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To be human is to change.

As we go through life, we experience countless changes—some physical (our health, our appearance), some professional (transitioning careers, changing professional goals or roles), some relational (friends moving away, relationships ending). We might not notice the changes day to day, but over the years most of us change quite a bit.

How often have you heard someone remark on how “naïve they were in their twenties” or “how much energy they used to have”? Or, maybe you’ve heard someone remark on their appearance (“When did I get so many wrinkles!”) or comment on how their industry has changed throughout the years.

Here’s the bottom line: Change is inevitable, and it’s a good idea to make peace with it. In fact, it’s an even better idea to plan for it.

Of course, you can’t plan everything. Sometimes, all we can do is go with the flow and adapt as best we can. However, we can pave the way for our “future selves” in some ways.

Take your career aspirations, for instance. How often do you pause, examine your current state, and ask yourself what you’d like for yourself in the future? Do you think much about the next steps in your career? Or are you typically so bogged down with daily tasks, that you rarely look ahead to the future?

I challenge you to set aside some time this week to simply examine where you are now and think about where you’d like to go. Spend time reflecting, jotting down a few notes, and truly digging in to your current state of mind. Are you relatively content, or itching for a change? Is your path clear, or is it a bit murky? Is there anything that’s been weighing you down lately?

These moments of examination and reflect are vital for both professional success and overall happiness. Sure, you might be making progress every day…but are you heading down the right path?

During this reflection time, spend some time visualizing “future me.” What does your future self look like? What are you doing? What are you accomplishing? How did you get to this ideal future state? Visualization is a powerful tool (used by everyone from professional athletes to Oprah) and can help you to begin seeing your future success as a reality.

So, block off some time on your calendar (even half an hour!) and commit to reflecting on your current circumstances, your goals, and your “future me.” You, and your career, are worth making this time investment. It could make all the 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. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE. 

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It wasn’t long ago that networking meant going to a physical location—an event center, a restaurant/bar, a clubhouse—and hobnobbing with strangers. You made small talk, you asked about others’ expertise, you asked for and handed out business cards.

For some, this experience was energizing and exciting—a chance to meet and mingle with potential clients or collaborators. For others, it was uncomfortable or downright terrifying. Regardless of which camp you fell into, the reality is, networking is changing (and has been for years).

Today, more than ever, our communication happens in a virtual space. We log into meetings on Zoom, Hangouts, or Skype. We send information through email. We chat with co-workers through platforms such as Slack or Discord. As this has become the new normal, so too has networking shifted into a virtual space.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to this virtual shift.

One huge advantage is that virtual networking is more accessible for more people. In the past, it was difficult for many groups of people to attend an in-person networking session—parents with small children, people who are unable to drive, those with a demanding work schedule, those who live far from typical networking locations. So, even though we may be sacrificing the “in-person feel,” we open the door for a whole new set of people.

Today, networking may lean more towards online presentations or programs than a “let’s mingle and get to know each other” session. So…how do you get to know others and make valuable connections?

Hopefully, the program monitor will facilitate some icebreaker activities or small group break-out sessions. If that’s the case, be sure to be personable and make yourself memorable. Tell others a quirky fact about yourself or slip in a relevant achievement. You could even wear colorful clothing or accessories to make yourself stand out a bit more.

Another thing you can do during online sessions is to ask thoughtful questions. I am a huge proponent of asking questions, whether they are clarifying questions, questions that expound/expand upon the topic, or questions that invite a dialogue. Being engaged, in general, is always a good idea.

Toward the end of the session, if the monitor hasn’t mentioned anything about exchanging contact information, be sure to (politely) ask about it. You might even ask others for their contact info if you’re in a small break-out session. Don’t force it, but if you’ve established a good connection with others and it seems natural to ask for contact info, go ahead! It doesn’t hurt to ask.

As with any other kind of networking, it’s a good idea to follow up with potential connections afterwards. Add them on LinkedIn and send out an email to anyone who might be a valuable connection. You might even discuss meeting up in the “real world,” or you might plan to attend a similar virtual program together in the future.

The future of networking is virtual, so we might as well learn to adapt and embrace it!

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. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE. 

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If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I frequently refer to Insights Discovery. For those who haven’t seen my posts about Insights, here’s a quick summary: It’s a science-based program that is meant to improve team dynamics, leadership, communication, and more through gaining personal insights and building self-awareness. (For more, read this blog post about Insights). One key factor of the Insights program is leadership.

Leadership is closely tied to Insights Discovery because the best leaders are those who have a strong understanding of themselves and their leadership tendencies. These are the leaders who also understand their team and how to communicate and inspire them. To cultivate this type of leader, Insights has designed a proprietary Transformational Leadership program.

What is a transformational leader?

To me, a transformational leader is someone who is both motivating and empowering. This a leader who has their team’s back and will stand up for them. A transformational leader believes in communication, clarity, and transparency. They believe in people over profit.

Perhaps Bernard Bass and Ronald Riggio, authors of Transformational Leadership, said it best: “Transformational leaders help followers grow and develop into leaders by responding to individual followers’ needs by empowering them and by aligning the objectives and goals of the individual followers, the leader, the group, and the larger organization.”

Great leadership, however, is not always about inspiration and rallying the team. It can also involve engaging in tough (but necessary) conversations, creating an accountability system, or sticking to firm standards. When it comes to tough conversations, Insights has developed a model called the D4 Model to guide leaders through both appreciative (“Here is what’s going right”) and developmental (“Here’s what needs to improve) feedback. By leaning on basic Insights principles, the D4 Model helps leaders deliver empathetic, specific, and urgent feedback.

In my experience, successful organizations are carried by effective leaders. These leaders are passionate and visionary, and yet down to earth. Above all, they care. How could transformational leadership improve your organization and help you achieve your goals?

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. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE. 

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