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Speaking Tips to Build Confidence

As a coach, one of my focuses is on courage. In fact, I’ve developed a whole keynote (and even a little video) around the topic. Tapping into your courage isn’t always easy to do. We each have certain stumbling blocks that make us feel anything but courageous. For some people, it’s speaking.

Whether presenting in front of a group, or simply meeting with your manager in a one-on-one meeting, having polished speaking skills can help you succeed. When you’re articulate and confident, you can convey your ideas with clarity, improve your leadership, build relationships, and better interact with customers and co-workers. In short, having excellent speaking skills makes you seem more promotion-worthy (and who doesn’t want that?).

So, how do you improve your speaking skills and start expressing yourself with confidence?

It won’t happen overnight, but with time and conscious practice, you’ll be able step into any room and clearly communicate your thoughts. Start with these nine tips:

1. Prepare

Usually, you’ll have some kind of idea of what you’re going to have to talk about. Whether you’re speaking up at a meeting or going over your latest project with your manager, it’s a good idea to make a few notes about what you’d like to say and do whatever research you need to do. Anticipate questions and have answers prepared—but don’t be afraid to go off-script if necessary.

2. Pace Yourself

Confident speakers have careful pacing. They don’t speak too quickly, so that others can’t catch what they’re saying, and they don’t speak too slowly and completely lose their audience’s interest. The trick is to find your happy medium and while you’re at it…

3. Enunciate

Have the confidence to speak clearly. Practice your enunciation in front of a mirror or with a partner and make sure you’re sounding strong, instead of canned.

4. Listen

It may seem counterintuitive, but some of the best speakers are also excellent listeners. They pay attention to what other people are saying and respond in-kind. If, for instance, someone is expressing concern to you, it’s a good idea to acknowledge and address that concern. Remember: words are only part of the picture. Body language, vocal inflection, and other visual cues can help determine what’s on the speaker’s mind.

5. Empathize

Aim for understanding. When you have some kind of idea of what the other person is thinking or feeling, it will be easier to talk with that person on their level.

Part of empathy may involve asking clarifying questions to make sure you’re understanding the other person’s point of view.

6. Have a personality

Everyone’s speaking style is unique. You might be more boisterous or reserved. You might prefer more formal or casual language. Just make sure your best authentic self is shining through.

7. Cut convo fillers

Those “Ums” and “Ahs” and “You knows” can be distracting and can make you seem less confident. Practice eliminating them from your speech.

8. Put away distractions

When you’re speaking, give your full self. Put away your phone and pay attention. You might be surprised by the nuances you can pick up and then feed off of when it’s your turn to speak.

9. PRACTICE

As I mentioned above, it takes time to become an accomplished speaker. If you flop at first, don’t give up! Continue to engage others, practice your statements in front of a mirror, and keep at it. Try not to measure your progress against others, but regularly check in with yourself and recognize your personal progress. Did I mention, KEEP AT IT?

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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Tap into Team 3

There’s a valuable source of information, assistance, and support you have access to at your office. I’m not talking about the internet, your training manual, or how-to guides. I’m talking about your co-workers.

Your work team can be an incredible asset to you, if you let them. Oftentimes, we either don’t trust others to help us with projects OR we simply don’t know what our co-workers have to offer. This is a shame because a lot of talent ends up going untapped and unutilized. How can you change that? How can you leverage the resources available to you through your team?

Start with these three steps:

STEP ONE:

Get to know your team. Talk with them, listen to them, invite them to share lunch or a cup of coffee. Unless you make an effort to reach out and connect, you’ll never truly know what others have to offer or what their talents are. You also won’t have a strong sense of their weak spots—the areas in which they might need additional assistance.

When you make an effort to get to know your work team, you’ll have a better understanding of how you might all function together. Who is detail-oriented, and who is better at working with the bigger picture? Who is talented at crunching numbers or analyzing data? Who is best at optimizing the customer experience? Who will always meet their deadlines…and who might need a little bit of a push?

Knowing who you’re working with, inside and out, is essential for knowing where to turn when you need a little extra assistance or when you need to assemble a team that is best suited for a specific task.

STEP TWO:

Extend trust and be trustworthy. Trust is a vital component of any successful work team. Sometimes, we take on too much and try to do everything ourselves because we believe that no one else will be able to do the job quite as well as we can. While that may be true, it’s usually a matter of perspective. Others might do a task in a different way than you, but it is not necessarily the wrong approach. By letting others occasionally take the reins, you’re opening the floor to a wider variety of perspectives and methods—and that’s a good thing! As long as everyone understands the big-picture goals, the path to getting there can be flexible.

Trust others to take on projects that are suited to their talents. Trust them to meet deadlines, do excellent work, and bring innovation and creativity to the table. Unless they violate that trust in a major way, have the courage to relinquish some control and be trusting.

On the same token, be trustworthy. Be someone whom others can count on. Your reputation as a reliable worker will be noticed. Even if you don’t think others recognize your steadfastness, they will. Don’t worry. Just keep at it and be a model of trustworthiness.

STEP THREE:

Communicate. If you want something done, ask. If you’re unsure if you—or someone else—is unsuited for a particular task, say something. If you’re pinched for time and need to meet a deadline, ask for help.

Instead of hinting at what you need or want, be direct and open. Keep an open line of communication with others and regularly check in with them about your projects. Along with expressing your needs to others and soliciting their help, you must be willing to return the favor and assist them when needed. You, too, are a resource for others and your talents will be needed from time to time.

Of course, it’s okay to say no to certain tasks or projects that do not fit your areas of expertise or your schedule. Be open about that too!

 

Tap into the skills and resources surrounding you. Your teammates have a lot to offer and you are all part of a network that will work best when everyone’s strengths are utilized. Get to know your co-workers, build trust, and establish an open line of communication.

 

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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Practicing Courageous Leadership

The wrap-up of my COURAGE Workbook series dives into courageous leadership. Even if you are not a manager or “boss,” you can still be a leader. Whether you’re heading up a project or you’re the office go-to expert on a certain computer program, you are a leader and leaders must act with courage.

Why courageous leadership?

Without courageous leaders, the workplace stagnates. Bold ideas and innovation are ignored in favor of “we’ve always done it this way” methods. On the other hand, bold leaders embrace change, empower their team, and forge ahead, even when it involves some amount of risk.

Courageous leaders also stick up for their team. They are advocates for others, which means occasionally putting themselves on the line.

Bold leaders are not afraid to admit when they’ve made a mistake. Rather than try to blame others, they accept responsibility and then move forward, looking for solutions to the problem.

As a leader, how will you act courageously?

  1. Have you ever had someone advocate for you (recommending you for a job/task, sticking up for your abilities, trusting you to do something even if others had doubt)? How did it feel? How can you pass on the favor to someone else?

 

  1. Commit to embracing bold ideas. How will you encourage others to bring forward their thoughts? How will you foster an atmosphere of open communication and idea-sharing?

 

 

  1. Courageous leadership often involves speaking up, whether you’re discussing an idea, a person’s role, or a big change. Identify your next “speaking up” opportunity (a staff meeting, a one-on-one, a coffee meeting, etc.). How will you commit to speaking up, despite the risks?

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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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

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