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Quick-thinking and the ability to command attention in a crowd–it’s no surprise that when people mentally assign roles in the workplace, they often place extroverts at the top. Introverts, however, have their own set of unique strengths that can allow them to become exceptional leaders, their natural listening and observation skills offering a peaceful and inclusive environment. Despite the positives of the introverted personality, sometimes the line between the “quiet-listener” and the “disinterested and imperceptive wallflower” can become blurred in the eyes of colleagues, so here are a few tips to remain at the top of your game as you excel in your field.

SCHEDULE ONE-ON-ONE MEETINGS

Large meetings with multiple voices can feel overwhelming for many introverts, but workplace leaders need to ensure they’re actively building genuine, solid relationships with each member of their team. Consider scheduling semi-regular, individual meetings with colleagues to affirm that you’ve heard, processed, and had time to reflect on their ideas while preparing feedback and new ideas to share with them in a more casual, relaxed environment.

PREPARE AHEAD OF TIME

Whether it’s an all-staff meeting or an important presentation, advanced preparation can make a huge difference in the way you come across to your audience. Asking for the meeting agenda in advance can allow you time to gather your thoughts and write them down! Introverts tend to struggle with on-the-spot thinking, so going into engagements with key points already established can help to ease the anxiety you may feel with being the center of attention.

BE ACCESSIBLE AND APPROACHABLE

While it may be tempting to retreat to your office and shut your door after a particularly taxing meeting, finding a balance between accessibility and personal time is necessary. With leadership comes the necessity for open lines of communication between you and other members of staff, so finding a healthy balance is important. Try communicating about when your door is open and when you’ll be unavailable.

EMBRACE YOUR STRENGTHS

There are many positive traits introverted leaders possess. Insightful and empathetic, introverts have the ability to stay calm and step up and gain control in a crisis situation. The observant and introspective nature of introverts allow them to be great problem-solvers when needed and creates space in group discussions for all voices to be heard.

BROADEN YOUR COMFORT ZONE

Stepping outside your comfort zone can be difficult and uncomfortable, but there is value in challenging yourself to expand your skills. In most leadership positions, public speaking and managing conflict are largely unavoidable, so lean into them! Set a goal to speak up at least one time during team meetings or finesse your public speaking prowess by taking courses designed specifically to help people in your shoes; best of all, you’ll likely learn alongside people with similar struggles and find that you’re hardly alone.

SELF CARE IS KEY

Commit to setting personal and professional boundaries to maintain your physical and emotional health. Block out some space in your calendar throughout your week where you’re unavailable to take meetings and phone calls, and focus instead on recharging and getting your work done. Remember to leave work at work; maintaining a strong work/life balance and practicing self-care rituals will make a world of difference.

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. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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What do many effective leaders have in common? They believe in continual learning and development. Big-name CEOs like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are avid readers who are constantly gobbling up books. Former president John F. Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” And the legendary Henry Ford believed that, “Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”

Strong leaders are avid, continual learners. They don’t stop seeking new opportunities after they’ve graduated or once they’ve landed a job; they treat every day 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? Here are four ways:

1. Continuous Learning Makes You Adaptable

Today, the workplace landscape is shifting and evolving at a lightning-fast pace. We never know what tomorrow will bring and how our team will react. Therefore, effective leaders must be highly adaptable, quick on their feet, and innovative.

To remain relevant, leaders must endeavor to continually learn. New challenges are best faced if the leader is willing to gain new knowledge and adapt/adjust their thinking. There’s a reason 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 become well-rounded, you, as a leader, need to learn a wide array of subjects, disciplines, and areas of expertise. You don’t need to be an expert in everything, but it’s important to have a working knowledge of the world outside your niche, as it broadens your perspective, helps you understand others’ viewpoints, and gives you foundational knowledge in unfamiliar areas. Dare to step 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 and mentally nimble 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 develop a team that is willing to get creative, take a few risks, and figure out innovative ways 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!

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. 

Her new eBook is called A Quick Guide to Courage
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Everyone’s put together a resume at some point. It compiles your experience, accolades, and awards. It shines a light on your main accomplishments. A resume is made to make you look good. So, why on earth would you consider putting together a “failure resume”??

I first learned about failure resumes from acclaimed author, Daniel Pink. This concept, created and articulated by Stanford professor Tina Seelig, can help us deal with disappointments, contextualize failures, and move forward in a positive way.

What is a failure resume and how does it work?

A failure resume is an ongoing list of the things you got WRONG. It’s your mess-ups, flubs, and things that went south. A failure resume is meant for YOU and your personal development, and is not something you would necessarily share with others (unless you want to!).

You can treat your failure resume like a journal at first, compiling your list of screw-ups in one spot. But it is not just a list. It’s a tool.

How do you use it?

After creating your failure resume, it’s important to go through the list and think about each item. Ask yourself what happened in each instance. Why did the failure occur? What might have prevented it? And, mostly importantly, what lessons can you glean from the failure?

Sometimes, a failure can be caused by unfortunate circumstances or happenstance, but oftentimes something could have prevented the failure. Spend time reflecting on this. Do you notice any patterns? Do your failures usually occur because of one or two things you are doing consistently?

Perhaps you are constantly overstretching or overcommitting yourself, thus failing to do your best work.

Or maybe you are not properly preparing for certain situations (meetings, presentations, etc.) and need to focus more on that.

Or, perhaps, your main issues are caused by communication—failure to clearly communicate a message, follow-up, communicate with the right people, etc.

By taking time to think about the “why” behind the failure, you can start making positive changes. And, hopefully, your failure resume will seem less discouraging and more empowering.

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. 

Her new eBook is called A Quick Guide to Courage
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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