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Stressed woman at laptop biting pencil
Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay

For many leaders, stress seems to become the norm. They are constantly dealing with managing people, projects, and clients…all in between attending many, many meetings.

Stress does NOT have to be the norm. You can still be a good leader AND cut your workload (in fact, freeing yourself up and de-stressing may make you a better leader).

Here are 4 ways to start cutting stress:

1. Delegate

If you want something right, you have to do it yourself, right? …Right?

Not at all.

Sure, if you hand off a task, it might be approached in a different way than what you intended, but that doesn’t mean that approach is wrong. It’s just different…and different can be good! “Different” can bring variety and new ways of thinking or solving problems. Part of delegation means letting go some of your control. It means opening yourself up to others’ methods and perspectives.

Effective delegation involves handing over the reins with enough instructions to make things happen, but also giving a certain amount of freedom to the person who will be performing the task. Remember: even if the person is a bit slow or clumsy at the task at first, they will learn. Give them time.

2. Step Away From the Office

Despite what you might think, you are not a machine. You are human, and humans need to occasionally rest and rejuvenate.

Schedule meaningful breaks into your daily schedule–time when you’re completely unplugged from work. Go on a walk, read a book at lunch, get a massage, or attend your child’s soccer game.

In addition to your small daily breaks, schedule vacations into your year. Even a few days at a cabin on a lake will do wonders for your stress levels.

3. Prioritize

What are the items or tasks that truly need your attention? What are you unable to delegate to others?

Prioritize your task list, based on the assignments you need to handle personally. Your other to-do items can probably be delegated or outright skipped. For instance, are you really needed at every single meeting? Can your team handle certain meetings on their own?

Make a to-do list at the beginning of each week, in addition to the start of each day. This will help put big-picture tasks in perspective. It is also helpful to hold a quarterly planning session to look at the even bigger picture in the office.

4. Make Meaningful Connections

Being a leader can seem lonely at times. To overcome the isolation, make an effort to communicate with others and make meaningful connections. This will inevitably involve being vulnerable and allowing your authentic self to come to the surface.

Of course, you have to maintain some professionalism when communicating with your team, but you shouldn’t be afraid to show them that you’re human. You have interests; you make mistakes; you have a family and a life outside the office walls.

Just the act of reaching out and asking someone about their day will help you form better bonds with that individual. And, when you feel that you have friends (and a support system) in the office, that can cut stress significantly.

As a leader, you don’t have to let stress consume your life! Take charge of your leadership by delegating tasks, taking meaningful breaks, and developing an internal support system. Now, breathe!

If you’d like to read more about how to beat stress, take a look at my post on stress-busting techniques.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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First published in 2016.

If you’re on the hunt for a new job, you’re probably well-aware of the importance of a compelling cover letter. It’s how you can stand out from the crowd, how you can demonstrate a slice of your personality that you really can’t convey in your résumé. It’s also a great way to take a deeper dive into some of your past experiences and really highlight your accomplishments.

How do you write a cover letter that gets noticed? Seems like a daunting task, right?

It doesn’t have to be. I’ve laid out several simple pointers below that will guide you through the cover letter writing process and help you create something that is polished and memorable.

Remember: Cover letters are not just a repeat of your resume—viewing them as such will put you at a serious disadvantage.

Cover Letter Basics:

  • Name, address, and date at the top of the letter
  • Cover letter addressed to a specific person if possible. If individual unknown, send letter to the title of recipient (Production Manager, Technical Director, Human Resources, etc.)
  • State your interest in the position
  • Make note of special skills that qualify you for the job
  • Provide contact info and a time you can be reached
  • Thank the contact and close with “Sincerely”
  • Always ask someone else to proofread your letter and resume—don’t miss simple grammatical errors!
  • Sign your letter with either blue or black ink, NO EXCEPTIONS
  • Be concise and to the point (no cutesy statements or overbearing comments)
  • Use the same paper as your resume
  • Avoid using “I” too often or repeating the same words

Beyond the Basics:

  • Focus on two (or, at the max, three) major accomplishments in your career and really dive into them
  • Use concrete facts whenever possible. For example:
    • I saved XYZ Company $3.5 million dollars in their annual budget by…
    • During my time at ABC Inc., I trained over 200 people in…
    • I helped Company X grow by 4% through my….
    • I was the top salesperson at ABC, Inc., selling $$ annually
  • Let your authentic voice come through, but don’t sound too casual. It’s a fine line to ride and you may need a friend to weigh in.
  • Do your homework. Understand the company’s values and what they’re looking for in a new employee and make sure you highlight those parts of your experience.

Interested in learning more about creating an effective cover letter or interested in consulting a professional to ensure that you land that next job opening? Contact Me Today to learn about career coaching and UXL’s public workshops!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Hands holding a tape measure
Image by Myriam Zilles from Pixabay

How do you measure value? Is it in the skills your co-workers bring to the table? The projects you are able to complete? Is it strictly monetary? Different groups of people have different ways of measuring value and success, each with their own unique spectrums and criteria. If you only determine value from one perspective, it may leave you unable to recognize the skills and true value your employees bring to the table. If you find yourself stuck in such a rut, here are some different approaches you may want to consider when measuring value:

1. Engagement

Too often, teams’ leaders don’t take into account the level of engagement a given project will inspire among their team members. When selecting projects or assigning tasks, you may find it helpful to weigh your decisions on a scale of value that places that engagement above other elements. Work that excites your team will create a more efficient and productive flow.

2. Personal

What are your own motivators for doing the kind of work that you do? If you decide to take on work that is uninteresting but lucrative, what do you stand to gain by earning that money? Too often we set aside our own interests and priorities to follow procedure or defer to someone else’s interest. Your time as a professional is valuable and cannot be given back. Take this into account when determining the value of prospective work.

3. Constructive

What does your team stand to gain as a whole from a project? Is there an opportunity to call upon skills someone has been developing, or will there be any kind of collaboration with professionals in a different field or department? Often opportunities are valuable not just in the work they provide but from the skills they allow people to build upon from their undertaking. If you take a step back to measure value in this way, take stock of these big-picture benefits that may otherwise go unseen.

4. Monetary

Of course, some work is more straightforward in value and function. Teams cannot operate without a budget and opportunities must often be weighed against the most important benefit they bring to the company: resources. While money doesn’t need to be a driving measure of value, it should certainly be taken into account.

5. Public Facing

What does taking on a potential project mean for your brand? For the way people view yourself and your fellow employees? Social media and reputation are a valuable commodity in the digital business landscape and must be curated with care. Controversy or the appearance of dubious ethics can impact even the largest businesses. Don’t undervalue this important piece of social currency.

Value is subjective and multifaceted. The more ways you’re able to consider what is valuable in your organization will help put it in a stronger position tomorrow than it is today. Don’t be afraid to sit down and consider all the possibilities!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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via Pixabay

I often hear people complaining about the “new generation” of workers as being disloyal to the company. They change jobs like gym shorts, and can’t commit to a single business for more than a few years. While that may be true, have you ever stopped to think about WHY that’s the case?

1. Stagnant Wages

For many young and not-so-young (the oldest Millennials are approaching 40 now) people, the workplace landscape is MUCH different than it was when Boomers and Gen Xers began their careers. Wages have stagnated and benefits aren’t what they used to be. In many cases, the only way to get a raise is to negotiate one by switching jobs.

Solution?

Make sure your business is competitive. Offer fair wages, and regularly give raises to account for cost-of-living increases. In addition, make sure your list of benefits is attractive and competitive in the industry.

2. Boredom

“But what about their short attention spans!?” you might say. “We can’t seem to capture their interest.”

Sure, job boredom may play a role in Millennial job-hopping, but this is often a preventable woe. If more than one or two of your staff seem bored or distracted, it’s probable that there’s something systemic going on. It may be that…

  1. They are not well-suited for their role
  2. They are so efficient that they complete their workload much faster than previous generations of workers
  3. They have checked out because they feel like they don’t fit in in the workplace
  4. They have checked out because they don’t think they have a voice

Solution?

In all these scenarios, communication can help prevent boredom. Regularly check in with your staff and make sure they are feeling engaged and supported. Give them the space to express how they are feeling and vocalize what they’d like to see changed. Then, work with them to strategize ways to make positive changes.

If your young workers are checking out because they feel like they don’t fit in, counter that by encouraging team-building workshops (consider Insights Discovery as a starting point), after-work outings, or collaborative projects. Pay attention and make sure your seasoned workers are giving the newer workers a voice.

3. Lack of Freedom

Nobody likes it when others look over their shoulders to supervise their work. It conjures images of elementary school, when teachers had to keep a classroom of rambunctious youngsters in line in addition to teaching multiplication tables. Such treatment in the workplace could induce anxiety and the feeling of being hemmed in. No one works well under that kind of pressure.

Solution?

Your staff are not elementary children and should not be treated as such. It’s a good idea to demonstrate trust in your team by giving them a long leash when it comes to projects, minimizing your involvement, and being open to different styles of working and different solutions.

Another thing: consider allowing your staff to occasionally work from home. We live in a time where technology enables many people to work remotely on at least some of their projects. As long as the work is being done, who cares if they work in their pajamas?

If you have a retention problem, ask yourself if any (or all!) of these three factors are coming into play, and then DO something! I’m here to help.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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“There are 3 things you never turn your back on: bears, men you have wronged, and a dominant male turkey during mating season.” – Dwight Schrute, The Office

The entertainment industry loves a good workplace grudge, but while you may enjoy the conflict between Dwight and Jim on The Office, it’s far less entertaining to be involved in a workplace grudge in real life.

Grudges can develop in any relationship, but there are a few reasons why they develop more naturally in the workplace. For one, there is often competition between employees. Whether multiple employees are up for the same promotion or bonuses are awarded to top performers, the emotions involved in striving and failing can easily transfer into a grudge.

Another reason workplaces are a natural place for grudges to develop is the amount of time you spend with your co-workers. With employees working increasingly longer hours, it doesn’t just mean more time at work, it means more time with co-workers. You may not like some of your co-workers, and what would normally be a small grievance can compound over time into a full-on grudge. And while you can respectfully take a break from someone in your personal life, that usually isn’t an option in the workplace.

Even if we spend a good deal of time with our co-workers, it doesn’t mean we are developing deeper connections. This is another reason grudges can develop more frequently in the workplace. Work relationships usually operate on a more superficial level, which can lead to less empathy between co-workers. Less empathy can lead a person to more easily attribute a malicious motive to someone’s actions when no malice was intended.

Whatever the reason a grudge develops, the effects are not entertaining. A workplace grudge can blind you to the talents of your nemesis. While an idea might seem good coming from a different co-worker, you may dismiss a specific person without really listening to what they have to say. Even if you try to hide your feelings of contempt, co-workers can pick up on the tension, which could affect your relationships with others.

Beyond the tendency for a grudge to hurt you professionally, the damage it can do to you emotionally and physically is the best reason to let it go. The stress that a grudge can add to your work life can be dangerous. No amount of sticking it to someone else is worth damaging your physical and emotional well-being.

It may not seem like an easy task to let go of a grudge, especially when you feel you’ve been wronged. The best way to alleviate a grudge is to address the situation directly with the person involved. Try to engage them in a healthy dialog about the relationship and see if anything can be done to resolve the tension. If that isn’t possible, it doesn’t mean nothing can be done. You can choose to let go of a workplace grudge, or any grudge for that matter. You can choose to let go of the emotions surrounding the circumstances of grudge and focus on your own performance and well-being. In many ways, this can be much harder than getting external resolution. No matter how you resolve a grudge, the positive changes you are likely to experience are worth it.

Leave the workplace grudges to the entertainment industry, because fictional characters don’t have to worry about their emotional well-being.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Image by SnottyBoggins from Pixabay

A couple months ago, I had the privilege of seeing Tracey Jones speak at the Women’s Business Bridge annual conference in Stillwater, MN. Tracey is an author, speaker, Air Force Academy graduate, decorated Veteran, international leadership expert, scholar, and researcher. She is also the President of Tremendous Leadership. After her engaging presentation, I picked up a copy of her book, Saucy Aussie Living: Top 10 Tricks for Getting a Second Leash on Life. Told from her dog’s perspective, the book is tongue-in-cheek and goofy, BUT there are many valuable lessons embedded in its pages. One such lesson: Hang out with other top dogs and fumigate the “fleas” in your life.

This lesson boils down to the simple truth that when we associate with high-achieving, ambitious, and positive people, those behaviors and attributes WILL rub off on us. The opposite is true too. If we spend all our time with lazy, incompetent, or negative people, we will inevitably start to take on those characteristics.

The lesson of hanging out with other “top dogs” is a great reminder to pause, look around, and notice both the positive and negative influences in your life. Do some people give you energy and motivate you to be the best version of yourself? Great! Spend as much time around those people as possible.

Do others bring you down with constant complaining, excuses, or negativity? Make an effort to step away from those people and remove their influence from your life. Easier said than done, right? How do you “fumigate the fleabags” around you? It may be extremely difficult to step away from negative co-workers, bosses, or family members. What can you possibly do?

1. Create Healthy Boundaries

Do your best to limit interactions with negative individuals by creating healthy boundaries. This may involve only checking and responding to emails from that person once per day or limiting the number of meetings with that person (or choosing to meet online or over the phone).

Creating healthy boundaries also means standing up for yourself. If you feel like someone is taking over your space, speak out. Let the individual know that you need more breathing room and autonomy.

2. Communicate

If you are less than thrilled with someone’s attitude or lackluster performance, talk to them about it. Don’t be confrontational! Instead, approach the issue from an angle of offering to help. You might say something like: “I noticed you’ve missed a few deadlines lately. Is something wrong? How can I help?”

Communication also helps put negative attitudes in check. If, for instance, someone complains about a co-worker, flip it around by saying, “I don’t see her in that light. Besides, I’d rather focus on XYZ project than talk about Amy right now. Let’s go over last month’s numbers…”

3. Find Your Top Dogs

Once you’ve identified the high-achievers around you, start making an effort to associate with those people as often as possible. When you do this, the “fleabags” will naturally be pushed to the side. Additionally, the positive, go-get-em attitude you’ll adapt from your positive influencers will likely carry over into your interactions with less-driven individuals. Your energy and zest may have a contagious effect. Instead of spreading fleas, you’ll be spreading sunshine!

Regardless of your approach, it is crucial to align yourself with like-minded, motivated individuals. Lean on and learn from them, and don’t forget to give your support in return.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Butterfly indicating transformational leadership

A guest post by Karoline Gore

With the right strategies and motivation among employees, the potential of an organization is limitless. Transformational leaders strive toward improving the productivity of the company by inspiring their staff through effective communication and creating an environment for intellectual stimulation. By doing so, they influence their followers to exhibit outstanding performance geared toward the wellness of the company and not selfish gains. These leaders also transform workers into potential leaders through continuous motivation and development. Steve Jobs is an iconic transformational leader whose passion and simplicity made Apple what it is today. He constantly challenged his employees to think beyond the obvious, prompting them to create some of the best products that the world has ever seen, according to Marketing91. 

It makes work meaningful and empowers workers

Among the different forms of leadership, transformational management is among the best when it comes to employee involvement. There is evidence of a positive relationship between transformational leadership and employee-related results, as found by meta-analytic research. These findings prove that transformational leaders make work meaningful by advocating for self-governance. Their followers continuously feel a sense of belonging and appreciation for their work.

Contrary to initial research that found cynicism and Intentions To Quit (ITQ) as general traits of employees, recent studies have found them to be a reflection of workers’ perception of management. Transformational leaders make employees want to stay by eliminating barriers and letting them know that they are mindful of their personal success. Take the example of N.R Narayana Murthy, founder of Infosys. By inspiring people through his excellent leadership and personal values, he has attained worldwide recognition and immense success.

A company can handle change and challenges

Change is inevitable, and the biggest challenge that management faces is how to handle it. When governed poorly, it can wound a company’s performance and output, hurting its position on the competitive map. The impact of transformational leadership regarding change reaches all levels of the company. Such leaders educate followers on the importance of change and let them adopt the same through inspiration rather than control. They also handle unethical conduct in a stern yet down-to-earth way that upholds justice. At a team level, you will find employees that motivate and inspire each other to work better. This particularly helps a company to meet these challenges that are brought by strategic redirections.

Transformational leadership is universal and widely accepted as one of the best types of leadership and is applicable in all kinds of organizations. It involves driving for exceptional performance through intellectual stimulation, team-building, and inspiring selfless behavior among workers. As a result, employees support all company’s undertakings without remorse or hesitation. If you are practicing leadership or aspiring to be a leader in the future, many experts advise that you adopt this form of administration for optimal productivity.

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