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Everyone has been abuzz about “quiet quitting” lately. This workplace trend essentially involves doing the bare minimum to meet one’s job requirements. No extra projects. No overtime or answering emails after hours. If it’s not in the job description, it won’t be done.

I have mixed feelings about the trend.

On the one hand, workers should be able to have a healthy work/life balance. With access to emails, chat groups, and texting, it’s easy for a boss to check in after hours and say, “Can you do just one more thing…” If the workplace is in crisis mode, an after-hours check-in could make sense, but aside from that, it is unwarranted and unhealthy. We all need some separation from our work lives and our homes lives (and that barrier has become quite thin lately, with so many people working from home).

However, I can also see quiet quitting going a step too far and turning into apathy. If you’re only willing to do the minimum, you won’t be willing to grow or challenge yourself. You won’t think outside the box, take initiative, challenge yourself, or get creative. In short, you’ll stagnate.

How can leaders push back against quiet quitting?

Leaders are not helpless when it comes to quiet quitting. In fact, they have much more power than they might realize. A person who feels motivated and inspired is not going to want to quit quietly. Someone who feels supported in the workplace, has strong connections with their leader and co-workers, and is engaged in their work is not going to quietly drift into “bare minimum” territory.

Let’s talk about ways leaders can build a team of enthusiastic doers, rather than quiet quitters.

1. Understand the reasons for quiet quitting

Essentially, quiet quitting stems from discontentment. Is your team (or a specific team member) feeling overworked or underappreciated? Are their voices and perspectives stifled in some way? Are they doing work that doesn’t suit their abilities and interests?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, take note! The environment is ripe for quiet quitting.

2. Get to know individuals

Running a team is not just about doling out assignments and making sure work is completed. That is the bare minimum. Effective leaders get to know every individual on their team—their interests, their capabilities, which types of projects energize and excite them, any barriers (including personal struggles) that might be holding them back, etc.

Getting to know your team members takes time and a concerted effort. I suggest meeting regularly with each person one-on-one, asking good questions (e.g. What are your most interesting projects right now? Least interesting? What do you wish you could be doing more of?), and listening closely to their answers. Consider keeping a file on each person to track anything useful that you learn.

3. Work toward a shared vision

When people feel as though they are part of a shared vision, they feel included and energized. Their path is clear (they know the big end goal), and they understand how their work contributes to the vision. This may be an overarching company vision, or it may be a vision you establish as a team. Either way, keep your vision top-of-mind, discuss it often, and make sure everyone understands how they are contributing and pushing the needle. This is true team work.

Effective leaders have no need to fear the quiet quitting trend. If you take the time to truly get to know your team members, make sure they are doing work they love and care about, and work toward a shared vision, you’ll likely have an energized team that is excited about their work and want to contribute. Even if that means stretching themselves past the minimum.

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

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For many of us, creating art feels like a leisure activity that we simply don’t have time to do. Who can devote 17 hours to making a vase? Or spend weeks painting and repainting a canvas. And then there’s learning a new skill (photography, calligraphy, needlework…). How many hours does that take?

While it doestake time to master an art form, that’s not necessarily the goal of creating art (especially if you’re doing it for enjoyment, rather than earning an income). The important thing is the action itself, not perfection. The simple act of making art (no matter its form) can be a wonderful and welcome escape. Even doodling in a notebook counts! You don’t have to make something to hang on the wall or display in a case (though you could!). The point is simply to DO.

The act of creating art can have remarkably positive side effects. Some of these include the following:

Stress Reduction

Art, in its many forms, has been known to lower stress. Studies have shown that creativity can increase dopamine levels—a neurotransmitter that is known to increase happiness and stave off feelings of anxiety, stress, or even depression.

I suggest picking an artform that comes naturally to you—watercolor, pencil drawing, molding clay, knitting—and engaging in that activity throughout the week, especially when you’re feeling stressed. What do you noticed when you do this activity? How does it feel to let your mind drift as you’re creating art?

Increased Optimism

When you actively make art, your spirits lift and you tend to feel more optimistic. Artwork can spark creativity and inspire hope. The same goes for looking at certain pieces of artwork. If you’re beholding a rugged mountain landscape or a serene forest path, you may begin to feel inspired or comforted. What inspires you? A blooming flower? A lake in the middle of a dense forest? Abstract colors and shapes? Photos of the galaxy? Either create it or view it.

Better Problem-Solving and Focus

Professor and art therapy researcher Girija Kaimal says that “making art should induce what the scientific community calls ‘flow’ …It’s that sense of losing yourself, losing all awareness. You’re so in the moment and fully present that you forget all sense of time and space.” When you allow yourself a moment to get creative, your concentration improves and you equip yourself for problem-solving.

Kaimal also states that art could serve an “evolutionary purpose” by helping us “navigate problems that might arise in the future.” When we choose to let our minds wander, they can go to incredible places and, perhaps, even aid us in problem solving.

Improved Self-Esteem

In addition to the many neurological benefits I’ve mentioned, art can also act as a confidence booster. How? Positive accomplishments (even small ones, such as creating a doodle drawing or sewing on a button) give us a jolt of dopamine. One study examined the effects of participating in a creative art program on a group of women with Multiple Sclerosis. The study found that participants experienced “significant increases in self-esteem” after joining the art program.

Art is tangible, and creating it allows us to feel a distinct sense of accomplishment. That, alone, can give your confidence a boost.

Even if you’ve never considered yourself artistic, you might find enjoyment, relief, and clarity through art. Pick something you enjoy (or you think you’ll enjoy), start engaging in it regularly, and get into the habit of creating art. The potential positive effects are numerous.

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.

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It’s no secret that the modern workforce is discontent. The Great Resignation has brought many issues to light including disengagement, long hours, and unfair expectations. People have also cited a lack of meaning/purpose as one of the factors that created job dissatisfaction. Especially for younger generations, it is important to find purpose in one’s work.

When you wake up in the morning, do you feel excited for work? Are you energized to begin your day?

If not, you may need to infuse a little more meaning into your work. You have more control over your personal path than you might think. Oftentimes, workplaces offer some degree of flexibility to carve out your own path and exercise purpose-driven actions.

No matter what industry you’re in, there’s usually an opportunity to integrate art, altruism, community, or whatever piques your interest into your work. It only takes a little creativity, initiative, and perseverance. Let’s explore some of the ways to do that.

NOTE: While it IS (usually) possible to take proactive steps to add purpose to your work, sometimes the job itself is fundamentally flawed or simply not right for you. In that case, consider talking to a career coach (drop me a note if you’d like).

1. Look For Existing Opportunities

Depending on your organization, meaningful opportunities may already exist. Some businesses have groups devoted to community projects, art, or forming bonds between like-minded co-workers. Affinity groups, like the ones offered at Wells Fargo corporate, are useful for making meaningful connections and inciting positive change. Do a little research and see if your workplace offers anything that aligns with your interests.

2. Integrate Interests With Daily Work

Interested in photography? Volunteer to take pictures for the monthly newsletter or company website. Love writing? Ask your boss for writing-heavy assignments or, if you’re working in a team, offer to take on the writing tasks. Want to contribute to environmental responsibility? Host team lunches that use reusable or compostable plates and cutlery.

In short, see if it’s possible to meld your interests with your everyday workload.

3. Take Initiative!

Create your own meaning by initiating groups devoted to volunteering, artistic endeavors, or other projects related to your interests. Of course, you’ll want to go through the proper channels to do this, but you might be surprised by how willing organizations can be when it comes to volunteer or enrichment programs. Chances are, other people will also be interested in your endeavor, which translates to a more tight-knit, content work community.

Some ideas you might consider:

  • Creating an artists’ club for knitting, painting, photography, or whatever you’re interested in (Instead of a weekly happy hour, host an “art session” instead!)
  • Start a “meaningful” book club that focuses on books with a strong purpose
  • Volunteering in the local community (soup kitchens, book drives, etc.)
  • Initiating fundraisers for schools, safety, health and wellness, or whatever you’d like
  • Starting a “green” group that occasionally gets together to do roadside cleanups or raise money for parks, clean water, etc.
  • Founding a wellness program that focuses on clean eating, meditation, weekly yoga, or whatever you’re passionate about

4. Look For Resources

Some organizations have funds set aside for “extracurricular” work activities. Do your research! Your company might be willing to sponsor your initiative. Don’t forget, people count as resources too. You may be surprised by others’ excitement and willingness to help.

Do you feel invigorated? Energized? Ready to dive in and figure out how to make work more meaningful for YOU? I hope so. Finding meaning in your work is vital for your sustained happiness.

If you’d like a little more guidance, I’m here to help.

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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