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Category Archives: Advice from a Life Coach

One of the easiest ways to make a room full of professionals uneasy is to bring up the term “Love Leadership.” In most people’s minds, love is not a term that should be associated with work. Appreciation, sure. Respect, definitely. But, LOVE?

In reality, Love Leadership is not as scary or intense as it sounds. It’s a term that was made popular by John Hope Bryant, CEO of Operation HOPE. In Bryant’s book, Love Leadership: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World, he illustrates how leaders who genuinely care about others will rise head and shoulders above those who lead with fear.

Though fear-based leadership may work in the short-term (i.e. giving someone an ultimatum if they missed an important deadline), it is not a good long-term strategy. Those who consistently lead with fear will ultimately create a hostile work environment where staff will be afraid to express their views, be motivated by consequences, and shy away from open and honest communication. In short, fear-based leadership stifles and harms the workplace.

What does choosing love-based leadership look like?

Leaders who choose to lead with love take the time to get to know their team. They care about each and every person and routinely sit down and hold one-on-one conversations with them. They also care enough to get to know a little about their team member’s personal lives–their family, hobbies, pets, etc. This level of attention helps people feel comfortable enough with their leader to present any issues or challenges they might be facing, discuss new ideas, or candidly talk about progress or pitfalls.

Love-based leaders also let themselves be vulnerable. They are brave enough to acknowledge when they’ve made a mistake; they reach out when they need help. This vulnerability does not make leaders weak–it makes them human.

It should be noted, however, that there’s a difference between leading with love and being “a softie.” One of the chapters in my book, The Ten-Minute Leadership Challenge, is dedicated to “balancing the head and the heart.” Though it is important to lead with love, it is just as important to make “head-based” decisions, like letting a team member go when they are repeatedly under-performing. Just because you lead with love, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t set up clear boundaries and let your team members know when they cross those boundaries (I go into much more detail in my book–talk to me if you’d like to get a hold of a signed copy).

How will you, as a leader, dedicate yourself to leading with love? Step back, take an honest look at your leadership, and recognize how you can infuse more honestly, open communication, genuine caring, and vulnerability into your daily actions and interactions.

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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What are some of the reasons you procrastinate? Are you worried about the task ahead? Do you think you don’t have the right skills? Or, maybe, you’ve put so much pressure on yourself that you’re certain you can never live up to expectations?

Or maybe, just maybe, you have a thousand other things you’d rather be doing instead?

Whatever the case, we’re all guilty of procrastination sometimes. And that’s a bad thing, right? According to some experts, yes. Psychologist and success coach, Elizabeth Lombardo, tells us that research shows procrastination to be “associated with increased long-term physical stress, weaker performance, greater likelihood of illness and insomnia, less happiness, and diminished wealth.” None of those things sound great, but is that really the full story? Are there ever instances when procrastination can actually be a good thing?

“Yes,” says Adam Grant, author of Originals. “Procrastination is a normal part of the creative process.”

According to Grant, many of “the greats” were also great procrastinators. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, Ernest Hemingway, Leonardo da Vinci, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Martin Luther King Jr. were all master procrastinators. Evidently, Martin Luther King Jr. “didn’t start writing his ‘I have a dream’ speech until the night before–and he was still jotting notes and crossing out lines right before he walked onstage.”

But, just because some of the great artists, inventors, and activists were procrastinators doesn’t mean procrastination is itself a good thing, right?

Well, not necessarily. Procrastination can actually allow your mind to explore avenues it might not have explored if you had doggedly stuck to your deadline and stayed on task. It’s been shown that moderate procrastinators are more creative than those who complete tasks ahead of time OR those who put things off until the 11th hour.

So, the lesson here is that some procrastination can actually be a good thing, but too much can lead to poor results (or NO results!).

Though it’s not usually a good idea to “play chicken” with a deadline, don’t be too hard on yourself if you do. As Adam Grant says, “Sure, procrastination can be the enemy of progress. But beating yourself up about it only makes it worse. If you’re stressed that you’re stressed, you suffer more.”

Next time you’re bumping up against a deadline, take a deep breath, focus, and let your creative side run wild! Though you shouldn’t necessarily make it a habit, procrastination isn’t the end of the world.

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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Image via Pixabay.com

Do you feel driven by a larger mission or purpose, but you’re distracted by day-to-day responsibilities? Does it feel like you’re only inching ahead when you should be sprinting? Are you wondering how on earth to make a positive impact when you’re so darn busy?

You’re not alone.

Many people want to make a difference in the world, but have trouble finding their footing. They might feel like they’re too busy, distracted by other responsibilities, overwhelmed by the enormity of the task, or unsure of where to begin. How can you become a change agent when so much is holding you back?

Take heart, it is possible for even the busiest person to make waves. Start with these seven steps:

1. Start thinking conceptually

Conceptual thinkers are able to take a step back from their daily work and explore the bigger picture. They think about widespread, systemic change. They reflect on what kind of action is needed to make an impact at all levels. For example, if a conceptual thinker’s goal is to cut pollution, they might consider local action first—promoting carpooling or biking, participating in local advocacy groups, etc. Then, they might consider statewide action—pollution-cutting legislation, campaigns to build more bike lanes. Lastly, they might consider systemic, nationwide action such as advocating for federal laws that require stricter efficiency in cars.

To become a conceptual thinker, start researching the cause you are passionate about and find out how the local, statewide, and national pieces connect. Figure out who the major players are and what is already being done to help. Then, reflect on potential actions you could take to participate in the “good fight.”

2. Set incremental goals

Goal-setting works. If you’re determined to make a difference, try setting several concrete goals and working backwards—what steps do you need to take to get there? By breaking down your goals into bite-sized pieces, they will be more manageable and you’ll be able to celebrate small victories along the way (for more on goal-setting, see my past blog post).

3. Find like-minded dreamers

There’s no need to be alone in your advocacy. Seek others who are as interested in your cause as you are and become a part of their community. You might find these like-minded folks online, through meet-up groups (such as Meetup.com), in local clubs, through work groups, or even among your friends.

Once you find your community, lean on them for support and inspiration. They are the ones who can help you when you’re feeling stuck or unsure of your next steps.

You can also use members of your community to be accountability partners. Challenge them to hold you accountable for sticking to your advocacy goals through regular check-ins. Don’t forget to return the favor!

4. Anticipate resistance…and create a plan to overcome it

Daily life and unexpected troubles are sure to get in the way of becoming a change agent. You might get bogged down by a large project, a family illness, or unexpected financial troubles. Don’t fret! These things happen. If something suddenly gets in the way of achieving your advocacy goals, wait until the trouble has passed, revisit your goals, and rethink them. Reset your deadlines and develop a new plan for making a difference. Everyone has to deal with setbacks from time to time—just don’t let a setback become a defeat.

5. Don’t do everything yourself

The greatest change agents recognize that they do not have to go it alone. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with a project—say, you’re running a blood drive and more people signed up than you originally anticipated—reach out to others and ask for help. Don’t think of asking for help as a sign of weakness; great leaders are also great delegators.

6. Build your resilience

You’re going to feel worn down by work, life events, and all the good work you’re doing to become a champion of change. That’s normal. When you’re feeling exhausted, take a conscious break, unplug from your duties, and give your overworked brain time to cool down. You can build your resilience by stepping away for a while and then facing your challenges once you feel rejuvenated. Part of resilience also involves recognizing that things are not always going to go perfectly, but you can and you will overcome the bumps in the road. Think of each setback as an opportunity to try again, not as a failure.

Are you excited to go out there and make a positive difference? I’m excited for you! Though you are but one person, there’s so much you can do. Start small, develop your plan, build your support group, and start making an impact. The world needs your contribution.

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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Another year nearly gone means another year to create and accomplish! New Years is a great time to take a look at your own personal and professional development, and decide where next to chart your course. What’s the best way to keep these New Year’s Resolutions? Whether career-oriented or personal, setting attainable goals is important for fulfillment and vitality.

That leaves us with the question that’s always asked: what are the best ways to keep your resolutions? Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

1. Everything Starts with Realistic Goals

Taking stock of where you’re at in your life and where you can go in the year ahead requires a good timeline! Look back at your development throughout the previous year and reflect upon how much you’d like to get done in the year ahead. Incremental challenges to increase productivity are often attainable and great motivational tools. Did you learn the basics of a new skill for professional development? Set out to become an intermediate or advanced learner!

2. Make It Visual

Often mental resolutions can wither or be pushed aside by more urgent projects. Keep written reminders for yourself in calendars and planners of the long-term goal you’re working toward. If you’re known to respond to structure like this, take it a step further and set intermittent and smaller and deadlines to meet them to keep your steppingstones clear.

3. Give Credit Where Credit is Due

Achieving any part of a year-long resolution should be celebrated! Brains respond well to positive reinforcement. Like self-care, self-celebration is an important part of seeing resolutions through to their end. Reward good behavior and accomplishing tasks with fun rewards, like a favorite dessert or a small weekend getaway. 

4. Collaborate

Friends and coworkers may just be the added umph you need. A group mentality is a great external motivating factor in getting work done that needs to be done. Collaborators help keep deadlines firm and goals clear. At the same time, sharing resolutions can foster closer and improved working relationships between you and your colleagues. If your resolution requires seeking out a new skill or group of people, enlisting help outside your existing circles to meet resolutions can provide excellent opportunities to network as well.

Do you feel inspired to tackle your resolutions head on? Sometimes all it takes is a little push. I wish you good fortune in the new year! If you’d like a little more guidance, I’m here to help.

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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be merry and bright

As this year draws to a close and a new year is beginning to poke over the horizon, my sincerest wish for you is to step into your true self this year and become what you’ve always wanted to be.

Whether that means a transitioning to a new career or company, shifting your mentality/outlook, or finally deciding to pursue one of your dreams, I hope you will be bold and courageous this year. 

Remember, you don’t have to do it on your own. Rely on trusted friends, close family members, or outside coaching to help guide and fortify you as you take your first steps into a brave new year.

If you’d like, I would be happy to help you get started. Attend one of my 2019 Insights Deeper Discovery workshops, read my book on leadership, or work with me one-on-one as a coach.

I’m here for you in any capacity that you need me.

Wishing you and yours a happy holiday season.

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Sarah Cooper cartoons

We have to laugh, otherwise we’d cry. The workplace is often still a difficult place for women to navigate. We struggle to be heard, position ourselves as authority figures, and give constructive feedback to others without being seen as “too aggressive” or “threatening.”

Author and former tech executive, Sarah Cooper, finally had enough of tiptoeing around her male co-workers, just to make them feel validated. Her response: A series of satirical cartoons depicting how women can appear “non-threatening” to men.

The cartoons show female leaders in various situations—sharing their ideas, setting deadlines, finding mistakes—and how they can react to them in “threatening” vs. “non-threatening” ways.

Though the cartoons are hilarious on the surface, they portray a sad truth: women leaders are still fighting an uphill battle to gain recognition, authority, and respect.

How will you change your language so that you’re more assertive and less apologetic?

How will you stand up for yourself?

How will you make sure your voice is heard?

Your actions will set a precedent for how you’d like to be treated, and you will also help pave the way for future female leaders.

To read Sarah Cooper’s article and see her cartoons, please click HERE.

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ask for and get a raise

We’re closing in on the holiday season. You’re busy; your boss is busy. Everyone around you is trying to dot their i’s and cross their t’s before the end of the month festivities strike. It may also be the time of year when people receive their annual bonuses.

With so much going on and the company doling out bonuses, how could NOW possibly be a good time to ask for a raise?

To be frank, now is as good a time as any. The time of year has less bearing on your chances of getting a raise than a host of other factors:

1. Have you been consistently meeting and exceeding standards for a year or more?

2. Do others in your industry with a similar job title make more than you do?

3. Have you gone above and beyond on certain projects or initiatives?

4. Are you consistently reliable, deliver good work, and show leadership potential?

5. Could you make a solid case for your raise?

If you answered yes to several of those questions, it’s time to ask for a raise despite the busy time of year. In fact, asking in December is great because it’s a logical bookend to the year. You can cover all the many accomplishments you’ve made over the past 12 months.

Another reason it’s not a bad idea to ask for a raise now? The joy factor.

Despite the busyness of the season, there’s a backbone of joy behind the whole thing. It’s a time for good food, family, joyful little decorations, and get-togethers. Even in the most subdued of office atmospheres, a little holiday joy is bound to leak in. Take advantage!

Yet another reason to ask for a raise at the end of the year is that it helps the company budget for the year ahead. Depending on how your company’s financial calendar works, expenses may be estimated at the beginning of the year. If that’s the case, your raise can easily factor into the list of added expenses.

Just keep in mind: some people (your boss included) travel over the holiday season. If that’s the case, make sure you schedule your one-on-one meeting well before your boss is scheduled to leave. That way, she won’t be thinking too much about her upcoming holiday instead of the meeting at hand.

When going into your meeting, prepare accordingly. Keep in mind the following tips:

  • Make sure you set aside intentional one-on-one time with your boss, or whoever has the power to grant you a raise.
  • Prepare a thorough case: Make a list of your accomplishments (be as concrete as possible), and reasons you think you deserve a raise. Go over what you’ve done over the past 12 months.
  • Ask for a specific amount. Aim high, but be realistic. Remember: You may be asked to justify the figure you give. Be prepared to do that by either listing your achievements or showing comparable pay rates in your industry and position.
  • If you are immediately granted or denied the raise, have a response prepared.  A hearty thank you (and a request for more details regarding when to expect the raise) may be in order if your request is accepted. If it is not, have a few questions prepared to figure out why the raise was denied. Don’t get defensive. Simply prepare a statement like, “I respect your decision. Could you help me understand why my request wasn’t granted and what I could do differently next time?” You may also want to ask when you might be able to ask for a raise down the road.

If you’ve had a solid, productive year, why not ask for a raise? There’s no time like the present and, in fact, there are a few reasons why the holidays are actually a good time of year to request a pay raise. What’s holding you back? If you have a few reservations, or would like to hone your approach, please contact me and we’ll strategize. It’s time to be paid what you’re worth!

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