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Creating Successful Leaders

Category Archives: Better Business

The wrong way to say thank you

You’re probably aware of the power of appreciation. It can motivate others, elevate moods, and actually improve employee retention rates. Employees who are recognized for their achievements report increased happiness at work and greater satisfaction with their superiors.

But—believe it or not—there IS a wrong way to express appreciation for your employees. How?

  • If the recognition seems forced or insincere
  • If the recognition is ubiquitous (EVERYONE gets a gold star!)
  • If someone is left out (part of a team is recognized for their achievements, while some are not)
  • If the recognition is generic or impersonal (a mass email)
  • If the recognition does not suit the individual (some people do not like being called out in front of a group, while others thrive on that type of recognition)

The last thing you want to do is come across as phony, insincere, or misinformed when you’re showing appreciation. How, then, do you, as a leader, demonstrate your true appreciation?

  • Be observant and aware (know who is performing above the norm and deserves recognition)
  • Regularly check in with your team and get to know them (this will help you understand when someone is personally excelling and how best to recognize that individual)
  • Pay attention to the little things
  • Focus on both work-related and non-work-related activities (if someone helps out a coworker who just had surgery, that deserves recognition too!)
  • When you say thank you or write out a thank you card, mean it. Your sincerity will shine through.
  • Be specific. Don’t just say “thanks for a job well done.” Point out specific achievements or contributions.

Employee recognition is important, and it’s crucial to go about it in an authentic, personalized way. Build trust with your team by being sincere, specific, and candid when you give praise. Believe me, people will notice and appreciate your authenticity and effort.

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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How to get others EXCITED about your business

 

I’ve talked to plenty of small business owners and solopreneurs who are absolutely, positively convinced that their business is the best thing in town. They can solve problems, make improvements, and deliver cutting edge innovations. And they might be right. Their business may offer valuable products and services.

So why isn’t everyone and their neighbor making a beeline for their door, eager to hire the business?

It might have something to do with how the business is presented.

Oftentimes, businesses do the obvious: they tout what they do. They discuss their products, features, and benefits. Sometimes, that’s enough, but more often than not, this kind of pitch will fall flat.

Any company can talk about what they do, but what really sets companies apart is the emotion behind the delivery. Instead of trying to explain what you do and how you do it, talk about why you do it. What drives your business? What is at its core? Why are you personally excited about your company’s offerings?

It is this kind of emotional connection that helps companies like Apple succeed. Apple has created a loyal following because they are passionate about innovation and design. They’ve built a reputation that says “quality product.”

What your prospective clients want to know is what sets you apart from “the other guy.” How do you differentiate yourself and stand out?

Use emotion-laden language to discuss what you do. Don’t just say, “We design top-quality widgets.” Say, “Our team is passionate about the user-widget experience.” Or: “We are excited to bring you unparalleled innovation in widget technology.”

So, how do you create this kind of language around your product? As Simon Sinek says, “Start with why.” What is the motivator behind your work? Why do you care? Why are you better than the competition? Why should your target audience care?

Take the time to mull over the WHY of your business and then start a dialogue. Talk to co-workers and potential clients. Deliver the “rough draft” of your message and see if it resonates with them. Then, tweak it until you’ve got it right.

I want to see your business succeed (and I know you do too!). It’s time to abandon the “We are Company ABC. We do XYZ” language and center your message around your “why.”

 

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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Tap into Team 3

There’s a valuable source of information, assistance, and support you have access to at your office. I’m not talking about the internet, your training manual, or how-to guides. I’m talking about your co-workers.

Your work team can be an incredible asset to you, if you let them. Oftentimes, we either don’t trust others to help us with projects OR we simply don’t know what our co-workers have to offer. This is a shame because a lot of talent ends up going untapped and unutilized. How can you change that? How can you leverage the resources available to you through your team?

Start with these three steps:

STEP ONE:

Get to know your team. Talk with them, listen to them, invite them to share lunch or a cup of coffee. Unless you make an effort to reach out and connect, you’ll never truly know what others have to offer or what their talents are. You also won’t have a strong sense of their weak spots—the areas in which they might need additional assistance.

When you make an effort to get to know your work team, you’ll have a better understanding of how you might all function together. Who is detail-oriented, and who is better at working with the bigger picture? Who is talented at crunching numbers or analyzing data? Who is best at optimizing the customer experience? Who will always meet their deadlines…and who might need a little bit of a push?

Knowing who you’re working with, inside and out, is essential for knowing where to turn when you need a little extra assistance or when you need to assemble a team that is best suited for a specific task.

STEP TWO:

Extend trust and be trustworthy. Trust is a vital component of any successful work team. Sometimes, we take on too much and try to do everything ourselves because we believe that no one else will be able to do the job quite as well as we can. While that may be true, it’s usually a matter of perspective. Others might do a task in a different way than you, but it is not necessarily the wrong approach. By letting others occasionally take the reins, you’re opening the floor to a wider variety of perspectives and methods—and that’s a good thing! As long as everyone understands the big-picture goals, the path to getting there can be flexible.

Trust others to take on projects that are suited to their talents. Trust them to meet deadlines, do excellent work, and bring innovation and creativity to the table. Unless they violate that trust in a major way, have the courage to relinquish some control and be trusting.

On the same token, be trustworthy. Be someone whom others can count on. Your reputation as a reliable worker will be noticed. Even if you don’t think others recognize your steadfastness, they will. Don’t worry. Just keep at it and be a model of trustworthiness.

STEP THREE:

Communicate. If you want something done, ask. If you’re unsure if you—or someone else—is unsuited for a particular task, say something. If you’re pinched for time and need to meet a deadline, ask for help.

Instead of hinting at what you need or want, be direct and open. Keep an open line of communication with others and regularly check in with them about your projects. Along with expressing your needs to others and soliciting their help, you must be willing to return the favor and assist them when needed. You, too, are a resource for others and your talents will be needed from time to time.

Of course, it’s okay to say no to certain tasks or projects that do not fit your areas of expertise or your schedule. Be open about that too!

 

Tap into the skills and resources surrounding you. Your teammates have a lot to offer and you are all part of a network that will work best when everyone’s strengths are utilized. Get to know your co-workers, build trust, and establish an open line of communication.

 

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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Love what you do

 

Do you love what you do? Are you excited to wake up and get to work? Does your work add to your life and wellbeing…or does it detract from it?

If you’re currently in a place where you don’t love what you do, it may be time to sit down, get real with yourself, and re-position your compass. Think about it. If you’re like the average American, you’ll spend 1/3 of your life at work. That’s a HUGE percentage! Shouldn’t you at least like what you’re doing.

I think so.

As a career coach, I’ve met many people who are ill-fitted to their current role, but have no clue how to change things. They slog along because they need the money and are unsure of how to make a drastic change. What many of these individuals need is a deep look inside themselves.

We are a nation of go-go-go and rarely stop and take the time to get reacquainted with ourselves. After all, we’re constantly changing. You are not the same person you were as a teenager (thank goodness!) or a young adult. Change is natural, but we don’t always embrace it. Instead, we may power through it and do things because “that’s the way they’ve always been done.”

I challenge you to think differently.

Believe that you can fall in love with your work…you just have to find the right work. Investing in yourself and going through a program such as Insights Deeper Discovery can help set you down a better path. But you have to open yourself to new possibilities, earnestly and candidly reflect, and then act upon your discoveries. All three factors are necessary if you truly want to create lasting change in your life.

Beyond utilizing a science-based assessment such as Insights, it’s a good idea to also do the following:

  • Research what’s out there
  • Join a networking group and be curious (ask anyone and everyone about what they do—you might be surprised by what appeals)
  • Invest in your future: work with a career coach, attend relevant workshops, or learn a new skill set
  • Be open with your family—your decision affects them too and it’s a good idea to have them in your corner
  • Figure out whether you like parts of your current role or need to make a big, sweeping change (turn to a coach or a science-based assessment to determine)
  • Create an action plan—figure out the steps you need to take to implement your changes.

So, what are you waiting for? Isn’t it about time you invested in yourself and your future? Isn’t it about time you stepped forward into a job you love?

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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2.7 New Era of Selling 2

 

Whether you own your own business, you’re a solopreneur, a social media marketer, or in customer acquisition in a large firm, you’re in sales. You have a product or service. You want others to use it. It’s as simple as that.

Well…I wish it were that simple!

I worked as a sales manager at 3M for over two decades and saw a lot of changes…but those changes have accelerated over the past ten—or even five—years. Now, your potential customers can easily shop around and get to know your offerings and prices (and those of your competitors) before you even have a chance to reach out and engage them.

It’s also a social media-heavy marketing environment, and really hard to predict the next trend. Not to mention, with so many people elbowing for space on social media, it’s tough to get your voice heard.

It’s also a global society. You can hop on Etsy and buy a dress from a Japanese clothing company, or a pair of hiking shoes from Sweden.

In some ways, all these changes are great for consumers—they have a world of knowledge and products at their fingertips—but it’s not so great for small business owners or companies who are struggling to keep up.

HOW on earth do you approach sales in this new era?

I’ll admit, I’m not a marketer. I won’t tell you how to find your potential customers, but I will advise you on your approach once you find them.

Start with these five steps:

1. Believe wholeheartedly in your product

If you aren’t fully behind what you’re offering, it won’t sell. Potential customers are savvy enough to know when you’re not actually enthusiastic about the product you’re selling. Some of the most convincing ads I’ve seen on social media were for product that might seem ordinary (meals in a box, yoga pants, marketing webinars), but they were endorsed by very enthusiastic individuals who seemed to have a genuine stake in their product.

2. Pinpoint your audience with laser focus

Use data (and data analysts) to develop a deep understanding of who your audience is and it will be easier to find them and approach them. I’m talking not just about demographics (which is important, of course), but also your audience’s interests, their frustrations, and what makes them happy. Your product or service solves something. WHO benefits from your solution? When you know who, precisely, that is, you will feel good about selling them something that helps improve their life.

NOTE: You can utilize social media advertising to target people in a VERY narrow way. By having a precise understanding of your audience, you can take advantage of this ultra-targeted marketing.

3. Tell a story

If you’ve ever watched a crowding funding video on Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, you know that some of the most successful campaigns are ones that tell a story. It doesn’t have to be a personal story (although that can sometimes be effective); it could simply be the story of Jane Doe who travels for business all the time and can never sleep on the airplane…until she tried the Ultra Amazing Pillow!

When you tell a story in sales, you’ll want to make sure it feels natural (not over-rehearsed or awkward) and is relevant. Your story could be as simple as: “Mr. Jones had X Problem. Product ABC helped Mr. Jones in this way…”

4. Focus on education

This is the era of giving things away for free. Your customers will likely be used to getting free information (online newspapers, blog posts, eBooks, etc.), so why not take advantage of that mechanism? Offer a valuable (key word!) freebie and learn how to effectively use a sales funnel to turn interested individuals into paying customers.

5. Meet face to face

In our fast-paced, digital era, the most surprising “bold” move you can make is moving offline. Now, face-to-face interactions are more valuable than ever. It’s becoming a lost art to sit down with someone, look them in the eye, and tell them about what you do and what you’re offering. If you’re good at it, you will likely have an edge over nearly everyone else who is just playing the digital game.

 

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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Setting Courageous Goals

As you move forward into the New Year, it’s a good idea to pause, reflect, and think about how you would like your year to go. What are your goals and stretch goals? How do you picture your ideal year? What changes do you have to make to get there?

No matter what you resolve to do this year, you’re going to need a little (or a lot!) of help from one key tool: Courage.

Courage is the root of all bold action. It is what drives us to speak up, go to the gym, ask for the raise, seek a new job, or dare to dream big.

This month, we’re going to work on your courage. In a series of four blog posts, I’ll dive into different aspects of courage and give you activities to help boost and focus your courage.

This week, let’s think about courage in relation to goal-setting:

 

  1. What are your big goals for the year?

 

  1. What major changes will you have to make to reach those goals?

 

  1. What are some potential setbacks or roadblocks you might encounter?

 

  1. When those roadblocks occur, what will you do? How will you act? Create a “courage plan” to map out how you’ll overcome your roadblocks and move forward with your goals.

 

COURAGE NOTE: Remember that stumbling blocks are actually good for your development. They help you become a more nimble problem-solver, resilient, and adaptable. When you figure out how to overcome a problem, it will be easier to face a similar kind of issue down the road. SO: face your obstacles head-on!

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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As a career coach, I am well aware of the rigors of the modern workplace. Many businesses are understaffed or have ultra-high expectations for their employees, demanding sixty or eighty-hour work weeks. There’s a lot of rushing around, and forging ahead on projects…even if the plan or objective isn’t crystal clear. And that can cause a lot of trouble in the long run.

If there’s no room for question-asking, a work team could end up missing a crucial deadline, misinterpreting a client’s needs, or taking a project in the completely wrong direction. The team will then have to back-pedal and try to correct their errors, costing the company time and money.

The simple way to prevent such mishaps is by simply asking questions.

Good leaders not only ask questions, but encourage others to ask questions. This creates a culture of openness and candid interactions. Questions also can open up a dialogue about the best course of action, rather than limiting future actions to one set of ideas.

Utilize questions to…

Clarify

When a client or manager is introducing a new initiative or project, be sure to ask questions to make sure you understand everything correctly. If you are the one explaining a new concept to others, be sure to ask if they have any specific questions about the actions and objectives.

Learn more about asking great clarifying questions in my video on clarity.

Put Forth New Ideas

There is usually more than one path to a solution. When you ask questions that challenge the current way of doing things, you open up new ways of thinking and acting. These are the “What if…?” questions. They are the questions that encourage your team to think outside the box and become more innovative and creative.

Challenge

There’s a tactful way to challenge an idea, project, or statement. Use questions to uncover any holes in a plan, and gently offer a solution. A tactful challenging question may sound like this:

“I know your team has extensively tested the product on U.S. audiences, but have you considered our international market?”

OR: “I know we’ve been using the same financial tracking equipment for years, but have we thought about exploring XYZ Equipment?”

Dig Deeper

Use questions to really sink your teeth into a project and learn about the thinking behind it. “Digging questions” help to unearth any potential flaws in a plan and open up a dialogue to explore other possibilities.

These questions might ask, “How did we conclude that this is the best course of action?” or “What are some alternative ways we could market to X?” or “How does the data back this decision?” These kinds of questions will challenge your team to be more reflective and thoughtful about their current course of action (and potential future actions) and how they arrived at certain decisions.

 

Creating an open atmosphere that encourages asking questions can tremendously strengthen an organization. When people feel comfortable enough to ask clarifying questions or explore alternative routes, that opens the floor to increased creativity, candidness, and a sense of collaborative decision-making.

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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