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Time to spring clean your leadership image

When springtime rolls around finally, we often get the urge to do some spring cleaning. We organize our desk drawers, maybe move our office furniture around, and replace that old keyboard and mouse.

But spring is also a good time to polish up one's career goals, professional image, and business relationships.

Here are a few ways to make small changes that will make a big difference in how you feel about yourself and your leadership role.

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Spiff up your look.

Have you gotten so comfortable being in a position of leadership and authority that you've failed to notice that your employees dress better and look sharper than you do? Being the absent-minded visionary or the rumpled genius is all well and good, but it may be time to take a cue from your more stylish employees. Buy a new suit. Change your hair style. Wear a striking colour. Changing your image a bit can also freshen up your attitude.

Actively be part of the team.

Do you walk into work and barely nod at the receptionist who makes sure there's a freshly brewed pot of coffee ready? Is there a new person in the office whose name you've forgotten? An easy way to be a more dynamic presence in the workplace is to take a few moments each day to stop and say hello to someone with whom you rarely speak. Learn everyone's name. If they offer a detail about a family member, be sure to ask about that person next time you chat. Being more personable makes you a better leader.

Make yourself smarter.

Managing employees, clients, and the business in general can be all-consuming. When was the last time you subscribed to an industry trade journal, or spent a half hour learning about the latest trends and perspectives from online publications and leading bloggers? Commit to 15 minutes a day of reading in your field. This is a great way to find new ideas for projects, learn what others are talking about, and discover fresh answers and opportunities that will make you better and smarter.

Look up a forgotten contact.

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Pore through that stack of old business cards you've collected over the past few years and find someone you've been meaning to connect with professionally. Or go through your social media contacts and identify someone intriguing. Reach out by reintroducing yourself and making a breakfast date. Introducing fresh, new people into your professional circle can jump start personal change and growth.

Revamp your communications.

As leaders, sometimes we forget that our words make a big impression on employees and others. Perhaps you've developed lazy language habits, such as grunting acknowledgment rather than saying, "Yes, Bob, I'd love for you to pursue that. It's a creative solution." Or instead of e-mails that are hastily written, filled with typos, and unnecessarily complex, write clear subject headings that express the main message, and then compose a short e-mail with only one topic that needs to be addressed. Make an effort to communicate clearly and precisely.

Show appreciation.

Become a leader who gives heartfelt compliments and expresses appreciation for work well done. It doesn't have to be time-consuming or difficult. A simple e-mail is all it takes: "Judy, great job getting those marketing materials out in time. You were a clutch player!" Small gestures like this will inject your workplace with energy and positive interactions. People want to feel valued and noticed. It's a win-win – you'll feel better and so will your staff.

Spring is a time of renewal, when we're full of hope and our lives feel promising. This makes it an ideal moment to introduce some positive new behaviours at work to refresh your leadership image and put a spring in your step.

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Vicky Oliver (@vickyoliver) is a Manhattan-based job interview consultant and career adviser, and the bestselling author of five career development books, including 301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions and 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions

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