Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Centered Leaders Build Confidence

What do you do to build the confidence of your team members?

Centered leaders understand the balance that it takes to provide both support and challenge to team members. Support helps people remain on target even when things get tough. Challenge helps people build confidence by succeeding on their own.

Confidence powers people to take on new work, create new paths, and achieve their goals.

Confidence is a fuel better not to be wasted or stifled.

What more can you do to build confidence within your team?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

When Should Leaders Micromanage?

After decades of developing leadership to include influence, rather than control, we've seen a return to micromanagement. Bosses will be bosses and sometimes that means doing their best to control every little action on the team.

It didn't work well in the past, and it doesn't work well now.

There are instances when leaders must exercise more control: introducing new team members, developing raw talent, handling an emergency. But, once that new team member has an understanding of the mission, once that raw talent is not so raw, once the emergency is over, centered leaders do well to return to an approach of shared leadership. Our influence is made greater by sharing it with others, not by lording over them with a tight grip and reckless insistence on details that match your style, but not theirs.

The art of leadership is recognizing and assessing one's own tendency to micromanage. Centered leaders let go of control to increase their influence.

Who have you been trying to micromanage?

What would happen if you let them lead for a while in some area?

What do you think about micromanagement?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Learn more in the workshop:  Supervising for Success


Noble Goals

Centered leaders help people to achieve noble goals.

It's fairly common for leaders, in search of performance, to pound (metaphorically) on their people about achieving goals. It can be annoying.

Of course your people want to achieve goals. They want to do something important. They want to have an impact in the world. They want to feel valued and valuable.

They want to achieve noble goals: things that matter in the world, that make things better, that do no harm, that reflect a kind of creative beauty and significance.

Why not help them with that?

-- Douglas Brent Smith


Sunday, November 27, 2011

High Performance Leaders Make Courageous, Creative Change

How many times have you seen a problem solved and wondered if the solution was worth the effort?

How often have you seen leadership drive change that no one wants and that in the end creates no value?

All too often, probably.

The solution to any tough problem should include a clear change that makes a courageous, creative difference.

Things should be made better by change. Processes should be streamlined by change. Customers and team members should find more joy in interacting because of change.

Any change that delivers less is a problem unsolved, a promise broken.

As centered and high performance leaders, we can do better than that.

What can you do today that will make your next change effort both more courageous and more creative?

-- Douglas Brent Smith


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Developing Core Skills


Centered leaders know that their development is never finished. Learning how to use your strengths is important to building a prosperous future.

Learning how to deal with your shortcomings prepares a leader for avoiding blind spots, hazards, and careless mistakes.

Centered leaders are intentional and dedicated about the time they spend developing courage, clarity, creativity and compassion.

Courage to speak and act with conviction, character and the will to accomplish a task or goal.

Clarity to know which version of the truth people are sharing and to focus intentionally on a well understood mission.

Creativity to find new answers, solve persistent problems, and introduce marvelous and pleasing new works.

Compassion to consider the wants and needs of other people in everything that they do. To do no harm and where ever possible, to do as much good as they can.

Balancing each of these four core skills is the very act of centering: finding that place where you operate at your peak and bring about the most good in any situation.

It takes work. It takes devotion. It takes development.

What skill are you working on today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Monday, November 21, 2011

Re-invention Problems

Have you ever faced a problem that was so bizarre, so gnarly, that you couldn't even begin to think of an answer?

Conversely, have you ever lived with a problem for years before even discovering that it WAS a problem?

Some problems are not for solving but for re-invention. What can we create new that better serves our mission?

When we get the mission right, the problems get easier.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Reinventing Ourselves

How often do you change?

Not little changes, not incremental changes, but really big changes. Changes that radically effect the way you operate. Changes that send you in a new direction. Changes that even readjust your circle of friends.

That's how fast the world is changing -- in ways that force us to change or fall behind. Small changes are not enough, we need to frequently reinvent ourselves.

Centered leaders know that it's everyone's job to constantly reinvent ourselves.

What is your next change?

What is your next reinvention?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Problems Are Often Conflicts of Interest

Problems come in many forms but often they represent conflicts of interest. People can disagree on what they want and clutch onto what they have in ways that create shortages and unnecessary competition over resources, people, and ideals.

When there is competition over resources it can slow a team down. What's a leader to do?

Start the conversation. Create the dialogue. Centered leaders uncover what's hidden to probe more deeply into the causes of a situation. Maybe it really is a problem -- or maybe it is a misunderstanding or misperception.  Misunderstandings can often be negotiated out of. Misperceptions can be clarified.

Problems are often conflicts of interest. Solving the problem requires sorting out and dealing with each conflict and each interest.

What conflict of interest are you currently experiencing? Who can you talk to about it?

What interests might you share? How could that lead to a solution?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Learn more in the workshop: Solving Problems


Monday, November 14, 2011

Centered Leaders Create Conditions of Equality

Have you ever had the urge to get even?

Perhaps someone did you such a serious wrong that the only way you felt you could purge yourself of the bad feeling was to pass that bad feeling back to them in the form of revenge.

Great plays and movies have been dedicated to the pursuit of revenge. But great happiness is not the result of revenge.

Getting even by lashing out, striking back, and causing harm (whether that's passively or actively) only perpetuates a cycle of harm.

Better than revenge is dialogue. Better than revenge is creating equal footing to talk things thru, to figure out the source of the harm and to heal that source.

Centered leaders resist the temptation to get even by creating conditions of equality.

What can you do today to bring conditions somewhere closer to a level of equality?

Doing so will neutralize a large amount of ill will.

Doing so will help create a better world, not a more aggressive one.

-- Douglas Brent Smith


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Does Punishment Work to Motivate People?

Do you believe that people only respond to two basic motivations, punishment and reward?

If that's the case, then punishment should be an effective motivator, right? People will do whatever they have to do to avoid punishment, right?

Maybe.

Fear certainly does effect behavior. A strong leader may create an atmosphere where people will do what they are expected to do to avoid punishment. Fear may prod some people into towing the line. They will do what they are told to do. But, they will likely do no more.

Fear creates a lowest common denominator mentality. Of course we do not want to be punished so of course we will do whatever it takes to avoid that punishment. Sometimes, whatever it takes creates side-effects that leaders don't want, don't count on, and don't deal with effectively. It can spiral into an non-virtuous cycle of failure.

No leader really wants that.

Here's one of the biggest problems with leading by punishing:

People find ways to get even with those who punish them.

Maybe it is by doing less work. Maybe it is by treating customers with the same punitive mentality that team members experience. Maybe it is something far worse -- something along the lines of sabotage, theft, or destruction.

Why take that chance? Why trigger that response?

Centered leaders find ways to help motivate team members without punishing them.

Is that easy? No. Raised in a world of rewards and punishment, it is so easy to push one of those two buttons again and again. But the punishment button has side-effects we simply do not need and do not want.

What can you do instead?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Friday, November 11, 2011

Force Is A Poor Problem Solver


What happens when you solve a problem by force?

It can be any kind of force that pushes people beyond their will to do something they do not want to do. It can be effectively on a short term basis, but eventually leads to side effects that are more intractable and resilient than the problem that was solved.

This includes military action, cuts to staff, reduction in wages, reduction in scheduled work hours (resulting in cuts in pay), punishing people for doing what was standard operating procedure a day ago, and on and on.

Think about a time when you were forced to make a change and had no say in it. I'm not talking about gentle changes to a process or doing things differently despite our stubborn impulses to stay in the same path. Sometimes (often) we DO need to change beyond our will. But there are ways to get people to change their will without forcing them to.

Forcing anyone to do anything creates side effects.

Solving problems by force creates new problems that are persistent and lasting aggravations.

That's not what you probably want, is it?

What's the answer?

- Involve the people who are effected by change
- Do no harm
- Stay true to your values

What can you do today to involve more people in a change that you are considering?

-- Douglas Brent Smith



Thursday, November 10, 2011

Centered Leaders are Patient

How much patience do you have with your team?

Yes, it is a leader's job sometimes to be an impatient challenger. We need to constantly raise our standards and push the edge of what can be achieved. We need to meet our goals.

While doing that -- while being impatient with stasis or low performance -- we must also be patient with our people. Finding what is standing in the way of success, rather than losing patience with our people, takes more time but is far more effective.

Do your people know the goals? Then your impatience will not help to achieve them: your help will. Your guidance. Your persistence. Your focus. Your creativity. Your support.

Leaders who lose patience lose support.

People have little patience for leaders without patience and will seek other paths as soon as it is feasible. That's not double-talk, but reality: your own patience will pay off with the persistence and loyalty of your people.

Much of the business world has abandoned loyalty to their people as a value. To do so is to set up a future failure difficult to overcome: the loss of your talent, your spirit, your organizational cohesiveness.

Does it all hinge on patience? Not all, but a significant part of what makes for a great leader is that leader's gentle challenging guidance and patience.

Keep your support. Keep your patience.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Monday, November 7, 2011

Should Team Members Compete With Each Other?

How does inserting competition into your daily relationships effect those relationships?

When I was very young I competed for places on sports teams. I had to be better skilled (or in some cases better connected) than other potential team members just to make the team. Once on the team, we were often pitted against each other in competition for the inner rewards of being on the team: playing regularly, getting positive feedback, getting the admiration of our peers in the crowd.

But the cost was ever so high. Competing so strongly against other youth who played the same position, we did not help each other. Instead of making each other stronger and better prepared, we worked on our personal skills and hoped our own places were secure. They weren't.

There is always someone better at what you do. If they are on the same team and do not help you, they may stay better than you but they are not as strong as they could be -- and of course, neither are you.

Team members who are forced to compete with each other soon lose sight of the team vision.

It does not have to be that way. Imagine a playing field where everyone who wants to be on a team is on a team -- and that team works to make both itself and every member continually stronger and more effective.

Extend that even further. What if every team then set out to help every other team to become stronger.

Some people might say that that is what competition does. Maybe in its original sense, including camaraderie and deep respect for your competitors. There is room to include that again.

Why not start on your team? Why not start with yourself?

When we find ourselves reaching for a competitive edge, what would we do differently to find a cooperative edge as well?

We can build each other up without tearing each other down AND enjoy the fun of games playing in the process. Let's just not put our game ahead of our character...

What do you think?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Is That Problem Worth Fixing?

How much time do you spend working on things that aren't worth working on?

If we are honest with ourselves, the answer is probably "too much".

That goes for problems, too. We can spend an inordinate amount of time trying to fix any number of things that really do not require fixing. They do not need our attention because they are likely to go away on their own, or they are problems we really don't care about, or maybe because they are simply the perceptions of problems.

Maybe they are just another way of doing something.

Before you solve a problem, are you sure it's worth fixing?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Centered Leaders Create Sustainable Success

Have you ever worked for a short time leader who focused on short time results, at the expense of any sustainable success?

I once worked for a company that held a culture led by what we called parachute leaders. They would show up from some other remote (to us) site, where they apparently had a quick turn-around success record, and as if parachuting in to the rescue would proceed to radically try to change the culture, chop the headcount, and trim the team up for sale.

It was demoralizing. Quarter to quarter, for a year or two, they would look like superstars. But, never having been with any team for more than two years they never saw the end results of their slash and burn change making. Eventually, the positive results turned sour. But by then the organization had been sold. Sometimes, after the results took a nose dive, the organization would be dismantled and scrapped.

Real leaders create sustainable success. Real leaders create teams that produce growth without the harmful side effects of laying people off and selling valuable assets. High performance leaders don't just re-brand a team, they transform a team while honoring the parts that have kept it going so far.

Leadership that does not bring about sustainable success is not leadership at all.

What are you doing to create the future while honoring the past?

Which of your goals are likely to bring about sustainable success?

-- Douglas Brent Smith