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Creating Successful Leaders

Tag Archives: Margaret Smith professional speaker

This month, I’ve been focusing on the topic of courage. I’ve released an eBook on the topic (A Quick Guide to Courage), and I continue to receive feedback about personal struggles to be courageous. If you’re struggling to find your courage, let’s talk.

When we think of courageous people, we might envision firefighters or soldiers, CEOs presenting in front of large audiences, or adventurers scaling mountains. But…what about you? Do you ever pause to consider all the mountains you’ve climbed and storms you’ve weathered? Do you recall the times when you’ve had to tap into courage—asking for a raise, giving a presentation, making a major life decision, daring to step outside your comfort zone?

You, too, have acted with courage in your life, even if you don’t often think about it. You have the capacity to taking daring steps and make courageous decisions. Don’t discount the small acts of courage you undertake each and every day. Even getting up in the morning and pulling up your email inbox can take courage! You’re opening yourself to a host of “unknowns,” and it may take mental and emotional fortitude to address the everyday problems that await you.

Even if you don’t always feel courageous, take heart in the fact that we are all capable of building and developing courage. Just as we build muscles by going to the gym so, too, can we build courage and take it to new heights. Mostly, it takes practice and persistence.

Here are 7 ways you can grow your courage every day:

Invite an acquaintance to lunch.

For many, it can be uncomfortable getting to know someone new. Dare to face that discomfort and arrange a lunch or coffee meeting with someone you’d like to get to know a little better. If it doesn’t work out, dare to ask the next person on your list!

Create healthy boundaries.

Dare to say “no” to projects that do not align with your area of expertise. Reject or postpone tasks when your schedule is jam-packed. Answer emails on your own terms, and during work hours only. By having the courage to set these healthy boundaries, you show respect for yourself and protect your mental and emotional health.

Send a message to someone you admire.

Looking for a mentor? Seeking advice from a trusted expert? Reach out and contact someone who may have the answers. Don’t let the person’s status or title intimidate you. We’re all humans, after all!

Set aside personal time.

Dare to set aside time for yourself, take breaks, and go on the occasional vacation. Too often, people are nervous about what others will think of them if they choose to take a break. It’s time to set a new standard where meaningful breaks are the norm. Be brave enough to know when you’ve reached your limit and need time off.

Say no.

If something doesn’t feel right, have the courage to say no. I challenge you to think through every task, offer, or project before deciding on your course of action.

Be a leader.

If you have an idea for a new project, a new way of doing things, or a fresh approach, it may be time to step up and take initiative. Don’t wait around for someone else to lead the charge; dare to do it yourself!

Be your true self.

Be authentic and don’t shy away from who you truly are. Of course, we all need to act appropriately in certain settings, but that doesn’t mean we have to fundamentally change who we are (just dial it back or up, depending on the situation!). Be genuine; be yourself.

Step into your day with a courageous heart and a plan to make positive change. You are in charge of your future. Dare to seize the day and make the right decisions for you, even if that can be a little scary. You’re braver than you think you are.


Her new eBook is called A Quick Guide to Courage

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It’s no secret that the modern workforce is discontent. The Great Resignation has brought many issues to light including disengagement, long hours, and unfair expectations. People have also cited a lack of meaning/purpose as one of the factors that created job dissatisfaction. Especially for younger generations, it is important to find purpose in one’s work.

When you wake up in the morning, do you feel excited for work? Are you energized to begin your day?

If not, you may need to infuse a little more meaning into your work. You have more control over your personal path than you might think. Oftentimes, workplaces offer some degree of flexibility to carve out your own path and exercise purpose-driven actions.

No matter what industry you’re in, there’s usually an opportunity to integrate art, altruism, community, or whatever piques your interest into your work. It only takes a little creativity, initiative, and perseverance. Let’s explore some of the ways to do that.

NOTE: While it IS (usually) possible to take proactive steps to add purpose to your work, sometimes the job itself is fundamentally flawed or simply not right for you. In that case, consider talking to a career coach (drop me a note if you’d like).

1. Look For Existing Opportunities

Depending on your organization, meaningful opportunities may already exist. Some businesses have groups devoted to community projects, art, or forming bonds between like-minded co-workers. Affinity groups, like the ones offered at Wells Fargo corporate, are useful for making meaningful connections and inciting positive change. Do a little research and see if your workplace offers anything that aligns with your interests.

2. Integrate Interests With Daily Work

Interested in photography? Volunteer to take pictures for the monthly newsletter or company website. Love writing? Ask your boss for writing-heavy assignments or, if you’re working in a team, offer to take on the writing tasks. Want to contribute to environmental responsibility? Host team lunches that use reusable or compostable plates and cutlery.

In short, see if it’s possible to meld your interests with your everyday workload.

3. Take Initiative!

Create your own meaning by initiating groups devoted to volunteering, artistic endeavors, or other projects related to your interests. Of course, you’ll want to go through the proper channels to do this, but you might be surprised by how willing organizations can be when it comes to volunteer or enrichment programs. Chances are, other people will also be interested in your endeavor, which translates to a more tight-knit, content work community.

Some ideas you might consider:

  • Creating an artists’ club for knitting, painting, photography, or whatever you’re interested in (Instead of a weekly happy hour, host an “art session” instead!)
  • Start a “meaningful” book club that focuses on books with a strong purpose
  • Volunteering in the local community (soup kitchens, book drives, etc.)
  • Initiating fundraisers for schools, safety, health and wellness, or whatever you’d like
  • Starting a “green” group that occasionally gets together to do roadside cleanups or raise money for parks, clean water, etc.
  • Founding a wellness program that focuses on clean eating, meditation, weekly yoga, or whatever you’re passionate about

4. Look For Resources

Some organizations have funds set aside for “extracurricular” work activities. Do your research! Your company might be willing to sponsor your initiative. Don’t forget, people count as resources too. You may be surprised by others’ excitement and willingness to help.

Do you feel invigorated? Energized? Ready to dive in and figure out how to make work more meaningful for YOU? I hope so. Finding meaning in your work is vital for your sustained happiness.

If you’d like a little more guidance, I’m here to help.


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For those of us in the “frozen north,” we’re still slogging through winter, but spring is finally in sight! Even though the cold weather might linger a while longer, it’s great to have something to look forward to. Besides, it is beneficial to anticipate exciting future events. It has been found that looking forward to and planning for a vacation can be even more satisfying than actually taking the vacation!

Of course, it is important to live in the moment and be present, but if things are less than great right now, it’s a good idea to anticipate positive events in the future. So, let’s put some joy on the calendar!

You might look forward to…


Anticipate holidays and birthdays, and start making plans to celebrate! Why not make someone’s birthday (or your own!) extra-special this year? Even if you have to celebrate from a distance, you can still plan some nice long-distance surprises. You could send little gifts over the week, send edible treats, or (if the person lives locally) decorate their lawn with flamingos or a few lawn signs with balloons. Remember the joy of celebrating your birthday as a young child? Why not bring some of that joy back?


As we approach spring, consider making a “Bingo card” of sorts to track your springtime observations. Look for the first flower, the first leaf, the first blooming lilacs, the first robin, the first time you hear a lawnmower or smell freshly cut grass. You might also make predictions about when the last of the snow will melt or (if you live in Minnesota!) when the last bit of ice will clear from the lakes.

You might notice other things, too, about the changing seasons. Observe the sunrise or sunset, notice the air growing warmer, see outfits begin to change from heavy sweaters and coats to lighter (and probably more colorful) garments.

Noticing little changes in your surroundings can help give you a deeper appreciation of the world around you. You are part of the changing seasons and cycles.

Small Joys

Small delights can help infuse our days with joy. Getting a haircut, scheduling a massage, or purchasing a new pair of hiking shoes are little ways you might create joy for yourself.

You can play an active role in elevating your own mood. Think about the things that bring you joy. Maybe you love being outdoors, painting, photography, or simply learning new things. You could schedule a mini vacation to indulge some of your interests (even if you schedule a staycation for catching up on your reading list, that counts!). Another idea is enrolling in a class to pursue an interest or learn something new (stained glass making, Spanish, baking croissants, knitting). You might find a class online, through a local university, or through a community education program.

Let’s infuse our lives with a little more joy! Start adding fun events to your calendar and enjoy the anticipation, as well as the event itself. Life doesn’t have to be serious all the time, and it’s healthy to look forward to fun events.


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