Skip to content

UXL Blog

Creating Successful Leaders

Category Archives: Communication

We spend so much time in our own heads, and wrapped up in our own thoughts, we tend to forget that others think differently than we do. They might have different perspectives, different trigger points, or process information in a different way. These differences could stem from our backgrounds, experiences, personalities, world views—any number of factors that shape our thoughts.

It is important to A) acknowledge these differences and B) embrace them!

As a Licensed Practitioner of Insights Discovery (read more about Insights in this post), I am very familiar with diversity of thought. Some people thrive on data and logic. They prefer to collect all the information they possibly can before making a decision (or even speaking up). In Insights Discovery language, these individuals lead with “blue energy.”

Others are creative idea generators. They like to throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks (so to speak!). They enjoy talking out their thoughts and bouncing ideas off others. Generally, these people lead with “yellow energy.”

Additionally, a team might be comprised of “green energy” folks, who tend to be the most inclusive and empathetic of the four color energies. Their thinking often revolves around the greater good and how best to help people.

Then, there’s “red energy.” These individuals are action-oriented, so their thought process might go like this: “How can we get the best people on this project ASAP, and start delivering results?”

All these examples are, of course, generalizations (and I am very much glossing over what it means to lead with blue, yellow, green, and red energy), but the point I’m trying to illustrate is that people think, react, and process information in different ways. And that’s a good thing!

Can you imagine if everyone on your team was yellow energy-oriented and only enjoyed creative brainstorming? Maybe some of the ideas would bear fruit, but, without any data to back up the ideas, it’s difficult to know. On the other hand, data is absolutely critical for informing decisions, but data alone doesn’t create innovative solutions. You need a blend of both creativity and data.

So, when you’re making decisions on who to include on your team, take diversity of thought into consideration. Make an effort to include those who have different backgrounds and perspectives, diverse approaches, and various ways of looking at information or generating ideas. One way to identify thought diversity in your workplace is to utilize a science-based assessment program such as StrengthsFinder, DiSC, or (of course!) Insights Discovery.

If you’d like to learn more, send me a note.

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. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Many organizations are still getting used to a work-from-home or hybrid workforce. Even if they use a variety of virtual technologies, that isn’t necessarily enough to create a level playing field between employees. Part of the reason some people may receive preferential treatment in today’s (often hybrid) environment is due to a subconscious tendency known as proximity bias.

What is Proximity Bias?

In short, proximity bias has to do with giving preference to those who are close by. The BBC describes proximity bias as “an unconscious – and unwise – tendency to give preferential treatment to those in our immediate vicinity.” Due to proximity, we might distribute projects or tasks unfairly, let certain people “have the floor” more often during meetings, or pay closer attention to those who are nearby…all without even realizing we’re doing it.

Humans are constantly seeking 1) shortcuts and 2) connections. Because of these tendencies, proximity bias is the most natural thing in the world. It’s easier to assign tasks or communicate with those who are in the office next door. And it’s easier to form connections when you’re in the same room as someone, rather than someone in the virtual space. Frankly, that is unfair to those who are unable to regularly be in the office for whatever reason (irregular childcare schedules, caretaking for an ailing loved one, an outlandishly long commute, etc.)

How do we change these impulsive tendencies?

How Do We Overcome Proximity Bias?

The first step is to build awareness.

Once you understand proximity bias and its implications, you can begin working to overcome it. Start paying attention to the interactions you have with those close by, as opposed to the interactions you have with virtual workers. Start questioning your preferences—who is assigned certain projects, who has the most air time during meetings, etc. Tuning in is the first step to making mindful, meaningful changes.

Secondly, normalize logging in.

Even if part of your team is sharing a conference room during a meeting, encourage everyone to log in to their own laptop. That way, you’re conducting one meeting (in the virtual space), instead of two meetings, and in-person participants won’t be able to strike up side conversations or give body language signals that the virtual attendees might not see. Logging in when you’re in the same room might seem awkward at first, but people will adapt (especially if you explain why it’s important to do so).

Third, make sure everyone has equal access to resources.

Files should be shared in a virtual space; action plans and notes should be digitized. To further combat proximity bias, it’s a good idea to promote virtual discussions/forums, rather than rely on casual hallway interactions. Besides, if you use online forums, you’ll have a digital record of ideas and discussions that could be useful going forward.

Fourth, balance in-person meetings/events with virtual ones.

When the office culture revolves around in-person lunches, activities, and get togethers, those who are working remotely are naturally left out. When that happens, their connection with the office and their co-workers (and, often, and their sense of loyalty to the company) diminishes. Instead, make a conscious effort to host online events just as often (or more often!) as in-person ones.

Proximity bias is a very real phenomenon, but it is possible to combat it. Even though it’s difficult to entirely erase this subconscious bias, we can all take mindful steps to minimize it.

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. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Quick-thinking and the ability to command attention in a crowd–it’s no surprise that when people mentally assign roles in the workplace, they often place extroverts at the top. Introverts, however, have their own set of unique strengths that can allow them to become exceptional leaders, their natural listening and observation skills offering a peaceful and inclusive environment. Despite the positives of the introverted personality, sometimes the line between the “quiet-listener” and the “disinterested and imperceptive wallflower” can become blurred in the eyes of colleagues, so here are a few tips to remain at the top of your game as you excel in your field.

SCHEDULE ONE-ON-ONE MEETINGS

Large meetings with multiple voices can feel overwhelming for many introverts, but workplace leaders need to ensure they’re actively building genuine, solid relationships with each member of their team. Consider scheduling semi-regular, individual meetings with colleagues to affirm that you’ve heard, processed, and had time to reflect on their ideas while preparing feedback and new ideas to share with them in a more casual, relaxed environment.

PREPARE AHEAD OF TIME

Whether it’s an all-staff meeting or an important presentation, advanced preparation can make a huge difference in the way you come across to your audience. Asking for the meeting agenda in advance can allow you time to gather your thoughts and write them down! Introverts tend to struggle with on-the-spot thinking, so going into engagements with key points already established can help to ease the anxiety you may feel with being the center of attention.

BE ACCESSIBLE AND APPROACHABLE

While it may be tempting to retreat to your office and shut your door after a particularly taxing meeting, finding a balance between accessibility and personal time is necessary. With leadership comes the necessity for open lines of communication between you and other members of staff, so finding a healthy balance is important. Try communicating about when your door is open and when you’ll be unavailable.

EMBRACE YOUR STRENGTHS

There are many positive traits introverted leaders possess. Insightful and empathetic, introverts have the ability to stay calm and step up and gain control in a crisis situation. The observant and introspective nature of introverts allow them to be great problem-solvers when needed and creates space in group discussions for all voices to be heard.

BROADEN YOUR COMFORT ZONE

Stepping outside your comfort zone can be difficult and uncomfortable, but there is value in challenging yourself to expand your skills. In most leadership positions, public speaking and managing conflict are largely unavoidable, so lean into them! Set a goal to speak up at least one time during team meetings or finesse your public speaking prowess by taking courses designed specifically to help people in your shoes; best of all, you’ll likely learn alongside people with similar struggles and find that you’re hardly alone.

SELF CARE IS KEY

Commit to setting personal and professional boundaries to maintain your physical and emotional health. Block out some space in your calendar throughout your week where you’re unavailable to take meetings and phone calls, and focus instead on recharging and getting your work done. Remember to leave work at work; maintaining a strong work/life balance and practicing self-care rituals will make a world of difference.

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. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

Tags: , , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: