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Creating Successful Leaders

Tag Archives: margaret smith career coach

The COVID-19 pandemic brought about unprecedented changes to nearly every aspect of our lives including the ways in which companies, both small and large, conduct their work. Out of necessity, many businesses made the shift from the traditional 9-5 “in-office” workdays to a less rigid “work from home” model. The remarkable benefits of increased flexibility, non-existent commutes, and the elimination of expensive childcare for many working parents has swayed organizations to continue with this arrangement in the post-pandemic world.

Despite the plethora of advantages, this new work style has the potential for the lines of communication between colleagues to become frayed as people complete their work independently and on their own schedules. The need for workplace mentors has not changed, however, and you’ll need to find creative solutions to bridge the distance between yourself and the people you advise.


Remote work allows for people to be more intentional about how they plan their calendars and how and when they interact with people. Consider creating a document in the cloud for you and the people you work with to share thoughts throughout the week asynchronously, so when you come together in your virtual meetings, you have thoughtful talking points and ideas to build on. This ongoing effort allows for you and your mentee to closely collaborate in meaningful ways even without the face-to-face options.


While some aspects of your schedule may be more flexible, the need for regular, dependable check-ins with your mentee(s) should be non-negotiable. Weekly meetings can provide comfort for workers who may be struggling with balancing responsibilities remotely. The assurance that you have carved out time specifically for their questions and ideas promotes employee well-being that benefits them personally and professionally. If urgent questions arise throughout the week, or you can’t make a regularly scheduled meeting, communicate that, reschedule, and follow-up with answers to questions promptly.


Honest and open communication is key. Ask your mentee to identify any areas that they would like to grow, and work in tandem to create a realistic plan that can be put into action. Remember that since your mentee won’t physically see you in the office, you’ll want to find inventive ways to be visible, accessible, and approachable. Reaching out to people outside of regularly scheduled meetings for quick “check-ins” can be a great way to offer support in the online world.


Recognize professional accomplishments that your mentee has been working hard to attain. Give people unprompted shout-outs in meetings and highlight the value that person brings to your organization. Be sure to celebrate both the small successes and the big victories equally. Consistent recognition makes people feel noticed and appreciated and promotes a strong sense of community and optimism for everybody.

The relationship you build with your mentee should have just as much value for you as it does for them. Consider this a mutual exercise in building trust, extending your professional networks, honing your communication skills, and sharing new, diverse perspectives and experiences with one another. With these tips, you’re sure to build lasting relationships with the people that you work with.



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With the Great Resignation and a nation-wide worker shortage, employers are scrambling to both hire new staff and retain the people they already have. It’s an employee’s world right now, so why not use this opportunity to ask for a raise?

If you’ve been with your company for more than a couple years, you are a valuable asset that cannot easily be replaced. You know your company’s systems, goals, visions, and approaches. You’re familiar with your co-workers, as well as the resources you can use to get your job done. On average, it takes $4,000 to hire a new employee, and that doesn’t include all the expenses associated with training and/or mentoring. Your company would rather retain their current employers, especially if they’re performing well.

Of course, it doesn’t make sense to ask for a raise if you just earned one OR if you’re underperforming OR if you’ve only been working at your company for a matter of months. However, it does make sense to ask for a raise if:

  • You are a high performer or active contributor
  • You are taking on more work than ever
  • You feel you are worth more than what you’re paid
  • Fellow employees in similar roles are paid more than you
  • People in your field are receiving better pay at other companies

These are all reasons to ask for a raise.

If you feel like you’ve earned it, you probably have. So, why not ask for it? According to Ramit Sethi, author and founder of I Will Teach You To Be, “Just one $5,000 raise, properly invested, can be worth $1 million over your career.”

Sounds great, right? But you can’t just waltz into your boss’ office and demand an extra $5K a year. You have to develop a thoughtful, thorough plan. Here’s how:

List the reasons you deserve a raise.

Take time to evaluate the work you’ve done over the last year or two. What projects stand out? What are some specific instances where you’ve truly shined? When have you added to the profitability of your organization? Collect as many specific facts as you can (Of course, it helps if your boss already knows about your accomplishments, but that’s a subject for a different blog post). Practice talking about your accomplishments in the mirror or with a close friend or spouse. Why? You want to sound as natural as possible when you have this conversation and not like you’re rattling off a list.

Arm Yourself with Confidence.

Don’t be shy about asking for a raise. Believe you’ve earned it and demonstrate, with confidence, the reasons why you should get it. However, don’t overdo it and let confidence turn into cockiness. Just be authentic, sincere, and assertive in your request.

Have a specific dollar amount in mind.

Do your research. Know what other people in the company are making and know what other people in your industry are making. Don’t be outlandish in your request, but don’t sell yourself short either.

Talk about the future.

It’s a good idea to demonstrate you are ready to continue to do great work for the company. As Carolyn O’Hara writes in an article for the Harvard Business Review, “Lay out your contributions, then quickly pivot to what you hope to tackle next. Assure your boss that you understand his or her pressures and goals, and pitch your raise as a way to help achieve those goals.”

And if your boss turns you down? That’s a possible outcome and you have to be prepared to accept it. But don’t get discouraged. The fact that you asked for a raise shows initiative, career-mindedness, and tenacity. It also demonstrates to your boss that you know what you’re worth and he or she will have to give you a raise at some point down the road or risk losing you. So, be fearless! You don’t get what you don’t ask for.

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This month, I’ve been focusing on the topic of courage. I’ve released an eBook on the topic (A Quick Guide to Courage), and I continue to receive feedback about personal struggles to be courageous. If you’re struggling to find your courage, let’s talk.

When we think of courageous people, we might envision firefighters or soldiers, CEOs presenting in front of large audiences, or adventurers scaling mountains. But…what about you? Do you ever pause to consider all the mountains you’ve climbed and storms you’ve weathered? Do you recall the times when you’ve had to tap into courage—asking for a raise, giving a presentation, making a major life decision, daring to step outside your comfort zone?

You, too, have acted with courage in your life, even if you don’t often think about it. You have the capacity to taking daring steps and make courageous decisions. Don’t discount the small acts of courage you undertake each and every day. Even getting up in the morning and pulling up your email inbox can take courage! You’re opening yourself to a host of “unknowns,” and it may take mental and emotional fortitude to address the everyday problems that await you.

Even if you don’t always feel courageous, take heart in the fact that we are all capable of building and developing courage. Just as we build muscles by going to the gym so, too, can we build courage and take it to new heights. Mostly, it takes practice and persistence.

Here are 7 ways you can grow your courage every day:

Invite an acquaintance to lunch.

For many, it can be uncomfortable getting to know someone new. Dare to face that discomfort and arrange a lunch or coffee meeting with someone you’d like to get to know a little better. If it doesn’t work out, dare to ask the next person on your list!

Create healthy boundaries.

Dare to say “no” to projects that do not align with your area of expertise. Reject or postpone tasks when your schedule is jam-packed. Answer emails on your own terms, and during work hours only. By having the courage to set these healthy boundaries, you show respect for yourself and protect your mental and emotional health.

Send a message to someone you admire.

Looking for a mentor? Seeking advice from a trusted expert? Reach out and contact someone who may have the answers. Don’t let the person’s status or title intimidate you. We’re all humans, after all!

Set aside personal time.

Dare to set aside time for yourself, take breaks, and go on the occasional vacation. Too often, people are nervous about what others will think of them if they choose to take a break. It’s time to set a new standard where meaningful breaks are the norm. Be brave enough to know when you’ve reached your limit and need time off.

Say no.

If something doesn’t feel right, have the courage to say no. I challenge you to think through every task, offer, or project before deciding on your course of action.

Be a leader.

If you have an idea for a new project, a new way of doing things, or a fresh approach, it may be time to step up and take initiative. Don’t wait around for someone else to lead the charge; dare to do it yourself!

Be your true self.

Be authentic and don’t shy away from who you truly are. Of course, we all need to act appropriately in certain settings, but that doesn’t mean we have to fundamentally change who we are (just dial it back or up, depending on the situation!). Be genuine; be yourself.

Step into your day with a courageous heart and a plan to make positive change. You are in charge of your future. Dare to seize the day and make the right decisions for you, even if that can be a little scary. You’re braver than you think you are.


Her new eBook is called A Quick Guide to Courage

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