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Creating Successful Leaders

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We all have an inner narrative. It’s the little voice that lives insides us, cheering us on…or telling us we’re not good enough. It’s the voice that says, “Your opinion matters. Speak up!” Or the voice that says, “You don’t know what you’re talking about. Keep quiet.”

For many of us, it’s easy to tune into the negative messages—to believe that we’re not smart enough, talented enough, thin enough, strong enough, or capable enough. I call this negative voice your “saboteur.” It’s that weight that hangs around your shoulders, dragging you down and preventing you from rising to your potential. I have found that women, especially, have a constant self-saboteur—a persistent negative narrator that causes us to shrink into the shadows, rather than taking a risk, stepping forward, and speaking out.

Michael Singer, author of The Untethered Soul, talks about this tendency to talk down to ourselves. He describes the voice as your “negative roommate,” the naysayer that is constantly spouting pessimism. Singer advises us to “monitor the roommate” by externalizing it. Give your inner voice a body and start talking back to it!

For me, the idea of giving your inner voice “a body” is another way of saying, “be mindful of your thoughts.” Monitor them. Start keeping tabs on the narrative you’re telling yourself. This mindfulness is the first step in flipping your negativity around and freeing yourself from your saboteur.

When you catch yourself thinking pessimistically, pause. Refocus. Think of positive outcomes and possibilities instead of focusing on the negative. If your little voice is telling you, “You can’t do it. You will fail during your presentation at today’s meeting.” Tell it, “No, I won’t. I will succeed. I will speak eloquently and clearly; I will keep people engaged.”

Then, repeat. Continue to redirect your inner voice so you’re focusing on positive results. After a while, you’ll find that this redirection will become second-nature. You’ll begin to think of yourself and your abilities in a more positive light.

Grab a hold of your life’s narrative and tell it how to behave! That’s the surest way to boost your confidence, reduce stress, and reject toxic negativity. Start back-talking to the nagging saboteur in your head and discover what a difference it can make in your life and happiness.

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Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

Amidst this pandemic, it’s been difficult to stay motivated. When I get in a rut, I’ve found that watching a TED Talk can pull me out of it. Recently, I watched a TED Talk by psychologist Dr. ANGELA LEE DUCKWORTH on the subject of grit. She 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. As we drudge through the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are beginning to understand just how much grit it takes to keep going.

In her TED Talk, Duckworth discusses the origins of her studies on grit. She noticed the difference between natural talent and grit as a teacher, which led her to pursue a career in psychology and make 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.


With unemployment rates at an unfortunate high and people constantly grappling with anxiety from all the uncertainty, grit is as important as ever. 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 risen 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. Rather, failure helps us develop and equips us for future success. 

Keep in mind, grit isn’t directly related to talent. A big part of success is perseverance and having the tenacity to follow through, no matter what. You may have already developed perseverance simply by way of survival, or you might have to learn it. Fortunately, it IS something you can learn. Start pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, commit to your goals, and have patience with yourself. You’re not going to learn perseverance and grit overnight.

Since we’re far-removed from our previous routines, it’s important to realize that it takes grit to be where you are now–to be present and forge ahead. Surviving during a pandemic is a challenge on its own, and on top of that we’re forced to deal with changes made at work that can include physical distancing, budget cuts, or lay offs.

Success and failure work hand in hand with learning and growing. Picking yourself back up after an attempt gone wrong is the easiest way to learn from your mistakes. Building grit now can strengthen your character and help you achieve your long term goals, even after the pandemic has long passed. 

For Dr. Duckworth’s 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 ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Clouds spelling the word "Change"
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

You’ve known it for a while. You’ve been plugging along in the same old job, doing the same set of tasks for years now and you’ve simply had enough. You need a change, a fresh start. Maybe you need a change of scenery and, potentially, a new set of co-workers, colleagues, and higher-ups. Alternatively, if the pandemic has left you unemployed or furloughed, maybe it’s time to explore different career paths in entirely different industries.

Whatever the case, you’re restless and something needs to change. Soon.

But how can you make a change while everything is in flux? With the coronavirus still rampant (at least in the U.S.), it’s difficult to think about leaving your job or making a major change. That might be so, but I would argue that now is the perfect time for some deep reflection and decision-making. Even if you don’t act until after the pandemic has passed, it’s still a good idea to prepare.

Begin with intentional reflection.

Sit down with a pen and notepad, find a quiet place, and start jotting down your thoughts. Reflect and write notes about the following:

  • What do you like about your current job (or the last job you had)? What do you dislike about it?
  • What were some of your favorite tasks/assignments? When did you shine or feel fulfilled?
  • What are five things your next job needs to have?
  • What are your talents? How could these skillsets be put to better use?
  • What are some alternative career paths you’ve considered? (Dare to dream!)

Once you’ve thought about your preferences, skills, and dreams, you may want to consider a deeper exploration.

Sometimes, we’re not always the best judges of ourselves and our own talents. Sometimes, it’s best to use outside help or a trusted tool to uncover the root of who we are and where we excel. One of my favorite evaluation tools is Insights Discovery (and Insights Deeper Discovery). This science-based assessment can help you identify your communication preferences, your preferred work atmosphere, how to define your “living legacy,” and the potential areas that need improvement/attention.

As a licensed practitioner of Insights Discovery, I’ve worked with a wide range of people to help them unearth their core aptitudes and preferences, and to define their path, going forward (For more information about Insights, please visit my website). If you’d like to have a conversation about Insights Discovery, please feel free to send me a note.

Once you have a good handle on where you’d like to take your career (and life!), it’s time to start planning.

Start thinking about your next steps by asking yourself future-oriented questions:

  • What additional training will you need in order to step into your ideal career? What might that entail on a practical level (online courses, additional education or certificates, etc.)?
  • How much do you know about your dream job? Is additional research necessary?
  • Do you know anyone in that role? If so, could you set up an informational interview?
  • How much time might it take to make the transition? Will you (and your family) be fine with a period of income uncertainty?

Even though it may be difficult to think about your next steps during such an uncertain and volatile time, it is a good idea to do so. Planning can help you take some measure of control of your future, and it can re-energize you and give you hope. And, once the dust has settled, you’ll have a full-fledged plan that you can put to work. I believe in 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. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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