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Creating Successful Leaders

Category Archives: Leadership

gain control of conversation

We’ve all had conversations that didn’t go quite as we’d planned. Maybe you were trying to talk to a client about a new product, and they insisted on steering the conversation toward politics. Or maybe you were leading a Zoom meeting and certain people continued to interrupt and overtake the discussion.

How can you cope with those interrupters and take back control of the conversation?

Start with these 4 steps:

1. Believe that your voice counts

Enter every conversation with the confidence that your voice (your thoughts, ideas, and opinions) matters. Believe in what you have to say and you will find a way to bring it up in the conversation. Keep in mind: there’s a difference between confidence and arrogance. What you have to say is important, but it’s not the only opinion that counts. Your listening ear is just as important as your voice.

2. Acknowledge what the other person is saying

It’s important to let the other party know that, yes, you hear what they have to say. You can also use this tact as a way to step in and take control of the conversation. For example:

“What I hear you saying, Bill, is that you’d like to implement more customer service surveys. I think that’s a great idea that warrants more discussion. I’d like to focus on that more during our next meeting so we give that topic the time it deserves. In the meantime, let’s finish going over our quarterly reports and see what other ideas crop up…”

3. Keep your audience engaged

What you have to say is important; make sure your audience hears it! Instead of lecturing at others, make an effort to engage them. Ask questions, request feedback, and ask your audience if any clarification is needed. If you’re leading a Zoom meeting, request that everyone leaves their video feed on, so active engagement is easier (more tips for Zoom meetings HERE). Make others a part of what you’re doing, not just passive observers.

4. Be direct

Oftentimes, the best way to refocus a conversation is to be direct. Acknowledge what the other party is saying (see tip #2) and then transition into what you’d like to say. Your interaction may go something like this:

“Your family vacation sounds great, Susan, and I’d love to discuss it more tomorrow, but I’m afraid I have to shift the conversation back to business…”

Remember: What you have to say is important! Don’t sell yourself short. Have the confidence to interject when necessary (in a tactful way!) and let your voice be heard.


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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“Silence is usually seen as agreeing.” –Sonya Parker

You probably know it when you see it. Something feels off or problematic. Something feels unethical. We encounter these situations in our daily lives, as well as in the workplace—instances when our morals are put to the test. It’s easy to assume that if you “see something, you’ll say something,” but it can be difficult to take action when you’re put on the spot.

How, then, can you gather the courage to speak up? Start with these methods:

Understand Your Power

When a situation is unethical or potentially harmful, one strong voice of dissent can make a huge difference. Chances are, if you’re not okay with something, others are not okay with it either. If you take a stance, others will hopefully gain the courage to follow suit.

Develop Your Approach

It can be intimidating to face your peers or your supervisors and let them know what you think. You might worry about retaliation or not being taken seriously. To combat these fears, it pays to 1) Plan and 2) Talk to others

Your planning might involve laying out bullet points to argue your case. Pinpoint the problem you perceive and explain why you think it’s a problem. Then, prepare some potential alternatives or solutions.

Talking with others helps to build an alliance around your plan. You certainly don’t want to create an “Us vs. Them” mentality, but it is helpful to talk to one or two trusted colleagues to let them know your stance. They might help you refine your plan, offer alternative solutions, or simply provide support.

Determine Your “When”

When you speak out is nearly as important as what you say. If, for instance, you interrupt during a meeting and begin telling everyone about your view, that might not go over as well as, say, setting up a private meeting with the decision-maker or respectfully speaking out during a meeting.

Face Your Fears

It can be frightening to take a stand, but I would argue that it’s even worse to stay silent. If you neglect to say something, you’ll have to live with the unethical or problematic situation, day-in, day-out. It won’t magically go away, unless another brave individual takes a stand.

If your workplace retaliates against you for speaking up, is that really the kind of environment you want to work in? I know that switching jobs sounds daunting, especially in this uncertain economy, but it’s certainly not impossible. Talk with a career coach if you’re thinking about making a switch.

Your voice has power. If something is making you uncomfortable, take a step back, make a plan, and speak up. Tap into your reserves of courage, trust yourself, and take action. Doing so can make a big difference and it will likely help you build confidence in yourself.


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. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Work team

NOW 50% Off: MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

So, you’re leading a team or spearheading a project. You’re so wrapped up in what you’re doing, that you don’t even consider pausing and evaluating your leadership style. You just press forward and hope you’re doing a decent job. But…what if you’re not? Or, what if you can’t even tell?

Either way, it’s time to pause. It’s time to think about your place as a leader, and whether or not you’re supporting and empowering the people around you.

By making a concerted effort to evaluate your leadership, you are making an investment. People respond to good leadership, and when you have a responsive, engaged team, you have the potential to achieve better results with greater efficiency. Not only that, you might find that the office atmosphere improves—solid leadership has the power to make people feel uplifted, supported, and part of a healthy, communicative team.

To begin evaluating your personal leadership, you may want to work with a leadership coach. An experienced coach can help you uncover some of your blind spots and guide you in creating healthy changes. If, however, you want to begin your leadership evaluation on your own, you may want to start by asking yourself the following 7 questions:

1. Do I actively promote open communication?

Creating an open line of communication is crucial. People need to feel like they can bring forth any new ideas, complaints, or feedback. Without open communication, your team could devolve into a gossiping, afraid-to-come-forward mess.

2. Do I understand what motivates each team member?

It’s important to “get the right butts in the right seats.” If you want a motivated, enthusiast team, take the time to understand what makes people tick.

3. Do I understand what each team member dreads?

On the other side of the coin, it’s a good idea to understand what each person on your team does not like to do. It’s torturous for extroverted, sociable people (Yellow Energy on the Insights Discovery chart) to be cooped up in an office by themselves, analyzing data. And it’s not fun for an introverted deep thinker to be forced into making a quick decision.

NOTE: If you’re unsure of the communication preferences of your team members, consider tapping into a program like Insights Discovery. Ask me more about this if you’re interested—I’m a Licensed Practitioner.

4. Does my leadership brand include transparency and authenticity?

Trust is a huge part of leadership. If you’re standoffish or come across as inauthentic, people won’t place their trust in you (and it’s difficult to lead a team when there’s no trust). Instead, aim to connect with others on a human level. Don’t be afraid to be your wonderful, authentic you.

5. Do I make objectives clear?

If your team isn’t working toward a shared vision, they’re going to flounder. Establish your big-picture goals and keep them top of mind. Make sure your team feels involved in working toward your goals.

6. Does everyone on the team have a voice? Is everyone included and engaged?

If certain people on your team are falling through the cracks, you may want to consider how to bring them back to the table. During meetings, ask the quieter team members for their thoughts. Make sure everyone’s voice is represented.

Also: Be a good listener!

7. Am I willing to draw a line in the sand?

If there are people on your team who are repeatedly turning in subpar work or missing deadlines, that hurts the entire team and it makes people upset and annoyed. As a leader, you have to be willing to draw a line in the sand and take disciplinary action when it’s required. It’s never easy to do this, but my D4 feedback model can help.

How is your leadership looking? Does it need a little work? Simply acknowledging the areas in which you need to improve is a huge step! Once you know where to concentrate your efforts, you can begin making any changes that need to be made to become a better, more compassionate leader.

If you’d like to work side-by-side on improving your leadership, please let me know.

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. 
NOW 50% Off: MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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