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Creating Successful Leaders

A woman sitting outside on her smart phone

Remote conferences are an integral tool of the work place. In an increasingly mobile and diverse business landscape, maintaining lines of communication in a way that is regularly organized and easily accessible ensures projects remain on task while goals are clearly maintained and communicated.

Phone meetings are by far the most commonly implemented for remote conferencing, and come with their own sets of headaches and challenges. As a team member or project coordinator, you may find yourself in need of strategies to use as a shorthand in organizing consistent, quality phone meetings. Feel free to use these suggestions below while you’re planning!

1. Stick to a schedule

Humans are creatures of habit, and scheduling phone calls can be one of the larger sources of frustration for mid-size or large teams. If you’re looking to utilize phone meetings as a convenient and regular means of convening a team, make it easier on your team members by scheduling calls at similar times at similar points in the week.

Typically, it’s simpler for someone to block out an hour in the morning every other Wednesday than to constantly be checking their schedule to see if they can make a meeting work. Sticking to a regular schedule upfront also helps establish project timelines. It can also help instill a sense of structure and a general sense of expectations.

2. Have a routine

Make sure to outline a procedure for beginning meetings, and for larger groups. Utilizing established formats, such as Robert’s Rules of Order, can help facilitate the chaos of having many voices present. Stick to a consistent limit of how long the group waits for people to join, and outline consequences for non-participation at your first meeting. Reiterate standards as necessary.

3. Prepare a small agenda; have someone take minutes

Board meetings utilize both these strategies, and are a simple but effective means of staying on task. Agendas serve doubly as excellent meeting reminders when provided in advance, and allow more time for team members to formulate specific questions they may have. You may want to incorporate unconstructed conversation time toward the end of meetings to field sentiments about the project at hand and candidly address issues that don’t neatly pertain to a specific task.

4. Be gracious, have a consistent facilitator

Always remember to be polite and professional. And remember, without visual cues and body language, you are bound to encounter miscommunication in a phone meeting at one point or another. Having a consistent facilitator, or a regular rotation of facilitation provides additional support and structure in meetings, as well as a default avenue for conflict resolution as the need arises.

Phone meetings don’t have to be a source of stress. When conducted effectively, they can be brief, clear, and helpful for all team members. Pair these strategies with a framework that best suits your team members’ schedules and working styles. And when in doubt, talk it out!

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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Images of seagulls in a row depicting when a team is too similar

Every team is unique, which means every team encounters its own challenges and pitfalls. Sometimes communication between team members breaks down. Other times productivity dips due to colleagues not seeing eye to eye on a particular problem. But what do you do as a team leader when you are faced with the opposite problem? What do you do when your team members are too similar?

Strong teams rely on their members as individual engines of creativity, each with their own specific skillsets. While it’s not necessarily always an issue to have a team with overlapping abilities and points of view, a lack of diversity of thought can stifle creativity or hamper problem-solving. When Joe, John, and Jack all offer the same, incomplete solution, that’s a sign things need to change.

Being an effective team leader means being able to bring out the best in your team and point it in the direction that will allow you to accomplish your goals. So, if your squadron suffers from being too similar, you might want to consider some of these solutions:

1. Brainstorming Homework

Homogenous teams tend to lump together in groupthink if given the opportunity. A way to combat this habit is to isolate each individual team member’s strengths and abilities in an environment where they’re allowed to contemplate without the influence of their like-minded peers. Assign different tasks or divvy up a single task into components to each of your team members, and have them come up with solutions or ideas on their own. This can give better insight into each of the individual members’ limitations and quirks, and be used as a road map for what qualities or ideas to encourage folks to bring to the table at full team meetings.

2. Role Play

Sometimes team members can’t call upon different perspectives because they haven’t been given the opportunity to engage with them. Identify strategies or types of problem solving you would like to bring out more in your team, and give them the opportunity to utilize these methods in practice exercises. It may be helpful to bring in someone from another group or department familiar with the process to serve as a guide.

3. Switch Up the Roster

If there is a persistent problem in addressing challenges, the roster may be in need of some alterations. You can experiment switching out team members on specific tasks, bring in different staff for certain projects, or even bring on a new hire to inject energy into a complacent group. Variety and situational changes keep people alert and help draw their attention to the issues that are causing these changes.

4. Competition

Who says innovation can’t be a contest? Incentivizing behaviors is a timeless and effective way to instigate desired results. Offer a small reward for team members who are able to provide new or sought-after solutions to ongoing problems. If the desire is to correct a more systemic homogeneity, consider creating broader rewards for seeking outside collaboration or professional development that can be integrated into your team’s stagnant dynamic.

Team dynamics are tricky, and often problems are not resolved by any one solution. Try out a couple different strategies, and don’t give up if one doesn’t foster the changes you are looking for. As long your team is persistent and committed to growth, you will likely find an answer.

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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People can be full of advice. “Do this,” “do that,” “this worked for me,” “this didn’t work for me.” Sometimes it’s difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. For the most part, you simply have to forge ahead and use your best judgment. But sometimes, others will give you truly valuable gems that you should take to heart.

One of the best pieces of career advice I ever received was ask good questions. Try to ask three questions at every important meeting: one that shows support, one to gain clarity on the subject, and one to demonstrate inclusionary behavior (helping to involve others in the room in the discussion). Asking good questions not only helps to gather information, it also demonstrates that you are an active, interested, and inclusionary employee. Additionally, you’ll be seen as a fair leader–someone who wants others voices to be heard, as well as their own.

Another great piece of advice I’ve received? Stay relevant. Know what’s important to the organization, the market, the customers. Study and stay abreast of industry happenings and innovations, strategies, issues and concerns…then look for solutions and speak up! Show that you’re interested in your job and are striving to be the best you can be by constantly learning and seeking new, salient information.

What are some of the best pieces of career advice you’ve received? Has anything really stuck with you and helped you either advance in your career or guided you through career challenges? I’m interested to hear from you! Leave a comment below and let’s start a friendly, valuable discussion.

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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I am incredibly pleased to announce that my online leadership course, the Ten-Minute Leadership Challenge, is now discounted by 30%. That means more emerging leaders can take advantage of all the valuable skills, tips, and tools this course has to offer.

Why do I care so much about leadership?

I believe strong, compassionate, and capable leaders can completely change the dynamic of a company. Good leaders have the power to bring people together, drive positive change, build trust, and take well-calculated risks.

I care about the next generation of leaders and want to see them thrive and succeed. After working in leadership for 27 years, this is my chance to give back by passing on the skills and handy tips I learned throughout the years.

I am proud of the leadership course I put together, and I am confident you (or the emerging leader in your life) will gain valuable skills from it.

PURCHASE THE COURSE
GIFT THE COURSE TO AN EMERGING LEADER

Thank you for considering the Ten-Minute Leadership Challenge online course!

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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Butterfly indicating transformational leadership

A guest post by Karoline Gore

With the right strategies and motivation among employees, the potential of an organization is limitless. Transformational leaders strive toward improving the productivity of the company by inspiring their staff through effective communication and creating an environment for intellectual stimulation. By doing so, they influence their followers to exhibit outstanding performance geared toward the wellness of the company and not selfish gains. These leaders also transform workers into potential leaders through continuous motivation and development. Steve Jobs is an iconic transformational leader whose passion and simplicity made Apple what it is today. He constantly challenged his employees to think beyond the obvious, prompting them to create some of the best products that the world has ever seen, according to Marketing91. 

It makes work meaningful and empowers workers

Among the different forms of leadership, transformational management is among the best when it comes to employee involvement. There is evidence of a positive relationship between transformational leadership and employee-related results, as found by meta-analytic research. These findings prove that transformational leaders make work meaningful by advocating for self-governance. Their followers continuously feel a sense of belonging and appreciation for their work.

Contrary to initial research that found cynicism and Intentions To Quit (ITQ) as general traits of employees, recent studies have found them to be a reflection of workers’ perception of management. Transformational leaders make employees want to stay by eliminating barriers and letting them know that they are mindful of their personal success. Take the example of N.R Narayana Murthy, founder of Infosys. By inspiring people through his excellent leadership and personal values, he has attained worldwide recognition and immense success.

A company can handle change and challenges

Change is inevitable, and the biggest challenge that management faces is how to handle it. When governed poorly, it can wound a company’s performance and output, hurting its position on the competitive map. The impact of transformational leadership regarding change reaches all levels of the company. Such leaders educate followers on the importance of change and let them adopt the same through inspiration rather than control. They also handle unethical conduct in a stern yet down-to-earth way that upholds justice. At a team level, you will find employees that motivate and inspire each other to work better. This particularly helps a company to meet these challenges that are brought by strategic redirections.

Transformational leadership is universal and widely accepted as one of the best types of leadership and is applicable in all kinds of organizations. It involves driving for exceptional performance through intellectual stimulation, team-building, and inspiring selfless behavior among workers. As a result, employees support all company’s undertakings without remorse or hesitation. If you are practicing leadership or aspiring to be a leader in the future, many experts advise that you adopt this form of administration for optimal productivity.

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Seagull screeching the words "Clarity in Communication"

Communication is the lifeblood of all organizations. So much so, there are whole industries built around identifying the divides between people and bridging them to create effective teams. If your co-workers do not understand the goal or details you are trying to convey, it is likely there will be confusion strewn throughout the entire process of your project. Clear communication is not all about group dynamics and personalities. There is a rhyme and reason to the process that can be reflected and improved upon on an individual basis too. If you’re interested in improving your own communicative process, consider the tips below:

1. Pay Attention To Language Preferences

Everybody has language preferences. If you spend enough time in an organization, you’ll likely develop a sense of the different backgrounds people come from, and the type of language that engages them the most easily. Pay attention in meetings and in written correspondence to the way ideas are phrased and the presented. Then, apply your findings to your messaging.

2. Body Language and Volume

Humans are emotional creatures, and we are wired to pick up signals not just from speech, but from the way in which our speech is presented. For example, folded arms can undermine your position when trying to encourage participation and collaboration. Getting loud or using animated facial expressions can be read as excited as easily as intimidating. If people shy away or don’t physically present in a way to you that seems engaged, consider how you might adjust your body language to appear more approachable.

3. Expand Vocabulary

Sometimes clear communication is as simple as developing a greater precision in language. Crack open a thesaurus and study the contextual differences and appropriate use of terms you frequently encounter or use in your organization. There’s nuance in English between similar concepts, so any additional ability to distinguish your meaning can be valuable.

4. Ask Questions

If you are confused by someone’s meaning, do not be afraid to simply ask for clarification. Sometimes it can be intimidating to question a superior or pester a group message with a stream of individual questions. However, your confusion may be shared by the group at large, so being proactive and asking for more information can be beneficial for all. If the questions don’t clarify to your satisfaction, consider asking other colleagues or involving a mediator to get everyone on the same page.

There are a lot of factors that make up clear and effective communication. By using concise language and being more aware of others’ manners and modes, you can implement the changes that will lead to more effective team dynamics. Where there is rapport and understanding, there is success!

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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Your vacation from work checklist

In past blog posts, I’ve written about the benefits of taking time away from the daily grind to rest and rejuvenate. It really is beneficial to your mental, physical, and emotional health to take a vacation and get away from the office for a little while. Taking this R&R time helps you from getting worn down, burned out, and even gives your health a boost.

But, what if you have trouble truly getting away? What if you’re physically in another place, but your mind is still in the office, worrying about clients or invoices? That kind of defeats the purpose of getting away. When you’re constantly worrying about how things are going back at work, you’re not allowing yourself to rest and revitalize.

To prevent obsessing about work while you’re away, it’s a good idea to properly prepare for your vacation. Spend a little time now to enjoy your vacation later.

Use my handy Vacation Checklist as a guide:

-Set an automatic vacation response for all incoming emails. If you’d really like peace of mind, keep the response active for one day after you return from vacation to give yourself a little catch up time.

-Delegate tasks to co-workers or staff. You probably have some weekly or monthly responsibilities that will slip through the cracks unless someone else does them. Ask a co-worker or two if they could take care of those tasks, and assure them you’ll return the favor if and when they go on vacation. BONUS TIP: Schedule the assigned tasks on a calendar, share them with your co-worker, and set a notification for when the task should be completed.

-Anticipate potential fires. If you have a particularly troublesome client or a tricky weekly report that you always write, anticipate any hangups and do a little planning. Tell your troublesome client you’ll be out of town, and give them the phone number of a co-worker (with their permission, of course) who can help them. Train someone on how to write that tricky report. These actions will help you prepare for this vacation and others down the road.

-Check your tech. If you must check emails (though I hope you can take a little break!) while you’re away, make sure you’re able to remotely access your inbox without issue. Once you’ve confirmed that everything is functioning properly, commit to only checking email ONCE PER DAY. Get up, spend a few minutes addressing any pressing emails, and move on with your day.

-Give yourself permission to rest. Many of us feel guilty when we’re given a sustained amount of time to relax and do absolutely nothing for a change. If running around like a mad person is your norm, putting on the brakes and doing nothing can make you uncomfortable. Before going on vacation, come to terms with this. Tell yourself that this is “you time.” You’re investing in yourself, and you are worth it. You can also look at it from a work perspective: By spending this time away from the office, you are equipping yourself to be mentally sharper, emotionally rejuvenated, and physically healthier. You’re investing in your personal wellbeing.

I hope you have a chance to get away sometime soon, and when you do, I hope you’ll allow yourself to be truly present. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast. Take morning strolls. Notice and enjoy your surroundings. Just breathe.

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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