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Creating Successful Leaders

Category Archives: Communication

One of the wonderful things about humanity is that we’re all so different, and we embody many different traits. Our distinct personalities can lead to powerful innovations, creative solutions, and out-of-the-box thinking. But it can also lead to conflicts, clashing, and misunderstandings. Have you ever tried to assign a highly collaborative leadership task to an extreme introvert? Or asked a “numbers person” to lead a creative brainstorming session.

It can be beneficial, of course, to stretch our abilities and challenge ourselves to reach outside our comfort zones. However, everyone has their limits. A social person who thrives on interpersonal interactions and teamwork can only take solo data entry work for so long. Soon, they’ll be miserable and, possibly, looking for an exit.

As a leader, it’s smart to identify your team members’ strengths and capitalize on them. Develop an understanding of their strengths by doing the following:

1. Ask them directly what they excel at, what they enjoy doing, and what their goals are. You might be surprised by how quickly people open up when talking about these topics.

2. Turn to a trustworthy assessment test for guidance. As an LP of Insights Discovery, I’m a big proponent of the Insights program. Rooted in social science, Insights Discovery identifies four key personality types (Cool Blue, Fiery Red, Sunshine Yellow, Earth Green) and outlines their inherent strengths and weaknesses. This can be used as a starting point to understand each individual’s potential. For more information, see my past blog post on Insights.

3. Observe each person on the job. What tasks do they excel at? How do they respond to different situations? Do they seem energized or drained after certain tasks? Taking note of these cues can help you better understand how to delegate tasks for maximum efficiency.

4. Listen to your team members’ feedback. They may have ideas on how they can best contribute to the team’s goals. They may be frustrated with processes or tasks they feel they are over- or under-qualified for. Address these issues and strive to create an environment in which everyone can utilize their strengths.

Once you’ve determined each team member’s strengths, you can start assigning tasks and roles that challenge and inspire. Letting team members play to their strengths can lead to greater satisfaction, higher morale, and better team performance. As a leader, it’s vitally important to recognize everyone’s unique gifts, and use them to drive the team forward and foster a more motivated, happier team.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE.

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During the holidays, it’s easy to get caught up in spending money to “prove” how much we care about others. The season has become more about presents and the latest gadgets than togetherness, gratitude, and kindness.

What if we flipped the script?

What if we focused on people over products? And acts of kindness over stuff? What if the holidays were less about checklists (I have to buy presents for X, Y, and Z) and more about reminding others how much they mean to you?

This season, I challenge you to focus on quality over quantity, and on people over things. In that spirit, here are 8 ways you can show how much you care without spending a dime (or, at least, not many of them!)…

1. Pick up the phone

We are a society of quick text messages, Snaps, and social media updates. How often do we pick up the phone anymore, simply to have a conversation? I suggest surprising a loved one with a phone call. It’s a personal way to show you care and it doesn’t cost anything but your time.

2. Send a hand-written card

Sending a card might not be free, but it’s pretty darn inexpensive. You may even have a stash of blank cards sitting around (I know I do!). If that’s the case, you could make someone’s day for the cost of a stamp. It’s always fun to receive mail that isn’t bills or mass mailings, isn’t it?

3. Shovel someone’s walk

If you live in a cold climate, a wonderful way to show you care about someone is to shovel their sidewalk or driveway. Help out a neighbor, an elderly acquaintance, or anyone who could use an extra hand. Bonus: You’ll squeeze in a good exercise while doing it!

4. Say thank you

Many people work overtime during the holidays—mail carriers, servers, retail workers, delivery drivers—and few receive the thanks they deserve for their services. Next time you’re in line at the grocery store or you have to make a return at Target, focus on being patient (a true virtue in retail stores!), keep calm, and say thank you. Your politeness goes a long way.

5. Donate clothes or home goods

If you’re like me, you have rows of old clothing you haven’t worn in ages, and stacks of home goods that are taking up space at the bottom of the drawer. Make an effort to clean it out! Then, donate it to Goodwill, Salvation Army, or your local “Buy Nothing” group. Not only will you be helping others, you’ll have the satisfaction of clearing/cleansing your space.

6. Bake treats

Few things say, “I care about you” like homemade treats. Make your friend her favorite cookies, bake a pie for your mom, or whip up something special for your significant other. (And don’t forget to save a few for yourself!)

7. Babysit for a friend

Many of the parents I know are chronically exhausted from having to juggle work, childcare, household maintenance, meal prep, and more. Give your friends (or family) a break by offering to babysit while they have an evening to themselves. They need it.

8. Volunteer

Your time can be just as valuable as your dollars. Volunteer at a food shelf, animal shelter, church, toy drive, soup kitchen—anything that will infuse a bit of good into the world. If you don’t have time to formally volunteer, you can always help out in your own way (such as picking up litter in your neighborhood while you walk the dog).

Caring and kindness do not have to come with a price tag. There are many free (or low cost) ways you can show up for others, spread joy, and demonstrate compassion. Tis the season.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE.

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Studies show the best teams are diverse teams—diverse in backgrounds, identity, thought, and more. But sometimes that diversity is squandered. If the majority always rules (or a few voices tend to dominate the conversation), those in the minority may become discouraged and withhold their thoughts and perspectives.

This happens more than you might realize. Women tend to be quieter in a room full of men, and women of color enjoy far less support than their white counterparts. And when it comes to diversity of thoughts and behaviors, introverted folks (those who lead with blue or green energy, if we’re considering this from an Insights Discovery angle) may not take the floor as often as extroverts.

This is unfortunate because innovators and creatives come from all backgrounds and have a wide range of personalities and behaviors. Some of the most brilliant minds in tech, for example, are former misfits (Bill Gates, Steve Jobs). Some of the most successful people in history were introverts (Eleanor Roosevelt, Albert Einstein).

As a leader, it’s up to you to include everyone on your team and to equally nurture talent. This is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. How might your team improve if everyone felt valued and engaged? What progress could you make if “all hands were on deck,” instead of just a few?

Let’s talk about a few ways that you can practice inclusive, effective leadership.

1. Actively seek feedback

As a leader, it’s a good idea to continuously gather data from and about your team. This includes feedback. Ideally, providing feedback should be as painless as possible for your team. Give them several different avenues to choose, including one-on-one meetings, anonymous surveys, or a chance to speak out during meetings. Demonstrate that you care about what your people have to say by practicing good listening skills and seriously considering making the changes they suggest.

2. Engage in conversations

If you do not regularly meet one-on-one with your people, I highly encourage you to start. A lot of thoughts, ideas, and frustrations could bubble to the surface once you’re in a private room (or virtual space). Remember: this is a two-way street. Be open and friendly, share some information about yourself, and dare to be a little vulnerable. Set the tone for a candid back-and-forth conversation.

NOTE: Make sure you keep any private information you learn to yourself. Nothing erodes trust faster than gossip.

3. Aim for understanding

It’s smart to keep in mind that not everyone shares the same views, background, and thought patterns as you (and that’s a good thing!). When you’re getting to know your team members, do your best to practice empathy and aim for understanding. If someone doesn’t feel comfortable sharing their ideas in a large-group setting, take note and see how you can accommodate them. If another person appreciates time to think over a problem before offering solutions, respect that tendency and encourage the team to not jump into a decision right away.

One way to unearth your team members’ tendencies, perspectives, and ways of thinking is to utilize a science-based assessment test. I have witnessed teams have incredible breakthroughs by using Insights® Discovery (I’m a Licensed Practitioner), but many other excellent assessments exist, such as StrengthsFinder or Enneagrams.

4. Pay attention

This should go without saying, but it’s worth emphasizing: pay attention! Notice when team members are not speaking up, or if they seem uncomfortable. Take note when one or two voices dominate the conversation. Once you see behavior patterns emerge, you can begin to take action.

5. Promote (or initiate) affiliate or networking groups

Sometimes, your team members need support that is more specialized in nature. If someone is part of a minority or underrepresented group (Women, BIPOC people, LGBTQ+ folks, neurodivergent people), they may benefit from meeting with others who share a similar background. There is power and comfort in sitting in the same room as people who are similar (at least in some ways) to you. These affiliate or networking groups can advocate for changes, swap stories, or simply provide a listening ear. If your workplace does not currently have affiliate groups, consider initiating one or two.

There are many ways you, as a leader, can practice inclusivity. It’s time to uplift those at the margins, listen to their ideas, and demonstrate that they are just as valuable as anyone else.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE

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