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Creating Successful Leaders

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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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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busy calender good

According to this Harvard Business Review blog post, we’ve been thinking about it all wrong when we talk about time management. It’s like dieting vs. being healthy, says productivity expert Jordan Cohen. You may diet all you want, but that doesn’t necessarily make you healthier. In the same way, you can “manage time” to a tee, but this doesn’t automatically boost your productivity.

This certainly made me raise my eyebrows upon reading it. After all, the concept of time management is considered a given in business and leadership circles. But when I thought about it more, I realized there’s truth to this. Time isn’t what you need to rearrange in order to succeed. Time is the constant. When we talk about time management, then, what we’re really talking about is managing our workload. If we rely too heavily on managing our time, we run the risk of neglecting the real problems we run up against when our workload overpowers us.

Solutions to workload management are:

Saying no. You have the power to turn things down, even though this is something that is tricky for a lot of people. If you’re scrambling to get anything done, if you’re having trouble taking care of basic things in your personal life, or if you don’t have free time where you can relax, then you have over-scheduled yourself.

Experimenting with different workload management practices. The saying goes that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If you consistently find yourself drowning in work, seek out new self-management approaches. Mix it up. Change your schedule. Don’t settle on one “right way” to get things done, because you need to be able to adapt and get outside of your comfort zone in order to succeed.

Keeping track of what works for you, and what needs to change. Piggybacking in the above point, we are creatures of habit, and often we find ourselves deeply entrenched in bad habits without even realizing it. If you struggle with being on time, pay attention to behavioral patterns that might be the real reason for your tardiness. Look over your week and take note of where you succeeded to meet your goals, and where you fell short. Ask yourself what you might change to do better next week.

There are many resources available to help you find work load management ideas and insights. For starters, check out the Mindtools website. It has quizzes, goal-setting resources and scheduling advice.

Have a great week!

 

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bookshelf_header

As you take your summer trip, lay out on the beach, or simply lounge in your backyard, a great book can really be the icing on the cake.

I’m often asked what I’m reading as it relates to business and leadership, so I thought I’d share a few of my personal favorites on the subject. Since it’s summer, I kept the textbooks off the list. But don’t be fooled: While they may be “light” reading, the insights they carry pack a punch.

1. Daring Greatly, by Brené Brown.

daringgreatly_final525-resized-600Brown shares an idea that at first seems counterintuitive: that we draw courage from being vulnerable. But in her engaging style, she soon demonstrates how this simple principle can transform the way we take risks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. The Art of Procrastination, by John Perry

the art of procrastinationThis book is short and sweet, but it tackles that challenge we all face. Namely, how do we battle that urge to put important things off? Perry suggests that we shouldn’t try to stop procrastinating all together, but that we can learn to use procrastination as a tool to our advantage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Love Leadership, by John Hope Bryant

love leadershipBryant elegantly lays out why leading with love is the most powerful way to lead. Packed with personal stories that really drive the message home, this book has had a great impact on me, as it has helped me grow into a compassionate leader.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni

5dysfunctionsWritten as a fable about one terribly dysfunctional fictional company, Lencioni reveals his five dysfunctions–absence of trust; fear of conflict; lack of committment; avoidance of accountability; and inattention to results–with engrossing characters and stories. We learn how teams should operate by seeing a demonstration of all the wrong behaviors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy reading!

 

 

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Leadership_Scrabble

I stumbled upon a great blog post this week by life coach Chris LoCurto on what leadership is, and what it is not. As I’ve discussed before, effective leadership depends on support, compassion, and trust, not on strict rules or fear tactics.

According to LoCurto, leadership is:

-not a title

-not a dictatorship

-not selfish

-not a blame game

Okay, so that’s what leadership isn’t. What about what it is? LoCurto says leadership is:

-Selfless

-Visionary

-Accountable

-Rewarding

What are good descriptors of leadership that come to mind for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Have a great week!

 

 

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