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Creating Successful Leaders

Tag Archives: Margaret Smith Minneapolis career coach

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It is said that nothing is certain in life besides death and taxes. Let’s add one more item to the list, shall we? Uncertainty. While this addition might seem obvious, it’s important to acknowledge the uncertainty of life. When things are uncertain in terms of finances, health, relationships, or anything really, we can become anxious, withdrawn, and our health can even suffer.

Lately, life seems more uncertain than ever. Many people are out of work or still working from home; people are feeling isolated from friends and family members due to caution about COVID, or because of differences in philosophies or political beliefs. With so many changes and uncertainty, it’s difficult to know where tomorrow will lead (let alone next year!).

How can we confront the uncertainty of life? I recommend starting with the following four approaches, and going from there.*

*“Going from there” might mean seeking support from a qualified therapist or counselor. Do not hesitate to reach out for help if you need it!

1. Be Kind to Yourself

When you’re attempting to deal with feelings of uncertainty, it’s important to be gentle with yourself and take your time. It doesn’t pay to ignore your feelings or push through when you truly need to pause, take a meaningful break, and/or recenter yourself. Acknowledge that uncertainty is inevitable, and it has always been part of your life in one way or another. When you were a child, you often had to release control while adults made decisions. In your adult life, you’ve never been able to control things such as the weather, the influences of your genetics, or other people’s feelings/reactions toward you. Remind yourself that you are strong, you have overcome past uncertainties, and you will continue to overcome uncertainties.

2. Redirect Your Energy

It is completely fine to enjoy a healthy distraction from your present woes. Sometimes it’s helpful to occupy your body and/or mind by regularly engaging in meaningful activities. Try learning a new language, baking, painting, or simply catch up on your reading list. Exercise is also a great way to distract yourself from current troubles and gain some positive endorphins and muscle while you’re at it! I believe there is a form of exercise for everyone, whether walking, swimming, weight lifting, yoga, or cycling.

3. Connect with Others

You are not alone, and you are not the only one who has struggled lately. Even though the feelings associated with uncertainty—anxiety, sadness, fear, anger, etc.—can seem very private, it’s not healthy to let those feelings take control and lead you to become isolated or withdrawn. Before you reach this point, reach out! Connect with friends or family members. Seek the camaraderie of a club, volunteer organization, or church group. Just being around people you enjoy can have a positive effect.

4. Take Meaningful Breaks

Taking a break is not a sign of weakness. Sometimes it’s absolutely necessary. Rest when you need to; step away from your work when you need to. And if you are completely burnt out, it may be time to take an extended break or sabbatical. Many workplaces would rather grant an extended leave than going through the process of hiring and training a new person. If your workplace refuses to give you time off (or, if you don’t envision a positive future in your workplace), it may be time to make a change.


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The holiday season is a time of year that can highlight friendships and kinship. It’s a time to give thanks, reflect on the year, and think about the road ahead. It’s a time to rekindle bonds and enjoy each other’s company. Even if the holidays aren’t perfect (arguments happen, stress doesn’t magically disappear), they can be a reminder of the potential good in the world—a reminder that we can sit at the same table with a variety of people and hold a civil conversation.

Too often, we look for differences. We divide ourselves into groups and see some people as “outsiders.” We declare that we could never be friends with someone who believes X or supports Y. This way of thinking is pervasive these days, with the country deeply divided on matters of politics, human rights, and beliefs. It almost seems unreconcilable.

But what if we decided to search for common bonds, instead of the aspects that divide us?

What if we sought connections, instead of looking for excuses to dismiss someone outright?

I have found that I can hold a conversation with just about anyone, if I simply look for common connections. Everyone has something (or multiple somethings) they care about—their family, their dog, gardening, playing golf, traveling, their career. Maybe you share some of those interests, too. Or maybe you’re interested in learning more about them. Even if you don’t see eye to eye on everything, I’m certain you can still find some common link (even if it’s as simple as enjoying pizza or reality TV!).

I’m not advocating for leaving your strongly held beliefs behind. Of course not. And sometimes differences are so vast that it can be difficult to interact with certain people. But what I am saying is that, in my experience, most human beings do not want to do each other harm. Most of us simply want to make a decent living, enjoy our time with family and friends, and live and let live.

So, this holiday season, let us do our best to build bridges instead of walls. Let’s reach out to others, make connections, and attempt to see the humanity in all. And once the holidays draw to a close, why not keep up this bridge-building mentality? Why not keep the spirit of unity alive throughout the rest of the year? The world would likely be a better place if we did.

Happy holidays.


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It is possible to be a good manager if you simply go through the motions, do your work, and field any issues that crop up. But what distinguishes a good manager from a great one? How can you step up your leadership game so that people see you as a trustworthy role model and a motivator?

There are a few crucial traits that separate good and great managers. If you feel that some of these traits are underdeveloped, that’s okay! It is possible to consciously work on these areas to grow and improve your leadership.

Here are 5 crucial traits of great managers:

1. They are excellent listeners

A good listener is an active listener. They pay attention when others are talking—not just to the words, but also to tone of voice, vocal inflections, and facial expressions. An active listener maintains an open mind and asks good questions. They are curious and genuinely want to understand the speaker’s point of view.

Active listening demonstrates that you care. You don’t brush aside others’ perspectives; rather, you open yourself to new ideas, opinions, and viewpoints. You take a genuine interest in what others have to say, and then apply what you’ve learned. Great managers truly listen.

2. They set clear expectations

Top managers are usually excellent communicators. Their expectations are never a mystery because they clearly and openly communicate with their team. As a manager, it is important to articulate goals, set deadlines, and deliver any relevant information. It is also important to hold everyone accountable for their work. If expectations are not met, it is up to the manager to find out why and either re-strategize or (in some cases) enact consequences.

3. They involve their team

Great managers understand that they do not have all the answers. They also understand that it is imperative to engage their team every step of the way. If a team is highly involved in a project (from initiation to implementation), they will have a personal stake in the project’s success. Additionally, this kind of involvement keeps people active and motivated.

As a manager, be sure to invite all thoughts and ideas when you’re embarking on a new project. Innovation is only possible if we dare to listen to a diverse array of voices. As long as the goals are clear, trust your team to define their own path.

4. They are adaptable

Businesses and markets can change in the blink of an eye. A capable manager rolls with the punches and isn’t afraid to change course. If something isn’t working—or if it’s clear that the company needs to head in a different direction—dare to confront the problems at hand and make changes. You do not, of course, have to re-strategize on your own. That’s where your team can come into play (see point 3!)

5. They foster trust

No one likes a micro-manager. No one thrives when they feel like their superior is constantly looking over their shoulder, monitoring their every move. Dare to take a step back and give your team some breathing room! As long as you set clear expectations and create a culture of accountability, does it really matter what your employees do on a given day? If someone consistently produces quality work, does it matter if they head to the gym for an hour each afternoon? (Incidentally, taking meaningful breaks can actually boost productivity!). If your team is engaged, making good progress (which you can track through reports or regular meetings), and regularly producing good results, then it’s wise to take a step back and let the little things go.

Another aspect of trust has to do with holding regular one-on-one check-ins with your team members. These check-ins can be used to gauge progress, but their primary purpose should be to get to know your team, listen to their thoughts or grievances, and offer whatever support you can. Encourage an open dialogue, and make sure to keep any personal information strictly confidential. Trust might not happen overnight, but with each conversation and each action that shows you care, you will build it.

There is a definite line between good managers and great ones. Do you need to develop some of the 5 traits of a great manager? If so, pick one area and focus on that for the next month. Then, pick another area to develop, then another. The most important aspect of becoming a better manager is YOU and the honest effort you make to improve and connect with your team.


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