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Creating Successful Leaders

Category Archives: Leadership

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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Be a caring leader

More and more evidence is emerging that leading with love, compassion, and authenticity is much better for building a sustainable, happy team than leading by force and intimidation. According to Forbes.com, many old leadership models were based on the military and have a tendency to emphasize leaders as people who should be feared.

It’s taken a long time to start changing this model, but it’s happening, slowly but surely. As managers of all levels are coming to realize that people respond to love and compassion, leadership tactics are changing and many people are opening up to the idea of love leadership. One in-depth study by Joe Ricciardi shows that, “A team member who feels ‘loved’ by his boss is significantly more likely to see his boss as a good leader. Leading your employees is a natural outgrowth of loving them.”

The study went on to find that three simple leadership approaches can greatly increase the success of your team:

1. Genuinely Care

Above all, be human. Get to know your work team, ask them questions (and genuinely listen to the answers!), and share a little bit of yourself. As in all relationships, getting to know another person is a two-way street and you have to have the courage to be vulnerable sometimes and open up.

It’s the littler things that make a difference–hand-written thank you notes, noticing when an employee goes above and beyond their responsibilities, remembering the name of a spouse or a child, recalling a co-worker’s recent trip or a hobby they enjoy. If your memory can be slippery, jot down notes in an excel spreadsheet (a sheet for each team member) and take a look at those notes before meeting with someone.

Your efforts will make others feel comfortable in the workplace and help them to actually look forward to coming in to work–something that leads to long-term retention.

2. Be Passionate

Your enthusiasm is contagious. Love what you do and demonstrate that love through positivity, a sunny attitude, and excitement. If you are looking forward to taking on a new client, tackling a new project, or meeting a certain goal, share that enthusiasm with your team. Let your positive energy shine through during team meetings, email memos, or one-on-ones.

And if you’re not loving your job? If you’re in a leadership role, that could be a genuine problem. Evaluate your discontentment and ask yourself what’s causing it. Work with a career coach to help you get to the root of the problem and then strategize on how to move forward. Leading with love means you not only show your co-workers love, but that you also love and embrace your leadership role. It’s hard to follow a leader who is unenthusiastic about their work.

3. Be Committed

Commitment is a big part of being a caring leader. Commit to the wellbeing of your employees. Commit to your team’s current projects. Commit to your clients/customers. If you’re truly committed to your team, you will be with them every step of the way, through both their successes and failures. Part of this responsibility means shouldering a good portion of the blame if something goes wrong. As former President Truman said, “The buck stops here.” Those are words to live by.

Part of being committed means investing in your team. Focus on individual and team development by making sure team members are involved in ongoing training. Also, make sure they have the chance to learn from each other (and you!) during skill share or mentoring sessions.

 

How will you step into your role as a caring leader? What can you do to show others you genuinely care, you’re passionate about the work, and you’re committed to both the team and their work projects? No matter how you decide to amp up your love leadership, the important thing is to DO IT. Start today and see what small changes you can make to commit to being a more caring, compassionate 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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more engaging presentation
Minutes feel like hours. The effects of your mid-morning coffee have long worn off and it takes every last bit of strength to keep your eyes on the presenter at the front of the room. You know how it feels to sit through a boring presentation. Perhaps the only thing worse is being the boring presenter yourself; watching the attention of your audience decrease exponentially. Luckily, there are ways to spare everyone the pain.

Here are five tips that will help you level-up your presentation game:

1) TELL A STORY

Take the main idea within your presentation and frame it in a narrative that contains a beginning, a middle, and an end. Introduce a flaw in the status quo, describe your quest for something better, and show the great potential of what you’ve found. This structure helps your audience feel invested, as though they’re right there with you, navigating the circumstances. A story format is easy for audiences to absorb, and they’re more likely to remember your conclusion.

2) KEEP IT SIMPLE

“Short and sweet,” as they say. Keeping a presentation short means a greater chance that your audience will stay attentive the whole time. This means cutting out any unnecessary information or redundant data. Slides should be free from visual clutter. Too many bullet points means focus pulled away from the presenter’s voice and onto reading the screen. You are conducting your presentation, the powerpoint is not.

Images are your friend. This includes graphs/charts, but again, nothing convoluted or difficult to interpret.

3) GET YOUR AUDIENCE INVOLVED

Active involvement from the audience exerts spontaneity. People are more likely to stay engaged when there’s an opportunity for something unrehearsed to occur. The use of props, asking for a volunteer, leading an activity, doing a demonstration or initiating discussion are all great ways to lift up the energy in the room.

4) SPEAK EFFECTIVELY

What if you could take information that you want to convey, and rephrase it in an enticing way? You can! Use the power of questioning to your advantage. Rhetorical questions work well as transitions and plant curiosity in the listener. You voice is a tool, use it! Exclaim important things! Find a section of your presentation that could use a boost and change your inflection.

Alternatively, take a power pause. A brief pause is an effective way to let a message resonate. It can also replace any dreaded ‘Um’ or ‘Uhh’s.

5) MOVE WITH INTENTION

Don’t underestimate the role of body language. Engaging presenters stand confidently and use hand gestures that reflect the tone of their voice. Try making eye contact with someone long enough to finish a sentence or two instead of continuously scanning the room. Your movements are an extension of your words–your physicality can impact how your words are received.

Regardless of the topic or how experienced you are, following these tips will shut down the snore-factor at your next presentation. Remember that the more you believe what you’re saying is important, the better your audience will listen. Your ideas are worth hearing.

 

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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BBQ and Delegation

Your perfect barbecue goes something like this:

  • You create the perfect guest list (people you enjoy hanging out with and who get along well with each other)
  • Each guest takes on the responsibility of making a different dish (something they’re good at making!)
  • On the day of the event, everyone enjoys a delicious spread of food and each other’s company.
  • Even if it rains or someone spills the potato salad, you’ll still have the makings of an excellent get together.

Of course, not every BBQ turns out this way. You might encounter drama between guests, or you may end up with seven different desserts, but no potato chips or veggie tray. The trick is knowing your guests’ personalities, knowing their strengths, and delegating effectively.

You can probably already draw parallels between the perfect BBQ and delegating to a work team, but let you give me my take on it:

When you’re leading a team, it’s difficult (and frankly inadvisable) to do everything yourself. If you tried to cook everything for a twenty-person barbecue, you’d end up pulling out your hair and not having much fun.

At work, the stakes are higher. If you’re working on a project, you’ll have deadlines to meet, stakeholders to please, and a team to attend to. Instead of taking on the bulk of the work yourself, TRUST that your team is capable enough to shoulder some of the burden.

Not only will delegating tasks to others lighten your load, it will help your team members feel like they are important parts of the work (just like the people at your BBQ who are providing the watermelon or deviled eggs).

Furthermore, delegating adds diversity of thought.

Your team members will inevitably do things a little differently than what you might have done on your own, and THAT’S OKAY. It’s great to work with a diverse set of ideas—that’s what drives innovation. Just like the person who brings a unique dish (grilled asparagus and ricotta pizza, anyone?), you will find creative new ideas through your team that you might not have found on your own.

Just make sure everyone is well-suited to their tasks.

In the workplace, certain people will love crunching numbers and digging into strategy. Others will love idea-generation. Still others will take pleasure in the artist elements of a project.

The better you know your team members, the better you can assign tasks. Just like you know Bill makes delectable beer-battered chicken, but you wouldn’t trust him to know merengue from tapioca pudding, so too should you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your team.

Don’t forget to make things fun.

One of the keys to successful delegation is making sure people are working well together, connecting, and facing any issues with a positive attitude and a problem-solving mentality. Day-to-day work doesn’t have to be a grind. If everyone is well-suited to their tasks and the team is keeping an affable, open line of communication between one another, the work can actually be (gasp!) fun.

You can also amp up the fun factor by hosting lunch-and-learn meetings, creating light-hearted challenges, raising money for a cause, or going on the occasional team outing. Though these may seem like frivolous activities to some, they are actually great ways to help your team members connect with one another, build a sense of camaraderie, and help YOU better understand what makes the people on your team tick. Having a deep understanding of your team members is crucial to effective delegation.

 

So, make a plan, start delegating, and get ready to fire up that grill!

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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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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