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Creating Successful Leaders

Category Archives: Communication

The holiday season is a time of year that can highlight friendships and kinship. It’s a time to give thanks, reflect on the year, and think about the road ahead. It’s a time to rekindle bonds and enjoy each other’s company. Even if the holidays aren’t perfect (arguments happen, stress doesn’t magically disappear), they can be a reminder of the potential good in the world—a reminder that we can sit at the same table with a variety of people and hold a civil conversation.

Too often, we look for differences. We divide ourselves into groups and see some people as “outsiders.” We declare that we could never be friends with someone who believes X or supports Y. This way of thinking is pervasive these days, with the country deeply divided on matters of politics, human rights, and beliefs. It almost seems unreconcilable.

But what if we decided to search for common bonds, instead of the aspects that divide us?

What if we sought connections, instead of looking for excuses to dismiss someone outright?

I have found that I can hold a conversation with just about anyone, if I simply look for common connections. Everyone has something (or multiple somethings) they care about—their family, their dog, gardening, playing golf, traveling, their career. Maybe you share some of those interests, too. Or maybe you’re interested in learning more about them. Even if you don’t see eye to eye on everything, I’m certain you can still find some common link (even if it’s as simple as enjoying pizza or reality TV!).

I’m not advocating for leaving your strongly held beliefs behind. Of course not. And sometimes differences are so vast that it can be difficult to interact with certain people. But what I am saying is that, in my experience, most human beings do not want to do each other harm. Most of us simply want to make a decent living, enjoy our time with family and friends, and live and let live.

So, this holiday season, let us do our best to build bridges instead of walls. Let’s reach out to others, make connections, and attempt to see the humanity in all. And once the holidays draw to a close, why not keep up this bridge-building mentality? Why not keep the spirit of unity alive throughout the rest of the year? The world would likely be a better place if we did.

Happy holidays.

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. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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It is possible to be a good manager if you simply go through the motions, do your work, and field any issues that crop up. But what distinguishes a good manager from a great one? How can you step up your leadership game so that people see you as a trustworthy role model and a motivator?

There are a few crucial traits that separate good and great managers. If you feel that some of these traits are underdeveloped, that’s okay! It is possible to consciously work on these areas to grow and improve your leadership.

Here are 5 crucial traits of great managers:

1. They are excellent listeners

A good listener is an active listener. They pay attention when others are talking—not just to the words, but also to tone of voice, vocal inflections, and facial expressions. An active listener maintains an open mind and asks good questions. They are curious and genuinely want to understand the speaker’s point of view.

Active listening demonstrates that you care. You don’t brush aside others’ perspectives; rather, you open yourself to new ideas, opinions, and viewpoints. You take a genuine interest in what others have to say, and then apply what you’ve learned. Great managers truly listen.

2. They set clear expectations

Top managers are usually excellent communicators. Their expectations are never a mystery because they clearly and openly communicate with their team. As a manager, it is important to articulate goals, set deadlines, and deliver any relevant information. It is also important to hold everyone accountable for their work. If expectations are not met, it is up to the manager to find out why and either re-strategize or (in some cases) enact consequences.

3. They involve their team

Great managers understand that they do not have all the answers. They also understand that it is imperative to engage their team every step of the way. If a team is highly involved in a project (from initiation to implementation), they will have a personal stake in the project’s success. Additionally, this kind of involvement keeps people active and motivated.

As a manager, be sure to invite all thoughts and ideas when you’re embarking on a new project. Innovation is only possible if we dare to listen to a diverse array of voices. As long as the goals are clear, trust your team to define their own path.

4. They are adaptable

Businesses and markets can change in the blink of an eye. A capable manager rolls with the punches and isn’t afraid to change course. If something isn’t working—or if it’s clear that the company needs to head in a different direction—dare to confront the problems at hand and make changes. You do not, of course, have to re-strategize on your own. That’s where your team can come into play (see point 3!)

5. They foster trust

No one likes a micro-manager. No one thrives when they feel like their superior is constantly looking over their shoulder, monitoring their every move. Dare to take a step back and give your team some breathing room! As long as you set clear expectations and create a culture of accountability, does it really matter what your employees do on a given day? If someone consistently produces quality work, does it matter if they head to the gym for an hour each afternoon? (Incidentally, taking meaningful breaks can actually boost productivity!). If your team is engaged, making good progress (which you can track through reports or regular meetings), and regularly producing good results, then it’s wise to take a step back and let the little things go.

Another aspect of trust has to do with holding regular one-on-one check-ins with your team members. These check-ins can be used to gauge progress, but their primary purpose should be to get to know your team, listen to their thoughts or grievances, and offer whatever support you can. Encourage an open dialogue, and make sure to keep any personal information strictly confidential. Trust might not happen overnight, but with each conversation and each action that shows you care, you will build it.

There is a definite line between good managers and great ones. Do you need to develop some of the 5 traits of a great manager? If so, pick one area and focus on that for the next month. Then, pick another area to develop, then another. The most important aspect of becoming a better manager is YOU and the honest effort you make to improve and connect with your team.

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. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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In this blog, I have often talked about “love leadership” and being a compassionate, caring leader. That is vitally important for fostering open communication, developing an atmosphere of trust, and keeping your team energized and engaged.

Leading with love, however, does NOT mean being a pushover. It is crucial to not only show empathy and genuine concern for your staff, but to also create a culture of accountability. How can you balance the two? Try these five steps:

1. Communicate with Clarity

Aim for clarity, every step of the way. Set clear goals and expectations, and be transparent about the consequences if those expectations are not met. If a deadline is not met, for instance, it should come as no surprise that the person or team who missed the deadline will need to work overtime to make up for their tardiness. Or, if someone is consistently turning in sub-par work, that person should know what is coming (a probationary period, perhaps, or working with a mentor to improve their work).

Communicating with clarity also means encouraging your team to ask questions. Be transparent, create an open line of communication, and be open to modifying expectations if new information comes to light.

2. Be Consistent

A work team can always spot favoritism. Make sure you’re holding everyone accountable, not just certain team members. There will be times, of course, when some people need a little extra time or assistance to complete a project, but that doesn’t mean they are exempt from expectations. Be fair, but also be consistent.

3. Know When to Make Exceptions

Even if you’ve made your expectations clear, there are times when exceptions are necessary. Use your judgment on this and take all aspects of a situation into account before enacting consequences. If someone shows up late to a meeting because their car broke down while driving their kids to daycare, give that person a little understanding and grace. If, however, that same person is consistently late to meetings, it’s a good idea to sit down with them, discover the root of the problem, and strategize ways to help them become more punctual (perhaps their children’s daycare doesn’t open until later, in which case the solution might be to push back morning meetings by half an hour).

4. Make Sure the Consequences Match the Shortcoming

There is a big difference between turning in an assignment a few hours late and yelling at a customer. If the offense is minor, usually it’s possible to work past it. Sit down with the person, talk about what happened, and come up with a solution, going forward. If the offense is major, you may have to take extreme measures. It is never pleasant to do this, but some actions are inexcusable and go beyond a simple strategy session.

5. Know When to Make Hard Decisions

If someone repeatedly falls short of expectations or makes serious errors that affect the entire team or company, they should know that their job is potentially at stake. If you have tried several different approaches to work through their troubles, they should understand when they’re on their “final chance.” Know when to draw that line in the sand. You can be a compassionate, empathetic leader, and still dole out consequences when necessary. As long as expectations have been clear every step of the way, a probationary period or a dismissal should not come as a surprise.

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. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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