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The power of vocal inflection

We’d all like to think that what we say is important. When we stand up to give a presentation or if we’re talking with a friend or significant other, we hope that others are listening to what we’re saying.

But the what is not necessarily as important as the how.

How you deliver your words can matter just as much (or more!) than what you say. No matter how compelling your message, if you say it in an unenthusiastic or irritated way, others will pick up on your tone, rather than what you are saying.

Take the simple phrase “Dinner’s ready.”

Let’s say you get home from work and you decide to prepare a nice meal for yourself and your family. You cook up a couple dishes from scratch and time everything perfectly so that your entrée comes out of the oven at the same time that you’ve finished making your sides. You’re pleased as punch with how your meal turned out and you can’t wait to share it with your family.

At this point, you call out in a sing-song voice, “Dinner’s ready!”

No reply.

Your spouse, your children are upstairs doing who-knows-what. But you don’t feel like hunting them down, so you busy yourself with doing a few dishes while you wait for them to come down.

Five minutes.

Ten.

When you call for your family again, the cheeriness is out of your voice completely. It’s been replaced by a loud, curt, and semi-dangerous tone:

“DINNER IS READY.”

You’d better believe your family will come running this time!

The lesson here is that vocal inflection matters. It conveys how serious you are about something. It demonstrates your enthusiasm (or lack of). It has the power to energize a room or put everyone to sleep.

Next time you’re about to interact with someone or lead a team meeting, think about your tone of voice. Practice your speech in front of a mirror. In most cases, you’ll want to sound energized, but not over-the-top. Cheery, but authentic. The only exception is if you’re speaking about a serious issue that requires more gravity. Use common sense and let your tone match the message.

For more tips on how to be a compelling speaker, take a look at these blog posts:

https://uxlblog.com/2016/10/05/let-your-voice-be-heard/

https://uxlblog.com/2016/03/09/10-ways-to-have-a-better-conversation/

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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Don't let inexperience stand in your way

There you are, sifting through the LinkedIn ads, searching for the job of your dreams. You find that listing that speaks to you, and you get excited as you read through the list of responsibilities. You even start picturing yourself exceling at each task, getting promotion after promotion, becoming the next CEO…then, bam! You hit that long, seemingly endless list of requirements, including three unrealistically specific degrees, and one hundred years of experience – for an entry level position. You feel defeated. And maybe you shrug your shoulders and instead apply for a different job that only makes you feel “meh.”

I’m here to tell you that the magical person who has all those qualifications does not exist. Perhaps those mile-long job requirements come about due to inexperienced human resources workers who have never written a job description before. Or maybe some employers are hoping to find the best and brightest pool of talent to dip into later by listing a million requirements. Either way, don’t let it discourage you from applying, and here’s a couple reasons why:

  • Interviewers are human. This means you can use your sparkling personality to win them over. Be personable and be yourself. People want to work with people who seem easy to get along with and who are excited about the job.
  • Your qualifications do not have to be so literal. Maybe you have never managed a team before. But I bet you have coached a co-worker through a tough time, or managed a project. Think through scenarios that relate to each qualification in the job posting.

Of course, there will be times when more experience may be required. Huge career shifts may involve going back to school for an entire four-year (or longer) degree. But often there are more subtle ways to gain the experience to help you land the job:

  • Harness your network – Get to know the industry or the company you want to work for by asking your network for help. A friend may be able to land you some informational interviews at her friend’s company, or a former colleague may be working in your intended industry.
  • Volunteer or Intern – Look for opportunities to help in the area you want to work in. That could mean writing newsletters for a friend’s business if you are looking for a communications gig, or interning at a farm for the summer if you are looking at agriculture or horticulture.
  • Freelance – Have you thought about going solo? If you have knowledge in a particular field, like writing or graphic design, for example, and are finding it hard to land a traditional job, freelancing may be for you. According to Freelancer’s Union, there are over 53 million Americans working freelance, and it is continuing to grow as workers seek alternative ways to make money.
  • Take a class or two – There are so many ways to educate yourself without having to go back for a full degree. Sometimes you just need a refresher, or you want to expand your knowledge base. Most areas offer community education classes. And universities have continuing education programs and certifications. Even learning from home can take you far; there are so many classes and professionals offering training online.

 

Don’t give up hope when you see a lengthy job posting. Think through your options to make that dream job a reality. How can you translate your current experiences into the right requirements for the job? It doesn’t have to take a complete overhaul of your life to get the career you deserve.

I am happy to provide guidance along your journey to a fulfilling career. Contact me to learn more.

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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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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