Skip to content

UXL Blog

Creating Successful Leaders

Category Archives: Thrive at Work

Put learning agility into practice

Leaders who “refuse to let go of entrenched patterns or who do not recognize the nuances in different situations tend to derail.” This quote from the Center for Creative Leadership is absolutely true. In today’s global, interconnected market, leaders must be agile enough to navigate a diverse range of disciplines, cultures, and skill sets.

Learning agility is a term that often gets bandied around, but how, exactly, can a leader learn to be agile? How can this concept actually be put into practice?

First of all, learning agility is as much a mindset as it is a practice. For instance, if you’re in a rut with your career, it’s possible you aren’t taking full advantage of learning opportunities. There are many possible reasons for this: perhaps you’re afraid of failure, or worried about getting outside your area of comfort and expertise. However, without allowing yourself to encounter new experiences, you’ll have no shot at developing the necessary life skills to navigate through an increasingly interdisciplinary economy. You can’t expect different results from doing the same thing over and over again; Albert Einstein defined insanity as such.

So, to be agile in practice, you must first retrain your brain to be open to newness. It may not be comfortable at first, but hopefully you’ll find that new experiences are rarely as daunting as we build them up in our minds.

When aiming for “brain retraining,” consider four different attributes of learning agility (as discovered in a study by Colombia University): Innovating, Performing, Reflecting and Risking.

Innovating:

This refers to challenging the status quo. Instead of going along with what’s worked in the past, an innovative leader embraces new challenges and is open to new ideas. An innovator asks questions, takes on new tasks and experiences to increase their perspective, and constantly tries to approach issues from multiple angles.

Performing:

To possess learning agility, you must be able to perform under  stress and deal with the inevitable ambiguous or unfamiliar situation as it arises. An agile learner does this by staying present, engaged, and a keen observer of new information. This includes listening skills; a good performer must embrace, not avoid, verbal instruction.

Reflecting:

This goes beyond simply thinking about the new things you’ve learned. Reflecting means using new information, skills, and experiences to generate a deeper insight into yourself, those around you, and any problems you’ll face. Good reflection should always ask the question, “What kinds of changes do need to make in order to  accommodate  these new experiences?”

Risking

Learning agility is a body of skills and attributes that can be boiled down to one character trait: the ability to put yourself out there. This means that you volunteer for opportunities that don’t guarantee success. In fact, an agile learner values the experience of failure, as it is a much better catalyst for growth than continual success. Risk here means risk that leads to opportunity, not thrill seeking.

If these attributes don’t describe the way you operate, don’t panic. “Being open to failure” isn’t natural, fun, or frankly, very common. Don’t think of these traits as a list of must-do’s in order to be successful. To put it in perspective, these are the conclusions derived from studying a large and diverse group of leaders; no one leader perfectly reflects all these qualities.

That said, staying humble and open to change is the most important starting point to attaining agility in leadership and learning. If you can do that, the rest will follow.

Mitchinson, Adam and Robert Morris, Ph.d. “Learning About Learning Agility.” Teachers College, Colombia University, April 2012. http://www.ccl.org/leadership/pdf/research/LearningAgility.pdf

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

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , ,

Less Time at Work 2

There’s a persistent myth that in order to get anywhere in your life or career, you have to put in long hours. As Americans, we’re working harder than ever—putting in a full month’s more of work per year than we did in the 1970s. We’re also the most over-worked nation in the developed world. According to the ILO, “Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers.”

And here’s the thing: it’s making the other parts of our lives suffer. We don’t have time to take care of ourselves (which is evident with skyrocketing obesity and stress); we take fewer vacation days; we don’t have as much time to spend with our family or friends. Not to mention, it’s nearly impossible to squeeze in volunteer or community time when we’re consistently working more than forty hours per week.

“But wait!” you might be saying. “Don’t I have to put in the hours to prove myself to the company? Won’t I look bad since everyone else is working sixty hours per week?”

My answer to that is this:

It’s much better to work SMARTER than it is to work HARDER.

For instance, if you’re energized from getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising regularly, your performance will increase and you’ll get things done in a shorter amount of time. Looking at it from another angle, when you’re able to step back from your work, this allows you perspective. Instead of being “in the weeds” you can reflect on your work from a distance, which can help you to strategize better and approach your projects with a clearer view of what you want to achieve and how you want to get there.

Not to mention, you’ll feel better and happier when you’re paying attention to other areas of your life besides work. A professor at the Wharton School of Business found that when people in his study spent more time on family, community, and self, “their career satisfaction increased by 21% and their work performance (self-assessed) improved by 8%. Happiness with family life grew even more.”

It’s time we stop “out-working” each other. Such a mentality is, frankly, a race to the bottom. Instead, be a leader in effective time management and work/life balance:

  • Take breaks when you need to
  • Spend time with your family
  • Practice self-care
  • Focus on ONE project at a time, be fully present (and complete tasks more effectively!)
  • Step back and recalibrate your goals
  • Take that vacation
  • Make service to others and your community a priority

A culture shift away from our “worker bee” mentality is absolutely necessary and it starts with 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

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Love what you do

 

Do you love what you do? Are you excited to wake up and get to work? Does your work add to your life and wellbeing…or does it detract from it?

If you’re currently in a place where you don’t love what you do, it may be time to sit down, get real with yourself, and re-position your compass. Think about it. If you’re like the average American, you’ll spend 1/3 of your life at work. That’s a HUGE percentage! Shouldn’t you at least like what you’re doing.

I think so.

As a career coach, I’ve met many people who are ill-fitted to their current role, but have no clue how to change things. They slog along because they need the money and are unsure of how to make a drastic change. What many of these individuals need is a deep look inside themselves.

We are a nation of go-go-go and rarely stop and take the time to get reacquainted with ourselves. After all, we’re constantly changing. You are not the same person you were as a teenager (thank goodness!) or a young adult. Change is natural, but we don’t always embrace it. Instead, we may power through it and do things because “that’s the way they’ve always been done.”

I challenge you to think differently.

Believe that you can fall in love with your work…you just have to find the right work. Investing in yourself and going through a program such as Insights Deeper Discovery can help set you down a better path. But you have to open yourself to new possibilities, earnestly and candidly reflect, and then act upon your discoveries. All three factors are necessary if you truly want to create lasting change in your life.

Beyond utilizing a science-based assessment such as Insights, it’s a good idea to also do the following:

  • Research what’s out there
  • Join a networking group and be curious (ask anyone and everyone about what they do—you might be surprised by what appeals)
  • Invest in your future: work with a career coach, attend relevant workshops, or learn a new skill set
  • Be open with your family—your decision affects them too and it’s a good idea to have them in your corner
  • Figure out whether you like parts of your current role or need to make a big, sweeping change (turn to a coach or a science-based assessment to determine)
  • Create an action plan—figure out the steps you need to take to implement your changes.

So, what are you waiting for? Isn’t it about time you invested in yourself and your future? Isn’t it about time you stepped forward into a job you love?

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

Tags: , , , , , , ,

This is your year! It’s time to earn that promotion, get your raise, or capture that leadership role you’ve always wanted. If you want to make big strides this year, you’ll want to make sure you shine in all the right ways. Remember, you never know when the right person will take notice of your abilities so it’s a good idea to always practice consistency—consistency in your attitude, work ethic, standards, and perspectives.

Of course, you’ll want to get the basics right first. Complete your projects before the deadline, show up on time, strive to make positive connections. But, beyond that…how do you stand out while being yourself and not seeming desperate?

Try these four tips:

Speak up

Your opinions and ideas are worthy. When you speak up during team meetings or during one-on-ones, you start to be on others’ radars. This is a great first step to earn your next big thing.

Dress impeccably

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but guess what…everyone does. Dress well every day, as if your boss’ boss is going to step into the room and vet you for a promotion.

Don’t stoop to gossip

Keep your standards high and don’t talk badly about others. Gossip has a way of circling around, and it’s just not worth it. Demonstrate that you are trustworthy and above petty office rumors.

Take smart risks

Doing everything like everyone else will never get you ahead in the workplace. Set yourself apart by taking smart risks. Bring your ideas forward, speak up, take on big responsibilities, be a leader. Of course, you’ll want to make sure you’re making strides before you make waves.

How will you make an effort to stand out this year? Let me know in the comments or send me a message outlining your plan. This is YOUR year. Go get it.

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

Tags: , , , , , , ,

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

Tags: , , , , , ,

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

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: