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Creating Successful Leaders

Category Archives: Leadership

be yourself oscar wilde

NOTE: This is an updated post from Oct, 2015.

I sometimes get the question: “Margaret, what is the most important attribute of a good leader?”

This question is a tough one. There are a lot of factors that make up an excellent leader: trust, self-confidence, good communication skills. In fact, I talk about my top ten attributes in my book, the Ten Minute Leadership Challenge. But the one thing at the heart of it all is AUTHENTICITY.

You have to be an authentic leader before anything else. You need to know yourself, your values, how you work, and who you are before you can even consider leading others. Authenticity means having a deep understanding of your inner self and not compromising your deeply held values. Sure, you can adapt to different situations and show different sides of yourself at different times (i.e. a more casual side at home, a more professional side at work), but your core should remain the same.

superhero

How would anyone trust you if you acted like one person sometimes and a completely different person at other times? What would people think if you always agreed with whomever you were speaking, even if their assertions were way off base from what you believe?

Being authentic should be part of your personal brand. Show up, be yourself, and take a genuine interest in those around you.

I have found that authenticity is just as important as ever in the workplace. Employees of all ages and backgrounds look for candid, authentic leadership that they can trust.

Furthermore, with the popularity of social media, your comments and photos are everywhere. Yes, you should be your authentic self on the web, but you should be your BEST authentic self. Let your funny or intellectual or caring side shine!

You’ll find that being your best authentic self is a heck of a lot easier than significantly modifying your behavior and beliefs whenever you’re with a different group of people. When people say, “your reputation proceeds you,” you should know that is a good thing.

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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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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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