Skip to content

UXL Blog

Creating Successful Leaders

People talking around a table

As a professional, there are times when your integrity and values will be put to the test. Though it’s usually a good idea to be agreeable and go with the flow, there are moments when you should stand your ground and dare to have a differing opinion than others. These moments can be challenging (or downright frightening), but they are worth it.

If you feel strongly about something, it doesn’t pay to keep quiet. You’ll end up stewing about the situation, losing focus, and respecting yourself a little less for remaining silent.

I encourage you to speak up.

Keep in mind, it’s possible the rest of the group has simply glossed over something you find important. Maybe you have a different perspective than everyone else due to your age, race, gender, or background. Maybe you’ve been in a similar situation in the past, and the outcome was less-than-optimal. Whatever the case, it’s best to speak up and voice your concerns. Your perspective will help open others’ eyes to something potentially problematic and, at the very least, will establish that consent is not unanimous.

You might choose to voice your concerns in a group setting (at a team meeting or conference, for instance) or privately (to a team leader, co-worker, or other decision-maker). Though expressing yourself right away can serve to immediately add another perspective to the conversation, you may not always feel comfortable doing so. Sometimes it’s better to clarify your thoughts, write out what you’d like to say, and schedule a one-on-one meeting with the person/people in charge of the initiative. Try to make your case with both emotional and logical appeals (“I feel______ about the initiative because_____).

It may be uncomfortable to disagree with the majority of the room, but sometimes it is absolutely necessary. If you perceive something to be offensive (regardless if others realize it or not), if it violates your code of ethics, or if you are simply seeing a flaw that others are failing to notice, SPEAK UP. Be bold and dare to be the lone dissenter. If, for some reason, you get in trouble for speaking out, it’s entirely possible that your core worldviews do not align with your company’s, in which case it might be time to talk with a career coach…


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. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

Tags: , , , , , ,

two people talking in a waiting room

It’s no surprise that many of us tend to avoid difficult conversations. Why would we want to make ourselves uncomfortable or become the subject of someone’s wrath? Why would we want to potentially open a can of worms?

Though difficult conversations are just that—difficult—they are also sometimes necessary for improving the present climate or paving the way to a better future. Though you may be reluctant, or even a little scared, to engage in difficult conversations, oftentimes they are necessary and can actually improve things, going forward.

Here are 4 reasons to dare to hold difficult conversations:

[NOTE: In past blog posts I’ve talked about how to prepare for difficult conversations. See this post about the D4 Model and this newsletter about the 5 P’s of Courage for more…]

1. They can set the record straight

In many workplaces, rumors fly and reality can get twisted or obscured. If you’re in a situation where you’re uncertain of the truth, it’s best to sit down with the people involved and get to the bottom of it. It might be as simple as figuring out who was in charge of a certain report or who neglected to contact a client when that needed to happen. The purpose of this conversation isn’t to place blame, but rather to uncover the truth and begin to problem solve.

This type of conversation can also help you put safeguards in place so that the same unfortunate situation doesn’t happen again. It’s possible that it’s no one’s “fault” and the system simply needs a bit of an overhaul.

2. They can provide forward motion

Sometimes when we fail to confront a difficult situation, that can lead to stagnation. The office might be so hung up or distracted by a single person’s (or a group of people’s) actions that it becomes their primary focus. To get the wagon wheel out of the rut, you need to face the situation head-on and engage in a potentially difficult conversation(s).

EXAMPLE: Let’s say Kim hasn’t been turning in her reports on time, which, in turn affects the rest of her team’s progress. Everyone is upset and productivity is down. To get past this rut, you’ll have to bite the bullet and have a conversation with Kim. It could be that Kim was unaware of her responsibilities or didn’t understand the dominoes affect her tardiness was having. It’s possible Kim has felt unsupported or unmotivated lately (in which case, maybe she’s in the wrong role). Regardless, having this conversation can help move your entire team from a place of stagnation to forward movement and problem-solving.

3. They can start dialogues

You may not truly understand someone’s actions, or what is going on in their head, until you speak with them. It’s possible a situation is more complex than you realized (for instance, maybe someone is constantly late for their 8 a.m. Zoom meetings because they have to drop their kids off at daycare). It’s also possible that the other person hasn’t understood the consequences of their recent actions. Sitting down and having a conversation can help create a bridge of understanding. It can open dialogues and help both sides understand what is broken and how to go about fixing things.

4. They can earn you respect, as a leader

Effective leaders have to make hard decisions and engage in difficult conversations regularly. That’s the reality. If you gain a reputation as someone who avoids problems and lets things “work themselves out,” you won’t gain much respect. If, however, you are known to tackle problems head-on and address issues as soon as you notice them, you’ll be seen as a proactive leader who has a real stake in the wellbeing of your team. What’s more, people will come to understand that you will hold others accountable for their actions and you will act in the best interest of the team. Your people will know you have their backs.

Instead of shying away from difficult conversations, embrace them! Start seeing them as opportunities to have fruitful conversations that move your team forward. Tough conversations can be uncomfortable or daunting, but the rewards are ultimately worth it. This comes with the territory when you’re a leader, and it’s a good idea to make lemonade with whatever lemons the workplace throws at you.


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. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

Tags: , , , , ,

As your workplace begins to reopen its doors, you’ll probably be met with a variety of emotions and perspectives. Some people (the extroverted, yellow-energy-leading folks) may be thrilled at the prospect of working with others face-to-face. Others may dread returning to the office and are able to be much more productive at home. Still others fall somewhere in between—they enjoy the flexibility of having a choice to work from home or come into the office, and they want to maintain control over their schedule.

With such a wide range of opinions and points of view, it might seem like an impossible feat to make everyone happy. You can, however, take steps to achieve the best possible setup for the majority of your team members.

Start with these 7 tips:

1. Get Employee Feedback

Involve as many people as you can in the planning process. That doesn’t mean putting together a 100-person Zoom meeting where everyone shouts their opinions! What it DOES mean is surveying or talking with people on a one-on-one basis and gathering information. Ask open-ended questions and encourage candid responses. Some questions might include:

  • What would be an ideal work setup for you?
  • What excites you about returning to the office? What are you dreading?
  • What steps can we take in the office to make sure you feel safe?
  • How can we support you and the rest of the team to make this transition as smooth as possible?

2. Review Your Communication Tools

This past year, we’ve had to get creative and adapt to new forms of communication. As we begin to return to the office, some people may continue to embrace these new communication methods, while others will be eager to return to the old methods. It’s a good idea to see if people are burnt out on virtual chats, or if they don’t mind them. For some, virtual communication is more welcoming and accessible (some services provide captioning options, for instance), while others might be better able to read body language and mood in a face-to-face setting. It’s possible that your communication methods will be somewhat of a hybrid, with occasional virtual meetings interspersed between in-person ones.

3. Maintain Team-Building Efforts

Many teams have gotten creative over quarantine time with virtual happy hours, check-ins, or online team games. It would be a shame to lose those team-building activities once you’ve all returned to the office. Make an effort to stay connected as a team, and keep engagement high, even as we return to the physical workplace.

4. Stock up on Patience and Flexibility

Protocols and practices may change over time. New information and changing conditions will require additional shifts and plenty of patience. It’s important that you practice flexibility and be a role model for others. Convey that things are bound to continuing changing and evolving. This doesn’t reflect incompetence, but a willingness to learn and improve as circumstances change or new developments are brought to light.

5. Be a Source of Joy

One of the best ways to make the transition smoother is by finding ways to make it better for others.  Create a sense of lightheartedness—the unexpected delights of working from home, the mishaps that took place that cracked you up. Show sensitivity to those still working from home and do whatever you can to help them feel included. When you make an effort to be cheerful and buoyant, others will follow suit. Even when things are tough, this type of attitude will help get you into problem-solving mode instead of “woe is me” mode.

6. Stay Focused on the Bigger Story

There will be bumps in the road. There will be difficult stretches of days (or weeks!). That’s inevitable. Instead of getting hung up on small setbacks or difficult events, it pays to focus on the big picture. How can you move forward? What can you do to best serve your team and keep them safe? What are the main goals for this year? By taking a step back and examining the bigger story, you can gain a better perspective when it comes to dealing with everyday annoyances or snags.

7. Manage Expectations

Unless you have a crystal ball, you can’t know what lies ahead. Make sure you convey to your team that you’ll all need to be flexible and roll with the punches for the foreseeable future. Procedures and operations may change (possibly multiple times), and it will take a good amount of teamwork and positive attitudes to move forward. Even though we can’t always manage situations, we CAN manage our response to them.

The transition back to the workplace will inevitably be laden with bumps and obstacles…but it will also present possibilities. This is an opportunity to reinvent the workplace so it is better and more inclusive than before. Keep that in mind as you go forward, and remember to be as open and honest with your team as possible. You’ve got this!


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. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

Tags: , , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: