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Creating Successful Leaders

Tag Archives: Margaret Smith business coach

People talking around a table

As a professional, there are times when your integrity and values will be put to the test. Though it’s usually a good idea to be agreeable and go with the flow, there are moments when you should stand your ground and dare to have a differing opinion than others. These moments can be challenging (or downright frightening), but they are worth it.

If you feel strongly about something, it doesn’t pay to keep quiet. You’ll end up stewing about the situation, losing focus, and respecting yourself a little less for remaining silent.

I encourage you to speak up.

Keep in mind, it’s possible the rest of the group has simply glossed over something you find important. Maybe you have a different perspective than everyone else due to your age, race, gender, or background. Maybe you’ve been in a similar situation in the past, and the outcome was less-than-optimal. Whatever the case, it’s best to speak up and voice your concerns. Your perspective will help open others’ eyes to something potentially problematic and, at the very least, will establish that consent is not unanimous.

You might choose to voice your concerns in a group setting (at a team meeting or conference, for instance) or privately (to a team leader, co-worker, or other decision-maker). Though expressing yourself right away can serve to immediately add another perspective to the conversation, you may not always feel comfortable doing so. Sometimes it’s better to clarify your thoughts, write out what you’d like to say, and schedule a one-on-one meeting with the person/people in charge of the initiative. Try to make your case with both emotional and logical appeals (“I feel______ about the initiative because_____).

It may be uncomfortable to disagree with the majority of the room, but sometimes it is absolutely necessary. If you perceive something to be offensive (regardless if others realize it or not), if it violates your code of ethics, or if you are simply seeing a flaw that others are failing to notice, SPEAK UP. Be bold and dare to be the lone dissenter. If, for some reason, you get in trouble for speaking out, it’s entirely possible that your core worldviews do not align with your company’s, in which case it might be time to talk with a career coach…


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two people talking in a waiting room

It’s no surprise that many of us tend to avoid difficult conversations. Why would we want to make ourselves uncomfortable or become the subject of someone’s wrath? Why would we want to potentially open a can of worms?

Though difficult conversations are just that—difficult—they are also sometimes necessary for improving the present climate or paving the way to a better future. Though you may be reluctant, or even a little scared, to engage in difficult conversations, oftentimes they are necessary and can actually improve things, going forward.

Here are 4 reasons to dare to hold difficult conversations:

[NOTE: In past blog posts I’ve talked about how to prepare for difficult conversations. See this post about the D4 Model and this newsletter about the 5 P’s of Courage for more…]

1. They can set the record straight

In many workplaces, rumors fly and reality can get twisted or obscured. If you’re in a situation where you’re uncertain of the truth, it’s best to sit down with the people involved and get to the bottom of it. It might be as simple as figuring out who was in charge of a certain report or who neglected to contact a client when that needed to happen. The purpose of this conversation isn’t to place blame, but rather to uncover the truth and begin to problem solve.

This type of conversation can also help you put safeguards in place so that the same unfortunate situation doesn’t happen again. It’s possible that it’s no one’s “fault” and the system simply needs a bit of an overhaul.

2. They can provide forward motion

Sometimes when we fail to confront a difficult situation, that can lead to stagnation. The office might be so hung up or distracted by a single person’s (or a group of people’s) actions that it becomes their primary focus. To get the wagon wheel out of the rut, you need to face the situation head-on and engage in a potentially difficult conversation(s).

EXAMPLE: Let’s say Kim hasn’t been turning in her reports on time, which, in turn affects the rest of her team’s progress. Everyone is upset and productivity is down. To get past this rut, you’ll have to bite the bullet and have a conversation with Kim. It could be that Kim was unaware of her responsibilities or didn’t understand the dominoes affect her tardiness was having. It’s possible Kim has felt unsupported or unmotivated lately (in which case, maybe she’s in the wrong role). Regardless, having this conversation can help move your entire team from a place of stagnation to forward movement and problem-solving.

3. They can start dialogues

You may not truly understand someone’s actions, or what is going on in their head, until you speak with them. It’s possible a situation is more complex than you realized (for instance, maybe someone is constantly late for their 8 a.m. Zoom meetings because they have to drop their kids off at daycare). It’s also possible that the other person hasn’t understood the consequences of their recent actions. Sitting down and having a conversation can help create a bridge of understanding. It can open dialogues and help both sides understand what is broken and how to go about fixing things.

4. They can earn you respect, as a leader

Effective leaders have to make hard decisions and engage in difficult conversations regularly. That’s the reality. If you gain a reputation as someone who avoids problems and lets things “work themselves out,” you won’t gain much respect. If, however, you are known to tackle problems head-on and address issues as soon as you notice them, you’ll be seen as a proactive leader who has a real stake in the wellbeing of your team. What’s more, people will come to understand that you will hold others accountable for their actions and you will act in the best interest of the team. Your people will know you have their backs.

Instead of shying away from difficult conversations, embrace them! Start seeing them as opportunities to have fruitful conversations that move your team forward. Tough conversations can be uncomfortable or daunting, but the rewards are ultimately worth it. This comes with the territory when you’re a leader, and it’s a good idea to make lemonade with whatever lemons the workplace throws at you.


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If you asked us at the beginning of the COVID pandemic what life would be like in December, most people would probably say, “December?! Surely, life will be back to normal by then.”

The reality, however, is that life is STILL different, there are more COVID cases than ever, and we’re still in for a long road ahead. Even if we do manage to get the pandemic under control, it’s certain that life will never quite be the same.

The number one change I’m anticipating is this: Work From Home (WFH) will become the new normal.

Are you ready for that change? What will you need to do to adapt?

In the not-so-distant past, working from home was not even an option for most people. We were expected to go into the office five days per week, 52 weeks per year. At the drop of a hat, that changed. People set up makeshift offices at home, and we began communicating with co-workers exclusively over email or video conferencing. We figured out dozens of tiny details (from childcare to finding a home printer/scanner), and then we dove in.

And, do you know what? Most people have been able to pull it off. Sure, we might miss our co-workers or miss the change of scenery, but many people have found that they enjoy certain aspects of working from home. The casual dress code, the ability to skip the daily commute, the money savings from eating lunch at home, the freedom to take an afternoon break–all these benefits have got people thinking about making WFH a permanent change.

Are you ready for that change?

Is your home office set up the way you like it? Have you figured out your new routine? If not, I urge you to give these items some thought. How can you, for example, set up a fairly disciplined schedule so you make sure you get your work done on time (and are not distracted by things like dirty dishes!)? How can you make sure you have an effective morning routine?

One way to amp up your WFH productivity is to think of it like you would think about working from an office. Commit to waking up at a set time, establish a morning routine (walk the dog, make coffee, stretch, etc.), and then begin your day. You might work in sprints (setting a timer and fully immersing yourself in a project for an hour or two) or be on the clock from a certain time in the morning to a certain time in the afternoon.

Figure out what works for you and ease into your new routine. Remember, your new routine may NOT look like your old work routine. For example, if you find that you tend to have an afternoon slump (Daniel Pink, who studies productivity, aptly calls this an afternoon “trough”), take a break mid-afternoon. You might exercise, stretch, do a crossword puzzle, or even take a short nap. This may mean you’ll work later in the afternoon, BUT your brief respite will ideally make you more productive than you would have been otherwise (meaning you’ll potentially complete the same amount of work in much less time).

And, about the home office: Be sure to invest in comfortable, ergonomic furniture. No one can do their best work if they’re putting up with a creaky, uncomfortable chair and a crowded desk all day. Make your workspace a place you want to be. That, alone, can make a huge difference.

Working from home IS becoming the new normal, whether you’re ready or not. Chances are, many workplaces will adopt a hybrid of the WFH model, but even so, it’s best to be prepared for this to become a permanent reality. With a suitable WFH setup and an effective routine, you’ll be prepared for whatever the work future holds!


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