understand your limitations, and don’t let yourself become frustrated by what you cannot do. Be gentle with yourself and learn to shift your focus to the areas you have power over.

4. Burn Energy

If you’re full of pent-up emotions, you might consider taking action in the physical sense. Go for a bike ride, do video workout, practice yoga, go for a walk–exercise can help to clear your mind and get you into a more positive frame of mind. There’s no harm letting your rage or frustration fuel your workouts. Burn off those harmful emotions, and carry on.

There are many ways to respond to your emotions. Do what works for you–whatever makes you feel the most healthy and productive. And, when you recognize that things are beyond your control, do your best to let go.


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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