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Tag Archives: Margaret Smith Twin Cities

Get things done

David Allen has influenced people all over the world with his best-selling book, Getting Things Done. What can we learn from his methods? I’ve highlighted seven key lessons for increasing productivity, each and every day:

1. Focus on your workspace

Where you work is important. Set up your workspace so that it is your “cockpit of control.” That means everything is intentionally organized and you have efficient, instant access to information or tools you need.

2. Don’t multi-task

Focus on one task at a time and give it your full attention. Multi-tasking ultimately slows you down because your attention will be disjointed and you may not complete tasks to the best of your ability.

3. Cut down on distractions with a Thought Bucket

When you’re working on a specific task and something else comes to mind, jot it down in your “Thought Bucket.” That way, you won’t lose your thought and it’s less likely to control your mind. Every week, take a look at your notes in the Thought Bucket. Remove unimportant items, complete 2-minute tasks, and plot out appointments/deadlines in your calendar.

4. Break down goals

If you’re staring down a big-picture goal, it may seem intimidating (and you may turn and run the other way!). Instead, break down your goals into bite-sized pieces and tackle those pieces one at a time. The most urgent step on the project list goes to the Next Action list.

5. Pay attention to time-sensitive items

Allen suggests keeping track of time-sensitive tasks in something called the Tickler File. Use this file to set reminders for deadlines that are coming up within the next 31 days and also 12 months into the future.

6. Keep a Someday/Maybe list

Dare to dream. If you have ideas for projects you’d like to tackle or initiatives you’d like to start in the future, keep track of them on your Someday/Maybe list.

7. Regularly update your information

Allen suggests reviewing and updating all lists weekly. In his view, daily to-do lists are inefficient because of their warped view of time. Weekly lists help you think “bigger picture,” but do not overwhelm.

How about you? Are you a list-maker? How do you organize your day/week/quarter/year? Do you tend to multi-task or lend your focus to one task at a time? If you’re finding that your current system isn’t working, you may want to give David Allen’s a try!

 

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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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.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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If you are a Millennial, you’re probably already well aware that you’re fighting an uphill battle in the average workplace. Millennials have been given a lot of flak for being lazy, self-absorbed, and disloyal. Journalists love writing articles about Millennials that cast the entire generation in a poor light. While the criticisms may be true in some cases, they are absolutely NOT true in many others.

(I’ve written a couple blog posts about the fallacy that Millennials are bad employees. Check out Millennials and Loyalty and Millennials and Altruism).

Unfortunately, many people have bought into the racket and are overly cautious about their Millennial co-workers. So, how do you cut through the distrust and prove that you are, in fact, loyal and you DO want to work hard?

Try the following 5 strategies:

1. Demonstrate Your Respect

I’m sure you have tons of brilliant ideas that you’d like to implement RIGHT AWAY, but hold your horses. If you’re starting out in a new job, take your time to get to know your co-workers, get a feel for the environment, and understand protocol. Be sure to respect the ideas and practices of those who have been in the organization for longer than you have, even if you don’t necessarily agree with their methods. A little respect can go a long way.

When you do feel you need to speak up and offer an alternative opinion, do so in a courteous manner. Acknowledge the commonalities between you and the other person or people with whom you disagree, and THEN offer your alternative or dissenting opinion. Remember: your tone of voice and mannerisms can also speak volumes. Pay attention to your body language and be as polite as possible.

2. Surpass Expectations

If you’re looking for respect from your co-workers, then make sure you’re not only turning in your assignments on time and being as punctual as possible, but also make an effort to go the extra mile. Do a little extra research for that report. Help out a struggling co-worker. Turn in a project a day early.

You don’t always have to surpass expectations (and probably shouldn’t), but it doesn’t hurt to make an effort to shine from time to time. Just make sure you’re not rubbing your excellence in others’ noses!

3. Think AND Talk About the Future

What’s your five-year plan at your company? What are your goals? Think about your personal expectations for your future self (if you’d like some help with goal setting, check out this past blog post), and commit to them.

Don’t be afraid to let others in on your goals, especially your immediate supervisor or mentor. How do you talk about your goals with others? Try framing them in the form of a question. For instance:

“I’m determined to do XYZ this year, but I’m not sure about [a certain aspect of reaching that goal]. What are your thoughts?”

OR: “I’d really like to [become a project lead, take on X responsibility, earn a promotion to X position]. How were you able to do this? Any tips for me?”

4. Be Humble

You don’t know everything. Not only that, there are things you don’t even know that you don’t know! With that in mind, be open to learning and trying new things. Listen. Pay attention. Learn.

5. When Things Aren’t Ideal, Communicate

Instead of thinking about leaving as soon as things get tough or the job doesn’t seem to suit you anymore, communicate. Approach your supervisor, let her know about your discontentment, and strategize ways to overcome your slump (better yet, strategize ahead of time, and let her know your ideas in addition to a collaborative brainstorm).

Believe me, everyone has slumps. It’s possible you’ve mastered your work and are now bored, or you might feel ill-suited to the work you are doing (in both cases, a change in responsibilities might help you re-engage). It’s also possible you’ve become unhappy with the work climate and don’t care for certain co-workers or certain office practices. That is a larger problem, but can also be surmountable in some cases (it might just mean talking to certain co-workers and strategizing on how to better work together).

Direct communication is key. The last thing you want to do is mope around for a month, make everyone around you unhappy, and then quit. That doesn’t do ANYONE any good! Talking out your discontentment (in a respectful, matter-of-fact way), and strategizing solutions is a much more proactive approach.

 

How will you prove yourself in a workplace that is determined to write you off? Start with these 5 strategies, give them an earnest try, and be patient–others’ attitudes toward you may not change overnight. Remember: if you find the workplace to be overwhelmingly toxic, there’s no shame in moving on. Just make sure to give this decision plenty of thought and consider talking with a career coach before you make your move.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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2.7 New Era of Selling 2

 

Whether you own your own business, you’re a solopreneur, a social media marketer, or in customer acquisition in a large firm, you’re in sales. You have a product or service. You want others to use it. It’s as simple as that.

Well…I wish it were that simple!

I worked as a sales manager at 3M for over two decades and saw a lot of changes…but those changes have accelerated over the past ten—or even five—years. Now, your potential customers can easily shop around and get to know your offerings and prices (and those of your competitors) before you even have a chance to reach out and engage them.

It’s also a social media-heavy marketing environment, and really hard to predict the next trend. Not to mention, with so many people elbowing for space on social media, it’s tough to get your voice heard.

It’s also a global society. You can hop on Etsy and buy a dress from a Japanese clothing company, or a pair of hiking shoes from Sweden.

In some ways, all these changes are great for consumers—they have a world of knowledge and products at their fingertips—but it’s not so great for small business owners or companies who are struggling to keep up.

HOW on earth do you approach sales in this new era?

I’ll admit, I’m not a marketer. I won’t tell you how to find your potential customers, but I will advise you on your approach once you find them.

Start with these five steps:

1. Believe wholeheartedly in your product

If you aren’t fully behind what you’re offering, it won’t sell. Potential customers are savvy enough to know when you’re not actually enthusiastic about the product you’re selling. Some of the most convincing ads I’ve seen on social media were for product that might seem ordinary (meals in a box, yoga pants, marketing webinars), but they were endorsed by very enthusiastic individuals who seemed to have a genuine stake in their product.

2. Pinpoint your audience with laser focus

Use data (and data analysts) to develop a deep understanding of who your audience is and it will be easier to find them and approach them. I’m talking not just about demographics (which is important, of course), but also your audience’s interests, their frustrations, and what makes them happy. Your product or service solves something. WHO benefits from your solution? When you know who, precisely, that is, you will feel good about selling them something that helps improve their life.

NOTE: You can utilize social media advertising to target people in a VERY narrow way. By having a precise understanding of your audience, you can take advantage of this ultra-targeted marketing.

3. Tell a story

If you’ve ever watched a crowding funding video on Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, you know that some of the most successful campaigns are ones that tell a story. It doesn’t have to be a personal story (although that can sometimes be effective); it could simply be the story of Jane Doe who travels for business all the time and can never sleep on the airplane…until she tried the Ultra Amazing Pillow!

When you tell a story in sales, you’ll want to make sure it feels natural (not over-rehearsed or awkward) and is relevant. Your story could be as simple as: “Mr. Jones had X Problem. Product ABC helped Mr. Jones in this way…”

4. Focus on education

This is the era of giving things away for free. Your customers will likely be used to getting free information (online newspapers, blog posts, eBooks, etc.), so why not take advantage of that mechanism? Offer a valuable (key word!) freebie and learn how to effectively use a sales funnel to turn interested individuals into paying customers.

5. Meet face to face

In our fast-paced, digital era, the most surprising “bold” move you can make is moving offline. Now, face-to-face interactions are more valuable than ever. It’s becoming a lost art to sit down with someone, look them in the eye, and tell them about what you do and what you’re offering. If you’re good at it, you will likely have an edge over nearly everyone else who is just playing the digital game.

 

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

 

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Interview Question

Most of us know it’s coming. It’s that question interviewers love to ask, just to keep you on your toes: “What are your greatest weaknesses?”

Are your palms sweating yet? Is your brain spinning in circles, trying to figure out how to answer this question? Or, do you have some kind of canned answer you found from a website?

It’s a tricky question, and infamously difficult to get right. On the one hand, you don’t want to reveal anything too terrible that will potentially cost you your interview. Then again, you don’t want to be dishonest or gloss over the answer with something like, “People say I work too much and am too dedicated to the company!”

No interviewer is going to be impressed with an answer like that. It’s disingenuous and doesn’t tell them anything about you, except that you’re good at studying stock answers for interview questions. So how to approach this question?

First of all, be aware that sharing your challenges and flaws—the very things that make you human—can actually help you come off as a more authentic, relatable candidate.

Joe Grimm of the Poynter Institute, an organization dedicated to integrity in journalism, suggests that interviewees faced with this question should always be honest and avoid mentioning character flaws because these are traits that are difficult to change. Instead, mention areas where you’re determined to improve. Consider saying something like, “I’m not as adept with Excel as I’d like to be, but I’m currently improving my skills through internet tutorials.”

Be sure to never talk about strengths as weaknesses. Your “over-commitment” to work is just another way of saying, “I’m a dedicated employee” and interviewers can see right through your wordplay.

Remember: Don’t overthink your response to the point that you panic and don’t have one. As Washington Post journalist Lily Whiteman reminds us, “the worst responses are ‘I don’t know’ and the comical ‘I have no weaknesses.’”

You should also try to cater your response to the position and organization to which you are applying. Anticipate the motivation and interests of the interviewer when selecting your response and personal story. For example, if you are applying for a position as a financial adviser, you might talk about one of the specific areas in which you lack experience—say estate planning for people with over $1 Million in assets. And then (as mentioned earlier), demonstrate how you will familiarize yourself or how you are already working to improve in this area.

Keep in mind, this question mainly exists because it reveals whether you, the applicant, possess key qualities such as self-awareness, authenticity, sincerity, adaptability, and foresightedness.  Reveal that yes, you have weaknesses, but you will not let them stop you from doing the best job you can do for their organization.

Happy interviewing! Please contact UXL today to find out how we can help you transform the future of your business or career through guided professional coaching.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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When was the last time you paused and assessed your thoughts or the words you just said? When was the last time you considered your emotions and wondered why you feel the way you do?

It’s rare to be so self-reflective, but it can play a huge role in both your professional and personal success.

When you deeply understand yourself, you are aware of the situations that make you uncomfortable and the ones that bring you joy. You understand your personal communication style and your ideal conditions for a good conversation. You also know your perfect work environment and how best to be productive.

There are many positive effects of developing a deep understanding of yourself, including elevated confidence. How does your confidence grow when you are intimately familiar with yourself?

1. You can prepare for uncomfortable situations

If you know standing up in front of a group OR working alone OR sharing your ideas with a co-worker or boss makes you uncomfortable, acknowledge that potential discomfort and prepare for it. Preparation might include extra research, practicing your presentation in front of a mirror, or amping yourself up ahead of time.

2. You improve communication

If you deeply understand your communication preferences, you are able to acknowledge them and help others understand them as well. For instance, if you prefer talking over an idea in a one-on-one setting, make an effort to arrange such meetings. Or, if you know you like the limelight, consider setting a timer for yourself to limit speaking time AND make an effort to ask others for their thoughts or opinions.

3. You understand your skills and limitations

At the intersection of what you enjoy doing and what you’re good at doing is your sweet spot. When you are aware of what you do well and what you like to do, you’re better able to pursue or turn down projects, based on your preferences and skill set.

4. You’re better at leading a team

When you understand how your own thinking works, that can create a better awareness of how others communicate and collaborate. It’s all about observation. Your increased awareness can be applied to your team and, through conscious observation, you can come to understand what works for certain team members, and what doesn’t.

Additionally, you’ll be mindful of how you might react when your team members do something that might irritate you, such as turn in a project late or fail to speak up and offer ideas at a meeting. When you’re aware of your emotions, you can react in a more controlled, level-headed way.

 

Knowing yourself—your communication tendencies, you emotions, your personal preferences—can help make you more self-assured. This kind of awareness is what builds an excellent leader.

 

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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everyday legacy

When you think of the term “Legacy,” you probably think of the grand achievements that people are remembered for. It’s the scholarship fund that you founded or the football stadium that’s named after you.

Sure, those are Legacies. But they are the big-picture results. They’re the long-term Legacies that you leave behind. I urge you to focus on your living legacy—the everyday things you do that impact others and the world.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t think about your long-term Legacy (or your “capital L” Legacy). It’s great to think about the future and work toward lofty goals. However, this kind of thinking sometimes causes people to lose sight of what’s in front of them. How can you make an impact through a conversation with a co-worker? Or by showing up to your child’s basketball game? Or by visiting a lonely neighbor? Or by donating a couple of hours to a soup kitchen?

Your “little l” legacy is just as powerful (if not more) than your “big L” Legacy. All those small actions and interactions add up. You never know how your words, behaviors, kind gestures, or attitude will affect those around you.

This concept of “little l” legacy versus “big L” Legacy is something we explore in Insights® Deeper Discovery. Deeper Discovery is an interactive workshop that utilizes science-based tools to explore participants’ personal paths as they relate to leadership, teams, communication, improved self-understanding, and much more. As a Deeper Discovery facilitator, I have worked with individuals who were experiencing anxiety or frustration because their big L Legacy wasn’t falling into place. They weren’t where they thought they would be at this point in their lives and they were having trouble figuring out which direction to turn next. In other words, they were feeling utterly lost.

Focusing on your little l legacy can help illuminate a path.

If you start to focus on what matters during your day-to-day, you start making the very best of what is currently around you. And that can open opportunities that you might not have noticed when you were busy being distressed about your lack of progress toward your Legacy.

How will you start to shift your focus to making a daily difference? What legacy will you leave tomorrow? Today? In your next conversation? Start making small positive impacts today and see how your world will change.


If you’d like more information on the Insights® Deeper Discovery program, please feel free to reach out and contact me.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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