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Creating Successful Leaders

Hands holding a seedling
Image via Pixabay

Striking out fresh in any career comes with its own set of challenges. If you’re lucky, you’ll enter into your industry with a few contacts and entry level skills before having to navigate where to look for employment and how to distinguish yourself from a large pool of talent. While this generation of young people are capable workers in their own right, young professionals don’t have the benefit of having experienced an industry for a decade or two like their superiors. Mentoring others provides a unique opportunity to fill in the gaps for these workers and offers many rewarding benefits:  

1 . Better Outcomes and Relationships

Mentoring, like tutoring, is an interpersonal skill. When people feel their voice is heard and being encouraged to grow, they are much more likely to remain engaged with their work and voice concerns more confidently. Any time you can foster better feedback from your team, the stronger the team becomes.

2. Reputation

Building a reputation as a mentor in your industry can become a distinguishing part of your career. Often, companies seek to draw upper-talent from pools of candidates that are known in professional circles to be helpful leaders and actively collaborative. Mentoring your employees demonstrates both of these skills easily and clearly, particularly for mentors who’ve done so throughout their career. As the adage goes: “You get back what you put in.”

3. Professional Development

Just because someone can benefit from the guidance of a mentor doesn’t mean they’re without skills to bring to the table. New workers, especially young people, often come with the proficiencies or strategies needed to approach new technology or use new software. You can take advantage of the personal relationship you strike with your mentee to have them teach you how to effectively use these tools. You both walk away more competent.

4. Networking

Life is long and careers often take unexpected twists and turns. The analyst that started at your company five years ago may quickly rise in the ranks of the industry to a sector you’re interested in doing business with or simply learning more about. The more people you can foster a mentoring relationship with, the wider you cast your net across the next generation of leaders. These relationships may end up among the most important in your working life.

5. Personal Fulfillment

Any teacher can attest to this last benefit. Mentoring is an opportunity to open yourself to others whose perspective may be entirely different from your own. Learning from one another about subjects that extend beyond the scope of your job will enrich you personally and professionally.

Mentoring others is essential to bridging the gap between generations of workers. Stepping up to help guide colleagues through this process will not only reward your mentee and yourself, but your industry as a whole. So take a leap and share what you know!

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.

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young boy reading and laughing
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Revised from a post originally published in 2015.

We live in a stressful world. Research from the American Psychological Association shows that the majority of Americans experience a significant amount of stress. In a 2014 survey, 67% of those surveyed reported experiencing emotional symptoms of stress and 72% reported experiencing physical symptoms of stress.

One great way to fight your stress is through the power of laughter.

I attended a Brave New Workshop (BNW) class several months ago and one of the subjects they addressed was laughter. BNW is an improvisation group that works with people to boost confidence, connectivity, mental agility, and attitudes. Throughout their classes, you’ll often hear groups roaring with laughter. This isn’t an accident.

According to a publication put out by BNW, “Laughter is a powerful tool in helping individuals move away from fear and into discovery.” In a recent study, researchers from Loma University showed that laughter reduces cortisol, thus reducing stress. Other researchers have shown similar results of the stress-decreasing quality of laughter and have paired it with improved immune system response.

So, watch a funny movie, go to a humorous play, play an interactive board or card game with friends, or take an improv class. Begin to see the humorous side of life 🙂

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.

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Smiling business woman at laptop
Image via Pixabay

Last week’s post had to do with retaining young workers through competitive wages and benefits, combating boredom, and demonstrating your trust in them by giving them a high degree of autonomy. This week, we’ll focus on YOU, and how you can set an example of healthy company loyalty.

First of all, let me clarify that this post is geared toward leaders, which could potentially be anyone and everyone. Even if you’re not a manager or supervisor, you might lead a team, spearhead a project, or be the go-to person at the office for ideas. Whatever your specific brand of leadership, know that you have influence (often more influence than you might realize).

How does your leadership tie into loyalty?

You have the power to influence the tone of the office. Instead of contributing to an environment of whining, complaining, and gossip, focus on being an optimistic problem-solver.

If you don’t necessarily agree with a company policy, don’t trash talk the decision-makers. Instead, take a constructive approach. Ask yourself what you can do to either A) work within the system to make a positive change OR B) put together a case to show why the policy doesn’t work. Either way, you’ll accomplish more than you would if you simply complained behind the decision-makers’ backs.

Another thing you, as a leader, can do to foster loyalty is be inclusive. How long do you think a person will last at the company if they’re constantly feeling like an outsider? Or if they think they don’t have a voice? Include others by asking for their thoughts and opinions, consulting them during meetings, and looping them in on relevant decisions. When they share their thoughts, make sure to actually listen and give them the careful consideration they deserve.

Finally, show appreciation. Too often, we neglect to give praise when praise is due. If you notice someone going above and beyond their duties, say thank you or give them a hand-written thank you note. Make sure your gratitude is genuine, and give it freely. It is simple gestures like these that will help others feel valued and appreciated. It could make all the difference.

For more, please feel free to take a look at my brief video on demonstrating loyalty:

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.

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via Pixabay

I often hear people complaining about the “new generation” of workers as being disloyal to the company. They change jobs like gym shorts, and can’t commit to a single business for more than a few years. While that may be true, have you ever stopped to think about WHY that’s the case?

1. Stagnant Wages

For many young and not-so-young (the oldest Millennials are approaching 40 now) people, the workplace landscape is MUCH different than it was when Boomers and Gen Xers began their careers. Wages have stagnated and benefits aren’t what they used to be. In many cases, the only way to get a raise is to negotiate one by switching jobs.

Solution?

Make sure your business is competitive. Offer fair wages, and regularly give raises to account for cost-of-living increases. In addition, make sure your list of benefits is attractive and competitive in the industry.

2. Boredom

“But what about their short attention spans!?” you might say. “We can’t seem to capture their interest.”

Sure, job boredom may play a role in Millennial job-hopping, but this is often a preventable woe. If more than one or two of your staff seem bored or distracted, it’s probable that there’s something systemic going on. It may be that…

  1. They are not well-suited for their role
  2. They are so efficient that they complete their workload much faster than previous generations of workers
  3. They have checked out because they feel like they don’t fit in in the workplace
  4. They have checked out because they don’t think they have a voice

Solution?

In all these scenarios, communication can help prevent boredom. Regularly check in with your staff and make sure they are feeling engaged and supported. Give them the space to express how they are feeling and vocalize what they’d like to see changed. Then, work with them to strategize ways to make positive changes.

If your young workers are checking out because they feel like they don’t fit in, counter that by encouraging team-building workshops (consider Insights Discovery as a starting point), after-work outings, or collaborative projects. Pay attention and make sure your seasoned workers are giving the newer workers a voice.

3. Lack of Freedom

Nobody likes it when others look over their shoulders to supervise their work. It conjures images of elementary school, when teachers had to keep a classroom of rambunctious youngsters in line in addition to teaching multiplication tables. Such treatment in the workplace could induce anxiety and the feeling of being hemmed in. No one works well under that kind of pressure.

Solution?

Your staff are not elementary children and should not be treated as such. It’s a good idea to demonstrate trust in your team by giving them a long leash when it comes to projects, minimizing your involvement, and being open to different styles of working and different solutions.

Another thing: consider allowing your staff to occasionally work from home. We live in a time where technology enables many people to work remotely on at least some of their projects. As long as the work is being done, who cares if they work in their pajamas?

If you have a retention problem, ask yourself if any (or all!) of these three factors are coming into play, and then DO something! I’m here to help.

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.

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“There are 3 things you never turn your back on: bears, men you have wronged, and a dominant male turkey during mating season.” – Dwight Schrute, The Office

The entertainment industry loves a good workplace grudge, but while you may enjoy the conflict between Dwight and Jim on The Office, it’s far less entertaining to be involved in a workplace grudge in real life.

Grudges can develop in any relationship, but there are a few reasons why they develop more naturally in the workplace. For one, there is often competition between employees. Whether multiple employees are up for the same promotion or bonuses are awarded to top performers, the emotions involved in striving and failing can easily transfer into a grudge.

Another reason workplaces are a natural place for grudges to develop is the amount of time you spend with your co-workers. With employees working increasingly longer hours, it doesn’t just mean more time at work, it means more time with co-workers. You may not like some of your co-workers, and what would normally be a small grievance can compound over time into a full-on grudge. And while you can respectfully take a break from someone in your personal life, that usually isn’t an option in the workplace.

Even if we spend a good deal of time with our co-workers, it doesn’t mean we are developing deeper connections. This is another reason grudges can develop more frequently in the workplace. Work relationships usually operate on a more superficial level, which can lead to less empathy between co-workers. Less empathy can lead a person to more easily attribute a malicious motive to someone’s actions when no malice was intended.

Whatever the reason a grudge develops, the effects are not entertaining. A workplace grudge can blind you to the talents of your nemesis. While an idea might seem good coming from a different co-worker, you may dismiss a specific person without really listening to what they have to say. Even if you try to hide your feelings of contempt, co-workers can pick up on the tension, which could affect your relationships with others.

Beyond the tendency for a grudge to hurt you professionally, the damage it can do to you emotionally and physically is the best reason to let it go. The stress that a grudge can add to your work life can be dangerous. No amount of sticking it to someone else is worth damaging your physical and emotional well-being.

It may not seem like an easy task to let go of a grudge, especially when you feel you’ve been wronged. The best way to alleviate a grudge is to address the situation directly with the person involved. Try to engage them in a healthy dialog about the relationship and see if anything can be done to resolve the tension. If that isn’t possible, it doesn’t mean nothing can be done. You can choose to let go of a workplace grudge, or any grudge for that matter. You can choose to let go of the emotions surrounding the circumstances of grudge and focus on your own performance and well-being. In many ways, this can be much harder than getting external resolution. No matter how you resolve a grudge, the positive changes you are likely to experience are worth it.

Leave the workplace grudges to the entertainment industry, because fictional characters don’t have to worry about their emotional well-being.

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.

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Image by SnottyBoggins from Pixabay

A couple months ago, I had the privilege of seeing Tracey Jones speak at the Women’s Business Bridge annual conference in Stillwater, MN. Tracey is an author, speaker, Air Force Academy graduate, decorated Veteran, international leadership expert, scholar, and researcher. She is also the President of Tremendous Leadership. After her engaging presentation, I picked up a copy of her book, Saucy Aussie Living: Top 10 Tricks for Getting a Second Leash on Life. Told from her dog’s perspective, the book is tongue-in-cheek and goofy, BUT there are many valuable lessons embedded in its pages. One such lesson: Hang out with other top dogs and fumigate the “fleas” in your life.

This lesson boils down to the simple truth that when we associate with high-achieving, ambitious, and positive people, those behaviors and attributes WILL rub off on us. The opposite is true too. If we spend all our time with lazy, incompetent, or negative people, we will inevitably start to take on those characteristics.

The lesson of hanging out with other “top dogs” is a great reminder to pause, look around, and notice both the positive and negative influences in your life. Do some people give you energy and motivate you to be the best version of yourself? Great! Spend as much time around those people as possible.

Do others bring you down with constant complaining, excuses, or negativity? Make an effort to step away from those people and remove their influence from your life. Easier said than done, right? How do you “fumigate the fleabags” around you? It may be extremely difficult to step away from negative co-workers, bosses, or family members. What can you possibly do?

1. Create Healthy Boundaries

Do your best to limit interactions with negative individuals by creating healthy boundaries. This may involve only checking and responding to emails from that person once per day or limiting the number of meetings with that person (or choosing to meet online or over the phone).

Creating healthy boundaries also means standing up for yourself. If you feel like someone is taking over your space, speak out. Let the individual know that you need more breathing room and autonomy.

2. Communicate

If you are less than thrilled with someone’s attitude or lackluster performance, talk to them about it. Don’t be confrontational! Instead, approach the issue from an angle of offering to help. You might say something like: “I noticed you’ve missed a few deadlines lately. Is something wrong? How can I help?”

Communication also helps put negative attitudes in check. If, for instance, someone complains about a co-worker, flip it around by saying, “I don’t see her in that light. Besides, I’d rather focus on XYZ project than talk about Amy right now. Let’s go over last month’s numbers…”

3. Find Your Top Dogs

Once you’ve identified the high-achievers around you, start making an effort to associate with those people as often as possible. When you do this, the “fleabags” will naturally be pushed to the side. Additionally, the positive, go-get-em attitude you’ll adapt from your positive influencers will likely carry over into your interactions with less-driven individuals. Your energy and zest may have a contagious effect. Instead of spreading fleas, you’ll be spreading sunshine!

Regardless of your approach, it is crucial to align yourself with like-minded, motivated individuals. Lean on and learn from them, and don’t forget to give your support in return.

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.

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Image via Pixabay.com

“If you want to gather honey, don’t kick over the beehive.”

Dale Carnegie

I get it. You’re excited about your new position or role and you want to get in there and shake things up! You see systems that are outdated, processes that don’t make sense, and a million opportunities to improve the current system and make positive change. And that’s great, except…

You may want to pump the brakes.

Why, you ask? Because even though you’re enthusiastic, motivated, and your heart is in the right place, others may not see it that way. Before you start demanding change, you have to prove your mettle. Demonstrate that you can thrive within the system before you go about changing it. Show that you have a deep understanding of your company and your role before you bring forward your ideas for improving things. Easing into change is as good idea for three reasons:

ONE: It gives you a chance to build your credibility. People will see that you’re dedicated to your job, perform well, and work well with others. Do your best work, do it on time, and show that you are a trusted partner (instead of combative and subversive).

TWO: It helps you build an alliance. It’s difficult to make change on your own, and nearly impossible if you don’t have others’ support. As you start thinking about ways to amend the status quo, be sure to make friends, ask for advice, and gather others’ thoughts and opinions. Not only will you be more likely to rally support behind your cause, you will also gain others’ perspectives on the issue, which will help strengthen your plan of action.

THREE: It gives you time to learn about the status quo, what works, and what doesn’t. While it’s tempting to barge in and overhaul an entire system that seems to be flawed, it’s a good idea to pause and study the system you’re attempting to fix. Are there parts of it that are actually working? Are certain things going well for certain people? Will there be resistance to your change? If so, why? Taking the time to study the current mode of operations will help you understand the greatest flaws and greatest assets of the system, and what should be fixed first. Your thoughtful approach will also demonstrate respect to those who have been working within the current system for years, and have not (for whatever reason) acted to improve it. Change can be a touchy thing, and you certainly don’t want to imply that everyone has been doing things wrong, and you’re the one with all the answers.

In short, don’t kick over the beehive when you begin a new role. Ease into it, learn how things are done, and start gathering information about what works and what doesn’t. Then, test the waters by floating ideas past others. Build your alliance, and then take action. With this methodical approach, you’re bound to gather some honey, rather than a few angry stings!

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.

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