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Creating Successful Leaders

Category Archives: Thrive at Work

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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quit saying no problem

You’ve rearranged your schedule, taken the time to prepare, and said “no” to other commitments. You’re just about to head into the meeting for which you’ve worked so hard to get ready and then…you get an email: “Something came up. Can we postpone the meeting to next week?”

Many of us have the tendency—even if we’re frustrated by the situation—to respond, “No problem. We can do next week.” But the thing is, there is a problem.

Sometimes people have legitimate excuses for not showing up, canceling something at the last minute, or not getting an assignment to you on time. BUT, if you tolerate this kind of behavior regularly, you are essentially giving other people permission to walk all over you.

Not to mention, many people cancel or postpone meetings simply because they don’t feel like going. They see the meeting as a low priority item—something that can be blown off. And THAT is a huge problem.

So what do you do?

How can you convey your frustration to your client, co-worker, or boss without coming across as a complete ogre?

It’s a tricky situation, especially in my Midwestern home base where politeness is the norm (even at the expense of your own discomfort or annoyance!). But, the issue must be addressed. Otherwise, this kind of cavalier attitude toward meetings will continue. You will be at the mercy of someone else’s whims.

Start putting your foot down. Try these four different approaches (or a variation) and begin holding others accountable.

1. Express that you’ve been inconvenienced.

Try responding with: “Actually, I rearranged my schedule and was counting on this meeting to direct the rest of my week’s work. Next week is pretty packed for me, so I won’t be able to meet then. Is there any way you can make today’s meeting, even if you’re a few minutes late?”

2. Tap into the other person’s emotional side by telling them how the situation made you feel.

Try: “This is the second time we’ve pushed back this meeting. That makes me feel as if my time isn’t valued.”

OR: “We’ve had to reschedule this meeting multiple times. I’m beginning to get frustrated, since I end up wasting time each time we reschedule. Can we make a firm commitment to meet next Tuesday?”

3. Tell your side of the story.

“I spent most of the morning preparing for our meeting instead of working on the XYZ project, which is due next week. This cancellation really throws a monkey wrench into my schedule. Is there any way you can shuffle some things on your end and make at least part of today’s meeting?”

4. Come up with an alternative plan.

“Since it seems like you’ve had to cancel several in-person meetings, why don’t we aim for a phone meeting next time? Say, tomorrow? 10 a.m?”

 

Your time and presence are valuable. If others tend to drop appointments or not follow through with their commitments, it’s time to take a firm stand. Let them know, as tactfully as possible, that yes, there is a problem.

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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build a boss program

Last week, I talked about a program that career coach, Karen Kodzik, and I created called Build A Boss. We noticed a gap in how managers are trained—many are only trained on bare bones office mechanics and not how to effectively lead people—so we sought to fill that gap. In last week’s post, I discussed new leaders and how Build A Boss can help them achieve success in four key areas. This week, I’m going to focus on established leaders and how they can get back on their feet after a significant change.

I’ve worked with many people who have years of leadership experience in a certain area. Then, a change happens. Maybe they move to a new company, shift positions within their current place of employment, or are faced with a drastic restructuring of their company’s way of operating.

Whatever the case, this kind of change can be jarring for a manager who has only practiced a certain brand of leadership. Fortunately, there are coaching companies like UXL that can help established leaders bounce back and reimagine and reinvigorate their leadership.

Although it is helpful to enlist the help of a coach, there are certain things you can do on your own to help you through a difficult leadership transition. Try these six “quick tips.”

Quick Tip 1:

Set aside “you time.” Take the time to reflect upon your personal attributes and strategize on how to build your strengths.

Quick Tip 2:

Don’t get caught up in your perceived weaknesses. You can’t be good at everything! Practice smart delegation and enlist the help of your team.

Quick Tip 3:

Schedule more one-on-one meetings. Getting to know and understand each team member is crucial for building trust, understanding their areas of strength, and understanding team dynamics.

Quick Tip 4:

Take an effective, science-based self-assessment AND have your team take it as well. One of my favorites is Insights Discovery.

Quick Tip 5:

Open up your communication. Create ample opportunity for your team to give (and receive!) feedback. During meetings, make sure to be inclusive and encourage everyone to share their thoughts and ideas.

Quick Tip 6:

Be goal-oriented. Set small monthly and quarterly goals, as well as one or five-year goals. Remind yourself of your goals often. Be sure to set both personal and team goals.

 

Established leaders can learn new tricks. Open yourself to new ways of practicing leadership and remember, there’s no need to go it alone! Enlist the help of a coach and seek support from your team members and fellow managers. Leadership is an ever-changing thing and it’s always a good idea to refresh your ideas about what it means to be an effective, capable leader.

 

Contact me for more information about one-on-one leadership coaching.

Know an emerging leader? Or someone in a new supervisory role?
Our next Build A Boss workshop series is at St. Kate’s University on May 11, 18, and 25.

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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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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Delegate effectively

What can you achieve by DELEGATING?

You’re up to your eyeballs with work, scrambling to complete projects, catch up with clients, and put out fires…all while trying to keep on top of email and maybe grab some lunch at some point! You work late, get home after dark, and can only think about work as you zone out in front of the television. The next day, your boss calls you up and asks you to take on a new client. As usual, you say yes.

Sound like a familiar story?

Unfortunately, many of us are afraid to ask others for assistance when we’re feeling overwhelmed. We think it shows weakness or a lack of dedication. We’re afraid we will appear incapable, or that it will even affect our chance of promotion.

In most cases, however, the positive aspects of delegation far outweigh the negative aspects. Here’s what happens when you delegate:

1. You prevent burnout

Delegation helps you work at a more sustainable, healthy pace, rather than a frantic pace that will leave you exhausted and unhappy.

2. You achieve better results

Instead of doing a dozen projects with mediocre results (which is definitely not promotion-worthy behavior), you can focus on a couple of projects and achieve quality results.

3. You gain focus

It’s a good idea to delegate tasks to other people that do not fall into your areas of expertise. Instead, focus on the areas in which you excel and continue building your skills in those areas.

4. You create healthy boundaries

If people know you will say yes to any and every project, they will begin taking advantage of you. Draw a line in the sand and either say no (here are a few diplomatic ways to do that) or delegate.

5. You exhibit strong leadership

By pragmatically delegating to others, you demonstrate that you have a clear understanding of your team and what makes them tick. You also show that you trust your co-workers enough to let go of the reins and let them take over an assignment.

 

Of course, it’s a good idea to be thoughtful and tactful when you delegate. Don’t try to shuffle your work off to someone who also has no time or interest. Instead, consider your co-workers’ talents and their availability.

If you are a leader, dole out assignments with care. Explain to each person why you selected him or her for the task at hand. Be sure to let that person know you are available to answer questions or point them toward available resources.

If you are not in a leadership position, your delegation may look a little different. When someone asks you to take on a project, counter by telling them that you have far too much on your plate at the moment and say something like, “Have you considered Rosa? She excelled in a similar project last quarter and I think she has some availability.”

And if things are really out of hand with your current workload, you may want to have a sit-down meeting with your boss and explain your position. Remember: it’s always a good idea to check your co-workers’ availability and interest in a new project before name-dropping them.

Start working smarter. Delegate wisely and open up new possibilities in your career.


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 #1 Way to Grow Your Career

There are many ways to grow and flourish within your career. You can take classes or expand your skills through research and application. You can find a mentor and learn from their experiences. You can take on new and diverse projects in order to stretch yourself and your abilities.

But at the heart of it all is one key element: the ability and the willingness to be COACHABLE.

When you’re coachable, you open yourself up to possibilities. You acknowledge that you don’t know everything and are willing to accept feedback and learn. You admit that you are sometimes wrong and look for ways to improve your current way of thinking/doing/behaving.

It isn’t always easy to be coachable. Many of us (especially if we’ve been in the same job for quite a while) tend to believe that our way is the best and leave little room for criticism or critique. It’s time to turn that kind of thinking around.

Start by asking for feedback.

Regularly ask your co-workers and superiors for feedback and then LISTEN to what they have to say. It doesn’t have to be in a formal meeting; it might be as simple as approaching a co-worker and saying, “Hey, Sally. How do you think my presentation went? Would you have changed any of the slides? Or maybe emphasized other material?”

Ask clarifying or follow-up questions if need-be. And remember to keep your defensive side in check! Even if you don’t agree with the feedback, take it gracefully. Say something like, “That’s an interesting take, Sally. I hadn’t seen it from that angle before.”

Keep in mind that not all feedback is quality feedback. Take your time to mull it over or get a second opinion (For more tactics and tricks on how to receive and utilize feedback, please see December’s newsletter).

When you’re coachable, you seek to expand your knowledge. Beyond soliciting feedback, start exploring ways to build or update your skills through webinars, in-person classes, training workshops, or one-on-one meetings with experts in your field. If your workplace is not proactive in seeking those opportunities, you may have to hunt for them on your own. Don’t be afraid to approach your boss and ask if the company could sponsor you (and your co-workers) in a specific learning program. If nothing else, you’ll open up a dialogue about advanced training.

Another way to grow your skills through coaching is to seek a mentor or be a mentor.

If you’re new to a company, new to a certain position, or seeking to advance within the company, a mentor can help you achieve those aims. If your workplace doesn’t have a formal mentoring program, seek a mentor on your own and invite that person to meet with you every now and again. Start small! You might scare people off if they think mentorship is too big of a commitment. Ask if they’ll meet with you for lunch once or twice a month, and go from there.

On the flip side, if you’ve been with your company a while, consider being a mentor. As a mentor, you’ll learn to see the company with new eyes and you may begin to explore the company and your position in ways that you hadn’t previously considered.

You have endless potential! Grow and evolve in your career by being coachable.

 

Seeking further guidance? Please feel free to contact me today.

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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