Skip to content

UXL Blog

Creating Successful Leaders

Tag Archives: margaret smith career coach

State Fair Animals and Work Team

The Minnesota State Fair begins in just over a week, so I thought I would continue my blogging theme with a fun post about how state fair animals are like the perfect work team. I know, comparing barn animals to people seems like a stretch, but bear with me! The MN State Fair animals are teeming with their own personalities and purposes. They are as diverse as the people who love and care for them. If you’ve ever walked through the chicken barn, you’ll know what I mean! Such variety, even among members of the same species.

Here are 6 distinct personalities that you’ll find in the state fair barns, as well as in a well-balanced work team:

The workhorses

These are the people who dive headlong into their projects with fervent dedication. They may not dwell on logistics or alternative routes—they just do. These go-getters can be compared to people who lead with red energy on the Insights Discovery wheel (for more on the Insights system, click HERE). They forge ahead fearlessly and set an example of “go get ‘em” leadership for others to follow.

The loyal ones

Many pets are fiercely loyal to their owners. They would do anything to protect them and keep them out of harm’s way. Loyalty is one of the ten attributes of an excellent leader (as you’ll find in my book, The Ten-Minute Leadership Challenge) because it is a necessary trait for those who want to succeed within an organization. Loyalty doesn’t mean that people can’t challenge ideas or systems—it does mean that they’re dedicated to their company and will do whatever they can to help it succeed (including challenging faulty aspects of it).

The social ones

We’ve all seen animals who absolutely revel in attention. They just want to be part of a pack—whether among people or their fellow species. In the same way, your extroverted team members thrive when they’re closely collaborating with others. If you want them to be productive, don’t force them to work alone! They’ll do much better (and be happier) if they’re able to bounce ideas off of others and talk things out.

The thinkers

Some animals are quiet and pensive. They take in the world with their silent observations and surprise us when they flawlessly navigate an obstacle course or solve a puzzle. A good team is comprised of at least a few analytical types. These people are data-driven and like to thoroughly think through issues before acting.

The ones that make a squawk

It’s okay to have squeaky wheels on your team. These are the ones who will keep things honest and be the voice of others who are too afraid to speak up. These vocal individuals may even identify problems that could affect your customers or clients, which is always great to catch before anything goes wrong “in the field.” There is a fine line, however, between articulating thoughts and opinions and complaining. As long as the “squawkers” don’t cross the line into griping and grumbling, it’s useful to recognize their opinions and address them.

The givers

Many animals take care of us. They give us milk, wool, eggs or just plain camaraderie. In the same way, there are those in the workplace who are advocates for others. They make sure everyone’s voice is heard and that others are treated with respect. It’s great to have these empathetic personas on your work team. They foster an atmosphere of inclusivity that is often lacking in the workplace.

 

With a little imagination, we can draw comparisons between the animals of the state fair and your perfect work team! Do you have a good balance of workhorses, loyal ones, collaborators, thinkers, squawkers, and givers?

 

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

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Energy Management

Time management is not solving anything.

Why? Because we can set aside time to work on specific projects, but if our hearts are not in it, we’ll end up drifting off or doing something completely unrelated (checking Facebook, browsing through new recipes, catching up on the latest news…).

Instead of managing blocks of time, it’s better to manage energy.

It’s more advantageous to work in short, productive bursts than in long blocks of time in which your attention wanders. When you set aside everything else (including your smart phone!) and focus on a single task, you’ll find that you’ll work better and faster than you would if you simply reserved a block of time and let your attention be captured by new emails, other projects, and social media.

The reason it’s better to work in shorter allotments of time is because human beings are not meant to slog through an entire work day without breaks. As Tony Swartz, founder of the Energy Project, says, “human beings are meant to pulse.” We work in cycles. Our concerted attention can only last for so long (typically 90 minutes, according to Schwartz).

There reaches a certain point where no amount of schedule-shuffling will enable us to stay on top of things. We may do our best to manage time, but if our energy isn’t also managed we can suffer from burnouts, stress, and unhappiness (which can bleed into our personal lives).

The lesson is: Don’t focus on your time management–just assume you’ll be busy. Instead, take care of your energy levels throughout the day.

Schwartz outlines some tips for tending to your energy levels during the day in a book he co-wrote with Catherine McCarthy called Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time.

The authors point out that your time is finite, but your energy levels can be replenished if you attend to them closely. They offer a few ways for you to do this throughout the day:

  • Take a break every 90-120 minutes. Physically get up from your desk and enjoy a brief change of scenery.
  • Eat light meals and snacks throughout the day, every couple hours.
  • Dedicate time every day to focus on what you’re best at and what gives you a sense of fulfillment.

They also suggest that leaders pay attention to their employee’s energy needs:

“To effectively reengergize their workforces, organizations need to shift their emphasis from getting more out of people to investing more in them…”

  • Keep a room devoted to taking breaks and relaxing
  • Subsidize gym memberships
  • Encourage staff to move around every so often

And I’ll add a suggestion of my own for leaders:

  • Energy is directly related to feedback. Positive feedback energizes folks and helps them keep the momentum going. Negative feedback, if delivered well, can also motivate people to make improvements. The point is, I find that giving specific, frequent feedback is one of the best ways to help people manage their own energy levels

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

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Learning agility and using fear as a catalyst

When learning something new, we instinctively keep it close and secret until we feel confident that we’ve got it down pat. Usually this is because we feel embarrassed by our clumsiness with new skills. However, we can’t learn until we apply our skills, which means a bit of screwing up. You’ll find that even though screwing up might be hard on your ego, it’ll increase the rate at which you learn and respond in unique situations.

This is because of a special nerve in our bodies, called the vagus nerve. As Christopher Bergland explains in this article on Psychology Today, “When people say ‘trust your gut’ they are in many ways saying, ‘trust your vagus nerve.’ Visceral feelings and gut-instincts are literally emotional intuitions transferred up to your brain via the vagus nerve.”

Bergland goes on to say that we can teach ourselves to respond positively to the “gut-feeling” we get from the vagus nerve by being in tune with the loop between our bodies and minds and using this awareness to our advantage. Instead of choking under pressure, which comes from a negative response from the vagus nerve, we can control its signals and stay calm under stress.

Now, I’m not saying that you should go out and look for the most stressful situation you can find and purposely make your learning experience as intense as possible. Many people thrive under pressure, while others do much better using more gradual methods, and I understand that. I do want to encourage you to push the limits you think you have when you’re taking on something new, because:

  1. Most of us underestimate ourselves.
  2. Most of us overestimate the thing we’re learning.
  3. You won’t really know how true either of the above are until you go out and see for yourself.

Examples of diving in:

-Giving a presentation using material you’re new to. Of course, don’t do this at your next big, job-on-the-line presentation, but do try out new materials, approaches and styles when you have a less career-defining presentation.

-Teaching yourself a skill that is outside your normal set of skills. If you’re a numbers wiz, try out some of the good literature. If you’re an extrovert, try meditation. If you’re shy, try the above suggestion!

-Wearing your mistakes as badges, knowing that each falter invariably pushes you closer to mastery.

How do you deal with handling pressure? How does it impact your ability to learn?

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

Tags: , , , , , , ,

The power of vocal inflection

We’d all like to think that what we say is important. When we stand up to give a presentation or if we’re talking with a friend or significant other, we hope that others are listening to what we’re saying.

But the what is not necessarily as important as the how.

How you deliver your words can matter just as much (or more!) than what you say. No matter how compelling your message, if you say it in an unenthusiastic or irritated way, others will pick up on your tone, rather than what you are saying.

Take the simple phrase “Dinner’s ready.”

Let’s say you get home from work and you decide to prepare a nice meal for yourself and your family. You cook up a couple dishes from scratch and time everything perfectly so that your entrée comes out of the oven at the same time that you’ve finished making your sides. You’re pleased as punch with how your meal turned out and you can’t wait to share it with your family.

At this point, you call out in a sing-song voice, “Dinner’s ready!”

No reply.

Your spouse, your children are upstairs doing who-knows-what. But you don’t feel like hunting them down, so you busy yourself with doing a few dishes while you wait for them to come down.

Five minutes.

Ten.

When you call for your family again, the cheeriness is out of your voice completely. It’s been replaced by a loud, curt, and semi-dangerous tone:

“DINNER IS READY.”

You’d better believe your family will come running this time!

The lesson here is that vocal inflection matters. It conveys how serious you are about something. It demonstrates your enthusiasm (or lack of). It has the power to energize a room or put everyone to sleep.

Next time you’re about to interact with someone or lead a team meeting, think about your tone of voice. Practice your speech in front of a mirror. In most cases, you’ll want to sound energized, but not over-the-top. Cheery, but authentic. The only exception is if you’re speaking about a serious issue that requires more gravity. Use common sense and let your tone match the message.

For more tips on how to be a compelling speaker, take a look at these blog posts:

https://uxlblog.com/2016/10/05/let-your-voice-be-heard/

https://uxlblog.com/2016/03/09/10-ways-to-have-a-better-conversation/

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

Tags: , , , , , , ,

There you are, day in and day out, punching the clock. Suddenly, after many dedicated years at an okay job, you are laid off. Unfortunately, that seems to be the story for so many individuals over the last few years. What to do now?

Most people dive into the traditional job search, seeking out something similar to what they had done before. But, that’s not the only option. You could take your experiences and acquired skills and strike out on your own! Or, you could go back to school, even taking just a few classes, and gain new skills for a flourishing business.

Here are a few resources to help get you started when you find yourself thinking about entrepreneurship (running a business), or even becoming a solopreneur (running a business on your own, such as freelancing).

Program Specifically for Laid Off Aspiring Entrepreneurs:

Here in Minnesota, the government offers the Dislocated Worker Program to laid off employees. If you want to start your own business, you can take advantage of their Converting Layoffs into Minnesota Businesses (CLIMB) sub-program. CLIMB allows you to work toward building your business full-time while still collecting unemployment, eliminating the “regular” job search stress. They offer counseling, training, and financial help to guide you on your self-employment journey.

Programs for Aspiring Entrepreneurs: 

  • S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers counseling, classes, loans, and special services for minority and women-owned small businesses.
  • WomenVenture provides women with classes, counseling, and loans for successfully starting a small business. Their Guided Business Plan course is a six-month long program intended to help you complete your business plan and strategize every aspect of your business.
  • SCORE is a free mentoring program for small business owners. They also offer workshops and tools to get started and thrive.

Training and Development for Aspiring Entrepreneurs:

 Bolstering your education or training can give you a leg up for starting a thriving business. I know one woman who was laid off after eight years on the job. Because she felt that her skillset was outdated, she decided to take advantage of the classes offered in the programs mentioned above. The classes renewed her confidence and gave her the courage to start a freelance writing business, something she had considered doing for a long time.

Another option to brush up your skills is to take classes online or complete an online degree. Many universities and colleges also offer continuing education certifications if you want a shorter time commitment. The CLIMB program can help pay for these classes.

Use any of the above resources to see if they offer training that may help you move forward in your quest for self-employment. There are many other resources in Minnesota; check out this website for further information on starting a business in this state.

 

It can be scary to suddenly find yourself jobless. But it can turn into an exciting journey toward entrepreneurship, and this state has excellent resources for successfully starting a business. Don’t be afraid to take the path less traveled toward a new career where you call the shots. Contact me if you would like support with your self-employment goals.

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

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Don't let inexperience stand in your way

There you are, sifting through the LinkedIn ads, searching for the job of your dreams. You find that listing that speaks to you, and you get excited as you read through the list of responsibilities. You even start picturing yourself exceling at each task, getting promotion after promotion, becoming the next CEO…then, bam! You hit that long, seemingly endless list of requirements, including three unrealistically specific degrees, and one hundred years of experience – for an entry level position. You feel defeated. And maybe you shrug your shoulders and instead apply for a different job that only makes you feel “meh.”

I’m here to tell you that the magical person who has all those qualifications does not exist. Perhaps those mile-long job requirements come about due to inexperienced human resources workers who have never written a job description before. Or maybe some employers are hoping to find the best and brightest pool of talent to dip into later by listing a million requirements. Either way, don’t let it discourage you from applying, and here’s a couple reasons why:

  • Interviewers are human. This means you can use your sparkling personality to win them over. Be personable and be yourself. People want to work with people who seem easy to get along with and who are excited about the job.
  • Your qualifications do not have to be so literal. Maybe you have never managed a team before. But I bet you have coached a co-worker through a tough time, or managed a project. Think through scenarios that relate to each qualification in the job posting.

Of course, there will be times when more experience may be required. Huge career shifts may involve going back to school for an entire four-year (or longer) degree. But often there are more subtle ways to gain the experience to help you land the job:

  • Harness your network – Get to know the industry or the company you want to work for by asking your network for help. A friend may be able to land you some informational interviews at her friend’s company, or a former colleague may be working in your intended industry.
  • Volunteer or Intern – Look for opportunities to help in the area you want to work in. That could mean writing newsletters for a friend’s business if you are looking for a communications gig, or interning at a farm for the summer if you are looking at agriculture or horticulture.
  • Freelance – Have you thought about going solo? If you have knowledge in a particular field, like writing or graphic design, for example, and are finding it hard to land a traditional job, freelancing may be for you. According to Freelancer’s Union, there are over 53 million Americans working freelance, and it is continuing to grow as workers seek alternative ways to make money.
  • Take a class or two – There are so many ways to educate yourself without having to go back for a full degree. Sometimes you just need a refresher, or you want to expand your knowledge base. Most areas offer community education classes. And universities have continuing education programs and certifications. Even learning from home can take you far; there are so many classes and professionals offering training online.

 

Don’t give up hope when you see a lengthy job posting. Think through your options to make that dream job a reality. How can you translate your current experiences into the right requirements for the job? It doesn’t have to take a complete overhaul of your life to get the career you deserve.

I am happy to provide guidance along your journey to a fulfilling career. Contact me to learn more.

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

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Delegate effectively

What can you achieve by DELEGATING?

You’re up to your eyeballs with work, scrambling to complete projects, catch up with clients, and put out fires…all while trying to keep on top of email and maybe grab some lunch at some point! You work late, get home after dark, and can only think about work as you zone out in front of the television. The next day, your boss calls you up and asks you to take on a new client. As usual, you say yes.

Sound like a familiar story?

Unfortunately, many of us are afraid to ask others for assistance when we’re feeling overwhelmed. We think it shows weakness or a lack of dedication. We’re afraid we will appear incapable, or that it will even affect our chance of promotion.

In most cases, however, the positive aspects of delegation far outweigh the negative aspects. Here’s what happens when you delegate:

1. You prevent burnout

Delegation helps you work at a more sustainable, healthy pace, rather than a frantic pace that will leave you exhausted and unhappy.

2. You achieve better results

Instead of doing a dozen projects with mediocre results (which is definitely not promotion-worthy behavior), you can focus on a couple of projects and achieve quality results.

3. You gain focus

It’s a good idea to delegate tasks to other people that do not fall into your areas of expertise. Instead, focus on the areas in which you excel and continue building your skills in those areas.

4. You create healthy boundaries

If people know you will say yes to any and every project, they will begin taking advantage of you. Draw a line in the sand and either say no (here are a few diplomatic ways to do that) or delegate.

5. You exhibit strong leadership

By pragmatically delegating to others, you demonstrate that you have a clear understanding of your team and what makes them tick. You also show that you trust your co-workers enough to let go of the reins and let them take over an assignment.

 

Of course, it’s a good idea to be thoughtful and tactful when you delegate. Don’t try to shuffle your work off to someone who also has no time or interest. Instead, consider your co-workers’ talents and their availability.

If you are a leader, dole out assignments with care. Explain to each person why you selected him or her for the task at hand. Be sure to let that person know you are available to answer questions or point them toward available resources.

If you are not in a leadership position, your delegation may look a little different. When someone asks you to take on a project, counter by telling them that you have far too much on your plate at the moment and say something like, “Have you considered Rosa? She excelled in a similar project last quarter and I think she has some availability.”

And if things are really out of hand with your current workload, you may want to have a sit-down meeting with your boss and explain your position. Remember: it’s always a good idea to check your co-workers’ availability and interest in a new project before name-dropping them.

Start working smarter. Delegate wisely and open up new possibilities in your career.


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

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: