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Creating Successful Leaders

If you are a Millennial, you’re probably already well aware that you’re fighting an uphill battle in the average workplace. Millennials have been given a lot of flak for being lazy, self-absorbed, and disloyal. Journalists love writing articles about Millennials that cast the entire generation in a poor light. While the criticisms may be true in some cases, they are absolutely NOT true in many others.

(I’ve written a couple blog posts about the fallacy that Millennials are bad employees. Check out Millennials and Loyalty and Millennials and Altruism).

Unfortunately, many people have bought into the racket and are overly cautious about their Millennial co-workers. So, how do you cut through the distrust and prove that you are, in fact, loyal and you DO want to work hard?

Try the following 5 strategies:

1. Demonstrate Your Respect

I’m sure you have tons of brilliant ideas that you’d like to implement RIGHT AWAY, but hold your horses. If you’re starting out in a new job, take your time to get to know your co-workers, get a feel for the environment, and understand protocol. Be sure to respect the ideas and practices of those who have been in the organization for longer than you have, even if you don’t necessarily agree with their methods. A little respect can go a long way.

When you do feel you need to speak up and offer an alternative opinion, do so in a courteous manner. Acknowledge the commonalities between you and the other person or people with whom you disagree, and THEN offer your alternative or dissenting opinion. Remember: your tone of voice and mannerisms can also speak volumes. Pay attention to your body language and be as polite as possible.

2. Surpass Expectations

If you’re looking for respect from your co-workers, then make sure you’re not only turning in your assignments on time and being as punctual as possible, but also make an effort to go the extra mile. Do a little extra research for that report. Help out a struggling co-worker. Turn in a project a day early.

You don’t always have to surpass expectations (and probably shouldn’t), but it doesn’t hurt to make an effort to shine from time to time. Just make sure you’re not rubbing your excellence in others’ noses!

3. Think AND Talk About the Future

What’s your five-year plan at your company? What are your goals? Think about your personal expectations for your future self (if you’d like some help with goal setting, check out this past blog post), and commit to them.

Don’t be afraid to let others in on your goals, especially your immediate supervisor or mentor. How do you talk about your goals with others? Try framing them in the form of a question. For instance:

“I’m determined to do XYZ this year, but I’m not sure about [a certain aspect of reaching that goal]. What are your thoughts?”

OR: “I’d really like to [become a project lead, take on X responsibility, earn a promotion to X position]. How were you able to do this? Any tips for me?”

4. Be Humble

You don’t know everything. Not only that, there are things you don’t even know that you don’t know! With that in mind, be open to learning and trying new things. Listen. Pay attention. Learn.

5. When Things Aren’t Ideal, Communicate

Instead of thinking about leaving as soon as things get tough or the job doesn’t seem to suit you anymore, communicate. Approach your supervisor, let her know about your discontentment, and strategize ways to overcome your slump (better yet, strategize ahead of time, and let her know your ideas in addition to a collaborative brainstorm).

Believe me, everyone has slumps. It’s possible you’ve mastered your work and are now bored, or you might feel ill-suited to the work you are doing (in both cases, a change in responsibilities might help you re-engage). It’s also possible you’ve become unhappy with the work climate and don’t care for certain co-workers or certain office practices. That is a larger problem, but can also be surmountable in some cases (it might just mean talking to certain co-workers and strategizing on how to better work together).

Direct communication is key. The last thing you want to do is mope around for a month, make everyone around you unhappy, and then quit. That doesn’t do ANYONE any good! Talking out your discontentment (in a respectful, matter-of-fact way), and strategizing solutions is a much more proactive approach.

 

How will you prove yourself in a workplace that is determined to write you off? Start with these 5 strategies, give them an earnest try, and be patient–others’ attitudes toward you may not change overnight. Remember: if you find the workplace to be overwhelmingly toxic, there’s no shame in moving on. Just make sure to give this decision plenty of thought and consider talking with a career coach before you make your move.

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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Next week, I am going to address how Millennials can demonstrate their loyalty and prove themselves to their company. To lead up to that topic, I wanted to revisit a past blog post from  a couple years ago about how Millennials are perceived in the workplace. Thanks for reading and, as always, thank you for your feedback!

-Margaret
Young businessman in office looking at camera.

Let’s talk about a touchy subject: Millennials and loyalty. At first glance, the Millennial generation seems to be comprised of disloyal job-hoppers. Statistics show (according to Multiple Generations @ Work”) that a staggering 91% of Millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years. Such high turnover can be tough for companies and cripplingly expensive. In fact, close to 90% of the firms surveyed (according to an article from MainStreet.com) reported that the cost of replacing a Millennial employee was anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000.

These numbers seem overwhelmingly negative, but let’s take a step back and look at Millennials and loyalty from a larger scope.

First of all, consider the context. Millennials have entered the workforce during one of the worst economic periods in history. Companies are downsizing, outsourcing, and slashing salaries in an attempt to stay afloat. And even though cost-of-living and college tuition are increasing dramatically, paychecks are not. Says Rich Milgram, Beyond.com‘s founder and chief executive, “Younger job seekers don’t have it easy in the current economy and they’ve been put in a hole by the generations that have gone before them.” Oftentimes, Millennials practice strategic job-hopping because they know they could be let go at any time. It’s a defensive move and gives them a sense of security if they feel their current position is in danger of being snipped.

Secondly, Millennials’ definition of loyalty is often different from other generations. Consider this statistic for a moment from Philly.com:

More than eight in ten young workers (Millennials, aged 19-26) say they are loyal to their employers. But only one in 100 human resource professionals believe that these young workers are loyal.

Why the huge difference in perspectives? Many believe it has to do with the way Millennials think about loyalty. Many members of this generation do not necessarily pledge themselves to a company, but to a boss or co-workers. Cam Marston, author of “Motivating the ‘What’s In It For Me’ Workforce” says, “Effective bosses are the number one reason why Millennials stay at a job…They have great respect for leaders and loyalty, but they don’t respect authority ‘just because.’ This is why it’s so important to have exceptional leaders at companies to retain these younger workers. They don’t want someone who micromanages and thinks of them as just another worker. They want someone who inspires them to stay at a company.”

Another attribute that keeps Millennials loyal? Workplace atmosphere. A 2012 survey by Net Impact found that 88% of workers considered “positive culture” important or essential to their dream job, and 86% said the same for work they found “interesting.” Additionally, the same Net Impact survey found that 58% of respondents said they would take a 15% pay cut in order to work for an organization “with values like my own,” demonstrating that Millennials are not just content with “any old job,” but seek meaning in the work that they do.

The issue of Millennials and loyalty is a tricky one, but one thing is certain: We cannot just write-off this generation as disloyal and wishy-washy. With the right workplace atmosphere, excellent leadership, and by providing the right set of motivation tools (as covered in a previous post), Millennials will stick around and perform the kind of innovative, creative work they’re known for.

If you (or your company) needs help creating the right conditions for your Millennial workforce, contact me to discuss potential strategies.

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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Be a caring leader

More and more evidence is emerging that leading with love, compassion, and authenticity is much better for building a sustainable, happy team than leading by force and intimidation. According to Forbes.com, many old leadership models were based on the military and have a tendency to emphasize leaders as people who should be feared.

It’s taken a long time to start changing this model, but it’s happening, slowly but surely. As managers of all levels are coming to realize that people respond to love and compassion, leadership tactics are changing and many people are opening up to the idea of love leadership. One in-depth study by Joe Ricciardi shows that, “A team member who feels ‘loved’ by his boss is significantly more likely to see his boss as a good leader. Leading your employees is a natural outgrowth of loving them.”

The study went on to find that three simple leadership approaches can greatly increase the success of your team:

1. Genuinely Care

Above all, be human. Get to know your work team, ask them questions (and genuinely listen to the answers!), and share a little bit of yourself. As in all relationships, getting to know another person is a two-way street and you have to have the courage to be vulnerable sometimes and open up.

It’s the littler things that make a difference–hand-written thank you notes, noticing when an employee goes above and beyond their responsibilities, remembering the name of a spouse or a child, recalling a co-worker’s recent trip or a hobby they enjoy. If your memory can be slippery, jot down notes in an excel spreadsheet (a sheet for each team member) and take a look at those notes before meeting with someone.

Your efforts will make others feel comfortable in the workplace and help them to actually look forward to coming in to work–something that leads to long-term retention.

2. Be Passionate

Your enthusiasm is contagious. Love what you do and demonstrate that love through positivity, a sunny attitude, and excitement. If you are looking forward to taking on a new client, tackling a new project, or meeting a certain goal, share that enthusiasm with your team. Let your positive energy shine through during team meetings, email memos, or one-on-ones.

And if you’re not loving your job? If you’re in a leadership role, that could be a genuine problem. Evaluate your discontentment and ask yourself what’s causing it. Work with a career coach to help you get to the root of the problem and then strategize on how to move forward. Leading with love means you not only show your co-workers love, but that you also love and embrace your leadership role. It’s hard to follow a leader who is unenthusiastic about their work.

3. Be Committed

Commitment is a big part of being a caring leader. Commit to the wellbeing of your employees. Commit to your team’s current projects. Commit to your clients/customers. If you’re truly committed to your team, you will be with them every step of the way, through both their successes and failures. Part of this responsibility means shouldering a good portion of the blame if something goes wrong. As former President Truman said, “The buck stops here.” Those are words to live by.

Part of being committed means investing in your team. Focus on individual and team development by making sure team members are involved in ongoing training. Also, make sure they have the chance to learn from each other (and you!) during skill share or mentoring sessions.

 

How will you step into your role as a caring leader? What can you do to show others you genuinely care, you’re passionate about the work, and you’re committed to both the team and their work projects? No matter how you decide to amp up your love leadership, the important thing is to DO IT. Start today and see what small changes you can make to commit to being a more caring, compassionate leader.

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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*This post was originally published in 2015 and has been modified slightly.

Clarity in Communication

Having clarity comes in two parts. You have to give clarity and ask for clarity. If you are in charge of a project or leading a team, don’t assume that everyone already knows your expectations. Make those expectations clear and leave room for others to ask questions. Put yourself in others’ shoes and anticipate the questions they might ask. Then, practice giving the answers, or at least jot out a few thoughts on how to answer the questions.

On the flip side, if you’re on the receiving end of a project or initiative, don’t be afraid to ask clarifying questions. It is much better to make sure your idea of the project’s end state aligns with the actual anticipated end state then to muddle your way through it and hope you’re doing what’s expected of you. One good way to make sure you completely understand your assignment is to repeat back what you think you heard. Something like: “Okay, Bill. It sounds like you’re saying we need to come up with a better social media marketing strategy for product X, and we have two weeks to get you a proposal. Is that correct?”

Having Clarity is one of the chapters in my book, The Ten Minute Leadership Challenge, and I go into much more detail in those pages about how to give and ask for clarity.

I’ve also made a short video about Having Clarity based off the principles outlined in my book. Enjoy!

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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more engaging presentation
Minutes feel like hours. The effects of your mid-morning coffee have long worn off and it takes every last bit of strength to keep your eyes on the presenter at the front of the room. You know how it feels to sit through a boring presentation. Perhaps the only thing worse is being the boring presenter yourself; watching the attention of your audience decrease exponentially. Luckily, there are ways to spare everyone the pain.

Here are five tips that will help you level-up your presentation game:

1) TELL A STORY

Take the main idea within your presentation and frame it in a narrative that contains a beginning, a middle, and an end. Introduce a flaw in the status quo, describe your quest for something better, and show the great potential of what you’ve found. This structure helps your audience feel invested, as though they’re right there with you, navigating the circumstances. A story format is easy for audiences to absorb, and they’re more likely to remember your conclusion.

2) KEEP IT SIMPLE

“Short and sweet,” as they say. Keeping a presentation short means a greater chance that your audience will stay attentive the whole time. This means cutting out any unnecessary information or redundant data. Slides should be free from visual clutter. Too many bullet points means focus pulled away from the presenter’s voice and onto reading the screen. You are conducting your presentation, the powerpoint is not.

Images are your friend. This includes graphs/charts, but again, nothing convoluted or difficult to interpret.

3) GET YOUR AUDIENCE INVOLVED

Active involvement from the audience exerts spontaneity. People are more likely to stay engaged when there’s an opportunity for something unrehearsed to occur. The use of props, asking for a volunteer, leading an activity, doing a demonstration or initiating discussion are all great ways to lift up the energy in the room.

4) SPEAK EFFECTIVELY

What if you could take information that you want to convey, and rephrase it in an enticing way? You can! Use the power of questioning to your advantage. Rhetorical questions work well as transitions and plant curiosity in the listener. You voice is a tool, use it! Exclaim important things! Find a section of your presentation that could use a boost and change your inflection.

Alternatively, take a power pause. A brief pause is an effective way to let a message resonate. It can also replace any dreaded ‘Um’ or ‘Uhh’s.

5) MOVE WITH INTENTION

Don’t underestimate the role of body language. Engaging presenters stand confidently and use hand gestures that reflect the tone of their voice. Try making eye contact with someone long enough to finish a sentence or two instead of continuously scanning the room. Your movements are an extension of your words–your physicality can impact how your words are received.

Regardless of the topic or how experienced you are, following these tips will shut down the snore-factor at your next presentation. Remember that the more you believe what you’re saying is important, the better your audience will listen. Your ideas are worth hearing.

 

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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promotion worthy actions at work

Work. We all know to go above and beyond, we all know to be on time, meet deadlines, and dress for the job we want. But what about the things not everyone is keeping in their mental rosters? Things that have the opportunity to set you apart and give you an edge? Start with these four out-of-the-box tips:

1. People Like Being Around Likable People

Remember the cursed group projects of high school or college? Remember the characters you got stuck with? The slacker who never showed up, the bossy pants who refused others’ contributions, the walking vanity incapable of seeing beyond their lip gloss, or the one who was so emotionally strung out they spent most of their time crying in the bathroom? Don’t be those people!

Yes, you’re going to have a bad day. Everyone is going to have a bad day. But remember that people like to be around people who make them feel good. People feel easier working with someone engaged, easy-going, prepared, and generally friendly. When those new projects come up, chances are co-workers are going to opt for someone pleasant to be with and work with on their team. The better you can make someone feel at work, the more they’re going to feel good working with you.

2.Pretend This Is Your Favorite Underdog Movie

Someone needs to show Russia who is boss? Rocky punches in. Someone needs to herd a bunch of sheep? Babe the pig starts running in circles. Whatever your film genre, you’ve seen it – a job needs to be done, and someone unexpected comes along to do it. Now, don’t sign up for designing posters if you’ve never opened Photoshop. But, do get out there, take a chance on accepting a new responsibility and succeeding in it. Yes, there might be a learning curve or surprisingly unpleasant aspects to the job, but show you are willing to fill gaps. Show you are a more valuable asset than your coworkers by having a broader range of skills and greater willingness.

3. Manage Your Time

Engage in your work. By no means should you morph into a workaholic, but when you’re working, get to work. The best way to do this is to cleverly manage your time. If you have multiple projects, make a guesstimate of how long each one will take, rate their priority, organize the steps for each one, and maybe throw the more entertaining ones between the snore-fests.

Then, block out your time. Excel spreadsheets can be great personal tools. Keep track of what you do with your time so you can use it most efficiently, and hopefully clock out a little earlier. This also comes in handy when the boss comes knocking with another task. Simply shoot her your schedule of the things you are already doing, show her how much more still needs to be done, and convince her that another employee might have more time to do a good job on it.

Keep in mind: businesses want organized managers. Having proof of your time management skills might come in handy when a promotion opens up.

4. Take Care Of Yourself (Treat Yourself Like a Human Being)

The work day is long. No one can sit and stare into the abyss of a computer screen for eight hours and maintain their brain power. Do things to keep yourself somewhat functioning. Try:

  • yoga on your lunch break
  • going for a walk
  • reading your favorite magazine or a book for a few minutes
  • drawing a few pictures while you brainstorm

Each person is going to feel rejuvenated by something different. Yeah, a full spa treatment probably isn’t going to fit into the workday, but maybe grabbing a foam roller and getting those office chair kinks out of your back will make the rest of the work day easier.

 

Now, get out there and start using these tips to get ahead of the pack and to be a better 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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support working moms

We’ve all heard it – being a mom is a full time job. So what do you do when you already have a 40 hours per week gig, and then you get motherhood thrown into the blender? You get a mess, that’s what. You get a toddler in a panda bear suit, trying to make a bamboo smoothie in your kitchen.

Transitioning to parenthood is like the terrifying transition years of junior high all over again, but amplified by the high stakes pressure of being responsible for the emotional, physical, and mental wellbeing of another human being.

You might be thinking: What could I possibly do to support the working moms in my office? Where do I even begin?

As a coworker, manager, or leader, YOU have many opportunities to be a role model when it comes to supporting the moms on your team. Below are four ways to get started.

1. Respect That Babies Have Priority

We get it, you don’t want your meeting interrupted by a mom stepping out to take a phone call from her child’s teacher, babysitter, or pediatrician. We get that when a woman is at work, you want her to be working. The desire is a reasonable one, but here’s the thing: moms don’t get to clock out of the mom job from nine to five. No matter what time of day or night it is, that mom (and dad) are the ones ultimately responsible for what is happening with their child. They don’t get to delegate the task to someone else. And when it comes to the wellbeing of your meeting, or the wellbeing of a child, I hope you’ll agree that the child is priority.

2. Respect That Babies Are Out Of Control

As an adult you probably feel at times that you have lost control of things. Your car, phone, friends, or waistline won’t cooperate. This is normal. No one is ever going to have their life tied up neatly with a bow. Now, add in a child and the chaos amplifies.

Babies are chaos masters. They wreak adorable havoc on almost everything they encounter. And that’s fine—it’s what they’re supposed to do. So when mom calls in to say she’s late because little peanut threw up on her as she was walking out the door, you must understand this is unavoidable. Don’t huff and puff and sigh when she comes in late. That mom didn’t want to be late to work either. She certainly wasn’t expecting the vomit, or she would have wrapped herself in trash bags.

3. Respect that Mom is Trying Her Best

Believe me, if a mother is working after having a baby, which is no small feat, then she is working because she wants to be working. With the cost of child care, it often makes little financial sense to return to work after a baby. So mom is there because this job means something to her. The dividing of motherhood and professional responsibilities is not easy for moms.

Working mothers make hard choices on how to use their time every day. Be supportive. Be encouraging. Be vocal about the things that are going well. Ask how you can assist in helping other things run smoother. Appreciation goes a long way in maintaining a valuable asset.

4. Respect That Improvement Takes Time

We are human. We all want things to be comfortable and convenient, and we struggle when we don’t get those things right away. Understandable. Who likes a rough patch? No one likes it when their smooth-running life hits a glitch. But no matter what, the rough patch is going to come. And this is true in business as well.

Returning to work after a baby is definitely a transition period. Mothers have to learn an entirely new way of being employees. It’s not easy to retrain yourself, or come to terms with your new reality. Give mothers time.

Good change takes time. Let them have the space to find the best way to do their job in their new situation. You’ll receive the payback for years to come when you have a master problem-solver on your hands.

 

Gone are the days when mothers have to stay home. Now, women get to work, and I hope we can all agree this is a benefit for everyone involved. After reaching this milestone, our next task is to make it better. Better for the company, the coworkers, the parent, and the child. With a little creativity and a little patience for the curve balls of life, I think the task of supporting new mothers in the workplace is not only feasible, but worthwhile as well.

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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