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Category Archives: Changing Your Life

Put learning agility into practice

Leaders who “refuse to let go of entrenched patterns or who do not recognize the nuances in different situations tend to derail.” This quote from the Center for Creative Leadership is absolutely true. In today’s global, interconnected market, leaders must be agile enough to navigate a diverse range of disciplines, cultures, and skill sets.

Learning agility is a term that often gets bandied around, but how, exactly, can a leader learn to be agile? How can this concept actually be put into practice?

First of all, learning agility is as much a mindset as it is a practice. For instance, if you’re in a rut with your career, it’s possible you aren’t taking full advantage of learning opportunities. There are many possible reasons for this: perhaps you’re afraid of failure, or worried about getting outside your area of comfort and expertise. However, without allowing yourself to encounter new experiences, you’ll have no shot at developing the necessary life skills to navigate through an increasingly interdisciplinary economy. You can’t expect different results from doing the same thing over and over again; Albert Einstein defined insanity as such.

So, to be agile in practice, you must first retrain your brain to be open to newness. It may not be comfortable at first, but hopefully you’ll find that new experiences are rarely as daunting as we build them up in our minds.

When aiming for “brain retraining,” consider four different attributes of learning agility (as discovered in a study by Colombia University): Innovating, Performing, Reflecting and Risking.

Innovating:

This refers to challenging the status quo. Instead of going along with what’s worked in the past, an innovative leader embraces new challenges and is open to new ideas. An innovator asks questions, takes on new tasks and experiences to increase their perspective, and constantly tries to approach issues from multiple angles.

Performing:

To possess learning agility, you must be able to perform under  stress and deal with the inevitable ambiguous or unfamiliar situation as it arises. An agile learner does this by staying present, engaged, and a keen observer of new information. This includes listening skills; a good performer must embrace, not avoid, verbal instruction.

Reflecting:

This goes beyond simply thinking about the new things you’ve learned. Reflecting means using new information, skills, and experiences to generate a deeper insight into yourself, those around you, and any problems you’ll face. Good reflection should always ask the question, “What kinds of changes do need to make in order to  accommodate  these new experiences?”

Risking

Learning agility is a body of skills and attributes that can be boiled down to one character trait: the ability to put yourself out there. This means that you volunteer for opportunities that don’t guarantee success. In fact, an agile learner values the experience of failure, as it is a much better catalyst for growth than continual success. Risk here means risk that leads to opportunity, not thrill seeking.

If these attributes don’t describe the way you operate, don’t panic. “Being open to failure” isn’t natural, fun, or frankly, very common. Don’t think of these traits as a list of must-do’s in order to be successful. To put it in perspective, these are the conclusions derived from studying a large and diverse group of leaders; no one leader perfectly reflects all these qualities.

That said, staying humble and open to change is the most important starting point to attaining agility in leadership and learning. If you can do that, the rest will follow.

Mitchinson, Adam and Robert Morris, Ph.d. “Learning About Learning Agility.” Teachers College, Colombia University, April 2012. http://www.ccl.org/leadership/pdf/research/LearningAgility.pdf

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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Taking Risks

Think of an entrepreneur or a historical figure who inspires you. Do you have someone in mind? Maybe you’re thinking of Nelson Mandela or Martha Stewart or Albert Einstein. Maybe you’re thinking of Rosa Parks or Benjamin Franklin or Elon Musk.

What do all of these seemingly different figures have in common?

They were willing to take risks.

It’s easy to stay within your comfort zone and not venture too far outside the lines. But where does that get you? Nowhere extraordinary.

Even if you think you’re adverse to risk-taking, hear me out. Your risk-taking doesn’t have to put your career or wellbeing in jeopardy. You don’t have to throw all your money at an idea in order for your actions to count as “risks.” What you DO need to do is move forward, boldly (and that means something different to everyone).

What does risk-taking mean in YOUR life?

Does it mean finally asking for that well-deserved raise? Does it mean approaching your boss with a fresh, innovative idea? Does it mean reaching out to a co-worker who isn’t terribly popular around the office?

Or, does taking a risk involve something a little more extreme, such as making a career change or standing up to an abusive boss or coworker?

No matter how risks present themselves in your life, they are worth taking. Why? I’ll give you four reasons…

1. Opportunities abound for the person who takes a risk.

An employer is much more impressed by someone who dives into the unknown, and word will spread quickly about your willingness to venture into new territory. This will snowball and provide many more opportunities for you.

2. Failures are temporary, while regrets linger.

“When speaking to people in their forties and beyond, many tell me that if they could do their career over again, they’d have taken more risks, settled less and spoken up more often,” writes Margie Warrell in this Forbes article. It is always better to have tried and faltered than to have never gone for it.

3. You’re probably overestimating the odds against you.

Warrell points out that we tend to magnify the negative consequences in our minds, to the point where we no longer think about positive outcomes, which makes for a warped view of reality.

4. As a rule, you are capable of more than you think you are.

This is probably a result of having been conditioned early on to always be modest. But it’s okay to recognize your strengths and feel confident about them. And you’ll never know your ability until you take risks.

 

How will you move boldly forward today? How will you embrace opportunities for risk-taking instead of running from them?

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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Less Time at Work 2

There’s a persistent myth that in order to get anywhere in your life or career, you have to put in long hours. As Americans, we’re working harder than ever—putting in a full month’s more of work per year than we did in the 1970s. We’re also the most over-worked nation in the developed world. According to the ILO, “Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers.”

And here’s the thing: it’s making the other parts of our lives suffer. We don’t have time to take care of ourselves (which is evident with skyrocketing obesity and stress); we take fewer vacation days; we don’t have as much time to spend with our family or friends. Not to mention, it’s nearly impossible to squeeze in volunteer or community time when we’re consistently working more than forty hours per week.

“But wait!” you might be saying. “Don’t I have to put in the hours to prove myself to the company? Won’t I look bad since everyone else is working sixty hours per week?”

My answer to that is this:

It’s much better to work SMARTER than it is to work HARDER.

For instance, if you’re energized from getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising regularly, your performance will increase and you’ll get things done in a shorter amount of time. Looking at it from another angle, when you’re able to step back from your work, this allows you perspective. Instead of being “in the weeds” you can reflect on your work from a distance, which can help you to strategize better and approach your projects with a clearer view of what you want to achieve and how you want to get there.

Not to mention, you’ll feel better and happier when you’re paying attention to other areas of your life besides work. A professor at the Wharton School of Business found that when people in his study spent more time on family, community, and self, “their career satisfaction increased by 21% and their work performance (self-assessed) improved by 8%. Happiness with family life grew even more.”

It’s time we stop “out-working” each other. Such a mentality is, frankly, a race to the bottom. Instead, be a leader in effective time management and work/life balance:

  • Take breaks when you need to
  • Spend time with your family
  • Practice self-care
  • Focus on ONE project at a time, be fully present (and complete tasks more effectively!)
  • Step back and recalibrate your goals
  • Take that vacation
  • Make service to others and your community a priority

A culture shift away from our “worker bee” mentality is absolutely necessary and it starts with YOU.

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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This is Part Three of my four-part courage series. Last week’s discussion was on EVERYDAY COURAGE. 

Courage to Recover from Setbacks

It will happen. Things won’t go quite the way you planned. You’ll face unexpected delays, difficult coworkers or bosses, health issues, uncooperative customers, or any number of other setbacks that could derail your forward momentum and your confidence. What do you do when the train careens off the tracks?

Develop a plan to get back on.

If you’re able to anticipate a possible setback (i.e. Customer ABC has been hinting that they’re thinking about going with a different company), plan ahead. Come up with some “worst case scenario options” and write them down.

If the setback sneaks up on you (as in most cases), practice being adaptable and resilient. One of the ways to do that is by having a Growth Mindset. When you have a growth mindset, you don’t think of obstacles as hopeless problems, but as opportunities to improve and develop a new solution. You are aware that every challenge you face only makes you stronger and more nimble.

What are some practical ways to recover from setbacks?

  • Picture your future success (visualization is powerful!)
  • Practice a growth mindset
  • Hold a brainstorming or mind mapping session (by yourself or with your team) to come up with innovative new solutions
  • Be kind to yourself (being hard on yourself will only lead to more stress and burnout)

OKAY, your turn. Jot down a few answers to these workbook questions:

1. When you face a challenge, which resources could you tap into to help? Which people?

 

2. What are some ways you can rebuild your confidence and enthusiasm to overcome obstacles?

 

3. How will you be kind to yourself if you face a failure or setback? List five ways you could treat yourself well during a challenging period.

 

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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Capture Your Everyday Courage

Last week, we talked about setting courageous goals and making an action plan for when things don’t go quite as expected. This week, I’d like to address everyday courage—the small, bold actions that can lead to big things.

If you’re going to achieve major changes this year (a promotion, a healthier lifestyle, a better social life, a new career path, etc.) you’ll need to step into every single day with a courageous mindset. Your road to success will be filled with ruts, bumps, and fallen trees blocking the way. How will you be able to overcome these everyday obstacles and focus on the bigger picture?

Start with the 5 P’s:

  • Prepare

When you know a situation is coming up that will require courage, be sure to prepare. Your preparation will help you feel more confident when going into the difficult situation.

  • Pep Talk

Before engaging in a tough conversation, heading into an important meeting, or even trying a new workout at the gym, give yourself a pep talk. Repeat an affirmation or take a few moments to visualize your success.

  • Power Pose

Try this 2-minute power-boosting technique.

  • Project Energy

When you project positive energy through your body language and voice, your confidence will naturally grow.

  • Plan B

Creating a Plan B will give you something solid to fall back on when your initial plan didn’t fly. Take time to think of alternatives “best routes” whenever you’re diving into something new or trying to make a change.

 

For more the 5 P’s, watch this 2-minute video!

NOW, for the workbook part:

  1. Next time you need to act courageously, what will your pep talk be? Write out a few lines that you can recite to yourself when the time comes.

 

  1. How will you act with confidence this week? List three ways you’ll demonstrate your self-assuredness (speaking up, practicing your power pose, doing something you don’t want to do, etc.)

 

 

  1. Think about the next event/meeting/situation where you’ll need to tap into your courage. How will you prepare? What “Plan B” ideas do you have, in case things don’t go according to plan?

 

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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