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diplomatic and creative ways to say no

It’s easy to say yes.

“Yes, I can take on that project!”

“Yes, I’ll have that to you by next week!”

“Yes, I’ll add another client to my list!”

While it’s great to be agreeable, there is a limit. When you’re bogged down with commitments and your work-life balance is suffering, it’s time to put on the brakes and start saying no. Do it for your mental and emotional health. Do it in order to be true to yourself (in other words, don’t take on projects that do not align with your skills and interests). Do it to set boundaries and stop others from taking advantage of you.

But do it right.

Below are 10 diplomatic ways to say no. Practice reading them aloud in front of a mirror until they become natural.

“Thank you for the opportunity, but my schedule is packed.”

 “I know you would like my help with __________, but I won’t be able to do so unless/until __________.”

 “I wish I could, but as a rule I don’t __________.”

“Thank you for thinking of me, but I have other commitments.”

“I’m really not the best fit for __________. Have you tried talking with                    ? That sounds right up his/her alley.”

“I appreciate you coming to me with this opportunity. Unfortunately, I have too much on my plate right now to take it on.”

“I would like to say yes, but I don’t have time to do this project justice right now.”

 “I’m sorry, but I’m only taking on work related to _________ right now.”

 “I’d like to help you, but my schedule won’t allow any new projects.”

 “Thanks for asking, but I really can’t.

Use these responses to help you take control of your time and schedule. It takes courage, but you’ll thank yourself later if you decide to decline a project that doesn’t align with your values and priorities.

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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three types of bad bosses

It happens more often than it should. A person rises to power who doesn’t have the interest, inclination, or skills it takes to be a good boss. It’s not always that person’s fault—many companies do not invest time and resources in training their managers and force many people to learn through “trial by fire.” And then there are those who are simply not interested in engaging with or developing their team. They would rather be doing office work than investing time in their staff.

Whatever the case, you’ve probably encountered the dreaded “bad boss.” I’m going to look at three different behaviors that your bad boss might exemplify and show you ways to overcome each scenario. Ready to grab your own success and jump over the bad boss hurdle? Read on!

1. The Micromanager

This is the boss who is always looking over your shoulder and checking in to make sure you’re doing things just how s/he wants them done. This person is a perfectionist and might go as far as giving you daily or weekly checklists. Such a boss can make you feel claustrophobic and limit your growth potential.

What to do:

First of all, understand that you micromanaging boss is likely acting the way she does because she cares deeply about the good of the company. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore it! If your boss is approachable and open to communication, consider scheduling a meeting in which you request to take on a project by yourself. If your boss waffles, ask if there is something about the quality of your work that is holding her back. You might learn some valuable insight from your conversation!

If, however, your boss is not the approachable type, consider a different tactic: Accomplish tasks and check-in before she tells you to. Anticipate the next item on her to-do list and do it before you’re directed to do so. This demonstrates that you are a go-getter and are perfectly capable of going above and beyond expectations without being directed to do so. You may even consider sending your boss your daily or weekly plans so you can gain even more control of your schedule.

2. The Unengaged

On the opposite end of the micromanager boss is the boss who is simplify unengaged. This is the boss who is largely absent or who rarely bothers to check-in with their team. This bad boss might think it’s a waste of time to invest in team-building activities, training, or one-on-one meetings.

What to do:

Initiate engagement. Schedule a meeting with your boss or, if he’s hard to pin down, make a point of stopping by his office when he’s around. Make sure you keep your meeting brief and bright—unengaged bosses often feel like they don’t have time for small talk. In your meeting, be sure to express your thanks to the boss for meeting and let him know that it made a big difference. Such encouragement will help him realize the value of such meetings.

If you’ve tried in earnest to get your boss involved in office life, but he hasn’t taken the bait, try going a different route. Engage your co-workers. If your boss isn’t lending much support, chances are your co-workers are just as frustrated as you are. Connect with them and use each other for brainstorming, problem-solving, and as mental or emotional support. Seek resources together and work on building a more collaborative atmosphere.

3. The Gossiper

“Did you hear about…?” The boss with gossiping tendencies can lower morale and create an atmosphere of distrust. What’s more, if you’re not buddy-buddy with this boss, you may wonder if you will be the next victim of their gossip.

What to do:

This is a tricky one. Although you might not be able to stop your boss from playing favorites and spreading rumors, you can make a personal commitment to rise above office gossip. Harvard Business Journal recommends setting firm boundaries with gossipers (whether your boss or a co-worker). When you see a conversation headed toward gossip, put a stop to it and say, “Please do not put anything in my head that you expect me to not act on. I will not carry around a conclusion about another person without sharing it with them.”

Your integrity carries weight. By refusing to participate in gossip, you build credibility and trustworthiness. And remember, silence is the same thing as complacence. If you are silent, you are promoting gossip.

And if your boss continues gossiping? You have a couple of tough decisions to make. Either you could choose to confront him about it and offer a solution (This article by Vital Smarts goes into establishing ground rules revolving around gossip), OR, If your quality of life is being severely affected by the gossip, you could seek employment somewhere else. If that’s the case, you might want to consult a career coach before making any major decisions.

 

There are, of course, many other types of “bad bosses” out there, but hopefully this list gave you some ideas for how to deal with your own troublesome boss. Feel free to add your own experiences and advice in the comments section (no name dropping, please!) or contact me for more advice.

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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best-work-year-yet

It’s the New Year (how did that happen?)! It’s time for a fresh start and a clean slate mentality. It’s time for your best work year yet. If you believe you can do it, you’re already part of the way there!

How will you shine this year in your career-related endeavors? Start with gratitude and go from there…

Why gratitude? When you focus on being grateful, you focus on what’s going right–the things you do NOT need to change. In terms of your career, what’s going well? Do you like your boss or coworkers? Are you hitting it out of the park with creative solutions? Has your number of clients increased over the last year?

If you’re having trouble coming up with a list of positive aspects of your job, that may be a sign that you’re ready for a significant change. If that’s the case, you may need to completely re-strategize and enlist the help of a career coach.

If, however, you can identify several positive areas of your current job, that’s great! It’s easier to refocus and re-energize your current position than it is to seek something entirely new.

Once you’ve considered the good elements of your current job, think about the areas of opportunity. Write a list of all the things you’d like to achieve, no matter how impossible they seem at the moment. Maybe you want to increase your sales revenue this year. Or find more leadership opportunities. Or earn a promotion. This is your chance to jot down all your hopes and dreams for yourself.

After you make your list, circle your highest priority item. Then, mark your second-highest priority item, your third, your fourth, etc. It’s best to focus on only one item at a time and do it RIGHT. Think about what you need to do to achieve that goal. What steps do you need to take? What support will you need?

After considering your main goal, draw up a timeline. Be sure to include mileposts along the way (and remind yourself to celebrate whenever you hit a milepost!).

Then, STICK TO IT.

Easier said than done, I know. This is where your support network comes into play. Talk openly about your goal(s) with your trusted friends, spouse, and coworkers. Ask for their help and guidance. Ask a few of them to check in with you every once in a while to make sure you’re on track. And if someone in your support network comes to you for assistance, be sure to return the favor.

Your stick-to-it attitude is what is ultimately going to make this the best work year ever for you. You have the talent. You have the support. All you need is a clear direction, a plan for the year, and a good support system.

Let’s make 2017 the best work year yet!

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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thank-you-515514_1280

It is the holiday season. This is a time when it’s easy to get distracted and lose sight of the bigger picture, the meaning of the season. With presents to wrap, a turkey to baste, and a home to decorate, many of us fall so deeply into our own lives that we forget about others outside of our “bubble.” Our attention turns away from clients, co-workers, and acquaintances. Make an effort to remember them this year!

One great way to let someone know that they play a meaningful role in your life is to send a thank you card. I prefer the handwritten type, because it conveys more meaning and personalization. It’s fine to keep the thank you short, but make sure it is genuine and heart-felt. People can sniff out insincerity from a mile away!

So, who do you send a thank you card to?

Reach out to everyone who has helped or supported you this year. Did the security guard have to let you into the office after-hours when you forgot your laptop? Did one of your team members take over some of your work when you were home sick? Did a client decide to renew a contract with your company?

All of these people deserve a thank you. Not only is this a nice gesture, it helps bolster your relationship with that person. People love to be thanked and your simple thank you card could have a profound effect. There is a legendary car salesman named Joe Girard who sold a whopping 13,001 Chevy cars between 1963 and 1978. He holds a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s greatest salesman. How did he do it? In addition to being a genuinely nice guy, Joe sent each of his customers a thank you card every year during the holidays. This kind of personalized appreciation went a long way (obviously!) and customers returned again and again to Joe and also recommended their friends and family members to him.

That’s the power of a simple, heart-felt thank you.

Try it out this year. Who do you appreciate? Who has made a positive difference in your life? Take the time to tell them Thank You.

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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daily dose of thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving month, so you’re likely seeing constant reminders about gratitude and giving thanks. A lot of it may seem fluffy, but there are actually concrete benefits to being grateful.

Studies have shown that moods lift, outlooks become more positive, and relationships are healthier when we practice gratitude. From a business perspective, showing appreciation for your clients, co-workers, support staff, or employees helps to foster a more pleasant atmosphere, boosts morale, and slashes employee turnover.

But, gratitude shouldn’t be treated as a one-off thing. We shouldn’t get through Thanksgiving and go, “Well, that was fun. Now, on to Black Friday!”

A grateful mentality should be a sustainable one. We’re talking about an attitude shift here, not just a temporary state of mind. Why change your thinking for a month, when you can change it for a lifetime?

The trick to sustaining an attitude of gratitude? Practice every day.

The moment you wake up, instead of dreading the day ahead, think about the many blessings in your life. These could be simple things–the hot coffee in the pot, your friends and family, the roof over your head. Think about three things that bring you joy, comfort, or stability. You can choose to write about these things in a gratitude journal, or simply meditate on them for a few minutes.

Then, see where your day takes you. This morning burst of gratitude should help give you a positive boost and, if you confront rough patches throughout the day, you can always think back to your morning meditation and remember the three things that you were grateful for.

(It is worth noting that being a grateful person doesn’t mean that there aren’t negative aspects of your life. If the negative parts get too overwhelming, it may be time for a significant change. But that’s a topic that I’ve addressed in other posts.)

When you’re grateful and appreciative, the world changes. Your personal outlook becomes brighter, the people around you seem more pleasant (or at least tolerable!), and your relationships become more amiable and love-filled.  Try adopting a gratitude-filled lifestyle and watch your world transform!

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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beat procrastination in 2 minutes

It’s easy to put things off. It’s easy to find reasons to NOT do things. Many of us fill our lives with excuses, opting to skip the gym, delay starting a difficult project, or avoid having tough conversations.

What holds you back from moving forward? Do certain tasks or activities seem daunting? Are you afraid of failure? Or are you simply having trouble rallying your motivation?

Step forward with excuse-free living (a concept I address in my book, The Ten-Minute Leadership Challenge) and take ownership of your future. You can do it in TWO MINUTES.

How? One of the most important steps you can take is simply starting a project. Put on your gym shoes. Set up a meeting time to have a difficult conversation. Write the first paragraph of a novel.

Starting is symbolic. It signals that you’ve put aside your fear and trepidation and are ready to move forward. Amazing things happen if you start something. You’ll likely find that the first steps aren’t so bad and you may even gain motivation to move forward and keep the momentum going. If you’re tackling a large project, create milestone markers for yourself along the way and once you pass each marker, treat it like having a fresh start, a new beginning.

If you fill your tasks with many new beginnings, they are less likely to feel old, stale, overwhelming, or unmanageable.

James Clear, expert on behavioral psychology, was my inspiration for writing about beating procrastination in two minutes. He asserts that, “Most of the tasks that you procrastinate on aren’t actually difficult to do — you have the talent and skills to accomplish them — you just avoid starting them for one reason or another.” He advises a two-fold approach for dealing with this reluctance to start something.

1. If something takes less than 2 minutes to do, do it now.

Clear says, “It’s surprising how many things we put off that we could get done in two minutes or less. For example, washing your dishes immediately after your meal, tossing the laundry in the washing machine, taking out the garbage, cleaning up clutter, sending that email, and so on.”

2. When you start a new habit, it should take less than 2 minutes to do.

This idea goes back to my “just start” philosophy. Although you certainly can’t complete a major assignment in two minutes, you can get it started. Use that kick start to motivate you into action.

 

What will you accomplish TODAY?


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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life long learning while working full timeContinued growth and lifelong learning is a not-so-secret priority of many successful professionals.

It can be difficult to give self-improvement the attention it deserves—with daily distractions and to-do’s constantly vying for your attention.

Growth and its requirements can be intimidating, often tiring, and rarely convenient, but if you’re committed to your true aspirations—to honing your skills or establishing a new set completely—there are a few key options for building your expertise while working full-time.

Get a mentor.

Connect with people who have the job or knowledge you desire and who epitomize “success” to you. Networking is an incredibly powerful tool for a variety of reasons, but especially demonstrates its value for people seeking direction and advice. Attend an event, preferably one that attracts the kind of professional you’re looking for—niche meet-ups work great—and be honest with your intentions. Get ready to ask the right person, “Can you offer any advice?”

Volunteer.

Many priceless learning opportunities are hidden under the veil of pro-bono work. Volunteering your time will give you some schedule flexibility, hands-on experience, and valuable connections with people in the field.

Study.

There are numerous flexible and inexpensive options for professionals looking to learn. Read books, listen to podcasts, subscribe to blogs. Get in a daily routine of discovering something new every single day.

In addition to publications, consider enrolling in a class. Whether it’s online, through Community Education, offered in seminar form, or part-time through a college, education can be energizing, fun, and necessary for professional growth.

Stretch yourself.

One of the best (and only ways) to improve yourself is to test yourself. Only by opening up to new (and often intimidating) experiences can you realize what you’re capable of. Say “yes!” to new opportunities, and uncover any necessary bravery later.

 

Making a commitment to self-improvement not only gives you an edge in the professional word, but carries over to everyday enjoyment. Finding great people to look up to, devoting your time to projects that energize you, growing your mind, and pushing your boundaries sounds like living to 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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