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Creating Successful Leaders

Category Archives: Leadership

One of the easiest ways to make a room full of professionals uneasy is to bring up the term “Love Leadership.” In most people’s minds, love is not a term that should be associated with work. Appreciation, sure. Respect, definitely. But, LOVE?

In reality, Love Leadership is not as scary or intense as it sounds. It’s a term that was made popular by John Hope Bryant, CEO of Operation HOPE. In Bryant’s book, Love Leadership: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World, he illustrates how leaders who genuinely care about others will rise head and shoulders above those who lead with fear.

Though fear-based leadership may work in the short-term (i.e. giving someone an ultimatum if they missed an important deadline), it is not a good long-term strategy. Those who consistently lead with fear will ultimately create a hostile work environment where staff will be afraid to express their views, be motivated by consequences, and shy away from open and honest communication. In short, fear-based leadership stifles and harms the workplace.

What does choosing love-based leadership look like?

Leaders who choose to lead with love take the time to get to know their team. They care about each and every person and routinely sit down and hold one-on-one conversations with them. They also care enough to get to know a little about their team member’s personal lives–their family, hobbies, pets, etc. This level of attention helps people feel comfortable enough with their leader to present any issues or challenges they might be facing, discuss new ideas, or candidly talk about progress or pitfalls.

Love-based leaders also let themselves be vulnerable. They are brave enough to acknowledge when they’ve made a mistake; they reach out when they need help. This vulnerability does not make leaders weak–it makes them human.

It should be noted, however, that there’s a difference between leading with love and being “a softie.” One of the chapters in my book, The Ten-Minute Leadership Challenge, is dedicated to “balancing the head and the heart.” Though it is important to lead with love, it is just as important to make “head-based” decisions, like letting a team member go when they are repeatedly under-performing. Just because you lead with love, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t set up clear boundaries and let your team members know when they cross those boundaries (I go into much more detail in my book–talk to me if you’d like to get a hold of a signed copy).

How will you, as a leader, dedicate yourself to leading with love? Step back, take an honest look at your leadership, and recognize how you can infuse more honestly, open communication, genuine caring, and vulnerability into your daily actions and interactions.

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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questions to build trust in leadership

It may seem surprising, but asking questions can actually make you a more trustworthy leader. Questions do not diminish your authority or make you appear weak. Rather, by asking the right questions, you can gain valuable insight, open the floor for more meaningful conversations, and demonstrate that you respect your team.

Which questions are the “right questions?” The simple answer is: open-ended questions that stimulate conversation and don’t presuppose an answer. A question such as “Don’t you think Client X would benefit from our new product?” is not open-ended and not productive. It is only searching for agreement, not a true dialogue.

Instead, try asking questions that begin with words like How, What, or Why. These question words typically allow for a wide range of answers, not just a yes or no response.

The other half of asking good questions is practicing active listening. Leaders build trust by seeking their team’s thoughts, opinions, and ideas, and listening closely to the answers they give. This show of respect is integral to building trust

Next time you’re in a meeting (either with your entire team or a single individual) try asking some trust-building questions. Here are 10 to get you started—choose ones that are applicable to your team and situation.

  1. What resources do you need to complete your task?
  2. What is holding you/us back from success?
  3. How can I help?
  4. What are some possible solutions you envision?
  5. Who/what are we lacking to achieve success?
  6. What can I do to help foster more creativity?
  7. Why do you think                            is happening?
  8. What are your current frustrations?
  9. What is our biggest risk in this endeavor? What is the Plan B?
  10. Is this assignment a good fit for your talents? (Why or why not?)
  11. How does this add value to our mission?
  12. What effects will this decision have?
  13. How can we improve                     ?
  14. What opportunities can bolster our business?
  15. What else would you like me to know?

This is just a sampling of the questions you can ask your team. Get curious. Involve them in decision-making. Ask good questions and build trust.

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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Sarah Cooper cartoons

We have to laugh, otherwise we’d cry. The workplace is often still a difficult place for women to navigate. We struggle to be heard, position ourselves as authority figures, and give constructive feedback to others without being seen as “too aggressive” or “threatening.”

Author and former tech executive, Sarah Cooper, finally had enough of tiptoeing around her male co-workers, just to make them feel validated. Her response: A series of satirical cartoons depicting how women can appear “non-threatening” to men.

The cartoons show female leaders in various situations—sharing their ideas, setting deadlines, finding mistakes—and how they can react to them in “threatening” vs. “non-threatening” ways.

Though the cartoons are hilarious on the surface, they portray a sad truth: women leaders are still fighting an uphill battle to gain recognition, authority, and respect.

How will you change your language so that you’re more assertive and less apologetic?

How will you stand up for yourself?

How will you make sure your voice is heard?

Your actions will set a precedent for how you’d like to be treated, and you will also help pave the way for future female leaders.

To read Sarah Cooper’s article and see her cartoons, please click HERE.

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Halloween and leadership

Happy Halloween, everyone! For today’s post, I thought I’d do a fun one. Let me know if you have other ideas, or if you think there are ways Halloween actually DOES resemble good leadership.


In the past, I’ve talked about how the MN State Fair and Independence Day teach us lessons about life and leadership, but today we’re dealing with a much different event: Halloween. When I think about all the qualities a good leader should possess, I see very few of them in Halloween–that holiday of monsters and ghouls.

How is Halloween the antithesis of good leadership? Here are four ways…

1. It revolves around fear.

Capable leaders do not need to lean on fear-based tactics to get what they want. They don’t need everyone beneath them quaking in fear, wondering when the next outburst or disciplinary action will occur.

Instead, capable leaders put their hearts first. They care about the wellbeing of their team; they take the time to get to know and understand others; they make sure they assign tasks that are well-suited to individuals.

Leading with your heart does NOT make you a softie. Rather, it demonstrates thoughtful leadership and respect for others. Of course, there will be times when you, as a leader, will need to deliver tough news or discipline a team member, but those occasions should be few and far between. Your team should be incentivized by common goals, not fear.

2. It disguises who you really are.

Good leaders don’t wear masks. They are brave enough to let themselves be vulnerable and let their true selves shine through. That means communicating clearly and authentically, behaving according to core values, and being transparent.

That doesn’t mean you can’t be more formal in certain situations and more relaxed in others. Being authentic has to do with the crux of who you are. There are some values, behaviors, and beliefs that make you you. Stand by them. Don’t wildly alter your personality or your opinions to please the crowd–this kind of behavior will only make others question your authenticity and lessen their trust in you.

3. It is greedy.

Good leadership isn’t about collecting as much “candy” as possible and hoarding it for yourself. Instead, it’s about understanding that your accomplishments were not achieved alone–others deserve credit (candy) too.

When someone goes above and beyond their work duties, recognize that individual. When your team delivers, reward them. That doesn’t mean you should dole out “candy” willy-nilly; it means you should pay attention and give others credit when credit is due.

And remember: you rarely accomplish big things on your own. Recognize the help you’ve received along the way.

4. It doesn’t provide vital nutrients.

Candy can’t subsist you forever, and neither can gimmicky reward programs or activities. Don’t get me wrong–I think it’s a great idea to have team parties, cookouts, and competitions. HOWEVER, if those fun activities are not supported by key core elements, they are meaningless.

In short: Who cares if you have a weekly office party if there is in-fighting or poor communication between staff?

Make sure the bones of your operation are solid (there’s a skeleton reference for you!) before you start adding extras. Are your employees comfortable with their assignments? Is there an open line of communication between leadership and staff? Is there a safe, effective way to voice complaints? Are employees being treated civilly and with dignity? Is office gossip clouding relationships?

Yes, it’s wonderful to have friendly competitions and parties (just like it’s wonderful to enjoy the occasional chocolate bar!). Just make sure you prioritize core office values first.

 

What do you think? Is Halloween a metaphor for poor leadership? Let me know your thoughts!

Have a fun, safe Halloween.

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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leadership and continuous learning

Strong leaders are avid, continual learners. They don’t stop seeking out new opportunities after they’ve graduated or once they’ve landed a job; they treat everyday as another chance to acquire knowledge and skills.

Why is lifelong learning so essential for leadership? How does curiosity and exploration build character, aid in personal development, and position you as a leader? Read on…

1. Continual Learning Preps You For Inevitable Change

In order to remain a relevant leader, you must learn and continue to learn. Just because you earned a leadership role 10 years ago does not necessarily mean you’re equipped to lead today. Each situation you encounter presents new challenges that can only be accomplished with an appetite for new knowledge. There’s a reason why medical doctors are required to continue their specialized education long after they graduate from medical school. Could you imagine going to a surgeon who was using standard practices from the 1940s?

The same is true in any office setting. Standards change; innovations occur. Capable leaders stay on top of those changes, adapt, and guide others to adapt as well.

2. Well-Rounded People Make The Best Leaders

To be well-rounded, you need to learn a wide array of subjects, disciplines, and areas of expertise. You don’t need to be an expert at everything, but it’s important to have a working knowledge of the world outside your niche, as it gives you a greater sense of perspective and maturity. Go outside your comfort zone; read history or philosophy if you’ve always been a numbers person. Take public speaking classes if you’re shy (Toastmasters is a great club for this). Learn a language. Focus on areas you’ve told yourself that you’re bad at, and give it another go. You may surprise yourself.

3. Learning Helps You Problem-Solve

If you’re constantly making an effort to learn new systems, programs, ways of thinking, etc. you’ll be more creative when it comes to problem-solving. If you train your brain to perform many different tasks (no matter what they are), you’re enabling yourself for outside-the-box thinking.

4. Your Actions Will Encourage Others to Keep Learning

As a leader, you set the standards. Your pursuit of innovation and discovery will encourage your team to also prioritize continual learning. Demonstrate that you’re willing to dive into uncharted territory, get your hands dirty, and make mistakes. Your example will help create a team that is willing to get creative, take a few risks, and figure out how to overcome obstacles.

 

How will you commit to continual learning? What will you do this week to help expand your horizons or learn a new skill? Start today!

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Every leader has their strengths. You might be an excellent idea-generator or public speaker. Maybe you’re great with details. Or, maybe your team considers you a trusted confidante. Whatever the case, it’s great to celebrate and emphasize your strengths…but it’s also a good idea to identify your areas of opportunity.

No leader is perfect. There is always room for growth. But how can you get started with self-improvement? Isn’t that a bit daunting?

It doesn’t have to be.

By assigning certain personality traits certain colors, it’s easy to identify the areas where you are lacking. That is precisely what the Insights® Discovery program does. According to the Insights® color model, each individual has the capability to embrace and utilize all four color energies, but we typically only emphasize one or two. In essence, the color system breaks down like this:

The basic traits of each Insights personality. Everyone has a little of each color in them!

(For more information on Insights® Discovery, please visit my website!)

So what happens when, as a leader, you don’t tap into each color energy?

You may find that you’re not as well-rounded as you could be. For instance, if you lead with a lot of yellow energy, you may jump into projects feet-first without thinking through all the details. While this is great for motivation and could have positive effects on your team initially, the long-term effects may be disastrous if certain key factors were not taken into consideration (Oh…we needed to get permission from corporate before contacting that client…).

On the flip side, if you lead with a lot of blue energy, you may nit-pick the details to death and have trouble starting a project (let alone drumming up enthusiasm for it).

To examine this idea further, take a look at the following chart. Which areas in YOUR leadership need a boost? How could “Fiery Red” be useful at times? How could green? Yellow? Blue?

Insights Leadership Colors Lacking

Coming from someone who is strongly yellow (with dashes of the other colors), I know the importance of tapping into my “blue side.” How will you call upon your under-utilized colors 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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5 Ways Leadership is Like Camping

It’s the season of pitching tents and building campfires. Camping can be easy and enjoyable…or it can be downright miserable. In that sense, it has a lot in common with leadership! What else do they have in common?

Here are 5 ways leadership can be a lot like camping:

1. You can weather any storm with the right equipment

Just like a quality tent and sleeping bag will help you survive the driving rain or bitter cold, so too can well-developed leadership skills help you handle even the most difficult situations. Some of these skills you might learn through time, experience, and trial and error, and others you might acquire through classes, like the Build A Boss program.

This “equipment” can prepare you for dealing with tough conversations, coping with major organizational changes, or tactfully approaching staff reduction. Leadership isn’t always going to be sunny days and clear waters. You’ll have to rely on your skill set to see you through some difficult situations.

2. It’s unpredictable

Camping can be wonderful and relaxing—filled with swimming, fishing, and campfires—or it can be rainy, cold, buggy, and just plain miserable.

In the same way, leadership has its ups and downs. As a leader, you might have days or weeks that are productive and inspiring…and then you might find yourself in a downward spiral of awfulness. As a leader, you have to ride those waves and use your ingenuity, adaptability, and drive to create strategies to overcome them.

3. It’s fun…with the right attitude

Have you been on a camping trip with someone who insists on not having fun? That person might complain about the dirt, the bugs, the camp food, the campfire smoke, the cold water and on and on…but they completely miss the fresh air, sunshine, and freedom.

Leadership is all about perspective. Leaders tend to face a lot of tough situations and difficult people, BUT they also have amazing opportunities. As a leader, you are given a chance to head up amazing projects and teams of people, you’re entrusted with big responsibilities, and you have the opportunity to be the face (or at least somewhat the face) of the company. Focusing on the positive aspects of your leadership and striving to create constructive change will help you realize that leadership can be rewarding and even (gasp!) fun.

4. It’s energizing

Paddling a canoe, hiking, setting up camp—it’s all invigorating and can give you a burst of energy. Similarly, leadership can be just as motivating. Just ask someone who has rallied a team of twenty people to work together on a unified task. Or someone who has helped amp up their company’s profit margin. Or someone who has mentored an individual and helped him thrive. Good leaders find energy in actions such as these and also strive to motivate others.

5. It leaves you vulnerable

Just like camping leaves you vulnerable to the elements, so too does leadership leave you somewhat bare. You are thrown into the spotlight; all eyes are on you and your example. What are you going to do?

Situations like these are common, and you have to decide how you will handle them. In my experience, it is better to be candid, transparent, and authentic than closed off and secretive. If you are open and honest with your team (within reason!), they are more likely to be open and honest with you when they have an issue or would like to talk over a bold new idea. This kind of open communication creates a healthy, humming work environment. Have courage. Be willing to own up to mistakes, be genuinely you, communicate with authenticity, and be a tad vulnerable.

 

This summer, I hope you have sunny days, refreshing afternoons in the water, and zero bug bites…but if you do encounter these things, I hope you’ll face them with the proper gear, a little ingenuity, and a lot of positivity.

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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