Category Archives: Blog

Managing Your Soft Skills

As leaders, we should be consistently updating and upgrading our skills. If you haven’t accessed your skills recently to see where you could improve or collaborate with others who have the skills that complement yours, it may be time to think about doing so. 

So what skills should you focus on? You might take a skills assessment test – there are many out there that you can do for free.  I find that soft skills are in demand, and the five soft skills I like to focus on are:

  • Self-Awareness
  • Self-Management
  • Social Awareness
  • Relationship Management
  • Sustainable Communication

These skills deal with how we manage ourselves and how we respond to the environment. I will touch on each of these briefly, but if you would like more information let me know.

Being a self-aware leader means that we understand our strengths and limitations, including setting boundaries around both. I don’t know about you, but I am better at working with my strengths than managing my limitations. Having back surgery and breaking my knee within a two-year time span made me have to deal with serious limitations!

Spending time at the end or beginning of the week to plan out my schedule helps me use my time more efficiently so that I can implement my strengths during times when I work best. I also make sure to schedule breaks in my calendar to regenerate and refresh my energy level throughout the day. As a leader, it is important to be able to accurately employ my strengths and not let external circumstances dictate my progress. It is also important to be in tune with my values and triggers so that I am positioned to respond rather than react to challenges during the day or week.

Self-management includes being calm and clear-headed during times of stress. In order to be able to accomplish this skill, we must have other things in place such as a healthy diet, sleep, and a way to manage stress through breathing, meditation or exercise. Stress can be brought on by too many changes or challenges that arrive at the same time, and being able to be flexible is key to managing or adapting to these events.

Being flexible is something that you may have learned or still need to learn. Flexibility as a leader is one of my superpowers and I have developed this power over the years. Meeting new challenges or seizing opportunities to stretch my comfort zone have helped me be more flexible. One key self-management strategy is to stay positive and look for the best in each situation regardless of what is happening around you.

A socially-aware leader is able to walk into a room and read the emotions of those in the room. This can be accomplished by looking for non-verbal signs of engagement or disengagement. People who are engaged and ready are usually watching you and have a relaxed posture. Whereas those who are not engaged are distracted and may have their arms crossed or a scowl on their face with little or no eye contact.

Since we don’t usually know what happened to each person in the room before you entered, you may find having a few minutes of ice-breaking comments or interactions gets people ready for you to interact with them. If you don’t already have a relationship with the people in the room, taking the time to create a connection with them is important.

Leaders who understand relationship-management are able to encourage teamwork and collaboration by bringing people together around a shared vision. Building relationships takes time, and is about finding common ground; people often bond over shared experiences, emotions, and knowledge. Relationship management is also about being able to identify the right people who can work together, so being able to identify complementary skills, leadership styles, and work ethic are important.

As a leader focused on relationship management, remember to cultivate abilities and skills through mentoring and coaching. Mentoring is usually a longer-term relationship where you may share your experience and knowledge on a regular basis with a team member who is looking to gain a better understanding of your business or for their own professional development. This is a great tool to use when working with succession planning. Coaching is often used for a specific task and specific time period, and is designed to help those you are working with move through a challenge or address a specific issue.

Leaders who communicate well have the ability to increase engagement. Communication is not only about speaking well, but is also about listening and writing effectively. Listening is about being present and actively listening – this means no distractions such as thinking about what is coming up next. Active listening means that you are seeking to understand not only the words but intention and emotion behind the words of the other person. Written words have an impact, and it is important to read over what you write before you send it regardless of what delivery format you are using – memo, email, text etc. 

I find that these five soft skills are valuable for leaders who want to make a difference in their organizations. It doesn’t matter how many people you are working with; you can always make a positive difference by sharing your insights with others. The key is to keep yourself in a professional development plan for improvement.

I hope you find these five soft skills helpful, and let me know if you need any more information or would like support around developing your soft skills. Be sure to check out any upcoming events.

Intentions, Gratitude and Celebration!

For me, these three words are connected. When I set my intention for the day it helps me to stay focused. At the end of the day, I practice gratitude for what I accomplished and celebrate my daily wins! I will be honest and say that I don’t do this every day, but on the days I do I find my energy and productivity are higher than on the days that I don’t.

Setting an intention can be the driving force behind leaders reaching their goals. An intention is a state of mind rather than an action. For example, on days when I know I have a lot of things on my plate and deadlines are looming, I will set my intention to be gentle with myself. This helps me to overcome my perfectionist mindset, while focusing my energy on what I am able to accomplish rather than beating myself up for not doing as much as I thought I should do.

I also have days where my intention is to relax. I have work I love, and often find myself focused on my goals 24/7, but this is not good for my creativity or my mental health. Slowing down and not working can be a challenge for me. I read for relaxation, and have to make myself read fiction so that I don’t get pages into the book and make notes to start a new project. I have also learned that I cannot listen to non-fiction while driving or I do the same thing – try to take notes while driving – not a good combination!

I find that gratitude needs to be authentic. There are so many things that touch my life:

  • People who call just the moment I need them
  • Ideas that pop into my head to solve a problem
  • Having time to step outside during the day and enjoy my surroundings
  • Being part of teams that support one another
  • Family and friends who love me as I am

You get the gist. Some people practice gratitude to start and end their day. I find that some days I practice gratitude all day long, and on others ending the day with gratitude closes out the day on a positive note.

What are you grateful for? It can be as simple as having a safe space to work or live, having an amazing meal with friends, or taking a walk in the park. Gratitude is personal, but when you write it down it gives it more power. I would challenge you to start a gratitude journal so that you can go back to days when things are not going as well as you had hoped for. You will find energy from revisiting past experiences.

Think about what your daily wins might be. A win could be speaking up in a meeting when you are usually silent. It might be learning a new process or software platform. It might be finding time to listen to a colleague. It might be managing your energy levels throughout the day so you aren’t completely drained at the end of the day.  

Remember to celebrate your daily wins by:

  • Sharing your celebrations with your co-workers, friends, and family.
  •  Adding your daily wins to your gratitude journal.

We are amazing people, and we need to celebrate who we are and what we do more than we do!

If you would like support in setting intentions, having an attitude of gratitude, or celebrating wins, let me know – jillian@wisewomenleadership.com

Prepare for the Future

Back in the 1990’s, Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline, explained that “only by changing how we think can we change deeply embedded policies and practices” and “radical change in how work is done inevitably leads to the definition of new jobs with new skills requirements”.  Fast forward to 2021, and these words still have meaning.

During the 2020 pandemic, many businesses were trying to function under existing policies and practices which no longer served their employees or their customers. Rather than creating a strategy to deal with the changes brought on by the pandemic, many businesses found themselves reacting to the change based on those existing policies and practices – and we know how well that works!

Over the years, we have seen the need for new jobs and new skill requirements. Moving from highly industrialized process-driven work to more technology-based critical thinking work created the need for the up-skilling or retraining of workers. Along with these ongoing changes, colleges and universities find themselves struggling to prepare their students for careers that continue to evolve – or perhaps have not even been envisioned yet. 

In my father’s generation, workers often stayed with the same company until they retired; in my generation the calculation was that we would change careers at least three to five  times. As we move forward, the current and future generations are going to experience far more change in the workplace as businesses adapt to changes in technology, organizational structure, environmental concerns, and  changes yet to be identified.

Change can be challenging, but it also offers new opportunities, so how can we prepare ourselves for the future? In my experience, I find that when people are doing what they love to do, are interested in learning , and are thinking about things that interest them, they will be productive regardless of what is changing around them. Working in what is called a “Zone of Genius” means that you have an innate talent that is focused on your passion, and at the end of the day you feel energized rather than depleted.

We need to decide if we are going to react to change and add skills as we have to, or be proactive and consistently learn new skills that can be used in a variety of industry sectors. For example, understanding and building your emotional intelligence can be used no matter where your work takes you, as well as good communication and problem-solving skills.

Are you stuck in your career? Do you need help in developing a strategy to help you change or grow? Contact me and let’s talk about how I can help you to refocus your energy and find work that you love!

How to Build and Sustain Business Trust

I recently listened to a TED Talks Daily podcast where Marcos Aguiar, an engineer and consultant, talked about business ecosystems that build and sustain trust. He began by asking how many people would allow strangers to pick up their children, drive them around town, drop them off at a remote location and pay them to do so. 

He then shared that this was the foundation of a company started by three women that began in one city and grew to others that transported children to and from after-school activities. This organization was built on what Marcos calls systemic trust – trust in the business or system.

From a study he conducted, he identified various factors that are used when building an organization based upon trust. Four of the factors are:

  • Access focuses on who is (and who isn’t) allowed to interact with the organization.
  • Incentives provide rewards and motivators for specific types of activities and behaviors the organization expects.
  • Transparency communicates a clear message to the consumer, and an example of this is reviews by customers about the business
  • Contracts allow parties to agree to terms and conditions of doing business together.

Marcos shared that there is not a single tool that can build trust by itself, and that most businesses seemed to use three to five of the tools he identified in the podcast. 

Another interesting concept he raised was that most businesses that build trust used both digital and non-digital tools when designing their systems. Think about this for a moment. When you buy things on online shopping platforms or use a particular online service to book your next trip, why do you trust one business model over another?

How do you build trust in your business with your customers, clients, contractors, or suppliers? What tools did you use to build and sustain that trust? How could you incorporate the tools that Marcos mentioned?

Does any of this resonate with you? Would you like the link to the original podcast? Drop me a note and let me hear from you!

Why a Butterfly?

Someone recently asked me why I chose a butterfly as the logo for Wise Women Leadership, and I thought that might be a good blog post for this month. For me, butterflies are the essence of change and transformation, and as the focus of my business is about changing or improving performance, I feel the two have a lot in common. 

Like butterflies, many of our businesses don’t just happen overnight, and they go through some significant changes to get to the end result. My idea around creating a supportive network for entrepreneurs and leaders to grow and change began as a seed many years ago. 

Like the caterpillar that eats its way through leaves to gain energy for the transformation, I spent time and gathered knowledge and experience about leadership. I have applied what I have learned about leadership with various business sectors and have found that there are underlying topics that cross business types and industry levels. For example:

Leadership is not about a title as much as it is about a skills, values, and communication.

Planning is something that takes resources in the present to preserve resources in the future.

 Self-care is as valuable a part of leadership as any knowledge or experience.

Each leader brings to the organization his or her own unique experience. For me, my unique self is adapting to change. For as long as I can remember I have had to adapt to circumstances and cultures, and this has given me a distinctive advantage when working with clients. I call it my magic sauce!

I was also asked why I chose the color purple. Purple signifies wisdom, creativity, and would you believe – magic! I believe that wisdom comes from life-long learning combined with experience. We are never too young or too old to learn something new every day, and when we keep connecting with people and places, our experience continues to grow. 

To me, creativity is essential for enjoying life.  I am at my best when I am learning something new, meeting new people, making new connections, or creating new offerings. When I am at my creative best time flies by quickly, my passion is in full bloom, and my energy is high. Even my hobbies allow me to explore my creative side; I love to garden and watch how plants grow, and I love to make quilts out of different colors and textures of fabric. I know I am at my lowest when I am not creative and things are tedious or too routine and this is when I look for ways to bring creativity back into my daily work and life.

What makes your creative energy flow? What excites you about your work or your life? Drop me a note and let me know mailto:jillian@wisewomenleadership.com .

Managing a Sustainable Business

Business Strategy

Earlier this month, I presented a webinar on Managing a Sustainable Business. As you look to grow your business and ensure your company’s longevity, it’s important to remember regardless of size, businesses exist for two main reasons:

Provide a product or service that meets an unmet need

Generate an acceptable return on invested resources.

If your product or service isn’t meeting a need, then the business most likely will not be able to generate an adequate customer base, and in turn not be able to generate a return on invested resources. The four factors important for a business to be sustainable include:

Market Positioning – A business needs to be in a market that is large enough to support growth regardless of the percentage of market share your company serves.  There are two methods you can use to grow market share:

generate new customers for your existing products or services

generate new products and services for your existing customers

Sometimes a business is not ready for the market due to limiting factors, or the market is not mature enough to purchase the products and services being offered. Having a clear understanding of the market is key to managing a sustainable business.

Leadership – A business needs to promote learning for everyone involved in the process of operating the organization. This includes:

learning about how the business functions

learning about the products and services the business offers

learning how to collaborate

learning how to be customer focused. 

Mentoring and coaching employees for succession and growth can have a significant impact on organizational culture. Keep in mind that open and authentic communication should also be part of the culture.

Operations – Having systems in place so that the business can operate effectively and efficiently are also important. One of the most important factors in operations is to make sure that internal resources are aligned with external demands. If you own a seasonal business, there may be times where inventories are lower than others, as well as staffing needs and resources.  Addressing the ups and downs of the business cycle should include a review of how work is being considered, and make sure that the right tasks are being incentivized.

Planning – While many businesses don’t work from both a strategic plan and an operating plan, a sustainable business knows the value of both. It’s important to understand the difference between a strategic plan and an operating plan:

A strategic plan maps the way

An operating plan works the day

Planning creates a map of how the business will address short and long-term goals, and should be structured enough to provide stability to the business and flexible enough to allow for contingencies.

I hope these highlights have been valuable, and please check out my upcoming webinars. If you have any questions or would like help managing a sustainable business please email me at jillian@wisewomenleadership.com.

Setting Goals

Dream Big – Set Goal – Take Action text with many light bulbs

This month I shared some tips about setting goals in the newsletter, and thought I would continue this topic here in the blog. Some people are really good a setting both long and short-term goals, while others struggle to set weekly and monthly goals. There are three main pieces to goal setting:

Know where you are now – take inventory of your personal and professional life and make a note of what you like and what you would like to change.

Think about where you want to be – this could be 6 months from now, 1 year, or 10 years. The key is to be clear in your mind what that future looks like.

Create a plan to get from where you are to where you want to be – this may sound simple, but you will find that you will need to make changes and adjustments along the way because life will throw you challenges.

Another important factor is to have that future goal – or where you want to be – as clear as possible. Creating clear, actionable goals is accomplished by making them:

  • Specific and easy to understand. Be as specific as you can try to include your senses in your description of what you want to accomplish
  • Measurable so you know how far you have gone to reaching your goal. A large or long-term goal can be broken down into small action steps that you can celebrate completing.
  • Achievable based on the resources you have at your disposal. You may find that you will need to acquire of build the resources you need to complete the goal, and this should also be part of the consideration before you undertake the task.
  • Relevant to you and your lifestyle. If a goal doesn’t resonate with you an all levels then you are less likely to reach the goal. It may be the right goal but the wrong timing!
  • Time-bound so that there is an end date to the process. As you create your goal and the subsequent action steps towards the goal, assign due dates and check off and celebrate when you reach each step.

I hope this helps you if you are setting goals or making adjustments to goals you already have in place. If you have any questions or would like help setting goals please let me know mailto:jillian@wisewomenleadership.com