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Category Archives: Thrive at Work

Capture Your Everyday Courage

Last week, we talked about setting courageous goals and making an action plan for when things don’t go quite as expected. This week, I’d like to address everyday courage—the small, bold actions that can lead to big things.

If you’re going to achieve major changes this year (a promotion, a healthier lifestyle, a better social life, a new career path, etc.) you’ll need to step into every single day with a courageous mindset. Your road to success will be filled with ruts, bumps, and fallen trees blocking the way. How will you be able to overcome these everyday obstacles and focus on the bigger picture?

Start with the 5 P’s:

  • Prepare

When you know a situation is coming up that will require courage, be sure to prepare. Your preparation will help you feel more confident when going into the difficult situation.

  • Pep Talk

Before engaging in a tough conversation, heading into an important meeting, or even trying a new workout at the gym, give yourself a pep talk. Repeat an affirmation or take a few moments to visualize your success.

  • Power Pose

Try this 2-minute power-boosting technique.

  • Project Energy

When you project positive energy through your body language and voice, your confidence will naturally grow.

  • Plan B

Creating a Plan B will give you something solid to fall back on when your initial plan didn’t fly. Take time to think of alternatives “best routes” whenever you’re diving into something new or trying to make a change.

 

For more the 5 P’s, watch this 2-minute video!

NOW, for the workbook part:

  1. Next time you need to act courageously, what will your pep talk be? Write out a few lines that you can recite to yourself when the time comes.

 

  1. How will you act with confidence this week? List three ways you’ll demonstrate your self-assuredness (speaking up, practicing your power pose, doing something you don’t want to do, etc.)

 

 

  1. Think about the next event/meeting/situation where you’ll need to tap into your courage. How will you prepare? What “Plan B” ideas do you have, in case things don’t go according to plan?

 

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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Confident conversations and Insights Discovery

It’s possible to have an assertive, confident conversation without seeming pushy or overbearing. When approached tactfully, your self-assured behavior can have a wholly positive effect; it can motivate others to action, resolve conflicts, and bolster your leadership.

Utilize the concepts from the Insights Discovery program (read about this cutting-edge program in a prior blog post) to effectively and confidently talk with people of all communication preferences. No matter if a person is action-oriented, social, analytical and detail-oriented, or highly empathetic, you can use the below model to discuss just about anything with confidence.

1. Present the facts

When the facts are on your side, your confidence will inevitably increase. Laying out what happened from a neutral standpoint will appeal to those who are fact-driven and methodical.

2. Add emotion

Be candid about your feelings. If a certain situation or action made you feel angry or disappointed, let the other party know. Confident people are generally open, including with their emotions. When you put everything out on the table, you intentionally make yourself vulnerable which not only gives you a measure of control over your emotions, but can also help others realize that they, too, can open up.

3. Empathize

When you can relate to others, their confidence in you grows (which, in turn, increases your confidence). While talking with others, take a moment to think about their perspective and empathize. Then, relay your understanding of the other person’s perspective. For instance: “I know your department’s been experiencing some reshuffling. Am I right in assuming that the changes have delayed your team’s project?” Be sure to utilize good listening when tapping into your empathy!

4. Take action

Concluding your conversations with a plan of attack conveys a high level of confidence and competence. Don’t bulldoze others opinions, but also don’t be afraid to make suggestions if you have thoughts or opinions you’d like to share.

A well-rounded conversation includes facts, emotion, empathy, and action. Go into a discussion feeling confident and comfortable that you’ll be able to effectively communicate with anyone, no matter their personality or communication preferences.

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 holidays are upon us and life can easily turn hectic. The stress of maintaining a satisfactory work-life balance has the tendency to amplify during the holidays. Whether you’re rushing to meet end-of-the-year deadlines, plan holiday parties, find (and pay for!) gifts, or prep your family for an out-of-town trip, it’s easy to feel as tightly wound as wrapping paper around a present.

All of this stress is a shame, because the holidays should be a joyous, relaxed time that we spend with close friends and family members. How can you rediscover holiday cheer and find some inner calm? Try a few of these 20 quick tips:

1. Breathe deeply

The steady rhythm of your breath has a calming effect on the mind, much like any repetitive, soothing sound or motion.

2. Eat a healthy lunch

According to Dr. Pat Bass, a healthy diet is an essential element to combating stress.

3. Exercise

Find something that works for YOU and practice it regularly!

4. Relax your mind

Do a crossword puzzle, squeeze a stress ball, paint a picture, doodle in your notebook.

5. Practice yoga/mindfulness

Yoga helps you focus on the ebb and flow of your breath and also releases the tension in your muscles.

6. Schedule “you time”

Write it on the calendar! Set aside some time to do exactly what you want to do.

7. Schedule family time

Be present for your loved ones.

>>Read about three ways to truly live in the moment.

8. Walk outside

Vitamin D is essential for your skin and just being in the outdoors has a revitalizing, rejuvenating effect.

9. Laugh

Laughter reduces stress, according to the Mayo Clinic. Watch a funny movie, read the comics, or go to a comedy show.

10. Be present

Focus on the here and now instead of getting stressed about the future or regretting something in the past. My book, The Ten-Minute Leadership Challenge, devotes an entire chapter to this concept.

11. Network/reconnect with friends/find your support group

We all need a support group. If you have close friends in the area, make an effort to reach out to them from time to time. If not, find a supportive community through meet-up groups, your local community center, or continuing education classes.

12. Indulge in your interests

Do you like to knit? Paint? Practice Tae Kwon Do? Work your interests into your schedule.

13. Massage

Everyone loves a professional massage, but if you’re short on time or don’t want to spend the money, give yourself a hand massage or shoulder rub.

14. Listen to music

“Music calms the savage beast” and it can also reduce tension. Pick your favorite genre and let Pandora find the perfect music mix for you.

15. Practice gratitude

As I mentioned in my November newsletter, a grateful person is generally a happier, more optimistic person.

16. Count/recite a mantra

The rhythm of counting or reciting a mantra can help calm your mind. Additionally, a positive mantra (i.e. “I can do anything,” “I am smart and strong,” or “Nothing can get in my way”) can give you an added confidence boost.

17. Close your eyes

Sometimes closing your eyes is a good way to distance yourself from your troubles. It also helps you focus on your thoughts without letting visual distractions get in the way.

18. Get organized

A neat and tidy desk or house can help focus your thoughts. Too much clutter can lead to feelings of anxiety and stress.

19. Free write

Get your thoughts down on paper. Write whatever comes to mind if you’re feeling overwhelmed and want to sort through a complex issue.

20. Plan a vacation

Even if you don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon, it’s fun to plan a future vacation. It also gives you something to work towards—a long term reward.

 

Isn’t it time to relax and enjoy the holidays? Take a deep breath and get started with creating a calm, rejuvenating holiday season!

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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Earning thanks

In past posts, I’ve written about how to live in gratitude and express your thankfulness to others. Gratitude can make an enormous difference in your outlook on life, your motivation, and even your health…but what if others are not returning the favor? What if you feel that your co-workers, boss, or family members are constantly failing to recognize your contributions?

That lack of appreciation can get downright frustrating. It can make you feel unmotivated and uninspired. It can also make you wonder if you really are doing good work, since no one seems to notice.

Although we shouldn’t fuel our days entirely on other people’s thankfulness, it’s good to feel appreciated and valued—a worthwhile contribution to the team. If you’re fed up with your lack of recognition, try these four tips:

1. Know when to say NO

If you’re feeling like others are taking advantage of your generosity, it may be time to draw a firm line in the sand. Know your limits and be brave enough to say no when you’re feeling overworked, or when an assignment does not fall within your area of expertise. Although it can be difficult to do at first, saying no can help establish healthy boundaries and earn you respect (if you’re tactful about it! For more, read 10 Diplomatic Ways to Say NO)

2. Make yourself visible

It’s possible others are not expressing their gratitude to you because they are not aware of the work you are doing. Make an effort to check in regularly with your boss or your work team and give a brief update about your current projects. BUT, be sure to reciprocate and ask others about their projects and progress. Demonstrate that you care about others’ work and they will likely return the favor.

3. Express your feelings

Don’t just keep your frustration to yourself; tell others if you’re feeling underappreciated or ignored. How do you do that without exploding your emotions onto others and causing a rift? Try using the D4 model: Data, Depth of Feeling, Dramatic Interpretation, and Do. First, state the facts of the situation—what happened and why? Then, express how you felt about it and what meaning (interpretation) you give to the situation. Finally, suggest an action plan.

The D4 model could play out like this: “Susan, I put in ten extra hours last week to assist with your project and I’m frustrated that you didn’t acknowledge my help. I believe this is part of a larger problem in the office: we do not appreciate each other’s contributions. Going forward, I would like to change that by recognizing outstanding team members at meetings or awarding bonus gift cards to employees who put in extra effort. What do you think?”

4. Continue to show gratitude

If you take the time to recognize others’ achievements—whether in a company meeting, a private comment, or a written note—others are likely to reciprocate. You’re contributing to a culture of gratitude and when you lift up others, you’ll be lifted with them.

 

You deserve recognition for your hard work. If you’re frustrated by your office’s lack of appreciation, get cracking on one (or more!) of these four steps. Remember: don’t be accusatory or snide. Approach your situation with a level head and the understanding that most people are not giving you short shrift on purpose—they’re likely so wrapped up in their work and lives that they’ve simply forgotten the power of a simple “thank you.”

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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As a career coach, I am well aware of the rigors of the modern workplace. Many businesses are understaffed or have ultra-high expectations for their employees, demanding sixty or eighty-hour work weeks. There’s a lot of rushing around, and forging ahead on projects…even if the plan or objective isn’t crystal clear. And that can cause a lot of trouble in the long run.

If there’s no room for question-asking, a work team could end up missing a crucial deadline, misinterpreting a client’s needs, or taking a project in the completely wrong direction. The team will then have to back-pedal and try to correct their errors, costing the company time and money.

The simple way to prevent such mishaps is by simply asking questions.

Good leaders not only ask questions, but encourage others to ask questions. This creates a culture of openness and candid interactions. Questions also can open up a dialogue about the best course of action, rather than limiting future actions to one set of ideas.

Utilize questions to…

Clarify

When a client or manager is introducing a new initiative or project, be sure to ask questions to make sure you understand everything correctly. If you are the one explaining a new concept to others, be sure to ask if they have any specific questions about the actions and objectives.

Learn more about asking great clarifying questions in my video on clarity.

Put Forth New Ideas

There is usually more than one path to a solution. When you ask questions that challenge the current way of doing things, you open up new ways of thinking and acting. These are the “What if…?” questions. They are the questions that encourage your team to think outside the box and become more innovative and creative.

Challenge

There’s a tactful way to challenge an idea, project, or statement. Use questions to uncover any holes in a plan, and gently offer a solution. A tactful challenging question may sound like this:

“I know your team has extensively tested the product on U.S. audiences, but have you considered our international market?”

OR: “I know we’ve been using the same financial tracking equipment for years, but have we thought about exploring XYZ Equipment?”

Dig Deeper

Use questions to really sink your teeth into a project and learn about the thinking behind it. “Digging questions” help to unearth any potential flaws in a plan and open up a dialogue to explore other possibilities.

These questions might ask, “How did we conclude that this is the best course of action?” or “What are some alternative ways we could market to X?” or “How does the data back this decision?” These kinds of questions will challenge your team to be more reflective and thoughtful about their current course of action (and potential future actions) and how they arrived at certain decisions.

 

Creating an open atmosphere that encourages asking questions can tremendously strengthen an organization. When people feel comfortable enough to ask clarifying questions or explore alternative routes, that opens the floor to increased creativity, candidness, and a sense of collaborative decision-making.

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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It’s important to like what you do, but is it important to love what you do? As in, this is your passion or calling?

While it would be nice if everyone worked in a job that sparked their passion, not everyone is quite so lucky. You might find yourself veering off from your original plan. Or, your interests may change over time and you might begin to rethink what matters to you in a career.

Whatever the case, you can find happiness, whether or not your career is helping to save the world! Try these five tactics:

1. Think about your role from a new perspective.

According to Harvard Business Review, “The four most common occupations in America are retail salesperson, cashier, food preparer/server, and office clerk.” Even though those jobs don’t necessarily sound fulfilling, they absolutely can be. It’s all in your frame of mind. If you think of yourself as serving others, or as a vital component in other peoples’ day, that can throw the job in an entirely new light.

Additionally, if you think of your work as a service to your family—and your lifestyle—that can help you reframe your job’s role in your life. It becomes just one component of a balanced existence.

2. Integrate your passion into your work.

Even if your career isn’t at the center of your passion, you can still integrate the things you love into your work. For instance, if you love to write, see if you can take charge of the company newsletter or typing up correspondence to clients or re-imagining your company’s website copy. Or, if you’re passionate about helping children, offer to spearhead a company competition to raise money to support children in need. Look for little ways to fit in the things you love at work and you just might enjoy heading to the office again!

3. Look for fulfillment outside of work.

Even if your current career isn’t quite in line with your life’s calling, you can still make an effort to pursue your interests outside the workplace. Take community education classes, volunteer, start a side business on Etsy, join a hiking club—whatever you need to keep your passion alive! If you make a true effort to place your interests at the center of your life, you might be surprised by how much time you actually have to pursue them.

4. Consider another career path

Although this is a last resort option, it’s worth mentioning. If things are so bad—if your job is so soul-sucking—that you have difficulty getting out of bed in the morning and getting ready for work, it may be time to consider a major change. It’s a good idea to exhaust your other options before reevaluating your entire career path, but if you’ve tried everything and are still utterly unhappy, that’s probably a sign it’s time for something new. Be sure to consult a career coach before making such a major leap.

 

If you’d like to work with me to create a custom path to career happiness, please feel free to contact me today. Your career is a huge part of your life and, frankly, you desire to be happy.

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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When your manager is difficult

They’re always wearing a frown, criticizing staff, and shooting down ideas. They are a storm cloud, blocking out sunny moods and lightheartedness. They are difficult managers.

Many of us have had the unfortunate experience of dealing with a difficult manager at some point or another. It’s amazing how a single person can sour the mood of an office, isn’t it? Their callous attitude can bring everyone down, deflate motivation, and squash innovation and creativity.

How can you possibly defeat such an energy vampire? Isn’t it easier to simply quit your job and find better management elsewhere?

Even though it can sometimes be difficult to overcome an unsupportive manager, there are a few methods you can try before raising the white flag and heading somewhere else. Start with the following five tips:

Remain calm

The way you react to your manager can have a profound effect. If you return a snippy attitude with snippiness, or if you return anger with anger, you’ll only end up more frustrated. Instead, work on detaching yourself from your manager’s poor attitude. The next time he riles you up, remove yourself from the situation (physically or mentally), count to ten, and think about the encounter logically. Is it worth it to respond in kind? Probably not. Instead, find your inner calm and return childish behavior with calm reason.

Refocus

Although it may take significant effort on your part, it is best to focus on a task, not the criticism. Unless your manager has good reason for her critiques, it is best to let them slide off your back. Strategize and forge ahead as best you can, keeping the goal—not the criticism—at the center of your mind.

Be direct, if possible

Sometimes, it’s a good idea to be direct with your manager. If one of his criticisms seems off-base, ask him to explain what he means and how you and your team can perform better next time. Alternatively, you might try bringing up your feelings in a one-on-one meeting with your manager. Let him know how you’re feeling, why you’re feeling that way, and what would make the situation better. Use the D4 model of feedback as a guide and be sure to bring up specific examples.

You’ll have to be brave to directly face your manager, but honestly, what do you have to lose? Sometimes a direct approach can be a breath of fresh air. It’s possible your manager is unaware of the profound effect of his words and actions and simply needs someone to point it out.

And if your directness completely flops? It may be a sign that it’s time to move on to greener pastures (but be sure to consult a career coach before doing anything too drastic!)

Have perspective

An article by Liz Ryan of Forbes Magazine encourages us to see our difficult managers as minor parts in our lives. She says, “Eventually you reach a point where no manager can make you fearful, because you realize that any boss is just a bit player in your movie. You are the director and the star. You could leave any boss at any moment and it wouldn’t kill you — it wouldn’t be ideal perhaps, but you’ll survive. Keep that in mind!”

Ask what you can do better, specifically

It’s possible your manager’s expectations are simply not aligning with your work. The only way to find out is to ask for specific feedback on specific projects. Small changes in your work may have a big impact on your boss’ attitude.

Be empathetic

If your manager suddenly becomes more grim and angry than usual, it’s possible she’s going through a rough patch in her personal life. Many of us leave our personal struggles at home and cover up hardships as best we can in the workplace. This might be the case with your difficult boss. With that in mind, be empathetic and understanding. Don’t take harsh words too personally. Remain calm and talk to your boss as an individual, not as a brutish machine, out to get you. Your empathy may make all the difference.

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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