Skip to content

UXL Blog

Creating Successful Leaders

It seems that, with each passing year, our country is becoming more and more divided and less able (or willing) to understand each other’s perspectives. That’s a shame, because a little empathy can make an enormous difference. When we understand where people are coming from, what they believe, and why they operate the way they do, we can build bridges, instead of putting up walls. We can make progress instead of becoming gridlocked.

I have found that I can find common ground with anyone, no matter how different we are. I can sit across the table from that person and have a perfectly civil conversation. We all have the power to do this, we simply need to follow a few simple guidelines:

Start with Common Ground

It’s always easier to ease into a conversation once you’ve established some rapport and some common ground with the other person. Are you both fond of cooking? Do you both have children? Do you enjoy hiking? Or artwork? Or gardening?

Ask questions and be willing to open up and volunteer information about yourself. Connecting with others takes a measure of vulnerability on both sides.

Ask Questions

Empathy starts with caring about the other person and their point of view. Be curious. Ask open-ended questions (instead of yes/no questions) and get the other person to open up. Be intentional about your question-asking tactics and don’t ask questions with the intention of picking a fight.

Listen

The other half of asking good questions is practicing active listening. It’s great to ask questions, but if you don’t listen to the answer, you’re not going to get anywhere. Oftentimes, we ask questions, thinking we already know the answer. But, it’s possible (even probable) you do NOT know the answer! In fact, it’s best to assume you don’t know the answer to a question when you ask it. That forces you to pay attention and truly listen to what the other person has to say.

Pick Your Battles

It is difficult to change another’s mind over the course of a single conversation. Besides, that shouldn’t be the goal of your interaction in the first place. The goal is understanding. Hopefully, once you’ve demonstrated empathy and a willingness to listen to another’s point of view, that person will behave in kind. If it seems appropriate to share your perspective, start with a bridge-building sentence. For instance:

“I understand you feel X about Y. I see the situation a little differently. This is my point of view…”

If the atmosphere begins to feel hostile and the other person starts putting up walls, that’s a sign that the conversation is going nowhere. If that’s the case, there’s no harm in changing the subject. You’re not giving up; you’re recognizing that traveling further down this road would be futile. Better to end the conversation with some mutual understanding and respect than to push it into hostile territory.

I firmly believe that empathy is the missing tool many of us need to build bridges and establish mutual understanding. Be the bigger person—extend empathy first. Aim for understanding, ask questions, be a tad vulnerable, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll start a dialogue and encourage people to come together to solve problems, instead of fighting across the aisle.


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.

Tags: , , , , ,

If you’re like many people I know, you’re probably incredibly busy ALL the time. If you’re a parent, you’re running around, making sure your kids are fed, educated, keeping active, and staying safe. If you work, your days are likely filled with emails and deadlines, meetings and reports. If you’re a caretaker for someone who is ill or disabled, you have the added obligation of taking care of another life, in addition to your own.

If you find yourself thinking at the end of the day, “Where did the time go?”, chances are, you need to slow down. Or, at the very least, you need to pause and take a moment to celebrate YOU.

While that might sound selfish, in reality, it’s not. It’s healthy to feel good about ourselves and our accomplishments. This is what gives us strength to keep going—to keep doing what we’re doing.

I encourage you to take a few minutes to jot down your recent accomplishments. What big things have you achieved this year? This month? What smaller things did you accomplish this week or even this morning? Include items like milestones reached, interpersonal successes, personal growth/lessons, altruism or volunteerism, etc. The items could be work-related (I turned in my quarterly report on time; I learned how to use Zoom) or personal (I made sourdough bread for the first time; I helped my daughter with XYZ).

Now, take a look at your list. I bet you’ve done a lot this year! And I bet you’ll think of more items to add to your list as the day goes on.

Everything you’ve achieved this year is worth celebrating. These are signs that you’re making a difference, whether in your own life, the lives of others, or in the workplace. You matter. Don’t lose sight of that.

Don’t forget to acknowledge your actions in some way—a nice dinner, a new book, a popcorn-and-movie night. These small rewards will help motivate and rejuvenate you for tomorrow.

And whenever you’re wondering, “Where is the time going?”, pull out your list and add to it.


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.

Tags: , , , , , ,

“Silence is usually seen as agreeing.” –Sonya Parker

You probably know it when you see it. Something feels off or problematic. Something feels unethical. We encounter these situations in our daily lives, as well as in the workplace—instances when our morals are put to the test. It’s easy to assume that if you “see something, you’ll say something,” but it can be difficult to take action when you’re put on the spot.

How, then, can you gather the courage to speak up? Start with these methods:

Understand Your Power

When a situation is unethical or potentially harmful, one strong voice of dissent can make a huge difference. Chances are, if you’re not okay with something, others are not okay with it either. If you take a stance, others will hopefully gain the courage to follow suit.

Develop Your Approach

It can be intimidating to face your peers or your supervisors and let them know what you think. You might worry about retaliation or not being taken seriously. To combat these fears, it pays to 1) Plan and 2) Talk to others

Your planning might involve laying out bullet points to argue your case. Pinpoint the problem you perceive and explain why you think it’s a problem. Then, prepare some potential alternatives or solutions.

Talking with others helps to build an alliance around your plan. You certainly don’t want to create an “Us vs. Them” mentality, but it is helpful to talk to one or two trusted colleagues to let them know your stance. They might help you refine your plan, offer alternative solutions, or simply provide support.

Determine Your “When”

When you speak out is nearly as important as what you say. If, for instance, you interrupt during a meeting and begin telling everyone about your view, that might not go over as well as, say, setting up a private meeting with the decision-maker or respectfully speaking out during a meeting.

Face Your Fears

It can be frightening to take a stand, but I would argue that it’s even worse to stay silent. If you neglect to say something, you’ll have to live with the unethical or problematic situation, day-in, day-out. It won’t magically go away, unless another brave individual takes a stand.

If your workplace retaliates against you for speaking up, is that really the kind of environment you want to work in? I know that switching jobs sounds daunting, especially in this uncertain economy, but it’s certainly not impossible. Talk with a career coach if you’re thinking about making a switch.

Your voice has power. If something is making you uncomfortable, take a step back, make a plan, and speak up. Tap into your reserves of courage, trust yourself, and take action. Doing so can make a big difference and it will likely help you build confidence in yourself.


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.

Tags: , , , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: