Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Mood of the Leader

What kind of mood are you in?

Your team knows. People on your team are paying close attention to your mood. They want to know if this is going to be a good day, or something else. They want to know who you will pay attention to. They want to know if your emotions will drive them forward or hold them back.

Centered leaders remember that their mood sets the mood for the team.

It's a big responsibility, but there's no avoiding it.

What kind of mood are you in?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Saturday, September 29, 2012

What if Your Were Your Own Customer?

You probably have seen the great offers that companies make to lure new customers in. Half price specials. Extended terms. Better warranties. You notice that the price is lower than you paid and the terms are more attractive -- ah, but! There's the fine print that says "for new customers only."

You can't have those extra miles. You can't get that two-for-one. You can't get that special level of service all because -- you already are a customer.

How does that make you feel?

It makes me feel cheated. It makes me feel less appreciated. It makes me feel taken for granted. Maybe that's too strong or too bitter, but pardon me if I feel that a company should value its existing customer as much (or MORE) than prospective ones. After all, we're already spending money with them.

If you offer new customers a better deal than existing customers, what message does that send to your current customers?

Maybe there's a better way to use your marketing budget. Maybe there's a better way to treat the people who are already keeping you in business...

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Who's To Blame?

"It wasn't my fault."

"I wasn't even there."

"I think it happened on the other shift."

"They are always messing things up."

Who's to blame? When things go wrong, when a customer gets angry, when a supplier raises prices, when things don't go as you planned. Who's to blame?

Will it even help if you could pin that down to one person? Will pouring guilt or punishment on a person solve your problem? Probably not.

But people do it all the time.

Blaming others is so easy that many people don't even know they are doing it.

What if we stopped blaming others? What if instead, we worked together to find solutions, better ways of doing things, and ways to avoid what caused our problem to begin with?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Listening to Complaints

How do you feel about complaints?

Successful supervisors often discover that since they've developed the ability to truly listen to people, that people take that opportunity to complain. Why not? Think about how few people truly listen to us. Once you feel heard, it is wonderful.

But listening to one complaint after another can be tough. It can even be counter-productive. For me, I often drift out of my carefully practiced listening and into wondering when is this person going to DO something about it?

So why wonder into it -- go full speed ahead. Redirect. Refocus. Reframe. Sometimes all you need to do is listen and let a person vent, but more often than that a more effective strategy is to prod them into moving. Stir their passion into action. Encourage them to either do something about the issue they are complaining about or simply drop it. If it is truly out of their control or influence, maybe dropping it is their best option. But, if they CAN do something or influence someone regarding their complaint then the time to do that is now.

Keep in mind that maybe YOU are that person they are seeking to influence. Then you get to choose.

Your job is not to listen to complaints. Ask the complainer to collaborate on a solution.

It will show how much either of you care about the issue, and how much either of you can do about it.

Who knows? Maybe the two of you will make dramatic improvements in something.

-- Douglas Brent Smith
    


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bristling Feedback

Do you ever find it really hard to listen to feedback?

I can recall a few times when the feedback that I was getting was either so far off base as to be insulting or so extreme as to be hurtful. Maybe it was just me, but there didn't seem to be any point.

Or was there?

At other times, when I have kept my feelings at bay long enough to listen, there is some element of truth worth exploring. There is often some kernel of insight that can be useful. Not always -- sometimes the feedback we get isn't even meant to be useful -- but sometimes.

Centered leaders suspend judgment of themselves and the person providing the feedback to find the insight that's worth exploring.

It may be in the feedback. It may be concerning your relationship. It may be in your reaction. But, it is likely there. We can usually learn something if we are open to the lesson available.

Is there someone you work with who you find it hard to take feedback from? What would happen if you listened without judgement, without reacting?

Is there someone who seems to shut down when you provide them with feedback? What can you change about your delivery that will make your insights easier to take?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Learn more in the workshop: Communicating for Results

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Best Result

Is the best result what you really want?

I know you want a result that is best for you -- but often we can confuse what is best for us and our teams vs. what we seem to really want.

This can work against us.

How do we overcome this?

Check in on what you really, really want. What is it that you are hoping for? Is that aligned with your vision and goals?

If it is, go full speed ahead. Make it happen. Get busy achieving your goals.

And if it isn't, it's time to talk it over with someone who can help you with that.

Or would you rather get something other than what you want?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Front Range Leadership


Confident Leaders

What do you expect from your people?

Could they possibly achieve more toward your unified vision than YOU ever have -- and would you be emotionally OK with that? 

Confident leaders expect their people to exceed their own accomplishments in pursuit of the common vision. It's how high performance leaders multiply their efforts toward success.  

As a leader, if you are going to achieve your goals you will need the confidence in your people that they will achieve their goals, and the confidence of your people that you will do you need to do to help them.

Are you confident enough to expect more from your people? Are you making it possible for your people to succeed? What will you do today to open more doors to success for your people?  


-- Douglas Brent Smith

What If Your Creativity Could Change the World?

What do you see in the world that needs changing?

Would you like more peace? Should there be more jobs available for people everywhere? Should we be doing more to stop global warming? Will we run out of water unless we do something creative?

Add your concerns to the growing list and you'll likely see plenty of opportunity to make the world a better place. Shall we leave that up to someone else and hope that everything turns out OK? Or, should we roll up our sleeves, tune up our brains, and get moving on some creative solutions?

Think about what you are most creative about. What challenging situation could that be helpful in? How can you impact what matters most to you?

What if your creativity could change the world? It can.


-- Douglas Brent Smith

Front Range Leadership

Friday, September 21, 2012

Embracing an Art of Possibility


The creative arts have taken in on the chin this month. A poorly made trailer for an ill-conceived movie has sparked demonstrations around the world. Are people taking this piece of crap "art" too seriously? Is "art" that dangerous?

Art sometimes is dangerous. It has the power to stir minds, to generate energy, to instigate change. It pries its way into our emotions and stirs up feelings we've been pushing down. It offers new ways of seeing things we may not have expected. It frames issues and personalities in plots and scenes we can be uncomfortable with.

Shouldn't we talk about our feelings? Shouldn't we open our imaginations to new possibilities? Shouldn't we solve problems creatively by tapping into the creative tools and attitudes we learn from the arts?

Ah yes, if we can only do that without throwing dangerous objects at each other!

The answer is not to suppress the arts. The answer is not censorship or surrender. The answer is somewhere within an increased willingness and skill to create real dialogue. To create conversations within the context of honor and respect. To keep our minds open to both possibilities and harm. What might we have done to create harm and what can we possibly do to make things better?    

The arts show us that we live in a multi-colored, multi-textured world of possibilities where evil is not always evident and righteousness is seldom absolute. Once we are able to question our own motives and look at our own actions the way others see them, we create the possibility of understanding.

It's not the cure, but it's a start.

The world needs more art, not less. The world will benefit from talking about our ideas and attitudes and playing them out in harmless fields of creativity -- but when they spill out into our streets and schools and places of public gathering we've missed something in the translation. We've missed something in the purpose of creativity.

It is a wonderful honor, terrific challenge, and awesome responsibility to act as an artist. Are we teaching people how to do that effectively? Are we learning to discern mature work from primitive  mistakes? Are we allowing people to grow and to make horrible mistakes along the way without striking back in violence?

I like art when it promotes my values of clarity, courage, creativity and compassion. Not all art will do that, nor do I expect it to. But let's give it a chance without expecting it to set the values for everyone. Let's let art illumine our differences while forging new connections, new conversations, new possibilities.

I'm quietly holding on to the possibility that everyone in the world can breathe in with possibility and breathe out with purity. Does it happen all the time? Not yet -- but let's hold on together. Let's create without malice and observe without judgement.

Give art a chance to change the world and the world becomes far more worth changing. 



-- Douglas Brent Smith

Dealing with Disillusionment

Have you ever been disillusioned?

Sometimes things do not turn out as we expected. Despite our best efforts and most noble intentions, sometimes the outcome simply does not match our expectations.

I've worked on projects that lasted longer than they should have and produced less than we planned. Disillusionment could have easily set in.

There have been people in my life who surprised me and disappointed me. Was that their fault or mine? Does it matter? Disillusionment could have taken over, but didn't.

Set-backs are no cause for surrender.

Centered leaders deal with disillusionment with quiet confidence and patience.

It's the long view. It's knowing your sense of mission and purpose. It's staying clear on the course ahead no matter how hard the wind blows.

As many a sports coach has yelled with all good intentions, "brush yourself off and get back in there." It may not be that simple, but sometimes it is.

Show up. Be true to yourself. Find all the clarity, courage, creativity and compassion you need from the character you've already developed, and move forward.

I like to treat disillusionment like a sad movie. Enjoy the cry, talk it over with a loving friend, and then look forward to the next adventure.

It's worth a try, isn't it?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Front Range Leadership


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Forget What You Know?

Does it ever make sense to forget what you know?

What if what you know is certain and true?

What if you simply believe it to be true, but beyond your knowledge it isn't true at all?

Sometimes learning requires the suspension of what we think is true. We need to be able to entertain a contradiction or paradox long enough to find a new perspective. Maybe we will change our mind, maybe we won't, but we give it air time. We let it breathe. We expand our world of possibilities just long enough to see if we're missing something important.

Creatives are constantly willing to forget what they think they know to learn something far more useful.

Something far more magical. Something far more brilliant. And, possibly something far more true.

Sometimes it happens. Sometimes it does not and we are free to hold to what we already believe. But without trying, without the willingness to suspend judgement for long enough to see anew -- how will we ever know?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Front Range Leadership
  

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Necessity of Creativity

Do you need creativity to be an effective leader?

Think about what separates leaders from by-standers. Leaders get things done. Leaders show the clarity of knowing what is important. Leaders show the courage to stand up against opposition and to overcome obstacles. Leaders show compassion for life everywhere. And, leaders demonstrate the creativity to encourage and develop new ideas.

New products. Better processes. Happier teams. Stronger customer relationships. All are helped by generous amounts of creativity.

Once you treat creativity like oxygen -- vital and necessary -- you will find it easier to tap. 

Easier to find, easier to access, easier to take advantage of is the creativity that you constantly encourage and support. It does not happen by accident. Leaders spark creativity everyday.

What will you do today to spark more creativity from yourself and from those on your team?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Front Range Leadership

 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Surround Yourself with Creative People

When do you feel most creative?

Is it when you are all alone, wondering what to do? Or, could it be when you are with other creative people, laughing and tossing great ideas back and forth?

It doesn't have to be an either/or choice. Like good improvisation, creativity is both/and. Sometimes we need solitude to do our best work (especially people who are more clarity focused). Sometimes we work best surrounded by the energy of lively, loud, creative people.

Why not enjoy both?

Why not plan for times when you have the people near you who energize you, who charge you up, who create more possibilities.

I remember working in theater on tough deadlines and just pouring out with great ideas that were not mine alone, but the ideas of the group.

Jamming with other musicians creates melodies I could never have thought of alone. Think of your favorite band -- it probably is the combination of ideas and sounds that appeals to you. It's the explosion of creativity that happens among the creative.

Surround yourself with creative people to abound your world with creativity. 

Then, see how much more creative you are as well.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Front Range Leadership



Monday, September 17, 2012

What About Regrets?

Have you made leadership decisions that you regret?

Are there mistakes in your past that you can't do anything about, but wish that you could?

Welcome to leadership. We do make mistakes. We do take wrong turns. We do make decisions that we'd like to recall, like some vast automobile recall that tries to fix the problem before anyone gets hurt. As leaders, one risk is that our decisions could hurt other people.

Regrets are too heavy to carry but too important to forget.

Centered leaders learn from their mistakes. Successful supervisors and managers increase their effectiveness in part by minimizing the repetition of past mistakes.

You don't need to beat yourself up over a mistake. But you don't need to do it again.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Front Range Leadership






Knowing and Doing

How many times have you seen someone who knows what to do, but doesn't do it.

The problem is figured out -- the cause is known, the action needed is clear. But nothing happens.

I've been guilty of that myself. I've hesitated, even though I know what to do. Instead of acting quickly to let a poor performer know that they were missing expectations, I let it ride hoping that they would get better on their own. Of course, they didn't. The problem got worse, the performance deteriorated, and eventually it became too late to do anything but help the associate find a new assignment.

Knowing what to do pales compared to actually doing it.

As my partner Dorinda often says, "knowledge is the booby prize".

Action is the key.

THE BIG QUESTIONS:

What pending action do you need to take?

What are you waiting for to get better on its own?

How will you demonstrate the key skills of a successful leader today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Front Range Leadership


Thursday, September 13, 2012

How A Leader Does It

Collage by Doug Smith
In a world constantly focused on results, does how you do it matter?

Does how you achieve your results effect your leadership?

I've worked for leaders who got results fast. They pushed hard, pulled resources from other people's projects, re-prioritized, and even stigmatized other peers in order to get a project done. Often, shortly after that project, they moved on to another organization.

If all you want are short term results, you can burn every bridge you cross. But, sooner or later you will run out of bridges, and find no friends to help you across the now murky river of your future.

How we do things DOES matter.

Centered leaders know that how they do something is often more important than what they do.

There will be other missions. There will be other goals. There will be other projects. But only if there are bridges to take us from one to the next.

This means doing things with clarity, courage, creativity and compassion. Forget any one of those, and the work just gets harder.

How will you get things done today? Will your people value your methods?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Front Range Leadership

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Who's To Blame?

Have you ever found yourself in a problem and don't know who to blame?

If you lead more than one person, you've probably got your share of problems.

Who's to blame?

Managing a team comes with challenges. How to keep people challenged and happy. Who to support when. What to do about scarce (and diminishing) resources. How to fix sticky problems.

What to say when your boss wants to know what went wrong.

Have you ever worked for a boss who blamed you for whatever went wrong and took credit for whatever went right? How did that feel?

Selfish bosses who blame others for mistakes can sometimes prosper on the short term, so it feels to them like their strategy is working. On the long run though it is deeply flawed and destined to crash. They've got it exactly reversed.

Centered leaders refrain from blaming other people for their problems.

When we take ownership, we maintain a higher level of influence. When we own our challenges, what we say about them has more credibility and weight.

And when we give our people credit for our successes, they feel energized to succeed more.

Who's to blame?

Why not move forward with solutions and leave the blame behind?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Front Range Leadership

Friday, September 7, 2012

Get The Data

Do you rely on your instincts or facts and figures?

When I worked on six sigma projects at GE there was an expression that the Master Black Belts liked to throw around, "In God we trust, all others show the data..."

Yes, it's not THAT funny but you get the point: gut instincts may feel good to you but when it comes to making tough decisions and sweeping changes, let's look closely first at the data.

As leaders we develop a sixth sense about things and that serves us well -- sometimes. Other times we can just as easily get locked (and blocked) into our old biases and make decisions based on what feels right but isn't. We don't mean harm, it just sneaks up on us like a black cat in the night and scratches our ankles.

Trust your instincts, but get the data first. You won't be sorry.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Front Range Leadership, LLC

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Leaders Ask Before Deciding


Did you ask first?

It's amazing what a difference it makes. People truly care about being consulted on decisions that effect them. Whether or not you USE their advice is not as important as asking.

People are often comfortable with a leader's decision if the leader first asks for their opinion. If you want to communicate for results, it helps to find out if your constituents want the same results.

You do want your decision to work, don't you? Then why not ask the people it effects first?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Learn more in the workshop: Communicating for Results