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Creating Successful Leaders

Image of neatly aligned noodles showing perfectionist tendencies

Taking pride in your work is an important part of professional success. When you are passionate about the types of projects you take on, and the results or products you produce, it’s natural to strive for that extra bit that will distinguish your work and help it rise above the competition.

While this attitude can be useful, it can also open you up for new anxieties and unforeseen consequences. You may find yourself so focused on perfecting the task at hand, your work and the work of your team, actually suffers as a result. The stress that comes with obsessing over small details might even bleed over into other parts of your life!

Producing good work is, ultimately, about finding a process that allows you to channel your productive energy in a constructive way. If you find yourself stuck striking this balance, I have some strategies that might help:

1. “Perfect” Is Not Always the Solution

No matter how ‘finished’ a project may seem, there are almost always ways in which it can be tweaked or improved. Graphics can be stylized and made to include different sets of information. Speeches can be reworded a hundred different ways. Striving to achieve perfection in specific areas run the risk of distracting you from the actual concrete demands of a given project. Take a step back and focus on the general architecture of the message you’re trying to convey, or the product you’re trying to present. Is the information succinct? Does it engage the audience in an approachable way? These basic considerations don’t explicitly require a perfect solution, and there may be more than one viable option available. Don’t limit yourself.  

2. Get Eyes, Get Feedback

Run ideas and rough drafts by team members and other colleagues. An external pair of eyes is an invaluable tool in separating the wheat of your ideas from the chaff. You don’t have to shoulder all the responsibility of making a project great yourself. Even the most talented professionals in their field rely on the input and knowledge of others. If something is missing, trust in your associates to help point you toward it. Their reaction will most likely mirror that of your audience.

3. Work in a Rhythm

We all work most effectively in different environments and rhythms. Regardless of the space or schedule of your efforts, practice holding yourself to consistent windows in which you work. Take breaks, and enjoy your leisure time outside of the project. Creating great work is not isolated to what you produce but holistically how you produce it. If you’re short on sleep or distracted, it will only make the worrying and obsessing worse.

4. Know When to Put Down the Pen

Sometimes, you just have to know when to say “when.” If your biggest issue is finding the point to cut yourself off from a given project, set hard deadlines or dates where drafts can no longer be touched. Having a firm idea of when something must be finished can provide clarity and drive in producing the best work you can. These small degrees of structure provide the bounds for your creativity to flourish. It is not always easy to put ideas like these into practice. The emotional regard you have for your work is important, but it is equally important not to abuse yourself with it. As with all things, balance is key. Hopefully these reflective tools will help you achieve that balance. They may just be the ‘perfect’ solution.

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Image via Pixabay.com

In a past blog post, I addressed diversity and how it goes beyond physical characteristics and also involves diversity of thought, behavior, and perspective. Today, I’d like to discuss how your diverse workplace can be a welcoming one. First, let’s define what a welcoming workplace looks like.

People in a welcoming workplace…

…feel a sense of belonging, are treated fairly, and have equal opportunities

…feel like they can be themselves and allow others to be themselves

…are fully engaged and part of a team

…remain authentic

The result of a welcoming workplace? Innovation, creative ideas, and fresh ways of looking at things. These are all things any organization wants, but how to achieve them? How can people with widely differing outlooks on life work together harmoniously and accomplish great things?

According to the principles I’ve learned from Insights® Discovery (a tool for understanding and developing unique personalities), inclusion really starts from the top. Company leadership needs to be fully invested in the idea of fostering a welcoming workplace before the rest of the team can truly adopt it.

The organization should consider these questions:

  • Does the leadership recognize the diversity of its team?
  • Do they know how to adapt and connect with all the people on their team?
  • Do they know what motivates certain people on their team? Do they know what derails them?
  • Are there open lines of communication in the office?
  • Are questions and concerns addressed or ignored?
  • Does the leadership make an effort to hear from everyone at the table?

Company leadership can facilitate an open, welcoming environment, but it takes the rest of the organization to keep it up on a day-to-day basis. That takes awareness and reflection. We should be asking ourselves questions from time to time like: “How does the work environment feel?” “How comfortable is it for me? For my co-workers?” “Does the minority have a voice in the office?” “Are we encouraged to raise questions or concerns?”

It takes time to build a welcoming environment, but the results are worth it. Each person has the ability to add unique value to the organization, so it’s important to create an environment where that value can come through.

If you’d like to delve into creating a welcoming workplace in more depth, I encourage you to contact me so we can discuss your organization’s needs. Thanks for reading!

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 NEW online Leadership Course.

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A woman sitting outside on her smart phone

Remote conferences are an integral tool of the work place. In an increasingly mobile and diverse business landscape, maintaining lines of communication in a way that is regularly organized and easily accessible ensures projects remain on task while goals are clearly maintained and communicated.

Phone meetings are by far the most commonly implemented for remote conferencing, and come with their own sets of headaches and challenges. As a team member or project coordinator, you may find yourself in need of strategies to use as a shorthand in organizing consistent, quality phone meetings. Feel free to use these suggestions below while you’re planning!

1. Stick to a schedule

Humans are creatures of habit, and scheduling phone calls can be one of the larger sources of frustration for mid-size or large teams. If you’re looking to utilize phone meetings as a convenient and regular means of convening a team, make it easier on your team members by scheduling calls at similar times at similar points in the week.

Typically, it’s simpler for someone to block out an hour in the morning every other Wednesday than to constantly be checking their schedule to see if they can make a meeting work. Sticking to a regular schedule upfront also helps establish project timelines. It can also help instill a sense of structure and a general sense of expectations.

2. Have a routine

Make sure to outline a procedure for beginning meetings, and for larger groups. Utilizing established formats, such as Robert’s Rules of Order, can help facilitate the chaos of having many voices present. Stick to a consistent limit of how long the group waits for people to join, and outline consequences for non-participation at your first meeting. Reiterate standards as necessary.

3. Prepare a small agenda; have someone take minutes

Board meetings utilize both these strategies, and are a simple but effective means of staying on task. Agendas serve doubly as excellent meeting reminders when provided in advance, and allow more time for team members to formulate specific questions they may have. You may want to incorporate unconstructed conversation time toward the end of meetings to field sentiments about the project at hand and candidly address issues that don’t neatly pertain to a specific task.

4. Be gracious, have a consistent facilitator

Always remember to be polite and professional. And remember, without visual cues and body language, you are bound to encounter miscommunication in a phone meeting at one point or another. Having a consistent facilitator, or a regular rotation of facilitation provides additional support and structure in meetings, as well as a default avenue for conflict resolution as the need arises.

Phone meetings don’t have to be a source of stress. When conducted effectively, they can be brief, clear, and helpful for all team members. Pair these strategies with a framework that best suits your team members’ schedules and working styles. And when in doubt, talk it out!

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 NEW online Leadership Course.

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Images of seagulls in a row depicting when a team is too similar

Every team is unique, which means every team encounters its own challenges and pitfalls. Sometimes communication between team members breaks down. Other times productivity dips due to colleagues not seeing eye to eye on a particular problem. But what do you do as a team leader when you are faced with the opposite problem? What do you do when your team members are too similar?

Strong teams rely on their members as individual engines of creativity, each with their own specific skillsets. While it’s not necessarily always an issue to have a team with overlapping abilities and points of view, a lack of diversity of thought can stifle creativity or hamper problem-solving. When Joe, John, and Jack all offer the same, incomplete solution, that’s a sign things need to change.

Being an effective team leader means being able to bring out the best in your team and point it in the direction that will allow you to accomplish your goals. So, if your squadron suffers from being too similar, you might want to consider some of these solutions:

1. Brainstorming Homework

Homogenous teams tend to lump together in groupthink if given the opportunity. A way to combat this habit is to isolate each individual team member’s strengths and abilities in an environment where they’re allowed to contemplate without the influence of their like-minded peers. Assign different tasks or divvy up a single task into components to each of your team members, and have them come up with solutions or ideas on their own. This can give better insight into each of the individual members’ limitations and quirks, and be used as a road map for what qualities or ideas to encourage folks to bring to the table at full team meetings.

2. Role Play

Sometimes team members can’t call upon different perspectives because they haven’t been given the opportunity to engage with them. Identify strategies or types of problem solving you would like to bring out more in your team, and give them the opportunity to utilize these methods in practice exercises. It may be helpful to bring in someone from another group or department familiar with the process to serve as a guide.

3. Switch Up the Roster

If there is a persistent problem in addressing challenges, the roster may be in need of some alterations. You can experiment switching out team members on specific tasks, bring in different staff for certain projects, or even bring on a new hire to inject energy into a complacent group. Variety and situational changes keep people alert and help draw their attention to the issues that are causing these changes.

4. Competition

Who says innovation can’t be a contest? Incentivizing behaviors is a timeless and effective way to instigate desired results. Offer a small reward for team members who are able to provide new or sought-after solutions to ongoing problems. If the desire is to correct a more systemic homogeneity, consider creating broader rewards for seeking outside collaboration or professional development that can be integrated into your team’s stagnant dynamic.

Team dynamics are tricky, and often problems are not resolved by any one solution. Try out a couple different strategies, and don’t give up if one doesn’t foster the changes you are looking for. As long your team is persistent and committed to growth, you will likely find an answer.

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 NEW online Leadership Course.

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People can be full of advice. “Do this,” “do that,” “this worked for me,” “this didn’t work for me.” Sometimes it’s difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. For the most part, you simply have to forge ahead and use your best judgment. But sometimes, others will give you truly valuable gems that you should take to heart.

One of the best pieces of career advice I ever received was ask good questions. Try to ask three questions at every important meeting: one that shows support, one to gain clarity on the subject, and one to demonstrate inclusionary behavior (helping to involve others in the room in the discussion). Asking good questions not only helps to gather information, it also demonstrates that you are an active, interested, and inclusionary employee. Additionally, you’ll be seen as a fair leader–someone who wants others voices to be heard, as well as their own.

Another great piece of advice I’ve received? Stay relevant. Know what’s important to the organization, the market, the customers. Study and stay abreast of industry happenings and innovations, strategies, issues and concerns…then look for solutions and speak up! Show that you’re interested in your job and are striving to be the best you can be by constantly learning and seeking new, salient information.

What are some of the best pieces of career advice you’ve received? Has anything really stuck with you and helped you either advance in your career or guided you through career challenges? I’m interested to hear from you! Leave a comment below and let’s start a friendly, valuable discussion.

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 NEW online Leadership Course.

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I am incredibly pleased to announce that my online leadership course, the Ten-Minute Leadership Challenge, is now discounted by 30%. That means more emerging leaders can take advantage of all the valuable skills, tips, and tools this course has to offer.

Why do I care so much about leadership?

I believe strong, compassionate, and capable leaders can completely change the dynamic of a company. Good leaders have the power to bring people together, drive positive change, build trust, and take well-calculated risks.

I care about the next generation of leaders and want to see them thrive and succeed. After working in leadership for 27 years, this is my chance to give back by passing on the skills and handy tips I learned throughout the years.

I am proud of the leadership course I put together, and I am confident you (or the emerging leader in your life) will gain valuable skills from it.

PURCHASE THE COURSE
GIFT THE COURSE TO AN EMERGING LEADER

Thank you for considering the Ten-Minute Leadership Challenge online course!

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 NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Butterfly indicating transformational leadership

A guest post by Karoline Gore

With the right strategies and motivation among employees, the potential of an organization is limitless. Transformational leaders strive toward improving the productivity of the company by inspiring their staff through effective communication and creating an environment for intellectual stimulation. By doing so, they influence their followers to exhibit outstanding performance geared toward the wellness of the company and not selfish gains. These leaders also transform workers into potential leaders through continuous motivation and development. Steve Jobs is an iconic transformational leader whose passion and simplicity made Apple what it is today. He constantly challenged his employees to think beyond the obvious, prompting them to create some of the best products that the world has ever seen, according to Marketing91. 

It makes work meaningful and empowers workers

Among the different forms of leadership, transformational management is among the best when it comes to employee involvement. There is evidence of a positive relationship between transformational leadership and employee-related results, as found by meta-analytic research. These findings prove that transformational leaders make work meaningful by advocating for self-governance. Their followers continuously feel a sense of belonging and appreciation for their work.

Contrary to initial research that found cynicism and Intentions To Quit (ITQ) as general traits of employees, recent studies have found them to be a reflection of workers’ perception of management. Transformational leaders make employees want to stay by eliminating barriers and letting them know that they are mindful of their personal success. Take the example of N.R Narayana Murthy, founder of Infosys. By inspiring people through his excellent leadership and personal values, he has attained worldwide recognition and immense success.

A company can handle change and challenges

Change is inevitable, and the biggest challenge that management faces is how to handle it. When governed poorly, it can wound a company’s performance and output, hurting its position on the competitive map. The impact of transformational leadership regarding change reaches all levels of the company. Such leaders educate followers on the importance of change and let them adopt the same through inspiration rather than control. They also handle unethical conduct in a stern yet down-to-earth way that upholds justice. At a team level, you will find employees that motivate and inspire each other to work better. This particularly helps a company to meet these challenges that are brought by strategic redirections.

Transformational leadership is universal and widely accepted as one of the best types of leadership and is applicable in all kinds of organizations. It involves driving for exceptional performance through intellectual stimulation, team-building, and inspiring selfless behavior among workers. As a result, employees support all company’s undertakings without remorse or hesitation. If you are practicing leadership or aspiring to be a leader in the future, many experts advise that you adopt this form of administration for optimal productivity.

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