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Creating Successful Leaders

Category Archives: Better Business

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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Buzzwords lack clarity

They come in the form of KPIs, ROIs, or CTAs. They are the low-hanging fruit, the synergy, and the ballpark figures. They want to help you drill down, push the envelope, create a survival strategy, and do some heavy lifting.

This is the corporate speak that tends to spin its way into our conversations. It’s fine to use it every once in a while—especially if your audience is familiar and comfortable with the language—but it’s usually best to keep jargon to a minimum. It ends up clogging up conversations, confusing potential customers, and muddying the meaning of a sentence.

Simply put: If too much jargon is used, clarity is lost.

Instead of using a euphemism for a term, express what you actually mean. Instead of asking someone if they have “the bandwidth” to perform a project, ask them if they have the time, resources, and appropriate support. You’ll end up getting a more specific, straight-forward answer rather than a simple “yes” or “no” reply.

Be especially careful with corporate speak when you’re meeting with prospects, new clients, or potential new employees. Businesses tend to use industry-specific terminology which may be difficult for others to interpret. For instance, a company with a global presence might use the term “business process outsourcing” (or BPO), while a company specializing in education might use the term “digital literacy.” In both cases, the terminology may feel natural to those within the industry, but could confuse those outside the industry.

Language matters. The terms you use can contribute to an open, inclusive environment, or they can obfuscate meaning or leave certain people feeling confused or irritated. Do your best to use clear terms and don’t forget to ask for clarification when you need it. Chances are, if you’re confused by an acronym or unusual turn-of-phrase, others will be too.

Let’s aim for simplicity and precision in our workplaces! If you’d like some additional guidance, be sure to check out my short video on clarity.

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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confidence, the key to success

Think of someone who is wildly successful. You might picture Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Brené Brown, J.K. Rowling, Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of your company…or any number of people who have made it big.

What do they all have in common? What traits could an author possibly share with a techie?

The answer is simple on the surface, but difficult in practice. All of these successful people have an underlying firm belief in themselves and what they do.

Much of success is a mind game. If you are confident in your beliefs and your actions and you exude that confidence, others will be confident in you. If you move forward boldly, you will be perceived as a leader and someone who can be trusted.

The power of confidence is real. It’s what drives entrepreneurs to create start-ups. It’s what helps people step up and lead a team. But can you really switch on your confidence? Aren’t some people naturally more confident than others?

While you may not feel naturally confident, you DO have the tools to boost your self-assurance and step into your leadership. As Margie Warrell of Forbes says, “Confidence is not a fixed attribute; it’s the outcome of the thoughts we think and the actions we take.”

Warrell goes on to discuss research into brain plasticity and says that, “we can literally rewire our brains in ways that affect our thoughts and behavior at any age. Which means that no matter how timid or doubt-laden you’ve been up to now, building self-confidence is largely what psychologists called volitional. Or to use layman language: ‘By choice.’ With consistent effort, and the courage to take a risk, we can gradually expand our confidence, and with it, our capacity to build more of it!”

How can you start building your confidence and working toward success? Start with these four steps:

1. Have a clear mission.

What do you believe? What drives you? What is your vision for yourself and the future of your company? Create a roadmap of where you’d like to go and keep it at the forefront of you mind. Enlist the help of a career coach or counselor.

2. Fill your thoughts with positivity.

Practice building up your confidence every morning (or every time you’re feeling self-doubt) by telling yourself positive affirmations and actually believing them.

3. Stop limiting yourself.

Reach outside your comfort zone. The only way to achieve growth is to constantly stretch yourself.

4. Have courage.

Courage is one of the ten leadership attributes in my book, The Ten-Minute Leadership Challenge. Having courage means that you’re willing to stand up for your beliefs and defend others, if necessary. It means taking the occasional risk, even if you’re not feeling brave.

BONUS: 5. Start seeing setbacks as opportunities, rather than obstacles.

If your ideas are challenged, your project faces difficulties, or you’re told “no,” don’t give up! Instead, look at your setback as an opportunity to reframe your idea or your work. Author Stephen King was rejected dozens of time and told that “no one is interested in horror.” What did he do? He edited his work and kept on submitting it, standing firmly by his genre. It’s okay to rework your ideas, but stay steadfast to your core beliefs.

 

YOU have the power to be successful. Your internal monologue can either drive you toward success or make you shrink back into your comfort zone. Be bold, be confident, and above all BELIEVE in yourself, your capabilities, and your ideas.

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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quit saying no problem

You’ve rearranged your schedule, taken the time to prepare, and said “no” to other commitments. You’re just about to head into the meeting for which you’ve worked so hard to get ready and then…you get an email: “Something came up. Can we postpone the meeting to next week?”

Many of us have the tendency—even if we’re frustrated by the situation—to respond, “No problem. We can do next week.” But the thing is, there is a problem.

Sometimes people have legitimate excuses for not showing up, canceling something at the last minute, or not getting an assignment to you on time. BUT, if you tolerate this kind of behavior regularly, you are essentially giving other people permission to walk all over you.

Not to mention, many people cancel or postpone meetings simply because they don’t feel like going. They see the meeting as a low priority item—something that can be blown off. And THAT is a huge problem.

So what do you do?

How can you convey your frustration to your client, co-worker, or boss without coming across as a complete ogre?

It’s a tricky situation, especially in my Midwestern home base where politeness is the norm (even at the expense of your own discomfort or annoyance!). But, the issue must be addressed. Otherwise, this kind of cavalier attitude toward meetings will continue. You will be at the mercy of someone else’s whims.

Start putting your foot down. Try these four different approaches (or a variation) and begin holding others accountable.

1. Express that you’ve been inconvenienced.

Try responding with: “Actually, I rearranged my schedule and was counting on this meeting to direct the rest of my week’s work. Next week is pretty packed for me, so I won’t be able to meet then. Is there any way you can make today’s meeting, even if you’re a few minutes late?”

2. Tap into the other person’s emotional side by telling them how the situation made you feel.

Try: “This is the second time we’ve pushed back this meeting. That makes me feel as if my time isn’t valued.”

OR: “We’ve had to reschedule this meeting multiple times. I’m beginning to get frustrated, since I end up wasting time each time we reschedule. Can we make a firm commitment to meet next Tuesday?”

3. Tell your side of the story.

“I spent most of the morning preparing for our meeting instead of working on the XYZ project, which is due next week. This cancellation really throws a monkey wrench into my schedule. Is there any way you can shuffle some things on your end and make at least part of today’s meeting?”

4. Come up with an alternative plan.

“Since it seems like you’ve had to cancel several in-person meetings, why don’t we aim for a phone meeting next time? Say, tomorrow? 10 a.m?”

 

Your time and presence are valuable. If others tend to drop appointments or not follow through with their commitments, it’s time to take a firm stand. Let them know, as tactfully as possible, that yes, there is a problem.

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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Delegate effectively

What can you achieve by DELEGATING?

You’re up to your eyeballs with work, scrambling to complete projects, catch up with clients, and put out fires…all while trying to keep on top of email and maybe grab some lunch at some point! You work late, get home after dark, and can only think about work as you zone out in front of the television. The next day, your boss calls you up and asks you to take on a new client. As usual, you say yes.

Sound like a familiar story?

Unfortunately, many of us are afraid to ask others for assistance when we’re feeling overwhelmed. We think it shows weakness or a lack of dedication. We’re afraid we will appear incapable, or that it will even affect our chance of promotion.

In most cases, however, the positive aspects of delegation far outweigh the negative aspects. Here’s what happens when you delegate:

1. You prevent burnout

Delegation helps you work at a more sustainable, healthy pace, rather than a frantic pace that will leave you exhausted and unhappy.

2. You achieve better results

Instead of doing a dozen projects with mediocre results (which is definitely not promotion-worthy behavior), you can focus on a couple of projects and achieve quality results.

3. You gain focus

It’s a good idea to delegate tasks to other people that do not fall into your areas of expertise. Instead, focus on the areas in which you excel and continue building your skills in those areas.

4. You create healthy boundaries

If people know you will say yes to any and every project, they will begin taking advantage of you. Draw a line in the sand and either say no (here are a few diplomatic ways to do that) or delegate.

5. You exhibit strong leadership

By pragmatically delegating to others, you demonstrate that you have a clear understanding of your team and what makes them tick. You also show that you trust your co-workers enough to let go of the reins and let them take over an assignment.

 

Of course, it’s a good idea to be thoughtful and tactful when you delegate. Don’t try to shuffle your work off to someone who also has no time or interest. Instead, consider your co-workers’ talents and their availability.

If you are a leader, dole out assignments with care. Explain to each person why you selected him or her for the task at hand. Be sure to let that person know you are available to answer questions or point them toward available resources.

If you are not in a leadership position, your delegation may look a little different. When someone asks you to take on a project, counter by telling them that you have far too much on your plate at the moment and say something like, “Have you considered Rosa? She excelled in a similar project last quarter and I think she has some availability.”

And if things are really out of hand with your current workload, you may want to have a sit-down meeting with your boss and explain your position. Remember: it’s always a good idea to check your co-workers’ availability and interest in a new project before name-dropping them.

Start working smarter. Delegate wisely and open up new possibilities in your career.


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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diplomatic and creative ways to say no

It’s easy to say yes.

“Yes, I can take on that project!”

“Yes, I’ll have that to you by next week!”

“Yes, I’ll add another client to my list!”

While it’s great to be agreeable, there is a limit. When you’re bogged down with commitments and your work-life balance is suffering, it’s time to put on the brakes and start saying no. Do it for your mental and emotional health. Do it in order to be true to yourself (in other words, don’t take on projects that do not align with your skills and interests). Do it to set boundaries and stop others from taking advantage of you.

But do it right.

Below are 10 diplomatic ways to say no. Practice reading them aloud in front of a mirror until they become natural.

“Thank you for the opportunity, but my schedule is packed.”

 “I know you would like my help with __________, but I won’t be able to do so unless/until __________.”

 “I wish I could, but as a rule I don’t __________.”

“Thank you for thinking of me, but I have other commitments.”

“I’m really not the best fit for __________. Have you tried talking with                    ? That sounds right up his/her alley.”

“I appreciate you coming to me with this opportunity. Unfortunately, I have too much on my plate right now to take it on.”

“I would like to say yes, but I don’t have time to do this project justice right now.”

 “I’m sorry, but I’m only taking on work related to _________ right now.”

 “I’d like to help you, but my schedule won’t allow any new projects.”

 “Thanks for asking, but I really can’t.

Use these responses to help you take control of your time and schedule. It takes courage, but you’ll thank yourself later if you decide to decline a project that doesn’t align with your values and priorities.

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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man distracted by cell phone

Technology can be a wonderful thing. It helps us connect people from across the country (or world) through a video conference or virtual chat. It allows us to easily create charts and map out data. It allows us to better serve our customers.

But there is a dark side to technology. It’s the side that affects our everyday interactions with people—the side that completely sucks us in and tethers us to our devices.

Have you ever walked into a restaurant and noticed friends, couples, or even entire families absorbed in their smart phones? Or noticed people out for a walk, with their heads buried in their devices?

Are you guilty of this too? Do you catch yourself shooting your co-worker an email when you could just walk to her office and ask a quick question? Do you find yourself flipping through social media or the news or weather instead of engaging those around you in conversation?

Yes, technology does great things, but it’s also killing our communication skills. According to MIT sociologist Sherry Turkle, author of the book Reclaiming Conversation, our deep absorption in our devices has caused us to lose our ability to have deeper, more spontaneous conversations with others. We begin to lose our capacity for “empathy, introspection, creativity, and intimacy.”[1]

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I think about the implications this has for our relationships. Are our conversations lacking the depth they used to have? Are we missing opportunities to look others in the eye and truly connect with them?

Looking at it from another angle, are we missing opportunities at work because we’ve greatly reduced the number of face-to-face interactions we have with others? Sherry Turkle says YES. She points to many studies that indicate that when people are allowed to talk to each other, they do better—they’re more collaborative, they’re more creative, they get more done.

And what about networking? I’ve talked with many people who say that the younger generation has difficulty with face-to-face networking. It’s a skill that doesn’t come easily for them because so many of their interactions are digital. That’s troubling because, according to Hubspot, 85% of people say they build stronger, more meaningful business relationships during in-person business meetings and conferences.

Face-to-face still matters!

It’s time we stop multi-tasking, set our cell phones aside, and rediscover meaningful conversation with others. Our relationships—both personal and professional—will be better for it.

[1] Suttie, J. (December 7, 2015). How Smartphones Are Killing Conversation. The Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley. http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_smartphones_are_killing_conversation. Accessed 12/19/16.

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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