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Category Archives: Communication

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I often hear people complaining about the “new generation” of workers as being disloyal to the company. They change jobs like gym shorts, and can’t commit to a single business for more than a few years. While that may be true, have you ever stopped to think about WHY that’s the case?

1. Stagnant Wages

For many young and not-so-young (the oldest Millennials are approaching 40 now) people, the workplace landscape is MUCH different than it was when Boomers and Gen Xers began their careers. Wages have stagnated and benefits aren’t what they used to be. In many cases, the only way to get a raise is to negotiate one by switching jobs.

Solution?

Make sure your business is competitive. Offer fair wages, and regularly give raises to account for cost-of-living increases. In addition, make sure your list of benefits is attractive and competitive in the industry.

2. Boredom

“But what about their short attention spans!?” you might say. “We can’t seem to capture their interest.”

Sure, job boredom may play a role in Millennial job-hopping, but this is often a preventable woe. If more than one or two of your staff seem bored or distracted, it’s probable that there’s something systemic going on. It may be that…

  1. They are not well-suited for their role
  2. They are so efficient that they complete their workload much faster than previous generations of workers
  3. They have checked out because they feel like they don’t fit in in the workplace
  4. They have checked out because they don’t think they have a voice

Solution?

In all these scenarios, communication can help prevent boredom. Regularly check in with your staff and make sure they are feeling engaged and supported. Give them the space to express how they are feeling and vocalize what they’d like to see changed. Then, work with them to strategize ways to make positive changes.

If your young workers are checking out because they feel like they don’t fit in, counter that by encouraging team-building workshops (consider Insights Discovery as a starting point), after-work outings, or collaborative projects. Pay attention and make sure your seasoned workers are giving the newer workers a voice.

3. Lack of Freedom

Nobody likes it when others look over their shoulders to supervise their work. It conjures images of elementary school, when teachers had to keep a classroom of rambunctious youngsters in line in addition to teaching multiplication tables. Such treatment in the workplace could induce anxiety and the feeling of being hemmed in. No one works well under that kind of pressure.

Solution?

Your staff are not elementary children and should not be treated as such. It’s a good idea to demonstrate trust in your team by giving them a long leash when it comes to projects, minimizing your involvement, and being open to different styles of working and different solutions.

Another thing: consider allowing your staff to occasionally work from home. We live in a time where technology enables many people to work remotely on at least some of their projects. As long as the work is being done, who cares if they work in their pajamas?

If you have a retention problem, ask yourself if any (or all!) of these three factors are coming into play, and then DO something! I’m here to help.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Image by SnottyBoggins from Pixabay

A couple months ago, I had the privilege of seeing Tracey Jones speak at the Women’s Business Bridge annual conference in Stillwater, MN. Tracey is an author, speaker, Air Force Academy graduate, decorated Veteran, international leadership expert, scholar, and researcher. She is also the President of Tremendous Leadership. After her engaging presentation, I picked up a copy of her book, Saucy Aussie Living: Top 10 Tricks for Getting a Second Leash on Life. Told from her dog’s perspective, the book is tongue-in-cheek and goofy, BUT there are many valuable lessons embedded in its pages. One such lesson: Hang out with other top dogs and fumigate the “fleas” in your life.

This lesson boils down to the simple truth that when we associate with high-achieving, ambitious, and positive people, those behaviors and attributes WILL rub off on us. The opposite is true too. If we spend all our time with lazy, incompetent, or negative people, we will inevitably start to take on those characteristics.

The lesson of hanging out with other “top dogs” is a great reminder to pause, look around, and notice both the positive and negative influences in your life. Do some people give you energy and motivate you to be the best version of yourself? Great! Spend as much time around those people as possible.

Do others bring you down with constant complaining, excuses, or negativity? Make an effort to step away from those people and remove their influence from your life. Easier said than done, right? How do you “fumigate the fleabags” around you? It may be extremely difficult to step away from negative co-workers, bosses, or family members. What can you possibly do?

1. Create Healthy Boundaries

Do your best to limit interactions with negative individuals by creating healthy boundaries. This may involve only checking and responding to emails from that person once per day or limiting the number of meetings with that person (or choosing to meet online or over the phone).

Creating healthy boundaries also means standing up for yourself. If you feel like someone is taking over your space, speak out. Let the individual know that you need more breathing room and autonomy.

2. Communicate

If you are less than thrilled with someone’s attitude or lackluster performance, talk to them about it. Don’t be confrontational! Instead, approach the issue from an angle of offering to help. You might say something like: “I noticed you’ve missed a few deadlines lately. Is something wrong? How can I help?”

Communication also helps put negative attitudes in check. If, for instance, someone complains about a co-worker, flip it around by saying, “I don’t see her in that light. Besides, I’d rather focus on XYZ project than talk about Amy right now. Let’s go over last month’s numbers…”

3. Find Your Top Dogs

Once you’ve identified the high-achievers around you, start making an effort to associate with those people as often as possible. When you do this, the “fleabags” will naturally be pushed to the side. Additionally, the positive, go-get-em attitude you’ll adapt from your positive influencers will likely carry over into your interactions with less-driven individuals. Your energy and zest may have a contagious effect. Instead of spreading fleas, you’ll be spreading sunshine!

Regardless of your approach, it is crucial to align yourself with like-minded, motivated individuals. Lean on and learn from them, and don’t forget to give your support in return.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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communication-in-4-colors-insights-discovery

Updated August, 2019

A Note From Margaret:

In the history of the UXL Blog (which has been active since 2011), this post is by far the most popular. That says a lot to me. For one, it means that people are interested in effective communication and developing a deeper understanding of their colleagues and co-workers. It also means that many people suspect that Insights® Discovery is a useful tool for digging in and approaching communication issues from a science-based, practical approach. 

If your team is struggling with communication (whether among team members, between bosses and staff, or with clients), I can help. As an Insights® Discovery Licensed Practitioner, I offer workshops and training to individuals and teams of any size, in any industry. I invite you to contact me today for more information.

Now, on with the post…


Do you ever wonder why a certain co-worker is so quiet? Or why another co-worker always wants to work in teams? Or why another won’t make a decision until everyone’s voice has been heard?

Assessment tests, such as Insights® Discovery, can unearth the mysteries behind your co-workers’ communication tendencies. Insights® is a science-based personality test designed to help you gain a better understanding of your own and others’ behaviors, tendencies, and perspectives. As an Insights® Licensed Practitioner, I have introduced many teams to Insights® and have witnessed improved communication, better leadership, and greater team cohesion and empathy.

One of the things I like best about Insights® is its approachable model, broken down into four main color energies (blue, red, yellow, and green). The idea behind the model is that everyone has the capacity to exhibit and embrace all four distinct personality types, but we all tend to lead with or prefer a certain personality type. Here is a brief overview of each color/personality type. Which one do you immediately identify with?

4-colors-good-day

RED: Those who lead with red energy tend to be assertive, bold, and to-the-point. They are natural leaders and love to take charge and make quick decisions.

YELLOW: Yellows are bright, sunshiney, and social. They love working in teams, brainstorming ideas, and connecting with new people.

GREEN: People with a strong green tendency are typically empathetic and inclusive. Above all, they care about the happiness of their team members and want to make sure all voices are heard.

BLUE: Blues are data-driven, analytical, and contemplative. They like to mull over an issue and consider all angles before making a decision.

Now that you know a little bit about each color energy, let’s hone in on communication. Each group of people–reds, yellows, blues, and greens–has a different communication preference. The image below outlines how best to approach those who lead with a certain color energy:

Insights Discovery communication preferences
Yellow: Involve me.  Green: Show me you care.  Red: Be brief, be bright, be gone.  Blue: Give me details.

If you have a good hunch about someone’s leading color, take the time to stand in their shoes and consider how they might prefer to communicate. Should you be brief and bright with them (red)? Should you take the time to be social and ask about their family or weekend (yellow)? Should you ask about their emotional reaction toward a project (green)? Should you present them with a complete set of data and analysis (blue)?

This, of course, is just the tip of the Insights® Discovery iceberg. For more information on Insights®, or to find out how to acquire an assessment kit for your team, please contact me today.


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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A woman sitting outside on her smart phone

Remote conferences are an integral tool of the work place. In an increasingly mobile and diverse business landscape, maintaining lines of communication in a way that is regularly organized and easily accessible ensures projects remain on task while goals are clearly maintained and communicated.

Phone meetings are by far the most commonly implemented for remote conferencing, and come with their own sets of headaches and challenges. As a team member or project coordinator, you may find yourself in need of strategies to use as a shorthand in organizing consistent, quality phone meetings. Feel free to use these suggestions below while you’re planning!

1. Stick to a schedule

Humans are creatures of habit, and scheduling phone calls can be one of the larger sources of frustration for mid-size or large teams. If you’re looking to utilize phone meetings as a convenient and regular means of convening a team, make it easier on your team members by scheduling calls at similar times at similar points in the week.

Typically, it’s simpler for someone to block out an hour in the morning every other Wednesday than to constantly be checking their schedule to see if they can make a meeting work. Sticking to a regular schedule upfront also helps establish project timelines. It can also help instill a sense of structure and a general sense of expectations.

2. Have a routine

Make sure to outline a procedure for beginning meetings, and for larger groups. Utilizing established formats, such as Robert’s Rules of Order, can help facilitate the chaos of having many voices present. Stick to a consistent limit of how long the group waits for people to join, and outline consequences for non-participation at your first meeting. Reiterate standards as necessary.

3. Prepare a small agenda; have someone take minutes

Board meetings utilize both these strategies, and are a simple but effective means of staying on task. Agendas serve doubly as excellent meeting reminders when provided in advance, and allow more time for team members to formulate specific questions they may have. You may want to incorporate unconstructed conversation time toward the end of meetings to field sentiments about the project at hand and candidly address issues that don’t neatly pertain to a specific task.

4. Be gracious, have a consistent facilitator

Always remember to be polite and professional. And remember, without visual cues and body language, you are bound to encounter miscommunication in a phone meeting at one point or another. Having a consistent facilitator, or a regular rotation of facilitation provides additional support and structure in meetings, as well as a default avenue for conflict resolution as the need arises.

Phone meetings don’t have to be a source of stress. When conducted effectively, they can be brief, clear, and helpful for all team members. Pair these strategies with a framework that best suits your team members’ schedules and working styles. And when in doubt, talk it out!

Margaret Smith is a career coach, author, Insights® Discovery (and Deeper Discovery) Licensed Practitioner, and founder of UXL. She hosts WORKSHOPS for people who need career or personal guidance.
NOW LIVE: Check out Margaret’s NEW online Leadership Course.

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Seagull screeching the words "Clarity in Communication"

Communication is the lifeblood of all organizations. So much so, there are whole industries built around identifying the divides between people and bridging them to create effective teams. If your co-workers do not understand the goal or details you are trying to convey, it is likely there will be confusion strewn throughout the entire process of your project. Clear communication is not all about group dynamics and personalities. There is a rhyme and reason to the process that can be reflected and improved upon on an individual basis too. If you’re interested in improving your own communicative process, consider the tips below:

1. Pay Attention To Language Preferences

Everybody has language preferences. If you spend enough time in an organization, you’ll likely develop a sense of the different backgrounds people come from, and the type of language that engages them the most easily. Pay attention in meetings and in written correspondence to the way ideas are phrased and the presented. Then, apply your findings to your messaging.

2. Body Language and Volume

Humans are emotional creatures, and we are wired to pick up signals not just from speech, but from the way in which our speech is presented. For example, folded arms can undermine your position when trying to encourage participation and collaboration. Getting loud or using animated facial expressions can be read as excited as easily as intimidating. If people shy away or don’t physically present in a way to you that seems engaged, consider how you might adjust your body language to appear more approachable.

3. Expand Vocabulary

Sometimes clear communication is as simple as developing a greater precision in language. Crack open a thesaurus and study the contextual differences and appropriate use of terms you frequently encounter or use in your organization. There’s nuance in English between similar concepts, so any additional ability to distinguish your meaning can be valuable.

4. Ask Questions

If you are confused by someone’s meaning, do not be afraid to simply ask for clarification. Sometimes it can be intimidating to question a superior or pester a group message with a stream of individual questions. However, your confusion may be shared by the group at large, so being proactive and asking for more information can be beneficial for all. If the questions don’t clarify to your satisfaction, consider asking other colleagues or involving a mediator to get everyone on the same page.

There are a lot of factors that make up clear and effective communication. By using concise language and being more aware of others’ manners and modes, you can implement the changes that will lead to more effective team dynamics. Where there is rapport and understanding, there is success!

Margaret Smith is a career coach, author, Insights® Discovery (and Deeper Discovery) Licensed Practitioner, and founder of UXL. She hosts WORKSHOPS for people who need career or personal guidance.
NOW LIVE: Check out Margaret’s NEW online Leadership Course.

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Pink lotus flower

One of the key leadership attributes in my book, The Ten-Minute Leadership Challenge, is TRUST. I truly believe business and leadership success is built on trust. You need it between co-workers, between supervisors and staff, between the business and its customers. If trust doesn’t exist, the organization flounders and is likely to fail.

One of the ways to build trust is through transparent behavior and communication. It goes beyond honesty and into the realm of integrity. Though honest and integrity may seem like the same thing, they are actually quite different.

Honesty is simply telling the truth. You can tell the truth and still omit information or focus on one part of the big picture. To relate honesty to a work example, think of a check-in meeting you might have with your team. In this meeting, everyone goes around and reports on their project, giving highlights on how things are going. When you have the floor, you talk about one specific part of your project—the only part that is going well. You’re being honest, but are you acting with integrity?

I would argue that, no, you’re not. You’re leaving out the parts of your project that are going poorly and casting yourself only in a positive light. That might get you by for a while, but what happens when your project implodes and you turn in subpar work? What happens when you hit a wall and need to desperately seek help?

This situation calls for more than honesty. It calls for you to be vulnerable and discuss the parts of your project that are leaving you stymied or frustrated. It calls for integrity.

If you act with integrity, you do what you know is best. It may not be easy, but it is right.

In this situation, you might call attention to the areas in which you are struggling. You might set aside your pride and ask for additional resources to help you complete the project as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Another situation in which integrity outweighs honesty has to do with office gossip. If you know a damaging bit of news about a co-worker, you could tell others about it. You’re being honest, right? But are you acting with integrity?

Again, the answer is no. Even though you’re not fabricating the damaging news, just telling it can be harmful. It can erode trust.

That’s the difference between honesty and integrity: Honesty is blunt, truth-telling and integrity involves considering the big picture and attempting to do what is right. Acting with integrity helps create trust.

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Two women meeting over notebooks

If you’re like many people, you dread your annual performance review. It’s not the prospect of getting in trouble, it’s that performance reviews can be just…tedious. They often feel like a distraction–something you have to get out of the way before you can move on with business as usual.

It’s unfortunate that performance reviews have received such a bad reputation because they can be enormously valuable!

Instead of shying away from this year’s performance review, kick yourself into high gear and focus on taking advantage of everything a performance review can and should be. Think of your review as an opportunity to do one or more of the following:

1. Ask for a Raise

According to Grant Sabatier, author of Financial Freedom, one of the best times to ask for a raise is during a performance review. Sabatier says, “Your annual performance review is a natural time to ask because your boss is already thinking about your value to your company. If you come with your market-value research, you are significantly more likely to get a higher raise.”

Just be sure to put together a solid case for asking for a raise (find a few hints in my past blog post), and practice your speech in front of the mirror or to a willing partner. The goal is to sound as confident as possible when making your ask.

2. Identify Weak Points

Performance reviews are a great time to ask critical questions about yourself, your work performance, and what you can do to improve. Think of it as a time to gather as much information as possible to have a successful year ahead.

If you don’t understand or agree with a piece of feedback, don’t argue or get defensive! Simply ask clarifying questions and attempt to understand where the feedback is coming from. If the advice seems sound, develop a plan for putting it into practice.

3. Create Change

It’s easy to complain about everything you don’t like about your workplace behind your boss’ back. Not only is that counterproductive, it can bring down the attitude of the entire office. Instead, keep a list of things you’d like to see changed, tweaked, or eliminated. Be sure to brainstorm potential solutions as well.

When it comes time for your review, present your list to your superior in a respectful, solutions-oriented way. Get excited about the potential changes, and show you’re willing to put in some time to make them happen. Instead of seeming like a complainer, you’ll be viewed as someone who is motivated and bold enough to take initiative to make positive change.

Performance reviews don’t have to be a slog. Think of them as opportunities to carve out a better year for yourself and the workplace. Get excited for your next review and start planning the conversation you’d like to have with your boss. Here’s to a self-made year!

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