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Creating Successful Leaders

Since Halloween is right around the corner, I thought I would talk a little bit about fear. Often, when we’re afraid of something, we imagine the worse possible scenarios. We think about cars flipping over or spiders biting us. We imagine getting fired from our jobs if we step out of line or fear that we’ll never get that promotion if we assert ourselves too much around the office.

According to Karen Thompson Walker, fear is a story we tell ourselves. We are the authors and we sometimes let our minds take us to wild places. In her TED talk, Walker suggests that fear can be a good thing if we are in control of our fear and examine it objectively. She calls this “productive paranoia.”

Rather than ignoring your fear, ask yourself why you are afraid. Are you afraid for good reason? Or are you telling yourself a wild, emotion-filled narrative that is probably not true?

Looking at this concept from a work perspective, ask yourself why you are afraid to talk to the new people in the office or why you are afraid to ask your boss for time off. Do you think you’ll be rejected by your new co-workers? Do you think your boss will fire you? These, of course, are possibilities, but how likely are they? Use your fear to approach your problems objectively and minimize risk (for instance, if you are afraid your boss will reprimand you for requesting time off, make a case for your request and lay it out logically for your boss).

Don’t let your fear direct you; you should direct it.

Happy Halloween!

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I recently read an alarming statistic in Entrepreneur Magazine: 55% of employed U.S. adults would leave their traditional jobs to be self-employed if they could be sure of their financial stability. Why? What is the overwhelming reason people give for their dissatisfaction? The answer: Lack of creativity.

Back view of businessman drawing colorful business ideas on wall

Photo Credit: Udemy.com

A full 36% of employed adults want to leave their current position in order to seek a more creative line of work.  Realistically, it would be difficult to sustain such a large creative-heavy workforce and most people realize it is very difficult to make it as an artist (or chef or photographer), while paying the bills. So, what can the creatively-stifled workforce do?  Here are some ideas:

  1. Pursue Creative Hobbies (and apply them to work)

Even if your work itself is a bit of a drag, you can still foster your creative side by pursuing stimulating hobbies. Look for classes at your local community center or offers on sites like Groupon or Living Social Deals who offer discounts on things like “painting and wine night” or photography classes. If you have a creative passion, keep at it! And don’t be afraid to share it with your office mates. For instance, if you like writing, volunteer to write the quarterly newsletter or, if you enjoy cooking, make a point of making a dish for the next lunch meeting (I’m sure everyone would appreciate it!).

  1. Keep a Journal (or doodle)

One great way to keep the creative juices flowing (no matter if you’re a writer or not) is to keep a journal. That way, when an out-of-the box idea strikes, you can jot it down quickly. Write down everything—don’t discriminate! Sometimes a whim can turn into a great idea. Your notes can be work-related or not—either way, it’s healthy to write things down so you don’t stew about them or become frustrated if you forget your brilliant idea. Alternatively, if you prefer doodling, go for it! Doodling can be a great creative outlet and allows some people to de-stress.  Also, for visual folks, doodling is a great way to map out ideas.

  1. Take Breaks

A tired mind has trouble getting anything done. If you find your productivity slipping at work, seek a little creativity to jolt you back to life. You could knit, sketch, play with a yo-yo, read, or even photoshop a picture of your dog for a while!  Anything to get your mind back in gear to tackle the next project.

  1. Join a Meetup Group

Sometimes, creativity needs encouragement. If you’re truly interested in honing a passion of yours (writing, photography, calligraphy), find a local Meetup Group. Meetup is a website dedicated to bringing people together with similar hobbies and interests. It’s free to join and the possibilities are endless! If you’re interested in dream interpretation or French or Salsa dancing, there’s a group out there for you!

Don’t stifle your creative side! Let it flow. And if these suggestions just aren’t enough, then maybe a creative career is up your alley. If you’re thinking about making a major career change, UXL would be happy to offer some guidance and support.

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interviewer, UXL, Margaret Smith, discussing weakness in interview

Photo Credit: SJSU University

It’s a common question. You know it’s coming. But that doesn’t stop you from waffling and fidgeting when you hear it: “What are your greatest weaknesses?” You know you have some, but 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 they seldom change. Instead, mention areas where you’re determined to improve. Consider saying something like, “I’m not as Excel-savvy as I’d like to be, but I’m currently improving my skills through internet tutorials.” Never mention strengths as weaknesses.

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.

Remember: 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.

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candle

A few weeks ago, I lost a dear friend of mine. Her passing was especially difficult because, up until recently, she was vibrant and healthy—a ball of energy that everyone admired. As I reflect on her life, I think about the kind of person she was: loving, committed to her family and the community, always willing to help others in need.

At her funeral, countless stories were told about her generosity and buoyant spirit. I recalled how she volunteered for a local organization for disadvantaged families and would always be available to help at the drop of a hat, even in the early morning hours.

We all leave a legacy behind when we pass, and it’s healthy to think about that from time to time. How do you want to be remembered? Do you want people to recall how often you griped about work or gossiped about others around the office? Do you want to be remembered for your exclusion of others or your selfishness as you tried to climb the company ladder?

Of course not!

For us busy, working professionals, it is easy to lose sight of our true selves and focus solely on our occupations. In reality, this isn’t healthy for us or the people around us. Instead of plowing ahead in your work, take the time to step back, evaluate the path you’re on, and ask yourself how to make both your work life and personal life more fulfilling and balanced. In the end, it is best to live life with a purpose and be happy with who you are and what you are doing.

How do you want to be remembered? 

Fall is upon us and, looking back, I learned some valuable lessons from my garden this past year. It’s a quiet instructor, but it can teach us a few valuable things about resiliency and promotion-worthy behavior in the workplace.

flower
1. A sunny personality stands out from the crowd. Which flower are you most likely to stop and admire: the one that shows its stuff and is bright and colorful, or the one that is shriveled and dull? Having a bright personality is one of the best ways to draw positive attention to yourself and promote your psychological brand. Companies endorse and promote those with optimistic, upbeat personalities.

2. What you put in is what you get out. With all the work and activities we tend to pile on our plates, it’s easy to neglect ourselves. We might skip meals, go to bed late, or forget to exercise. This way of living is unhealthy and frankly, unsustainable. If you really want to blossom and do your best at work, make sure to set aside some “me time” every single day and focus on health, nutrition, and quiet time.

3. “Bee” hospitable to others. You are part of a community and, like flowers reach out to bees, you should reach out to your co-workers. Even if you like being a lone wolf, the truth is we need and rely on the insights, advice, skills, and expertise of our co-workers. A couple months ago, I wrote a newsletter on why great leaders should help others succeed. Please click HERE if you are interested in reading the whole article.

4. Don’t plant shade-loving plants in the sun. Everyone has their own unique skill set or “sweet spot,” as I like to call it. As a leader or influencer, make sure your team members are working in the right area. If someone on your team is struggling, it may not be because of their competency, it may simply be because they are a square peg attempting to fit into a round hole. By paying attention and getting to know others’ strengths, you will distinguish yourself as a capable, insightful leader.

As winter sneaks up on us, don’t forget the summer flowers and the lessons they teach us!

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persevarance

Last week I highlighted some questions you can ask yourself to help you decide if it’s best to let “it” go. “It” is different for everyone, whether “it’s” a goal, a project, a relationship, or even the career you’re presently in. This week, I thought I’d give a few counter points: how do you know if you shouldn’t throw in the towel? How do you decide to stick with it?

1. You know deep down that this is what you want. Maybe this has been a childhood dream of yours. You lay awake at night fantasizing about it; you daydream about it. No amount of time has dissuaded you from it.

2. You have a plan. It’s great to know you truly want something, but this isn’t worth much without a game plan describing how you’re going to get it.

3. Although sometimes difficult and discouraging, this goal has made a net gain on your self-esteem and your general happiness. 

4. You’re seeing progress

If these points describe your journey in any way, don’t give up! Keep pushing forward, stay open-minded, learn from your shortcomings, and most of all, reach out for support and guidance. You should never feel like you need to do it all on your own.

Keep chasing the dream!

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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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