Saturday, March 29, 2014

Challenge Excuses

How do you feel about other people's excuses? How about your own excuses?

I've been guilty of creating some silly excuses for mistakes that I've made. Maybe you've heard some of them:

- I ran out of time
- I didn't realize how much it meant to you
- Something came up
- Traffic was really bad
- The budget changed
- We miscalculated

We can create an excuse list longer than the Chicago phone directory, and it still won't help much.

Excuses won't change the result.

Most of the time, whatever truth there is in an excuse doesn't even matter. When it comes to improving performance we must get beyond excuses. We must identify reasons, and then develop the strategies it takes to deal with the reasons in order to achieve our goal.

The next time you hear an excuses, remember this: an excuse is a request to make things better. Challenge those excuses. Make things better. Help others to challenge them as well.

Why not get started?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Would you like to help your team improve its performance? Are you looking for high performance ways to learn how to supervise for success? Why not contact me about bringing a leadership workshop to your location? We train supervisors for success.

info@frontrangeleadership.com

Friday, March 28, 2014

Make Your Expectations Clear


Do your team members know what you expect? Have you set your performance expectations at a level that causes them to stretch their skills? Do they know how much they might need to stretch and where to begin?

One of the most important things that a high performance leader can do is to make expectations clear. Here's what I want, when I want it, how it should look and feel, and what it includes. It even helps to make clear what it does NOT include, so that people see and feel the boundaries. As the leader, it is up to you to make those boundaries clear.

Whenever I've had a performance conversation with one of my team members, it includes a statement to this effect:

I'm expecting you do to your best. What are you expecting?

Because if they are not expect to do their best, we need to change that right away.

What are you expecting?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Would you like to help your team improve its performance? Are you looking for high performance ways to learn how to supervise for success? Why not contact me about bringing a leadership workshop to your location? We train supervisors for success.

info@frontrangeleadership.com

 Front Range Leadership

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Learn from Our Mistakes

What's the best thing you've ever learned from one of your mistakes?

You do make mistakes, don't you? I think that we all do. We don't choose to make mistakes, but when they happen they promise to teach us something when we pay attention. That means first acknowledging that we made the mistake, and looking for ways to avoid that mistake in the future and improve on our outcomes.

Here's the silliest mistake I've ever made:


  • Buying carpet for a room and then cutting that carpet without measuring it
I know - what was I thinking? I thought I knew how big the room was because it just seemed natural that it would be 9 x 12. Of course, it wasn't, and I ended up with an interesting strip of carpet that then fit exactly where the bare floor still showed. What did I learn? As my dad once said, "measure twice, cut once." Yep. Oh, and also: don't assume you know the answer just because you think you know the answer.

Sometimes learning from our mistakes takes the courage to admit that we made a mistake.

I've made bigger, more serious mistakes, too. How about you? What was the silliest mistake you've ever made? What did you learn?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

How to Deal with Attendance Problems

Do you ever experience attendance problems? Why is it that some people have such a hard time getting to work on time?

It is frustrating to a supervisor or manager to deal with an attendance problem. And, whether or not you realize it, it is one of the most frustrating things ever for your team.

I recall serving on a team where I did not have any influence over the attendance policy. I made it my business to always be at work on time. Through one stretch of my career I went over 10 years without ever calling in once. Yes, I was blessed with good health, and yes I was also disciplined.

The team I most recall with an attendance issue had a person who was a wonderful worker when he was there. He worked fast and his production was great. He was knowledgeable and he was skilled. When he was there. The trouble was, he wasn't there a lot. Maybe he had medical issues. I don't know for sure. The rumor was that his biggest issue was playing video games all night, getting too high to work, and getting too tired to work. Some days when he came to work it was clear that he hadn't slept much the night before.

So what as a supervisor do you do?

I'm a big fan of the force-field analysis method of identifying all of the issues that support a goal, plus all of the issues that stand in the way. Kurt Lewin designed a fabulous problem solving model that works especially well in dealing with attendance.

Get all of the reasons for poor attendance on the table. Keep asking, "what else prevents you from getting to work..." Eventually you ask, "is that everything that stands in the way of achieving your goal of getting to work every scheduled day on time?"

Doing this should identify all of the reasons AND all of the excuses.

Then you ask for that person's plan to overcome these obstacles. Let them develop a robust plan for every single reason and excuse. Then ask them if they are committed to achieving the goal and completing their plan to achieve their goal. If they say yes, ask how you can help. Hold them accountable for achieving their goal.

If they say no, it may well be time to consider helping them find their next opportunity -- outside of your team.

It's deeper than it sounds: attendance problems are often staffing problems. Get the right people on your team. And the wrong people off of your team.

It's what the rest of your team wants. Just ask them.

-- Douglas Brent Smith


Sunday, March 23, 2014

How to Build Confidence

Do you consider yourself confident?

Confidence comes from many sources. It can be over-valued. Still, centered leaders need a high amount of confidence to face their daily challenges. Supervisors encounter things that can rock the confidence of anyone. So how do we build our confidence most effectively?

We build confidence by knowing that we can do what we need to do. And, we get there through experience, reflection, growth, training, and constant learning. There is no substitute for constant learning to build our confidence that when the time arises we can learn whatever we need to learn to achieve our goals.

Competence in the present builds confidence for the future.

What are you doing to build your confidence this week?

-- Douglas Brent Smith


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Talk About What Scares You

Have you ever avoided talking to someone about something?

You know it's important. You know it's likely on their mind. Until you talk about it nothing will change. And yet, there's so much anxiety or apprehension attached to the result or the relationship that you both keep quiet.

Things don't change until you talk about them. Fear about talking about something is usually unfounded. Maybe we're shy. Maybe we feel unqualified. Maybe we don't want to feel pushy. I've been in those types of situations and what I've discovered is the conversation is usually nothing at all to fear. What tends to happen is a great sense of relief from getting the subject out in the open, real progress on the issue at hand, and a deepening of the relationship.

What will it take to talk about the things you're afraid to talk about?

If we want to communicate for results, we need to find ways to overcome our fears.

-- Douglas Brent Smith


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Talk Humbly About Your Goals

Have you ever heard someone talk about their goals and felt like it was all about them? If goals sound self-aggrandizing, it could be tough to gain support. And, maybe support wouldn't even be warranted.

Noble goals are about so much more. Noble goals are about including other people and about in some way, creating a better world. Maybe it's modestly through a better process, a better channel, a more creative solution. But it's not about the goal setter.

Centered leaders can talk about their goals without sounding like egotists.

Can you?

-- Douglas Brent Smith


Monday, March 17, 2014

Do your people know your mission statement?

Ask anyone who works for you -- what is your mission statement?

If they can repeat it, you probably have a useful one. If they can't, well -- what exactly is it accomplishing?

I think that mission statements are important. I teach people to align their goals with their organization's mission statement. To do that they need to know what it is. To know what it is, the mission statement should be precise, clear, and short.

If your mission statement is more than nine words long, how do you expect people to remember it?

If you are in charge of your mission statement, you might consider keeping it short.

And, if you're not in charge of your mission statement, maybe you can summarize it in nine words or less.

Wouldn't that be easier to remember?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Here are some useful tips for creating a mission statement.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Help Your People With Change

Do any of your team members seem to resist achieving their goals?

You know they have what it takes and you have been supporting them but for some reason they seem to hold back. Maybe it's the reluctance to change.

We resist change. We calculate how far we can go without it. We dig in our heals and stay where we are, even when that is not our best choice. Change looms and we don't like it.

Every goal includes the scary ingredient of change.

To help our people achieve their goals (and therefore, ours) sometimes we need to help them with change.
Help them with transitions, with controlling risk, with easing fears, with embracing the new. That might take many conversations but it seldom happens on its own.

How can your help your people deal with change today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Think Fast!

Are you thinking fast enough?

Our world is so fast moving it can be tough to keep up. We think fast, and then things go faster. We make decisions, and then new choices present themselves. How can we keep up?

Sometimes we need a thinking hat for our thinking hat.

Some way to leverage up our thinking and improve our performance. Some way to ramp up faster.

The best way I've found to increase my thinking speed -- to find the right thinking hat faster -- is to constantly stay learning. Learn something new. Cool and challenging ways to do that include:

- learning a new language
- playing improvisational games (yep, improv!)
- playing music (and instrument or singing)
- playing a sport just for fun

What ways can you think of to expand your wardrobe of thinking hats?

-- Douglas Brent Smith


Monday, March 10, 2014

Find Usable Solutions

Photo by Stephen Downes, at downes.ca
Have you ever had a problem linger for years because there was no perfect solution?

What about a partial solution? What if we found something that worked fast, even if it was incomplete? What if we stopped giving a problem the right to rule our lives?

The search for a perfect solution can keep a problem alive for years.

It could be a sign that you or your group doesn't really want to solve the problem. It could be a sign that there IS no perfect solution. What if you found a solution that worked fairly well and got you headed in the right direction to eventually eliminate the problem?

Sometimes the search perfection can slow us down. Your solution just needs to be good enough to make things better.

Isn't that what you want?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Is That Problem Solved?

How do you feel after solving a problem?  Usually, there is a rush of joy when I think I have a problem licked. The effort, the work, the time feels altogether worth it. But, sometimes there can be a lingering doubt. There can be a flicker of uncertainty. The faint sounds of the problem still ticking away are heard.

Maybe that problem isn't solved after all. Maybe there is still work to do. Sometimes our inner radar will tell us. Centered leaders have ways of knowing when their center is still off. Balance is impossible to fake.

If you don't feel better after solving a problem maybe you haven't solved the problem.

Ready to go back to work?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Solving Problems Comes with Benefits

How do you feel right after you have solved a problem? Do you get a boost of energy, of personal satisfaction? Do you feel more confident and self-assured?

Any problem that you solve will likely make you feel better.

Solving problems comes with all sorts of benefits.

- Enhanced perspective (see what's possible!)
- More centered teams (we did it!)
- Increased confidence (that didn't stand in OUR way!)
- Improved skills (let's do this again soon!)
- Expanded creativity (something new has been discovered or made!)

and, of course, that pesky problem is solved.

Solving problems comes with benefits. Why not cash in on some of those benefits soon?

What problem are you working on today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith


Friday, March 7, 2014

Center Your Goals on Your Purpose

Are your goals centered on your purpose? 

It's easy to form a massive list of unrelated goals. Before you know it your focus is scattered across an undefined landscape. What do you do first? How do you prioritize?

The time to focus is at the start. Can you align each and every goal to your purpose, your vision? People often tell me during a workshop that it's not possible. "My supervisor gives me my goals" they might say, or "Upper management decides what our goals are and if they're not related that's my problem..."

What do you do about that?

How about making every goal centered conversation a centered conversation. Bring in your key leadership skills. Be clear about your purpose. If your boss isn't clear, ask and help to clarify (yes, you really can do this).

Get creative in your approach to your goals. If it's not aligned obviously with your vision, what ways can you move it in the direction of better alignment? How can you optimize your new goals so that they do align with your vision?

Show compassion for yourself and the source of your goals. People are usually doing the best they can with what they know how to do. Maybe it's your turn to train someone how to focus more clearly on a purpose. Or, maybe it's your turn to learn more about these new goals so that they resonate more clearly with you.

Then, show the courage it takes to stand by your purpose. If a goal is truly a roadblock to completing or realizing your purpose, how can that be good? How could that trade be acceptable. Be courageous. Take a stand. Act boldly in the direction of success.

And keep in mind the picture changes. What seems discordant today could make total sense tomorrow. Focus, breathe, connect, and serve. Center yourself and centering your goals becomes much more easy.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Pay Attention to Your Problems

What if we just ignored a problem? What if we just denied that it existed?

Some people would rather "reframe" it and not call it a problem at all. I have had several bosses who preferred to call problems "opportunities". They didn't fool anyone because a problem is still a problem. We may have the opportunity to succeed, but only if we solve the problem.

Denying that problems exist invites them to worsen and grow.

We don't want that do we?

The trouble with denying problems is that you don't make them go away that way. Call them what you like, they still need to be managed or solved.

What's the fear? Let's call problems what they are: problems; and get about the exciting business of solving them. That's what a centered leader would do. Won't you?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Trust the Truth

Is there a danger to always telling the truth?

Will people avoid a constant truth-teller?

What is your other choice?

The truth told with respect is the best answer. The truth as you know it. If the truth is not clear, ask. Probe. Discover.

Be bold.

The radical truth takes longer and creates more provocation but is far more likely to lead to lasting peace.

Trust the truth, but first discover what it is.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Insist On The Truth

How many lies are acceptable to you?

Centered leaders confront all lies as soon as possible. Clarify, validate, ask.

A lie left alone only grows worse. The truth may seem flexible but require constant diligence.

How else will you know what is true?



-- Douglas Brent Smith

Clarify Your Most Important Goal

The faster you want to achieve your goals the more specific and persistent you must be.

How can you clarify your most important goal today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Create Energetic Teams

An effective leader creates energetic teams.

You could also say "co-create" to show how much collaboration has to do with it. True enough, collaboration IS essential.

Effective leaders get things going. Effective leaders bring their own creativity to the team. We don't need to wait for effective collaboration to get creative and energetic.

The energy you bring pushes the team one way or another. Which way will you choose?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Solve Your Anger First

Do problems make you angry?

Do you ever find yourself so emotional about a situation that it's hard to do anything about it?

If a problem makes you angry, solve your anger before solving the problem.

It's important to deal with that anger before it causes all sorts of additional problems.

Solve your anger first, and then move forward. 

-- Douglas Brent Smith


Overcome the Barriers to Problem Solving

My job is to help as many people as possible, solve as many problems a possible, as quickly as possible.

That should keep me busy for the rest of my life, don't you think.

But you can play, too. You can join in at helping to solve problems. Why not start with your own?

Or start with someone else's so that you can gain the confidence and skill you need to solve just about any any problem?

Why do you think that people have problems?

What do you think prevents people from solving problems?

Maybe it's because of one of these three things:

1. They don't know.

They don't know that it IS a problem so the situation continues. This applies to many personal and relationship problems but it could apply to just about any problem.

They don't know how to solve it. Surely we would solve any problem if we simply KNEW how to solve it wouldn't we? Usually, unless:

2. They don't care.

No one is likely to solve a problem that they don't care about. Why would some one not care about a problem? Probably because:

a. They've fully adapted -- in which case the "problem" is now part of who they are. It may not be the best that they can be, but they've gotten used to it. The problem situation will then stay around until they DO care about changing it.

b.It's what they really, maybe even secretly want. They might make noises about someday changing the situation, but something about the situation gives them exactly what they are looking for (right or wrong) and so it isn't going to change until THEY do.

Number two isn't a judgement, but it IS a reason.

3. They don't have what they think they need to solve the problem.

Maybe it's resources like time, money,or the right set of people.

Maybe it's discipline, a method for solving the problem, or a process to solve the problem.

Maybe it's a character trait or skill like courage, clarity, creativity or compassion. 


Think about any problems that you're experiencing right now. Could it be one of these three things keeping you from solving it?

Think about any problem in the world right now -- could it be one or more of these three things (don't know, don't care, don't have) preventing us from solving it?

I help people identify what's keeping their problems around, to figure out what to do about it, and then to do it: solve problems.

The good news is there's plenty to keep us all busy. Together we can overcome the barriers to problem solving.

If you want to explore these ideas more, and maybe get busy solving some problems of your own, I welcome you to contact me at:

doug@frontrangeleadership.com

Start the conversation, and see where it goes...there's nothing to lose but our problems.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Centered Leaders Create Joy

How long does it take to achieve your biggest goals?

Even if we're on track, big goals take a while to achieve. There's much work to do in the mean time. Team members can become discouraged or distracted. What's a leader to do?

Centered leaders create joy within their goal achievements.

There are many ways to do this, including:

- Recognizing great efforts
- Increasing one-on-one communication
- Coaching frequently
- Smiling!
- Debriefing mistakes and looking for opportunities
- Celebrating both personal and team milestones
- Remembering birthdays and anniversaries
- Demonstrating progress thru metrics or charts
- Building enthusiasm

What ways can you think of to create joy within your team as you move forward toward your goals?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Solving Problems and Achieving Your Goals

The essence of leadership is solving problems and achieving your goals.

Think about it.

Everything that a leader does eventually leads to working on one of those two outcomes:

  • solving problems
  • achieving your goals


What are you working on today to help you achieve one of those two outcomes?

-- Doug Smith


Stay True to Your Values

Do you have a set of values that guides your work?

As you seek to optimize processes and improve your world, do you keep in mind a set of principles that helps you to make decisions and stay on course for your mission?

Values are critical. Knowing what is most important to you and standing by those values will prevent more problems than you'll ever have time to solve.

Goals change, but genuine values persist.

Do you know what your top five values are?

Centered leaders stay true to their values. Do you?

-- Doug Smith


Solve Problems Without Force

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
- Focus on what you really want
- Analyze the problem carefully
- Create great solutions
- Engage the people around you who are effected by the problem
- Empower people to help you
- Solve your problem without force


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

-- Doug Smith


Solve Problems Together

What do you do with problems that you can't solve?

Do you have a few aggravating problems that persist beyond every individual effort you've been able to develop?

Maybe it's one of those problems you can't solve on your own.

There's no shame in that. Every supervisor and manager has a constant list of persistent problems nagging them, bothering them, percolating in the background just waiting to bubble over. We can let them bubble, or we can get help.

People solve problems with the help of other people

Solve problems together. Find people who can help. Think of the biggest, toughest problems that people face, and you'll likely see that they best way for people to solve those problems is with the help of other people. It's why we hire professionals to take care of problems that we could never solve, but that they have all the training and experience to solve painlessly. 

It's just one of the thousands of reasons why other people are the best thing going -- collectively we are so much more, cooperatively we are limitless, connected we are indestructible.

Got a really tough problem? What are you waiting for? People solve problems with the help of other people.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Power In Your Foundation

Where do you start?

When you're building a team. When you're starting a project. When your developing a career. When you bonding a relationship.

Build a strong enough foundation and your subsequent mistakes won't matter.

Take the time to create the agreements, the conditions, the promises that you keep. Take the time to steady the ship and the waves won't matter.

Sure, problems will bother you. Certainly, mistakes will sometimes hurt. But that strong foundation that you build creates resiliency that will see you through.

Why not build for the long, long term?

-- Douglas Brent Smith