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Category Archives: Personal Branding

If you are a Millennial, you’re probably already well aware that you’re fighting an uphill battle in the average workplace. Millennials have been given a lot of flak for being lazy, self-absorbed, and disloyal. Journalists love writing articles about Millennials that cast the entire generation in a poor light. While the criticisms may be true in some cases, they are absolutely NOT true in many others.

(I’ve written a couple blog posts about the fallacy that Millennials are bad employees. Check out Millennials and Loyalty and Millennials and Altruism).

Unfortunately, many people have bought into the racket and are overly cautious about their Millennial co-workers. So, how do you cut through the distrust and prove that you are, in fact, loyal and you DO want to work hard?

Try the following 5 strategies:

1. Demonstrate Your Respect

I’m sure you have tons of brilliant ideas that you’d like to implement RIGHT AWAY, but hold your horses. If you’re starting out in a new job, take your time to get to know your co-workers, get a feel for the environment, and understand protocol. Be sure to respect the ideas and practices of those who have been in the organization for longer than you have, even if you don’t necessarily agree with their methods. A little respect can go a long way.

When you do feel you need to speak up and offer an alternative opinion, do so in a courteous manner. Acknowledge the commonalities between you and the other person or people with whom you disagree, and THEN offer your alternative or dissenting opinion. Remember: your tone of voice and mannerisms can also speak volumes. Pay attention to your body language and be as polite as possible.

2. Surpass Expectations

If you’re looking for respect from your co-workers, then make sure you’re not only turning in your assignments on time and being as punctual as possible, but also make an effort to go the extra mile. Do a little extra research for that report. Help out a struggling co-worker. Turn in a project a day early.

You don’t always have to surpass expectations (and probably shouldn’t), but it doesn’t hurt to make an effort to shine from time to time. Just make sure you’re not rubbing your excellence in others’ noses!

3. Think AND Talk About the Future

What’s your five-year plan at your company? What are your goals? Think about your personal expectations for your future self (if you’d like some help with goal setting, check out this past blog post), and commit to them.

Don’t be afraid to let others in on your goals, especially your immediate supervisor or mentor. How do you talk about your goals with others? Try framing them in the form of a question. For instance:

“I’m determined to do XYZ this year, but I’m not sure about [a certain aspect of reaching that goal]. What are your thoughts?”

OR: “I’d really like to [become a project lead, take on X responsibility, earn a promotion to X position]. How were you able to do this? Any tips for me?”

4. Be Humble

You don’t know everything. Not only that, there are things you don’t even know that you don’t know! With that in mind, be open to learning and trying new things. Listen. Pay attention. Learn.

5. When Things Aren’t Ideal, Communicate

Instead of thinking about leaving as soon as things get tough or the job doesn’t seem to suit you anymore, communicate. Approach your supervisor, let her know about your discontentment, and strategize ways to overcome your slump (better yet, strategize ahead of time, and let her know your ideas in addition to a collaborative brainstorm).

Believe me, everyone has slumps. It’s possible you’ve mastered your work and are now bored, or you might feel ill-suited to the work you are doing (in both cases, a change in responsibilities might help you re-engage). It’s also possible you’ve become unhappy with the work climate and don’t care for certain co-workers or certain office practices. That is a larger problem, but can also be surmountable in some cases (it might just mean talking to certain co-workers and strategizing on how to better work together).

Direct communication is key. The last thing you want to do is mope around for a month, make everyone around you unhappy, and then quit. That doesn’t do ANYONE any good! Talking out your discontentment (in a respectful, matter-of-fact way), and strategizing solutions is a much more proactive approach.

 

How will you prove yourself in a workplace that is determined to write you off? Start with these 5 strategies, give them an earnest try, and be patient–others’ attitudes toward you may not change overnight. Remember: if you find the workplace to be overwhelmingly toxic, there’s no shame in moving on. Just make sure to give this decision plenty of thought and consider talking with a career coach before you make your move.

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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New Manager

For years, the story has been the same: The number one reason an employee leaves a company is because of their manager.

To me, that says something loud and clear: We are not investing enough time and energy into our managers. Sure, they may receive some cursory training about their new role, but they rarely get anything beyond that.

Below, I list nine important items we SHOULD be training our managers on. Each item links to a blog post about that particular topic. All of these items are covered through the Build A Boss program, which my colleague, Karen, and I offer to business teams. We have found that these are universal items that managers in all industries can benefit from.

Instead of simply awarding a promotion and stepping back to let the manager “figure it out,” companies NEED to be working on the crucial skills that make their managers think like leaders.

Nine of these crucial lessons are encompassed in the following articles…

  1. “Just Be Yourself!” Leadership and Authenticity
  2. 4 Ways To Delegate More Effectively
  3. Balancing Head And Heart: Friendships At Work
  4. Resist the Urge to Micromanage
  5. How To Confront Someone (Without Making It Worse)
  6. Having CLEAR Conversations
  7. Creating an Inclusive Workplace with Insights® Discovery
  8. “The 6 People You Need in Your Corner” from Forbes Magazine
  9. What is the difference between a BOSS and a 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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Office Gossip 2

It’s ugly and hurtful, but it happens in almost every workplace. Gossip. It’s those little hurricanes that start as whispers. Someone spreads a rumor about another person and then it grow and grows, damaging reputations or pitting people against each other.

Even if gossip stays small, it’s still harmful. Feelings may get hurt or reputations ruined…and whoever is spreading the gossip becomes a little more untrustworthy in others’ eyes.

It’s better to stay out or, better yet, actively fight gossip. How?

  1. Defend the gossip subject.

Next time someone tells you Kathy is stealing office supplies or Mike is on the verge of getting fired, respond with a shrug and say, “Hmm, that doesn’t sound like her/him. I’d rather not speculate.”

  1. Change the subject

It’s not a cop-out to change the subject when others are gossiping. It can actually be quite difficult and takes a lot of guts. Effectively change the subject by saying something like, “I’d rather not talk about [NAME]. Can you tell me if we’re meeting in room A or B for our meeting today? I have to set up some audio equipment…”

  1. Focus on others’ good qualities

When you talk about other people, make sure it’s always in a positive light. Don’t assign blame, chastise, or spread rumors. Instead, make an effort to look for the positive in each person and point it out to others. “Did you see Mark’s client report? It’s so detailed this time around! He must have put a lot of effort into it.”

  1. Be an example

Demonstrate to others that you are trustworthy AND a leader by not stooping to the level of petty office gossip.

  1. Confront gossip about YOU

There’s no better way to stop gossip in its tracks than to confront it…especially if it’s about you. When you’re approaching someone whom you know has spread a rumor about you, try your best to be level-headed and even-toned. Talk to the offender as if you were clearing up a simple fact. “Hey Lindsey. I heard you were saying X about me. It makes me disappointed and a little angry that you think that.” OR “Hey Graham, I wanted to clear up a misunderstanding. I did not do XYZ. Instead, I did ABC. I hope that clears things up.”

No matter how you slice it, it isn’t easy to fight office gossip. Be a shining example, talk about others in a positive light, and avoid spreading rumors, and you’ll find that other positive people will gravitate toward you. Your unwillingness to wade into office gossip proves that you are worthy of others’ trust and respect.

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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This is your year! It’s time to earn that promotion, get your raise, or capture that leadership role you’ve always wanted. If you want to make big strides this year, you’ll want to make sure you shine in all the right ways. Remember, you never know when the right person will take notice of your abilities so it’s a good idea to always practice consistency—consistency in your attitude, work ethic, standards, and perspectives.

Of course, you’ll want to get the basics right first. Complete your projects before the deadline, show up on time, strive to make positive connections. But, beyond that…how do you stand out while being yourself and not seeming desperate?

Try these four tips:

Speak up

Your opinions and ideas are worthy. When you speak up during team meetings or during one-on-ones, you start to be on others’ radars. This is a great first step to earn your next big thing.

Dress impeccably

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but guess what…everyone does. Dress well every day, as if your boss’ boss is going to step into the room and vet you for a promotion.

Don’t stoop to gossip

Keep your standards high and don’t talk badly about others. Gossip has a way of circling around, and it’s just not worth it. Demonstrate that you are trustworthy and above petty office rumors.

Take smart risks

Doing everything like everyone else will never get you ahead in the workplace. Set yourself apart by taking smart risks. Bring your ideas forward, speak up, take on big responsibilities, be a leader. Of course, you’ll want to make sure you’re making strides before you make waves.

How will you make an effort to stand out this year? Let me know in the comments or send me a message outlining your plan. This is YOUR year. Go get it.

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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Interview Question

Most of us know it’s coming. It’s that question interviewers love to ask, just to keep you on your toes: “What are your greatest weaknesses?”

Are your palms sweating yet? Is your brain spinning in circles, trying to figure out how to answer this question? Or, do you have some kind of canned answer you found from a website?

It’s a tricky question, and infamously difficult to get right. On the one hand, you don’t want to reveal anything too terrible that will potentially cost you your interview. Then again, you don’t want to be dishonest or gloss over the answer with something like, “People say I work too much and am too dedicated to the company!”

No interviewer is going to be impressed with an answer like that. It’s disingenuous and doesn’t tell them anything about you, except that you’re good at studying stock answers for interview questions. So how to approach this question?

First of all, be aware that sharing your challenges and flaws—the very things that make you human—can actually help you come off as a more authentic, relatable candidate.

Joe Grimm of the Poynter Institute, an organization dedicated to integrity in journalism, suggests that interviewees faced with this question should always be honest and avoid mentioning character flaws because these are traits that are difficult to change. Instead, mention areas where you’re determined to improve. Consider saying something like, “I’m not as adept with Excel as I’d like to be, but I’m currently improving my skills through internet tutorials.”

Be sure to never talk about strengths as weaknesses. Your “over-commitment” to work is just another way of saying, “I’m a dedicated employee” and interviewers can see right through your wordplay.

Remember: Don’t overthink your response to the point that you panic and don’t have one. As Washington Post journalist Lily Whiteman reminds us, “the worst responses are ‘I don’t know’ and the comical ‘I have no weaknesses.’”

You should also try to cater your response to the position and organization to which you are applying. Anticipate the motivation and interests of the interviewer when selecting your response and personal story. For example, if you are applying for a position as a financial adviser, you might talk about one of the specific areas in which you lack experience—say estate planning for people with over $1 Million in assets. And then (as mentioned earlier), demonstrate how you will familiarize yourself or how you are already working to improve in this area.

Keep in mind, this question mainly exists because it reveals whether you, the applicant, possess key qualities such as self-awareness, authenticity, sincerity, adaptability, and foresightedness.  Reveal that yes, you have weaknesses, but you will not let them stop you from doing the best job you can do for their organization.

Happy interviewing! Please contact UXL today to find out how we can help you transform the future of your business or career through guided professional coaching.

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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Mentoring and leadership

It comes as no surprise to me that businesses and organizations of all types have set up mentorship programs to increase meaningful relationships among the members of their teams. Why? Because mentoring is one of the most powerful, effective forms of leadership.

Yet I’ve noticed that many are hesitant to adopt the role of mentor. They may feel that they aren’t good enough teachers, or that they lack the confidence to take ownership of their skill sets.

The truth is we’re all mentors, whether we know it or not. And while we may not have fully developed this trait, we all possess the potential to become effective mentors and, at the same time, enrich and empower our leadership.

How does mentoring another give your own leadership a boost?

1. It encourages you to always lead with a good example.

Sometimes we slip into bad work habits and mentoring another causes us to be aware of those bad habits and avoid them.

2. You discover knowledge gaps.

Your mentee may ask questions to which you don’t know the answer. That forces you to research or reach out to co-workers to find the answer, thus expanding your knowledge base.

3. You build communication and people skills.

Mentoring helps strengthen your communication skills in one-on-one situations. Since you are the authority figure, it can also build your confidence and even your public speaking skills.

4. You build credibility

Not only will you build credibility in the eyes of your mentee, but other people around the office will see you as reliable, a go-getter, and someone who knows their stuff. You have enough knowledge and poise to tutor another; you must have what it takes to perform your job well (and maybe even land a promotion!).

How to be a Mentor?

Now that we’ve discussed the benefits of mentoring to your leadership, let’s look at the best ways to be a mentor:

Mentors Lead By Example

In an article from The Journal of Leadershipeducational consultants John C. Kunich and Richard I. Lester detail some key aspects of strong mentoring.

A mentor must behave at all times, both publicly and privately, as if the protégé were the mentor’s shadow.

Even in your life outside of work, when people might not be watching, you must stay consistent with your values. At the end of the day, good leadership relies upon a life of integrity. When you take a protégé under your wing, you give them clearance to assess your actions. Don’t take this lightly! It’s a big responsibility, yes, but it’s also immensely rewarding to be able to show your mentee the ropes simply by doing the work you do best.

Mentors Share Their Networks

One of the greatest resources an “old head” owns is a network of people who can help cut through the usual tangle of red tape and quickly obtain the desired result.
Networking usually relies upon sharing contacts and leads, so what better way to give your protégé a head start than equipping them with contacts? Set them up with meetings or informational interviews, give out contact information, or hand them one of your friend’s business cards. I’m sure you can think of people in your life who’ve let you into their already-established network, and I’m just as sure that you appreciate that they did.

Mentors Set Goals And Instill The Value Of Goal-Setting

It should become apparent to the protégé that there are significant differences between workable goals and pleasant but less reality-based dreams, hopes, or wishes.
Because great leaders are able to transform bold visions into reality through the implementation of planning and goal-setting, as a mentor you must also stress the importance of this skill, and work with your protégé on developing goals for themself. A good way to do this is to guide them through the process of differentiating between wishes and workable goals. Get a feel for your mentee’s hopes and dreams. Have them transfer their dreams into workable goals, and write out a long term program with them to get there. With you there as an adviser and a guide, your mentee will learn that visions truly can become reality, but only through long term planning, consistency and gradual steps.

 

Reference

Kunich, John C. and Lester, Richard I. “Leadership and the Art of Mentoring: Tool Kit for the Time Machine.” Journal of Leadership 1-2: (2001) 118, 125, 126.

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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confidence, the key to success

Think of someone who is wildly successful. You might picture Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Brené Brown, J.K. Rowling, Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of your company…or any number of people who have made it big.

What do they all have in common? What traits could an author possibly share with a techie?

The answer is simple on the surface, but difficult in practice. All of these successful people have an underlying firm belief in themselves and what they do.

Much of success is a mind game. If you are confident in your beliefs and your actions and you exude that confidence, others will be confident in you. If you move forward boldly, you will be perceived as a leader and someone who can be trusted.

The power of confidence is real. It’s what drives entrepreneurs to create start-ups. It’s what helps people step up and lead a team. But can you really switch on your confidence? Aren’t some people naturally more confident than others?

While you may not feel naturally confident, you DO have the tools to boost your self-assurance and step into your leadership. As Margie Warrell of Forbes says, “Confidence is not a fixed attribute; it’s the outcome of the thoughts we think and the actions we take.”

Warrell goes on to discuss research into brain plasticity and says that, “we can literally rewire our brains in ways that affect our thoughts and behavior at any age. Which means that no matter how timid or doubt-laden you’ve been up to now, building self-confidence is largely what psychologists called volitional. Or to use layman language: ‘By choice.’ With consistent effort, and the courage to take a risk, we can gradually expand our confidence, and with it, our capacity to build more of it!”

How can you start building your confidence and working toward success? Start with these four steps:

1. Have a clear mission.

What do you believe? What drives you? What is your vision for yourself and the future of your company? Create a roadmap of where you’d like to go and keep it at the forefront of you mind. Enlist the help of a career coach or counselor.

2. Fill your thoughts with positivity.

Practice building up your confidence every morning (or every time you’re feeling self-doubt) by telling yourself positive affirmations and actually believing them.

3. Stop limiting yourself.

Reach outside your comfort zone. The only way to achieve growth is to constantly stretch yourself.

4. Have courage.

Courage is one of the ten leadership attributes in my book, The Ten-Minute Leadership Challenge. Having courage means that you’re willing to stand up for your beliefs and defend others, if necessary. It means taking the occasional risk, even if you’re not feeling brave.

BONUS: 5. Start seeing setbacks as opportunities, rather than obstacles.

If your ideas are challenged, your project faces difficulties, or you’re told “no,” don’t give up! Instead, look at your setback as an opportunity to reframe your idea or your work. Author Stephen King was rejected dozens of time and told that “no one is interested in horror.” What did he do? He edited his work and kept on submitting it, standing firmly by his genre. It’s okay to rework your ideas, but stay steadfast to your core beliefs.

 

YOU have the power to be successful. Your internal monologue can either drive you toward success or make you shrink back into your comfort zone. Be bold, be confident, and above all BELIEVE in yourself, your capabilities, and your ideas.

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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