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Pink lotus flower

One of the key leadership attributes in my book, The Ten-Minute Leadership Challenge, is TRUST. I truly believe business and leadership success is built on trust. You need it between co-workers, between supervisors and staff, between the business and its customers. If trust doesn’t exist, the organization flounders and is likely to fail.

One of the ways to build trust is through transparent behavior and communication. It goes beyond honesty and into the realm of integrity. Though honest and integrity may seem like the same thing, they are actually quite different.

Honesty is simply telling the truth. You can tell the truth and still omit information or focus on one part of the big picture. To relate honesty to a work example, think of a check-in meeting you might have with your team. In this meeting, everyone goes around and reports on their project, giving highlights on how things are going. When you have the floor, you talk about one specific part of your project—the only part that is going well. You’re being honest, but are you acting with integrity?

I would argue that, no, you’re not. You’re leaving out the parts of your project that are going poorly and casting yourself only in a positive light. That might get you by for a while, but what happens when your project implodes and you turn in subpar work? What happens when you hit a wall and need to desperately seek help?

This situation calls for more than honesty. It calls for you to be vulnerable and discuss the parts of your project that are leaving you stymied or frustrated. It calls for integrity.

If you act with integrity, you do what you know is best. It may not be easy, but it is right.

In this situation, you might call attention to the areas in which you are struggling. You might set aside your pride and ask for additional resources to help you complete the project as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Another situation in which integrity outweighs honesty has to do with office gossip. If you know a damaging bit of news about a co-worker, you could tell others about it. You’re being honest, right? But are you acting with integrity?

Again, the answer is no. Even though you’re not fabricating the damaging news, just telling it can be harmful. It can erode trust.

That’s the difference between honesty and integrity: Honesty is blunt, truth-telling and integrity involves considering the big picture and attempting to do what is right. Acting with integrity helps create trust.

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What is a personal mission statement and why should you make one? I’m glad you asked!

A personal mission statement goes beyond your career. It goes beyond New Year’s resolutions. It’s the backbone of who you are—the cornerstone of your legacy. A personal mission statement is the thing that drives your accomplishments and helps you to think “big picture” instead of getting bogged down by the day to day.

In practice, a personal mission statement is one or two sentences that define your overarching life goals and values.

Sound a bit daunting? It doesn’t have to be! Let’s break down how to create a personal mission statement in four easy steps:

1. Write out a list of your values and goals

Just free write. Don’t overthink this. Take ten minutes and write out words or phrases relating to things that you care deeply about or that drive you in life. For example, your list might have words like this:

  • Family
  • The environment
  • Financial freedom
  • Cooking
  • Starting a business
  • Empowering women

2. Spend some time thinking about the things you value, care about, or want to strive for.

Though the items on your list may all be important, some will be more important to you than others. Consider:

  • What do you want to be known for?
  • What excites and interests you?
  • Where do you feel your talents can be best applied?
  • Can you combine two or more items on your list? (i.e. Empowering women through creating your own business revolving around female health and wellness)

3. Write your statement

Put your thoughts and notes together and write out a personal mission statement. It can be something simple like:

I strive to put my family at the center of my life while also working in a leadership role in my current company.

Or, it can be a tad more complex:

My personal mission is to serve the natural world through volunteerism, a career at an environmental nonprofit, and by striving to lower my carbon footprint.

4. Rewrite your statement

Sit with your statement for a while. Pin it to your bulletin board. Look at it and say it out loud from time to time. Does it feel right? Does it encompass everything you’d like to accomplish? Or is it missing some key element?

Tweak your statement accordingly (and keep tweaking, if it needs it!)

Then…Act!

A personal mission statement is meaningless if you put it in a drawer and let it grow dusty. Pin it where you will see it every single day. Look at it often and use it as a motivator—some fire under your feet to accomplish big things and drive you toward your goals.

Think of your statement as an end goal and then strategize ways to reach that goal. What actions do you need to take to put your personal mission at the center of your life? What needs to change? What needs to stay the same or amplify? What resources will you need? Who can you turn to for guidance and support?

Use your personal mission statement as that little bit of gas in the tank that will propel you through your days…no matter how sluggish or uninspired you may be feeling. And remember: if you happen to stray from your personal mission, it’s okay! Use your statement to right your course, restrategize, and press on!

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clean corner desk


Spring is in the air! This is the time of fresh starts, newly budding flowers and trees, and…spring cleaning. Maybe you’ve been on a Netflix Tidying Up kick in which you’ve parted with clothing and objects that “no longer bring you joy.” Maybe you’re preparing to give your entire house a good, thorough scrub. That’s great, but have you given any thought to your professional life?

Just as we sort, scrub, cleanse, and revamp our personal lives, so too is it healthy and productive to rejuvenate our professional lives.

I recommend setting aside at least half a day (or an hour a day for several days in a row) to sort and reorganize your professional life. Take the time to deal with overflowing inboxes, ancient file folders, outdated information, and that stack of free stuff and business cards you’ve accumulated from work events.

Here are five places to start:

1. Your Email Inbox

There are times when I’ve simply selected all my emails in my inbox and deleted them en masse! Though I don’t necessarily recommend that, I do recommend purging the build-up in your inbox. Do you really need all those old newsletters and appointment reminders?

If deleting things seems scary, create a file folder called “Archive,” select all your emails, and move them into that folder. That way you can always access them if you need them. Then, create a system of file folders to deal with any new incoming mail (i.e. you could create a folder for each of your clients, each co-worker, or folders for specific subjects, depending on the nature of your work). When new email starts flooding in, delete the junk, sort important notices into files, and keep your “to-dos” in your inbox until you address them.

2. Update Your Resume

When was the last time you took a look at your resume? Does it need a revamp? Even if you’re not actively looking for a job, it’s a good idea to keep your resume up to date. Make sure your current job description is accurate, all the dates are correct, and any irrelevant or outdated information is deleted. You may also want to update your reference list.  A career coach, such as myself, can help you give it a refresh.

3. Update Your LinkedIn Profile

Just like your resume, your LinkedIn profile might be stale or outdated. Give it a once-over and update your information.

4. Clean out your file folders

Yes, it is time to recycle those old tax documents from 1992. Take the time to leaf through your filing cabinet and get rid of information that is simply not necessary. You may also find that some documents can be scanned into your computer and saved in a digital file, rather than a physical one. Though this may seem like a daunting task, it is easy to break it up over the course of several days by, for instance, going through 10 folders every day.

5. Dump old business cards

If you’re like me, you’ve accumulated hundreds of business cards over the years. I’m willing to bet that most of them have been shoved in a drawer somewhere, never again to see the light of day! Sift through your desk drawers and get rid of those cards. If someone’s information is important, save it in a digital contact book or connect with that person via email or LinkedIn. While you’re at it, get rid of all the magnets, stress balls, and other doodads you’ve squirreled away in your desk drawers. If you haven’t used it in the last year, chances are you won’t ever use it.

Your professional life deserves a scrub-down! Commit to making a few positive changes to set yourself up for success. I guarantee your neatly-sorted professional life will help you feel better, save time, and may even motivate you to (gasp!) actually want to spend time in your office.

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It’s okay to be an odd duck!

Have you heard the phrase, “variety is the spice of life”? That’s true, of course, but it’s also the fuel of the workplace. It’s what drives innovation and creativity. Can you imagine what would happen if we all went quietly along with the status quo and no one ever dared to shake things up a bit? We would have never had the iPhone or the Tesla or the Mars Rover.

In my own life, I’ve dared to take some professional risks that ended up becoming much more successful than I had ever dreamed. For example, several years ago, I decided to advocate for the creation a new branch of my former company. Though I had been nervous to bring forth my idea, and even more nervous to execute it once the idea was approved, I forged ahead. Today, that branch of the company is worth several million, and is a thriving component of the company.

When you dare to contradict the status quo, propose a new idea, or create a bold new innovation, you are engaging the “big picture” side of your brain. Too often, we press ahead with our work, heads down, unable to see the forest for the trees. It pays to look up. Every once in a while, make a concerted effort to step back and question the current way of doing things.

Ask yourself the following big-picture questions and spend time contemplating the answers:

  • Do your goals or end points make sense?
  • Are you (or your company) serving the purpose you’re suppose to serve?
  • Are you working as efficiently or effectively as possible?
  • What changes would benefit the company as a whole?
  • What fresh ideas could be incorporated into your work or others’ work?
  • Have you considered the customer’s perspective and needs?

If you’ve identified areas that could be changed or improved, be BOLD and act! Dare to think differently. Dare to present your ideas to your superiors or co-workers. Your initiative could make an enormous impact.

When you’re preparing to make a bold new change, tap into your reserves of courage. Follow the 5 Ps of Courage (as outlined in my video), and build confidence in yourself and your idea. You can do this! Innovation is built by daring individuals with big ideas.

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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It’s easy to say yes. We naturally aim to please our co-workers and supervisors; we want to look good in the eyes of the company and get that raise or earn that promotion. But saying yes can be dangerous. If you say yes to everything—every assignment, every request, every invitation—you’ll end up stretching yourself too thin and you’ll possibly end up taking on work that isn’t in your sweet spot or doing things that go against your code of ethics.

Though I’m a proponent of trying new things and being agreeable, there are times when it is in your best interest to give a firm N-O. Here are three scenarios where saying “No” is the best course of action (accompanied by three strategies to pull it off):

1. You have too much on your plate.

If you feel your workload growing out of control and can tell the quality of your work is sharply declining, it’s time to say no. How to do it? The next time your project leader tries to assign you something new, do not immediately say yes. Arrange to meet one-on-one (it is much easier to reason with someone one-on-one than in a group) and lay out your reasons for not wanting to take on the project.

Be prepared. Make a spreadsheet that clearly displays the projects you are currently tackling and how much time you spend each day on each project. Also, come into the meeting with a counter-proposal in mind. If you know of someone else who might have the capacity (and desire) to take on the project, suggest that person to your project leader (be sure to get that individual’s approval ahead of time).

Alternatively, you could suggest a future date that would work for you to start the project (i.e. “I’m busy from now until the end of the May, but I could start working on this project in June.”)

2. You are being given work that is not in your “sweet spot.”

This is a tough one, but ultimately, if you are constantly handed work that does not align with your areas of expertise, you are doing both your company and yourself a disservice. Your company won’t receive the best possible work and you’ll be straying from your career goals.

So, how to say no? Again, a one-on-one meeting with your supervisor is helpful in this situation. Explain to her what your ultimate goals are and what kind of projects you prefer. One of the best things you can do in this situation is approach it with confidence and decisiveness. Know where you’d like to be heading and explain, confidently, how you’d like to get there.

Ultimately, if your company is not supportive of your career goals (or if you find that the type of work you do consistently does not align with your sweet spot), it is time to start searching for something new, either inside or outside your current company.

3. Saying yes compromises your values.

There are times when it just does not feel good to say yes. Perhaps you agree to attend a late-night strategy session, knowing that your daughter has a piano recital that night. Or perhaps a co-worker dumps several assignments on your lap that are really her responsibility, not yours. Or maybe you’ve had to sacrifice your health or nightly down-time because of all the projects you’ve agreed to do. Whatever the case, sometimes saying yes is simply not the right decision.

How to say no? First of all, know your priorities. Does your family come first? Your health? Your mental wellbeing? When one of the things that’s important in your life becomes compromised, it’s time to say no. Keep an open line of communication with your boss and let him know when you feel like work is tipping the scales of your work-life balance.

And another thing: think before you say yes. Always take a moment to pause, assess the situation, and make a deliberate decision. If that means waiting a day or two to mull over the pros and cons, so be it. Ultimately, you need to feel good about agreeing to do something before you say “yes.”

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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It’s that time of year—the time when illness is rampant and, at any given time, two or three of your team members are home sick. If you’re like most people, you’re exposed to dozens of different opportunities every day to pick up germs—in the conference room, at the grocery store, at your kids’ daycare or in the bleachers of their sports games, at your hair salon, in the gym…the list goes on and on!

How can you possibly avoid germs and stay healthy without having to stop and slather on the hand sanitizer? Try these 7 quick tips:

Be aware

This is probably the most basic and important tip of all. Pay attention to your surroundings. Notice where you sit and what you touch during the day. Have other people touched that door handle before you? Have other people handled the grapefruit at the grocery store? Your awareness can lead to better health hygiene.

Keep active

Though it may seem like the gym is swarming with germs (and it probably is!), staying active is a great way to give your immune system a boost and help everything from your circulation to your mood. Just don’t forget to wipe down your machine before and after you use it.

Pack your lunch

Packing your lunch for work is a great practice in general (it saves you money and helps you make conscious, healthy choices), but it’s an especially good idea during cold and flu season. You won’t expose yourself to potential germs when dining out or eating in the company cafeteria, and you can throw in some vitamin C-rich foods, like clementines or leafy greens.

Slow down

If you’re like me, this is the hardest piece of advice on the list. However, it is vital to your health to slow down every once in a while, breathe, and clear your mind. If you don’t have the patience for meditation, try practicing yoga or nightly journaling.

Drink plenty of water

I know you’ve heard this one, but it is SO important. Most people don’t drink as much water as they should, and that can affect your entire system. As the Mayo Clinic says, “Every cell, tissue and organ in your body needs water to work properly.”

Avoid caffeine and soda

On the flip side of drinking more water is avoiding certain beverages. Though you may love your coffee or sugary drinks, they can cause unhealthy highs and lows that can potentially stress your system. Try switching to herbal or green tea for a while—it’s rich in catechins, antioxidants and a range of other beneficial nutrients (according to PushDoctor.com)

Recognize when you ARE getting sick

Health expert Pilar Gerasimo recommends that we look at illness symptoms as “signals for change.” If you don’t want that sore throat to become a full-blown cold, start getting more rest, cutting back on activities, pumping yourself full of vitamins, and catching up on sleep. Your preventive measures could nip illness in the bud before it fully blooms.

A final note: Your health is vital to your happiness, productivity, and mental wellbeing. If you find yourself over-worked or stressed, take a step back, take a break, and start saying NO to certain projects (click here for strategies to effectively say no). It will be worth it in the long run.

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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What are some of the reasons you procrastinate? Are you worried about the task ahead? Do you think you don’t have the right skills? Or, maybe, you’ve put so much pressure on yourself that you’re certain you can never live up to expectations?

Or maybe, just maybe, you have a thousand other things you’d rather be doing instead?

Whatever the case, we’re all guilty of procrastination sometimes. And that’s a bad thing, right? According to some experts, yes. Psychologist and success coach, Elizabeth Lombardo, tells us that research shows procrastination to be “associated with increased long-term physical stress, weaker performance, greater likelihood of illness and insomnia, less happiness, and diminished wealth.” None of those things sound great, but is that really the full story? Are there ever instances when procrastination can actually be a good thing?

“Yes,” says Adam Grant, author of Originals. “Procrastination is a normal part of the creative process.”

According to Grant, many of “the greats” were also great procrastinators. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, Ernest Hemingway, Leonardo da Vinci, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Martin Luther King Jr. were all master procrastinators. Evidently, Martin Luther King Jr. “didn’t start writing his ‘I have a dream’ speech until the night before–and he was still jotting notes and crossing out lines right before he walked onstage.”

But, just because some of the great artists, inventors, and activists were procrastinators doesn’t mean procrastination is itself a good thing, right?

Well, not necessarily. Procrastination can actually allow your mind to explore avenues it might not have explored if you had doggedly stuck to your deadline and stayed on task. It’s been shown that moderate procrastinators are more creative than those who complete tasks ahead of time OR those who put things off until the 11th hour.

So, the lesson here is that some procrastination can actually be a good thing, but too much can lead to poor results (or NO results!).

Though it’s not usually a good idea to “play chicken” with a deadline, don’t be too hard on yourself if you do. As Adam Grant says, “Sure, procrastination can be the enemy of progress. But beating yourself up about it only makes it worse. If you’re stressed that you’re stressed, you suffer more.”

Next time you’re bumping up against a deadline, take a deep breath, focus, and let your creative side run wild! Though you shouldn’t necessarily make it a habit, procrastination isn’t the end of the world.

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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