Skip to content

UXL Blog

Creating Successful Leaders

Category Archives: Communication

The power of vocal inflection

We’d all like to think that what we say is important. When we stand up to give a presentation or if we’re talking with a friend or significant other, we hope that others are listening to what we’re saying.

But the what is not necessarily as important as the how.

How you deliver your words can matter just as much (or more!) than what you say. No matter how compelling your message, if you say it in an unenthusiastic or irritated way, others will pick up on your tone, rather than what you are saying.

Take the simple phrase “Dinner’s ready.”

Let’s say you get home from work and you decide to prepare a nice meal for yourself and your family. You cook up a couple dishes from scratch and time everything perfectly so that your entrée comes out of the oven at the same time that you’ve finished making your sides. You’re pleased as punch with how your meal turned out and you can’t wait to share it with your family.

At this point, you call out in a sing-song voice, “Dinner’s ready!”

No reply.

Your spouse, your children are upstairs doing who-knows-what. But you don’t feel like hunting them down, so you busy yourself with doing a few dishes while you wait for them to come down.

Five minutes.

Ten.

When you call for your family again, the cheeriness is out of your voice completely. It’s been replaced by a loud, curt, and semi-dangerous tone:

“DINNER IS READY.”

You’d better believe your family will come running this time!

The lesson here is that vocal inflection matters. It conveys how serious you are about something. It demonstrates your enthusiasm (or lack of). It has the power to energize a room or put everyone to sleep.

Next time you’re about to interact with someone or lead a team meeting, think about your tone of voice. Practice your speech in front of a mirror. In most cases, you’ll want to sound energized, but not over-the-top. Cheery, but authentic. The only exception is if you’re speaking about a serious issue that requires more gravity. Use common sense and let your tone match the message.

For more tips on how to be a compelling speaker, take a look at these blog posts:

https://uxlblog.com/2016/10/05/let-your-voice-be-heard/

https://uxlblog.com/2016/03/09/10-ways-to-have-a-better-conversation/

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

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Buzzwords lack clarity

They come in the form of KPIs, ROIs, or CTAs. They are the low-hanging fruit, the synergy, and the ballpark figures. They want to help you drill down, push the envelope, create a survival strategy, and do some heavy lifting.

This is the corporate speak that tends to spin its way into our conversations. It’s fine to use it every once in a while—especially if your audience is familiar and comfortable with the language—but it’s usually best to keep jargon to a minimum. It ends up clogging up conversations, confusing potential customers, and muddying the meaning of a sentence.

Simply put: If too much jargon is used, clarity is lost.

Instead of using a euphemism for a term, express what you actually mean. Instead of asking someone if they have “the bandwidth” to perform a project, ask them if they have the time, resources, and appropriate support. You’ll end up getting a more specific, straight-forward answer rather than a simple “yes” or “no” reply.

Be especially careful with corporate speak when you’re meeting with prospects, new clients, or potential new employees. Businesses tend to use industry-specific terminology which may be difficult for others to interpret. For instance, a company with a global presence might use the term “business process outsourcing” (or BPO), while a company specializing in education might use the term “digital literacy.” In both cases, the terminology may feel natural to those within the industry, but could confuse those outside the industry.

Language matters. The terms you use can contribute to an open, inclusive environment, or they can obfuscate meaning or leave certain people feeling confused or irritated. Do your best to use clear terms and don’t forget to ask for clarification when you need it. Chances are, if you’re confused by an acronym or unusual turn-of-phrase, others will be too.

Let’s aim for simplicity and precision in our workplaces! If you’d like some additional guidance, be sure to check out my short video on clarity.

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

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I’ve worked with a variety of different teams over the past thirty years, from sales to marketing to creative. Although it’s tempting to gather people together who are like-minded, I’ve found that the most capable, innovative teams are those with a diverse set of perspectives and personalities. When several different personalities are balanced (and everyone has an opportunity to voice their opinions and ideas), teams tend to flourish.

Who to seek out when you’re putting together a team?

Think about personalities from a macro perspective. What are your co-workers like, in general. What are their strengths? What have they accomplished that stand out in your mind? How do they interact with others?

Getting to know your co-workers on a personal level is key to assembling a powerhouse team. The more you know about them, the better equipped you’ll be to compose a well-balanced team. This process, of course, doesn’t happen over night. Take your time building authentic relationships with others and you’ll make a long-term investment in your leadership.

Let’s say you know your co-workers fairly well. What then? Who, exactly, do you want on your team?

A good guide to use is the Insights® Discovery color wheel. This wheel represents the four major personalities we typically find in others, represented by the colors blue, red, yellow, and green. For more on the basics of this remarkable program, please refer to my past blog post on understanding Insights® .

The basic traits of each Insights personality. Everyone has a little of each color in them!

Let’s take a look at the four Insights® colors and how they can contribute to creating a balanced team:

Cool Blue:

Those who tend to embrace the blue quadrant of the Insights® wheel tend to be thoughtful and analytical. They dig into the details of a project, ask probing questions, and help the group to consider many different paths to success. They are typically driven by data and numbers, which can be helpful in many different types of projects.

UTILIZE THE BLUE:

Those who lead with blue energy may seem quiet or even disengaged. As a group leader, make sure to specifically ask “blues” for their input and make sure they are given ample time to express their views without interruption.

Fiery Red:

Red-energy folks like action. They are usually bold, motivated by progress, and make decisions quickly. “Reds” are often natural leaders and can help carry a conversation, delegate tasks, or make executive decisions when the group is waffling.

UTILIZE THE RED:

When working with red-energy people, make sure their voice is heard and considered, but not over-represented. From time to time, it may be vital to remind reds that the first viable option may not necessarily be the best one and that considering multiple options may save the team time in the long run.

Sunshine Yellow:

Your yellow personalities are the ones who enjoy socialization and teamwork. They work best when they collaborate with others and can talk out their ideas. “Yellows” are crucial to your team’s success in the early stages of a project when brainstorming and idea generation is key. They also have the effect of motivating a team through their bright personalities and high energy.

UTILIZE THE YELLOW:

Throw yellow personalities into any mix of people and they’re bound to stand out as the social leaders. As I mentioned, that’s great for idea-generating and motivation, but make sure they don’t control every step of the process. One step you might take with yellows is to challenge them to get everyone involved during every meeting. Task them with calling upon those who haven’t spoken up in a while.

Earth Green:

Green personalities are vital to the team because they are highly empathetic and caring. This natural propensity for putting themselves in others shoes can help them see the project from the customer’s perspective and think about ways to best serve a company’s client base. They are also good at making sure all perspectives on a team are heard and considered.

UTILIZE THE GREEN:

Oftentimes, green personalities are quiet—not because they have nothing to say, but because they want to hear others’ perspectives first. Because of this, they sometimes don’t get the opportunity to speak up and share their viewpoint. Make sure to engage your “greens” and let them know that their opinions are valued.

 

When you create a balanced team, you lay the groundwork for innovation, creativity, and productivity. Although teams with various personalities may clash from time to time, the overwhelming benefits that can be achieved from a balanced team far outweigh the risks. How will you start building your balanced team 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

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

quit saying no problem

You’ve rearranged your schedule, taken the time to prepare, and said “no” to other commitments. You’re just about to head into the meeting for which you’ve worked so hard to get ready and then…you get an email: “Something came up. Can we postpone the meeting to next week?”

Many of us have the tendency—even if we’re frustrated by the situation—to respond, “No problem. We can do next week.” But the thing is, there is a problem.

Sometimes people have legitimate excuses for not showing up, canceling something at the last minute, or not getting an assignment to you on time. BUT, if you tolerate this kind of behavior regularly, you are essentially giving other people permission to walk all over you.

Not to mention, many people cancel or postpone meetings simply because they don’t feel like going. They see the meeting as a low priority item—something that can be blown off. And THAT is a huge problem.

So what do you do?

How can you convey your frustration to your client, co-worker, or boss without coming across as a complete ogre?

It’s a tricky situation, especially in my Midwestern home base where politeness is the norm (even at the expense of your own discomfort or annoyance!). But, the issue must be addressed. Otherwise, this kind of cavalier attitude toward meetings will continue. You will be at the mercy of someone else’s whims.

Start putting your foot down. Try these four different approaches (or a variation) and begin holding others accountable.

1. Express that you’ve been inconvenienced.

Try responding with: “Actually, I rearranged my schedule and was counting on this meeting to direct the rest of my week’s work. Next week is pretty packed for me, so I won’t be able to meet then. Is there any way you can make today’s meeting, even if you’re a few minutes late?”

2. Tap into the other person’s emotional side by telling them how the situation made you feel.

Try: “This is the second time we’ve pushed back this meeting. That makes me feel as if my time isn’t valued.”

OR: “We’ve had to reschedule this meeting multiple times. I’m beginning to get frustrated, since I end up wasting time each time we reschedule. Can we make a firm commitment to meet next Tuesday?”

3. Tell your side of the story.

“I spent most of the morning preparing for our meeting instead of working on the XYZ project, which is due next week. This cancellation really throws a monkey wrench into my schedule. Is there any way you can shuffle some things on your end and make at least part of today’s meeting?”

4. Come up with an alternative plan.

“Since it seems like you’ve had to cancel several in-person meetings, why don’t we aim for a phone meeting next time? Say, tomorrow? 10 a.m?”

 

Your time and presence are valuable. If others tend to drop appointments or not follow through with their commitments, it’s time to take a firm stand. Let them know, as tactfully as possible, that yes, there is a problem.

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

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

gain control of conversation

Have you ever been in a situation where the conversation went off the rails? Maybe you were trying to talk to a client about a new product and they insisted on talking about politics or their latest family vacation. Or maybe you were leading a meeting and your team began to stray from the topic at hand. Or maybe every time you talk with a particularly chatty co-worker, it’s difficult to get a word in edgewise.

What do you do?

Start with these 5 steps:

1. Believe that your voice counts

Enter every conversation with the confidence that your voice (your thoughts, ideas, and opinions) matters. Believe in what you have to say and you will find a way to bring it up in the conversation. Keep in mind: there’s a difference between confidence and arrogance. What you have to say is important, but it’s not the only opinion that counts. Your listening ear is just as important as your voice.

2. Acknowledge what the other person is saying

It’s important to let the other party know that, yes, you hear what they have to say. You can also use this tact as a way to step in and take control of the conversation. For example:

“What I hear you saying, Bill, is that you’d like to implement more customer service surveys. I think that’s a great idea that warrants more discussion. I’d like to focus on that more during our next meeting so that we give the topic the time it deserves. In the meantime, let’s finish going over our quarterly reports and see what other ideas crop up…”

3. Keep your audience engaged

What you have to say is important; make sure your audience hears it! Instead of lecturing at others, make an effort to engage them. Ask questions, request feedback, and ask your audience if any clarification is needed. Make others a part of what you’re doing, not just passive observers.

4. Be direct

Oftentimes, the best way to refocus a conversation is to be direct. Acknowledge what the other party is saying (see tip #2) and then transition into what you’d like to say. Your interaction may go something like this:

“Your family vacation sounds great, Susan, and I’d love to discuss it more tomorrow, but I’m afraid I have to shift the conversation back to business…”

 

Remember: What you have to say is important! Don’t sell yourself short. Have the confidence to interject when necessary (in a tactful way!) and let your voice be heard.

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

Tags: , , , , , ,

Delegate effectively

What can you achieve by DELEGATING?

You’re up to your eyeballs with work, scrambling to complete projects, catch up with clients, and put out fires…all while trying to keep on top of email and maybe grab some lunch at some point! You work late, get home after dark, and can only think about work as you zone out in front of the television. The next day, your boss calls you up and asks you to take on a new client. As usual, you say yes.

Sound like a familiar story?

Unfortunately, many of us are afraid to ask others for assistance when we’re feeling overwhelmed. We think it shows weakness or a lack of dedication. We’re afraid we will appear incapable, or that it will even affect our chance of promotion.

In most cases, however, the positive aspects of delegation far outweigh the negative aspects. Here’s what happens when you delegate:

1. You prevent burnout

Delegation helps you work at a more sustainable, healthy pace, rather than a frantic pace that will leave you exhausted and unhappy.

2. You achieve better results

Instead of doing a dozen projects with mediocre results (which is definitely not promotion-worthy behavior), you can focus on a couple of projects and achieve quality results.

3. You gain focus

It’s a good idea to delegate tasks to other people that do not fall into your areas of expertise. Instead, focus on the areas in which you excel and continue building your skills in those areas.

4. You create healthy boundaries

If people know you will say yes to any and every project, they will begin taking advantage of you. Draw a line in the sand and either say no (here are a few diplomatic ways to do that) or delegate.

5. You exhibit strong leadership

By pragmatically delegating to others, you demonstrate that you have a clear understanding of your team and what makes them tick. You also show that you trust your co-workers enough to let go of the reins and let them take over an assignment.

 

Of course, it’s a good idea to be thoughtful and tactful when you delegate. Don’t try to shuffle your work off to someone who also has no time or interest. Instead, consider your co-workers’ talents and their availability.

If you are a leader, dole out assignments with care. Explain to each person why you selected him or her for the task at hand. Be sure to let that person know you are available to answer questions or point them toward available resources.

If you are not in a leadership position, your delegation may look a little different. When someone asks you to take on a project, counter by telling them that you have far too much on your plate at the moment and say something like, “Have you considered Rosa? She excelled in a similar project last quarter and I think she has some availability.”

And if things are really out of hand with your current workload, you may want to have a sit-down meeting with your boss and explain your position. Remember: it’s always a good idea to check your co-workers’ availability and interest in a new project before name-dropping them.

Start working smarter. Delegate wisely and open up new possibilities in your career.


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

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

perennials: don't generalize by generation

I hear it all the time. People complaining about other generations.

“Millennials are                I don’t understand them at all.”

Or: “Why are Baby Boomers so               ?”

Or: “Everyone in Gen X is clearly                  .”

It’s time we stop limiting each other. These on-the-surface labels are doing much more harm than good. They allow us to write off entire generations (many millions of people!) with sweeping generalizations. And the truth is, many people don’t fit the stereotypes.

Take “entitlement,” for example. Many people think of Millennials (the group born between 1980 and 2000) as an entitled bunch that thinks they deserve things without actually working for them. Not only is this stereotype getting tiresome, it is frankly untrue.

Although many of them started working at an economically tumultuous time (the Great Recession), Millennials have proven themselves to be innovative and resilient. They’ve invented jobs when none were available; they’ve taken over top leadership positions; they’ve learned how to live with less by taking advantage of the new “sharing economy.”

Are some Millennials entitled and lazy? Of course. But so are many Gen-Xers and Boomers.

And just because Millennials have new ways of working, doesn’t mean they’re lazy. They might simply have a better grasp on technology and be able to complete tasks more efficiently.

On the same token, not all Baby Boomers are out-of-touch and irrelevant! Many are excited and interested in new technologies, new ways of thinking, and creative endeavors.

Although generational constructs are helpful for marketing purposes, they can be utterly lethal in the workplace. Pigeonholing people before they’ve had a chance to show their true colors only harms productivity and interpersonal dynamics. Besides, you might be working alongside Perennials, a group that defies generational boundaries.

What are Perennials?

Gina Pell, who coined the term, says that Perennials are “ever-blooming, relevant people of all ages who live in the present time, know what’s happening in the world, stay current with technology, and have friends of all ages…[they] comprise an inclusive, enduring mindset, not a divisive demographic.”

I’m sure you’ve encountered many so-called Perennials in your life. These are the young people with “old souls.” These are the older people who love to crack jokes and try new things. These are the people who don’t limit their interactions to their own peer group and instead find friendship with people of all ages. These are the people who refuse to be defined by age.

As Pell says: “It’s time we chose our own category based on shared values and passions and break out of the faux constructs behind an age-based system of classification.”

I couldn’t agree more.

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

Tags: , , , , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: