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Category Archives: Advice from a Life Coach

Do anything in 90 days

What are some of your big goals? Do you want to earn a promotion? Write a book? Climb a mountain?

No matter how lofty your dreams, you can accomplish them—or make significant strides—in 90 days. It’s all about your mindset. If you put a certain goal at the center of your priorities, you can achieve great things in just three months.

Speaker and author, David Horsager, calls this your 90-Day Quick Plan.

The idea behind creating a 90-Day Quick Plan is this: accomplish one concrete goal in 90 days, using a step-by-step strategy. Horsager claims that 90 days is the “sweet spot” for achieving your goals. It’s a meaningful amount of time, yet not so long that the goal will slip away from you. So, how do you start making significant changes in 90 days?

The first step is to create a tangible goal (or up to three). Horsager advises against focusing on more than three priorities. Otherwise, you’ll be spreading yourself too thin. Ask yourself, “Where am I right now?” and “Where do I want to be in 90 days?”

Then, ask yourself the most important question of all: “Why do I want to make this change or reach this goal?” If you have a clear why, then you’ll have the motivation to accomplish your goal(s) in 90 days. For instance, why do you want to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle? Is it so you can be around for your children or grandchildren in 25 years? Is it so you can feel more confident about yourself?

Another example: Why do you want to learn how to create a website? Is it so your business can grow and blossom? Is it because you want to keep your mind fresh and young?

Whatever reason you choose for your “why” is, of course, a personal one and it should be at the very core of your motivation.

After you’ve figured out your goals and why you’d like to achieve them, ask yourself how you are going to get there. Horsager says to be very specific; make a detailed plan and ask yourself how you’re going to stick to it. He advises people to get extremely detailed with their plan by continuously asking themselves, “How, how, how?”

For instance, let’s say you would like to write the first 50 pages of your memoir within the next 90 days. How are you going to do that?

Maybe you’ll decide to write every day. (That’s great, but how?)

You’ll wake up at 5 a.m. every day and write for an hour. (Ok, excellent plan, but how are you going to hold yourself accountable?)

You will let your friends and family in on your plan so that you’ll be held accountable. (Great, now we’re getting somewhere!)

See the importance of how?

Once you have your plan in place (and you have a clear understanding of the why and the how), get started! You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish in 90 days.

Need help formulating your 90 day plan? Contact me for guidance.

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

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When your manager is difficult

They’re always wearing a frown, criticizing staff, and shooting down ideas. They are a storm cloud, blocking out sunny moods and lightheartedness. They are difficult managers.

Many of us have had the unfortunate experience of dealing with a difficult manager at some point or another. It’s amazing how a single person can sour the mood of an office, isn’t it? Their callous attitude can bring everyone down, deflate motivation, and squash innovation and creativity.

How can you possibly defeat such an energy vampire? Isn’t it easier to simply quit your job and find better management elsewhere?

Even though it can sometimes be difficult to overcome an unsupportive manager, there are a few methods you can try before raising the white flag and heading somewhere else. Start with the following five tips:

Remain calm

The way you react to your manager can have a profound effect. If you return a snippy attitude with snippiness, or if you return anger with anger, you’ll only end up more frustrated. Instead, work on detaching yourself from your manager’s poor attitude. The next time he riles you up, remove yourself from the situation (physically or mentally), count to ten, and think about the encounter logically. Is it worth it to respond in kind? Probably not. Instead, find your inner calm and return childish behavior with calm reason.

Refocus

Although it may take significant effort on your part, it is best to focus on a task, not the criticism. Unless your manager has good reason for her critiques, it is best to let them slide off your back. Strategize and forge ahead as best you can, keeping the goal—not the criticism—at the center of your mind.

Be direct, if possible

Sometimes, it’s a good idea to be direct with your manager. If one of his criticisms seems off-base, ask him to explain what he means and how you and your team can perform better next time. Alternatively, you might try bringing up your feelings in a one-on-one meeting with your manager. Let him know how you’re feeling, why you’re feeling that way, and what would make the situation better. Use the D4 model of feedback as a guide and be sure to bring up specific examples.

You’ll have to be brave to directly face your manager, but honestly, what do you have to lose? Sometimes a direct approach can be a breath of fresh air. It’s possible your manager is unaware of the profound effect of his words and actions and simply needs someone to point it out.

And if your directness completely flops? It may be a sign that it’s time to move on to greener pastures (but be sure to consult a career coach before doing anything too drastic!)

Have perspective

An article by Liz Ryan of Forbes Magazine encourages us to see our difficult managers as minor parts in our lives. She says, “Eventually you reach a point where no manager can make you fearful, because you realize that any boss is just a bit player in your movie. You are the director and the star. You could leave any boss at any moment and it wouldn’t kill you — it wouldn’t be ideal perhaps, but you’ll survive. Keep that in mind!”

Ask what you can do better, specifically

It’s possible your manager’s expectations are simply not aligning with your work. The only way to find out is to ask for specific feedback on specific projects. Small changes in your work may have a big impact on your boss’ attitude.

Be empathetic

If your manager suddenly becomes more grim and angry than usual, it’s possible she’s going through a rough patch in her personal life. Many of us leave our personal struggles at home and cover up hardships as best we can in the workplace. This might be the case with your difficult boss. With that in mind, be empathetic and understanding. Don’t take harsh words too personally. Remain calm and talk to your boss as an individual, not as a brutish machine, out to get you. Your empathy may make all the difference.

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

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4 Ways to Delegate Effectively

When done properly, delegation is a win-win. You end up saving time, and the person you’ve passed work onto feels valued for their unique skills. Why is it, then, that more people swamped with work don’t delegate?

One big reason is that Delegation Takes Up-Front Work

Many leaders find it takes time and effort just to bring others up to speed. Leaders might also feel like they need to supervise for a while to make sure things are done properly. With all this effort, it seems easier to just do the job yourself. But not so fast! Delegation can pay off in the long run if properly executed.

At first, you’ll need to work harder and longer when you’re preparing to delegate tasks. There will be meetings, training, negotiations, and the inevitable hiccup. But if you take the necessary time to delegate in a meaningful way, you’ll end up saving far more time and energy over time.

How? Follow these four guidelines:

Know Your Team

Know the people who work alongside you. Don’t just learn their names or where they went to school; familiarize yourself with their interests, talents, and experiences. When it comes time to delegate, you won’t have to guess who is best suited for the job. You’ll have an acute understanding of your team and their abilities.

Knowing that your assignments are in good hands will take much of the stress off your plate. Take a step back, resist the urge to look over your team members’ shoulders, and trust that they have the capabilities to successfully execute tasks. BONUS:  your team will appreciate your trust in them and will be more motivated to problem-solve and create solutions on their own.

Plan Well

If you’re delegating to a group of people, you’ll need to hold a meeting or two beforehand to help build unity within the group. They’ll go off and tackle bits of the greater project, sure, but it helps them to know how their contribution functions within the whole. It also helps you stay mentally organized as you’re the one keeping track of all the loose ends.

Which leads to…

Check In

While you should trust your team to perform well, it is necessary to check-in every once in a while to make sure everything is running smoothly and no one is struggling with a particular assignment. Keep it friendly, and be open to feedback. Your team may have great ideas to contribute and it’s worth it to take the time to listen.

If you’re worried that it may be too hard to ensure that your standards are being implemented by those you’ve delegated work to, fear not, but be sure to…

Have Clear Deadlines, Goals, and Expectations From The Get Go

And be specific about them. It’s better to over-prepare in the beginning and be able to ease off as your team gets up to speed than it is to go into a project unorganized and be forced to pull people off projects.

Remember: a strong vision, clearly stated, is a powerful tool. Be transparent and communicate your expectations with everyone involved. Make sure your entire team is on the same page and is working toward the same goals and mile markers.

 

If done correctly, delegation can pay dividends. Get to know your team’s strengths, assign clear tasks, and be sure to check in on a regular basis. Effective delegation can set you free to perform other crucial leadership duties.

Questions about delegation? Feel free to contact me today.

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

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Banish your self-doubt! Here’s how…

We’re mixing things up today and posting an Infographic on the UXL blog. Enjoy! (Text posted below for those who can’t read it).


  1. Pay attention: Recognize when you’re thinking negative thoughts or telling yourself, “I can’t.” Do certain situations prompt more self-doubt than others?
  2. Talk back: Though it may sound crazy, start talking back to your self-doubt! For instance, if you catch yourself thinking, “No one wants to listen to my ideas,” counter with “Yes, they do. My ideas are valuable and people are interested in what I have to say.”
  3. Use a Power Pose: Keeping your shoulders back and your head held high has a positive psychological effect and can actually boost your confidence.
  4. Do Your Research: Going into a scary situation with a little preparation can make a huge difference. Be sure to anticipate questions others might ask and practice answering them.
  5. Challenge Yourself: The way to achieve growth is to constantly challenge yourself. Once you overcome doubt in one area, move on to another!

 

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

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Why is it so hard to put things in perspective until some major event shakes our lives? Why is it easy to be distracted by the “trees,” when we know we should be considering the “forest?” Why do we get so annoyed by small inconveniences?

I wish I had easy answers!

The best thing we can all do is simply pay attention.

Listen to your thoughts and emotions. Constantly ask yourself whether or not it’s productive to dwell on something or get upset. In short: put things in perspective.

In my own life, I have often caught myself focusing on things that simply don’t matter—a friend’s no-show at a gathering, someone’s difference of opinion, someone who under or over-dressed at a work event.

It’s human nature to get distracted by these small things. But, if we really let ourselves get bogged down by them, we miss out on the things that actually matter.

Think about it:

what matters in your life? Your family? Your career? Your health? Take time TODAY to appreciate and think about the things that matter. You never know when tragedy may strike and your situation may change.

In your personal life…

  • Practice being more forgiving
  • Be present
  • Share time and laughter with those you love
  • Tell others how you feel
  • Show gratitude

In your career…

  • Always give it your all and perform to the best of your ability
  • Have direct conversations with others
  • Have a big-picture plan
  • Set and focus on large goals
  • Delegate (if you can) items that are not in your sweet spot
  • Don’t avoid problems—face them head-on

There are many ways to pull yourself out of the weeds and start considering the bigger picture. No matter your approach, it’s important you at least try. When you find yourself distracted by the small things, remove yourself from the situation, take a step back, and reconsider. End pettiness TODAY.

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

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leaders as moderators not enforcers

Leaders often burden themselves with being the only ones to make tough decisions and stick with them, even when they may not be popular with everyone on the team. There are times when you, as a leader, must make tough decisions and deal with a bit of unpopularity for a while.

But there are other instances—the majority, in fact—in which leaders tend to take on too much when it comes to making difficult or controversial decisions. They feel, rightly so, that because they’re the ones who must take ultimate responsibility within their organization, they also must personally decide, execute, and maintain new systems or standards.

While it’s true “the buck stops here” when it comes to leadership responsibilities, we must remember that those we work with and manage have loads of helpful ideas we might otherwise not have thought of ourselves. We must also remember that our coworkers and/or employees are capable and eager to do a good job (and if they aren’t, then it’s time to rethink your hiring strategies!).

With this in mind, we should take advantage of our teams when it comes to making, implementing and maintaining decisions.

Moderate The Decision-making Process, Don’t Make All The Decisions

As a leader, make an effort to get your team involved in the process of making key decisions. Your role should be to moderate the group, keeping the discussion focused and realistic, and also to help peers work things out should disagreements arise.

Workers who are involved with decision-making feel more engaged and connected to their work, getting a sense of ownership for the visions the team has come up with together. This inevitably leads to better performance across the board, because ownership and meaning behind one’s work always gives them that necessary fire to push toward excellence.

Leading As The Vision-Implementer, Not The Productivity Police

If a team feels they are being micro-managed, they tend to become distant from their work. That is to say, a babysat team can easily be made to feel that they are not smart or capable enough to do their own work.

On the other hand, we all need standards in place to keep us all on the same page. A great team is well-organized, highly communicative and grounded in a mutual understanding of the standards and expectations.

You can see why involving everyone in big decisions can help you as the leader in the long run, when you need to begin implementing the vision (aka, the daily expectations of each team member). If and when you run up against disagreements or unproductivity, you can always point back to the standards the whole team created and agreed to. Instead of placing blame, encourage ongoing collaboration to iron out any wrinkles in the initial plan.

Maintaining The Vision

Things don’t always apply perfectly from the white board to real life. And, since the business world constantly changes along with the rest of the world, it’s necessary to constantly reevaluate the value of decisions you’ve made and implemented in the past. This means you’ll need to tweak things as you go and ask for feedback from the team, thereby keeping everyone directly engaged in the process.

 

Maintain involved, but not overpowering leadership; involve your team; and don’t be afraid to modify your approach. That is the recipe for empowering individuals and creating a happy, functioning team.

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

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State Fair Food Life Lessons

To wrap up my series of Minnesota State Fair blog posts, I have to talk about fair food. MN State Fair food is a huge part of the attraction. I even know people who attend the fair solely for the food! There are crowd-pleasing favorites, such as turkey legs, buckets of chocolate chip cookies, and sno cones…but there are also inventive and daring concoctions that make you wonder, “Who would actually eat that?” This category includes everything from “hotdish on a stick” to deep fried spaghetti to BBQ alligator.

To say the least, state fair food is always a surprise. It may delight or disgust the senses, but no matter what you think of it, there are a few life lessons we can take away from fair food.

Here are my top six:

1. It doesn’t take itself too seriously

Italian meatloaf on a stick? Bacon donut sliders? Spam sushi?! This is food you won’t see at a Michelin star restaurant, but that’s kind of the point. State fair food doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s fun, creative, and over-the-top. We could all learn to laugh a little more at ourselves and not worry about obtaining perfection (perfection is subjective term, after all!).

2. It’s daring

When was the last time you took a risk in your workplace or personal life? You’ll never know if your gamble will pay off unless you do it. Vocalize your ideas; try new things; make bold decisions. State fair food isn’t shy and it’s time we emulated its audacity.

3. It’s adaptable

The state fair is proof that almost anything can be adapted to be on a stick. There’s macaroni and cheese on a stick, deep fried candy bars on a stick, and pizza on a stick. It’s portable, and fits the state fair palate. In the same way, we can all try to be a little more adaptable. It’s all about making the best of a situation, going with the flow, and creating new solutions.

4. It’s has range

From corn on the cob and whole fruits to deep fried mozzarella, state fair food runs the gambit between healthy and heart attack! Similarly, each person has the capacity to develop a range of skills and talents (including emotional range). If we challenge ourselves and dare to do things outside our comfort zones, we will grow our abilities and become more well-rounded.

5. It’s creative

It’s hard to deny the creativity of state fair food. Sometimes new ideas work, and sometimes they’re an utter flop. You never know unless you try. Workplaces that encourage creativity don’t always get things right, but at least they’re thinking outside the box and seeking inventive solutions. Remember that creativity isn’t always about arts and innovation—it could be as simple as coming up with a creative new way of gathering customer surveys or plotting out financial data.

6. It’s abundant

Everywhere you turn in the MN state fair, you’ll find food. There’s no shortage of sweet and savory treats. In our own lives, it’s great to live large and be bold. Life is too short to constantly hold back. Express your emotions, vocalize your ideas, and engage others in conversation (even if you have something difficult to discuss). If you’re facing difficulties and you don’t articulate how you’re feeling, chances are things will remain the same.

 

State fair food can teach us an extraordinary number of life lessons. What can you learn from your favorite state fair food? Feel free to comment below!

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

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