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If You Want To Shine At Work, Do These 5 Things

If You Want To Shine At Work, Do These 5 Things

Do you want to have a career you love?

The people who have the most successful, happiest careers are the ones who are truly superstars at what they do. They invest in things that matter and focus energy on becoming the best. So how can you be someone who doesn’t just show up and get the work done, but who shines and excels while doing it?

Standing out in the work environment is difficult, especially if you work on a big team or at a company where excellence is the norm. To help you become a career superstar, take a look through a list of our top five lessons to help you shine as a leader and make the most out of your career.

1. Write down your goals

Accomplishing your goals is similar to planning a trip: once you decide where you want to go, you have to plan how you’re going to get there, your time frame, and which steps you need to take along the way to reach your destination if you want to actually arrive there. Having goals is important for staying focused in the long run, since just showing up for the daily grind isn’t enough to help you take big career leaps.

Everyone shows up. You have to plan if you want to do more: you need to know what you want to accomplish and what steps you’ll need to get there. When goal setting, think in terms of three different time frames: what do you want to accomplish in the short-term (6 months – 1 year), the intermediate-term (3 – 5 years), and long-term (12 – 15 years).

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This can be extremely daunting, but short-term goals help build toward long-term goals. Do you want to own your own software company? Well, if you aren’t able to start that company today, figure out what is standing in your way and make a plan to knock down those hurdles before you start your business, or you risk letting the years go by and nothing happening.

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” – Alan Kay

Putting your plans on a concrete time frame will help you stay on track so you don’t put your big goals and dreams on the back burner when life, work and other responsibilities get in the way. Prioritize your goals to make them happen.

Schedule time each week to work specifically towards accomplishing your goal and set aside an additional 15 minutes each week to monitor your progress, investigate next steps, and correct the course.

2. Ask for feedback

As the saying goes, we are often hardest on ourselves. At work, superstars tend to push themselves to be better at everything (which is a good thing), but sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what you need to do to improve yourself and truly be amazing at your job. After all, you only have one perspective. That’s where asking for feedback comes in.

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When you invite feedback, you make it possible for yourself to truly become great. By getting outside opinions on your work, you are suddenly able to improve more quickly than if you are relying solely on your own evaluations. Other people have different perspectives, values and insights to share — by inviting as many of them as possible, you provide yourself a wealth of knowledge to make yourself even better.

If you’re just starting out asking for feedback, a great place to start is with your boss, since he or she has the closest understanding of what success in your role looks like. Not only will getting feedback from your boss help you do more of the work that matters more successfully, but increased communication and face-time is valuable for building trust and rapport that helps to make you stand out on your team.

When asking for feedback, there are important factors to keep in mind. Most importantly, don’t get defensive. Even if you disagree with the feedback, rather than arguing, ask for an example of the negative behavior and get more context so you can understand his or her perspective. (Even if you don’t end up using the feedback, this can be valuable for understanding what matters to this person so you can work better with him or her in the future.)

The next important factor to asking for feedback is to try what’s recommended. Feedback can’t help if you don’t do anything with it. You may later decide you don’t like the new method, but trying it shows you are open to critique and doing things a new way if it’s better.

3. Handle bad situations like a leader

Not every day at work is great, and as a leader, sometimes it’s your job to tell everyone when there’s bad news. Whether it’s a negative performance review or announcing a cancelled project, here are important tips for delivering bad news effectively.

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Deliver the news in person to show you care and so you can respond to the employee or team’s reaction in an appropriate and timely manner. If an employee isn’t performing, tell him or her immediately, rather than waiting until the only option left is firing the person. Give him or her the benefit of the doubt, listen to his or her concerns, and be open to emotion — remember you’ve had time to process your feelings, but this bad news is brand new to the other person.

Also, be straightforward and tell people exactly what is going wrong, so they know what they need to do to make changes and how success or failure will be measured.

Lastly, follow up – give your employee or team a reasonable amount of time to make the changes requested and then check in with them again to show you are aware of their progress. Ask questions, and make it clear you’re there to help. You want to always be an ally, even in a tough situation, since positive relationships are much harder to rebuild than a cancelled project or rough quarter.

4. Banish multitasking

Multitask is a misnomer – what we actually do is task-switch, and it’s no good. Humans can only do one cognitive task at a time, so “multitasking” is just about the worst mechanism for being efficient. Studies show task-switching can cost a person as much as 40% of productive time.

Instead of switching back and forth between projects, try following the OHIO principle: Only Handle It Once. This means if you start something, finish it before moving on to your next task. A great way to stick to the OHIO principle is to schedule blocks of time for you to check emails, respond to messages, check voice mails, or any other necessary tasks that pose distractions during the day. This way, instead of stopping everything to respond to an email every time you get a desktop notification (and incurring the extra time to find your place again in your work, try to remember what you were doing, etc.) you only check three times a day.

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If necessary, you can prevent distracting emails, texts, phone calls or websites that tempt you to task-switch. Turn off desktop notifications, put your phone on silent (and in a drawer, so it’s out of sight), and use applications that help you block distracting websites, like the SelfControl App for Mac users, or Cold Turkey if you run Windows.

5. Get to know your team

No matter how much you prefer to work alone, or how much of a genius you are, we all need other people to help us succeed. It’s not practical to do everything yourself, and it is simply true that opportunities come from other people — they don’t appear out of thin air. Authentic relationships are necessary for success, so instead of trying to build a relationship when you need something, start building those relationships now.

All it takes is an hour of your time: every week, take a peer or someone in your department out to coffee. Let them know it’s your treat and all you want to do is get together and chat. Ask them about their background, their goals, their career trajectory… become invested in who they are. When you get to know your work community, you will understand their personalities and work habits, and the better you’ll be able to work together.

On top of that, you’ll be investing in trust and good communication with the people who have the closest and biggest impact on your career success. The stronger your team relationships, the better the overall performance and the more successful you all become.

These five tips are simple, effective and help improve your career success trajectory, so there’s no time to waste – pick a tip to try out this week, get started, and watch yourself transform into a career superstar!

Featured photo credit: 136:365 – I’s Kaptain Cookiedough!!/Nomadic Lass via flickr.com

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Last Updated on June 18, 2019

5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

It takes great leadership skills to build great teams.

The best leaders have distinctive leadership styles and are not afraid to make the difficult decisions. They course-correct when mistakes happen, manage the egos of team members and set performance standards that are constantly being met and improved upon.

With a population of more than 327 million, there are literally scores of leadership styles in the world today. In this article, I will talk about the most common leadership styles and how you can determine which works best for you.

5 Types of Leadership Styles

I will focus on 5 common styles that I’ve encountered in my career: democratic, autocratic, transformational, transactional and laissez-faire leadership.

The Democratic Style

The democratic style seeks collaboration and consensus. Team members are a part of decision-making processes and communication flows up, down and across the organizational chart.

The democratic style is collaborative. Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek is an example of a leader who appears to have a democratic leadership style.

    The Autocratic Style

    The autocratic style, on the other hand, centers the preferences, comfort and direction of the organization’s leader. In many instances, the leader makes decisions without soliciting agreement or input from their team.

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    The autocratic style is not appropriate in all situations at all times, but it can be especially useful in certain careers, such as military service, and in certain instances, such as times of crisis. Steve Jobs was said to have had an autocratic leadership style.

    While the democratic style seeks consensus, the autocratic style is less interested in consensus and more interested in adherence to orders. The latter advises what needs to be done and expects close adherence to orders.

      The Transformational Style

      Transformational leaders drive change. They are either brought into organizations to turn things around, restore profitability or improve the culture.

      Alternatively, transformational leaders may have a vision for what customers, stakeholders or constituents may need in the future and work to achieve those goals. They are change agents who are focused on the future.

      Examples of transformational leader are Oprah and Robert C. Smith, the billionaire hedge fund manager who has offered to pay off the student loan debt of the entire 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College.

        The Transactional Style

        Transactional leaders further the immediate agenda. They are concerned about accomplishing a task and doing what they’ve said they’d do. They are less interested in changing the status quo and more focused on ensuring that people do the specific task they have been hired to do.

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        The transactional leadership style is centered on short-term planning. This style can stifle creativity and keep employees stuck in their present roles.

        The Laissez-Faire Style

        The fifth common leadership style is laissez-faire, where team members are invited to help lead the organization.

        In companies with a laissez-faire leadership style, the management structure tends to be flat, meaning it lacks hierarchy. With laissez-faire leadership, team members might wonder who the final decision maker is or can complain about a lack of leadership, which can translate to lack of direction.

        Which Leadership Style do You Practice?

        You can learn a lot about your leadership style by observing your family of origin and your formative working experiences.

        Whether you realize it, from the time you were born up until the time you went to school, you were receiving information on how to lead yourself and others. From the way your parents and siblings interacted with one another, to unspoken and spoken communication norms, you were a sponge for learning what constitutes leadership.

        The same is true of our formative work experiences. When I started my communications career, I worked for a faith-based organization and then a labor union. The style of communication varied from one organization to the other. The leadership required to be successful in each organization was also miles apart. At Lutheran social services, we used language such as “supporting people in need.” At the labor union, we used language such as “supporting the leadership of workers” as they fought for what they needed.

        Many in the media were more than happy to accept my pitch calls when I worked for the faith-based organization, but the same was not true when I worked for a labor union. The quest for media attention that was fair and balanced became more difficult and my approach and style changed from being light-hearted to being more direct with the labor union.

        I didn’t realize the impact those experiences had on how I thought about my leadership until much later in my career.

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        In my early experience, it was not uncommon for team members to have direct, brash and tough conversations with one another as a matter of course. It was the norm, not the exception. I learned to challenge people, boldly state my desires and preferences, and give tough feedback, but I didn’t account for the actions of others fit for me, as a black woman. I didn’t account for gender biases and racial biases.

        What worked well for my white male bosses, did not work well for me as an African American woman. People experienced my directness as being rude and insensitive. While I needed to be more forceful in advancing the organization’s agenda when I worked for labor, that style did not bode well for faith-based social justice organizations who wanted to use the love of Christ to challenge injustice.

        Whereas I received feedback that I needed to develop more gravitas in the workplace when I worked for labor, when I worked for other organizations after the labor union, I was often told to dial it back. This taught me two important lessons about leadership:

        1. Context Matters

        Your leadership style must adjust to each workplace you are employed. The challenges and norms of an organization will shape your leadership style significantly.

        2. Not All Leadership Styles Are Appropriate for the Teams You’re Leading

        When I worked on political campaigns, we worked nonstop. We started at dawn and worked late into the evening. I couldn’t expect that level of round-the-clock work for people at the average nonprofit. Not only couldn’t I expect it, it was actually unhealthy. My habit of consistently waking up at 4 am to work was profoundly unhealthy for me and harmful for the teams I was leading.

        As life coach and spiritual healer Iyanla Vanzant has said,

        “We learn a lot from what is seen, sensed and shared.”

        The message I was sending to my team was ‘I will value you if you work the way that I work, and if you respond to my 4 am, 5 am and 6 am emails.’ I was essentially telling my employees that I expect you to follow my process and practice.

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        As I advanced in my career and began managing more people, I questioned everything I thought I knew about leadership. It was tough. What worked for me in one professional setting did not work in other settings. What worked at one phase of my life didn’t necessarily serve me at later stages.

        When I began managing millennials, I learned that while committed to the work, they had active interests and passions outside of the office. They were not willing to abandon their lives and happiness for the work, regardless of how fulfilling it might have been.

        The Way Forward

        To be an effective leader, you must know yourself incredibly well. You must be self-reflective and also receptive to feedback.

        As fellow Lifehack contributor Mike Bundrant wrote in the article 10 Essential Leadership Qualities That Make a Great Leader:

        “Those who lead must understand human nature, and they start by fully understanding themselves…They know their strengths, and are equally aware of their weaknesses and thus understand the need for team work and the sharing of responsibility.”

        The way to determine your leadership style is to get to know yourself and to be mindful of the feedback you receive from others. Think about the leadership lessons that were seen, sensed and shared in your family of origin. Then think about what feels right for you. Where do you gravitate and what do you tend to avoid in the context of leadership styles?

        If you are really stuck, think about using a personality assessment to shed light on your work patterns and preferences.

        Finally, the path for determining your leadership style is to think about not only what you need, or what your company values, but also what your team needs. They will give you cues on what works for them and you need to respond accordingly.

        Leadership requires flexibility and attentiveness. Contrary to unrealistic notions of leadership, being a leader is less about being served and more about being of service.

        More About Leadership

        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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