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have a productive debate at work

Team dynamics can’t always be 100% collaborative. When an office encounters external challenges, like a change in size or shift in industry focus, argument and individual vision can become important points of engagement to keep a team productive and cooperating as a whole unit.     

Productive debate is a form of healthy communication, and making sure everyone understands the same ground rules for conducting those debates is important. When there is a problem that can’t be solved with a short conversation, co-workers need to be prepared to present their viewpoints in a way that remains approachable and non-combative. Shane Snow talks about some of these strategies in a recent article in the Harvard Business Review.

So what are the ways to have a productive debate at work?

Having a facilitator who remains fair and impartial can provide a strong foundation for such events. Usually, a manager or supervisor can take on this role, but team members may find it appropriate to select a different candidate. There should be a consensus on who is directing the conversation.

No personal attacks. All debate stops the moment your team members begin to react defensively. It is impossible to weigh decisions with logic and reason when folks are emotionally threatened or wild. Keep talking points centered around the problem that is being discussed.

Reinforce to team members that you are sharing solutions. There may be information that is shared throughout the course of the debate that changes someone’s position or opinion, and that is okay. There are no sides that need to be taken. You are striving for an honest and meaningful solution to a problem. If somebody with an opposing viewpoint shares an idea that you agree with, be sure you acknowledge the position. Compromise or consensus is more likely when people feel heard.

Remain curious throughout the process. You’re likely to learn something new about your team members through uncomfortable or contentious subjects. Try to frame these lessons as positive incentives, and encourage your team to participate and act in good faith. A team’s real strength lies in the ability to navigate conflict.

The desire to avoid debate is easy to understand, but arguing productively is essential to any team’s growth and learning process. Keep a level head and you’ll go from 12 Angry Men to 12 Contented Team Members.

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Image via Pixabay.com

Do you feel driven by a larger mission or purpose, but you’re distracted by day-to-day responsibilities? Does it feel like you’re only inching ahead when you should be sprinting? Are you wondering how on earth to make a positive impact when you’re so darn busy?

You’re not alone.

Many people want to make a difference in the world, but have trouble finding their footing. They might feel like they’re too busy, distracted by other responsibilities, overwhelmed by the enormity of the task, or unsure of where to begin. How can you become a change agent when so much is holding you back?

Take heart, it is possible for even the busiest person to make waves. Start with these seven steps:

1. Start thinking conceptually

Conceptual thinkers are able to take a step back from their daily work and explore the bigger picture. They think about widespread, systemic change. They reflect on what kind of action is needed to make an impact at all levels. For example, if a conceptual thinker’s goal is to cut pollution, they might consider local action first—promoting carpooling or biking, participating in local advocacy groups, etc. Then, they might consider statewide action—pollution-cutting legislation, campaigns to build more bike lanes. Lastly, they might consider systemic, nationwide action such as advocating for federal laws that require stricter efficiency in cars.

To become a conceptual thinker, start researching the cause you are passionate about and find out how the local, statewide, and national pieces connect. Figure out who the major players are and what is already being done to help. Then, reflect on potential actions you could take to participate in the “good fight.”

2. Set incremental goals

Goal-setting works. If you’re determined to make a difference, try setting several concrete goals and working backwards—what steps do you need to take to get there? By breaking down your goals into bite-sized pieces, they will be more manageable and you’ll be able to celebrate small victories along the way (for more on goal-setting, see my past blog post).

3. Find like-minded dreamers

There’s no need to be alone in your advocacy. Seek others who are as interested in your cause as you are and become a part of their community. You might find these like-minded folks online, through meet-up groups (such as Meetup.com), in local clubs, through work groups, or even among your friends.

Once you find your community, lean on them for support and inspiration. They are the ones who can help you when you’re feeling stuck or unsure of your next steps.

You can also use members of your community to be accountability partners. Challenge them to hold you accountable for sticking to your advocacy goals through regular check-ins. Don’t forget to return the favor!

4. Anticipate resistance…and create a plan to overcome it

Daily life and unexpected troubles are sure to get in the way of becoming a change agent. You might get bogged down by a large project, a family illness, or unexpected financial troubles. Don’t fret! These things happen. If something suddenly gets in the way of achieving your advocacy goals, wait until the trouble has passed, revisit your goals, and rethink them. Reset your deadlines and develop a new plan for making a difference. Everyone has to deal with setbacks from time to time—just don’t let a setback become a defeat.

5. Don’t do everything yourself

The greatest change agents recognize that they do not have to go it alone. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with a project—say, you’re running a blood drive and more people signed up than you originally anticipated—reach out to others and ask for help. Don’t think of asking for help as a sign of weakness; great leaders are also great delegators.

6. Build your resilience

You’re going to feel worn down by work, life events, and all the good work you’re doing to become a champion of change. That’s normal. When you’re feeling exhausted, take a conscious break, unplug from your duties, and give your overworked brain time to cool down. You can build your resilience by stepping away for a while and then facing your challenges once you feel rejuvenated. Part of resilience also involves recognizing that things are not always going to go perfectly, but you can and you will overcome the bumps in the road. Think of each setback as an opportunity to try again, not as a failure.

Are you excited to go out there and make a positive difference? I’m excited for you! Though you are but one person, there’s so much you can do. Start small, develop your plan, build your support group, and start making an impact. The world needs your contribution.

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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4 steps to start job searching

If you’ve been feeling discontent in your current role and are thinking about seeking a new one, NOW is the time to get started. Don’t wait until you’ve had it “up to here” with your current job and are feeling desperate to get the heck out of there. Instead, take a few simple steps to prepare for a potential upcoming job hunt. Your future self will thank you!

1. List Your Accomplishments

Spend some quiet time reflecting on what you’ve accomplished in the past year or two. Are you able to quantify any of your achievements? For example:

  • I helped reach XX% more customers through a new marketing initiative
  • I helped save the company $XX through the implementation of new technologies
  • I led XX people in a team project.

If you’re not able to quantify an achievement, are you able to describe it in a sentence or two? Have you won any awards or gained any recognition that might impress future employers? Make a list of everything you’ve accomplished.

2. Update Your Stuff

It’s time to take a peek at the ol’ resume and make sure it’s up-to-date. Additionally, make sure your resume reflects the skills that will be required in your potential future job. If a chronological resume doesn’t quite capture your relevant skill set, try creating a functional resume, which highlights skills/abilities instead of listing your jobs chronologically.

While you’re at it, update your LinkedIn profile as well!

3. Focus on Your Connections

  • Start writing out a list of anyone and everyone who may be a valuable connection or reference when you begin your job hunt. It’s helpful to use a spreadsheet program, such as Microsoft Excel.
  • After you’ve made a list of at least 10-20 people, find their contact information and add it to your spreadsheet.
  • Then, order your contacts from “most likely to be an asset” to “least likely.”
  • Finally, make notes about whether or not you regularly keep in touch with each person. If you do not, jot down a plan for how and when you’ll revitalize your connection with that person.
  • Start networking and reconnecting! I can’t emphasize enough how important personal connections can be in a job hunt.

4. Search for Skills Gaps

If you’re thinking about pursuing a role that it significantly different from what you’re currently doing, take some time to identify any skills gaps you may have. What are 10 key skills required for you dream job? Which skills do you already have? Which could use a boost?

If you’ve identified some major skills gaps, consider enrolling in a certification course, a continuing education program, or conducting an informational interview with someone who works in the position you’re pursuing.

 

Even if you’re not quite ready to start your job search in earnest, you can take several small steps to get started. Today, I challenge you to reflect on your accomplishments, update at least a few items in your resume, start listing out your valuable connections, and identify your skills gaps. Even if you only have half an hour, you can at least get started on your path to a new job. It’s time to invest in YOU.

 

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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more engaging presentation
Minutes feel like hours. The effects of your mid-morning coffee have long worn off and it takes every last bit of strength to keep your eyes on the presenter at the front of the room. You know how it feels to sit through a boring presentation. Perhaps the only thing worse is being the boring presenter yourself; watching the attention of your audience decrease exponentially. Luckily, there are ways to spare everyone the pain.

Here are five tips that will help you level-up your presentation game:

1) TELL A STORY

Take the main idea within your presentation and frame it in a narrative that contains a beginning, a middle, and an end. Introduce a flaw in the status quo, describe your quest for something better, and show the great potential of what you’ve found. This structure helps your audience feel invested, as though they’re right there with you, navigating the circumstances. A story format is easy for audiences to absorb, and they’re more likely to remember your conclusion.

2) KEEP IT SIMPLE

“Short and sweet,” as they say. Keeping a presentation short means a greater chance that your audience will stay attentive the whole time. This means cutting out any unnecessary information or redundant data. Slides should be free from visual clutter. Too many bullet points means focus pulled away from the presenter’s voice and onto reading the screen. You are conducting your presentation, the powerpoint is not.

Images are your friend. This includes graphs/charts, but again, nothing convoluted or difficult to interpret.

3) GET YOUR AUDIENCE INVOLVED

Active involvement from the audience exerts spontaneity. People are more likely to stay engaged when there’s an opportunity for something unrehearsed to occur. The use of props, asking for a volunteer, leading an activity, doing a demonstration or initiating discussion are all great ways to lift up the energy in the room.

4) SPEAK EFFECTIVELY

What if you could take information that you want to convey, and rephrase it in an enticing way? You can! Use the power of questioning to your advantage. Rhetorical questions work well as transitions and plant curiosity in the listener. You voice is a tool, use it! Exclaim important things! Find a section of your presentation that could use a boost and change your inflection.

Alternatively, take a power pause. A brief pause is an effective way to let a message resonate. It can also replace any dreaded ‘Um’ or ‘Uhh’s.

5) MOVE WITH INTENTION

Don’t underestimate the role of body language. Engaging presenters stand confidently and use hand gestures that reflect the tone of their voice. Try making eye contact with someone long enough to finish a sentence or two instead of continuously scanning the room. Your movements are an extension of your words–your physicality can impact how your words are received.

Regardless of the topic or how experienced you are, following these tips will shut down the snore-factor at your next presentation. Remember that the more you believe what you’re saying is important, the better your audience will listen. Your ideas are worth hearing.

 

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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support working moms

We’ve all heard it – being a mom is a full time job. So what do you do when you already have a 40 hours per week gig, and then you get motherhood thrown into the blender? You get a mess, that’s what. You get a toddler in a panda bear suit, trying to make a bamboo smoothie in your kitchen.

Transitioning to parenthood is like the terrifying transition years of junior high all over again, but amplified by the high stakes pressure of being responsible for the emotional, physical, and mental wellbeing of another human being.

You might be thinking: What could I possibly do to support the working moms in my office? Where do I even begin?

As a coworker, manager, or leader, YOU have many opportunities to be a role model when it comes to supporting the moms on your team. Below are four ways to get started.

1. Respect That Babies Have Priority

We get it, you don’t want your meeting interrupted by a mom stepping out to take a phone call from her child’s teacher, babysitter, or pediatrician. We get that when a woman is at work, you want her to be working. The desire is a reasonable one, but here’s the thing: moms don’t get to clock out of the mom job from nine to five. No matter what time of day or night it is, that mom (and dad) are the ones ultimately responsible for what is happening with their child. They don’t get to delegate the task to someone else. And when it comes to the wellbeing of your meeting, or the wellbeing of a child, I hope you’ll agree that the child is priority.

2. Respect That Babies Are Out Of Control

As an adult you probably feel at times that you have lost control of things. Your car, phone, friends, or waistline won’t cooperate. This is normal. No one is ever going to have their life tied up neatly with a bow. Now, add in a child and the chaos amplifies.

Babies are chaos masters. They wreak adorable havoc on almost everything they encounter. And that’s fine—it’s what they’re supposed to do. So when mom calls in to say she’s late because little peanut threw up on her as she was walking out the door, you must understand this is unavoidable. Don’t huff and puff and sigh when she comes in late. That mom didn’t want to be late to work either. She certainly wasn’t expecting the vomit, or she would have wrapped herself in trash bags.

3. Respect that Mom is Trying Her Best

Believe me, if a mother is working after having a baby, which is no small feat, then she is working because she wants to be working. With the cost of child care, it often makes little financial sense to return to work after a baby. So mom is there because this job means something to her. The dividing of motherhood and professional responsibilities is not easy for moms.

Working mothers make hard choices on how to use their time every day. Be supportive. Be encouraging. Be vocal about the things that are going well. Ask how you can assist in helping other things run smoother. Appreciation goes a long way in maintaining a valuable asset.

4. Respect That Improvement Takes Time

We are human. We all want things to be comfortable and convenient, and we struggle when we don’t get those things right away. Understandable. Who likes a rough patch? No one likes it when their smooth-running life hits a glitch. But no matter what, the rough patch is going to come. And this is true in business as well.

Returning to work after a baby is definitely a transition period. Mothers have to learn an entirely new way of being employees. It’s not easy to retrain yourself, or come to terms with your new reality. Give mothers time.

Good change takes time. Let them have the space to find the best way to do their job in their new situation. You’ll receive the payback for years to come when you have a master problem-solver on your hands.

 

Gone are the days when mothers have to stay home. Now, women get to work, and I hope we can all agree this is a benefit for everyone involved. After reaching this milestone, our next task is to make it better. Better for the company, the coworkers, the parent, and the child. With a little creativity and a little patience for the curve balls of life, I think the task of supporting new mothers in the workplace is not only feasible, but worthwhile as well.

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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BBQ and Delegation

Your perfect barbecue goes something like this:

  • You create the perfect guest list (people you enjoy hanging out with and who get along well with each other)
  • Each guest takes on the responsibility of making a different dish (something they’re good at making!)
  • On the day of the event, everyone enjoys a delicious spread of food and each other’s company.
  • Even if it rains or someone spills the potato salad, you’ll still have the makings of an excellent get together.

Of course, not every BBQ turns out this way. You might encounter drama between guests, or you may end up with seven different desserts, but no potato chips or veggie tray. The trick is knowing your guests’ personalities, knowing their strengths, and delegating effectively.

You can probably already draw parallels between the perfect BBQ and delegating to a work team, but let you give me my take on it:

When you’re leading a team, it’s difficult (and frankly inadvisable) to do everything yourself. If you tried to cook everything for a twenty-person barbecue, you’d end up pulling out your hair and not having much fun.

At work, the stakes are higher. If you’re working on a project, you’ll have deadlines to meet, stakeholders to please, and a team to attend to. Instead of taking on the bulk of the work yourself, TRUST that your team is capable enough to shoulder some of the burden.

Not only will delegating tasks to others lighten your load, it will help your team members feel like they are important parts of the work (just like the people at your BBQ who are providing the watermelon or deviled eggs).

Furthermore, delegating adds diversity of thought.

Your team members will inevitably do things a little differently than what you might have done on your own, and THAT’S OKAY. It’s great to work with a diverse set of ideas—that’s what drives innovation. Just like the person who brings a unique dish (grilled asparagus and ricotta pizza, anyone?), you will find creative new ideas through your team that you might not have found on your own.

Just make sure everyone is well-suited to their tasks.

In the workplace, certain people will love crunching numbers and digging into strategy. Others will love idea-generation. Still others will take pleasure in the artist elements of a project.

The better you know your team members, the better you can assign tasks. Just like you know Bill makes delectable beer-battered chicken, but you wouldn’t trust him to know merengue from tapioca pudding, so too should you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your team.

Don’t forget to make things fun.

One of the keys to successful delegation is making sure people are working well together, connecting, and facing any issues with a positive attitude and a problem-solving mentality. Day-to-day work doesn’t have to be a grind. If everyone is well-suited to their tasks and the team is keeping an affable, open line of communication between one another, the work can actually be (gasp!) fun.

You can also amp up the fun factor by hosting lunch-and-learn meetings, creating light-hearted challenges, raising money for a cause, or going on the occasional team outing. Though these may seem like frivolous activities to some, they are actually great ways to help your team members connect with one another, build a sense of camaraderie, and help YOU better understand what makes the people on your team tick. Having a deep understanding of your team members is crucial to effective delegation.

 

So, make a plan, start delegating, and get ready to fire up that grill!

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 is Part Three of my four-part courage series. Last week’s discussion was on EVERYDAY COURAGE. 

Courage to Recover from Setbacks

It will happen. Things won’t go quite the way you planned. You’ll face unexpected delays, difficult coworkers or bosses, health issues, uncooperative customers, or any number of other setbacks that could derail your forward momentum and your confidence. What do you do when the train careens off the tracks?

Develop a plan to get back on.

If you’re able to anticipate a possible setback (i.e. Customer ABC has been hinting that they’re thinking about going with a different company), plan ahead. Come up with some “worst case scenario options” and write them down.

If the setback sneaks up on you (as in most cases), practice being adaptable and resilient. One of the ways to do that is by having a Growth Mindset. When you have a growth mindset, you don’t think of obstacles as hopeless problems, but as opportunities to improve and develop a new solution. You are aware that every challenge you face only makes you stronger and more nimble.

What are some practical ways to recover from setbacks?

  • Picture your future success (visualization is powerful!)
  • Practice a growth mindset
  • Hold a brainstorming or mind mapping session (by yourself or with your team) to come up with innovative new solutions
  • Be kind to yourself (being hard on yourself will only lead to more stress and burnout)

OKAY, your turn. Jot down a few answers to these workbook questions:

1. When you face a challenge, which resources could you tap into to help? Which people?

 

2. What are some ways you can rebuild your confidence and enthusiasm to overcome obstacles?

 

3. How will you be kind to yourself if you face a failure or setback? List five ways you could treat yourself well during a challenging period.

 

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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