Skip to content

UXL Blog

Creating Successful Leaders

Post first published in 2016.

It’s Thanksgiving month, so you’re likely seeing constant reminders about gratitude and giving thanks. A lot of it may seem fluffy, but there are actually concrete benefits to being grateful.

Studies have shown that moods lift, outlooks become more positive, and relationships are healthier when we practice gratitude. From a business perspective, showing appreciation for your clients, co-workers, support staff, or employees helps to foster a more pleasant atmosphere, boosts morale, and slashes employee turnover.

But, gratitude shouldn’t be treated as a one-off thing. We shouldn’t get through Thanksgiving and go, “Well, that was fun. Now, on to Black Friday!”

A grateful mentality should be a sustainable one. We’re talking about an attitude shift here, not just a temporary state of mind. Why change your thinking for a month, when you can change it for a lifetime?

The trick to sustaining an attitude of gratitude? Practice every day.

The moment you wake up, instead of dreading the day ahead, think about the many blessings in your life. These could be simple things–the hot coffee in the pot, your friends and family, the roof over your head. Think about three things that bring you joy, comfort, or stability. You can choose to write about these things in a gratitude journal, or simply meditate on them for a few minutes.

Then, see where your day takes you. This morning burst of gratitude should help give you a positive boost and, if you confront rough patches throughout the day, you can always think back to your morning meditation and remember the three things that you were grateful for.

(It is worth noting that being a grateful person doesn’t mean that there aren’t negative aspects of your life. If the negative parts get too overwhelming, it may be time for a significant change. But that’s a topic that I’ve addressed in other posts.)

When you’re grateful and appreciative, the world changes. Your personal outlook becomes brighter, the people around you seem more pleasant (or at least tolerable!), and your relationships become more amiable and love-filled.  Try adopting a gratitude-filled lifestyle and watch your world transform!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Stressed woman at laptop biting pencil
Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay

For many leaders, stress seems to become the norm. They are constantly dealing with managing people, projects, and clients…all in between attending many, many meetings.

Stress does NOT have to be the norm. You can still be a good leader AND cut your workload (in fact, freeing yourself up and de-stressing may make you a better leader).

Here are 4 ways to start cutting stress:

1. Delegate

If you want something right, you have to do it yourself, right? …Right?

Not at all.

Sure, if you hand off a task, it might be approached in a different way than what you intended, but that doesn’t mean that approach is wrong. It’s just different…and different can be good! “Different” can bring variety and new ways of thinking or solving problems. Part of delegation means letting go some of your control. It means opening yourself up to others’ methods and perspectives.

Effective delegation involves handing over the reins with enough instructions to make things happen, but also giving a certain amount of freedom to the person who will be performing the task. Remember: even if the person is a bit slow or clumsy at the task at first, they will learn. Give them time.

2. Step Away From the Office

Despite what you might think, you are not a machine. You are human, and humans need to occasionally rest and rejuvenate.

Schedule meaningful breaks into your daily schedule–time when you’re completely unplugged from work. Go on a walk, read a book at lunch, get a massage, or attend your child’s soccer game.

In addition to your small daily breaks, schedule vacations into your year. Even a few days at a cabin on a lake will do wonders for your stress levels.

3. Prioritize

What are the items or tasks that truly need your attention? What are you unable to delegate to others?

Prioritize your task list, based on the assignments you need to handle personally. Your other to-do items can probably be delegated or outright skipped. For instance, are you really needed at every single meeting? Can your team handle certain meetings on their own?

Make a to-do list at the beginning of each week, in addition to the start of each day. This will help put big-picture tasks in perspective. It is also helpful to hold a quarterly planning session to look at the even bigger picture in the office.

4. Make Meaningful Connections

Being a leader can seem lonely at times. To overcome the isolation, make an effort to communicate with others and make meaningful connections. This will inevitably involve being vulnerable and allowing your authentic self to come to the surface.

Of course, you have to maintain some professionalism when communicating with your team, but you shouldn’t be afraid to show them that you’re human. You have interests; you make mistakes; you have a family and a life outside the office walls.

Just the act of reaching out and asking someone about their day will help you form better bonds with that individual. And, when you feel that you have friends (and a support system) in the office, that can cut stress significantly.

As a leader, you don’t have to let stress consume your life! Take charge of your leadership by delegating tasks, taking meaningful breaks, and developing an internal support system. Now, breathe!

If you’d like to read more about how to beat stress, take a look at my post on stress-busting techniques.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Two business people talking at a table
Image by rawpixel from Pixabay

Do you have trouble getting what you want? Are you often overlooked or not listened to? Do you know a change needs to be made, but you’re having trouble framing your argument?

It sounds like you need to tap into the power of persuasion!

Being persuasive doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being sneaky or underhanded. If you use persuasion in an honest way, it means articulating something so others can see your point of view. Sometimes, you have to be persuasive to make positive changes or advance your career.

How do you become persuasive? Try a few of the following techniques:

1. Prepare

No matter if you’re leading a meeting, having a one-on-one with your boss, or proposing a new idea around the water cooler, it’s necessary to come prepared.

Do your homework, research the ins and outs of your proposal, AND anticipate potential problems or questions others may ask. If you know your stuff, you’ll automatically be more persuasive.

2. Be Confident

When you’re speaking, don’t use words like “I believe” or “I suppose.” Be confident when making a claim. Say it boldly, and people will listen.

Research shows people are more likely to listen to someone who is confident than someone who is an actual expert. Of course, you don’t want to spread false information, but when you do have something to say, say it with confidence!

3. Frame Your Words Carefully

Consider these two sentences, and tell me which is more effective:

“I’d like to be considered for the management position because I’m interested in furthering my career.”

“I’d like to be considered for the management position because I’m interested in new opportunities and challenges.”

The second one, right? These sentences both convey someone wishing to be considered for a promotion. Yet the second sentence focuses on personal growth and a desire to learn, while the first seems to say that the person, at the end of the day, is really only in it for themselves.

Before going into a meeting, practice your phrasing in front of a mirror, until you feel comfortable delivering it.

4. Be a Mirror

When trying to persuade someone, mirroring their body language, tone of voice, and volume makes you seem empathetic. In fact, if you’re an empathetic person to begin with, you are probably doing this without realizing it! People instinctively try to form alliances whenever possible, and by copying their mannerisms (subtly, of course!), you’re signaling that you understand them and are on their side.

5. Know Your Audience

Pay attention and start noticing what matters to people in your office. Do certain topics of conversation keep coming up? Are people interested in family, football, pets, or local music? What values do they seem to have?

Getting to know the people around you is invaluable to building rapport and gaining trust. Ultimately, if others find you easy to talk to and pleasant to be around, you won’t even have to think about being persuasive—people will want to listen to what you have to say.

If you want to make a change, put forth an idea, or simply be heard, it’s a good idea to hone your personal power of persuasion. It may not come easily at first, but with practice, you’ll be a pro!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Water with text over it that says Is Transparency Part of Your Leadership Brand?
Background image by kalhh from Pixabay

When you think of a leader, what qualities do you picture? Do you picture someone who is competent, confident, and a good speaker? Do you see someone who can fire up the room and motivate their team? Or, perhaps, do you picture someone who is data-driven and brainy—someone who’s gears are always turning?

While these are all worthy leadership traits, I believe one crucial leadership component is consistently overlooked: transparency.

Without transparency, it is difficult to cultivate trust (for more on trust, read this past post!). People begin to wonder what you’re doing in the shadows, and question why decisions are made.

Being a transparent leader, means being honest. It means being yourself at all times (though sometimes you may be a more formal version of yourself, while other times you may be a more casual version). For a transparent leader, there is no room for being two-faced. I have found that people catch on quickly when someone isn’t being candid or is telling two versions of the same story to two different groups of people.

Another aspect of the transparent leader is courage. It takes a good deal of guts to be honest with your team when things are not going especially well. If performance is flagging or the company is going through growing pains, don’t hide those difficulties. Instead, engage your team and encourage them to become part of the solution.

Transparent leaders communicate. They keep an open-door policy, and welcome any feedback, thoughts, or opinions…even if some of what they hear is negative or critical. In fact, this kind of constructive feedback is exactly what an organization needs to grow and improve. Transparent leaders make others feel comfortable approaching them—they cultivate a spirit of mutual trust.

Take a moment to ask yourself: How transparent is your organization? How transparent are YOU? If your personal transparency needs a little work, take action!

  • Start talking to your co-workers. Be as candid as possible AND be a respectful listener.
  • Encourage feedback. Schedule one-on-one meetings to gain feedback and then ACT on sound suggestions or ideas.
  • Be vulnerable. You’re not perfect, and it’s okay for others to see that.
  • Facing a crisis? Don’t try to hide it. Be open about the company’s issues, and work as a team to solve them.

When you become an open and candid leader, a lot can change. You may find your relationships with team members improve, workplace culture becomes a little more open and honest, and you feel less anxious about having to hide business difficulties from your co-workers. In the long term, your transparency will hopefully encourage others to act in kind, which will eventually foster an open and communicative work environment.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

First published in 2016.

If you’re on the hunt for a new job, you’re probably well-aware of the importance of a compelling cover letter. It’s how you can stand out from the crowd, how you can demonstrate a slice of your personality that you really can’t convey in your résumé. It’s also a great way to take a deeper dive into some of your past experiences and really highlight your accomplishments.

How do you write a cover letter that gets noticed? Seems like a daunting task, right?

It doesn’t have to be. I’ve laid out several simple pointers below that will guide you through the cover letter writing process and help you create something that is polished and memorable.

Remember: Cover letters are not just a repeat of your resume—viewing them as such will put you at a serious disadvantage.

Cover Letter Basics:

  • Name, address, and date at the top of the letter
  • Cover letter addressed to a specific person if possible. If individual unknown, send letter to the title of recipient (Production Manager, Technical Director, Human Resources, etc.)
  • State your interest in the position
  • Make note of special skills that qualify you for the job
  • Provide contact info and a time you can be reached
  • Thank the contact and close with “Sincerely”
  • Always ask someone else to proofread your letter and resume—don’t miss simple grammatical errors!
  • Sign your letter with either blue or black ink, NO EXCEPTIONS
  • Be concise and to the point (no cutesy statements or overbearing comments)
  • Use the same paper as your resume
  • Avoid using “I” too often or repeating the same words

Beyond the Basics:

  • Focus on two (or, at the max, three) major accomplishments in your career and really dive into them
  • Use concrete facts whenever possible. For example:
    • I saved XYZ Company $3.5 million dollars in their annual budget by…
    • During my time at ABC Inc., I trained over 200 people in…
    • I helped Company X grow by 4% through my….
    • I was the top salesperson at ABC, Inc., selling $$ annually
  • Let your authentic voice come through, but don’t sound too casual. It’s a fine line to ride and you may need a friend to weigh in.
  • Do your homework. Understand the company’s values and what they’re looking for in a new employee and make sure you highlight those parts of your experience.

Interested in learning more about creating an effective cover letter or interested in consulting a professional to ensure that you land that next job opening? Contact Me Today to learn about career coaching and UXL’s public workshops!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Image by madsmith33 from Pixabay

Article first published in 2016.

Psychologist Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth first noticed a correlation between success and grit when she was working as a school teacher in a difficult neighborhood. A child’s scholarly success was not necessarily related to their IQ; more often than not, it was related to their dogged perseverance, or grit.

Duckworth left teaching to pursue a career in psychology and made grit the subject of most of her research. She studied diverse groups of people—from military cadets to students to sales people—and, time and again, observed that grit was a key attribute to success.

The people who kept going despite failures or setbacks, the people who were committed to a job or task for the long-term, were the ones who usually succeeded.

How do you foster grit in your own life and your children’s? Duckworth admits that the research is lacking, but a few interesting ideas have cropped to the surface. One study shows that developing a “growth mentality” helps create a gritty personality. A growth mentality has to do with the belief that failure is NOT a permanent state. It is something that creates growth and helps us succeed next time. This kind of attitude puts people in a positive mindset, a “I can do it next time!” frame of mind.

What do you think? Has grit been a part of YOUR success? Is it something you need to work at?

For the full TED Talk, please click the link below:

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

Tags: , , , ,

Hands holding a tape measure
Image by Myriam Zilles from Pixabay

How do you measure value? Is it in the skills your co-workers bring to the table? The projects you are able to complete? Is it strictly monetary? Different groups of people have different ways of measuring value and success, each with their own unique spectrums and criteria. If you only determine value from one perspective, it may leave you unable to recognize the skills and true value your employees bring to the table. If you find yourself stuck in such a rut, here are some different approaches you may want to consider when measuring value:

1. Engagement

Too often, teams’ leaders don’t take into account the level of engagement a given project will inspire among their team members. When selecting projects or assigning tasks, you may find it helpful to weigh your decisions on a scale of value that places that engagement above other elements. Work that excites your team will create a more efficient and productive flow.

2. Personal

What are your own motivators for doing the kind of work that you do? If you decide to take on work that is uninteresting but lucrative, what do you stand to gain by earning that money? Too often we set aside our own interests and priorities to follow procedure or defer to someone else’s interest. Your time as a professional is valuable and cannot be given back. Take this into account when determining the value of prospective work.

3. Constructive

What does your team stand to gain as a whole from a project? Is there an opportunity to call upon skills someone has been developing, or will there be any kind of collaboration with professionals in a different field or department? Often opportunities are valuable not just in the work they provide but from the skills they allow people to build upon from their undertaking. If you take a step back to measure value in this way, take stock of these big-picture benefits that may otherwise go unseen.

4. Monetary

Of course, some work is more straightforward in value and function. Teams cannot operate without a budget and opportunities must often be weighed against the most important benefit they bring to the company: resources. While money doesn’t need to be a driving measure of value, it should certainly be taken into account.

5. Public Facing

What does taking on a potential project mean for your brand? For the way people view yourself and your fellow employees? Social media and reputation are a valuable commodity in the digital business landscape and must be curated with care. Controversy or the appearance of dubious ethics can impact even the largest businesses. Don’t undervalue this important piece of social currency.

Value is subjective and multifaceted. The more ways you’re able to consider what is valuable in your organization will help put it in a stronger position tomorrow than it is today. Don’t be afraid to sit down and consider all the possibilities!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

Tags: , , , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: