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Tag Archives: Margaret Smith Minneapolis career coach

A while back, I introduced my “5 P’s of Courage,” which are: Prepare, Pep Talk, Power Pose, Project Energy, and Plan B. If you’d like an explanation about all five, read this article. Otherwise, I’m going to focus on the first of the five P’s: Prepare.

It is difficult to overemphasize the importance of preparation. Whether you’re planning for a job interview, thinking about going on a long hike, or creeping up on your annual review, preparation is key. Though some of us are lucky, luck “favors the prepared.” If you practice and plan long enough, you don’t need luck on your side at all. Even if things don’t go perfectly, you’ll be prepared enough to muddle through.

Preparation is an essential career skill—perhaps one of the most important there is. With enough foresight and planning, you can do just about anything! You can pull off a successful speaking engagement in front of 250 people. You can nail your team meeting. You can earn a raise or promotion. You can tactfully field a difficult conversation.

Preparation isn’t always easy. It takes time (e.g. putting together notecards or a PowerPoint presentation) and practice (standing in front of a mirror and going over what you’re going to say). You might have to engage the help of others, or you may have to do a bit of research. However, your preparation has the potential to pay dividends.

Aside from readying yourself to face a particular situation, preparation also has a fortune side effect: it gives you a boost of courage. If you know you’re prepared and know your stuff, you’ll inevitably feel more confident than if you were unprepared or underprepared. Not only that, you’re less likely to be ruffled if someone throws a curveball at you or something goes wrong. It’s your secret weapon when it comes to acting and feeling more confident.

In short: it pays to prepare. Why lean on luck when you can make your own?

Looking for a job change? Or, hoping to accelerate your current career? Check out the career resources (both FREE and paid) on my website!

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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friends having coffee

Let’s say you’re sitting down with a few friends over cups of coffee. One friend is sharing the details of a recent trip she took with her family, and her story is reminding you of a trip you took not long ago. Instead of listening to your friend, your mind drifts to your own vacation and you begin thinking of all the details you want to share. As soon as there’s a lull in conversation, you jump in and begin telling about your experience.

When the coffee date ends, you head home and your significant other asks, “So, how did it go? How is everyone?”

“It was fun,” you say. “Sam went on vacation recently to the Maldives…or was it Morocco? One of the kids fell ill from…food poisoning, I think? Or maybe they caught a bug on the airplane? Umm…anyway, everyone’s fine and it was nice to catch up.”

Then, you whisk away before your significant other can ask any more questions!

If you find it difficult to recall details of conversations, your memory might not be at fault. Rather, you might need to tune up your listening skills. Active listening takes work. It’s a skill that many people lack these days (likely thanks to our short attention spans!), but it has always been a worthwhile skill to have.

If you’re wondering if you are, in general, a good listener, it’s a good idea to ask yourself one key question:

“Do I truly listen, or just wait to speak?”

If you’re crafting a response in your head, you’re not really listening. Instead of focusing on what you’ll say next, commit to being fully present for the speaker. Put away your distractions and think about what they’re telling you.

It helps to ask questions, too. You might ask a clarifying question or ask for a few more details. If you want to develop an even deeper understanding of what is being said, try asking a thought-provoking question that goes beyond a yes/no response (How did you feel when_____? What was it like to______?)

Another technique for practicing active listening is to repeat back some of the information you’ve learned and then, perhaps, ask a follow-up question. For example: “Wow, Sam, it sounds like Sophie was pretty sick in Morocco. Was any of the trip salvageable? Do you think you’ll go back for a “do over”?

Above all, you have to want to listen. Listening is a humble act. You have to be okay with not being the center of attention and investing your time and attention in others. So, do others a kindness: practice active listening!

Looking for a job change? Or, hoping to accelerate your current career? Check out the career resources (both FREE and paid) on my website!

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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broken watermelon on floor

NOTE: This post was originally published in July, 2018

No one wants to focus on failure. This kind of thinking is not fun, it drags you down, and it reminds you of your imperfections. While that’s true (and it’s certainly not great to dwell on screw-ups), there is POWER in acknowledging your failures and calling them out by name.

What do I mean by that?

Instead of either A) ignoring a failure and pretending it didn’t happen OR B) letting yourself be consumed by the failure, reflect on it and write about it. This exercise could be utilized for any setback or misstep you experience, big or small.

ALSO, make sure you jot down a note about what you learned from your failure or a strategy to avoid that specific error in the future.

Here are a few examples:

Failure: Not preparing for the company meeting
Main Lesson: I need to set aside half an hour before future meetings to prepare for them.
Action Steps: I will set a notification in my e-calendar whenever I schedule a meeting to help me remember to prepare.

Failure: Missing too many of my daughter’s basketball games
Main Lesson: She won’t be young forever. I need to do a better job of balancing family life with work.
Action Steps: I will schedule her games into my calendar and set them as a top priority. If I can’t make a particular game, I will schedule one-on-one time with her during the subsequent week.

Failure: Sticking with an ill-suited job for too long
Main Lesson: I need to pay attention to my inner GPS and know when I’m experiencing discontentment with my work.
Action Steps: If I start to feel like my job isn’t working out, I will immediately take steps to figure out the best course of action, such as taking time for deep reflection or consulting a career coach.

Calling out your failures is powerful. According to Stanford researcher and author, Tina Seelig, keeping a kind of “failure résumé” helps you to compartmentalize your mistakes and avoid them in the future.

Your failure résumé should be a living document—add to it whenever you have learned a life lesson, whether significant or minor. Writing down something as simple as “Don’t send out an ‘emergency email’ to my supervisor on a Friday” or “Don’t offer Karen coffee—she doesn’t drink it,” can help you avoid the everyday, minor mistakes that we tend to make.

Isn’t it time to wrangle your mistakes and keep them somewhere, rather than tripping over them? I think so. Calling them out won’t make your future mistake-free, but it will help you avoid making the same mistake twice.

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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