3 ways to inspire and nurture leaders in your organization

Black professional speaking, Black entrepreneur, Black woman
Leaders who encourage professional growth can build a strong team of self-starters.

  • All great leaders were once given the opportunity by another leader to prove themselves.
  • To create a culture of self-starters, employers should find ways to nurture early-career workers.
  • Employees that are prepared to take on leadership roles will help a company steadily develop and grow.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Ethical, confident, wise – these are among the many attributes of great leaders, and these attributes usually stem from that leader’s experiences and personal style. But there is one thing all great leaders have in common: At some point in their career, someone believed in them.

Simple as it may seem, this realization can inspire new leadership tactics in great leaders and help them turn their attention to developing their teams.

Here are three tips on how to use your own expertise to build the next generation of leaders for your organization.

1. Present opportunities to your people

When you think about your own trajectory to a position of leadership, you likely got there because you had experiences that others didn’t. It is so important to help others develop themselves, and to start you must give them opportunities to do so.

Opportunities can be presented in a number of different ways. One tactic I use is to share examples of my own experiences – experiences that might inspire new ideas or help someone develop an understanding of the similarities between situations that can help them move forward.

Guiding The UPS Store throughout a global pandemic will be a story I tell for years to come. Our network of franchise owners remained open as essential to serve their communities, a feat that inspires resilience and optimism that can carry you through those more challenging times. I also draw on my experience as a former officer in the Marine Corps to help explain tough conditions and how planning, preparation, and the ability to adapt can help you forge ahead.

Another way to nurture development is to give employees stretch projects beyond their normal day-to-day roles. Let them take the driver’s seat so that they can develop the wisdom and confidence needed to make good judgment calls.

You’ll have to find what feels right and works for your company. Keep in mind that without these opportunities, you could be leaving your employees flat-footed to do their jobs and rise as leaders, both of which impact your organization overall.

2. Recognize your own hesitancies

Know that it’s normal to feel some level of stress when handing over the reins to your team. Whether you are worried about being accountable for someone else, giving up control or becoming a micromanager, you must overcome those feelings to give employees the opportunity to expand and evolve.

Start by identifying the sources of any hesitancy you might have, and then look for solutions to overcome it. If accountability is something you are worried about, is there a way to find shared responsibility within a project? Start by clearly outlining the project goals and then ask your employees to check in with you at specific milestones. By keeping you informed and sharing regular updates, you can have confidence that the project is moving forward and in the right direction while allowing employees to develop their own leadership skills, generate new ideas and build upon new experiences.

Remember that failure is a part of the growth process, and a big proponent of helping employees develop themselves is giving them the space to learn, try, and push beyond their comfort zone. But keep playing the role of coach or adviser to help them gain the knowledge and skills to develop as leaders.

3. Extend your circle of trust

Humans are creatures of habit and that extends to leadership. Once you’ve successfully relied on members of your team to accomplish a big task or launch a new initiative, it can be tempting to go back to the same people to do it all over again. But as new projects arise, it is important to continually identify and leverage the strengths of other employees.

Ask other leaders throughout your organization to recommend people for a project. This practice helps employees gain exposure to new areas of the business, work with a different team and adapt to new team dynamics. By trusting your people to take on new roles, you help foster a culture of integrity and develop leadership skills among a broader base of people.

The best employees are adept at making sound decisions and have the ability to plan, prioritize, and solve problems. It is so important to give people the opportunity for continued professional development. Through these new opportunities, you often reveal strengths in people that you were unaware of, while at the same time, you help to scale your organization with diversity of thought and experiences that can drive your business forward.

Remember, it all started with someone believing in you. Be that person for the teams you lead.

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15 Microsoft Word tips and tricks that will help any user work more efficiently

man using keyboard on laptop computer
Microsoft Word has many useful features you might not know about.

  • Microsoft Word is filled with little-known tips and tricks that allow for more efficient work. 
  • Some tricks, like “Focus” mode and quick translations, make writing and editing a breeze.
  • Other features, like a built-in Resume Assistant and a document-signing tool, can aid on professional documents.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

It’s easy to take Microsoft Word for granted, despite its reputation as an easy-to-use word processor. 

However, even everyday Word users might not realize how powerful the app is, or how many features it has beyond the simple editing commands we all know.

Microsoft Word tips and tricks

Taking time to explore Word’s more obscure corners can make the program even more useful for you. If you start using these tricks often, you might start to wonder how you ever went without them.

Here are 15 of our favorite Microsoft Word tips and tricks, all of which can save you time and energy while you work.

How to draw freely on Microsoft Word or insert shapes to customize documentsHow to delete a page in Microsoft Word, even if you can’t delete any text from itYes, you can use Microsoft Word on a Chromebook – here’s how to install itHow to open a Microsoft Word document in Pages on a Mac computer, and export a Pages file back to Word

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How silencing the ‘chatter’ in your head can make you a better leader, according to a professor

Ethan_Kross
Ethan Kross, a University of Michigan professor and the author of “Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It.”

  • Ethan Kross is a University of Michigan professor and the author of an upcoming book on chatter.
  • He provides tools for turning negative chatter into something positive to help you regain control. 
  • Creating distance, avoiding social media, and getting outside will make you a better manager.
  • This article is part of a series called “Leaders by Day,” which takes a look at how prominent business leaders are tackling various challenges in today’s economy.

As humans, we may talk to ourselves at a rate equivalent to speaking 4,000 words per minute out loud. That’s according to Ethan Kross, a University of Michigan professor and the author of “Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It.”

For CEOs and small business owners alike, that torrent of internal narrative can be paralyzing, inhibiting those in charge from leading effectively.

“Part of what I find so interesting about chatter is that it is universal – we all have the ability to get stuck in our heads when we are dealing with negative events, and when we get stuck, that can lead to really negative consequences in an organizational or business context,” Kross told Insider.

In his book, Kross provides tools for turning negative chatter into something positive – which he said leaders will find especially useful when confronted with COVID-19-related business stress. They can be even more effective when used in conjunction with one another. 

“I’ll do three or four things when I experience chatter over the pandemic, and it’s the combination of those things that often helps me,” he said.

Employers should remember that workers may also be occupied by chatter regarding health and economic issues. In his book, Kross said that demonstrating your own experience with these issues can help to show empathy. Convening a group to discuss solutions to a topic you know is top-of-mind rather than just offering advice unsolicited can provide needed assistance while empowering workers to recognize their own resilience.  

According to Kross, the phenomenon of the “inner voice” has existed for thousands of years and was well documented by ancient cultures. In fact, the ability to introspect, of which the inner voice is a part, is thought to be a highly meaningful step forward in the evolutionary process, one of the things that distinguishes humans from other species. Chatter, according to Kross, is the negative manifestation of this inner voice. 

“When we’re experiencing chatter, one thing that does is occupy our attention, and we have only so much attention that we can focus on something at any one moment in time – so when you’re talking about work, which often requires intense focus, you’re talking about a serious impairment in your ability to do your job,” he said.

As a business leader, if you’re paying too much attention to the chatter in your head, you may be overanalyzing your decisions, for example. Or, at a time when most small business owners don’t anticipate the economy returning to anything approaching normal until late this year, according to the National Federation of Independent Business, perhaps your concerns are dominating your thinking to the exclusion of being able to take care of your day-to-day responsibilities. Either, or both, could take time away from important decisions you need to be making in the here and now and leave you feeling stuck and unable to function.  

Additionally, Kross warned that chatter can take a toll on how you’re relating to your team. 

“When we’re busy experiencing chatter, we can also be more aggressive with others,” he said. “We also tend to experience more social friction.”

Uncertainty and a lack of control are key ingredients that fuel chatter, Kross said. “We love, as human beings, to be certain about things,” he said.

Kross said the exact solution for taming the chatter in your head will vary from person to person. 

“I’m a big fan of advocating the diversity of tools that exist,” he said. “I think the beauty of the tools that I lay out in ‘Chatter’ is that most of them are really simple to use – they don’t take hours of practice, and they’re free,” he added.

Here’s a look at just a few of the solutions Kross offers. 

Create distance

Convert your chatter to third person, using your name and the pronoun “you.” Research showed that this led to less activation in the brain in areas associated with overthinking, which may in turn lead to wiser decision-making.

Reframe your perspective

You’re facing an adverse event at your company, such as having to decide whether to lay off some employees.

Try reframing this as a challenge for your business to surmount – “I’m going to find a way to keep these two employees on the payroll,” or, “I’m going to operate my business with a leaner staff” – and look for unique ways to solve the challenge. This may get you out of the flight-or-fight stress response that can trigger an excess of chatter. 

Create order in your environment

“When we experience chatter, we often feel as if we are losing control. Our thought spirals control us rather than the other way around,” Kross writes in his book. “When this happens, you can boost your sense of control by imposing order on your environment.” 

This may not necessarily mean cleaning up your office – it could be as simple as making a to-do list to organize what you need to get done or taking some time to journal out everything that’s in your head. 

Minimize passive social media usage

Unsurprisingly, Kross recommended limiting “doomscrolling,” suggesting the use of social media mainly as a networking tool to gain insight from others who may be in the same situation. 

Increase your exposure to green spaces

Science shows that nature is a good healer, expanding and refreshing the brain’s capacity for attention. 

Kross found in his research that when leaders put a combination of these strategies to work, they were better able to recognize the limits of their own knowledge and be open to others’ viewpoints. 

“When you’re experiencing chatter, you’re not in that wise state, but when you break out of it, and use some of these tools, we see evidence for enhancement in how wisely people can solve problems,” he said.

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How to block social media apps from yourself to stop distractions and be more productive

social media apps
You can block social media apps from yourself with the help of several apps and plug-ins.

  • If you want to block social media apps from yourself, there are dozens of apps, extensions, and tools you can use.
  • We’ve picked out three tools to block any website or app — Freedom, StayFocusd, and RescueTime — which are perfect for blocking social media.
  • Blocking social media apps can save you time, stop distractions, and protect your mental health.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

Social media can be addictive, and we’ve all had those moments when peeling our eyes away from Twitter or YouTube feels impossible.

But if your social media use is becoming a problem, you might want to consider downloading an app or browser extension to limit your time on sites that hinder your productivity.

How to block social media apps from yourself 

Here are three different tools that let you block social media sites from yourself and gain back your time. 

Using phone
Social media can be fun, but stressful.

Social media blocker #1: Freedom (app)

Freedom is one of the most popular social media blocker apps available right now. It can be used on smartphones, tablets, and computers alike, and is compatible with Windows, Android, Mac/iOS, and Chrome devices. There are a handful of browser extensions that can be used alongside Freedom for additional leverage. 

Freedom’s main appeal is that it allows users to set their own limits: you can block specific websites, block all websites except for specific ones you need, or block the entire internet. It also allows you to schedule specific times in which you’re allowed to use specific sites, as well as log how much time you spend on each website.

Freedom is free to use for the first seven sessions, after which you’ll be asked to pay for a subscription in order to keep using it.

Social media blocker #2: StayFocusd (browser extension)

StayFocusd is a free browser extension that controls the amount of time you can spend on specific websites each day. It’s currently only available for Google Chrome, meaning it won’t work on other web browsers like Firefox or Microsoft Edge. The downside to this is you can easily switch to another browser without StayFocusd installed. 

StayFocusd, like its name implies, restricts the time users can spend on specific websites, with the goal of keeping you focused. After users meet their daily time limit for the sites in question, StayFocusd will lock them out of those websites for the rest of the day.

There’s also a strict “Nuclear Option” that prevents you from undoing the restrictions you set, so make sure you’re certain and don’t accidentally add on any extra zeros to the time limit (in hours).  

Its site-blocking abilities are quite powerful, too – you can use it to block specific sites, as well as individual website pages, paths, and content hosted on an individual page (like photos or videos). It also syncs to all of your other devices, so that you can’t circumvent its software by opening up unwanted sites on another device.

Social media blocker #3: RescueTime (app and browser extension)

RescueTime is an app and browser plug-in that automatically tracks the amount of time users spend on websites, documents, and other programs. The app is available on Windows, Android, Mac/iOS, Chrome, and Linux devices, and its browser plug-in can be used on Chrome, Firefox, and Brave. Best of all, you can add it to as many devices as you want.

RescueTime not only blocks specific websites for specific periods of time, it also allows users to take advantage of other productivity tools, such as goal-setting exercises and reports on how much time is spent on each site, in addition to the Productivity Challenge coursepack. It can also be integrated with many other applications, such as Slack and Calendar.

RescueTime is free for the first 14 days of use, after which you’ll need to pay for a subscription in order to continue using it.

Related coverage from Tech Reference:

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I worked for 25 years before taking an 11-month career break, and learned 5 things that anyone can do to reap the benefits of a ‘sabbatical mindset’ – even without taking time off

Chris Litster
Chris Litster.

  • Chris Litster is an executive at Buildium, a platform that helps property managers become more efficient and profitable.
  • Several years ago when the company he’d worked at for 10 years was acquired, he said goodbye and decided to take 11 months off from working.
  • For him, the benefits were huge, but Litser also says during a year like 2020 when taking time off might not be an option, there are 5 lessons that anyone can add into their daily routine to adopt the ‘sabbatical mindset.’
  • He encourages reframing your professional priorities, taking the opportunity to dabble and expand your network, and embracing a simplified, more personal bucket list.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Several years ago, I was lucky enough to take a sabbatical from work. 

It sounds like an exceptional luxury. It was. I’ll always be grateful for the 11 months I was able to take off in the middle of my career. It was a choice I was privileged to make and a chance few people ever get. 

I’m writing now in a very different context. The crisis of the last year has impacted so many people’s careers in unexpected, challenging and sometimes devastating ways. Many find themselves between careers or exploring new directions. Others are waiting for jobs to come back or new opportunities to surface. 

There’s no getting around how trying this experience is. But one question may be worth asking: Can this time also be an opening to regroup, refocus, and refresh, so that you’re approaching your next opportunity with purpose? 

The answer may be a flat out “no,” and that’s understandable. But for some, this unexpected break may be able to serve as a critical, even strategic, pause on the career journey. I’d like to re-share my experiences and observations in the hopes of helping others “hack” their own sabbatical, whether your break is planned or unplanned. 

Among the most powerful lessons: You don’t need a few months, or even a few weeks, to reap the benefits. A sabbatical mindset can be achieved with no formal break at all. 

Lesson 1: There’s never a perfect time 

Plenty of my colleagues were supportive of my decision to take time off, even though I didn’t exactly have an endgame in mind. But when my kids found out, one of the first things they asked was, “Are you going to be able to find a job again?” It was a more polite version of what a search firm told me: “You’re stupid. You’re in the prime of your career. Taking a year off will make you irrelevant.”  

These concerns are fair enough – but I think there’s an internal voice that lets you know you’re officially burned out. I knew for a while I wasn’t running on all cylinders. And when your work suffers, when your family life suffers, when you’re no longer in the driver’s seat of your own life, you just have to press pause and recalibrate, or you’re heading for trouble

I had a vague plan for my time off. The first six months were going to be purely about rest and recuperation. The second half would be about refocusing on career plans and next steps. Of course, disconnecting and achieving that was easier said than done.

Lesson 2: Embrace a different kind of bucket list

As I drove home from my last day of work, I practically had a panic attack. “What did you just do?!” just kept repeating in my brain. I spent the first several days of the sabbatical just wondering constantly about what was going on at the office and compulsively checking my calendar app. After spending so much time at a company, it wasn’t exactly easy to make a clean break.

But after a week or so, I did stop refreshing my work email. Once I had disentangled myself from work life, the way my energy came back was actually eye opening. And I was able to start filling my days with the things I’d been meaning to make more time for for years. 

We did do a family trip during my time off, but if anything, my sabbatical was about checking off a bucket list of ordinariness. I woke up without knowing what I was going to do that day… and that’s the way I liked it. I had breakfast with my family most mornings. I drove my kids to school. I did the grocery shopping and played tennis and even tried yoga, now that the excuse of “I’m busy with work” wasn’t true anymore. More than any grand plans or life-changing adventures, the opportunity to truly live in the moment and enjoy the people I love is what restored my energy and enthusiasm.  

Lesson 3: Master the fine art of dabbling

To say I didn’t work at all during my sabbatical would be a lie. I was “working,” but it was at a dramatically different pace and with a very different kind of focus than before. 

I made a point of casually messaging and connecting with colleagues and individuals in my network – the kind of people I’d met over the years and really liked and trusted, but never had much time to connect with outside the office. I didn’t have much of an agenda other than catching up and using them as a sounding board while I sketched out the next phase of my life. It was an opportunity to work through exactly what I was and wasn’t looking for next, putting me back in the driver’s seat of my career. With no real end goal to pursue, my ideas had time to incubate, and evolve. 

It turned out, though, that I was engineering serendipity. Opportunities began popping up through conversation, and my new schedule allowed me to explore some exciting part-time collaborations – like an entrepreneur-in-residence role at VC Michael Skok’s new investment firm. Yes, I had planned on not working for a year, but I realized it was a great way to be exposed to all sorts of companies at different stages and test-drive different roles. It let me explore my options for the future in a low-pressure environment that still left plenty of time to be home for family dinner.

Lesson 4: The sabbatical may have to end, but the benefits don’t

These networking coffee chats eventually led to the role I’m in now – running Buildium, a SaaS-based property management software company in Boston. Sure, I had other offers come my way, but because of the reflective time I had during my sabbatical, I knew they weren’t right. This position ticks the boxes that I now know really matter to me: A work environment I love, a mission I believe in, and a balance with family time.

This was the biggest benefit of the sabbatical – I didn’t just get to sleep in on weekdays; I got a chance to reorient and clarify my priorities. I’d been so focused on striving towards an executive role that I forgot what else matters. Taking time off allowed me to find a healthier way to work, and afterwards I learned to prioritize being home at 6:30 p.m. for family dinners every single night. Sure, it wasn’t always perfect, and I sometimes I still found myself answering emails after the rest of the family has gone to sleep. But I wouldn’t give up quality time again for the world. 

Lesson 5: You can find that same perspective without going on sabbatical at all

I’m acutely aware how lucky I was to take nearly a year off. More and more people are taking DIY sabbaticals like me, but I know many people in my life who simply don’t have the luxury of taking an extended break – even a few weeks off is a privilege many just can’t afford. My company does offer all employees a sabbatical for certain tenure milestones, but it’s rare in other corporate environments. 

That being said, I feel that several of the benefits of a sabbatical don’t actually require a formal one. With a little mindfulness, the lessons of an extended break can be achieved on a much shorter time frame:

  • Identify your non-negotiables and stick to them. Whether it’s getting home for family dinner every night or going to the gym every day, if something brings you joy or clarity, make it a priority in your schedule on a regular basis. If you keep putting these things off until you “have the time,” you may miss out completely.
  • When you’re off, really be off. Turn off your email, stay away from the computer, and be present in whatever you’re doing. When I was fully and completely away from work the speed with which my creativity and energy returned was amazing – literally, a matter of days.
  • Make time to talk with people you respect and trust. The casual coffee chat is the first thing to get cut in a busy week, but having this sounding board is invaluable to clarify your goals and hurdles and expose you to new opportunities. It’s a wellspring of inspiration that offers value beyond job offers. 

It’s all too easy to feel like we’re a passenger on our own career journey. Taking a moment – whether with an extended sabbatical break or just on a quiet Sunday afternoon – to ask yourself what you truly prioritize is the best way to put yourself back in the driver’s seat. 

Is your current role getting you where you want to go? Is your work environment helping you make your life richer? No one wants a career where you rack up regrets as fast as bonuses and promotions. Press pause however you can, and you might fast-forward your life in the process.

This version of this story was originally published on Business Insider December 13, 2019.

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