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Creating Successful Leaders

best career advicePeople can be full of advice. “Do this,” “do that,” “this worked for me,” “this didn’t work for me.” Sometimes it’s difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. For the most part, you simply have to forge ahead and use your best judgment. But sometimes, others will give you truly valuable gems that you should take to heart.

One of the best pieces of career advice I ever received was ask good questions. Try to ask three questions at every important meeting: one that shows support, one to gain clarity on the subject, and one to demonstrate inclusionary behavior (helping to involve others in the room in the discussion). Asking good questions not only helps to gather information, it also demonstrates that you are an active, interested, and inclusionary employee. Additionally, you’ll be seen as a fair leader–someone who wants others voices to be heard, as well as their own.

Another great piece of advice I’ve received? Stay relevant. Know what’s important to the organization, the market, the customers. Study and stay abreast of industry happenings and innovations, strategies, issues and concerns…then look for solutions and speak up! Show that you’re interested in your job and are striving to be the best you can be by constantly learning and seeking new, salient information.

What are some of the best pieces of career advice you’ve received? Has anything really stuck with you and helped you either advance in your career or guided you through career challenges? I’m interested to hear from you! Leave a comment below and let’s start a friendly, valuable discussion.

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don't be a yes man

It’s easy to say yes. We naturally aim to please our co-workers and supervisors; we want to look good in the eyes of the company and get that raise or earn that promotion. But saying yes can be dangerous. If you say yes to everything—every assignment, every request, every invitation—you’ll end up stretching yourself too thin and you’ll possibly end up taking on work that isn’t in your sweet spot or doing things that go against your code of ethics. Here are three scenarios where you should say NO (accompanied by three strategies to pull it off):

  1. You have too much on your plate.

If you feel your workload growing out of control and you can tell the quality of your work is sharply declining, it’s time to say no. How to do it? The next time your project leader tries to assign you something new, do not immediately say yes. Arrange to meet one-on-one (it is much easier to reason with someone one-on-one than in a group) and lay out your reasons for not wanting to take on the project.

Be prepared. Make a spreadsheet that clearly displays what projects you are currently tackling and how much time you spend each day on each project. Also, come into the meeting with a counter-proposal in mind. If you know of someone else who might have the capacity (and desire) to take on the project, suggest that person to your project leader or, alternatively, suggest a future date that you might be able to start the project (i.e. “I’m busy from now until the end of the May, but I could start tackling this project in June.”)

  1. You are being given work that is not in your “sweet spot.”

This is a tough one, but ultimately, if you are constantly handed work that does not align with your areas of expertise, you are doing both your company and yourself a disservice. Your company won’t receive the best work it could receive and you’ll be straying from your career goals. So, how to say no? Again, a one-on-one meeting with your supervisor is helpful in this situation. Explain to her what your ultimate goals are and what kind of projects you prefer. One of the best things you can do in this situation is approach it with confidence and decisiveness. Know where you’d like to be heading and explain, confidently, how you’d like to get there.

Ultimately, if your company is not supportive of your career goals (or if you find that the type of work you do constantly does not align with your sweet spot), it is time to start searching for something new, either inside or outside your current company.

  1. Saying yes compromises your values.

There are times when it just does not feel good to say yes. Perhaps you agree to attend a late-night strategy session, knowing that your daughter has a piano recital that night. Or perhaps a co-worker dumps several assignments on your lap that are really her responsibility, not yours. Or maybe you’ve had to sacrifice your health or nightly down-time because of all the projects you’ve agreed to do. Whatever the case, sometimes saying yes is simply not the right decision. How to say no? First of all, know your priorities. Does your family come first? Your health? Your mental wellbeing? When one of the things that’s important in your life becomes compromised, it’s time to say no. Keep an open line of communication with your boss and let him know when you feel like work is tipping the scales of your work-life balance. And another thing: think before you say yes. Always take a moment to pause, assess the situation, and make a deliberate decision. If that means waiting a day or two to mull over the pros and cons, so be it. Ultimately, you need to feel good about agreeing to do something before you say “yes.”

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debbie-downer

Have you ever experienced this kind of situation: You arrive at work, full of motivation and positivity; you’re ready to tackle your projects and get lots of quality work done today. Then, a negative co-worker drops by, begins griping about the office, your boss, the break room, his/her personal life, the weather…and all of a sudden you’re deflated. Your positive attitude has flown out the window and you’re left feeling drained and lethargic. Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, you’ll most likely encounter your fair share of negative people throughout your professional career. But how do you deal with them? How do you prevent them from sucking away your energy and motivation?

Here are five techniques:

  1. Offer solutions:

Many negative Neds and Nancys just like to complain…and they expect you to just listen. Take the wind from their sails by offering a potential solution to their troubles. If they reject your help, end the conversation by saying, “Sorry. I guess I’m not sure how to help you, then.”

  1. Set a time limit:

If the negative people in your life like to ramble on and on about their problems, privately set a time limit for how much you can take. After, say, three minutes, jump into their ramblings and say, “I’m sorry things are going so poorly right now, Tracy, but I really need to get back to work. Good luck with everything.”

  1. Ask questions:

If your negative co-worker tends to exaggerate his problems, set him on the straight and narrow by asking clarifying questions. For example: “Oh, wow, it sounds like you’ve been dealing with a lot of extra work lately. How late did you end up staying in the office on Tuesday? And how many projects did the boss send you at the last minute?” Your clarifying questions will likely discourage your co-worker from seeking you out as a passive, sympathetic ear.

  1. Seek positive people:

You might not always be able to avoid negative people in the office, but you can seek out those with positive attitudes and healthy motivation.

  1. Take a step back:

If you find yourself being dragged down by negative attitudes, distance yourself from the situation. Find a quiet place in the office and take a few minutes to think about your latest encounter with negativity and why it had such a powerful effect on you. Recognize that you do have the power to separate yourself from negative thinking and continue down your own track. If you discover that others’ negative attitudes are having a profound effect on your work, don’t be afraid to talk over the situation with a trusted supervisor.

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In this short video, I talk about what it truly means to be an authentic leader. I address why it’s important to lead with meaning, purpose, and values and how self-awareness comes into play. Don’t forget: your authentic self if great! You don’t have to compromise your values to be a strong, capable leader.

If you’d like a more in-depth study of authentic leadership, my book, The Ten-Minute Leadership Challenge, has an entire chapter devoted to this topic.

Thanks for watching!

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extrovert-and-introvert

It is easy to pigeonhole people. It’s easy to say, “You’re like this,” “I’m like that,” “You behave like this…” But the effects this type of stereotyping can have on people can damage a person’s confidence or might inhibit their growth. One of the most common ways we think about others is labeling them as an introvert or an extrovert. We generally think of extraverts as boisterous, open, and social and think of introverts as quiet, secretive, and reclusive. But are people really either one thing or the other?

Definitely not. Even the acclaimed psychologist, Carl Jung, identified a third personality type: the ambivert. He said this group is “the most numerous and includes the less differentiated normal man.”

An ambivert is someone who is socially flexible and attempts to strike a balance between extraversion and introversion. Ambiverts adapt to different situations in the way they think is best—either with an introverted or extraverted tilt. Additionally, they often have a healthy emotional balance that extreme extroverts or introverts sometimes lack.

Ambiverts can also be more successful in sales. According to Adam M. Grant, author of the research paper Rethinking the Extraverted Sales Ideal: The Ambivert Advantage, “Ambiverts achieve greater sales productivity than extraverts or introverts do…Because they naturally engage in a flexible pattern of talking and listening, ambiverts are likely to express sufficient assertiveness and enthusiasm to persuade and close a sale but are more inclined to listen to customers’ interests and less vulnerable to appearing too excited or overconfident.”

As an Insights® Discovery practitioner, I appreciate the term ambivert. One of the great things about Insights®(a personality and behavioral assessment based on the studies of Carl Jung) is that it takes into account human adaptability and dynamism. We might have good days and bad days; we might react one way at a social gathering and another way in an office setting; we might feel extraverted in some situations and introverted in others. Although, according to Insights®, we may “lead” with a certain personality, we all have the capability to embody other personalities as well. (If you’re curious about how Insights® can lead to better inter-office relationships and improved communication, contact me anytime).

So, what do you think? Are you an ambivert?

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the power of storytelling in sales

“A good salesperson knows how to talk; a great salesperson knows how to tell a story.” Rivka Willick, story coach and writer

It is human nature to listen to and trust stories. Ever since we were children, we’ve been surrounded by narratives—on television, in movies, in books, from our grandparents. Sure, stories are fun, but they are also powerful and there are scientific reasons as to why people are attracted to stories. According to neuroeconomics pioneer Paul Zak, “Stories that are highly engaging and contain key elements — including a climax and denouement – can elicit powerful empathic responses by triggering the release Oxytocin. Often referred to as the ‘trust hormone,’ this neurochemical promotes connection and encourages people to feel empathy.”

So, how can you use this powerful technique to gain trust and win sales? Here are a few methods:

  1. Keep it relevant

It’s great if you have an amazing story about fly-fishing in Montana, but is that really what your prospective wants to hear? Instead, focus on the material you’re presenting. How can you bring it to life with a relevant story? Perhaps you have a tidbit about how your product positively affected someone? Or maybe you have an interesting story about the products’ development or value? Brainstorm and jot some ideas down on a notepad. Then, run them by your co-workers or friends to gain their input.

  1. Have a beginning, middle, and end

This point may seem obvious, but it is absolutely crucial. Storyteller Kambri Crews said in an interview with Entrepreneur.com that, “The beginning should hook your audience, while the end, the call to action, must be clear.” If your story is jumbled, your prospective client may have trouble deciphering the main message or become disengaged.

  1. Remember the “elements of a good story”

Sales Benchmark Index has some great advice on using basic storytelling elements to create a compelling tale. They break down a story into the Hero, Stimulus, Conflict, Crossroad, and Moral. Here is an explanation of the elements:

  • Sympathetic main character, AKA the Hero. The audience should be able to see themselves in the hero and the situation.
  • The Hero encounters a Stimulus, which leads them in the direction of resolution or transformation.
  • Tension or a Conflict is exposed. Our Hero now must maneuver challenges and obstacles.
  • Crossroad where the final transformation takes place. In your Use Case this is where the customer purchased your solution.
  • The final chapter in the story is referred to as the Moral of the Story. The Hero has navigated the Conflict and appears transformed in an ideal state.
  1. Practice, practice, practice

Like most things in life, you have to practice your pitch in order to perfect it. First develop it on your own and practice giving your pitch in front of a mirror. Then, practice with others, allowing them to interrupt or make comments (which is likely to happen in a real-life sales situation). Practice sounding natural and unrehearsed and don’t forget to let your body language be relaxed, open, and friendly.

Need help developing your story? Feel free to contact me for guidance.

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stressful communication

When I give a presentation on Communication, I always devote a slice of time to the topic of stress as it relates to communication. If you take a moment to consider the situations that can cause stress in your life, you may realize that some of them involve your interactions with others. If you commit to developing a strategy or plan for overcoming the situations that cause stress, you can change your life for the better.

Now, this may not be what you want to hear, but managing stress doesn’t actually have anything to do with straightening out the behavior of others. Instead, it’s all about management of your own emotional state. We can base our stress-reduction action plan on two unwavering facts:

Fact #1: You only have control over yourself—your actions and your emotions.

Fact #2: People will continue to be, well, PEOPLE. Their actions are completely beyond your control, and often reflect a perspective, rationale, and behavioral preference different from your own.

With the reality that you can only control yourself in mind, consider the following pointers for improving your daily communication:

  1. Recognize the situations that stimulate your energy. When are you most comfortable? When do you perform at your best? Seek out these situations and find ways to alter or eliminate the situations that bring you down.
  2. Be consistent in what you do to control stress. Once you’ve identified a cause of stress and created an action plan, be persistent in your new habit. If you decided to reorient your role during the weekly meeting, build a short reminder of your new habit into that morning’s routine.
  3. Be authentic in your emotional expression. Nothing can wreak havoc on your emotional state worse than a misleading façade. Until you’re honest with yourself and others about what’s tough for you, you won’t escape the stress and dread of the situation.
  4. Combat the “If only she/he would…” reaction. Remember facts 1 and 2? Instead of blaming others for your stress or feelings of frustration, realize that the best way to avoid feeling this way in the future is to ask yourself, what can I do to avoid feeling this way in the future? Whether it’s altering your own expectations, resolving not to feel so deeply about an issue, or finding a way to circumvent the scenario that created the communication issue in the first place.
  5. Oftentimes stress in communications simply comes down to differing communication styles. Instead of jumping to conclusions of ill will or incompatibility, make the effort to observe how others listen and speak, and match your own style of communication with the person to keep them engaged, interested, and trusting.

Dedicate yourself to developing a plan. Learn from each new experience and looks for areas for improvement. If you’re interested in learning more tools for de-stressing your life and improving communication, feel free to send an email or phone call in my direction!

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