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The holidays are upon us and life can easily turn hectic. The stress of maintaining a satisfactory work-life balance has the tendency to amplify during the holidays. Whether you’re rushing to meet end-of-the-year deadlines, plan holiday parties, find (and pay for!) gifts, or prep your family for an out-of-town trip, it’s easy to feel as tightly wound as wrapping paper around a present.

All of this stress is a shame, because the holidays should be a joyous, relaxed time that we spend with close friends and family members. How can you rediscover holiday cheer and find some inner calm? Try a few of these 20 quick tips:

1. Breathe deeply

The steady rhythm of your breath has a calming effect on the mind, much like any repetitive, soothing sound or motion.

2. Eat a healthy lunch

According to Dr. Pat Bass, a healthy diet is an essential element to combating stress.

3. Exercise

Find something that works for YOU and practice it regularly!

4. Relax your mind

Do a crossword puzzle, squeeze a stress ball, paint a picture, doodle in your notebook.

5. Practice yoga/mindfulness

Yoga helps you focus on the ebb and flow of your breath and also releases the tension in your muscles.

6. Schedule “you time”

Write it on the calendar! Set aside some time to do exactly what you want to do.

7. Schedule family time

Be present for your loved ones.

>>Read about three ways to truly live in the moment.

8. Walk outside

Vitamin D is essential for your skin and just being in the outdoors has a revitalizing, rejuvenating effect.

9. Laugh

Laughter reduces stress, according to the Mayo Clinic. Watch a funny movie, read the comics, or go to a comedy show.

10. Be present

Focus on the here and now instead of getting stressed about the future or regretting something in the past. My book, The Ten-Minute Leadership Challenge, devotes an entire chapter to this concept.

11. Network/reconnect with friends/find your support group

We all need a support group. If you have close friends in the area, make an effort to reach out to them from time to time. If not, find a supportive community through meet-up groups, your local community center, or continuing education classes.

12. Indulge in your interests

Do you like to knit? Paint? Practice Tae Kwon Do? Work your interests into your schedule.

13. Massage

Everyone loves a professional massage, but if you’re short on time or don’t want to spend the money, give yourself a hand massage or shoulder rub.

14. Listen to music

“Music calms the savage beast” and it can also reduce tension. Pick your favorite genre and let Pandora find the perfect music mix for you.

15. Practice gratitude

As I mentioned in my November newsletter, a grateful person is generally a happier, more optimistic person.

16. Count/recite a mantra

The rhythm of counting or reciting a mantra can help calm your mind. Additionally, a positive mantra (i.e. “I can do anything,” “I am smart and strong,” or “Nothing can get in my way”) can give you an added confidence boost.

17. Close your eyes

Sometimes closing your eyes is a good way to distance yourself from your troubles. It also helps you focus on your thoughts without letting visual distractions get in the way.

18. Get organized

A neat and tidy desk or house can help focus your thoughts. Too much clutter can lead to feelings of anxiety and stress.

19. Free write

Get your thoughts down on paper. Write whatever comes to mind if you’re feeling overwhelmed and want to sort through a complex issue.

20. Plan a vacation

Even if you don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon, it’s fun to plan a future vacation. It also gives you something to work towards—a long term reward.

 

Isn’t it time to relax and enjoy the holidays? Take a deep breath and get started with creating a calm, rejuvenating holiday season!

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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When your manager is difficult

They’re always wearing a frown, criticizing staff, and shooting down ideas. They are a storm cloud, blocking out sunny moods and lightheartedness. They are difficult managers.

Many of us have had the unfortunate experience of dealing with a difficult manager at some point or another. It’s amazing how a single person can sour the mood of an office, isn’t it? Their callous attitude can bring everyone down, deflate motivation, and squash innovation and creativity.

How can you possibly defeat such an energy vampire? Isn’t it easier to simply quit your job and find better management elsewhere?

Even though it can sometimes be difficult to overcome an unsupportive manager, there are a few methods you can try before raising the white flag and heading somewhere else. Start with the following five tips:

Remain calm

The way you react to your manager can have a profound effect. If you return a snippy attitude with snippiness, or if you return anger with anger, you’ll only end up more frustrated. Instead, work on detaching yourself from your manager’s poor attitude. The next time he riles you up, remove yourself from the situation (physically or mentally), count to ten, and think about the encounter logically. Is it worth it to respond in kind? Probably not. Instead, find your inner calm and return childish behavior with calm reason.

Refocus

Although it may take significant effort on your part, it is best to focus on a task, not the criticism. Unless your manager has good reason for her critiques, it is best to let them slide off your back. Strategize and forge ahead as best you can, keeping the goal—not the criticism—at the center of your mind.

Be direct, if possible

Sometimes, it’s a good idea to be direct with your manager. If one of his criticisms seems off-base, ask him to explain what he means and how you and your team can perform better next time. Alternatively, you might try bringing up your feelings in a one-on-one meeting with your manager. Let him know how you’re feeling, why you’re feeling that way, and what would make the situation better. Use the D4 model of feedback as a guide and be sure to bring up specific examples.

You’ll have to be brave to directly face your manager, but honestly, what do you have to lose? Sometimes a direct approach can be a breath of fresh air. It’s possible your manager is unaware of the profound effect of his words and actions and simply needs someone to point it out.

And if your directness completely flops? It may be a sign that it’s time to move on to greener pastures (but be sure to consult a career coach before doing anything too drastic!)

Have perspective

An article by Liz Ryan of Forbes Magazine encourages us to see our difficult managers as minor parts in our lives. She says, “Eventually you reach a point where no manager can make you fearful, because you realize that any boss is just a bit player in your movie. You are the director and the star. You could leave any boss at any moment and it wouldn’t kill you — it wouldn’t be ideal perhaps, but you’ll survive. Keep that in mind!”

Ask what you can do better, specifically

It’s possible your manager’s expectations are simply not aligning with your work. The only way to find out is to ask for specific feedback on specific projects. Small changes in your work may have a big impact on your boss’ attitude.

Be empathetic

If your manager suddenly becomes more grim and angry than usual, it’s possible she’s going through a rough patch in her personal life. Many of us leave our personal struggles at home and cover up hardships as best we can in the workplace. This might be the case with your difficult boss. With that in mind, be empathetic and understanding. Don’t take harsh words too personally. Remain calm and talk to your boss as an individual, not as a brutish machine, out to get you. Your empathy may make all the difference.

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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Buzzwords lack clarity

They come in the form of KPIs, ROIs, or CTAs. They are the low-hanging fruit, the synergy, and the ballpark figures. They want to help you drill down, push the envelope, create a survival strategy, and do some heavy lifting.

This is the corporate speak that tends to spin its way into our conversations. It’s fine to use it every once in a while—especially if your audience is familiar and comfortable with the language—but it’s usually best to keep jargon to a minimum. It ends up clogging up conversations, confusing potential customers, and muddying the meaning of a sentence.

Simply put: If too much jargon is used, clarity is lost.

Instead of using a euphemism for a term, express what you actually mean. Instead of asking someone if they have “the bandwidth” to perform a project, ask them if they have the time, resources, and appropriate support. You’ll end up getting a more specific, straight-forward answer rather than a simple “yes” or “no” reply.

Be especially careful with corporate speak when you’re meeting with prospects, new clients, or potential new employees. Businesses tend to use industry-specific terminology which may be difficult for others to interpret. For instance, a company with a global presence might use the term “business process outsourcing” (or BPO), while a company specializing in education might use the term “digital literacy.” In both cases, the terminology may feel natural to those within the industry, but could confuse those outside the industry.

Language matters. The terms you use can contribute to an open, inclusive environment, or they can obfuscate meaning or leave certain people feeling confused or irritated. Do your best to use clear terms and don’t forget to ask for clarification when you need it. Chances are, if you’re confused by an acronym or unusual turn-of-phrase, others will be too.

Let’s aim for simplicity and precision in our workplaces! If you’d like some additional guidance, be sure to check out my short video on clarity.

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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build a good reputation

Your reputation may sound like something that’s out of your control. It’s the way others perceive you, right? It’s the culmination of every interaction, victory, failure, good deed, and (criticism?) harsh word, all rolled into one. How can you contain this many-armed monster and make it your own? Start with these six steps:

1. Pay attention

Although this may seem like a basic concept, it’s an absolutely crucial one. Pay close attention to how you treat others, from your co-workers to your boss to the custodian staff to your barista at Starbucks. Every interaction has the potential to either build-up or tear down your personal brand. Start seeing yourself through the eyes of others and work on a vital little skill called empathy.

2. Be consistent

When you consistently put your best foot forward, you will find that your reputation will fall under your control. If, for example, you show one side of yourself to certain co-workers and another side to others, you’re bound to run into problems somewhere down the line. Be your best, authentic self, no matter if you’re having a conversation with a potential new client, chatting with a co-worker, or posting on social media (yes, that matters too!).

3. Be on time

Whether for meetings, projects, or the start of the work day, BE ON TIME. Punctuality matters and your timeliness can boost your credibility in a big way.

4. Stop making excuses

No one likes an excuse-maker. If you make a mistake or fail to deliver on a project, own up to your error and ask how you can set things right. If you vow to be excuse-free (more on that in a past blog post), you’ll also tend to be a better planner so that you won’t feel the need to make excuses in the first place.

5. Don’t gossip

Nothing kills a good reputation faster than gossip. People will quickly begin to distrust you and may be hesitant to confide in you or entrust you with a team project. And if you find yourself surrounded by gossiping co-workers, do your best to change the subject or simply remove yourself from the conversation. You are above that.

6. Extend small kindnesses

Whenever you see an opportunity for a kind gesture, make it. Say thank you, offer to help, or ask about someone’s day. Make sure your gestures are authentic and heart-felt. You should actually want to help and uplift your co-workers and clients.

 

Are you in control of your reputation? Although credibility takes a long time to build, you can start taking steps immediately to build a healthy, promotion-worthy reputation. Feel free to contact me for more ways to build a stellar reputation.

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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I’ve worked with a variety of different teams over the past thirty years, from sales to marketing to creative. Although it’s tempting to gather people together who are like-minded, I’ve found that the most capable, innovative teams are those with a diverse set of perspectives and personalities. When several different personalities are balanced (and everyone has an opportunity to voice their opinions and ideas), teams tend to flourish.

Who to seek out when you’re putting together a team?

Think about personalities from a macro perspective. What are your co-workers like, in general. What are their strengths? What have they accomplished that stand out in your mind? How do they interact with others?

Getting to know your co-workers on a personal level is key to assembling a powerhouse team. The more you know about them, the better equipped you’ll be to compose a well-balanced team. This process, of course, doesn’t happen over night. Take your time building authentic relationships with others and you’ll make a long-term investment in your leadership.

Let’s say you know your co-workers fairly well. What then? Who, exactly, do you want on your team?

A good guide to use is the Insights® Discovery color wheel. This wheel represents the four major personalities we typically find in others, represented by the colors blue, red, yellow, and green. For more on the basics of this remarkable program, please refer to my past blog post on understanding Insights® .

The basic traits of each Insights personality. Everyone has a little of each color in them!

Let’s take a look at the four Insights® colors and how they can contribute to creating a balanced team:

Cool Blue:

Those who tend to embrace the blue quadrant of the Insights® wheel tend to be thoughtful and analytical. They dig into the details of a project, ask probing questions, and help the group to consider many different paths to success. They are typically driven by data and numbers, which can be helpful in many different types of projects.

UTILIZE THE BLUE:

Those who lead with blue energy may seem quiet or even disengaged. As a group leader, make sure to specifically ask “blues” for their input and make sure they are given ample time to express their views without interruption.

Fiery Red:

Red-energy folks like action. They are usually bold, motivated by progress, and make decisions quickly. “Reds” are often natural leaders and can help carry a conversation, delegate tasks, or make executive decisions when the group is waffling.

UTILIZE THE RED:

When working with red-energy people, make sure their voice is heard and considered, but not over-represented. From time to time, it may be vital to remind reds that the first viable option may not necessarily be the best one and that considering multiple options may save the team time in the long run.

Sunshine Yellow:

Your yellow personalities are the ones who enjoy socialization and teamwork. They work best when they collaborate with others and can talk out their ideas. “Yellows” are crucial to your team’s success in the early stages of a project when brainstorming and idea generation is key. They also have the effect of motivating a team through their bright personalities and high energy.

UTILIZE THE YELLOW:

Throw yellow personalities into any mix of people and they’re bound to stand out as the social leaders. As I mentioned, that’s great for idea-generating and motivation, but make sure they don’t control every step of the process. One step you might take with yellows is to challenge them to get everyone involved during every meeting. Task them with calling upon those who haven’t spoken up in a while.

Earth Green:

Green personalities are vital to the team because they are highly empathetic and caring. This natural propensity for putting themselves in others shoes can help them see the project from the customer’s perspective and think about ways to best serve a company’s client base. They are also good at making sure all perspectives on a team are heard and considered.

UTILIZE THE GREEN:

Oftentimes, green personalities are quiet—not because they have nothing to say, but because they want to hear others’ perspectives first. Because of this, they sometimes don’t get the opportunity to speak up and share their viewpoint. Make sure to engage your “greens” and let them know that their opinions are valued.

 

When you create a balanced team, you lay the groundwork for innovation, creativity, and productivity. Although teams with various personalities may clash from time to time, the overwhelming benefits that can be achieved from a balanced team far outweigh the risks. How will you start building your balanced team today?

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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confidence, the key to success

Think of someone who is wildly successful. You might picture Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Brené Brown, J.K. Rowling, Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of your company…or any number of people who have made it big.

What do they all have in common? What traits could an author possibly share with a techie?

The answer is simple on the surface, but difficult in practice. All of these successful people have an underlying firm belief in themselves and what they do.

Much of success is a mind game. If you are confident in your beliefs and your actions and you exude that confidence, others will be confident in you. If you move forward boldly, you will be perceived as a leader and someone who can be trusted.

The power of confidence is real. It’s what drives entrepreneurs to create start-ups. It’s what helps people step up and lead a team. But can you really switch on your confidence? Aren’t some people naturally more confident than others?

While you may not feel naturally confident, you DO have the tools to boost your self-assurance and step into your leadership. As Margie Warrell of Forbes says, “Confidence is not a fixed attribute; it’s the outcome of the thoughts we think and the actions we take.”

Warrell goes on to discuss research into brain plasticity and says that, “we can literally rewire our brains in ways that affect our thoughts and behavior at any age. Which means that no matter how timid or doubt-laden you’ve been up to now, building self-confidence is largely what psychologists called volitional. Or to use layman language: ‘By choice.’ With consistent effort, and the courage to take a risk, we can gradually expand our confidence, and with it, our capacity to build more of it!”

How can you start building your confidence and working toward success? Start with these four steps:

1. Have a clear mission.

What do you believe? What drives you? What is your vision for yourself and the future of your company? Create a roadmap of where you’d like to go and keep it at the forefront of you mind. Enlist the help of a career coach or counselor.

2. Fill your thoughts with positivity.

Practice building up your confidence every morning (or every time you’re feeling self-doubt) by telling yourself positive affirmations and actually believing them.

3. Stop limiting yourself.

Reach outside your comfort zone. The only way to achieve growth is to constantly stretch yourself.

4. Have courage.

Courage is one of the ten leadership attributes in my book, The Ten-Minute Leadership Challenge. Having courage means that you’re willing to stand up for your beliefs and defend others, if necessary. It means taking the occasional risk, even if you’re not feeling brave.

BONUS: 5. Start seeing setbacks as opportunities, rather than obstacles.

If your ideas are challenged, your project faces difficulties, or you’re told “no,” don’t give up! Instead, look at your setback as an opportunity to reframe your idea or your work. Author Stephen King was rejected dozens of time and told that “no one is interested in horror.” What did he do? He edited his work and kept on submitting it, standing firmly by his genre. It’s okay to rework your ideas, but stay steadfast to your core beliefs.

 

YOU have the power to be successful. Your internal monologue can either drive you toward success or make you shrink back into your comfort zone. Be bold, be confident, and above all BELIEVE in yourself, your capabilities, and your ideas.

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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preparation for job hunt

It pays to take a page out of the Boy Scout’s book and always Be Prepared. You may be somewhat content with your current job, but you never know when things may change. Perhaps your company downsizes and your position is cut, or your new boss is nearly impossible to work with, or you discover an amazing new work opportunity and would like to apply.

Instead of scrambling to get your ducks in a row, take action NOW to prepare for your “someday” job hunt. How to do it? Try out these five “Keeps.”

Keep your information updated.

Get in the habit of looking over your résumé every few months, or whenever you have a major work-related change (a new position or responsibility, an award, a new training certificate, etc.). Update your résumé and potentially delete outdated items. Do the same thing for your LinkedIn profile (you’d be surprised how many recruiters turn to LinkedIn for hiring!)

Keep a list of your accomplishments

No matter how small the achievement, write it down! Keep a list of all your successful projects, awards, recognition, new clients, and more. If you’re able to find statistics to back up your accomplishments (i.e. “I brought in 10 new clients for the company this past year” or “I contributed to 15% of our sales this year”), that’s even better. It’s always a good idea to bring up specific accomplishments in interviews.

Keep up your training/education

Don’t let yourself grow complacent! Look for continuing education courses, webinars, or workshops that can help keep your skills sharp. Keeping your skill set up to date will also help you in your current position.

Keep networking

It’s easy to ignore networking events when you’re not actively looking for a job, but they can provide a wealth of opportunities. You may connect with someone from your dream company or meet someone who is doing work that may be an excellent fit for your talents. Besides, networking isn’t all about job hunting. It’s about meeting potential new clients and collaborators as well. It’s also possible that you might be able to help someone else who is looking to get into a similar position or company as yours.

Keep a clear vision

Don’t forget to take “you time” every now and then to reflect upon where you currently are and where you’d like to go. What is your vision of the future? What makes you happy? Where do you see yourself in five or ten years? Keep your dreams top-of-mind and recognize that they don’t have to be just dreams. With a little effort and a clear path, they can become your reality.

 

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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