Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Centered Leaders Control Their Inner Judge

When was the last time you judged someone or something?

For many of us the answer is minutes ago, maybe even seconds ago. We're good, and well practiced at judging.

The problem is we judge too much. We judge when people aren't expecting it. We judge when people don't need it. We judge when it doesn't do us any good.

We could all judge a lot less.

We can keep a sensible manner about us without all of that evaluation. We can learn to accept some things and some people for what and who they are. Especially when they have not asked us to help them change.

We should be careful about becoming a self-appointed judge.

If no one elected us to that position, chances are they won't care about our judgments anyway. And without the pretense, we could be much more free to enjoy people the way they are.

Successful supervisors, centered leaders, and high performance leaders use judging sparingly.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Monday, September 29, 2014

High Performance Leaders Take Action!

Do you know anyone who has lots of great ideas but seldom (if ever) takes any action on them?

How does that work for them?

I've seen people who were completely frustrated because they didn't get what they wanted and hoped for -- but didn't do anything to bring their desires into reality, either. I've done that myself.

Ideas are great. Actions make things happen.

Act on your great ideas and your great ideas can come true. Sit on your ideas and, well, nothing happens. The universe isn't really listening to your wishes with any plans to bring them about. It's up to you.

It's up to us to make our dreams come true, to turn them into goals and then plans and then actions. Actions!

Our best ideas are only as strong as the actions we take to bring them about.

Successful supervisors are people of action. Centered leaders bring great ideas AND decisive actions into play. High performance leaders act on their ideas.

What actions can you take today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Think Before Running from a Problem

Run away! Do you ever find yourself simply avoiding a big problem? Even though you know for sure that problem is not going away on its own, it's just too hairy and slippery to figure out right now and it doesn't seem as if the effort is worth the anxiety.

But what eventually happens to our anxiety if we do nothing about our problems? It just grows bigger.

Before I run from a problem I need to ask if that's the best solution for all concerned.

How about you?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Are you interested in helping the people in your organization to learn how to solve more problems faster and more collaboratively? Check out our one day workshop on Centered Problem Solving.




Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Drop The Emotional Baggage

Does emotional baggage ever intrude on your problem solving process?

Sometimes people bring up feelings that were deeply hidden yet growing. Sometimes unresolved conflict re-emerges creating sparks and noise in your attempts at collaboration.

It's easy to get excited about a problem. It's especially tempting when people seem to be making the problem worse. But does getting angry help? Does attaching yourself so tightly to the outcome that you burst help your situation?

Probably not.

Any problem is big enough without adding emotional baggage.

Why not drop the emotional baggage and focus on your goal?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Live Your Legacy Now

What kind of legacy are you planning?

How would you like for people to remember you? Will they remember you as someone who solved problems? Will they recall the goals that you achieved? And most importantly, will people remember you as a centered person of strong character?

Let's not wait until the end. Let's not put this off. Let's work on what people remember beginning now.

What if your legacy depended completely on what you did today? What would you do?

What part of that are you willing to do today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith


Monday, September 22, 2014

Reduce the Glorification of Violence

What does being a supervisor have to do with reducing the glorification of violence?

Good question. I think it is everyone's responsibility to find ways to create more peace in the world. Successful supervisors, centered leaders -- bring about more peace in the world. These days that is really a challenge, so every little thing that we can do as individuals matters.

One of the other things that I do, in addition to training supervisors for success, is work on films. Usually that is as an actor in a short film production. Sometimes, I'm an extra in a larger film. I haven't scored that really big role in a really big film yet but hey, life is for living the adventure and I'm having a blast with the art that I create.

Since when I do get a role my "type" is usually the antagonist (the creepy morale bending bad guy is my specialty -- go figure!). Sometimes that means handling violent action. A gun. A knife. Usually, for my character it involves actions other than weapons, sometimes manipulating other people to handle the dirty work. It isn't ideal, but I'm doing my job in playing a role.

Count how many movie posters and ads you see that have guns in the picture. The percentage is disturbingly high. So how, since I play the villain so many times, do I have the nerve to say we should reduce our glorification of violence?

Because good drama does not require it. People are constantly in conflict. We can assert our needs, we can even play manipulative games (yuck) without pulling out a weapon.

The arts can be dramatic without violence.

It takes some imagination. It takes some complicated plotting. It takes a lot of character development. The actors I know would treasure that kind of work. The actors I work with love a focus on character rather than action. It can be done.

The arts can be dramatic without violence. Let's stop writing stories with guns in them.

For the supervisors of the world, that doesn't mean you need to take a stand (or agree with whatever you think my stand is) on gun control or gun ownership. The gun owners that I know are very safe, very respectful, and very careful with their guns. That's not the point. The point is that we can stop the glorification of violence as a means of resolving conflict.

Because there are so many other, better, safer, more respectful ways to resolve conflict.

What do you think?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Interested in some ways to handle conflict more responsibility? Explore our teleclass on resolving conflict.



Friday, September 19, 2014

Practice Centered Leadership

There are different definitions of centered leadership out there, and each has merit. I highly recommend reading the book "Centered Leadership" by Joanna Barsh. She takes a different view on centered leadership and yet it's harmonious with what I call centered leadership. It's a good read, filled with instantly usable advice on becoming a better leader. 

Here is a brief summary of my idea of centered leadership:


Centered leadership requires constant development in both the skills of leading and the character of leadership.

Centered leaders maintain the core of their character while selecting and using the leadership skills necessary for each specific situation.

Centered, high performance leadership achieves positive, goal oriented results while leading with clarity, courage, creativity and compassion. Centered leaders are dynamic. They find the point of focus, the center, of each moment to be able to operate with a sense of balance and well being.

They identify their core area of strength (and personality preference) while developing their opportunities for improvement. Centered leaders also draw on the strengths and talents of others, recognizing and encouraging diversity.


The strengths and values of centered leadership include:
Courage: Practicing the strength and character it takes to face and act on meaningful challenges in support of people and purpose.

Compassion: Caring for other people, their feelings, needs and dreams.

Creativity:  Distilling and developing ideas into innovative products and services. Keeping an open mind and exploring new territory constantly.

Clarity: Refining, improving, analyzing, and covering details clearly, openly, honestly, and with absolute integrity. Reducing ambiguity and eliminating hidden agendas.

Centering: Staying focused and grounded in the face of conflict, stress, and challenge.

This is our definition of Centered Leadership. It draws on decades of research on the topic of leadership as well as the wealth of information available using various personality sorters. 


Slightly different, but I do keep Joanna Barsh's book close to my desk. As we say in improv, it doesn't have to be an either/or decision -- it can be both/and.


My main tweet of the day is this:


We feel whatever we practice, so why not practice clarity, courage, creativity, and compassion?


Some days that takes patience. Some days that takes development. In the end, we will reap the results of our character. Building strong, balanced, centered character leads to better results and happier feelings. Isn't that worth working for?


-- Douglas Brent Smith


If you're interested in learning more about how to be a more centered leader, Front Range Leadership takes a centered leadership approach in our work of training supervisors for success. Learn more about our workshops here and our teleclasses here.



Saturday, September 13, 2014

Build Your Character With Your Goals

What makes us who we are?

If that sounds like a question for a twelve week course to you, you're probably right. What makes us who we are is complicated.

Sometimes forgotten in the mix of genes, education, parenting, and peer adaptation is our approach to goals. Do we set goals, how do we set them, what kinds of goals do we set, how assertive are we about working on them? All kinds of questions centering on our approach to goals.

It's easy to forget, but ever so important.

How we achieve our goals determines who we become.

Where ever we started, however we got to the present, regardless of our previous circumstance -- we control our approach to goals today.

What's your approach?

How are you doing at your goals?

Where are your opportunities to create an even greater you?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Friday, September 12, 2014

Be Careful of Forced Solutions

It seems faster. It seems more efficient. Why not simply give your constituents no choice by changing what needs to be changed and removing the old way of doing things?

Because, well -- people don't like that sort of thing. And when they don't like something you can count on lots of resistance.

There's not much point in solving a problem by creating new ones.

Centered problem solvers do better than that because they know that a solution that needs to be forced is probably not going to solve your problem.

We might as well find a solution that our constituents embrace -- even when that is more work.

What do you think?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Looking for a way to solve more problems in your organization? Why not bring our workshop Centered Problem Solving to your location.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Promise or A Plan?

Which would you rather have -- a promise, or a plan?

I love promises. When some people make a promise to me I know that it is as good as done. They are reliable, trustworthy, hard-working creative people who keep their promises.

I'll take a promise from them any day.

Promises can be problematic sometimes, though. Some people are not so skilled or willing to keep their promises. They may make a promise to move forward in the conversation (possibly because the conversation is deep enough to cause some discomfort) and yet have no intention of keeping that promise. That's not helpful. That's not what centered leaders are looking for. That's not how centered problem solvers operate.

Promises are great and I'm also interested in the plan. What exactly are they promising to do and when will they do it? What's the plan?

Picking a promise over a plan is a risky way to solve a problem. 

Problems respond better to the actions completed in a careful and thorough plan.

So, thanks for the promise and now I'm curious -- what's your plan?

-- Douglas Brent Smith


Fix the Problem, Not the Person

How are you at fixing people?

Me, either. People are tough to fix, mainly because they usually are not broken. Something simply stands in the way of where they are and their most effective actions. Sometimes, we're even the thing standing in the way and don't know it.

Sometimes it looks like another person is the problem, or at least the cause of the problem. The temptation gets stronger then to solve the problem by fixing the person, or insisting that they fix themselves. That seldom works.

We do not solve our problems by attacking other people.

That makes the problem bigger and harms the relationship. Centered problem solvers take time to carefully analyze the source of the problem and they involve related people in that process. Because while it's hard to fix people -- those very same people you might be tempted to fix are often the best source of help in solving the problem. The key is aligning them, not maligning them.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Interested in solving more problems? Bring our Centered Problem Solving workshop to your location and see what a huge impact it can have in your team.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Centered Leaders Respond with Strength

High performance, centered leaders respond with strength. When problems arise, when challenges aggravate, when people clash, centered leaders find the right balance of courage and compassion to handle the situation.

That doesn't mean that they solve it all by themselves. Finding the balance might mean finding the right people to help. Finding the solution most certainly will mean involving the people who are effected by the problem.

Where does this ability come from? Largely, the ability to remain centered comes from a developed character. It comes from practice. It comes from focus. It comes from the heart, from the mind, and from the soul. It flexes the inner muscles of your being.

If that sounds deep, it is. Character development is more than training: it's experience, it's values, it's a sense of mission, and it's service to some higher cause.

Depth of character responds with strength to any problem.

How are you building the depth of character you need?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Show Compassion. Show kindness.

What is the most powerful strength a leader can show?

How about compassion under pressure? The ability to show kindness even when the other person may be acting in ways that do not normally trigger compassion. It takes a mindful leader to remain in the moment enough to remember the strength of compassion.

When we are given to anger, when we are tempted to yell, when we are managing our reactions...

The most profound gesture is one of kindness.

Listening deeply. Touching carefully. Trusting in spite of  the low level of trustworthiness. Staying kind. Staying compassionate.

Can you do that as a leader? Imagine the strength, the impact, the resiliency of your relationships when you do.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Change Quickly

How are you at keeping up?

Change is so rapid that adjusting, and evolving, has become a full time job. We roll with the changes, we drive new changes, we let go of the old. It's not getting easier, and it's getting faster.

I work at it. I keep learning. I keep adjusting, and still...

By the time I have it figured out it's time to try something else.

Instead of getting frustrated, here's how I like to look at it: change is growth. Faster change is faster growth. Getting better is growth, so the more change the better.

Are you with me on that?

Because the alternative is slow-motion decay, and we don't want that, do we?

-- Douglas Brent Smith


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Start Creatively

Do you give your creativity free reign? Do you let your inner artist loose?

I think that creativity is one of the five core leadership strengths. Ignoring it does not make it less important. Building it does make it more useful.

Start your mind working creatively and it won't want to stop.

Get a taste. Do something truly creatively. If you do already, you know how great it is. And if you don't, get started today. It makes a big difference in results, in energy, in fun. Get more creative. You'll like it.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Make the Hard Choices

Are you faced with a hard choice? A hard choice is one we don't want to make, and yet realize that sooner or later we need to. It could be making that big career change. It could be ending a destructive relationship. It could be selling that car that costs too much to keep repairing.

Make the choice.

Moving on is the direction of growth. Gathering the facts, discovering the reality of the situation, and making the choice is the way to go.

We might need to get creative to do it. It may take all of our creative juice just to figure out a better way, but there is always a better way.

A creative act may close a door or two but it will soon open thousands of possibilities.

And possibilities are what we want. Positive, energized, growing possibilities. This all becomes easier when our goals are clear. When we know where we're headed -- and we're willing to do the hard work it takes to get there -- any distraction is more easily exposed. Choices become more clear.

Make the hard choices as a matter of habit, and they will get easier to make. What hard choice are you holding out on?

-- Douglas Brent Smith