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Creating Successful Leaders

Tag Archives: Margaret Smith minneapolis

leadership and continuous learning

Strong leaders are avid, continual learners. They don’t stop seeking out new opportunities after they’ve graduated or once they’ve landed a job; they treat everyday as another chance to acquire knowledge and skills.

Why is lifelong learning so essential for leadership? How does curiosity and exploration build character, aid in personal development, and position you as a leader? Read on…

1. Continual Learning Preps You For Inevitable Change

In order to remain a relevant leader, you must learn and continue to learn. Just because you earned a leadership role 10 years ago does not necessarily mean you’re equipped to lead today. Each situation you encounter presents new challenges that can only be accomplished with an appetite for new knowledge. There’s a reason why medical doctors are required to continue their specialized education long after they graduate from medical school. Could you imagine going to a surgeon who was using standard practices from the 1940s?

The same is true in any office setting. Standards change; innovations occur. Capable leaders stay on top of those changes, adapt, and guide others to adapt as well.

2. Well-Rounded People Make The Best Leaders

To be well-rounded, you need to learn a wide array of subjects, disciplines, and areas of expertise. You don’t need to be an expert at everything, but it’s important to have a working knowledge of the world outside your niche, as it gives you a greater sense of perspective and maturity. Go outside your comfort zone; read history or philosophy if you’ve always been a numbers person. Take public speaking classes if you’re shy (Toastmasters is a great club for this). Learn a language. Focus on areas you’ve told yourself that you’re bad at, and give it another go. You may surprise yourself.

3. Learning Helps You Problem-Solve

If you’re constantly making an effort to learn new systems, programs, ways of thinking, etc. you’ll be more creative when it comes to problem-solving. If you train your brain to perform many different tasks (no matter what they are), you’re enabling yourself for outside-the-box thinking.

4. Your Actions Will Encourage Others to Keep Learning

As a leader, you set the standards. Your pursuit of innovation and discovery will encourage your team to also prioritize continual learning. Demonstrate that you’re willing to dive into uncharted territory, get your hands dirty, and make mistakes. Your example will help create a team that is willing to get creative, take a few risks, and figure out how to overcome obstacles.


How will you commit to continual learning? What will you do this week to help expand your horizons or learn a new skill? Start today!


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What is a Functional Resume

By now, you’re probably very familiar with the way a traditional resume is set up: Your personal information, education, and skills summary is followed by a chronological list of the jobs you’ve had (or the recent jobs you’ve had, depending on the extent of your work history). Under each job description you may also list some key achievements.

Okay, great. This type of resume works perfectly fine in most circumstances. But what if you’re hoping to pursue a job in an entirely different field? The chronological layout may not serve you well. In fact, it will likely bury the relevant skills that you’d like to highlight.

The solution? Try putting together a functional resume.

A functional resume highlights your relevant experience instead of your job history. It lists specific attributes that you possess (which are directly related to the job for which you’re applying) and gives examples of how you exemplified/built those attributes through your work.

1. Start with a personal statement.

This brief statement will summarize your relevant experience and the background you possess that makes you qualified to work in your dream job field.

2. Then, list 5-6 professional attributes (which, again, relate to your coveted job).

3. From there, list four statements that highlight your personal skills. Under each statement, explain how your work experience has exemplified or developed those skills.

4. Lastly, list your three most recent jobs and employers.

This section serves as proof that you’re not just making up your workplace experiences—you have an actual, concrete job history.

What the functional resume does is bring your relevant skills to the forefront. If, for instance, you’re a high school teacher who is looking to get into project management, you may want to highlight times when you’ve led teams, resolved conflicts, or put forth innovative initiatives.

When you’re putting together your functional resume, you may also discover that there are certain crucial areas where you lack sufficient experience. If that’s the case, start thinking about ways to close those skills gaps (perhaps through online classes, an internship, or a certification course).

If you’re looking to make a significant job change, you don’t have to tether yourself to a traditional, chronological resume. You DO have a host of useful skills and experiences; it’s just a matter of shining a spotlight on them.


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Do anything in 90 days

What are some of your big goals? Do you want to earn a promotion? Write a book? Climb a mountain?

No matter how lofty your dreams, you can accomplish them—or make significant strides—in 90 days. It’s all about your mindset. If you put a certain goal at the center of your priorities, you can achieve great things in just three months.

Speaker and author, David Horsager, calls this your 90-Day Quick Plan.

The idea behind creating a 90-Day Quick Plan is this: accomplish one concrete goal in 90 days, using a step-by-step strategy. Horsager claims that 90 days is the “sweet spot” for achieving your goals. It’s a meaningful amount of time, yet not so long that the goal will slip away from you. So, how do you start making significant changes in 90 days?

The first step is to create a tangible goal (or up to three). Horsager advises against focusing on more than three priorities. Otherwise, you’ll be spreading yourself too thin. Ask yourself, “Where am I right now?” and “Where do I want to be in 90 days?”

Then, ask yourself the most important question of all: “Why do I want to make this change or reach this goal?” If you have a clear why, then you’ll have the motivation to accomplish your goal(s) in 90 days. For instance, why do you want to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle? Is it so you can be around for your children or grandchildren in 25 years? Is it so you can feel more confident about yourself?

Another example: Why do you want to learn how to create a website? Is it so your business can grow and blossom? Is it because you want to keep your mind fresh and young?

Whatever reason you choose for your “why” is, of course, a personal one and it should be at the very core of your motivation.

After you’ve figured out your goals and why you’d like to achieve them, ask yourself how you are going to get there. Horsager says to be very specific; make a detailed plan and ask yourself how you’re going to stick to it. He advises people to get extremely detailed with their plan by continuously asking themselves, “How, how, how?”

For instance, let’s say you would like to write the first 50 pages of your memoir within the next 90 days. How are you going to do that?

Maybe you’ll decide to write every day. (That’s great, but how?)

You’ll wake up at 5 a.m. every day and write for an hour. (Ok, excellent plan, but how are you going to hold yourself accountable?)

You will let your friends and family in on your plan so that you’ll be held accountable. (Great, now we’re getting somewhere!)

See the importance of how?

Once you have your plan in place (and you have a clear understanding of the why and the how), get started! You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish in 90 days.

Need help formulating your 90 day plan? Contact me for guidance.


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The #1 Way to Grow Your Career

There are many ways to grow and flourish within your career. You can take classes or expand your skills through research and application. You can find a mentor and learn from their experiences. You can take on new and diverse projects in order to stretch yourself and your abilities.

But at the heart of it all is one key element: the ability and the willingness to be COACHABLE.

When you’re coachable, you open yourself up to possibilities. You acknowledge that you don’t know everything and are willing to accept feedback and learn. You admit that you are sometimes wrong and look for ways to improve your current way of thinking/doing/behaving.

It isn’t always easy to be coachable. Many of us (especially if we’ve been in the same job for quite a while) tend to believe that our way is the best and leave little room for criticism or critique. It’s time to turn that kind of thinking around.

Start by asking for feedback.

Regularly ask your co-workers and superiors for feedback and then LISTEN to what they have to say. It doesn’t have to be in a formal meeting; it might be as simple as approaching a co-worker and saying, “Hey, Sally. How do you think my presentation went? Would you have changed any of the slides? Or maybe emphasized other material?”

Ask clarifying or follow-up questions if need-be. And remember to keep your defensive side in check! Even if you don’t agree with the feedback, take it gracefully. Say something like, “That’s an interesting take, Sally. I hadn’t seen it from that angle before.”

Keep in mind that not all feedback is quality feedback. Take your time to mull it over or get a second opinion (For more tactics and tricks on how to receive and utilize feedback, please see December’s newsletter).

When you’re coachable, you seek to expand your knowledge. Beyond soliciting feedback, start exploring ways to build or update your skills through webinars, in-person classes, training workshops, or one-on-one meetings with experts in your field. If your workplace is not proactive in seeking those opportunities, you may have to hunt for them on your own. Don’t be afraid to approach your boss and ask if the company could sponsor you (and your co-workers) in a specific learning program. If nothing else, you’ll open up a dialogue about advanced training.

Another way to grow your skills through coaching is to seek a mentor or be a mentor.

If you’re new to a company, new to a certain position, or seeking to advance within the company, a mentor can help you achieve those aims. If your workplace doesn’t have a formal mentoring program, seek a mentor on your own and invite that person to meet with you every now and again. Start small! You might scare people off if they think mentorship is too big of a commitment. Ask if they’ll meet with you for lunch once or twice a month, and go from there.

On the flip side, if you’ve been with your company a while, consider being a mentor. As a mentor, you’ll learn to see the company with new eyes and you may begin to explore the company and your position in ways that you hadn’t previously considered.

You have endless potential! Grow and evolve in your career by being coachable.


Seeking further guidance? Please feel free to contact me today.


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