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Creating Successful Leaders

Category Archives: Leadership

Water with text over it that says Is Transparency Part of Your Leadership Brand?
Background image by kalhh from Pixabay

When you think of a leader, what qualities do you picture? Do you picture someone who is competent, confident, and a good speaker? Do you see someone who can fire up the room and motivate their team? Or, perhaps, do you picture someone who is data-driven and brainy—someone who’s gears are always turning?

While these are all worthy leadership traits, I believe one crucial leadership component is consistently overlooked: transparency.

Without transparency, it is difficult to cultivate trust (for more on trust, read this past post!). People begin to wonder what you’re doing in the shadows, and question why decisions are made.

Being a transparent leader, means being honest. It means being yourself at all times (though sometimes you may be a more formal version of yourself, while other times you may be a more casual version). For a transparent leader, there is no room for being two-faced. I have found that people catch on quickly when someone isn’t being candid or is telling two versions of the same story to two different groups of people.

Another aspect of the transparent leader is courage. It takes a good deal of guts to be honest with your team when things are not going especially well. If performance is flagging or the company is going through growing pains, don’t hide those difficulties. Instead, engage your team and encourage them to become part of the solution.

Transparent leaders communicate. They keep an open-door policy, and welcome any feedback, thoughts, or opinions…even if some of what they hear is negative or critical. In fact, this kind of constructive feedback is exactly what an organization needs to grow and improve. Transparent leaders make others feel comfortable approaching them—they cultivate a spirit of mutual trust.

Take a moment to ask yourself: How transparent is your organization? How transparent are YOU? If your personal transparency needs a little work, take action!

  • Start talking to your co-workers. Be as candid as possible AND be a respectful listener.
  • Encourage feedback. Schedule one-on-one meetings to gain feedback and then ACT on sound suggestions or ideas.
  • Be vulnerable. You’re not perfect, and it’s okay for others to see that.
  • Facing a crisis? Don’t try to hide it. Be open about the company’s issues, and work as a team to solve them.

When you become an open and candid leader, a lot can change. You may find your relationships with team members improve, workplace culture becomes a little more open and honest, and you feel less anxious about having to hide business difficulties from your co-workers. In the long term, your transparency will hopefully encourage others to act in kind, which will eventually foster an open and communicative work environment.

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 NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Hands holding a tape measure
Image by Myriam Zilles from Pixabay

How do you measure value? Is it in the skills your co-workers bring to the table? The projects you are able to complete? Is it strictly monetary? Different groups of people have different ways of measuring value and success, each with their own unique spectrums and criteria. If you only determine value from one perspective, it may leave you unable to recognize the skills and true value your employees bring to the table. If you find yourself stuck in such a rut, here are some different approaches you may want to consider when measuring value:

1. Engagement

Too often, teams’ leaders don’t take into account the level of engagement a given project will inspire among their team members. When selecting projects or assigning tasks, you may find it helpful to weigh your decisions on a scale of value that places that engagement above other elements. Work that excites your team will create a more efficient and productive flow.

2. Personal

What are your own motivators for doing the kind of work that you do? If you decide to take on work that is uninteresting but lucrative, what do you stand to gain by earning that money? Too often we set aside our own interests and priorities to follow procedure or defer to someone else’s interest. Your time as a professional is valuable and cannot be given back. Take this into account when determining the value of prospective work.

3. Constructive

What does your team stand to gain as a whole from a project? Is there an opportunity to call upon skills someone has been developing, or will there be any kind of collaboration with professionals in a different field or department? Often opportunities are valuable not just in the work they provide but from the skills they allow people to build upon from their undertaking. If you take a step back to measure value in this way, take stock of these big-picture benefits that may otherwise go unseen.

4. Monetary

Of course, some work is more straightforward in value and function. Teams cannot operate without a budget and opportunities must often be weighed against the most important benefit they bring to the company: resources. While money doesn’t need to be a driving measure of value, it should certainly be taken into account.

5. Public Facing

What does taking on a potential project mean for your brand? For the way people view yourself and your fellow employees? Social media and reputation are a valuable commodity in the digital business landscape and must be curated with care. Controversy or the appearance of dubious ethics can impact even the largest businesses. Don’t undervalue this important piece of social currency.

Value is subjective and multifaceted. The more ways you’re able to consider what is valuable in your organization will help put it in a stronger position tomorrow than it is today. Don’t be afraid to sit down and consider all the possibilities!

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 NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Hands holding a seedling
Image via Pixabay

Striking out fresh in any career comes with its own set of challenges. If you’re lucky, you’ll enter into your industry with a few contacts and entry level skills before having to navigate where to look for employment and how to distinguish yourself from a large pool of talent. While this generation of young people are capable workers in their own right, young professionals don’t have the benefit of having experienced an industry for a decade or two like their superiors. Mentoring others provides a unique opportunity to fill in the gaps for these workers and offers many rewarding benefits:  

1 . Better Outcomes and Relationships

Mentoring, like tutoring, is an interpersonal skill. When people feel their voice is heard and being encouraged to grow, they are much more likely to remain engaged with their work and voice concerns more confidently. Any time you can foster better feedback from your team, the stronger the team becomes.

2. Reputation

Building a reputation as a mentor in your industry can become a distinguishing part of your career. Often, companies seek to draw upper-talent from pools of candidates that are known in professional circles to be helpful leaders and actively collaborative. Mentoring your employees demonstrates both of these skills easily and clearly, particularly for mentors who’ve done so throughout their career. As the adage goes: “You get back what you put in.”

3. Professional Development

Just because someone can benefit from the guidance of a mentor doesn’t mean they’re without skills to bring to the table. New workers, especially young people, often come with the proficiencies or strategies needed to approach new technology or use new software. You can take advantage of the personal relationship you strike with your mentee to have them teach you how to effectively use these tools. You both walk away more competent.

4. Networking

Life is long and careers often take unexpected twists and turns. The analyst that started at your company five years ago may quickly rise in the ranks of the industry to a sector you’re interested in doing business with or simply learning more about. The more people you can foster a mentoring relationship with, the wider you cast your net across the next generation of leaders. These relationships may end up among the most important in your working life.

5. Personal Fulfillment

Any teacher can attest to this last benefit. Mentoring is an opportunity to open yourself to others whose perspective may be entirely different from your own. Learning from one another about subjects that extend beyond the scope of your job will enrich you personally and professionally.

Mentoring others is essential to bridging the gap between generations of workers. Stepping up to help guide colleagues through this process will not only reward your mentee and yourself, but your industry as a whole. So take a leap and share what you 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 LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Smiling business woman at laptop
Image via Pixabay

Last week’s post had to do with retaining young workers through competitive wages and benefits, combating boredom, and demonstrating your trust in them by giving them a high degree of autonomy. This week, we’ll focus on YOU, and how you can set an example of healthy company loyalty.

First of all, let me clarify that this post is geared toward leaders, which could potentially be anyone and everyone. Even if you’re not a manager or supervisor, you might lead a team, spearhead a project, or be the go-to person at the office for ideas. Whatever your specific brand of leadership, know that you have influence (often more influence than you might realize).

How does your leadership tie into loyalty?

You have the power to influence the tone of the office. Instead of contributing to an environment of whining, complaining, and gossip, focus on being an optimistic problem-solver.

If you don’t necessarily agree with a company policy, don’t trash talk the decision-makers. Instead, take a constructive approach. Ask yourself what you can do to either A) work within the system to make a positive change OR B) put together a case to show why the policy doesn’t work. Either way, you’ll accomplish more than you would if you simply complained behind the decision-makers’ backs.

Another thing you, as a leader, can do to foster loyalty is be inclusive. How long do you think a person will last at the company if they’re constantly feeling like an outsider? Or if they think they don’t have a voice? Include others by asking for their thoughts and opinions, consulting them during meetings, and looping them in on relevant decisions. When they share their thoughts, make sure to actually listen and give them the careful consideration they deserve.

Finally, show appreciation. Too often, we neglect to give praise when praise is due. If you notice someone going above and beyond their duties, say thank you or give them a hand-written thank you note. Make sure your gratitude is genuine, and give it freely. It is simple gestures like these that will help others feel valued and appreciated. It could make all the difference.

For more, please feel free to take a look at my brief video on demonstrating loyalty:

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 NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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via Pixabay

I often hear people complaining about the “new generation” of workers as being disloyal to the company. They change jobs like gym shorts, and can’t commit to a single business for more than a few years. While that may be true, have you ever stopped to think about WHY that’s the case?

1. Stagnant Wages

For many young and not-so-young (the oldest Millennials are approaching 40 now) people, the workplace landscape is MUCH different than it was when Boomers and Gen Xers began their careers. Wages have stagnated and benefits aren’t what they used to be. In many cases, the only way to get a raise is to negotiate one by switching jobs.

Solution?

Make sure your business is competitive. Offer fair wages, and regularly give raises to account for cost-of-living increases. In addition, make sure your list of benefits is attractive and competitive in the industry.

2. Boredom

“But what about their short attention spans!?” you might say. “We can’t seem to capture their interest.”

Sure, job boredom may play a role in Millennial job-hopping, but this is often a preventable woe. If more than one or two of your staff seem bored or distracted, it’s probable that there’s something systemic going on. It may be that…

  1. They are not well-suited for their role
  2. They are so efficient that they complete their workload much faster than previous generations of workers
  3. They have checked out because they feel like they don’t fit in in the workplace
  4. They have checked out because they don’t think they have a voice

Solution?

In all these scenarios, communication can help prevent boredom. Regularly check in with your staff and make sure they are feeling engaged and supported. Give them the space to express how they are feeling and vocalize what they’d like to see changed. Then, work with them to strategize ways to make positive changes.

If your young workers are checking out because they feel like they don’t fit in, counter that by encouraging team-building workshops (consider Insights Discovery as a starting point), after-work outings, or collaborative projects. Pay attention and make sure your seasoned workers are giving the newer workers a voice.

3. Lack of Freedom

Nobody likes it when others look over their shoulders to supervise their work. It conjures images of elementary school, when teachers had to keep a classroom of rambunctious youngsters in line in addition to teaching multiplication tables. Such treatment in the workplace could induce anxiety and the feeling of being hemmed in. No one works well under that kind of pressure.

Solution?

Your staff are not elementary children and should not be treated as such. It’s a good idea to demonstrate trust in your team by giving them a long leash when it comes to projects, minimizing your involvement, and being open to different styles of working and different solutions.

Another thing: consider allowing your staff to occasionally work from home. We live in a time where technology enables many people to work remotely on at least some of their projects. As long as the work is being done, who cares if they work in their pajamas?

If you have a retention problem, ask yourself if any (or all!) of these three factors are coming into play, and then DO something! I’m here to help.

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 NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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You can dream of success and plan all you want, but at some point, the rubber has to meet the road. Your success will ultimately be built on actions, not wishes and dreams. The most successful people in the world not only have a strong vision of where they want to go, but the willpower and drive to get there. And that’s just it: to become exceptionally successful, you have to work exceptionally hard.

Beyond working hard, successful people often have to do what others will flat-out refuse to do. They’re the ones who are getting up early and working on writing their book. Or making cold calls to people who could help on their journey. Or investing in themselves by attending workshops or seeking coaching in order to better define their path. Or reading books and conducting research in their spare time to learn and improve.

This is the “tough stuff” most people refuse to do. It takes sacrifice and drive to, for instance, read a leadership book instead of turning on the television and zoning out. It takes dedication to wake up an hour early every morning and work on whatever you need to do to achieve your dream.

The “tough stuff” may take you out of your comfort zone (networking, cold calls, learning new skills, etc.). It may make you stretch yourself and adapt to new situations as best you can. That’s part of the process. If you’re not okay with a little risk and discomfort, you’re not likely to achieve major success. Risk comes with the territory (as long as it’s risk with a purpose—risk for risk’s sake isn’t going to do anyone any good).

Start with a solid vision of the future, create a plan, then dive into the tough stuff! Ask yourself:

  • Am I willing to make sacrifices to reach my goals?
  • Am I okay with a certain amount of discomfort?
  • Am I ready to learn whatever new skills are necessary?
  • Am I willing to accept I will encounter opposition? And do I have the courage and tenacity to face that opposition head-on?
  • Am I willing to take action and work for my dreams?

If you answered yes to these questions, you are in the right mindset to take on the tough stuff and achieve your success. Let that mindset drive you forward to dream, plan, and DO.

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 NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Images of seagulls in a row depicting when a team is too similar

Every team is unique, which means every team encounters its own challenges and pitfalls. Sometimes communication between team members breaks down. Other times productivity dips due to colleagues not seeing eye to eye on a particular problem. But what do you do as a team leader when you are faced with the opposite problem? What do you do when your team members are too similar?

Strong teams rely on their members as individual engines of creativity, each with their own specific skillsets. While it’s not necessarily always an issue to have a team with overlapping abilities and points of view, a lack of diversity of thought can stifle creativity or hamper problem-solving. When Joe, John, and Jack all offer the same, incomplete solution, that’s a sign things need to change.

Being an effective team leader means being able to bring out the best in your team and point it in the direction that will allow you to accomplish your goals. So, if your squadron suffers from being too similar, you might want to consider some of these solutions:

1. Brainstorming Homework

Homogenous teams tend to lump together in groupthink if given the opportunity. A way to combat this habit is to isolate each individual team member’s strengths and abilities in an environment where they’re allowed to contemplate without the influence of their like-minded peers. Assign different tasks or divvy up a single task into components to each of your team members, and have them come up with solutions or ideas on their own. This can give better insight into each of the individual members’ limitations and quirks, and be used as a road map for what qualities or ideas to encourage folks to bring to the table at full team meetings.

2. Role Play

Sometimes team members can’t call upon different perspectives because they haven’t been given the opportunity to engage with them. Identify strategies or types of problem solving you would like to bring out more in your team, and give them the opportunity to utilize these methods in practice exercises. It may be helpful to bring in someone from another group or department familiar with the process to serve as a guide.

3. Switch Up the Roster

If there is a persistent problem in addressing challenges, the roster may be in need of some alterations. You can experiment switching out team members on specific tasks, bring in different staff for certain projects, or even bring on a new hire to inject energy into a complacent group. Variety and situational changes keep people alert and help draw their attention to the issues that are causing these changes.

4. Competition

Who says innovation can’t be a contest? Incentivizing behaviors is a timeless and effective way to instigate desired results. Offer a small reward for team members who are able to provide new or sought-after solutions to ongoing problems. If the desire is to correct a more systemic homogeneity, consider creating broader rewards for seeking outside collaboration or professional development that can be integrated into your team’s stagnant dynamic.

Team dynamics are tricky, and often problems are not resolved by any one solution. Try out a couple different strategies, and don’t give up if one doesn’t foster the changes you are looking for. As long your team is persistent and committed to growth, you will likely find an answer.

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 NEW online Leadership Course.

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