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The #1 Way to Grow Your Career

There are many ways to grow and flourish within your career. You can take classes or expand your skills through research and application. You can find a mentor and learn from their experiences. You can take on new and diverse projects in order to stretch yourself and your abilities.

But at the heart of it all is one key element: the ability and the willingness to be COACHABLE.

When you’re coachable, you open yourself up to possibilities. You acknowledge that you don’t know everything and are willing to accept feedback and learn. You admit that you are sometimes wrong and look for ways to improve your current way of thinking/doing/behaving.

It isn’t always easy to be coachable. Many of us (especially if we’ve been in the same job for quite a while) tend to believe that our way is the best and leave little room for criticism or critique. It’s time to turn that kind of thinking around.

Start by asking for feedback.

Regularly ask your co-workers and superiors for feedback and then LISTEN to what they have to say. It doesn’t have to be in a formal meeting; it might be as simple as approaching a co-worker and saying, “Hey, Sally. How do you think my presentation went? Would you have changed any of the slides? Or maybe emphasized other material?”

Ask clarifying or follow-up questions if need-be. And remember to keep your defensive side in check! Even if you don’t agree with the feedback, take it gracefully. Say something like, “That’s an interesting take, Sally. I hadn’t seen it from that angle before.”

Keep in mind that not all feedback is quality feedback. Take your time to mull it over or get a second opinion (For more tactics and tricks on how to receive and utilize feedback, please see December’s newsletter).

When you’re coachable, you seek to expand your knowledge. Beyond soliciting feedback, start exploring ways to build or update your skills through webinars, in-person classes, training workshops, or one-on-one meetings with experts in your field. If your workplace is not proactive in seeking those opportunities, you may have to hunt for them on your own. Don’t be afraid to approach your boss and ask if the company could sponsor you (and your co-workers) in a specific learning program. If nothing else, you’ll open up a dialogue about advanced training.

Another way to grow your skills through coaching is to seek a mentor or be a mentor.

If you’re new to a company, new to a certain position, or seeking to advance within the company, a mentor can help you achieve those aims. If your workplace doesn’t have a formal mentoring program, seek a mentor on your own and invite that person to meet with you every now and again. Start small! You might scare people off if they think mentorship is too big of a commitment. Ask if they’ll meet with you for lunch once or twice a month, and go from there.

On the flip side, if you’ve been with your company a while, consider being a mentor. As a mentor, you’ll learn to see the company with new eyes and you may begin to explore the company and your position in ways that you hadn’t previously considered.

You have endless potential! Grow and evolve in your career by being coachable.

 

Seeking further guidance? Please 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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diplomatic and creative ways to say no

It’s easy to say yes.

“Yes, I can take on that project!”

“Yes, I’ll have that to you by next week!”

“Yes, I’ll add another client to my list!”

While it’s great to be agreeable, there is a limit. When you’re bogged down with commitments and your work-life balance is suffering, it’s time to put on the brakes and start saying no. Do it for your mental and emotional health. Do it in order to be true to yourself (in other words, don’t take on projects that do not align with your skills and interests). Do it to set boundaries and stop others from taking advantage of you.

But do it right.

Below are 10 diplomatic ways to say no. Practice reading them aloud in front of a mirror until they become natural.

“Thank you for the opportunity, but my schedule is packed.”

 “I know you would like my help with __________, but I won’t be able to do so unless/until __________.”

 “I wish I could, but as a rule I don’t __________.”

“Thank you for thinking of me, but I have other commitments.”

“I’m really not the best fit for __________. Have you tried talking with                    ? That sounds right up his/her alley.”

“I appreciate you coming to me with this opportunity. Unfortunately, I have too much on my plate right now to take it on.”

“I would like to say yes, but I don’t have time to do this project justice right now.”

 “I’m sorry, but I’m only taking on work related to _________ right now.”

 “I’d like to help you, but my schedule won’t allow any new projects.”

 “Thanks for asking, but I really can’t.

Use these responses to help you take control of your time and schedule. It takes courage, but you’ll thank yourself later if you decide to decline a project that doesn’t align with your values and priorities.

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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three types of bad bosses

It happens more often than it should. A person rises to power who doesn’t have the interest, inclination, or skills it takes to be a good boss. It’s not always that person’s fault—many companies do not invest time and resources in training their managers and force many people to learn through “trial by fire.” And then there are those who are simply not interested in engaging with or developing their team. They would rather be doing office work than investing time in their staff.

Whatever the case, you’ve probably encountered the dreaded “bad boss.” I’m going to look at three different behaviors that your bad boss might exemplify and show you ways to overcome each scenario. Ready to grab your own success and jump over the bad boss hurdle? Read on!

1. The Micromanager

This is the boss who is always looking over your shoulder and checking in to make sure you’re doing things just how s/he wants them done. This person is a perfectionist and might go as far as giving you daily or weekly checklists. Such a boss can make you feel claustrophobic and limit your growth potential.

What to do:

First of all, understand that you micromanaging boss is likely acting the way she does because she cares deeply about the good of the company. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore it! If your boss is approachable and open to communication, consider scheduling a meeting in which you request to take on a project by yourself. If your boss waffles, ask if there is something about the quality of your work that is holding her back. You might learn some valuable insight from your conversation!

If, however, your boss is not the approachable type, consider a different tactic: Accomplish tasks and check-in before she tells you to. Anticipate the next item on her to-do list and do it before you’re directed to do so. This demonstrates that you are a go-getter and are perfectly capable of going above and beyond expectations without being directed to do so. You may even consider sending your boss your daily or weekly plans so you can gain even more control of your schedule.

2. The Unengaged

On the opposite end of the micromanager boss is the boss who is simplify unengaged. This is the boss who is largely absent or who rarely bothers to check-in with their team. This bad boss might think it’s a waste of time to invest in team-building activities, training, or one-on-one meetings.

What to do:

Initiate engagement. Schedule a meeting with your boss or, if he’s hard to pin down, make a point of stopping by his office when he’s around. Make sure you keep your meeting brief and bright—unengaged bosses often feel like they don’t have time for small talk. In your meeting, be sure to express your thanks to the boss for meeting and let him know that it made a big difference. Such encouragement will help him realize the value of such meetings.

If you’ve tried in earnest to get your boss involved in office life, but he hasn’t taken the bait, try going a different route. Engage your co-workers. If your boss isn’t lending much support, chances are your co-workers are just as frustrated as you are. Connect with them and use each other for brainstorming, problem-solving, and as mental or emotional support. Seek resources together and work on building a more collaborative atmosphere.

3. The Gossiper

“Did you hear about…?” The boss with gossiping tendencies can lower morale and create an atmosphere of distrust. What’s more, if you’re not buddy-buddy with this boss, you may wonder if you will be the next victim of their gossip.

What to do:

This is a tricky one. Although you might not be able to stop your boss from playing favorites and spreading rumors, you can make a personal commitment to rise above office gossip. Harvard Business Journal recommends setting firm boundaries with gossipers (whether your boss or a co-worker). When you see a conversation headed toward gossip, put a stop to it and say, “Please do not put anything in my head that you expect me to not act on. I will not carry around a conclusion about another person without sharing it with them.”

Your integrity carries weight. By refusing to participate in gossip, you build credibility and trustworthiness. And remember, silence is the same thing as complacence. If you are silent, you are promoting gossip.

And if your boss continues gossiping? You have a couple of tough decisions to make. Either you could choose to confront him about it and offer a solution (This article by Vital Smarts goes into establishing ground rules revolving around gossip), OR, If your quality of life is being severely affected by the gossip, you could seek employment somewhere else. If that’s the case, you might want to consult a career coach before making any major decisions.

 

There are, of course, many other types of “bad bosses” out there, but hopefully this list gave you some ideas for how to deal with your own troublesome boss. Feel free to add your own experiences and advice in the comments section (no name dropping, please!) or contact me for more advice.

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 benefits of fear

Halloween is right around the corner, so that got me thinking about fear and how we handle it in our daily lives. As a career coach, I often work with people who are afraid–afraid to quit their current job, afraid to ask their boss for a raise, afraid to open up and let themselves be vulnerable. While it’s a good idea to work past your fears and not let yourself become debilitated by them, the emotion itself is not a bad thing.

You feel fear for a reason. The reptilian part of our brain (primarily the amygdala) has a “fight or flight” instinct built into it that helps keep us safe. Even though we also have a logical area of our brain, governed by reason, the amygdala sometimes kicks in so strongly that we have an actual physical reaction to it.

Have you ever felt your palms sweat or your muscles stiffen when you’re asked to lead a company meeting or when you’re engaged in a particularly tense conversation? How about when your boss calls you into the office? The primitive part of your brain is likely screaming, “Run! Run far away!”

Sure, it’s a good idea to overcome that fear and step into your boss’ office, but it’s not a bad thing that you felt fear in the first place. In fact, fear can actually be a good thing. It can drive us to make big changes; it can warn us to move forward cautiously; it can motivate us to prepare for that company meeting. Instead of denying your fear, embrace it!  Recognize that it exists because you’re willing to challenge yourself and do great things.

Part of being a leader involves fear and healthy risk-taking. Good leaders make tough decisions, instead of running from them or pushing them aside for someone else to deal with. And with tough decisions, comes fear.

Fear isn’t the enemy. It’s how you deal with fear that counts. Will you choose to let yourself be consumed by fear? Will you let it stop you in your tracks? Or will you face it head-on and figure out how to move past it? It’s only by challenging ourselves to move beyond our comfort zones that we achieve personal and professional growth.

 

Need help conquering your fears? Please do not hesitate 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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success and grit

I recently watched a TED Talk by psychologist Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth on the subject of grit. She first noticed a correlation between success and grit when she was working as a school teacher in a difficult neighborhood. A child’s scholarly success was not necessarily related to their IQ; more often than not, it was related to their dogged perseverance, or grit.

Duckworth left teaching to pursue a career in psychology and made grit the subject of most of her research. She studied diverse groups of people—from military cadets to students to sales people—and, time and again, observed that grit was a key attribute to success.

The people who kept going despite failures or setbacks, the people who were committed to a job or task for the long-term, were the ones who usually succeeded.

How do you foster grit in your own life and your children’s? Duckworth admits that the research is lacking, but a few interesting ideas have cropped to the surface. One study shows that developing a “growth mentality” helps create a gritty personality. A growth mentality has to do with the belief that failure is NOT a permanent state. It is something that creates growth and helps us succeed next time. This kind of attitude puts people in a positive mindset, a “I can do it next time!” frame of mind.

What do you think? Has grit been a part of YOUR success? Is it something you need to work at?

For the full TED Talk, please click the link below:

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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2 Minute Power Boost Amy Cuddy

Social scientist Amy Cuddy studies nonverbal communication and how it relates to power. Through her research, she’s discovered some pretty incredible things about power dynamics, nonverbal signals, and how we can actually modify our mentality through physical actions.

Just like in the animal kingdom, humans puff up their chests and make themselves “big” if they perceive themselves to be in a position of power. On the flip side, people shrink down, hug their arms to their bodies, and lower their heads if they are feeling weak and vulnerable.

When we see someone posed in a “power position” or in a position of weakness, our brains automatically react. We are drawn to enthusiasm, confidence, and ease. From political candidates to doctors, we tend to gravitate toward displays of power.

But what if you don’t FEEL powerful? What if you doubt your abilities and lack self-confidence? Let your body language change your mind.

In Amy Cuddy’s studies, she has found that people who assume a power pose (opened chest, relaxed, arms wide) for as little as two minutes have higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol, which translates to more confidence and less stress. These people are able to cope with high-stress situations, such as a job interview, and are usually well-liked by others.

When you take on a power pose, something uncanny happens in the brain—it begins to believe that you are powerful.

When people question the authenticity of “faking it ‘til you make it,” Cuddy responds that she prefers the statement, “Fake it ‘til you become it.” The more frequently you tweak your nonverbals to indicate power and self-assurance, the more you’ll believe in that power. Eventually, you won’t have to fake it at all. You’ll elevate your confidence and approach situations with more comfort and poise than you used to.

Try assuming a power pose for two minutes the next time you are about to face a high-stress situation. It IS possible for your physical actions to change your brain!

 

To watch Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk, please click below:

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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On the surface, the words “boss” and “leader” sound pretty synonymous. What is the difference, anyway? I think that the image below does a great job of illustrating the main differences. Let’s break it down…

boss leader

  1. A Leader is in the trenches

Both leaders and bosses give instructions, but unlike a boss, a leader helps to carry out the actual work. She pulls her weight, alongside the rest of her team. A good leader inspires others by demonstrating that she is invested in whatever project the team is working on.

  1. A Leader understands the team

Since a leader is working alongside his team, he understands how everyone clicks and what strengths and weaknesses each team member possesses. This knowledge helps the leader assign appropriate tasks to individuals and helps him understand the specific work style of each person on the team. By showing a genuine interest in each team member and taking the time to get to know everyone, the leader can easily identify when people are either discontent or thriving.

On the flipside, great leaders open themselves up to others. They practice transparency and, since they have nothing to hide, they don’t mind others getting to know their true, authentic selves.

  1. A Leader has vision

Instead of being reactive, a leader is proactive. The leader has an intimate knowledge of the work that is being undertaken and can therefore point the team in the right direction. That isn’t to say that the leader should micromanage to ensure that a task or project is done in a certain way. Rather, she should offer guidance and allow the team to figure out the details on their own.

  1. A Leader motivates the team

Instead of reprimanding or belittling the team, a leader builds his team up. By offering encouragement and constructive critiques, a good leader will develop a team that is inspired, motivated, and productive.

  1. A Leader keeps moving

Great leaders are humble enough to realize that they don’t know everything. They aspire to keep growing and changing; they move forward and take their team with them. When a roadblock gets in their way, great leaders don’t throw in the towel or turn around. Instead, they strategize with their team on how to overcome the obstacle and continue moving forward (or in a new direction).

Do you feel like more of a boss or a leader? Take a few minutes to think about these five qualities of a great leader and consider how you can embrace your leadership.

Need more guidance? Reach out and 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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