Skip to content

UXL Blog

Creating Successful Leaders

Tag Archives: Margaret Smith Minneapolis career coach

Image of neatly aligned noodles showing perfectionist tendencies

Taking pride in your work is an important part of professional success. When you are passionate about the types of projects you take on, and the results or products you produce, it’s natural to strive for that extra bit that will distinguish your work and help it rise above the competition.

While this attitude can be useful, it can also open you up for new anxieties and unforeseen consequences. You may find yourself so focused on perfecting the task at hand, your work and the work of your team, actually suffers as a result. The stress that comes with obsessing over small details might even bleed over into other parts of your life!

Producing good work is, ultimately, about finding a process that allows you to channel your productive energy in a constructive way. If you find yourself stuck striking this balance, I have some strategies that might help:

1. “Perfect” Is Not Always the Solution

No matter how ‘finished’ a project may seem, there are almost always ways in which it can be tweaked or improved. Graphics can be stylized and made to include different sets of information. Speeches can be reworded a hundred different ways. Striving to achieve perfection in specific areas run the risk of distracting you from the actual concrete demands of a given project. Take a step back and focus on the general architecture of the message you’re trying to convey, or the product you’re trying to present. Is the information succinct? Does it engage the audience in an approachable way? These basic considerations don’t explicitly require a perfect solution, and there may be more than one viable option available. Don’t limit yourself.  

2. Get Eyes, Get Feedback

Run ideas and rough drafts by team members and other colleagues. An external pair of eyes is an invaluable tool in separating the wheat of your ideas from the chaff. You don’t have to shoulder all the responsibility of making a project great yourself. Even the most talented professionals in their field rely on the input and knowledge of others. If something is missing, trust in your associates to help point you toward it. Their reaction will most likely mirror that of your audience.

3. Work in a Rhythm

We all work most effectively in different environments and rhythms. Regardless of the space or schedule of your efforts, practice holding yourself to consistent windows in which you work. Take breaks, and enjoy your leisure time outside of the project. Creating great work is not isolated to what you produce but holistically how you produce it. If you’re short on sleep or distracted, it will only make the worrying and obsessing worse.

4. Know When to Put Down the Pen

Sometimes, you just have to know when to say “when.” If your biggest issue is finding the point to cut yourself off from a given project, set hard deadlines or dates where drafts can no longer be touched. Having a firm idea of when something must be finished can provide clarity and drive in producing the best work you can. These small degrees of structure provide the bounds for your creativity to flourish. It is not always easy to put ideas like these into practice. The emotional regard you have for your work is important, but it is equally important not to abuse yourself with it. As with all things, balance is key. Hopefully these reflective tools will help you achieve that balance. They may just be the ‘perfect’ solution.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , ,

A woman sitting outside on her smart phone

Remote conferences are an integral tool of the work place. In an increasingly mobile and diverse business landscape, maintaining lines of communication in a way that is regularly organized and easily accessible ensures projects remain on task while goals are clearly maintained and communicated.

Phone meetings are by far the most commonly implemented for remote conferencing, and come with their own sets of headaches and challenges. As a team member or project coordinator, you may find yourself in need of strategies to use as a shorthand in organizing consistent, quality phone meetings. Feel free to use these suggestions below while you’re planning!

1. Stick to a schedule

Humans are creatures of habit, and scheduling phone calls can be one of the larger sources of frustration for mid-size or large teams. If you’re looking to utilize phone meetings as a convenient and regular means of convening a team, make it easier on your team members by scheduling calls at similar times at similar points in the week.

Typically, it’s simpler for someone to block out an hour in the morning every other Wednesday than to constantly be checking their schedule to see if they can make a meeting work. Sticking to a regular schedule upfront also helps establish project timelines. It can also help instill a sense of structure and a general sense of expectations.

2. Have a routine

Make sure to outline a procedure for beginning meetings, and for larger groups. Utilizing established formats, such as Robert’s Rules of Order, can help facilitate the chaos of having many voices present. Stick to a consistent limit of how long the group waits for people to join, and outline consequences for non-participation at your first meeting. Reiterate standards as necessary.

3. Prepare a small agenda; have someone take minutes

Board meetings utilize both these strategies, and are a simple but effective means of staying on task. Agendas serve doubly as excellent meeting reminders when provided in advance, and allow more time for team members to formulate specific questions they may have. You may want to incorporate unconstructed conversation time toward the end of meetings to field sentiments about the project at hand and candidly address issues that don’t neatly pertain to a specific task.

4. Be gracious, have a consistent facilitator

Always remember to be polite and professional. And remember, without visual cues and body language, you are bound to encounter miscommunication in a phone meeting at one point or another. Having a consistent facilitator, or a regular rotation of facilitation provides additional support and structure in meetings, as well as a default avenue for conflict resolution as the need arises.

Phone meetings don’t have to be a source of stress. When conducted effectively, they can be brief, clear, and helpful for all team members. Pair these strategies with a framework that best suits your team members’ schedules and working styles. And when in doubt, talk it out!

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.
NOW LIVE: Check out Margaret’s NEW online Leadership Course.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Images of seagulls in a row depicting when a team is too similar

Every team is unique, which means every team encounters its own challenges and pitfalls. Sometimes communication between team members breaks down. Other times productivity dips due to colleagues not seeing eye to eye on a particular problem. But what do you do as a team leader when you are faced with the opposite problem? What do you do when your team members are too similar?

Strong teams rely on their members as individual engines of creativity, each with their own specific skillsets. While it’s not necessarily always an issue to have a team with overlapping abilities and points of view, a lack of diversity of thought can stifle creativity or hamper problem-solving. When Joe, John, and Jack all offer the same, incomplete solution, that’s a sign things need to change.

Being an effective team leader means being able to bring out the best in your team and point it in the direction that will allow you to accomplish your goals. So, if your squadron suffers from being too similar, you might want to consider some of these solutions:

1. Brainstorming Homework

Homogenous teams tend to lump together in groupthink if given the opportunity. A way to combat this habit is to isolate each individual team member’s strengths and abilities in an environment where they’re allowed to contemplate without the influence of their like-minded peers. Assign different tasks or divvy up a single task into components to each of your team members, and have them come up with solutions or ideas on their own. This can give better insight into each of the individual members’ limitations and quirks, and be used as a road map for what qualities or ideas to encourage folks to bring to the table at full team meetings.

2. Role Play

Sometimes team members can’t call upon different perspectives because they haven’t been given the opportunity to engage with them. Identify strategies or types of problem solving you would like to bring out more in your team, and give them the opportunity to utilize these methods in practice exercises. It may be helpful to bring in someone from another group or department familiar with the process to serve as a guide.

3. Switch Up the Roster

If there is a persistent problem in addressing challenges, the roster may be in need of some alterations. You can experiment switching out team members on specific tasks, bring in different staff for certain projects, or even bring on a new hire to inject energy into a complacent group. Variety and situational changes keep people alert and help draw their attention to the issues that are causing these changes.

4. Competition

Who says innovation can’t be a contest? Incentivizing behaviors is a timeless and effective way to instigate desired results. Offer a small reward for team members who are able to provide new or sought-after solutions to ongoing problems. If the desire is to correct a more systemic homogeneity, consider creating broader rewards for seeking outside collaboration or professional development that can be integrated into your team’s stagnant dynamic.

Team dynamics are tricky, and often problems are not resolved by any one solution. Try out a couple different strategies, and don’t give up if one doesn’t foster the changes you are looking for. As long your team is persistent and committed to growth, you will likely find an answer.

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.
NOW LIVE: Check out Margaret’s NEW online Leadership Course.

Tags: , , , , ,

I am incredibly pleased to announce that my online leadership course, the Ten-Minute Leadership Challenge, is now discounted by 30%. That means more emerging leaders can take advantage of all the valuable skills, tips, and tools this course has to offer.

Why do I care so much about leadership?

I believe strong, compassionate, and capable leaders can completely change the dynamic of a company. Good leaders have the power to bring people together, drive positive change, build trust, and take well-calculated risks.

I care about the next generation of leaders and want to see them thrive and succeed. After working in leadership for 27 years, this is my chance to give back by passing on the skills and handy tips I learned throughout the years.

I am proud of the leadership course I put together, and I am confident you (or the emerging leader in your life) will gain valuable skills from it.

PURCHASE THE COURSE
GIFT THE COURSE TO AN EMERGING LEADER

Thank you for considering the Ten-Minute Leadership Challenge online course!

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. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Margaret Smith speaking with a group of women

Hello readers! I am beyond excited to introduce my online leadership course, The Ten-Minute Leadership Challenge!

It’s based off my book, but is packed with a ton of great additional information that is meant to guide leaders of all levels and backgrounds. The course includes ten, go-at-your-own-pace lessons, each one focusing on a specific leadership attribute. You can choose to go through the lessons in order or focus on the ones that need your attention most.

Expected course outcomes include learning to…

  • Focus and hone self-awareness
  • Define career goals and your “living legacy”
  • Create a business case to ignite real change
  • Gain respect and recognition
  • Improve your office community
  • Navigate tough conversations
  • Earn the confidence of your colleagues and superiors
  • And much more

I’ve pulled out all the stops with this course and I’m confident you’ll find it valuable. Check it out today and step into your leadership!

Walking up steps

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.
NOW LIVE: Check out Margaret’s NEW online Leadership Course.

Tags: , , , , ,

working with a mentor

With any job, we all rely on guidance from our supervisors and peers to learn the ropes and develop new strategies for accomplishing tasks. These people serve as coaches and mentors, and can be a principle reason for creative and professional success.

A mentor’s experience is a resource as valuable as any skill in your personal toolbox, but finding the right person for the role can be challenging in a new environment. As you begin your search, you may find a few of these strategies useful:

1. Identify your process and values

As we grow, we try out and exchange work habits and strategies to make ourselves more effective. Finding a mentor who speaks to you starts with understanding yourself and how you work. What are the values that drive you? How do they translate to the type of work you do and which projects or responsibilities you’d like to take on?  What are the pain points and blind spots of your working style that others may need to accommodate for or address? These questions are important to ask and reflect upon when seeking a mentor. Knowing their answers to some degree will help when approaching others for help.

2. Look across disciplines

Everybody brings a unique mix of experience and ability to the table in an organization. A person’s job description doesn’t always tell you everything about the perspective they bring or their ability to teach. If you are worried or intimidated by reaching out to folks in your own department, making connections outside your usual circle and observing how people attack problems may shed a learning light you never considered before.

3. Establish rapport

Mentors are not always our closest friends, but a good mentor will be someone who respects your goals and spends time to observe and understand your learning process. Get to know folks who’ve joined the team before you and communicate your respect for their role and the work they’ve done. If you’re not familiar with these details, friendly chats over lunch or a drink can provide a way to accrue insight casually and over an extended period of time.

4. Develop yourself and network

Professional associations often offer conferences and seminars to learn the ropes of new skills or discuss innovation within a given industry. If you feel like your office lacks the means to provide the guidance you seek, attend trainings and make connections – either with fellow learners or the speakers. Handing out business cards and picking someone’s brain for 15 minutes may be all it takes to find a new teacher.

Finding a mentor isn’t always easy, but the returns for your efforts can be transformative. Keep an open mind, and be honest with yourself if you aren’t getting what you need on the first attempt. If you keep at it, often the right guidance is never too far away . Stay positive and get cracking.

Tags: , , , , , ,

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.

Tags: , , , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: