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Category Archives: Thrive at Work

Banish your self-doubt! Here’s how…

We’re mixing things up today and posting an Infographic on the UXL blog. Enjoy! (Text posted below for those who can’t read it).


  1. Pay attention: Recognize when you’re thinking negative thoughts or telling yourself, “I can’t.” Do certain situations prompt more self-doubt than others?
  2. Talk back: Though it may sound crazy, start talking back to your self-doubt! For instance, if you catch yourself thinking, “No one wants to listen to my ideas,” counter with “Yes, they do. My ideas are valuable and people are interested in what I have to say.”
  3. Use a Power Pose: Keeping your shoulders back and your head held high has a positive psychological effect and can actually boost your confidence.
  4. Do Your Research: Going into a scary situation with a little preparation can make a huge difference. Be sure to anticipate questions others might ask and practice answering them.
  5. Challenge Yourself: The way to achieve growth is to constantly challenge yourself. Once you overcome doubt in one area, move on to another!

 

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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State Fair Food Life Lessons

To wrap up my series of Minnesota State Fair blog posts, I have to talk about fair food. MN State Fair food is a huge part of the attraction. I even know people who attend the fair solely for the food! There are crowd-pleasing favorites, such as turkey legs, buckets of chocolate chip cookies, and sno cones…but there are also inventive and daring concoctions that make you wonder, “Who would actually eat that?” This category includes everything from “hotdish on a stick” to deep fried spaghetti to BBQ alligator.

To say the least, state fair food is always a surprise. It may delight or disgust the senses, but no matter what you think of it, there are a few life lessons we can take away from fair food.

Here are my top six:

1. It doesn’t take itself too seriously

Italian meatloaf on a stick? Bacon donut sliders? Spam sushi?! This is food you won’t see at a Michelin star restaurant, but that’s kind of the point. State fair food doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s fun, creative, and over-the-top. We could all learn to laugh a little more at ourselves and not worry about obtaining perfection (perfection is subjective term, after all!).

2. It’s daring

When was the last time you took a risk in your workplace or personal life? You’ll never know if your gamble will pay off unless you do it. Vocalize your ideas; try new things; make bold decisions. State fair food isn’t shy and it’s time we emulated its audacity.

3. It’s adaptable

The state fair is proof that almost anything can be adapted to be on a stick. There’s macaroni and cheese on a stick, deep fried candy bars on a stick, and pizza on a stick. It’s portable, and fits the state fair palate. In the same way, we can all try to be a little more adaptable. It’s all about making the best of a situation, going with the flow, and creating new solutions.

4. It’s has range

From corn on the cob and whole fruits to deep fried mozzarella, state fair food runs the gambit between healthy and heart attack! Similarly, each person has the capacity to develop a range of skills and talents (including emotional range). If we challenge ourselves and dare to do things outside our comfort zones, we will grow our abilities and become more well-rounded.

5. It’s creative

It’s hard to deny the creativity of state fair food. Sometimes new ideas work, and sometimes they’re an utter flop. You never know unless you try. Workplaces that encourage creativity don’t always get things right, but at least they’re thinking outside the box and seeking inventive solutions. Remember that creativity isn’t always about arts and innovation—it could be as simple as coming up with a creative new way of gathering customer surveys or plotting out financial data.

6. It’s abundant

Everywhere you turn in the MN state fair, you’ll find food. There’s no shortage of sweet and savory treats. In our own lives, it’s great to live large and be bold. Life is too short to constantly hold back. Express your emotions, vocalize your ideas, and engage others in conversation (even if you have something difficult to discuss). If you’re facing difficulties and you don’t articulate how you’re feeling, chances are things will remain the same.

 

State fair food can teach us an extraordinary number of life lessons. What can you learn from your favorite state fair food? Feel free to comment below!

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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Energy Management

Time management is not solving anything.

Why? Because we can set aside time to work on specific projects, but if our hearts are not in it, we’ll end up drifting off or doing something completely unrelated (checking Facebook, browsing through new recipes, catching up on the latest news…).

Instead of managing blocks of time, it’s better to manage energy.

It’s more advantageous to work in short, productive bursts than in long blocks of time in which your attention wanders. When you set aside everything else (including your smart phone!) and focus on a single task, you’ll find that you’ll work better and faster than you would if you simply reserved a block of time and let your attention be captured by new emails, other projects, and social media.

The reason it’s better to work in shorter allotments of time is because human beings are not meant to slog through an entire work day without breaks. As Tony Swartz, founder of the Energy Project, says, “human beings are meant to pulse.” We work in cycles. Our concerted attention can only last for so long (typically 90 minutes, according to Schwartz).

There reaches a certain point where no amount of schedule-shuffling will enable us to stay on top of things. We may do our best to manage time, but if our energy isn’t also managed we can suffer from burnouts, stress, and unhappiness (which can bleed into our personal lives).

The lesson is: Don’t focus on your time management–just assume you’ll be busy. Instead, take care of your energy levels throughout the day.

Schwartz outlines some tips for tending to your energy levels during the day in a book he co-wrote with Catherine McCarthy called Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time.

The authors point out that your time is finite, but your energy levels can be replenished if you attend to them closely. They offer a few ways for you to do this throughout the day:

  • Take a break every 90-120 minutes. Physically get up from your desk and enjoy a brief change of scenery.
  • Eat light meals and snacks throughout the day, every couple hours.
  • Dedicate time every day to focus on what you’re best at and what gives you a sense of fulfillment.

They also suggest that leaders pay attention to their employee’s energy needs:

“To effectively reengergize their workforces, organizations need to shift their emphasis from getting more out of people to investing more in them…”

  • Keep a room devoted to taking breaks and relaxing
  • Subsidize gym memberships
  • Encourage staff to move around every so often

And I’ll add a suggestion of my own for leaders:

  • Energy is directly related to feedback. Positive feedback energizes folks and helps them keep the momentum going. Negative feedback, if delivered well, can also motivate people to make improvements. The point is, I find that giving specific, frequent feedback is one of the best ways to help people manage their own energy levels

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 in a summertime slump

For those of you who live in cold climates like I do, you welcome summertime and everything it brings—picnics, swimming, strolls in the park, bike rides. During the chilly winter months, you envision spending time in the sunshine…and not having to don a down coat and pair of boots whenever you want to venture outside.

When summer comes, it has an energizing effect. Your mood lifts, you finally have enough vitamin D, you’re full of plans and expectations.

But what people often do not think about is their work. Even though summer has arrived, work does not simply end (unless you have a seasonal occupation). We still have to work through bright and sunny days; we still have to show up.

Even though we may feel energized outside of work, the opposite might occur during work. Your motivation might dwindle or your concentration might wander as you think of being outside, enjoying the weather.

Furthermore, many people go on vacation over the summer, so it’s sometimes difficult to complete team projects or use others as a resource. As Inc.com says, “Summer is nearly always a slow season. You, your team members and your customers are either breezing away on weeks-long vacations (or wish they were), and those who are in office are struggling to cover their teammates’ absences and keep up with demand.”

With low motivation, absent team members, and the constant desire to be outside, it’s easy to fall behind during the summer…which can make you feel even less enthusiastic to come to work.

What to do?

1. Try working in shorter bursts.

Look at your clock and tell yourself, “Okay, I’m going to work for XX number of minutes without taking a break. Ready go!” Start small and gradually increase your work time.

2. Set goals

Write down three tangible things you’d like to accomplish today. If you’re working on a large project, what bite-sized item(s) can you accomplish that will help you complete it? (For more on effective goal-setting, visit this blog post.)

3. Move around

Making sure you get your blood pumping and your body moving is important to not only improving your health, but your concentration as well. And don’t forget to move from your desk during the day. Try working in a different location for a few hours and then return to your designated workspace.

4. Set challenges for others

If you’re in a leadership position, get your team motivated by setting up friendly challenges. It helps to focus on a short period of time (such as two or four weeks) so you can maintain enthusiasm for the competition. Consider giving rewards that people actually value, such as a half day (or two) of paid time off.

5. Bring summer to the workplace

Just because you’re in the office, doesn’t mean you have to pretend like summer isn’t happening! Have lunch on a patio, invite co-workers out to ice cream, or wear bright summery outfits. As a leader (or an HR manager), you could also plan company outings every once in a while that take advantage of the nice weather. Try going to a baseball game, having a company picnic, or doing some outdoor volunteer work together.

 

Carry some of your summertime energy into the workplace. It’s amazing what a small shift in attitude (and a little planning!) can do. Besides, while others are in their workplace slump, you can take advantage of the season and rise to the top. Your dedication will be noticed.

Contact me for other ideas on how to shake your summertime slump!

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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Lessons from fireworks

Yesterday was Independence Day in the U.S. and fireworks lit up the night sky. It’s a holiday that equalizes and unites us—we can all gather and enjoy the same display, side by side.

What is it about fireworks that excites us? That makes us want to shoot them across the sky year after year? There is something about the very nature of a firework that is inspirational. Here are five reasons you should aim to be more like a firework:

1. Fireworks illuminate

When the mood is dark, be the light-bearer. When your team is feeling exhausted or overwhelmingly negative, be the one to lift others up and energize the room.

Remember, a single firework has the power to light up the night sky. In the same way, you can make a difference with a single kind act, a sentence of truth, or a positive statement.

2. Fireworks are bold

Pop! Boom! Flash! Fireworks are anything but shy. Take a page from their book and practice being bold. Stand up for your ideas and values; be a strong leader; bounce back from rejection. Even if you project confidence when you’re not feeling it, you’ll eventually start to believe in yourself and your capabilities.

3. Fireworks aim high

Dream big. We each only get a limited amount of time, so why not make the most of it? Your goals are worth pursuing.

4. Fireworks are colorful

There is value in every personality type. Whether you tend to be analytical, bubbly, empathetic, or take-charge, you are uniquely equipped to contribute to the workplace. Let your authentic self shine and show your true colors! (Find out more about getting in touch with your deeper self).

5. Fireworks unite us

If you’re in a leadership position, aim to bring people together for a common purpose. Celebrate diverse personalities, talents, and perspectives, instead of demanding that everyone be the same. Strive for unity, but respect differences.

If you’re part of a work team, focus on ways to be inclusive and welcoming. Make an effort to stand up for others and make sure everyone’s ideas and opinions are heard. Reject gossip, and be a positive force on your team.

 

We can learn a surprising number of lessons from fireworks! How will you sparkle this year? How will you live boldly and be a positive force?

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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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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