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Creating Successful Leaders

Category Archives: Personal Branding

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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are you a new leader

I’ve met a lot of people who were promoted to a management position, given their corner office, and then left alone to fend for themselves. It’s possible they were given basic information on the mechanics of running the office—when to do annual reviews, what financial reports to file, who to call when their computer is on the fritz—but they are seldom trained in on how to lead.

Leadership is not something that new managers should have to figure out on their own. There’s a real art to successfully engaging and motivating a team, dealing with conflict resolution, and achieving results through effectively delegating work to employees.

How can new leaders build those skills?

Sure, they can read leadership books or attend seminars, but it’s difficult to sift through all that information and really get to the crux of effective leadership. That’s where programs like Build A Boss* come in.

Career coach, Karen Kodzik, and I saw a gap in the marketplace a few years ago for developing new managers into leaders. Many managers were struggling with team dynamics, communication, or achieving the kind of results that their companies expected. With that in mind, Karen and I set about creating Build A Boss, a program that takes a four-pronged approach to leadership:

ME

We start with helping new leaders develop a deep understanding of themselves. This is the root of excellent leadership and helps to open the door to understanding others. By building emotional intelligence, a new leader can bolster their personal brand, improve communication, and increase their confidence.

ME +1

One of the most commonly overlooked (and vitally important!) areas for managers to develop their skills is in one-on-one interactions. These private meetings between a manager and team member are important for building trust, getting to know each other’s areas of strength, and soliciting feedback that can be used to improve the current system.

ME +Team

How does a leader select a team for a particular project? How can she capitalize on individual strengths? Or avoid team conflict? Selecting and building a team is no small task. And once a team is established, how does a leader keep them focused and motivated? Our Build A Boss program gives new leaders tools and methods to help build a powerhouse team and keep them engaged and results-driven.

ME +Org

A manager’s relationship with his organization is an essential piece of the leadership puzzle. Ultimately, how a manager performs can either help or hinder the organization’s goals. It’s incredibly easy for managers to get bogged down in day-to-day details and forget about their place in the big picture. We encourage leaders to pull themselves away from the trees and begin seeing the forest! This perspective can help them better develop their personal brand, earn office-wide recognition, and develop forward-thinking stratagems to carry themselves and their organization forward.

 

As a leader, have you considered these four areas as they apply to your work? Do one or more of the areas need improving? You’re certainly not alone!

Instead of struggling through your difficulties, DO SOMETHING about them. Start taking proactive measures to improve your one-on-one communication or your team building expertise. If you’d like additional guidance, please reach out and contact me. I’d love to talk over your situation and help you make the most of your leadership.

As I say in the Ten-Minute Leadership Challenge: Become the leader you already know you are!

 

* Please note: Build A Boss is meant for either new or established leaders. I focused on new leaders in this blog post, but next week I’ll touch on established leaders who are facing challenges. Stay tuned!

UPCOMING BUILD A BOSS WORKSHOP:

build a boss leadership program

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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gain control of conversation

Have you ever been in a situation where the conversation went off the rails? Maybe you were trying to talk to a client about a new product and they insisted on talking about politics or their latest family vacation. Or maybe you were leading a meeting and your team began to stray from the topic at hand. Or maybe every time you talk with a particularly chatty co-worker, it’s difficult to get a word in edgewise.

What do you do?

Start with these 5 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 that we give the 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. 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 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 right way to get angry

Picture this: You’re late to work because traffic was moving at a snail’s pace, which caused other drivers to get irritable and cut you off on the road. When you finally get to work, you find a Post-it note on a stack of papers on your desk that says “Need this by the end of the day.” You grumble about the huge pile of work and decide to make a cup of coffee. When you take your first sip, the coffee burns the roof of your mouth and you end up spitting it out…all over your white shirt.

Have you ever had a day like that? I know I have! How do you react? How can you turn such a disastrous day around?

A big part of the solution rests with you. How you handle the anger that’s undoubtedly bubbling within you can either make or break your day. But that’s easier than it sounds!

When many of us feel angry, we tend to react in one of two equally unhealthy ways:

  1. Bottle up the anger and hope things will get better.
  2. Let our anger flow forth and land on everyone and everything around us.

Research shows that neither method is ideal. Bottling up your anger can make it worse and can increase stress and anxiety. Venting your anger, on the other hand, can intensify your feelings and damage relationships with those around you.

So, what can you do?

One way to temporarily cool your jets is to practice steadying your breathing and counting or repeating a mantra in your head. Once you’ve gained control, assess the current situation that’s making you angry and LOOK FOR THE GOOD in it. Even terrible situations have silver linings. Take the story at the beginning of this blog post:

  1. Even though traffic was slow, you didn’t get in an accident and your car is running just fine
  2. Even though your boss gave you a pile of work, you are employed and capable. You are a problem-solver and can either figure out how to do the work or talk with your boss and negotiate.
  3. Even though you burned your mouth and spilled coffee on your shirt, it’s great that you have access to coffee and have the means to purchase a shirt. You’re luckier than many people out there.

See? If you dig into your frustrations, you can find bits of goodness embedded in them.

Another tactic you can utilize is practicing empathy. If other people are causing you to get angry, ask yourself why that might be. Put yourself in their shoes and consider if they are being a pain in the neck because they’re going through a rough patch. It could be that something terrible is happening in their lives that you’re not aware of. Before you combat anger with anger, take a moment to find compassion. Ask questions (if you feel comfortable doing so) and aim for understanding.

You can get a handle on anger. As researcher Albert Ellis said, “You don’t get frustrated because of events, you get frustrated because of your beliefs.” Work on your belief system. Believe that the world is not out to get you. Believe there is always something positive embedded in the negative. Your thinking can change your life.

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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