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Creating Successful Leaders

Category Archives: Leadership

The wrong way to say thank you

You’re probably aware of the power of appreciation. It can motivate others, elevate moods, and actually improve employee retention rates. Employees who are recognized for their achievements report increased happiness at work and greater satisfaction with their superiors.

But—believe it or not—there IS a wrong way to express appreciation for your employees. How?

  • If the recognition seems forced or insincere
  • If the recognition is ubiquitous (EVERYONE gets a gold star!)
  • If someone is left out (part of a team is recognized for their achievements, while some are not)
  • If the recognition is generic or impersonal (a mass email)
  • If the recognition does not suit the individual (some people do not like being called out in front of a group, while others thrive on that type of recognition)

The last thing you want to do is come across as phony, insincere, or misinformed when you’re showing appreciation. How, then, do you, as a leader, demonstrate your true appreciation?

  • Be observant and aware (know who is performing above the norm and deserves recognition)
  • Regularly check in with your team and get to know them (this will help you understand when someone is personally excelling and how best to recognize that individual)
  • Pay attention to the little things
  • Focus on both work-related and non-work-related activities (if someone helps out a coworker who just had surgery, that deserves recognition too!)
  • When you say thank you or write out a thank you card, mean it. Your sincerity will shine through.
  • Be specific. Don’t just say “thanks for a job well done.” Point out specific achievements or contributions.

Employee recognition is important, and it’s crucial to go about it in an authentic, personalized way. Build trust with your team by being sincere, specific, and candid when you give praise. Believe me, people will notice and appreciate your authenticity and effort.

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

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New Manager

For years, the story has been the same: The number one reason an employee leaves a company is because of their manager.

To me, that says something loud and clear: We are not investing enough time and energy into our managers. Sure, they may receive some cursory training about their new role, but they rarely get anything beyond that.

Below, I list nine important items we SHOULD be training our managers on. Each item links to a blog post about that particular topic. All of these items are covered through the Build A Boss program, which my colleague, Karen, and I offer to business teams. We have found that these are universal items that managers in all industries can benefit from.

Instead of simply awarding a promotion and stepping back to let the manager “figure it out,” companies NEED to be working on the crucial skills that make their managers think like leaders.

Nine of these crucial lessons are encompassed in the following articles…

  1. “Just Be Yourself!” Leadership and Authenticity
  2. 4 Ways To Delegate More Effectively
  3. Balancing Head And Heart: Friendships At Work
  4. Resist the Urge to Micromanage
  5. How To Confront Someone (Without Making It Worse)
  6. Having CLEAR Conversations
  7. Creating an Inclusive Workplace with Insights® Discovery
  8. “The 6 People You Need in Your Corner” from Forbes Magazine
  9. What is the difference between a BOSS and a LEADER?

 

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

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Practicing Courageous Leadership

The wrap-up of my COURAGE Workbook series dives into courageous leadership. Even if you are not a manager or “boss,” you can still be a leader. Whether you’re heading up a project or you’re the office go-to expert on a certain computer program, you are a leader and leaders must act with courage.

Why courageous leadership?

Without courageous leaders, the workplace stagnates. Bold ideas and innovation are ignored in favor of “we’ve always done it this way” methods. On the other hand, bold leaders embrace change, empower their team, and forge ahead, even when it involves some amount of risk.

Courageous leaders also stick up for their team. They are advocates for others, which means occasionally putting themselves on the line.

Bold leaders are not afraid to admit when they’ve made a mistake. Rather than try to blame others, they accept responsibility and then move forward, looking for solutions to the problem.

As a leader, how will you act courageously?

  1. Have you ever had someone advocate for you (recommending you for a job/task, sticking up for your abilities, trusting you to do something even if others had doubt)? How did it feel? How can you pass on the favor to someone else?

 

  1. Commit to embracing bold ideas. How will you encourage others to bring forward their thoughts? How will you foster an atmosphere of open communication and idea-sharing?

 

 

  1. Courageous leadership often involves speaking up, whether you’re discussing an idea, a person’s role, or a big change. Identify your next “speaking up” opportunity (a staff meeting, a one-on-one, a coffee meeting, etc.). How will you commit to speaking up, despite the risks?

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

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When was the last time you paused and assessed your thoughts or the words you just said? When was the last time you considered your emotions and wondered why you feel the way you do?

It’s rare to be so self-reflective, but it can play a huge role in both your professional and personal success.

When you deeply understand yourself, you are aware of the situations that make you uncomfortable and the ones that bring you joy. You understand your personal communication style and your ideal conditions for a good conversation. You also know your perfect work environment and how best to be productive.

There are many positive effects of developing a deep understanding of yourself, including elevated confidence. How does your confidence grow when you are intimately familiar with yourself?

1. You can prepare for uncomfortable situations

If you know standing up in front of a group OR working alone OR sharing your ideas with a co-worker or boss makes you uncomfortable, acknowledge that potential discomfort and prepare for it. Preparation might include extra research, practicing your presentation in front of a mirror, or amping yourself up ahead of time.

2. You improve communication

If you deeply understand your communication preferences, you are able to acknowledge them and help others understand them as well. For instance, if you prefer talking over an idea in a one-on-one setting, make an effort to arrange such meetings. Or, if you know you like the limelight, consider setting a timer for yourself to limit speaking time AND make an effort to ask others for their thoughts or opinions.

3. You understand your skills and limitations

At the intersection of what you enjoy doing and what you’re good at doing is your sweet spot. When you are aware of what you do well and what you like to do, you’re better able to pursue or turn down projects, based on your preferences and skill set.

4. You’re better at leading a team

When you understand how your own thinking works, that can create a better awareness of how others communicate and collaborate. It’s all about observation. Your increased awareness can be applied to your team and, through conscious observation, you can come to understand what works for certain team members, and what doesn’t.

Additionally, you’ll be mindful of how you might react when your team members do something that might irritate you, such as turn in a project late or fail to speak up and offer ideas at a meeting. When you’re aware of your emotions, you can react in a more controlled, level-headed way.

 

Knowing yourself—your communication tendencies, you emotions, your personal preferences—can help make you more self-assured. This kind of awareness is what builds an excellent leader.

 

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

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You wake up…and check your work email. You come home…and keep your phone handy just in case. You get ready for bed…and shoot off a few emails before the clock strikes midnight.

Your constant connection to your work might be more damaging than you think.

Here are 10 ways working after (or before!) normal office hours can harm both your team and YOU:

1. It pressures people to be “always on”

Even if you’re sending a casual email about a thought you had about work, think again before hitting SEND. Your email sends the underlying message that you’re working and others should be too. And that’s not great.

We all need downtime to recharge. It’s important to have designated “away from work” time in which ideas are allowed to naturally percolate. If we don’t have this down time, we begin to feel worn down and turn to auto pilot mode, in which we simply keep busy instead of pausing, evaluating, and allowing for outside-of-the-box thinking. As Ferris Jabr, writer for Scientific American says, “Downtime is an opportunity for the brain to make sense of what it has recently learned, to surface fundamental unresolved tensions in our lives and to swivel its powers of reflection away from the external world toward itself.”

2. It creates unhealthy competition

Just mentioning a late night conversation between yourself and a co-worker is enough to spark unhealthy “who can outwork who?” competition. When there are no limits in place, after-hours work can spiral out of control.

Some companies are beginning to place strict limitations on when colleagues are allowed to contact each other regarding work. Such limitations give employees breathing room in which they can round out their lives with other activities besides work.

3. It prevents you from being present

You can’t enjoy a baseball game, dinner with a friend, or a family game night if you’re constantly checking your work email or waiting for a work-related phone call. The constant presence of work means that you can’t give your full attention to anything else, including yourself. This distractedness is not great for building and maintaining healthy relationships…and it’s also not great for your mental wellbeing.

4. It can lead to quicker burnout

That feeling that you’re always being watched—that you must constantly check in or suffer the consequences (or at least some shaming from your peers)—can quickly wear you down. Today, Americans are working harder than ever for fewer rewards. Hard work has simply become the norm and, according to a study conducted by Quartz and Kronos, burnout is responsible for “up to half of all employee attrition.”

5. It throws off your life balance

Remember those things you used to think were important? Like hanging out with friends, eating a nice meal out, curling up with a book, or practicing a hobby? Well, those things are probably still important to you…they’ve just been shuffled off to the side.

A healthy life is a life with balance. If you’re overworked, you are denied the chance to explore outside interests, build strong relationships, and truly become a part of your community. It’s great to find meaning in your work, but that’s not all there is to life. Find the right blend of family, hobbies, relaxation, and community involvement that works for you.

6. It stifles creativity

Everyone needs a little space and downtime for ideas to surface and creativity to flow. Not to mention, it helps to actually be immersed in the world outside the office to create new life experiences that could, potentially, be linked to your work.

Time away from the office can lend a fresh, new perspective. As Maura Thomas, writer for Harvard Business Review says, “Experiments have shown that to deliver our best at work, we require downtime. Time away produces new ideas and fresh insights. But your employees can never disconnect when they’re always reaching for their devices to see if you’ve emailed. Creativity, inspiration, and motivation are your competitive advantage, but they are also depletable resources that need to be recharged.

 

The next time you are tempted to send out an email after-hours, pause. Think about the potential consequences to both yourself and your work team. It’s time we all start respecting and appreciating our time away from the office.

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

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4 Ways to Delegate Effectively

When done properly, delegation is a win-win. You end up saving time, and the person you’ve passed work onto feels valued for their unique skills. Why is it, then, that more people swamped with work don’t delegate?

One big reason is that Delegation Takes Up-Front Work

Many leaders find it takes time and effort just to bring others up to speed. Leaders might also feel like they need to supervise for a while to make sure things are done properly. With all this effort, it seems easier to just do the job yourself. But not so fast! Delegation can pay off in the long run if properly executed.

At first, you’ll need to work harder and longer when you’re preparing to delegate tasks. There will be meetings, training, negotiations, and the inevitable hiccup. But if you take the necessary time to delegate in a meaningful way, you’ll end up saving far more time and energy over time.

How? Follow these four guidelines:

Know Your Team

Know the people who work alongside you. Don’t just learn their names or where they went to school; familiarize yourself with their interests, talents, and experiences. When it comes time to delegate, you won’t have to guess who is best suited for the job. You’ll have an acute understanding of your team and their abilities.

Knowing that your assignments are in good hands will take much of the stress off your plate. Take a step back, resist the urge to look over your team members’ shoulders, and trust that they have the capabilities to successfully execute tasks. BONUS:  your team will appreciate your trust in them and will be more motivated to problem-solve and create solutions on their own.

Plan Well

If you’re delegating to a group of people, you’ll need to hold a meeting or two beforehand to help build unity within the group. They’ll go off and tackle bits of the greater project, sure, but it helps them to know how their contribution functions within the whole. It also helps you stay mentally organized as you’re the one keeping track of all the loose ends.

Which leads to…

Check In

While you should trust your team to perform well, it is necessary to check-in every once in a while to make sure everything is running smoothly and no one is struggling with a particular assignment. Keep it friendly, and be open to feedback. Your team may have great ideas to contribute and it’s worth it to take the time to listen.

If you’re worried that it may be too hard to ensure that your standards are being implemented by those you’ve delegated work to, fear not, but be sure to…

Have Clear Deadlines, Goals, and Expectations From The Get Go

And be specific about them. It’s better to over-prepare in the beginning and be able to ease off as your team gets up to speed than it is to go into a project unorganized and be forced to pull people off projects.

Remember: a strong vision, clearly stated, is a powerful tool. Be transparent and communicate your expectations with everyone involved. Make sure your entire team is on the same page and is working toward the same goals and mile markers.

 

If done correctly, delegation can pay dividends. Get to know your team’s strengths, assign clear tasks, and be sure to check in on a regular basis. Effective delegation can set you free to perform other crucial leadership duties.

Questions about delegation? Feel free to contact me 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

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leaders as moderators not enforcers

Leaders often burden themselves with being the only ones to make tough decisions and stick with them, even when they may not be popular with everyone on the team. There are times when you, as a leader, must make tough decisions and deal with a bit of unpopularity for a while.

But there are other instances—the majority, in fact—in which leaders tend to take on too much when it comes to making difficult or controversial decisions. They feel, rightly so, that because they’re the ones who must take ultimate responsibility within their organization, they also must personally decide, execute, and maintain new systems or standards.

While it’s true “the buck stops here” when it comes to leadership responsibilities, we must remember that those we work with and manage have loads of helpful ideas we might otherwise not have thought of ourselves. We must also remember that our coworkers and/or employees are capable and eager to do a good job (and if they aren’t, then it’s time to rethink your hiring strategies!).

With this in mind, we should take advantage of our teams when it comes to making, implementing and maintaining decisions.

Moderate The Decision-making Process, Don’t Make All The Decisions

As a leader, make an effort to get your team involved in the process of making key decisions. Your role should be to moderate the group, keeping the discussion focused and realistic, and also to help peers work things out should disagreements arise.

Workers who are involved with decision-making feel more engaged and connected to their work, getting a sense of ownership for the visions the team has come up with together. This inevitably leads to better performance across the board, because ownership and meaning behind one’s work always gives them that necessary fire to push toward excellence.

Leading As The Vision-Implementer, Not The Productivity Police

If a team feels they are being micro-managed, they tend to become distant from their work. That is to say, a babysat team can easily be made to feel that they are not smart or capable enough to do their own work.

On the other hand, we all need standards in place to keep us all on the same page. A great team is well-organized, highly communicative and grounded in a mutual understanding of the standards and expectations.

You can see why involving everyone in big decisions can help you as the leader in the long run, when you need to begin implementing the vision (aka, the daily expectations of each team member). If and when you run up against disagreements or unproductivity, you can always point back to the standards the whole team created and agreed to. Instead of placing blame, encourage ongoing collaboration to iron out any wrinkles in the initial plan.

Maintaining The Vision

Things don’t always apply perfectly from the white board to real life. And, since the business world constantly changes along with the rest of the world, it’s necessary to constantly reevaluate the value of decisions you’ve made and implemented in the past. This means you’ll need to tweak things as you go and ask for feedback from the team, thereby keeping everyone directly engaged in the process.

 

Maintain involved, but not overpowering leadership; involve your team; and don’t be afraid to modify your approach. That is the recipe for empowering individuals and creating a happy, functioning team.

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

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