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Creating Successful Leaders

UXL stress busting tips

It’s the holiday season and things can get hectic. Take a bite out of stress! Here are some quick practices to help you relax and revitalize:

  1. Breathe deeply

The steady rhythm of your breath has a calming effect on the mind, much like any repetitive, soothing sound or motion.


  1. Eat a healthy lunch

According to Dr. Pat Bass, a healthy diet is an essential element to combating stress.


  1. Exercise

Find something that works for YOU and practice it regularly!


  1. Mind relaxers

Do a crossword puzzle, squeeze a stress ball, paint a picture, doodle in your notebook.


  1. Yoga/mindfulness

Yoga helps you focus on the ebb and flow of your breath, as well as releasing the tension in your muscles

Yoga business woman


  1. Schedule “you time”

Write it on the calendar! Set aside some time to do exactly what you want to do.


  1. Schedule family time

According to the Mental Health Foundation, “A key way to protect your mental health against the potential detrimental effects of work related stress is to ensure you have a healthy work-life balance.”


  1. Walk outside

Vitamin D is essential for your skin and just being in the outdoors has a revitalizing, rejuvenating effect


  1. Laugh

Laughter reduces stress, according to the Mayo Clinic. Watch a funny movie, read the comics, or go to a comedy show.


  1. Be present

Focus on the here and now instead of getting stressed about the future or regretting something in the past. My book, The Ten-Minute Leadership Challenge, devotes an entire chapter to this concept.

reconnect with old friends


  1. Network/reconnect with friends/find your support group

We all need a support group. If you have close friends in the area, make an effort to reach out to them from time to time. If not, find a supportive community through meet-up groups, your local community center, etc. My last newsletter on Building Community discusses this topic in-depth.


  1. Indulge in your interests

Do you like to knit? Paint? Practice Tae Kwon Do? Work your interests into your schedule


  1. Massage

Everyone loves a professional massage, but if you’re short on time or don’t want to spend the money, give yourself a hand massage or shoulder rub.


  1. Listen to music

“Music calms the savage beast” and it can also reduce tension. Pick your favorite genre and let Pandora find the perfect music mix for you.


  1. Practice gratitude

As I mentioned in my November newsletter, a grateful person is generally a happier, more optimistic person.

practice gratitude, UXL


  1. Count/recite a mantra

The rhythm of counting or reciting a mantra can help calm your mind. Additionally, a positive mantra (i.e. “I can do anything,” “I am smart and strong,” or “Nothing can get in my way”) can give you an added confidence boost.


  1. Close your eyes

Sometimes closing your eyes is a good way to distance yourself from your troubles. It also helps you focus on your thoughts without letting visual distractions get in the way.


  1. Get organized

A neat and tidy desk or house can help focus your thoughts. Too much clutter can lead to feelings of anxiety and stress.


  1. Free write

Get your thoughts down on paper. Write whatever comes to mind if you’re feeling overwhelmed and want to sort through a complex issue.


  1. Plan a vacation

Even if you don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon, it’s fun to plan a future vacation. It also gives you something to work towards—a long term reward.

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Have you ever felt lost amid all the things you want to accomplish or all the tasks you need to do?  Have you ever felt like your brain was so scattered, you couldn’t keep a clear thought in your head or a clear direction. Sometimes, when I’m feeling that way, I make a mind map.

The main objective of a mind map is to take a large project or idea, and break it down into bite-sized chunks so you can deal with it on a more manageable scale. It’s a great way to get all your thoughts onto one piece of paper and see how they fit in with the main idea.

First, think about one main topic.  For instance, “Job Promotion.” Write the main topic in the middle of a large piece of paper.  Then, think about big-picture actions that will support your main topic. These actions should be broad and kept between one and three words long. For this example, you could write: “Networking,” “Major Projects,” “Meetings,” “Update Wardrobe,” etc. Draw lines or arrows connecting your main topic to the supporting topics.

UXL mind map

Then, think about what, specifically, you could do in each area. For instance, under the Networking box, you could write: “Attend weekly happy hour” or “Arrange for coffee with boss” or “Get to know three new people this month.” You can get as specific as you’d like, creating as many branches as are necessary to capture all your ideas.

Mind maps are meant to help you sort out your thoughts and they might seem messy on the surface, but they are a useful tool for getting your ideas out there and seeing how things connect. Once you create your mind map, try focusing on specific areas in order to achieve your goal. If you take on too much, you’ll get nowhere, so start with one or two goals and then create a more specific action plan revolving around each goal.

Here’s a video about how one could use a mind map to plan an “Egyptian Holiday.”

Happy mapping!

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UXL personal branding

UXL personal branding

Your personal brand is more than your company logo or the colors you choose for your website. Your personal brand is, to put it simply, you. How you act, what you say, how you dress, and how you address others all contributes to your personal brand. It’s what you’re showcasing to the world and, consequently, how others see you.

No empire is built overnight, just as no brand is transformed in a day. It takes time to build a reputation around yourself that others will respect.  But you CAN get started today by writing down some of the key goals you have for your personal brand and how you will go about achieving those goals. Start by thinking about a few key things:

  1. Your brand should be consistent.

If you want to make yourself known as the reliable, go-to person for any project, then be reliable! If you want to be known as the employee who goes out of their way to include others, than focus on being inclusive! Don’t try to fake it and be something you’re not, but DO try to capitalize on your assets and be consistent with your behaviors. And remember: the office pool can be quite small. If you act one way with one group of people and act completely different with others, that behavior will be noticed…and that’s frankly not the kind of attention you want.

  1. Review your daily activities.

Do your day-to-day activities support your personal brand? If you’re trying to promote your writing skills, but are constantly working on research projects or editing, then you’re not being true to yourself or your abilities and it’s probably time to reevaluate your daily work. Talk to a manger about getting more writing projects or volunteer for additional writing opportunities (like the monthly company newsletter).

Or maybe your goal is to rise to a leadership position. Think about your typical daily to-do list and ask yourself if your activities are contributing to the bigger picture. If not, how can you go about changing them?

  1. Stay rooted.

Yes, personal brands evolve. You might change your career goals or you might even switch positions within the company. That doesn’t mean your personal brand should be scrapped and you should start from scratch. Stay true to who you are and never lose sight of that. You might consider saying an affirmation to yourself every morning like, “I am a positive, optimistic person who always gets things done on time” or “I enjoy working with customers and go out of my way to make them happy.”

The best way to start working on improving or honing your personal brand is to have a plan. Do not approach it haphazardly and let others decide how they see you. YOU decide how you’d like to be seen. YOU have the power to build a strong, respected personal brand, brick-by-brick.

Need help getting started? Contact me today for guidance with strategic career planning.

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Norman Rockwell, Thanksgiving, Margaret Smith UXL

Today, I would like to express my thanks to all of you–friends, loyal readers, acquaintances, fellow career coaches, aspiring leaders, and all the positive influences in my life. I thank you for your support, your business, and your encouraging words.

What are you grateful for? Take a few moments every day this week to count your blessings and be thankful. Being grateful for what you have helps elevate your sense of fulfillment and provides you with an extra dose of motivation. Also, as I wrote about in my November newsletter, being grateful is the number one most magnetic personality trait. Others are drawn to those who are humble, caring, and genuinely thankful.

Even though Thanksgiving comes but once a year, we should all try to occasionally pause and acknowledge all the goodness around us. Let the feeling of the season sustain you throughout the year to come.

Happy Thanksgiving and please enjoy the following quiz. How much do you actually know about the holiday? This quiz will test your (and your guests’) knowledge of Thanksgiving. It’s a fun way to keep the conversation flowing after everyone’s had their fill of turkey and stuffing. Enjoy!


Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Thanksgiving?




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small business saturday 2014

It’s right around the corner. On November 29th, millions of people will flock to small businesses to take advantage of sales and to support the local economy. Small Business Saturday is a great idea and a fantastic opportunity to promote your small business, but how on earth can you take full advantage of it? How can your small business stand out from the crowd?

Before I answer that, let me be clear about one thing: Your small business does NOT have to be a brick and mortar store. You might host house parties (think Norwex or Tastefully Simple), tutor math students, sell jewelry, or run an independent consulting business. In any of these cases, Small Business Saturday applies to you.

  1. Run a Promotion

Nothing gets people to flock to your business like a good old fashioned promotion. If you’re a consultant, you might offer one free half-hour session for anyone who contacts you on Saturday. If you sell hand-knitted hats and mittens, you might give people a chance to enter a drawing for some free goods. If you run a pastry shop, you could give away free cookies. Whatever the case, make sure you thoroughly advertise your promo through all your marketing channels: social media, your newsletter list, your family and friends (you might be amazed by how willing people are to help you), etc. Need help getting started? This article gives you the basics on creating a great promo.


If you’re totally at a loss for how to create a successful promo, try creating a coupon (i.e. 50% off any one item from your Etsy store) and send it to all your email contacts and post it on Facebook.

  1. Start Talking

Don’t be shy about advertising your small business! Use all the marketing resources you have at your fingertips. That includes social media, word-of-mouth, your email list, your book club or church group, and your past customers. Generate a buzz about Small Business Saturday and start creating dialogues with those around you. Make an effort to post something about your business (or Small Business Saturday) every day until the 29th. If you’re in any business-related groups on LinkedIn, start a conversation about Small Business Saturday and see what others are doing to promote their businesses. Engaging your social media platforms accomplishes two things: 1) It creates excitement around your products or services and 2) It boosts your SEO since search engines are designed to search for fresh content (and that includes social media updates).


One of your greatest resources is past customers. These are people who can attest to how great your products are or how fantastic it is to work with you. Collect as many testimonials from past customers as possible and post them on your website or tweet about them. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your past customers to spread the word about your business on Small Business Saturday.

Small Biz Saturday 2014

  1. Collaborate with Other Small Businesses

Make Small Business Saturday a party this year! Invite other small businesses to join you in marketing and promotion. These might be businesses that are similar to yours (i.e. jewelry shops) OR they might be physically located next store to you (then you can work on attracting visitors to your specific neighborhood) OR they might simply be businesses with whom you have a good, long-standing relationship. By pooling your resources, you can create a more in-depth, far-reaching campaign and you’ll be able to draw on each other’s creativity. Plus, this kind of relationship with other businesses opens the door for collaborating in the future.


After Small Business Saturday is over, be sure to compare notes with your small business team. What went well? What didn’t? What would you do differently next year? This kind of dialogue sets the stage for next year and helps to keep marketing at the top of your mind as you march into the holiday season and the upcoming new year.

Good luck out there and be sure to send me an email on Small Business Saturday with this code:

SBS 2014


Margaret Smith Signature, UXL


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UXL, Margaret Smith, Befriend Your Boss

Let’s face it, the key to achieving many of your career goals (that promotion, that next raise, etc.) is to pass through the office gatekeeper: your boss. Befriending your boss can be a tricky endeavor. You don’t want to seem like a brown-noser or disingenuous. What’s more, your boss might seem distant or guarded, reluctant to make new acquaintances with people from the lower ranks. If that’s the case, you might want to set your sights on making an impression on your boss, rather than a friendship. But, no matter the situation, there are certain steps you can take to become more visible in a positive way in your boss’ eyes.

The key is to approach your boss in a natural, authentic way and treat her like any other human being. The goal is to develop an authentic relationship with another person, not to feel intimidated or uneasy with a superior. Try getting to know your boss like any other person at the office:

  • Say hello
  • Ask about his or her family (and remember family member names when they come up in conversation)
  • Ask about their weekend plans or ask about what they did this past weekend
  • Attend company events and make small talk with your boss
  • Discuss shared interests (but do NOT pretend to like something your boss does just to fit in)

Notice that this list does not include things like “buy him small gifts” or “call her to have coffee.” Those kind of activities tend to cross the boss-employee line (unless, of course, you actually are close friends with your boss OR your boss is the kind of person who enjoys regularly going out for coffee with her employees).

The other way to gain positive attention from your boss is to make your achievements known. Stand out from the crowd by speaking up at meetings, volunteering for extra projects (and delivering excellent results), and involving yourself in extracurricular work events. Make yourself a positive presence—someone who is friendly and inclusive, rather than closed off and self-centered—and you will be noticed. Even if you do not quite reach friendship level with your boss, you can at least make yourself visible and visibility goes a long way toward reaching your career goals.

Are you having trouble with your boss? Not connecting with office leadership? Contact me and we can discuss some potential solutions.

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What does Goldie Hawn know about happiness?

More than you might think. Not only has the award-winning actress penned a book about mental wellbeing and mindfulness (entitled 10 Mindful Minutes), she is also immersed in a project called MindUP™, which is an education program designed to help children learn through a holistic and positive approach. Additionally, she runs the Hawn Foundation, whose mission is, in a nutshell, to improve the health and happiness of people of all ages.

Hawn hasn’t always experienced personal happiness, however. In her 2005 memoir, A Lotus Grows in the Mud, she revealed that she often suffered from anxiety attacks, depression, and nausea during her early years of fame. She underwent nine years of therapy and eventually managed to pull herself out of a long, deep rut. Now, she’s determined to teach others how to live a joy-filled life.

One of the tricks, according to Hawn, is to start your morning by “focusing on what’s beautiful.” Make an effort to think positive, affirming thoughts from the moment you wake up and soon it will become a habit.

Hawn also encourages us to think of three things every day that make us happy. If we keep those three things at the top of our minds instead of dwelling on all the negativity around us, we have the potential to be “more creative, constructive, and productive.”

What are some of your techniques for staying positive and happy?

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