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Creating Successful Leaders

Tag Archives: Healthy Workplace

creativity

Here’s a scenario: You bolt awake at night, with the solution to a problem clear as day in your mind. Familiar with this type of experience? If so, congratulations, you’ve had an epiphany.

Now, you must show your coworkers–and more importantly, your boss–what makes your idea so great. Here is where many people stumble. It’s great to have ideas. It’s even better to believe in yourself and be convinced that your idea will really work. But the hard part is pitching it to those who have the power to either make your idea a reality, or push it off into the reject pile.

So, how do you sell an idea to your boss?

1. Know Your Boss

What are your boss’s priorities? What are they passionate about in the business? What are their hot button issues? By knowing your boss, you’ll know how to pitch the idea in a way that makes the maximum impact on them.

2. Know Your Business

How does your business run? Do you know the in’s and out’s of how things get done? Familiarizing yourself with the entire business–not just your part in it–will make your proposal much more appealing.

3. Timing Is Key

Do you approach your boss while their busy with five other projects, or do you wait for the opportunity to have their undivided attention? Of course, different bosses work differently, so you know better than I do when the optimum time to approach them is. Don’t mention your idea until you’ve found that perfect time to do so, because you want the idea to have the biggest impression possible.

For tips on drafting a proposal and presenting it, you’ll have to stay tuned for next week’s post!

 

 

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time to adapt

I once collaborated on a project with a few people from my department. We all had different areas of expertise, so we relied on each other equally in order to get it off the ground.

The problem was, our visions of not only how we were going to execute the project, but what the project even looked like, were all over the board. It took weeks of frustrating debate just to come to an agreement on the project itself.

Then, there was the tug-of-war between us at every step of the process. One person wanted to draft specific, detailed assignments for each of us to follow verbatim. Since a few of us worked better in a more fluid, open style, that became a point of contention. Another member of the team insisted we meet in person multiple times a week, while there was one individual who thrived working on her own time.

Of course, we eventually got the job done. Once we had time to settle down and look back on the project, we admitted we could have all been more flexible.

It’s easy to get tunnel vision in situations like these. So easy, in fact, that I’ve witnessed the calmest, most professional leaders become almost hysterical when they’re in the middle of a collaborative project. Why is this?

I think it’s mainly due to pride. When we have a task before us, we all visualize how the end result will look, which is very necessary. But we unintentionally force our personal vision onto everyone else, even when we’re unaware that we’re doing it.

Think of a time when you resisted a suggestion from someone in a collaborative situation. I’m willing to bet that your resistance to their suggestion wasn’t necessarily because it was a bad idea. I’ll go so far as to say you objected because deep down, you were convinced that your vision was inherently better than theirs.

This is where the tunnel vision happens. Assuming that you have the better vision, you are unwilling/unable to truly give their idea a fair chance. Often, you’ll realize after the fact that they actually had a great idea, and you may scratch your head and wonder, “Why didn’t I see that at the time?”

The remedy? Remind yourself every step of the way that your vision isn’t inherently perfect. Remind yourself that you are one person, working in a team. Listen to your collaborators. Accept that the product won’t ever be exactly as you envision it. Allow yourself to change your mind and see alternatives.

The good news: having this skill enhances your end product. Flexibility leads to innovation and dynamic results well past what you expected. This is because the ability to be flexible unleashes the awesome power of collaborative work between many talented minds.

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Business confrontation.

There are times when an unpleasant confrontation with someone in your business is unavoidable. As much as we’d like to sweep the issue under the rug, hoping the problem fixes itself, as a leader it’s gotta be you who deals with the issue.

Years ago, I made the mistake of ignoring a problem. A team member, who usually did top notch work and who I greatly valued, began to underperform on a consistent basis. I didn’t want to say anything: she was a great person, she’d done great work in the past, and we all gathered that she was having some personal issues. So, at first I chalked it up to a temporary lull in her performance and decided to ignore the red flags.

But then she began to miss meetings, show up late for work, and generally appear to be unfocused and uncommitted. As a result, my supervisors began to confront me, wondering if I needed help getting my team’s performance back on track. It was only then, weeks after this whole thing started, and after our performance suffered enough that my supervisors took notice, that I finally decided to have a sit down with the problem person.

Everything got straightened out and the team was soon back to performing well. But I learned then that the longer you put off a confrontation, the harder you make it on yourself.

So, if you need to confront someone, do it right away. The pressure is low, and hopefully there isn’t much tension between the two of you at this point. If you let it go, you run the risk of giving the offending person more space to continue on a damaging path.

Secondly, be clear and specific when you have the sit down. When someone is being confronted, they take the defensive and often misconstrue what you’re saying. They may generalize and take it as an attack on them as people, for instance. To avoid this, lay out the parameters: “In these areas, I’ve noticed that you have not met your marks…”

However, the confrontation must be led by your heart, not your head. While it’s crucial to show the person exactly where they are not meeting expectations, don’t make this the only factor. After all, we’re humans, not robots. Put yourself in their shoes. What might be going on in their life that may be influencing their work? Is there anything you can do to help? Offer support. Reiterate that you are there for them, and that the confrontation is happening out of loving concern, not reprimand.

Finally, make a joint game plan that lays out how the two of you will resolve the issue. Include a timeline if need be. This doesn’t have to be a written document, of course. But it should be specific and clear. And it should above all serve to encourage the individual to seek out support and build trust between you.

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In this TED talk, author Susan Cain makes the case for appreciating and accommodating introverts.

 

Her talk is insightful, and I highly recommend you watch it, but it runs almost twenty minutes, so I’ll highlight big points:

-Before all else, Cain stresses we need to be clear on what introversion is. Introversion is not the same as shyness, which is the fear of judgment from others. Extroverts, says Cain, crave social interaction, whereas introverts feel at their most capable when they are in quieter environments. The key to maximizing our talents, she says, “is for us all to put ourselves in the zone of stimulation that is right for us.”

-Workplaces nowadays are built with extroverts in mind: open offices, collaborative meetings, group projects, etc. Introverts’ work and success frequently suffer as a result.

-When it comes to leadership, introverts tend to be passed over for leadership positions. However, Cain points out that many of the greatest minds had big introverted streaks in them: Charles Darwin took long walks in the woods and turned down dinner invitations; Dr. Seuss came up with his stories alone in a bell tower of his house; Steve Wozniak, inventor of the first Apple computer, credits his expertise to devoting long hours alone studying computers.

Cain’s big point: We need a better balance between these two personality types in order to maximize creativity, productivity and cooperation in business and society.

What do you think? Where do you fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum? How does your work environment help or hinder your success? Do you think introverts are passed up for leadership roles because they don’t fit the common view of what a leader should be?

 

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collaboration

A recent study found that across the board, the most effective leaders demonstrated the following characteristics:

1) acts of humility, such as learning from criticism and admitting mistakes

2) empowering followers to learn and develop

3) acts of courage, such as taking personal risks for the greater good 

4) holding employees responsible for results

In other words, it is crucial to lead with humility. You may feel pressured to always have the right answer and to always take the reins, which is understandable. After all, the buck stops with you. But if you never allow your team room to find solutions in their own way, you’ll miss out on some amazing collaborations. I’ve witnessed some truly incredible things when I gave people room to learn, grow, ask questions and trust both me and one another.

In other news, the Star Tribune did a great piece on me. You can read it here.

Have a great week, all!

Margaret Smith

 

 

 

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In this snippet from one of her talks, Dr. Sheila Murray Bethel gives us her five characteristics every good leader needs.

Her five F’s are:

Fast

Focused

Flexible

Fluid

Futurized 

I like how she not only establishes some very important leadership attributes, but also stresses the importance of being able to jump from one skill to the next. In a leadership role, you need to be fast on your feet as things develop on the fly. At the same time, you must stay focused on the project and on the people working with you. The attribute that lets you do this is flexibility. You must be able to be on high gear in one moment, then slow it down to address the needs of an individual, and then turn it back on high gear.

From experience, I can tell you that all this running around and focusing on all the various needs of the organization gets exhausting. Many leaders burn out pretty quickly. This is why I think Dr. Bethel’s last point, being futurized, is a very fitting point to end on. Having vision and being forward-thinking are what keep you centered and motivated. So, while you might get tired from all the running around and changing gears to address new developments as they pop up, you won’t burn out, because you know what you’re working toward.

What are your thoughts on Dr. Bethel’s five F’s? What kind of leadership principles are on your list?

Have a great week, it looks like spring is finally upon us!

 

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MicroManager

Actions speak louder than words. And even if you might tell them otherwise, a sure-fire way to demonstrate that you really don’t trust your team, that you really don’t think they’re capable, and that you’d rather just do the work yourself, is to constantly look over their shoulders and second guess their performance and commitment.

As you can imagine (or, have experienced yourself), we don’t respond too well to this type of management. In the book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, author Cal Newport argues that people are more fulfilled when they get the time and space to master skills of value, and have a sense of ownership of these skills which they can then contribute to a greater cause.

A few ways to create this sort of environment in your business:

1. Set the parameters early on

Your team are a bunch of grown-ups. They should know what’s expected of them. Be clear about your expectations in the beginning. If they are the competent, intelligent people you know they are (why else did you hire them?), you won’t need to remind them.

2. Allow for flexibility when you can

Some people work best in the early morning, while others are night owls. Cater your management to the needs of the team. Let them make their own hours as much as possible. However, there are some jobs, like retail, that simply can’t accommodate much flexibility.

3. Trust your team to get the job done on time

With the parameters set, trust that your team possesses strong time management skills. Think innocent until proven guilty–if it turns out that some of your people may need extra management, then intervene and help them, but only once it’s clear they need the help.

 

In every case, be the voice of clarity and encouragement when you manage. The goal should be that everyone knows exactly what they are doing, and why, and that they feel motivated and trusted to do their best work in the way that works best for them.

 

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