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leadership and continuous learning

Strong leaders are avid, continual learners. They don’t stop seeking out new opportunities after they’ve graduated or once they’ve landed a job; they treat everyday as another chance to acquire knowledge and skills.

Why is lifelong learning so essential for leadership? How does curiosity and exploration build character, aid in personal development, and position you as a leader? Read on…

1. Continual Learning Preps You For Inevitable Change

In order to remain a relevant leader, you must learn and continue to learn. Just because you earned a leadership role 10 years ago does not necessarily mean you’re equipped to lead today. Each situation you encounter presents new challenges that can only be accomplished with an appetite for new knowledge. There’s a reason why medical doctors are required to continue their specialized education long after they graduate from medical school. Could you imagine going to a surgeon who was using standard practices from the 1940s?

The same is true in any office setting. Standards change; innovations occur. Capable leaders stay on top of those changes, adapt, and guide others to adapt as well.

2. Well-Rounded People Make The Best Leaders

To be well-rounded, you need to learn a wide array of subjects, disciplines, and areas of expertise. You don’t need to be an expert at everything, but it’s important to have a working knowledge of the world outside your niche, as it gives you a greater sense of perspective and maturity. Go outside your comfort zone; read history or philosophy if you’ve always been a numbers person. Take public speaking classes if you’re shy (Toastmasters is a great club for this). Learn a language. Focus on areas you’ve told yourself that you’re bad at, and give it another go. You may surprise yourself.

3. Learning Helps You Problem-Solve

If you’re constantly making an effort to learn new systems, programs, ways of thinking, etc. you’ll be more creative when it comes to problem-solving. If you train your brain to perform many different tasks (no matter what they are), you’re enabling yourself for outside-the-box thinking.

4. Your Actions Will Encourage Others to Keep Learning

As a leader, you set the standards. Your pursuit of innovation and discovery will encourage your team to also prioritize continual learning. Demonstrate that you’re willing to dive into uncharted territory, get your hands dirty, and make mistakes. Your example will help create a team that is willing to get creative, take a few risks, and figure out how to overcome obstacles.

 

How will you commit to continual learning? What will you do this week to help expand your horizons or learn a new skill? Start today!

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Every leader has their strengths. You might be an excellent idea-generator or public speaker. Maybe you’re great with details. Or, maybe your team considers you a trusted confidante. Whatever the case, it’s great to celebrate and emphasize your strengths…but it’s also a good idea to identify your areas of opportunity.

No leader is perfect. There is always room for growth. But how can you get started with self-improvement? Isn’t that a bit daunting?

It doesn’t have to be.

By assigning certain personality traits certain colors, it’s easy to identify the areas where you are lacking. That is precisely what the Insights® Discovery program does. According to the Insights® color model, each individual has the capability to embrace and utilize all four color energies, but we typically only emphasize one or two. In essence, the color system breaks down like this:

The basic traits of each Insights personality. Everyone has a little of each color in them!

(For more information on Insights® Discovery, please visit my website!)

So what happens when, as a leader, you don’t tap into each color energy?

You may find that you’re not as well-rounded as you could be. For instance, if you lead with a lot of yellow energy, you may jump into projects feet-first without thinking through all the details. While this is great for motivation and could have positive effects on your team initially, the long-term effects may be disastrous if certain key factors were not taken into consideration (Oh…we needed to get permission from corporate before contacting that client…).

On the flip side, if you lead with a lot of blue energy, you may nit-pick the details to death and have trouble starting a project (let alone drumming up enthusiasm for it).

To examine this idea further, take a look at the following chart. Which areas in YOUR leadership need a boost? How could “Fiery Red” be useful at times? How could green? Yellow? Blue?

Insights Leadership Colors Lacking

Coming from someone who is strongly yellow (with dashes of the other colors), I know the importance of tapping into my “blue side.” How will you call upon your under-utilized colors today?

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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Good things come to those who wait. But who has time for that? No one likes waiting, particularly in this digital age of speedy convenience and instant gratification. The truth is, patience is a skill we’ve gotten lazy with and a lesson we undervalue. Here are some techniques to help you build acceptance for time, people and circumstance:

REDEFINE IT

For some people, the thought of patience makes them groan. They view patience as a sacrifice–a compromise of their genuine frustration. Because, let’s be honest, when things aren’t going the way we want, the last thing we want to do is take a deep breath and count to ten.

The truth is that patience is not gritting your teeth and trying to bare reality while you wait for something better. True patience is not tense or unhappy. It is a soft and open understanding that, “This is going to change, but right now, it can’t be other than what it is.” It’s our willingness to recommit, time and time again, to accepting that when we can’t control things, we are in control of our relationship to them. Being angry at morning traffic will not make it move any faster.

So ask yourself, “How do I want feel in this moment?” And give yourself permission to feel that way.

USE PERSPECTIVE

Tired, hungry, and overworked are not qualities that set you up for patience but sometimes they’re unavoidable. When the present moment is too overwhelming to make space for patience, try simply acknowledging impatience. Find the awareness to see that you’re short on clarity and, therefore, now is not a good time to confront that co-worker. Realize that your perception is clouded by stress and that you’re very likely to think differently after lunch. Is this something worthy of ruining your week? Or is it a minor inconvenience that will sort itself out? Perspective and patience go hand in hand.

SET MINI GOALS

Long term goals are great for giving us direction, but less great for giving us motivation. When the pay-off is so far down the road, it can feel like we’re moving in slow motion to the point where we question if we’re even making progress. Set mini goals for yourself and celebrate your small successes! Its easier to be patient with your goals when you can track your progress with check points.

DELAY GRATIFICATION

Modern technology has spoiled us. The convenience of instant messaging and endless resources at our fingertips has trained us to believe that if we want it, we should be able to have it right now. We start craving convenience over quality. Why wait for something great when something good is available right now? Because you deserve the best. Because patience is a virtue worth cultivating.

 

The more you practice anything, the easier it becomes. Patience takes time to develop, so if you find these techniques to be more challenging than you thought, that’s okay. Be patient with yourself.

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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5 Ways Leadership is Like Camping

It’s the season of pitching tents and building campfires. Camping can be easy and enjoyable…or it can be downright miserable. In that sense, it has a lot in common with leadership! What else do they have in common?

Here are 5 ways leadership can be a lot like camping:

1. You can weather any storm with the right equipment

Just like a quality tent and sleeping bag will help you survive the driving rain or bitter cold, so too can well-developed leadership skills help you handle even the most difficult situations. Some of these skills you might learn through time, experience, and trial and error, and others you might acquire through classes, like the Build A Boss program.

This “equipment” can prepare you for dealing with tough conversations, coping with major organizational changes, or tactfully approaching staff reduction. Leadership isn’t always going to be sunny days and clear waters. You’ll have to rely on your skill set to see you through some difficult situations.

2. It’s unpredictable

Camping can be wonderful and relaxing—filled with swimming, fishing, and campfires—or it can be rainy, cold, buggy, and just plain miserable.

In the same way, leadership has its ups and downs. As a leader, you might have days or weeks that are productive and inspiring…and then you might find yourself in a downward spiral of awfulness. As a leader, you have to ride those waves and use your ingenuity, adaptability, and drive to create strategies to overcome them.

3. It’s fun…with the right attitude

Have you been on a camping trip with someone who insists on not having fun? That person might complain about the dirt, the bugs, the camp food, the campfire smoke, the cold water and on and on…but they completely miss the fresh air, sunshine, and freedom.

Leadership is all about perspective. Leaders tend to face a lot of tough situations and difficult people, BUT they also have amazing opportunities. As a leader, you are given a chance to head up amazing projects and teams of people, you’re entrusted with big responsibilities, and you have the opportunity to be the face (or at least somewhat the face) of the company. Focusing on the positive aspects of your leadership and striving to create constructive change will help you realize that leadership can be rewarding and even (gasp!) fun.

4. It’s energizing

Paddling a canoe, hiking, setting up camp—it’s all invigorating and can give you a burst of energy. Similarly, leadership can be just as motivating. Just ask someone who has rallied a team of twenty people to work together on a unified task. Or someone who has helped amp up their company’s profit margin. Or someone who has mentored an individual and helped him thrive. Good leaders find energy in actions such as these and also strive to motivate others.

5. It leaves you vulnerable

Just like camping leaves you vulnerable to the elements, so too does leadership leave you somewhat bare. You are thrown into the spotlight; all eyes are on you and your example. What are you going to do?

Situations like these are common, and you have to decide how you will handle them. In my experience, it is better to be candid, transparent, and authentic than closed off and secretive. If you are open and honest with your team (within reason!), they are more likely to be open and honest with you when they have an issue or would like to talk over a bold new idea. This kind of open communication creates a healthy, humming work environment. Have courage. Be willing to own up to mistakes, be genuinely you, communicate with authenticity, and be a tad vulnerable.

 

This summer, I hope you have sunny days, refreshing afternoons in the water, and zero bug bites…but if you do encounter these things, I hope you’ll face them with the proper gear, a little ingenuity, and a lot of positivity.

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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Be a caring leader

More and more evidence is emerging that leading with love, compassion, and authenticity is much better for building a sustainable, happy team than leading by force and intimidation. According to Forbes.com, many old leadership models were based on the military and have a tendency to emphasize leaders as people who should be feared.

It’s taken a long time to start changing this model, but it’s happening, slowly but surely. As managers of all levels are coming to realize that people respond to love and compassion, leadership tactics are changing and many people are opening up to the idea of love leadership. One in-depth study by Joe Ricciardi shows that, “A team member who feels ‘loved’ by his boss is significantly more likely to see his boss as a good leader. Leading your employees is a natural outgrowth of loving them.”

The study went on to find that three simple leadership approaches can greatly increase the success of your team:

1. Genuinely Care

Above all, be human. Get to know your work team, ask them questions (and genuinely listen to the answers!), and share a little bit of yourself. As in all relationships, getting to know another person is a two-way street and you have to have the courage to be vulnerable sometimes and open up.

It’s the littler things that make a difference–hand-written thank you notes, noticing when an employee goes above and beyond their responsibilities, remembering the name of a spouse or a child, recalling a co-worker’s recent trip or a hobby they enjoy. If your memory can be slippery, jot down notes in an excel spreadsheet (a sheet for each team member) and take a look at those notes before meeting with someone.

Your efforts will make others feel comfortable in the workplace and help them to actually look forward to coming in to work–something that leads to long-term retention.

2. Be Passionate

Your enthusiasm is contagious. Love what you do and demonstrate that love through positivity, a sunny attitude, and excitement. If you are looking forward to taking on a new client, tackling a new project, or meeting a certain goal, share that enthusiasm with your team. Let your positive energy shine through during team meetings, email memos, or one-on-ones.

And if you’re not loving your job? If you’re in a leadership role, that could be a genuine problem. Evaluate your discontentment and ask yourself what’s causing it. Work with a career coach to help you get to the root of the problem and then strategize on how to move forward. Leading with love means you not only show your co-workers love, but that you also love and embrace your leadership role. It’s hard to follow a leader who is unenthusiastic about their work.

3. Be Committed

Commitment is a big part of being a caring leader. Commit to the wellbeing of your employees. Commit to your team’s current projects. Commit to your clients/customers. If you’re truly committed to your team, you will be with them every step of the way, through both their successes and failures. Part of this responsibility means shouldering a good portion of the blame if something goes wrong. As former President Truman said, “The buck stops here.” Those are words to live by.

Part of being committed means investing in your team. Focus on individual and team development by making sure team members are involved in ongoing training. Also, make sure they have the chance to learn from each other (and you!) during skill share or mentoring sessions.

 

How will you step into your role as a caring leader? What can you do to show others you genuinely care, you’re passionate about the work, and you’re committed to both the team and their work projects? No matter how you decide to amp up your love leadership, the important thing is to DO IT. Start today and see what small changes you can make to commit to being a more caring, compassionate leader.

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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The holidays are upon us and life can easily turn hectic. The stress of maintaining a satisfactory work-life balance has the tendency to amplify during the holidays. Whether you’re rushing to meet end-of-the-year deadlines, plan holiday parties, find (and pay for!) gifts, or prep your family for an out-of-town trip, it’s easy to feel as tightly wound as wrapping paper around a present.

All of this stress is a shame, because the holidays should be a joyous, relaxed time that we spend with close friends and family members. How can you rediscover holiday cheer and find some inner calm? Try a few of these 20 quick tips:

1. Breathe deeply

The steady rhythm of your breath has a calming effect on the mind, much like any repetitive, soothing sound or motion.

2. Eat a healthy lunch

According to Dr. Pat Bass, a healthy diet is an essential element to combating stress.

3. Exercise

Find something that works for YOU and practice it regularly!

4. Relax your mind

Do a crossword puzzle, squeeze a stress ball, paint a picture, doodle in your notebook.

5. Practice yoga/mindfulness

Yoga helps you focus on the ebb and flow of your breath and also releases the tension in your muscles.

6. Schedule “you time”

Write it on the calendar! Set aside some time to do exactly what you want to do.

7. Schedule family time

Be present for your loved ones.

>>Read about three ways to truly live in the moment.

8. Walk outside

Vitamin D is essential for your skin and just being in the outdoors has a revitalizing, rejuvenating effect.

9. Laugh

Laughter reduces stress, according to the Mayo Clinic. Watch a funny movie, read the comics, or go to a comedy show.

10. Be present

Focus on the here and now instead of getting stressed about the future or regretting something in the past. My book, The Ten-Minute Leadership Challenge, devotes an entire chapter to this concept.

11. Network/reconnect with friends/find your support group

We all need a support group. If you have close friends in the area, make an effort to reach out to them from time to time. If not, find a supportive community through meet-up groups, your local community center, or continuing education classes.

12. Indulge in your interests

Do you like to knit? Paint? Practice Tae Kwon Do? Work your interests into your schedule.

13. Massage

Everyone loves a professional massage, but if you’re short on time or don’t want to spend the money, give yourself a hand massage or shoulder rub.

14. Listen to music

“Music calms the savage beast” and it can also reduce tension. Pick your favorite genre and let Pandora find the perfect music mix for you.

15. Practice gratitude

As I mentioned in my November newsletter, a grateful person is generally a happier, more optimistic person.

16. Count/recite a mantra

The rhythm of counting or reciting a mantra can help calm your mind. Additionally, a positive mantra (i.e. “I can do anything,” “I am smart and strong,” or “Nothing can get in my way”) can give you an added confidence boost.

17. Close your eyes

Sometimes closing your eyes is a good way to distance yourself from your troubles. It also helps you focus on your thoughts without letting visual distractions get in the way.

18. Get organized

A neat and tidy desk or house can help focus your thoughts. Too much clutter can lead to feelings of anxiety and stress.

19. Free write

Get your thoughts down on paper. Write whatever comes to mind if you’re feeling overwhelmed and want to sort through a complex issue.

20. Plan a vacation

Even if you don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon, it’s fun to plan a future vacation. It also gives you something to work towards—a long term reward.

 

Isn’t it time to relax and enjoy the holidays? Take a deep breath and get started with creating a calm, rejuvenating holiday season!

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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