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Halloween and leadership

Happy Halloween, everyone! For today’s post, I thought I’d do a fun one. Let me know if you have other ideas, or if you think there are ways Halloween actually DOES resemble good leadership.


In the past, I’ve talked about how the MN State Fair and Independence Day teach us lessons about life and leadership, but today we’re dealing with a much different event: Halloween. When I think about all the qualities a good leader should possess, I see very few of them in Halloween–that holiday of monsters and ghouls.

How is Halloween the antithesis of good leadership? Here are four ways…

1. It revolves around fear.

Capable leaders do not need to lean on fear-based tactics to get what they want. They don’t need everyone beneath them quaking in fear, wondering when the next outburst or disciplinary action will occur.

Instead, capable leaders put their hearts first. They care about the wellbeing of their team; they take the time to get to know and understand others; they make sure they assign tasks that are well-suited to individuals.

Leading with your heart does NOT make you a softie. Rather, it demonstrates thoughtful leadership and respect for others. Of course, there will be times when you, as a leader, will need to deliver tough news or discipline a team member, but those occasions should be few and far between. Your team should be incentivized by common goals, not fear.

2. It disguises who you really are.

Good leaders don’t wear masks. They are brave enough to let themselves be vulnerable and let their true selves shine through. That means communicating clearly and authentically, behaving according to core values, and being transparent.

That doesn’t mean you can’t be more formal in certain situations and more relaxed in others. Being authentic has to do with the crux of who you are. There are some values, behaviors, and beliefs that make you you. Stand by them. Don’t wildly alter your personality or your opinions to please the crowd–this kind of behavior will only make others question your authenticity and lessen their trust in you.

3. It is greedy.

Good leadership isn’t about collecting as much “candy” as possible and hoarding it for yourself. Instead, it’s about understanding that your accomplishments were not achieved alone–others deserve credit (candy) too.

When someone goes above and beyond their work duties, recognize that individual. When your team delivers, reward them. That doesn’t mean you should dole out “candy” willy-nilly; it means you should pay attention and give others credit when credit is due.

And remember: you rarely accomplish big things on your own. Recognize the help you’ve received along the way.

4. It doesn’t provide vital nutrients.

Candy can’t subsist you forever, and neither can gimmicky reward programs or activities. Don’t get me wrong–I think it’s a great idea to have team parties, cookouts, and competitions. HOWEVER, if those fun activities are not supported by key core elements, they are meaningless.

In short: Who cares if you have a weekly office party if there is in-fighting or poor communication between staff?

Make sure the bones of your operation are solid (there’s a skeleton reference for you!) before you start adding extras. Are your employees comfortable with their assignments? Is there an open line of communication between leadership and staff? Is there a safe, effective way to voice complaints? Are employees being treated civilly and with dignity? Is office gossip clouding relationships?

Yes, it’s wonderful to have friendly competitions and parties (just like it’s wonderful to enjoy the occasional chocolate bar!). Just make sure you prioritize core office values first.

 

What do you think? Is Halloween a metaphor for poor leadership? Let me know your thoughts!

Have a fun, safe Halloween.

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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Gain Experience

If you are contemplating a career change or looking to expand your horizons, you know that experience is everything. Being able to add that new skill to your resume or LinkedIn profile can make all the difference to many hiring managers.

Or maybe you’re going back to the drawing board—you have finally decided to go with your gut and pursue your passion…even though on paper you’re not technically “qualified.”

So how do you take steps in the right direction? How do you build up your skillset when you’re starting from scratch?

Going back to the beginning seems overwhelming, but the experience you’re looking for can be found in places you might not expect.

1. Zoom Out

Maybe you’re looking at transitioning from a financial analyst to a graphic designer. While that’s an entirely new set of hard skills, don’t forget to consider the transferable soft skills you’ve built up over the years. If you can work to a deadline, communicate effectively with clients and team members and prioritize tasks effectively, you already have the start to a great skill section on your resume.

2. Start From the Beginning

Heading back to school may not be an option, but there are ways to get an education that don’t require a dorm. Look for online masterclasses in a topic relevant to you—check out Udemy, edX, or Masterclass for some affordable or even free options. There are dozens of useful websites out there, full of the type of specialized information you need to jumpstart a new career.

3. Small Steps

The truth is, any career requires some time at the bottom of the ladder. Look into opportunities as an intern or volunteer in your chosen field. See if there are remote or part-time opportunities that you can fit into your schedule. Positions like this will be less about fetching coffee and more about gaining real time in the field.

4. Leverage Your Connections

Though it seems intimidating to make a big change in your life, you don’t need to do it alone. In fact, it will be a lot harder if you isolate yourself. Ask people in your new field about their experiences. Set up informational interviews and ask the experts what steps they would recommend for someone in your position. If you don’t have any personal connections right now, that’s okay. Utilize LinkedIn, or try sending an email inquiry to someone whose career you admire. People are generally willing to share their experience and offer advice. Before you know it, you’ll be the one being asked to share your journey to success in a brand new field!

 

Don’t let a lack of experience prevent you from pursuing your dream career. I’ve worked with plenty of people who have successfully transitioned from one field to another. Though I’m sure you already have many applicable skills (which can be emphasized in a Functional Resume), it’s essential to gain relevant experience. Get out there with a positive, take-on-the-world attitude and let me know if you need any guidance!

 

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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*This post was originally published in 2015 and has been modified slightly.

Clarity in Communication

Having clarity comes in two parts. You have to give clarity and ask for clarity. If you are in charge of a project or leading a team, don’t assume that everyone already knows your expectations. Make those expectations clear and leave room for others to ask questions. Put yourself in others’ shoes and anticipate the questions they might ask. Then, practice giving the answers, or at least jot out a few thoughts on how to answer the questions.

On the flip side, if you’re on the receiving end of a project or initiative, don’t be afraid to ask clarifying questions. It is much better to make sure your idea of the project’s end state aligns with the actual anticipated end state then to muddle your way through it and hope you’re doing what’s expected of you. One good way to make sure you completely understand your assignment is to repeat back what you think you heard. Something like: “Okay, Bill. It sounds like you’re saying we need to come up with a better social media marketing strategy for product X, and we have two weeks to get you a proposal. Is that correct?”

Having Clarity is one of the chapters in my book, The Ten Minute Leadership Challenge, and I go into much more detail in those pages about how to give and ask for clarity.

I’ve also made a short video about Having Clarity based off the principles outlined in my book. Enjoy!

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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maybe someday

How many times have you said something like the statements below?

“I may start searching for a new job.”

“I may take a leadership class this year.”

“I may do                 , like I’ve always wanted to do.”

I know I’m guilty of the occasional case of the “mays!”

The thing about statements like these is that there’s no muscle behind them. There’s no clear goal or strategy to get there. Sure, you can start with a dream or an idea, but after that, you have to put in the legwork.

How do you turn “mays” into action?

Start by making your vague ambitions more concrete. Give yourself a clear goal with a stated deadline. For instance:

“I will start searching for a new job by the end of the quarter.”

“I will sign up for a leadership class this month.”

“This week, I will figure out how to get started on                 .”

Once you have more directed statements, develop a plan to follow through with them. Break down your goal into bite-sized pieces and tackle them one at a time.

Don’t forget to refer to your goal often and track your progress.

If you’re looking for a great way to get started, try creating a 90-day quick plan. An idea created by David Horsager, the 90-day quick plan helps you achieve one focused goal in 90 days by using “why” as your driver. Why do you want to accomplish a certain goal? What are the motivating forces surrounding it? Why would reaching this goal make a difference in your life?

Instead of continuing to say, “I may,” start saying, “I will.” Create a plan, set deadlines, and see what you can achieve in the next few months.

Go get ‘em!

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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New Manager

For years, the story has been the same: The number one reason an employee leaves a company is because of their manager.

To me, that says something loud and clear: We are not investing enough time and energy into our managers. Sure, they may receive some cursory training about their new role, but they rarely get anything beyond that.

Below, I list nine important items we SHOULD be training our managers on. Each item links to a blog post about that particular topic. All of these items are covered through the Build A Boss program, which my colleague, Karen, and I offer to business teams. We have found that these are universal items that managers in all industries can benefit from.

Instead of simply awarding a promotion and stepping back to let the manager “figure it out,” companies NEED to be working on the crucial skills that make their managers think like leaders.

Nine of these crucial lessons are encompassed in the following articles…

  1. “Just Be Yourself!” Leadership and Authenticity
  2. 4 Ways To Delegate More Effectively
  3. Balancing Head And Heart: Friendships At Work
  4. Resist the Urge to Micromanage
  5. How To Confront Someone (Without Making It Worse)
  6. Having CLEAR Conversations
  7. Creating an Inclusive Workplace with Insights® Discovery
  8. “The 6 People You Need in Your Corner” from Forbes Magazine
  9. What is the difference between a BOSS and a LEADER?

 

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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Setting Courageous Goals

As you move forward into the New Year, it’s a good idea to pause, reflect, and think about how you would like your year to go. What are your goals and stretch goals? How do you picture your ideal year? What changes do you have to make to get there?

No matter what you resolve to do this year, you’re going to need a little (or a lot!) of help from one key tool: Courage.

Courage is the root of all bold action. It is what drives us to speak up, go to the gym, ask for the raise, seek a new job, or dare to dream big.

This month, we’re going to work on your courage. In a series of four blog posts, I’ll dive into different aspects of courage and give you activities to help boost and focus your courage.

This week, let’s think about courage in relation to goal-setting:

 

  1. What are your big goals for the year?

 

  1. What major changes will you have to make to reach those goals?

 

  1. What are some potential setbacks or roadblocks you might encounter?

 

  1. When those roadblocks occur, what will you do? How will you act? Create a “courage plan” to map out how you’ll overcome your roadblocks and move forward with your goals.

 

COURAGE NOTE: Remember that stumbling blocks are actually good for your development. They help you become a more nimble problem-solver, resilient, and adaptable. When you figure out how to overcome a problem, it will be easier to face a similar kind of issue down the road. SO: face your obstacles head-on!

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 recently returned from hiking 135 miles of the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. The Camino was originally established as a pilgrimage trail when St. James was instructed to bring Christ’s message to the end of the world. Well…he reached Santiago, Spain, saw the ocean spreading out before his feet for as far as the eye could see, and declared that he’d made it.

This was years before Columbus approached Queen Isabella and King Fernand to request funding for his trip to the West Indies. And well over a thousand years before I set foot on the trail.

What started as a solitary journey by one devotee turned into a pilgrimage route. Although many people still journey the trail solo, they are never truly alone. Community is everywhere on the Camino. And it is powerful.

Although I embarked on my journey with my husband and a small group of friends, I found it easy to connect with others along the way. We hailed from different backgrounds, different countries, different demographics, and were hiking the trail for different reasons, but we all melded together easily in a multi-colored bouquet of humanity.

Rarely have I found so many people so welcoming. We ate together, shared our stories, and sometimes divulged our deepest secrets. I was surprised by what complete strangers were willing to share with me—but then again, many people hike the Camino as a way to release past hurts, and what’s the harm in sharing your story with someone you’ll likely never see again?

As I walked the trail, I marveled at how safe and protected I felt. You know how when you’re walking down the street in your normal, everyday life and you hear someone come up behind you? Usually, you glance back, you become on guard.

On the Camino, you welcome footsteps and a chance to get to know someone new.

All of this got me thinking: What if everyday life were more like the Camino?

  • We’d welcome strangers to our tables
  • We’d be more open with others
  • We’d smile more often and aim for connections (instead of putting on our headphones and ignoring each other)
  • We’d trust
  • We’d care less about a person’s background and appearance and more about who they really are
  • We’d live life with open arms and open hearts

Even if you’ve never walked the Camino, you can still bring the spirit of the trail to your life. Challenge yourself to be more open and candid with others; practice being more welcoming to co-workers and acquaintances. You’re entire world may change.

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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