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Category Archives: Thrive at Work

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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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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best-work-year-yet

It’s the New Year (how did that happen?)! It’s time for a fresh start and a clean slate mentality. It’s time for your best work year yet. If you believe you can do it, you’re already part of the way there!

How will you shine this year in your career-related endeavors? Start with gratitude and go from there…

Why gratitude? When you focus on being grateful, you focus on what’s going right–the things you do NOT need to change. In terms of your career, what’s going well? Do you like your boss or coworkers? Are you hitting it out of the park with creative solutions? Has your number of clients increased over the last year?

If you’re having trouble coming up with a list of positive aspects of your job, that may be a sign that you’re ready for a significant change. If that’s the case, you may need to completely re-strategize and enlist the help of a career coach.

If, however, you can identify several positive areas of your current job, that’s great! It’s easier to refocus and re-energize your current position than it is to seek something entirely new.

Once you’ve considered the good elements of your current job, think about the areas of opportunity. Write a list of all the things you’d like to achieve, no matter how impossible they seem at the moment. Maybe you want to increase your sales revenue this year. Or find more leadership opportunities. Or earn a promotion. This is your chance to jot down all your hopes and dreams for yourself.

After you make your list, circle your highest priority item. Then, mark your second-highest priority item, your third, your fourth, etc. It’s best to focus on only one item at a time and do it RIGHT. Think about what you need to do to achieve that goal. What steps do you need to take? What support will you need?

After considering your main goal, draw up a timeline. Be sure to include mileposts along the way (and remind yourself to celebrate whenever you hit a milepost!).

Then, STICK TO IT.

Easier said than done, I know. This is where your support network comes into play. Talk openly about your goal(s) with your trusted friends, spouse, and coworkers. Ask for their help and guidance. Ask a few of them to check in with you every once in a while to make sure you’re on track. And if someone in your support network comes to you for assistance, be sure to return the favor.

Your stick-to-it attitude is what is ultimately going to make this the best work year ever for you. You have the talent. You have the support. All you need is a clear direction, a plan for the year, and a good support system.

Let’s make 2017 the best work year yet!

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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pool-690034_1280

Whew! All the hustle and bustle of the holidays can keep you go-go-going in a million different directions. Balancing end of the year work projects, family gatherings, and holiday activities can make us burn the candle at both ends. With the multitude of events and projects, it’s easy to get stressed. And that stress can be compounded by a lack of sleep, an abundance of sugary foods, and the weight of holiday expectations. Not to mention, if you live in the northern U.S. like I do, it’s cold! It’s not quite as tempting to hop on a bicycle or go for a walk when the weather is below freezing.

All of this stress can have serious consequences for our well-being.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Stress that’s left unchecked can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.” It can lead to muscle tension, digestion issues, and headaches.

Stress can also affect those around us.

When we’re stressed, we tend to lash out at others more. Or, we disengage and have trouble being present. We tend to get wrapped up in our own tension when we’re stressed and therefore do not give others the full attention and consideration they deserve.

How to combat the holiday stress? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Breathe. Take time to step away from stressful situations and focus on your breath. It only take a few seconds and it WORKS.
  2. Exercise. Go for a long walk, hit the gym, or ask a friend to go to yoga class. Movement gets your blood flowing and reduces anxiety.
  3. Treat yourself! Give yourself a gift this holiday season, some special treat that will help you relax. Schedule a massage, a pedicure, or a facial. Or, plan a relaxed night (by yourself or with a friend/significant other) that involves low-stress activities, like a nice dinner and a movie.
  4. Eat well. Good nutrition can increase our energy, improve digestion, and reduce headaches. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine reminds us to avoid high-fat foods (like pizza and mac ‘n’ cheese) when we’re feeling stressed because “they can make us feel lethargic and less able to deal with stress.”
  5. Practice quiet time. Read a book, knit, bake a pie. Do something that you love and DON’T feel guilty about taking this “you time.”
  6. Invest in yourself. If your stress reaches serious levels, you may want to consider reaching out to a therapist or career counselor to get yourself back on track. Pay attention to how you’re feeling. If this is more than “a little holiday stress,” reach out and seek help immediately.

Your mental and physical health is directly tied to your stress levels. Don’t let the holidays get to you! Take time to respect yourself and your wellbeing. Doing so will help set you up for success in the New Year.

Happy holidays!

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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thank-you-515514_1280

It is the holiday season. This is a time when it’s easy to get distracted and lose sight of the bigger picture, the meaning of the season. With presents to wrap, a turkey to baste, and a home to decorate, many of us fall so deeply into our own lives that we forget about others outside of our “bubble.” Our attention turns away from clients, co-workers, and acquaintances. Make an effort to remember them this year!

One great way to let someone know that they play a meaningful role in your life is to send a thank you card. I prefer the handwritten type, because it conveys more meaning and personalization. It’s fine to keep the thank you short, but make sure it is genuine and heart-felt. People can sniff out insincerity from a mile away!

So, who do you send a thank you card to?

Reach out to everyone who has helped or supported you this year. Did the security guard have to let you into the office after-hours when you forgot your laptop? Did one of your team members take over some of your work when you were home sick? Did a client decide to renew a contract with your company?

All of these people deserve a thank you. Not only is this a nice gesture, it helps bolster your relationship with that person. People love to be thanked and your simple thank you card could have a profound effect. There is a legendary car salesman named Joe Girard who sold a whopping 13,001 Chevy cars between 1963 and 1978. He holds a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s greatest salesman. How did he do it? In addition to being a genuinely nice guy, Joe sent each of his customers a thank you card every year during the holidays. This kind of personalized appreciation went a long way (obviously!) and customers returned again and again to Joe and also recommended their friends and family members to him.

That’s the power of a simple, heart-felt thank you.

Try it out this year. Who do you appreciate? Who has made a positive difference in your life? Take the time to tell them 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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the power of hope

Even in the darkest times, we can find sparks of hope. A single candle can illuminate a dark room in the same way that a grateful thought or an inspiration can illuminate a mind. Although the science is still fresh, research is starting to find that hope is a powerful factor in lifting people out of poverty, motivating people to find work, and encouraging investment (financially, educationally, or otherwise) in the future.

In a study on poverty, the researchers found that, “families that are stressed and impoverished — trapped in cycles of poverty — can feel a hopelessness that becomes self-fulfilling. Give people reason to hope that they can achieve a better life, and that, too, can be self-fulfilling.

Hope is self-fulfilling.

Whether you’re hunting for a new job, trying to overcome a bad habit, or thinking about going back to school, use hope as fuel. Let it ignite your motivation and allow you to see your possibilities.

When you have hope, you ask yourself constructive questions such as “What if..?” and “How will I…?” If you hold the belief that you can do something, you start seeing the paths of possibilities.

I challenge you today to think about what you’d like in your life. What are your goals? What do you want to do? What’s holding you back? Start thinking about your goals and dreams as REAL possibilities, instead of wishes. By changing your mindset to a “How can I…” instead of a “I couldn’t possibly…” you’ll start finding ways to make your goals happen.

Our minds can do amazing things. If you find yours blocked by pessimistic thoughts, try focusing on the possibilities buried within the doubt. Find hope in your life and see where it can take 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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