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Creating Successful Leaders

white-flag

Our society goes on and on about the power of persistence. We’ve all heard the story of Thomas Edison trying thousands of times before finally getting the light bulb right, or of Martin Luther King Jr. bringing about social change against enormous odds. We idolize figures who strive against great obstacles and persevere, unwilling to give up.

To be sure, persistence and resilience in the face of hardship are admirable characteristics. But many blame themselves unfairly for not having success with something that might not be feasible. There are circumstances that no amount of will power can impact, and these are the times when the courageous thing to do, as counter-intuitive as it may seem, would be to let it go and move on.

But you may be wondering, how do you know when to let it go? Wouldn’t we still be using gas lamps if Edison had let go of his vision to invent the incandescent light bulb?

It is tough to know when to count your losses when you’re right in the thick of it, be it a project or goal or what-have-you. Making it harder still is that social stigma of being a perceived failure. However, there are a few key questions you can ask yourself that will help you know if you should let it go (for now!), and help yourself in the long run.

1. Is my goal feasible? Ways to determine this: Do I have a detailed game plan? What are the concrete steps to achieving my goal? Can I do it on my own? If not, who have I enlisted for support?

2. Am I making progress? If you’re heart is truly in it, you’ll see results, even if they are miniscule. But if you find yourself drifting away, it may be because deep down this project isn’t right for you at this time, and there’s absolutely no shame in acknowledging that.

3. Has the process thus far had an overall positive or negative effect on my life? There’s healthy stress that motivates us to keep going, and then there’s unhealthy stress, which crosses over into other parts of our lives and brings our general happiness down. If the goal feels like a burden you cannot handle, then it may be time to let it go.

4. Do I really, truly, deep down want this?

Consider these questions, and be okay with setting things aside if that’s what you feel is best for you. Acknowledging that you may need to let it go for a bit shows great maturity and self-awareness, and that’s something to be proud of! Remember: in the long run, you’re preparing yourself for even greater success.

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In this talk, Michael Goldberg defines networking as “a proactive approach to meeting people.” He reveals ways to take advantage of opportunities you encounter when meeting new people. Take a look!

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shaking-hands

Ever witnessed a child being told they must share their toys with another child? Their reaction to this news wasn’t too pretty, was it?

Although we’ve grown to understand that the world doesn’t revolve around us and we don’t always get our way, that small child’s voice is still inside us, protesting whenever things don’t go how we want them to.

But the truth is, in order to lead in any real sense of the word, you must learn the art of making compromises. It’s easy to say that, and I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but how do you actually do it?

1. Express yourself fully, and listen intently. Explain your reasoning behind your viewpoint. Often our views are skewed by our emotions, which make it harder to make effective decisions. Articulating your view to another person forces you to take a good long look at your position, and in many cases this allows you to see where your view may not be perfect. By the same token, listen to what the other person is actually saying, not what you think they’re saying. Hear them out before you rush to judgment. Open communication is crucial to getting things done.

2. Think from the other person’s perspective. If it continues to be difficult for you to accept the other person’s position, do your best to put yourself in their shoes. What’s the reasoning behind their thoughts, ideas, and opinions? Even if you disagree, can you see why they hold these views?

3. Be committed to results. Compromising pushes two opposing viewpoints past a gridlock into a region where they can move from ideas into actions. In this way, compromise is one of the most powerful tools we have to getting results. A compromise is a mature way of acknowledging that we can never fully get what we want all of the time, but we can get more of what we want if we work together to achieve it.

4. Be prepared to be disappointed, but give it time. At first, you’ll only see what you didn’t get out of a compromise. This is understandable, but don’t give up on it just yet. In the longterm, compromising pays off for both parties, as you’ve established an alliance and proven to one another that you are capable of working together and taking steps forward.

Have a great week!

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critic

If you’ve noticed more than one voice in your head, fighting for your attention, don’t worry: you’re not crazy. In fact, it’s quite normal to experience these different voices popping up at random moments and influencing how we perceive ourselves and the world around us.

To be more accurate, these “voices” are thought patterns we form over a long period of time. Oftentimes, we can tell what circumstances prompt one voice to start talking. Our inner cheerleader comes out when we accomplish something we’re proud of, for instance. Other times, it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint what exactly triggers a certain thought pattern, and if you’re not careful here, it becomes difficult to discern between what’s real and what’s a lie the voice in your head is telling you.

I want to talk about the worst liar of them all. In my book, I call it the “self-saboteur.” He/she is the voice that whispers, “You’re not good enough. Nobody will trust you. Nobody will notice you. It won’t work, it never does, you might as well stop trying, it’s hopeless.”

The self-saboteur is crafty, resilient, and an almost universal phenomenon. How do you keep this negative voice in check?

In his article on negative thinking patterns, life coach John-Paul Flintoff advises that we externalize the self-saboteur. The brain is flexible, and continues to develop past childhood. We can take advantage of this and disrupt negative thinking patterns. “The first step,” says Flintoff, “is to become aware of your automatic negative thoughts–and for me, anyway, that’s much easier (and more fun, actually) if I personify the inner critic, with a sketch, and give him/her a voice.”

Flintoff’s inner critic is shriveled and bald, with dark shadows under his eyes. He looks worried and avoids eye contact. He stays in the shadows but comes out to whisper hurtful things.

By creating such a detailed image of his self-saboteur, he is able to distance himself from this bad thinking pattern. It’s not him talking, it’s the shriveled liar in the corner.

Externalizing your self-saboteur takes practice. Old habits, and thought patterns definitely count as habits, take time and effort to break. But once you begin distancing yourself from your negative inner-critic, this thought pattern loses an incredible amount of power. As you continue learning to identify when and how the critic starts talking, you’ll get better and better at learning how to stop listening.

Another suggestion of Flintoff’s (which I find quite wise) is to think of someone in your life you greatly admire. The next time your self-saboteur takes the floor, imagine that this person is defending you. What would they say? If you’re honest (this is your defender’s turn to talk, so don’t allow the inner-critic any influence here), you’ll find that your defender has a great deal to say on your behalf. By doing this simple mental exercise, it becomes clear that most of the time, your self-saboteur is talking utter garbage, and you’re giving him/her a platform to let it get to you. Don’t do that! You’re so much more valuable, so much more loved, and so much more worthy than your saboteur will ever give you credit for, so stop wasting your time listening and put a sock in that liar’s mouth.

 

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signature

Last week, I gave you some general guidelines for presenting that great idea of yours to your boss. In this post, I’m going to hone in on one specific, necessary skill in this process: how to draft a knock-out proposal.

1. Provide the problem with the solution

An idea almost always arises from a perceived problem. For example, if I have an idea for streamlining tasks in my business, this is because I first see a problem with efficiency. Be clear about showing the relationship between the problem and the solution.

2. Show each of the steps to solving the problem

A proposal shouldn’t only describe what your idea is, it should also act as a roadmap for how it will be implemented. There will be many factors involved, many of which won’t be obvious at first. Think through the whole process. Make a list of all the resources you’ll need. Then, arrange them in order of importance as they relate to your big idea. That is, how do these resources “plug in” to the main idea to bring it to fruition?

I recommend making an outline to help you sort out how you plan on turning your idea into a reality.  You’ll be able to more easily organize the steps to your plan when you can see them literally written out in front of you.

3. Keep the steps simple, so the proposal stays short

Once you’ve gotten the work done of organizing the proposal, polish it to the bare essentials. Avoid jargon! Your proposal should be clear, concise, and easy to understand.  Avoid being long-winded: you’ll be asked to elaborate on your idea in person if they’re interested. A multi-page proposal is overwhelming, and a turn-off.

4. Know your audience, and write accordingly

You know best what kind of language, keywords, and the overall angle to use when you are familiar with the people you work with. The best kind of proposal is one that addresses the common mission of the business, so be sure to keep that in mind as you draft it.

5. Reach out, welcome feedback

No one expects you to be an expert on all the facets of the proposal. That’s why we have specialists. Perhaps you’re not an expert on the finances, and you may be anxious about admitting this. Don’t be! Reaching out shows strength and builds trust among your organization, and another set of eyes/another viewpoint can make a good proposal great.

Further reading/resources:

www.howtowritetheproposal.com

http://foundationcenter.org/getstarted/tutorials/shortcourse/

 

creativity

Here’s a scenario: You bolt awake at night, with the solution to a problem clear as day in your mind. Familiar with this type of experience? If so, congratulations, you’ve had an epiphany.

Now, you must show your coworkers–and more importantly, your boss–what makes your idea so great. Here is where many people stumble. It’s great to have ideas. It’s even better to believe in yourself and be convinced that your idea will really work. But the hard part is pitching it to those who have the power to either make your idea a reality, or push it off into the reject pile.

So, how do you sell an idea to your boss?

1. Know Your Boss

What are your boss’s priorities? What are they passionate about in the business? What are their hot button issues? By knowing your boss, you’ll know how to pitch the idea in a way that makes the maximum impact on them.

2. Know Your Business

How does your business run? Do you know the in’s and out’s of how things get done? Familiarizing yourself with the entire business–not just your part in it–will make your proposal much more appealing.

3. Timing Is Key

Do you approach your boss while their busy with five other projects, or do you wait for the opportunity to have their undivided attention? Of course, different bosses work differently, so you know better than I do when the optimum time to approach them is. Don’t mention your idea until you’ve found that perfect time to do so, because you want the idea to have the biggest impression possible.

For tips on drafting a proposal and presenting it, you’ll have to stay tuned for next week’s post!

 

 

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Reaching for StarWhat comes to mind when you hear the word “leader”? The captain of a team, perhaps? The lead soloist in an orchestra, or the director of a play?

I’d say these are all classic examples, as leaders like these inspire others to follow, thrive in the spotlight, and break new ground with their achievements. When we witness such leaders in action, it’s only natural to wonder: how did they get like that? Are great leaders born naturals, or did they learn and cultivate their skills?

To answer this, we must first dispel the myth that all leaders fit into the same cookie-cutter outlines. The examples I listed above, while all good ones, leave out many other kinds of influential leaders. Mentors, tutors, coaches, and other one-on-one roles are examples of leadership conducted behind the scenes. Similarly, parenting is a type of constant leadership that rarely gets awards or praise. There are scores of leaders who make their mark quietly, without any fanfare.

Once we see that leaders are a large, diverse group of people with all sorts of natural gifts and skills, it’s easier to see where our talents could apply to a leadership capacity. Undoubtedly, some people are naturally better equipped to fill many types of leadership roles, but no leader becomes great without dedicating time and effort into becoming better. And the biggest asset a leader has? Self-awareness.

In her article on Forbes’ website, author and coach Erika Anderson says her experience has shown the best leaders are self-aware: “Without exception, the more self-aware someone is, the easier he or she is to coach; the more improvable and better able to accept what they need in order to improve.”  I wholeheartedly agree. In my coaching experience, there’s not much you can do to help someone who is unwilling or unable to see themselves in a realistic light. I’ve had much more success coaching someone of modest skills who is self-aware.

Know your strengths, know your weaknesses, and know where you plug in to the world around you. This is the big idea behind self-awareness. You may possess amazing speaking skills, or a gift for innovative ideas, but if you cannot even accurately see who you are, and where you fit in, you’ll never be able to lead others.

That’s my thought for this week, and can you believe that next week is already August? I hope you’ve gotten a chance to get outdoors!

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