Thursday, December 17, 2009

Use Your Strengths in Solving Problems

Problems can be solved by using your strengths to overwhelm your weaknesses.

What are you good at? I don't me "pretty good" -- I mean what do you do that is consistently topnotch? What do you do that is so good that people are willing to pay you for it?

We all encounter problems. As leaders, people look to us to solve those problems or facilitate the solution of them. Some problems are easy (solving attendance problems can feel difficult, but the bottom line is that people must be to work on time or find someplace else to work...) and some are so difficult that they can't be solved, only managed (dealing with government regulations, reducing expenses without reducing staffing...).

How we solve our problems makes all the difference in the world.

Using our strengths puts us in an energized position of expertise and ability. We are much more likely to stick with the search for a solution until we find something that works.

Working from our weaknesses (can you remember trying to solve an algebra problem without the skills to actually do it?) makes us defensive, reluctant, and often frustrated.

That doesn't mean that we apply one tool to every problem. That may not always work. But when we bring our gifts to the game, the game becomes much more fun. And if our strengths are not a good match for the problem? Knowing when to seek more help is a strength that all leaders should develop.

What are your best problem solving techniques? When have they served you best? When have they let you down?


What problems are you faced with that will benefit from your best gifts?

What problems are you faced with that will need help from others?

What will you do next to solve your most pressing problem?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Learn more in the workshop: Solving Problems


Monday, November 16, 2009

Wake Up Call

The phone rings. It's darker than usual. Who would be calling now? You stumble to find the source of the ring. That's not even what your phone sounds like. You pick up the receiver. No one's there. It's your wake up call.

Now you remember: you're away from home. There's work to be done, and you did ask for this reminder to rise up early and to get started on your goals.

Wake up calls are sometimes disorienting. They can take us by surprise, even when we expect them. How does that make sense? Examine your history of wake up calls and look for patterns. The patterns are likely there.

What is your wake up call? What have you put in place to get you going, to get you oving in a strange place, at an unusual time?

We live in unusual times but hasn't that always been the case? What do we have to prevent us from slipping into a muddled routine accepting everything and leaving our own assumptions untested? What can rattle our cage?

We need wake up calls -- ways to get started in new territory, signs that the jig is up on our old ways. The dark night is nearly over.

What's your latest wake up call?

Are you listening?

-- Douglas Brent Smith




Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Constant Learning

High performance leaders remain vital by continuing to learn.

They learn by taking training, continuing their education, reading, exercising their creativity, exploring what makes them curious, helping social agencies...countless ways to continue learning.

What are you doing to keep your learning active?

What have you learned today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Taking Charge

Leadership is not being in charge -- it is taking charge when help is needed.

When you find yourself in a situation where you are wondering who's in charge -- that's the universe telling you that it's up to you...

Are you ready to lead when you're needed?

What are you doing to improve your leadership skills so that you WILL be ready?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Leaders Should Train Regularly

Athletes, actors, and musicians train every day. Shouldn't leaders train regularly?

When was the last time that you attended any leadership training?

When will you attend more opportunities for learning?

What could happen if you neglect your leadership development?

How much more success could you achieve by improving your leadership skills?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Avoiding Misunderstandings

Leaders can afford more mistakes than misunderstandings.

Mistakes are part of moving forward. Mistakes mean that you are taking chances. Mistakes mean that you are pushing your boundaries.

No one wants a surplus of mistakes, but if you must choose between making mistakes and creating misunderstandings, the choice is clear. Misunderstandings create tension. Misunderstandings fog your communication and even damage the organization. Avoid misunderstanding by creating open and honest communication, lots of feedback, and brightly shining clarity of purpose.

How do you bring clarity to your relationships?

What will you do today to prevent misunderstandings?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Learn more in the workshop: Communicating for Results

Ready to Move Forward

The best leaders build organizations that become ready to move forward without them.

They do this thru skillful coaching, frequent training, and attentive focus toward develop their own individual courage, creativity, clarity, and compassion.

How are you developing your organization?

Will your team outlive your involvement?

-- Douglas Brent Smith http://frontrangeleadership.com

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Getting Resistance

The more a leader exercises authority, the more people will resist.

People have an built in impulse to rebel. By exercising authority, by making announcements about unilateral decisions rather than seeking input, and by leading through authority and power rather than influence, leaders trigger high levels of resistance.

Is that what you want?

Seek instead to influence your constituents. Ask their opinion before decision (whenever possible). As soon as you start to exercise your authority you have effectively diminished your influence. It's a troublesome paradox that leads to less control, not more.

How can you influence without using authority today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith



Monday, October 19, 2009

Brainstorm or Consult?

Sometimes brainstorming produces the best source of creative solutions. But sometimes, the fastest, cheapest path is to ask an expert.

How do you come up with creative solutions to problems?

When you want to engage your constituents and find an approach that will gain consensus, brainstorming can be a great way to go. Gather the right people, cover all the processes involved, and give yourself plenty of time -- PLENTY of time.

Often organizations schedule a brainstorming session and give it far too little time. The ideas pop out, the ideas slow down, and the event is over -- the problem stands there laughing at the routine little list of common solution.

Proper brainstorming -- followed by careful narrowing and selection -- takes time and resources. When you are prepared to make that investment, you will likely be pleased with the results.

Sometimes, though the solution can be achieved faster, cheaper, and even better by consulting with an expert. Finding someone who knows exactly how to make the changes needed to solve your problem is often the best way to go.

The error many people make is always leaning on a consultant, or always assembling a brainstorming session.

How do YOU decide which path to take?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Learn more in the workshop:  Solving Problems

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Conflict to Build

How can conflict build relationships?

Truly important relationships are at some time tested. Difficulties, troubles, sickness, challenges, all face a relationship with the possibility of creating a wedge -- or a bridge.  Some of my longest term and deepest friendships have been with people I didn't get along with at first. We disagreed passionately, and yet learned to respect each other.

Centered leaders see conflict as a way to build, rather than harm relationships.

Conflict shows our true character. Conflict heats our emotions, raises the stakes, and creates a new focus on our performance. When we feel ourselves in conflict, we can do these things to hold compassionately to the relationship:

  • Clarify the information you have. Often conflict is a misunderstanding
  • Ask detailed questions and listen with your head AND your heart
  • Identify what people really need in the situation. It may not be what they're asking for
  • Center yourself -- find your sense of balance, harmony and control. Be the calm within the storm.
  • Reach out to those you disagree with and find the things you hold in common.
  • Separate issues from your feelings
What else could you do?

If we think of conflict as an opportunity to build, perhaps we can save ourselves from harming our most important relationships.

What's your plan for handling conflict in the future?

-- Douglas Brent Smith


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Gravity Doesn't Care

"Gravity doesn't care if you have an excuse" Jim Collins, on rock climbing. *

Does gravity = your business?

Do you find yourself making excuses about a missed target or goal? If you take your focus off of your purpose, do you rationalize how important that distraction was?

Jim Collins, famous writer and consultant is also a rock climber (as are some of my friends in the Boulder area). Rock climbers know that an excuse is no substitute for careful planning, practice, and attention to detail. When you fall, no excuse can put you back together again. When you let go, gravity wins -- everytime.

What does this mean for you and your business, for you and your purpose?

Are you putting in the attention to clarity and detail that you need?

People can be forgiving, but gravity -- and business -- never is.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

http://frontrangeleadership.com


*Quoted from an interview with Jim Collins by Bo Burlingham, Inc. Magazine, April 2009, p.86

Friday, September 18, 2009

Can a Supervisor Create A Better World?

Do you realize how important you are to your team? As a leader, your people are constantly looking toward you for guidance, for inspiration, for the ever important reality check.

Your people are filled with questions:

- Are they doing what they need to do to make you happy?
- Is this really the team for them?
- Is YOUR boss happy with their performance?
- What more do they need to do to take the team to the next level?
- Can they bring their whole selves to work?

... and so many more...

What you do immediately effects your team and their performance. If your team is truly aligned with a meaningful mission, your actions can help to change the world. The world of your team members, the world of your peers, and your own personal world.

Your leadership skills can help to create a better world. Will you?

It may take extra effort. You may stumble along the way, but you have the tools, the magic, the ability. Pull together, develop, and utilize every fiber of courage, clarity, creativity, and compassion that you can muster and as a leader you can achieve great things.

Will you?

-- Douglas Brent Smith


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Clarify What You Really Know

Clarify, clarify, clarify. Pretend you don't know the whole story because you probably don't.

When the information is important enough as a leader make sure that you completely understand:

- the facts
- how the facts effect your mission
- how the facts effect your goals
- how your people are reacting to the facts

Centered leaders use their imaginations to pretend they don't know in order to get closer to the truth. Because, truthfully, we don't always know. We seldom know the complete picture.

People have a way of not telling you what they think you already know. So ask questions that imply you don't have all the facts. Ask questions that show you are still seeking the truth. Ask questions.

Clarify what you really know, and sort it out from the rest. You'll find that you communicate more often for the results you really want.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Learn more in the workshop:  Communicating for Results

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Meaning of Silence

Great communicators clarify the meaning of silence rather than making assumptions.

What happens when people assume that they know what silence means? Agenda's are declared settled, plans are made without commitment from constituents, and goals are left unfulfilled.

Silence does NOT equal agreement -- unless you validate that as the meaning from the people involved.

Silence does NOT mean disagreement -- but without exploring what it DOES mean you'll never know for sure, will you (or you'll know when it's far too late to intervene).

Silence is our friend, but we must use it wisely, acknowledge its validity, and clarity its meaning.

The next time you encounter silence in a conversation or meeting, what will you do?

How will you know what that silence means?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Learn more in the workshop:   Communicating for Results

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Taking Responsibility

High performance leaders take responsibility for everything that matters to them and speak up when necessary.

If it is important, a leader is involved. Even when high performance leaders delegate (and they delegate a great amount) they stay in touch, stay involved, stay informed. That's not the same as micromanaging -- it's keeping interest, keeping focus, keeping attention on critical matters.

Keep in mind that people may not always know what's important to you. With so much going on in your team already, it can be easy for a detail to slip away and for a task to stay undone. High performance leaders don't let that happen. Attention brings results.

How do you keep your focus on what matters most to you?

In what ways do you demonstrate your sense of responsibility?

What important matter do you need to attend to right now?

-- Douglas Brent Smith
http://frontrangeleadership.com

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Challenge Assumptions

Challenge assumptions, especially your own.

Just because somethings seems true, doesn't mean that it is. Views that you hold are especially vulnerable to locking in beyond all evidence or testing. We believe what we believe and then consider our believes to be truths.

We do well to open up our truths to examination. Let the evidence speak. Stand apart from emotional holds and really look, listen, and test.

When was the last time that you changed your mind on something? What caused you to rethink it?

How could you benefit from examining your own assumptions?

When have your assumptions gotten you into trouble or disappointed you?

What assumption are you holding fast to now?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Front Range Leadership

The First Step Toward Agreement

How do you react when you find yourself in a misunderstanding or disagreement?

Any supervisor or manager who is truly getting things done will find conflict coming into each day. Frequent conflict can force us into habits we don't even remember choosing. What if you took the time to choose?

Before you disagree, ask a clarifying question. Creating understanding is the first step toward agreement.

Creating mutually beneficial agreements is a key step in developing centered leadership. How often have you disagreed with someone only to later discover that you really didn't understand their point of view? Do you think it is possible that other people have done the same thing with you?

Sometimes we will disagree. Views differ, agendas clash, goals compete with one another. But often, what seems like a disagreement is really just a misunderstanding.

Isn't it worth figuring out which it is?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Monday, September 7, 2009

Keeping Your Promises

Leaders who keep their promises keep their followers.

It's as basic as that.

How are you at keeping your promises?

Do you have any amends that you need to make for breaking promises?

How can you be sure to keep your promises from now on?

-- Douglas Brent Smith
http://frontrangeleadership.com

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Fast Feedback

Watching a video of your presentation will provide 100 ways to improve it if you openly pay attention.

Do you like to watch yourself on video? It can be a challenge, since nothing is hidden. Suddenly your perspective is exposed as incomplete. Nervous habits are revealed. Problems in syntax, punctuation -- even grooming are suddenly wide open to see.

We can hide, or we can use that feedback to vastly improve our presentations.

Stay open to the changes you will likely want to make, and work to make those changes without ever expecting perfection. Remember, you don't need to be perfect, but you DO need to constantly improve.

How can you arrange to watch yourself in action this week?

-- Doug Smith
http://frontrangeleadership.com

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Learning Is Forever

Leaders learn in order to improve themselves, their work, and their organizations. Learning is forever.

Learning doesn't stop after employee orientation. Learning doesn't stop after basic training. Learning is an integral part of every plan for success. As leaders we need to learn new skills, new trends, new directions, and new possibilities. We need to learn in order to stretch our creativity, clarity, courage, and compassion. Every day is a new opportunity to learn more

What are you doing as a leader to continue learning every day?

What will you put into place today that will help your people continue to learn?

-- Douglas Brent Smith
http://frontrangeleadership.com

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Life Is An Adventure

Life is an adventure. Opening ourselves to the spontaneous and unexpected creates vast opportunities for learning.

As leaders, it's easy to fall into a routine. Going from meeting to meeting we structure our days down to the minute. Time management teaches us to manage our lives with the precision of a factory engineer. But leadership requires more than careful planning. Leadership requires more than carefully planned management.

Growing, prospering, flowing and centered leadership requires room for the spontaneous. Creative bursts that surprise and delight us open our leadership lives to new possibilities, new products, new solutions.

How can we make more room for that kind of creative burst?

What can leaders do make more room for adventure?

-- Douglas Brent Smith


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Going With The Moment

How do you react to surprises?

Centered leaders use each emerging situation productively, lovingly, and open to learning.

What do you do under stress?

How does the idea "you can always respond with love" resonate with you?

What can you do to respond with love today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

http://frontrangeleadership

Friday, August 28, 2009

Everything is Connected

Everything is connected. Creativity helps us to find how those connections can make us more productive.

See things anew. Finds details out of context. Alternate details and flip the expectations. New connections exist everywhere, waiting to be discovered. Discover them.

Mix. Match. Combine. Deconstruct. Merge. See, touch, hear and play with new connections. Work like a painter to mix the colors from the pallet of your own design. Develop every ounce of creativity you can and build from there.

How will you explore and exploit new connections today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

http://frontrangeleadership.com

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Essential Question

The essential question is "How can I help?"

This is a question for everyone, and especially for leaders. In your vision, in your purpose, in your mission, in your goals, how can you help to make this a better world -- not just for yourself but for everyone at no cost to anyone?

It's an ethical and moral standard that has been beyond the reach of most leaders but that is critically important in an evolving world.

How can you help make this a better world, for everyone at no cost to anyone?

That doesn't mean no cost in money, time or effort. Of course those expenses must be made. What it means is that as a leader never exploiting anyone in order to advance your agenda.

Because not only is exploitation ethically shaky, it inevitably produces side effects that negate your progress.

What will you do today to answer the essential question?

-- Doug Smith
http://frontrangeleadership.com

Friday, August 21, 2009

Collaborative Conversations

Centered leaders make every conversation meaningful, open, and honest to collaborate on success.

Effective collaboration requires deeper conversations. With tight budgets, moving deadlines, and new challenges every day, leaders who make the best use of their interpersonal relationships do so by creating conversations that contain shared meaning. The fastest route to shared meaning includes openness (no hidden agendas) and a radical kind of honesty with no room for deception.

Once people have established comfortable, assertive foundations built on curiosity and respect, collaboration flows quickly and powerfully toward achieving goals.

Isn't that what you as a leader truly want?

What can you do today to create meaningful, open, and honest conversations?

Who do you need to have a deep conversation with today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

http://frontrangeleadership.com

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Power of Observation

To start improving someone's performance, simply watch them perform their job.

Let them know that you'll be watching, and then watch. If your relationship is strong enough to share feedback, that will enhance the performance even more, but it's not necessary at first. You will likely see improved performance simply by observing.

Why do people perform better when being watched? It puts them on notice that their performance is important. It provides focus. It creates a reason to work at their best.

You might not want to do this everyday, but it's an excellent performance tool occasionally. You might even try doing the job to see where some of the process and procedure issues are. You might be surprised.

When was the last time you observed one of your team member's performance?

What are you doing to improve the performance of your team?

Who on your team would benefit from your observations?

-- Doug Smith
http://frontrangeleadership.com

Monday, August 17, 2009

Spending Time

The best way to understand and motivate your employees is to spend more time with them.

As a leader, your employees are always watching. They've watching to see what you do. Do you walk your talk? Do you live your values? And, most importantly, do you care about your employees?

There is a myth about parenting called quality time and some managers try the same tactic with their employees. Here's the reality: there is no substitute for real time. Quantity time. You can't cram all of your relationship into bite sized pieces and expect it to amount to much more than a bite.

Do you want to communicate to your employees that you truly care about their goals, their careers, and their lives?

Do you want your employees to be highly motivated and energized?

Spend lots of time with each of them. There simply is no substitute.

How much time have you spent with individual employees today?

Who on your team have you been ignoring? What can you do to spend more time with them? When will you do that?

-- Doug Smith
http://frontrangeleadership.com

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Setting Rules

Any rule that is stupid enough will be widely broken.

As a leader, are you careful about the rules you set?

Leaders are often tempted to establish control where they see chaos. "What these people need are some strict rules..." The problem is, how would you feel about living with rules set by someone else that totaly restricted your flexibility at doing your job?

Sure, rules are necessary. How you arrive at those rules though is critical. Are you involving your people? Are you allowing for change? Are you building in flexibility? Are your rules in harmony with your vision and your values?

I remember a great line from an old TV show starring Ed Asner, "Lou Grant". He once said "I don't have a lot of rules because then I just have to enforce them..." which sums up the problem with rules. Lou Grant was a role model for the classic tough boss, but what we came to know as an audience was that he also had a heart of gold. He was using his heart when he realized that establishing too many rules (or rules that were too strict) just didn't make good business sense.

Far more useful and effective than rules are agreements. When leaders take the time to collaborate on agreements, they discover that their people are invested in the results and in harmony with the process. There's no need to rebel against an agreement you've helped to create -- in fact the opposite is true: the more involved we are in reaching agreements the more we are committed to keeping them.

How are you at setting rules?

What's your process for enforcing rules?

Do you guard any rules that are unnecessary?

Have you explored the differences between reaching agreements and setting rules?

-- Doug Smith
http://frontrangeleadership.com

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Drop Your Bias and Enjoy a Bigger Banquet

Do you have a bias?

We all lock ourselves in untenable perspectives occasionally. The more we look, the less we see from any other perspective than our own. Unless we drop our bias. Unless we take the time to understand another view of the situation and another way of doing things.

You can always have your bias back. It's not like it's going to run away and hide from you. You know where to find it.

But once you've truly understand more possibilities you might not want it back at all.

Go ahead. Drop your bias. See what you can see.

It's essential for communicating for results. It's essential for leading with integrity.

-- Douglas Brent Smith


Saturday, August 8, 2009

Staying Curious

Curiosity is the key to uncovering possibilities.

How curious are you? Do you find yourself asking questions most of the time or is your mind made up and so you simply express your (obviously correct) point of view?

To develop your creativity, to uncover possibilities, to explore your total potential, staying curious is absolutely essential.

None of us has all the answers. Curiosity opens us up to worlds we haven't seen, formulas we haven't tried, and relationships we haven't formed. Curiosity is the key to uncovering possibilities.

How do you demonstrate curiosity in your job?

How does it feel to hold your own opinion aside long enough to ask curious questions?

What will you do today to ask with curiosity at your center?

-- Douglas Brent Smith


http://frontrangeleadership.com

Friday, August 7, 2009

To Stop Lying To Yourself

Do you tell the truth no matter what?

It's only possible to tell the truth once you stop lying to yourself.

Why would you ever lie to yourself?

We do it all the time: little rationalizations to make us feel better. Sometimes we lie to ourselves about our intentions. For example, every time we say "I'll try to do that" we're lying to ourselves. Try is not a commitment. Trying is not doing. To avoid the rationalization, make the strong commitment that you will do something. You do know whether or not you can, so the commitment is all in your will.

When else do we lie to ourselves? Sometimes our limiting beliefs lie to us about our capabilities. Rather than constantly testing ourselves, we may give in to the belief that a task or project is too big. In that way, our own lies (because it's never too big if you really aim to do it) stand in our way, paper barriers to our success that hold with the strength of concrete. It doesn't need to be like that.

To tell the truth to others, start with yourself.

What lies have you already told yourself today? What will it sound like to convert that to truth?

Communicating for results requires the most truth you can muster. How else will people trust your word?


-- Douglas Brent Smith

Learn more in the workshop: Communicating for Results

Leadership Briefs

Quick reads on leadership that are relevant to the ideas of centered leadership and high performance leadership:

New Management Training Could Lead To Improved Worker Health

By learning how to be more supportive of family and personal lives, leaders engage and support their teams in ways that lead to better productivity and lower turnover. Sound good?

“Managing in a more supportive way that recognizes how important flexibility is to today’s work force is a win-win economic proposition that benefits employers, workers and families,” Kossek said. “Employees no longer leave their family needs at the company doorstep.”


Question To Know How You Are Smart
Practical Tactics from Neuro Discoveries with Dr. Ellen Weber

Explores how we are all intelligent (and gifted) in different ways and beyond that, Dr. Weber offers some great questions for developing the areas of intelligence you'd like to grow. Useful and fascinating. For example,

"3. Do you frequent musical performances, compose new lyrics, play background music to sustain creativity, or notice music’s keen influence on yourself or others? Music changes moods and shifts brain waves so that those who are musically intelligent find innovative cadence for several areas of their lives."

>> http://www.brainleadersandlearners.com/2-footed-question/general/how-are-you-smart/

Check out these leadership connections and then ask yourself:
  • What are your gifts? Which intelligences do you star at and which could use more development?
  • What can you do to make better use of your multiple intelligences?
  • As a leader, how do you show your people that you truly care about them?
  • How can you increase your emotional intelligence to make more room for compassion in your life?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Choose A Loving Response

No matter what the circumstances, we are always free to choose a loving response.

Should leaders operate out of love?

The larger question, since leaders are human, is "should people operate out of love?"

What does it mean to operate out of love? What does it look like to choose a loving response no matter what the circumstances?

When things happen around us we can choose to react. How we react may determine what happens from that point on. Often as leaders we are tested with tough circumstances. We can be tempted to react out of aggression, out of competitiveness, out of revenge. But any study of literature or history will show us where that leads. Our actions touch others, and others touch us. What we initiate hits us as it perpetuates.

Beyond that and the effects it has on us, choosing a loving response simply does more good. Helping others, feeling compassion for others feels better and does better. Whether or not it comes naturally, the impact is better.

Try it today. No matter what happens, no matter what the world and other people throw your way, operate out of love. React out of love. Choose a loving response. That doesn't make you weak or inflexible. It makes you courageous, compassionate, and strong.

No matter what the circumstances, we are always free to choose a loving response.

-- Doug Smith
http://frontrangeleadership.com

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Finding Respect

Find the dignity in each of the people around you and they can't help but reciprocate.

It's there. People do what they know how to do and try their best. When they fall short, leaders can be patient guides to help them back on track. But, there's joy and honor in the struggle. Respecting intent as well as actions helps people to develop.

Occasionally, when the intent is not there, granting credit for better intent can spark it to life. Which has worked best for you - assuming the best of people or assuming otherwise?

People have wonderful dignity inside and sometimes it's just waiting to emerge. Can you recognize that below the surface? Can you see the dignity in each of us?

Find the dignity in each of the people around you and they will quietly return the favor.

Cultivate respect - you will like the results.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

http://frontrangeleadership.com

Fill 'Er Up

Fill up before you're empty. Start by developing yourself every day.

Have you ever run out of gas? It changes your whole day. It wastes time and ruins schedules.

Have you ever found out that you needed fuel just when you had the least amount of time to find it? Maybe you were in a hurry to a meeting, or to a date, or to a client appointment. Suddenly, with no time to spare, there you are on "E".

Not only can that happen with your car -- it can happen with your personal leadership development as well.

Fill 'er up early. Keep developing. Keep learning. Fill up your emotional and intellectual tanks before they're empty.

What will you do today to fill up your tank?

-- Douglas Brent Smith


http://frontrangeleadership.com

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Powerful teams share responsibiity

A single leader cannot do it all. A single leader who tries to control every decisions is bound for failure. People need input in what their team does and where they go.

Powerful teams share responsibility, and responsible leaders realize this before it becomes an issue.

But it's not too late. If you are not already sharing responsibility for your team's success, why not start today?

What will you do TODAY to increase the involvement of your team and to share responsibility?

-- Doug Smith
http://frontrangeleadership.com

Friday, July 24, 2009

How many approvals do your processes need?

High performance leaders reduce the number of approvals it takes to complete a process.

Cut the frustration. Cut the nonsense. Cut the ego-centered need to control every little step. Empower your people and feel their trust grow.

Reduce the number of approvals it takes to complete a process!

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Learn more in the workshop:  Supervising for Success

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Learning Never Ends

Even the greatest of experts benefits from occasional refresher training. Learning never ends.

What have you learned today?

-- Doug Smith
http://frontrangeleadership.com

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Explore Perspectives

When you find yourself locked in conflict, suspend your competitive edge long enough to discover what people in the conflict really want.

For many of us, the natural reaction to conflict is to become more competitive. We prepare ourselves to fight to the finish and behave as if victory must be one sided (and of course, must be ours alone).

As Doctors Thomas and Kilmann have pointed out in their influential work on conflict, we have more choices than that.

We can always choose to compete if necessary. But first, what if there's an opportunity to build relationships? What if there's an opportunity to collaborate?

Isn't it worth taking a moment to step back and find out?

Breathe.

Relax.

Look at the situation from a more impartial distance.

Ask meaningful questions with genuine curiosity and an open mind.

It's that important.


-- Doug Smith
http://frontrangeleadership.com


For a useful Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Modes Instrument in PDF form:
http://www.ee.scu.edu/classes/2007winter/elen195/lectures/ConflictThomasKilmannConflictModeInstrument.pdf

Info on Thomas-Kilmann available on Wikipaedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Kilmann_Conflict_Mode_Instrument


Learn more in the workshops:  Communicating for Results and Supervising for Success  


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What Did You Learn Today?

Every day we have the opportunity to gain valuable lessons. Every experience provides material for improving who we are and what we do.

People learn effectively through experienced that is followed by reflection. The experience isn't enough -- we all know people who make the same mistakes over and over again. It's reflecting on the experience and asking a few learning oriented questions that helps us examine what happened and how to both build on the plus side and change the parts that we are not happy with.

Questions worth asking include:

  • What did I like about this experience? How can I have more of that?
  • What would I change about this experience? What should I do? When do I start?
  • Who else may have shared similar experiences? What did they learn? How can I find out?
  • What's my next step for improving my experiences?

I'm sure you can think of many more, but all you really need are the first two: What worked for you and what would you change.

You can enhance any experience by asking "what did I learn today?"

What did you learn today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Learn more in the workshop: Improving Performance

Monday, July 13, 2009

How Clear Are Your Values?

Which of your values are you willing to break, and which of your values are truly firm?

Haven't you known an organization (maybe you even worked for one!) that espoused really terrific values but then acted each day as if those values didn't even exist?

Setting values is not an exercise for decoration. Establishing values that sound nice is not an activity you forget about or simply post somewhere, perhaps on a plaque in the lobby. Values are more than that.

Values should be the conditions you intentionally live by.

A value that you are willing to break is no value at all.

What are your core values?

Which of your values are so firm that you'd never break them -- no matter what?

Spend some time considering your values today and to what extent you rely on them as your standards of behavior. Getting clear on your values helps your decision making, your performance, and your reputation. Clarity of where you stand means that people may disagree with you but they will never miss you: they will know who you are what you value. Stand by your values, or honestly change them so that you can.

Because a value that you are willing to break is no value at all.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Instant Personal Needs Analysis

Training others reveals how much more training you need.

It's one of the best ways to learn -- helping other learn. There's something about the clarity it takes to communicate your ideas, the creativity it takes to find ways to provide "hands on learning" with feedback, the compassion it takes to watch, listen and provide feedback that's both thorough and kind.

There's also a kind of courage inherent in training anyone. They are relying on you and it's time to deliver. During those times, it's easier to see what you don't yet know and what it still before you to learn.

Training others stretches the learner and the coach.

Have you checked in on that lately?

-- Doug Smith

http://frontrangeleadership.com

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Coachable

Coaching your peers may be your greatest opportunity for influence.

Without issues of rank or status, and stripped away of pretense, coaching is a powerful form of communication. Keeping your feedback positive, recognizing the strengths of others, and offering new insights you may find your circle of influence expanding more and more.

But there's more to this coaching equation. Are you coachable as well? Do you take and use the feedback and insights that others give you? Are you willing to change your own habits to increase your performance and set a better pace for others?

Being coachable expands your leadership influence even more than coaching others.

Are you spending some time each day coaching others?

Are you also coachable?

Who can you ask today for some informal, open and honest coaching?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

http://frontrangeleadership.com

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Motivational Value

Motivational speakers are a dime a dozen. Motivational leaders are your friends for life.

Leaders who motivate become your friends because they add lasting value to your work and to your relationship. Think about the most motivational leader you've experienced -- whether it has been at work, at school, at sports, at church, or at some other organization. How did they motivate you? What effects did it have?

I remember being motivated by my assistant track coach in high school, Mr. Hursey because his approach was so different from that of the main coach. While the main coach seemed aloof and bossy, Mr. Hursey was filled with enthusiasm, patience, and yes - love for every athlete on the team. It didn't matter if you were fast, talented, winning, placing or simply showing -- Mr. Hursey gave each of us attention, instruction, and patient support.

You could see it in his smile. You could feel it in his concern. You knew he touched you deeply, with his presence and care. That instruction, patience, and love led me and others to perform far better than we'd ever performed before. We practiced harder. We ran faster, jumped higher, and stayed with the program hour after hour.

Mr. Hursey showed us tricks of the trade we could never learn on our own (for instance, how running up and down the stairs of the stadium could increase your vertical leap). We saw far more of him than we did of the main coach. As a true test of motivation, consider that I think of Mr. Hursey often, decades after his influence, and I can't even remember the name of the main coach.

There have been other great motivators in my life and I'm sure that you can think of many as well. Chances are, it's not what they said that motivated you the most, but what they did.

- Support
- Instruction
- Care
- Patience
- Discipline
- Insights

I've got nothing against motivational speakers - I enjoy many of them often. But it's been the motivational leaders in my life that I remember.

What will it take for you to be more of a motivational leader?

Will you start that today?

-- Doug Smith
http://frontrangeleadership.com

Monday, June 29, 2009

Success Starts With Action

What will you DO about it?

Have you ever asked anyone that question? Have you ever asked yourself?

People may complain. People may document faults and shortcomings. People may expect more than they are getting -- but nothing happens without taking action. Success starts with action.

All success depends on action. What can you do right now toward achieving your goals?

Sometimes we have finely crafted plans for achieving our goals, and yet miss acting on those plans.
And, sometimes we miss the plans altogether and simply hope for the best with our goals.

Plans, and hope are important but what matters most is action. What you DO to achieve your goals. Actions matter because they place us in motion. Then thrust us toward our vision.

Even when we make mistakes and miss our targets, the energy created by action propels us forward. We can correct mistakes. We can change direction. We can accomplish great things. But first we must place our selves in motion through action.

What can you do right now toward achieving your most important goal?

-- Doug Smith

Achieving Your Goals


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Are you a catalyst?

What sparks people to help you achieve your goals?

Influential leaders create circumstances that catalyze action.

Inaction is simply unacceptable. When the issue, when the goal, when the vision is important enough, high performance leaders find a way to mobilize people and processes in the direction of achieving their goals.

Influential leaders know that given the right appeal, many people will work toward the desired goal. They also realize that given the right consequences, others will jump out of their inaction and into productive motion.

As leaders, we sort out the motivating forces and create the environment that allows our people to prosper, contribute, and move forward.

What are you doing to catalyze action toward achieving your vision?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Achieving Your Goals



Improving Performance

To improve performance, ask about what's standing in the way.

We all are capable of finding the most convincing of excuses why we are missing a target or late on a goal. That's part of the rich benefit of working with a coach: accountability. As a leader, as a coach, it's your responsibility to test those excuses. What really is standing in the way?

Often, there are legitimate reasons for missing a deadline. It is even more useful to identify those and collaborate on ways to overcome the roadblock. Because if the goal is important enough (and why would you be working on it if it wasn't?) it's worth finding a way around whatever stands in the way.

Explore what's standing in the way -- and how to overcome it.

What's standing in the way of your most important goal today?

What will you do about it?

When will you start?

-- Douglas Brent Smith


Learn more in the workshop: Improving Performance

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Understanding Yourself

It takes complete honesty to understand yourself.

No illusions. No delusions. No fantasies about perfection. Seeing yourself, flaws and all, takes willingness to listen without judgment to the feedback you get.

Ask people honestly, what do they think?

It should never take an anonymous 360 survey to know how people really feel about you. Once you create an environment where people know that they will still be valued, still be respected, and still be listened to no matter what their feedback is, they are far more likely to give you the kind of feedback that you really need.

It takes honesty from others, and honesty from yourself:

- what are you working on that matters?
- how closely is your life aligned to your purpose, your values, your vision?
- what kind of environment do you create around you for communicating?
- how close are your closest relationships?

Understanding yourself is a lifelong process.

- Doug Smith
http://frontrangeleadership.com

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Heart of a Leader

What are you emotional about?

The heart of a leader is always on display.

Whether or not you are aware of it, the people you seek to lead are watching you. They want to know what you care about. They want to know what activates your emotions. They want to know what you are passionate about (and especially, are you really passionate about what you SAY you care about).

There are so many ways that we show our emotions:

- our facial expression
- our tone of voice
- our body posture
- the words we say
- the company we keep
- the energy we bring

People seldom miss these signs. These emotions show what we care about and how much. Leading people, especially leading people thru change, requires healthy doses of useful, productive, passionate emotions. How are you doing on that?

Do you want to supervise for success? Get to know, and show, your emotions with intention and skill.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

http://frontrangeleadership.com

Friday, June 12, 2009

Leading Through Participation

"If you create an environment where the people truly participate, you don't need control. They know what needs to be done, and they do it. And the more that people will devote themselves to your cause on a voluntary basis, a willing basis, the fewer hierarchies and control mechanisms you need."
-- Herb Kelleher, CEO. Southwestern Airlines


Leadership brings about participation. It's not just distributing work the way some people call delegation. If a person feels dumped on, it's not effective delegation. I have a real distaste for the definition of leadership that describes it as "getting work done through others". Sure, others help -- but unless the leader has at least some taste for the work involved, people will only stick around until a better offer appears. To build true devotion takes commitment and involvement by everyone -- including the leader.


-- Douglas Brent Smith

Learn more in the workshop:  Supervising for Success


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Just In Time

Sometimes when a door closes, it's just in time.

We like to keep our options open. We like our doors to be free swinging and unobtrusive. But too many options can hem us in. Too many choices can keep us from moving forward.

As high performance leaders go about creating change, very often a path chosen turns out to be too narrow, too flat, too unconnected. The door that seemed open suddenly closes.

Having the sense to accept some closed doors as timely frees up a leader to move forward in a direction that makes more sense.

How can we know which doors should close and which we should battle thru no matter what?

Ask yourself these three questions:

1. Was the door that closed aligned with my vision and purpose?

-- if not, closed is how it belongs.

2. Do I have the time, inclination, and resources to re-open that door?

-- if not, let it stay closed.

3. Are there more appealing open doors ahead?

-- if so, go for those doors with all the energy you can get.

-- Douglas Brent Smith


Friday, May 22, 2009

Building Your Team's Talents and Gifts

Effective leaders help their people discover and develop their gifts.

They do this by paying attention, assessing, holding deeper conversations, and most of all asking their people what energizes them and what they enjoy doing.

Leaders who can match the work to be done with the gifts of their people find much more success in achieving their goals.

What are you doing today to learn more about your people's gifts, skills, and talents?

What can you do that will help each person you work with to take their talents and gifts to the next level of excitement?


-- Douglas Brent Smith


Learn more in the workshop: Building Your Team 

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Essential Question

The essential question is "How can I help?"

Whether you are the leader of thousands or completely on your own, your role on this planet is to help, to make things better. Usually, that means helping other people.

Kings, rulers, athletes, artists, government officials, doctors, fire fighters, deli workers, mechanics, economists...we are all here to help.

Sometimes it doesn't feel that way. Sometimes we feel the need to be served instead. But whatever the situation, no matter what the organization, high performance leaders know that their role is to help.

Reflection Questions

How can you be most helpful?

What situations are you facing right now where you have not yet asked the question, "how can I help?"

Who do you remember the most for being ready to jump in and find a way to help? How did they make you feel? How engaged and happy did they seem to be?

Action Plan

Within the next 24 hours, find a situation and ask yourself "how can I help?" ... and then follow-through by helping.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Are you willing to be coached?

To best coach other people, we must first be willing to be coached as well.

Your credibility as a coach comes in part from your reactions to coaching. People will be more responsive to your feedback and advice once they know that you are also open to it.


Who is your coach?

Who can you ask for feedback today?

Who is watching you to see if you can be coached?

-- Douglas Brent Smith


Learn more in the workshop:  Improving Performance 


Monday, May 11, 2009

Expanding Capacity

High performance leaders expand capacity by constantly developing their people.

How does your team grow? How can you get more done with less? There are many answers to the question of increasing capacity and responsible leaders explore them all, including improving processes and design. It's also important to constantly develop your people

People who feel valued and who are constantly growing develop new ideas. They fix problems. They engage in processes and structures and find better ways to get things done. People who are developing stop tolerating defects and instead work toward optimizing their environment. They raise their capacity and increase the value of the team.

What are you doing to develop your people?

How much more capacity could your team have with people who were fully engaged, truly energized, and growing?


-- Douglas Brent Smith

Learn more in the workshop:  Building Your Team  


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Leadership Decisions

Decision making is never a burden when leaders share the load. 

Leadership decisions can be made in many ways. Often, the situation determines which type of method a leader uses to make a decision. Some ways include:

Decide and announce: the leader does all the work, makes the complete decision, and hopes that everyone follows. This method is useful in a crisis (like a fire fighter captain at a fully involved blaze) and less useful in other situations (for example, picking an organizational strategy for next year).

Consult and then decide: the leader talks to key people, gather information, and makes the decision. Sometimes that decision is close to what others have recommended, and sometimes it isn't. This method is useful when the decision is complicated and technical in an area where the leader has authority but not all of the expertise. The method fails if the leader consults the wrong people or disregards all advice without ever explaining the rationale for the final decision.

Vote: the leader proposes some choices and the constituents vote on which decision to implement. This can be effective if you want to reach a very large and geographically disbursed constituency -- say, for instance a general election. It is less effective with small teams because elections produce winners and losers -- and the losers don't tend to support the winners.

Collaborate to reach consensus: the leader meets with the key constituents and provides guidelines for the issue. Often an independent facilitator is brought in to conduct the session. The group agrees to support the final decision whether or not they all agree that it is the best solution. This agreement is critical to the success of a consensus decision. This method is highly effective for building teams and for reaching large decisions that require the support and involvement of most people. The challenges to consensus are that it takes time and must be skillfully facilitated to avoid a false election atmosphere or executive fiat decisions when the process bogs down.

Which decision process should leaders use? The classic answer is that it always depends on the situation. My recommendation is to use as much involvement of your people as time and resources allow. Not only will you make a higher quality decision, but you won't have to sell something that people have decided on themselves.

Are you including your people in your decisions?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Learn more in the workshop:  Supervising for Success


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Professional, Patient, Persistent, and Powerful

Professional, patient, persistent, and powerful.

Those are four traits worth focusing on as a leader. Combined with what it takes to be a centered leader (courage, compassion, creativity, and clarity) these four "p's" can drive a leader forward in performance and results.

Are you professional?

Paying attention to details, keeping an appropriate appearance for your line of work, meeting deadlines, installing quality, treating others as the professional you aspire to be -- these are all marks of leading as a professional. What would you add to the list?

Are you patient?

Leaders are often faced with difficult situations at exactly the wrong time. Without surrendering to lower standards, leaders must remain patient with people and circumstances. How else should leaders demonstrate patience?

Are you persistent?

Patience begs persistence. While high performance leaders have the capacity to remain patient under stress, they are also doggedly persistent. Nothing should stand in the way of remaining true to your values, your vision, your purpose. Leaders need to be persistent with standards, goals, and optimism. What else can you think of that requires a leader's persistence?

Are you powerful?

Where does a leader's' power originate? It's not only in position or authority (although that is certainly a factor in most organizations) and it's not only thru influence. A leader's power also comes from character -- what makes the leader unique and also noble. Filled with integrity and strong in principles that allow a leader to remain centered while balancing the critical qualities of courage, creativity, clarity, and compassion. Can you feel your own sense of power? Where does it come from? Where will it take you?

Spend some time today reflecting on how you develop and utilize the four "p's" in your life as a leader: professional, patient, persistent, and powerful.



Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Recruiting Talent

Want to recruit the best talent? Show appreciation for the talent that's already on your team.

People will notice whether or not the talent on your team is appreciated. So often leaders go looking for the best talent available without recognizing the talent that is already there.  Bringing in "high powered" talent without developing the talent that exists already is a costly mistake that is paid for in lower morale, diminishing productivity, or worse.

How are you at appreciating the talent that's already on your team?

What do you do to show your appreciation for talent and effort?

What are you doing to develop the talent on your team?

Are you developing a sense of shared leadership and personal responsibility? If not, where will that come from?



Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Immediate Feedback


High performance leaders share more positive feedback than criticism, but provide corrective feedback immediately when it is needed.

They provide more positive feedback simply because by encouraging others thru each success, the team builds momentum. They provide more positive feedback because they know that people respond to direction that reinforces their efforts. They provide more positive feedback because it works.

Corrective feedback cannot be ignored. When people are veering away from the standards, when their habits are becoming unproductive, when they are missing their goals, when they are creating problems for others -- the feedback must be precise and immediate.

How are you are providing necessary feedback?

What percentage of your feedback providing is positive as compared to corrective?  Why do you think that is?


How can you increase the percentage of positive feedback that you provide?


-- Douglas Brent Smith

Learn more in the workshop: Communicating for Results