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Creating Successful Leaders

Category Archives: Discussions

We’re back, friends. We’ve all made one more trip around the sun together and we’re back in the holiday season. In many parts of the world, it is cold and dark (and getting colder and darker!), but there is still much to be thankful for. If you’re reading this, you can be thankful for literacy and for access to an electronic device. If you are indoors, you can be thankful for shelter. If you ate today, you can be grateful for access to food. Most of us can also be thankful for family members and/or friends—those who lift us up, check in, remember our birthdays.

The truth is, most of us have a lot more than we realize. We just don’t always remember what we have or remember to be grateful.

Today, I challenge you to pause and reflect. Think about what went well this year, instead of dwelling on any failures you might have experienced. Think of the people who made a positive impact in your life—even strangers who said a kind word or helped in some way. Think of your favorite moments from this past year—where were you and who were you with? If you’d like to jot some notes about favorite moments or positive experiences from the past year, grab a notebook and pen and start writing!

Don’t you feel better? Isn’t it nice to set aside self-criticism and negativity for a while and focus on all the good that surrounds us?

Reflecting on the positive aspects of life should not be reserved for once a year, and yet we tend to throw all our gratitude energy into Thanksgiving. Why not spread it out? Why not carry a feeling of gratitude with us all year round?

Some people do try to live a life of gratitude, and those people, in my experience, are some of the happiest and most compassionate people I know. Instead of letting others’ negative actions or comments weigh them down, they “let it slide” and move on. Instead of getting tripped up by bumps in the road, they get into problem-solving mode.

My wish is that we will all learn to be a bit more gentle and forgiving with ourselves and others. I wish we would spend more time focusing on the rainbow, instead of the rain. By adopting this attitude, even the most difficult paths become possible. Just put one foot in front of the other and start seeing all the good that surrounds you, each and every day.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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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two people talking in a waiting room

It’s no surprise that many of us tend to avoid difficult conversations. Why would we want to make ourselves uncomfortable or become the subject of someone’s wrath? Why would we want to potentially open a can of worms?

Though difficult conversations are just that—difficult—they are also sometimes necessary for improving the present climate or paving the way to a better future. Though you may be reluctant, or even a little scared, to engage in difficult conversations, oftentimes they are necessary and can actually improve things, going forward.

Here are 4 reasons to dare to hold difficult conversations:

[NOTE: In past blog posts I’ve talked about how to prepare for difficult conversations. See this post about the D4 Model and this newsletter about the 5 P’s of Courage for more…]

1. They can set the record straight

In many workplaces, rumors fly and reality can get twisted or obscured. If you’re in a situation where you’re uncertain of the truth, it’s best to sit down with the people involved and get to the bottom of it. It might be as simple as figuring out who was in charge of a certain report or who neglected to contact a client when that needed to happen. The purpose of this conversation isn’t to place blame, but rather to uncover the truth and begin to problem solve.

This type of conversation can also help you put safeguards in place so that the same unfortunate situation doesn’t happen again. It’s possible that it’s no one’s “fault” and the system simply needs a bit of an overhaul.

2. They can provide forward motion

Sometimes when we fail to confront a difficult situation, that can lead to stagnation. The office might be so hung up or distracted by a single person’s (or a group of people’s) actions that it becomes their primary focus. To get the wagon wheel out of the rut, you need to face the situation head-on and engage in a potentially difficult conversation(s).

EXAMPLE: Let’s say Kim hasn’t been turning in her reports on time, which, in turn affects the rest of her team’s progress. Everyone is upset and productivity is down. To get past this rut, you’ll have to bite the bullet and have a conversation with Kim. It could be that Kim was unaware of her responsibilities or didn’t understand the dominoes affect her tardiness was having. It’s possible Kim has felt unsupported or unmotivated lately (in which case, maybe she’s in the wrong role). Regardless, having this conversation can help move your entire team from a place of stagnation to forward movement and problem-solving.

3. They can start dialogues

You may not truly understand someone’s actions, or what is going on in their head, until you speak with them. It’s possible a situation is more complex than you realized (for instance, maybe someone is constantly late for their 8 a.m. Zoom meetings because they have to drop their kids off at daycare). It’s also possible that the other person hasn’t understood the consequences of their recent actions. Sitting down and having a conversation can help create a bridge of understanding. It can open dialogues and help both sides understand what is broken and how to go about fixing things.

4. They can earn you respect, as a leader

Effective leaders have to make hard decisions and engage in difficult conversations regularly. That’s the reality. If you gain a reputation as someone who avoids problems and lets things “work themselves out,” you won’t gain much respect. If, however, you are known to tackle problems head-on and address issues as soon as you notice them, you’ll be seen as a proactive leader who has a real stake in the wellbeing of your team. What’s more, people will come to understand that you will hold others accountable for their actions and you will act in the best interest of the team. Your people will know you have their backs.

Instead of shying away from difficult conversations, embrace them! Start seeing them as opportunities to have fruitful conversations that move your team forward. Tough conversations can be uncomfortable or daunting, but the rewards are ultimately worth it. This comes with the territory when you’re a leader, and it’s a good idea to make lemonade with whatever lemons the workplace throws at you.


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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Many people I know run at about a mile a minute. They juggle work responsibilities, family, household chores, friendships, cooking, car repairs, and about a million other little things. When they do finally find a moment to themselves, they often spend it in front of the TV, or maybe listening to music, a podcast, or an audiobook.

Amid all the action and noise, where is the silence?

Silence is important because it allows us the time and space we need to just think and be present. When we go on a quiet walk or take a shower or drive the car with the radio turned off, we give our minds a much-needed break. These quiet moments allow ideas to germinate and come to life. They are essential to the creative process.

Think about it. How much creativity can you really have during a Zoom meeting? Or when you’re helping out with homework? Or scrambling to put together dinner?

There’s a reason why the advertising agents in the show Mad Men have all their best ideas during “downtime.” When your brain is allowed some peace and quiet, it has the freedom to stretch and travel to places it might not usually go. Entrepreneur Jason Hennessey sets aside an entire day (what he calls “Creative Wednesdays”) for idea generation and creative endeavors. He admits that the idea of devoting a whole day to creativity was daunting at first. He feared that he wouldn’t get all his work done and that deadlines wouldn’t be met. However, he found that his Creative Wednesdays actually made him more productive during the other four days of his workweek. He had more energy and enthusiasm, and he found himself looking forward to his mid-week creative time.

Get Started

You don’t have to dedicate an entire day to quiet, creative time (it’s simply not feasible for many people). However, you can start somewhere. Begin by setting aside fifteen minutes or half an hour every day for quiet journaling, mind mapping, or free writing. If you have a family or housemates, let them know what you’re up to, so they respect your space. Then, find a quiet a room or go for a walk and let the ideas flow!

This may not come naturally at first, but take heart. You’ll soon become accustomed to your designated quiet time. To help ease into this time, you may want to practice free writing. Pick a topic and write whatever comes to mind. Let your thoughts flow in a stream of consciousness. Don’t worry about grammar or complete sentences—just write. You may be surprised by what comes out!

We all need a little more silence in our lives. Try fostering quiet creative time in your life, and see what comes of 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. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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