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Creating Successful Leaders

Tag Archives: margaret smith leadership

The COVID pandemic has changed the way we work in myriad ways. Many people are still working from home (WFH) either part-time or full-time, and some have decided that this is the method they prefer. Many of our meetings have moved online, through platforms such as Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts. Instead of flying across the country for business trips, people are opting for virtual chats instead (often saving time and saving the company hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars). And there’s another change that has become quite popular:

Working from a location other than your home or office.

Last year, many people opted to work out-of-state or out of the country for weeks, or even months, at a time. They reasoned, “If I can do all my work from home, why can’t I do the same work from an oceanside cottage in Florida? Or near the Rocky Mountains in Colorado? Or from an eco-tourism lodge in Costa Rica?”

And, why not? If you’ve proven that you can complete all your work from a home office, why couldn’t you pack up and work somewhere else for a while? Working from a new location can be energizing and give you a much-needed productivity boost. It’s healthy to have a change of scenery every once in a while (especially if you’re stuck inside during a long winter, like we often are in Minnesota!). I usually bring my work to my home state of Delaware and work remotely there; and my assistant spent six weeks last winter working in Florida and Alabama.

However, if you decide to work remotely in a location that isn’t your home, you do face several unknowns. To help make your remote working experience run smoothly, here are a few tips:

Scope Out Office Essentials

When you’re considering renting a house, apartment, or hotel for an extended stay, it is crucial to investigate the essential components that make your work possible. Does the rental have enough space to comfortably accommodate you and whoever you’re traveling with? Is there enough desk or table space for you (and any travel mates) to do your work? Is there Wi-Fi, and how fast and reliable is it? Lastly: Is it quiet?

You can glean much of this information from either the renter (sites like AirBnB and VRBO allow you to have direct communication with the renter) or from reviews of the rental property. If, for instance, several people indicate that there is a lot of street noise, that’s definitely a red flag! You should also consider whether you’ll be sharing a wall with another renter, or if you’ll be part of an apartment complex or duplex. It’s difficult to predict how noisy or respectful your neighbors will be.

Rent Long-Term

Many rental listings offer deep discounts for month-long rentals. If you’re on a budget, it’s a good idea to opt for a long-term rental.

Have a Food Plan

How often will you be eating out or ordering takeout? How often will you be staying in and cooking? If you’re staying somewhere long-term, you’ll likely need access to a well-stocked kitchen. If the items in your rental’s kitchen are not listed, it’s a good idea to ask the leaser about specific items.

Furthermore, it’s smart to scope out nearby restaurants and grocery stores before putting money down on a rental. Having easy access to quality food could turn your work vacation from good to great!

Drive Instead of Flying

Even though flying is quicker, driving allows for greater flexibility. You can bring important items from home (an external monitor, for example, or favorite board games). You can even bring the family dog, provided the rental unit is pet-friendly!

Not only that, but you’ll save yourself the hassle (and money!) of having to rent a vehicle once you arrive at your destination. Even if you’re hoping to opt for public transit and ride share programs, having a car on hand is a good idea anyway, in case of emergencies.

There are some limitations to this tip, of course, such as if you’re planning to travel internationally. In which case…

If Traveling Abroad, Do Your Homework

Before working in a foreign country, it pays to do a little research to familiarize yourself with the currency, language (even learning a few phrases is helpful and shows respect!), and customs. You’ll also want to pick a rental unit that is easily accessible and is relatively close to a grocery store, pharmacy, and clinic/hospital. And don’t forget to bring your power adapter/voltage converter! The last thing you want is to blow out your work laptop by plugging it into an outlet that uses a different voltage.

Remember: You can always buy some necessities once you arrive at your destination. To lighten your travel load, consider leaving behind extra toiletries (sunscreen, lotion, etc.), unnecessary articles of clothing, or towels (which your rental probably has anyway).

If you usually use an external monitor for your work, it may be difficult to go without one for a long stretch of time. Consider purchasing a portable monitor, or buying a (new or used) external monitor once you arrive at your destination.

Lastly, make sure your phone will function abroad! Many carriers do offer coverage in foreign countries. Talk to you carrier about how to do this. In some cases, you’ll have to buy a special SIM card upon arrival.

Working from a location that isn’t your home takes a little extra planning, but it is usually worth it! The change of scenery is great for energizing and motivating you, and can help you get out of the WFH rut. Pick a few top choices, do some research, and start planning your remote work getaway!


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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.


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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!


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