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Creating Successful Leaders

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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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When was the last time you paused and assessed your thoughts or the words you just said? When was the last time you considered your emotions and wondered why you feel the way you do?

It’s rare to be so self-reflective, but it can play a huge role in both your professional and personal success.

When you deeply understand yourself, you are aware of the situations that make you uncomfortable and the ones that bring you joy. You understand your personal communication style and your ideal conditions for a good conversation. You also know your perfect work environment and how best to be productive.

There are many positive effects of developing a deep understanding of yourself, including elevated confidence. How does your confidence grow when you are intimately familiar with yourself?

1. You can prepare for uncomfortable situations

If you know standing up in front of a group OR working alone OR sharing your ideas with a co-worker or boss makes you uncomfortable, acknowledge that potential discomfort and prepare for it. Preparation might include extra research, practicing your presentation in front of a mirror, or amping yourself up ahead of time.

2. You improve communication

If you deeply understand your communication preferences, you are able to acknowledge them and help others understand them as well. For instance, if you prefer talking over an idea in a one-on-one setting, make an effort to arrange such meetings. Or, if you know you like the limelight, consider setting a timer for yourself to limit speaking time AND make an effort to ask others for their thoughts or opinions.

3. You understand your skills and limitations

At the intersection of what you enjoy doing and what you’re good at doing is your sweet spot. When you are aware of what you do well and what you like to do, you’re better able to pursue or turn down projects, based on your preferences and skill set.

4. You’re better at leading a team

When you understand how your own thinking works, that can create a better awareness of how others communicate and collaborate. It’s all about observation. Your increased awareness can be applied to your team and, through conscious observation, you can come to understand what works for certain team members, and what doesn’t.

Additionally, you’ll be mindful of how you might react when your team members do something that might irritate you, such as turn in a project late or fail to speak up and offer ideas at a meeting. When you’re aware of your emotions, you can react in a more controlled, level-headed way.

 

Knowing yourself—your communication tendencies, you emotions, your personal preferences—can help make you more self-assured. This kind of awareness is what builds an excellent leader.

 

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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You wake up…and check your work email. You come home…and keep your phone handy just in case. You get ready for bed…and shoot off a few emails before the clock strikes midnight.

Your constant connection to your work might be more damaging than you think.

Here are 10 ways working after (or before!) normal office hours can harm both your team and YOU:

1. It pressures people to be “always on”

Even if you’re sending a casual email about a thought you had about work, think again before hitting SEND. Your email sends the underlying message that you’re working and others should be too. And that’s not great.

We all need downtime to recharge. It’s important to have designated “away from work” time in which ideas are allowed to naturally percolate. If we don’t have this down time, we begin to feel worn down and turn to auto pilot mode, in which we simply keep busy instead of pausing, evaluating, and allowing for outside-of-the-box thinking. As Ferris Jabr, writer for Scientific American says, “Downtime is an opportunity for the brain to make sense of what it has recently learned, to surface fundamental unresolved tensions in our lives and to swivel its powers of reflection away from the external world toward itself.”

2. It creates unhealthy competition

Just mentioning a late night conversation between yourself and a co-worker is enough to spark unhealthy “who can outwork who?” competition. When there are no limits in place, after-hours work can spiral out of control.

Some companies are beginning to place strict limitations on when colleagues are allowed to contact each other regarding work. Such limitations give employees breathing room in which they can round out their lives with other activities besides work.

3. It prevents you from being present

You can’t enjoy a baseball game, dinner with a friend, or a family game night if you’re constantly checking your work email or waiting for a work-related phone call. The constant presence of work means that you can’t give your full attention to anything else, including yourself. This distractedness is not great for building and maintaining healthy relationships…and it’s also not great for your mental wellbeing.

4. It can lead to quicker burnout

That feeling that you’re always being watched—that you must constantly check in or suffer the consequences (or at least some shaming from your peers)—can quickly wear you down. Today, Americans are working harder than ever for fewer rewards. Hard work has simply become the norm and, according to a study conducted by Quartz and Kronos, burnout is responsible for “up to half of all employee attrition.”

5. It throws off your life balance

Remember those things you used to think were important? Like hanging out with friends, eating a nice meal out, curling up with a book, or practicing a hobby? Well, those things are probably still important to you…they’ve just been shuffled off to the side.

A healthy life is a life with balance. If you’re overworked, you are denied the chance to explore outside interests, build strong relationships, and truly become a part of your community. It’s great to find meaning in your work, but that’s not all there is to life. Find the right blend of family, hobbies, relaxation, and community involvement that works for you.

6. It stifles creativity

Everyone needs a little space and downtime for ideas to surface and creativity to flow. Not to mention, it helps to actually be immersed in the world outside the office to create new life experiences that could, potentially, be linked to your work.

Time away from the office can lend a fresh, new perspective. As Maura Thomas, writer for Harvard Business Review says, “Experiments have shown that to deliver our best at work, we require downtime. Time away produces new ideas and fresh insights. But your employees can never disconnect when they’re always reaching for their devices to see if you’ve emailed. Creativity, inspiration, and motivation are your competitive advantage, but they are also depletable resources that need to be recharged.

 

The next time you are tempted to send out an email after-hours, pause. Think about the potential consequences to both yourself and your work team. It’s time we all start respecting and appreciating our time away from the office.

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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