Thursday, December 31, 2015

Creativity Thrives In The Unexpected

Have you surprised yourself today?

Boo! Nah, I don't mean like that. What creative ideas have occurred to you? What brand new actions emerged today?

Creativity benefits from frequent encounters with the unexpected.

It's that painting that distorts the way we see faces. It's that bridge that goes nowhere. It's that snowman in Miami.

People surprise me, sometimes. When a friend says something unexpected and kind, it generates a burst of creative energy that propels me forward. Suddenly my goals seem more achievable.

When a collaborator suggests an idea that surprises me completely I get a sense of confusion followed by profound delight. It's a possibility! It's creative! And, there's no way in the world I would have thought of it without this surprise.

Surprise yourself, often. Expose yourself to people and ideas that would not normally come your way. Find the connections. Creativity thrives on the unexpected.

It's hard to plan to surprise yourself. You just have to explore without judging.

But you can surprise someone else easily enough. What creative surprise can you spring on your team today?

-- Doug Smith


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Analyze Into Action

Have you heard the expression "analysis paralysis"?

It is often said derisively about people who over analyze and then do not put into action any of their conclusions. Perfectionists tend to keep looking for more data.

But sometimes we have not analyzed enough. When we give up, our analysis has been incomplete. When we are disloyal, our analysis has been flawed. When our problems remain unsolved, our analysis has been ineffective.

Problems without solutions have not yet been fully analyzed.

Once the right answer appears, why wouldn't you act on it?

So think about it. Not too much -- but think about it. That solution is in there somewhere.

-- Doug Smith


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Turn Off The Noise

Today I'm adding a bonus entry from my friend, David Spiegel. So many of my own clients complain about being overwhelmed by stress. Dave discovered a big point in his stress, and how to deal with it. He still does just as much work -- just with a bit less stress. And just in case you think you can't -- pay attention to where he mentions 50,000 text messages!  Doug



by David Spiegel

In May I began coaching with a weight loss company. Every morning texts would come in  and my job was to respond to them. In the early days, it was exciting as my client base grew from a handful to eventually a few hundred . After a short while the texts were rolling in at a pretty steady clip.It did not take long before it became an avalanche of messages.I couldn't answer them fast enough. I would open my phone and it would show 75 unanswered messages.

As I set about answering a few dozen more and more came ringing in. Each time my phone would chime telling me I had received a new text. After answering the first 25 of 75 I would look and see that I now had 87 unanswered messages! AAAARGHHHH!

Another text rang in, and another and another. I literally could not catch up. Brrring another. Brrrringanother. Brrrrrrrring another! Every time my phone would sound my stress level would grow.  I could hardly breathe!


Then one day in l;ate October, my phone just froze. 


I could not text back to any of the messages I was receiving. I immediately got a replacement phone and transferred all of my data.


In the 5 months from May to October, from my start date to the day of the crash, I had received just over 50,000 texts. Received and responded to. Along with each incoming message was the audible reminder that yet another text awaited me.Like the constant dripping of the faucet, each text tone drove me crazy.


While setting up my new phone, Becky asked, "do you want me to put the text tone on silent?" You can do that?


Well, hell yeah!


And then there was silence!


Day after day, the texts keep coming in, without the noise. Without the clammer. No longer was I subject to the constant reminder that someone else wanted a piece of me. The demands on my time were now completely in my control. It has been delightful.


Along with the absence of noise has come a notable absence of stress. I can breathe once again. The tension in my neck has gone. The twitching in my cheek has ceased. I am relaxed. And every text still gets answered.


My point?

Sometimes you just have to shut off the noise!


-- David Spiegel

Today's resolution:
2015 is just about done.....whether or not I am ready for that to happen or not.
I have a few more hours left today to address the balance of 2015 items. Tomorrow, they will all make their way on to the For 2016 list!

If you or someone you know needs to lose weight -- let Dave know!  david@live2xlcoaching.com

How To Study for Life

Did you get the owner's manual to life when you were born?

Me, either. And, ever since it's been one learning experience after another. Some were pleasant (oh, so that's how she shows me she love me!) and some were awkward (maybe I should have measured the room before I cut the carpet!)

If we do nothing else, we'll learn what we need to learn completely inductively -- by stumbling around, discovering, exploring, and more-often-than-not making mistakes. So if breaking things, crashing systems, mangling relationships, and crushing communications is not your idea of fun, I'd recommend doing some proactive learning. Read ahead. Study. There is good news:

Life is an open book exam.

Once we finish school, there is absolutely nothing preventing us from finding the information we need and turning it into knowledge (and then into action) before we fail a test. Even before we get a dreadful "C" on that test. With so many learning tools available, we can absolutely ace the testing times of life.

How are you studying today?

-- Doug Smith




Monday, December 28, 2015

Develop Your Creative Tools

What has been your most creative act this week?

I know it's been a busy week. They are ALL busy weeks, and this one has been busier than most. Still -- what creative brilliance have you displayed?

It could be as simple as substituting cashews in a recipe when you run out of pecans (well, OK, so I burned the pecans!) It could be as breath-taking as writing a new poem (did that, too.) Think about it. Every creative impulse that you turn into an action propels you forward to achieving your goals. It may not be obvious at first, but it is fuel for the journey.

Every tool that leads to achieving your goals benefits by developing creativity.

So celebrate those creative moments and nurture more. Find new ways to become ever-more creative. The pay off leads to your success.

-- Doug Smith


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Get Creatively Busy

How many goals are you working on?

I'm not saying that you should have too many goals. A hundred should be plenty. (OK, you can pick yourself back up now, I don't actually expect anyone to list a hundred goals.)

Creativity likes to be busy. Creativity likes idle time, too and if we're idle long enough the creative mind gets busy.

Your goals stand a better chance of achievement when your creativity is cranked way up. So keep your creative mind busy and your creative impulses, ideas, notions, and results will multiply.

- read more
- draw more
- paint more
- exercise more
- walk more
- listen more

The creative mind is always busy.

We just need to pay attention.

What is the creative side of your mind telling you right now?

-- Doug Smith

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Centered Problem Solvers Get Unstuck

How long do you want to stay stuck on that big problem of yours?

You know the right answer: not long.

Here's another answer to consider: no longer. Let's solve that sucker today.

What does it take? Things to think about include staying centered (it's harder to solve a problem when we're a problem) and staying creative. A problem is just a reason to develop new ideas. A problem is just a way to build better processes. A problem is just a way to grow deeper relationships.

Creative problem solving presumes you don't want to stay stuck.

You don't want to stay stuck. Not when creativity is there for you to use right now.

Stop judging, start sparking, and see what happens. That big problem has a big solution. You just haven't thought of it yet.

-- Doug Smith

PS
I suppose that it is possible that you have thought of the solution but just not implemented it yet. If that's the case, what you need is an assertive action plan and then to act relentlessly on your plan. What's your next step?


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Check Your Boundaries

Do you favor tight boundaries, wide boundaries, or flexible boundaries?

When I worked at GE there was much talk about creating a boundaryless organization. But it turns out that wasn't so much without boundaries as it was to have permeable boundaries -- boundaries we could navigate as needed and expand under the right conditions. The only way that worked was to hold true to the values of the organization (some boundaries may NOT be crossed, such as "integrity"). So, it wasn't yes or no, right or wrong, when it came to defining boundaries - it was both/and. Some boundaries are flexible, and some are not. Knowing the difference is leadership. Knowing the difference is integrity.

Boundaries that are impenetrable, but unreasonable, get in our way. They get built for good intentions, but outlive their usefulness. We establish rules for a time, and then that time passes and the rules remain. They are so out of tune with what we need that they can even become embarrassing. Those boundaries need to break. Those are boundaries we must change.

We can also build walls to keep out danger and later find out that the walls are keeping out bliss as well. Interpersonal walls formed from habit. Legislative walls built from mistrust. Status walls built out of misperception of who the "other" is and who we really are.

If that wall is not necessary, useful, and kind, it probably should come down.

When we get rid of unnecessary boundaries we are more open and free to collaborate, to cooperate, to optimize our present and our future. When we let down our walls, the magic can begin.

What feels at first impossible may be possible with the right changes in boundaries.

What boundaries are slowing you down? What if they weren't there? Who had established those boundaries? What if you talked about it today?

-- Doug Smith


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Garden or Laboratory?

Where do you test your best creative ideas?

Not all creative ideas are the same. Some require a sort of close inspection with careful boundaries and controlled conditions, otherwise they will become impossible to work with or change into something we hadn't counted on.

But not all creative ideas are like that.

Some creative ideas benefit from a quick planting and careful observance to see how they're doing but are left to grow on their own. We tend to them, we remove obstacles and aberrations, but we let them grow naturally.

Some creative ideas need a garden and some need a laboratory.

If no one can get hurt, if you you've got lots of time, and if you want the unexpected to be welcome, plant your creative ideas in a garden like atmosphere of freedom and spontaneity.

If the risks are high, the conditions are dangerous, and the talent is exposed to sudden change keep a laboratory-like grip on your creative conditions. Focus your attention on them but don't let them explode in your face.

What kind of environment do you tend to set up for your creative ideas?

-- Doug Smith


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Values Should Help, Not Hinder Collaboration

Have you ever had to work with someone who does not share your values?

In all honesty, I think we all do that all the time. Our values are important, and we strive to live by them every day, but not everyone shares those values and yet we do need the help of people who have different values.

It IS so much easier to work with people who share our values. Shared values build trust. Shared values build understanding. Shared values build collaboration.

But sometimes we have to be a role model for those values and hope that our demonstration of our values in action will show their merit. By being a positive example of our values in action, we might just encourage other people to embrace those values.

And by showing our willingness to work with people we disagree with we can show how we facilitate, rather than force, our way of living.

It's harder to collaborate with people who don't share our values -- but not impossible.

Who have you been avoiding because of their values? What if you could find a way to demonstrate the benefits of living your values by working with them?

Action Steps

- The next time you find yourself working with someone with differing values, talk about it. Talk about how you will approach your work. Talk about how you will cooperate as much as possible AND where your boundaries are.

- The next time you bump against a value that seems to conflict with your values, talk about it. Find out if the conflict is intentional, accidental, or incidental. Communicating for results talks bold and honest talk. Are you ready for that?

-- Doug Smith




Monday, December 21, 2015

Don't Blame People

Isn't it easy to blame people for our problems?

Probably, because people are usually involved. But, most of the time if we fix the conditions causing the problem or the process that leads to the actions that people are doing we can fix the problem. No blame, just change.

Most problems aren't caused by people but most problems are only solved by people.

Instead of blame, we need team work. And that comes from cooperative, collaborative communication.

Who can help you with your biggest problem today? Are you ready to talk about it?

-- Doug Smith



Friday, December 11, 2015

Watch Out For Detours

Are you easily distracted?

I've known some people who are so blessed with brief attention spans that they are easily distracted. They'll start one thing and then move onto another before they've finished what they're working on. Many people are fine with that. It drives me crazy.

It's easy to get distracted. And, it's easy to see what looks like a short cut and grab for it just to make it possible to move onto something else and just to put to rest the stress of it sitting unfinished. Sometimes that works, but sometimes it is something to be extremely careful about.

What looks like the shortest path to success can turn out to be a sizable detour.

Bunny trails, distractions, detours - whatever you want to call them, simply pull us away from our goals. They delay success. They get in our way.

An occasional detour is fine - but I do my best to avoid getting seduced by the simplicity of a false answer. If the goal is challenging, there probably aren't any easy answers and anything that looks like a short cut could prove to be a detour.

How will you safeguard yourself from detours today?

-- Doug Smith


Sunday, December 6, 2015

It's More Than A Label

What makes something creative?

Exploration, practice, training, appreciation, exposure, efforts, failures, falls, boundary-breaking -- it all goes into becoming more creative. There are no easy answers. You've probably seen someone label something as "creative" in order to convince you that it was. How does that work?

Calling it creative doesn't make it so. It takes practice, skill, and inspiration.

Everyday. All the time. We don't turn creativity on an off -- we open the valve and let it flow.

How are you doing on your creative efforts today? Which area should you focus more on: practice, skill, or inspiration?

-- Doug Smith

If you're interested in what I've been doing creatively you can explore that at here.




Saturday, December 5, 2015

All In One Place

douglas brent smith, photo by L. Scott Force
photo by L. Scott Force
For those who are interested, I've gathered much of my artistic side in one place. I would love it if you would follow my art-side blog here:

douglas brent smith

It includes my work in acting, collage, music, and poetry -- plus whatever artistic, creative endeavors emerge in the middle of my world. Most people know me as a trainer and consultant. Here is a peak into the other sides of me.

There are links on how to connect with me on many of the various social media platforms so jump on in if you are so inclined.

-- Doug Smith



Friday, December 4, 2015

Develop Your Creativity

How much do you rely on your own creativity?

I rely on mine all the time. It's how I solve tough problems. It's how I entertain myself. It's how I create training programs that offer more than information.

Creativity is an essential part of every high performance leader's skill set.  Developing our creativity improves every aspect of our leadership - our flexibility, our style, our innovation, our resilience, our sense of centered fun.

Developing your creativity develops everything else.

What will you do today to enhance or develop your creativity?

-- Doug Smith

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Better Relationships, Better Results

Have you noticed how much our results depends on our relationships?

We might be able to achieve short term results on our own, but long time, sustained results thrive when relationships are strong.

That doesn't come naturally to all of us, but it needs to come. If we need to work on it, that's what we need to do.

People care more about your results when they care more about you as a person.

I'm trying to keep that in mind whenever I'm tempted to work heads down without consulting others. How bout you?

-- Doug Smith


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Chase Your Dream

You can probably find over a hundred thousand references in ten seconds that advise you chase your dream. Find that sense of mission and build your life around it. So you know. You think about it. Maybe you even do it. Chase your dream because that's what you want, because that's where your gifts are ready to serve, because life's too short for crappy work.

Do your best work on what you do best. Isn't that the secret you already know? How are you doing at it?

You might as well chase your dream -- that's where the energy is.

Anything else is killing time.

And times way too valuable to squander.

-- Doug Smith


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Roll With Your Creativity

You have a secret healing power.

Sometimes you use it without even knowing it. If you're like me, you could use it even more. It's a power that heals each person and when we heal ourselves we are much better positioned to heal and help others.

Creativity energy heals.

Bring that creative energy out. Encourage your creativity. Avoid shutting it down when it inconveniently offers to embarrass you with a really wild idea. Roll with it way more often.

When you've gotten to the point where people ask you what's gotten into you because you seem a little more wild and spontaneous than usual -- that's when you know you're on the right track. You're headed in a creative direction that will burst open the veil of constraints you think you see but is only a mirage. It's all available. The possibilities are endless.

Creativity rocks. Might as well roll with it.

-- Doug Smith


Friday, November 27, 2015

You Were Born To Be Creative

Who's creative?

I think that we are all creative. While some people are gifted in certain areas of creativity, such as music or painting or sculpting or dance, we all have some capacity to express ourselves creatively. When we do, things get better. When we don't, we get stuck.

You were born to be creative.

It's in your soul, it's in your mind, in your heart, in your fingers.

Why not put that creativity to use today to build some part of a happier, more productive, more peaceful world?

-- Doug Smith


Thursday, November 26, 2015

What If You Were One Snappy Dresser?

I have a wild question for you as a leader today. I ask this because I believe that creativity is one of four major leadership traits (the others being clarity, courage, and compassion). Here goes:

How would you dress if you considered yourself the most creative person you know?

That might seem completely out of the question, depending on where you work, but ask it anyway. Would you look like Salvadore Dali (or perhaps one of his paintings?) Would it be like someone from "Dancing With The Stars" or maybe even some survival type program from The Learning Channel?

You don't actually need to pick out that wardrobe and wear it today, but what would it look like? What if you were one snappy dresser?

I find it helpful to think thru some creative choices occasionally. Jarring ourselves out of auto-pilot helps us develop newer and better ideas. Releasing our social constraints, even momentarily - even in our imaginations - helps us discover more about who we really are. Because who we are is so much more than what we do. And who we are is a limitless list of possibilities.

So explore some part of those possibilities. Play dress up, if only in your head. See how much fun that can be -- and how open it helps you become.

-- Doug Smith


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Find Your Most Creative Ideas

Are you struggling to find the right idea to solve a problem?

I've constantly got a few problems percolating in the background that I know are still waiting for my best, most creative ideas. The best ideas seldom happen right away. They need time. They need energy. They need to be fed with other creative activities to emerge. But they are there.

If you haven't found your best idea yet, the key word is yet. It's there.

Your most creative ideas will take you where you need to go.

They'll solve those troubling problems. They'll develop that next big change. They're there.

Keep digging.

-- Doug Smith


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Should You Judge Ideas?

How did your last brainstorming session go?

Having been thru tons of brainstorming sessions, I know that they don't always go well. Sometimes people judge ideas too soon. Sometimes people don't give themselves enough time to develop the best and most creative ideas. Sometimes, people settle for stupid ideas.

Yes, we do need to generate lots of ideas. Yes, we do judge too much without letting our imaginations go wild. But, there does come a time when reason must rule. There does come a time when we must fall out of love with our ideas enough to see them for what they really are.

Because, as a matter of fact, there IS such a thing as a stupid idea.

And you wouldn't want to run with that, would you?

-- Doug Smith


Monday, November 23, 2015

Encourage Your Creativity

Do you find time each day to be creative, to do something creative?

It doesn't need to be a big deal. Maybe you aren't going to finish that novel today or wrap up that film. But you can still be creative. Your day, your life can be filled with creative things.

Try something new.
Take a different way home from work.
Read a magazine you've never read before.
Draw, and then frame that doodle.
Cook a new dish

...we can always find new ways to exercise our creativity. It sparks new ideas and helps us refine old ones.

Your brain likes creativity.

Why not make sure it gets the creativity it craves today?

-- Doug Smith


Monday, November 16, 2015

Feed Your Creativity

Are you filling up your creativity tank?

Finding creative activities and appreciating the creative work of others influences how creative we feel and act. We need to recharge. We need to bring more creativity into our life. We need to fill up our creative tank.

When you feed your life creativity, you have more to give.

Not just more creativity, but more clarity, more courage, and more compassion, too. Creativity sparks development in many areas, keeps you fresh, and propels you forward.

The arts are for more than artists. The arts keep us whole. The arts spark our thinking into new areas, new connections. Take in the arts this week - see a play, view some real art (not just pictures, actual paintings or sculptures), take some photos with an actual camera, dance! Experiencing art will rev you up, get you going, and feed your creative supply.

From that creative supply you can get more and better ideas. You can solve problems faster. You can take your performance to the next level and innovate rather than imitate. It all starts with more creativity.

Are you ready for that?

-- Doug Smith


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Step Up Creatively

How's your creativity doing today?

We all have days that are more creative than others. If we're not careful and if we let the non-creative days become routine it can squeeze the creativity right out of our lives. Suddenly we stop drawing, stop paining, stop writing, stop exploring fun conversations, stop doing the extraordinary.

Let's not let that happen. We're more creative than that.

Sometimes when we feel the least creative we need to be the most creative.

Overcome the routine. Break out of the rut. Draw anything. Draw it again, better. Write a poem about anything - then write it again with a deeper meaning. Force yourself out of the mundane. Imagine yourself in a room with five of the most people you can think of. You wouldn't want to be the lump on the log who sits there doing nothing creative, would you?

You need never be that person. Creativity is always there for the developing. We just need to disconnect from the routine and reconnect to that childlike magic we all carry inside. Make something new and beautiful today!

-- Doug Smith


Saturday, November 14, 2015

Treasure Every Moment

Do you ever get caught up in so much work that the moments are harder than usual?

Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed that I fail to enjoy what's going on. That's a mistake.

When I stop, breathe, and experience what is going on I can better appreciate it. I can better know it. I can move on with enthusiasm and hope.

Every moment matters. Even that moment when someone cuts you off on the turnpike. Even that moment when your best friend doesn't understand what you're saying. Even that moment when the audit is crunching down and nothing makes sense.

Every moment matters. Every moment is a treasure.

The gold is sometimes deeper. Keep digging.

-- Doug Smith


Friday, November 13, 2015

Work On What's Important

How much of your time do you spend working on what's most important?

How do you define what is most important? Does it contribute to your mission? Is it helping your organization to achieve a strategic goal? Will it advance a major cause for your organization or for the world?

Will it cause a stir, raise a response, drive a movement, shake things up?

You're too important to work on unimportant things. Get busy on your most important project.

What could be more important than taking the time to work on what's important?

It's up to you to prioritize. Most of the rest of the world stinks at it. Prioritize, prepare, and then begin.

-- Doug Smith


Empower Your Creativity

Does anyone ever try to stifle your creativity?

Do you get resistance when you work to do things in new ways?

Resistance doesn't mean that you're wrong - resistance means that what you're doing is important.

Any attempt to restrict your creativity should in fact liberate it.

Liberate it by energizing you into refusing to be held down or buttoned in on your creativity.

Creativity crosses boundaries. Creativity invents new rules. Creativity is not discouraged by resistance but rather empowered by it.

Don't back down. Buckle up.

-- Doug Smith


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Keep Moving

When it gets tough, I'm sometimes tempted to stop. Forget about it. Quit. Move on to something that's not as hard. Do you ever feel that way?

Sometimes it seems like the goal is too big. The resources are too small. The time is too short. But what good does it do to stop?

I won't know how far I can get if I stop moving.

Do you know what the biggest wall in front of me is? Me.

How about you? What's your biggest wall? Who's putting the brakes on your biggest goal?

If it's you, let's both agree to cut that out. Let's keep moving.

-- Doug Smith

Put It In Your Schedule

Are you working on your most pressing problems?

Or does your day start by checking email and wander into a series of meetings and activities that chew up the day and miss achieving your goals?

There's no shame in that but there is feedback. One of the jobs of truly high performance leaders is to solve problems. Big problems. Serious problems. Bottom-line changing problems.

We don't solve those problems by finding a few minutes here and there when we aren't doing anything else. We're always doing something else -- unless we schedule time for solving a specific problem.

When will you schedule the time you need to solve your most pressing problem?

It's not going away on its own.

-- Doug Smith



Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Take Your Goals Seriously

What do people think you think about your goals?

I've had bosses who have given me plenty of goals, but I always could tell which goals they took seriously. They were never arbitrary. They were never casual. They had urgency and traction. They were not negotiable.

Do you take your goals seriously? Can people tell how powerful your focus is on achieving that goal?

People can only take your goals as seriously as you do.

How serious is that?

-- Doug Smith


Monday, November 9, 2015

An Inside Job

Have you ever heard anyone say "It's all an inside job" meaning that the accomplishment came about largely due to relationships. Who knew who. Favors traded. Favors called.

But think about it.

How else do things get done? We work best with those we know best. It speeds things up. It helps get to the point and focus on the goal.

I'm not saying that it makes sense to pick unqualified people for a job simply because we know them. But even qualified people need guidance. Even qualified people need focus.

It's all an inside job.

Why not make peace with that and work on those relationships that lead to more, and better work?

-- Doug Smith


Sunday, November 8, 2015

A Better Kind of Scared

What scares you?

For many people it's uncertainty. For some it's danger. We live in a world filled with fear and reasons for fear. We should get busy on solving that.

But we also sometimes experience fear when our values are threatened. Someone asks us to do something that we're not comfortable with, or we see someone taken advantage of. We espouse certain behaviors like honesty, trust, and courage and then fail to live up to them. That scares me.

But that could be a sign to dig in, not fall out. That could be a sign to solve that problem before it extinguishes an important value. That could be a mobilizing message we need.

It could mean that all we hold sacred it being ripped apart, piece by piece. We can't let that happen unchallenged.

Scared is just sacred that's a little mixed up.

When we have clarity on our values, there is NO mixing us up. We'll still have problems, but we'll know which problems to solve first.

Which problem should you be working on right now?

-- Doug Smith


Saturday, November 7, 2015

How Will You Be Remembered?

How do you remember people? By what they've said? By how they made you feel? By what you've shared together?

There are lots of ways that I remember people. In the business context, an important way is how they have solved problems. Which problems mattered the most and what did they do to solve them.

People will remember you for the problems you've solved.

They may remember other things too, of course. But they'll never forget the problems that you solved.

What problems are you working on right now?

-- Doug Smith


Friday, November 6, 2015

Big Problems, Big Success

Is it hard to see the value in problems?

No one asks for problems. But the really big ones offer great opportunity for change. The really big problems create such a disturbance that the status quo just won't do. We do something about them.

Sometimes a box full of problems can lead to a warehouse full of success.

One solution leads to another. One burst of creativity builds more capacity. New standards are set and people grow.

Where are you in your box of problems?

-- Doug Smith




Thursday, November 5, 2015

What Will You Leave Behind?

Who is getting younger? None of us.

As a member of the baby boom generation I see my hair turning gray, disappearing (well, alright so it's already gone) and my face getting that cowboy in the son rugged look that reminds me more of my dad than me. We all get older.

No matter how old you are, have you asked yourself what you want to leave behind? What do you want to be remembered for? How will this place be better off because you were here.

Big or small, we all have an impact. Big or small we all make a difference. In large part, we get to decide what that difference is.

I'd like for people to explore, discover, and develop more centered leadership because I was here. I'd like for people to remember me as helping them develop their clarity, courage, creativity, and compassion. There's still so much work to do on that I'd better have another forty years or so to do it. But it's my vision.

What's your vision?

You're in charge of your legacy. Is it ready for primetime?

-- Doug Smith


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Take Off The Brakes

Do you ever slow yourself down?

I've done that. I've had times when I set a really great goal but for one reason or another slowed myself down. Maybe the effort scared me. Maybe I was too comfortable in what I knew I could expect. Even driving forward I could feel one foot on the brakes.

We don't need to do that. We can proceed with caution. We can assess our risks and keep moving.

I could go faster if I wasn't slowing myself down.  How about you?

Here are some thoughts on actions to do instead of slowing down:

- Identify any fear. Face it. Is it really that bad?
- List all of the benefits of achieving your goal. Done? List a few more.
- Find someone who will help to hold you accountable by asking for progress updates. It works.

Sometimes the biggest wall in our way is ourselves. That's easy. Let's fix it now.

-- Doug Smith


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Exercise Your Brain

Do you ever think of problems as a way to exercise your brain?

Problems force us to think of new ideas. Problems force us to be creative. Problems invite us to involve other people and therefore build relationships.

We may need to dig for new ideas. We may need to learn. We definitely need to jar that brain out of auto-pilot and help it flex its intellectual muscles.

Think of problem solving as exercise for your brain.

You know it needs it. Why not get started right now?

-- Doug Smith


Monday, November 2, 2015

Own Your Time

Do other people sometimes waste your time?

I facilitate workshops on workflow and time management occasionally and there are usually people in the workshop who blame their circumstances on other people. "It's all their fault" may feel like it takes the responsibility off your shoulders, but does it help? No. Any time we choose to be a victim we get to stay there.

Time. No one knows for sure how much we have, except that we all have only 24 hours at a time per day. No stretching. No expanding. Time doesn't care what we do with it. Time keeps moving.

So why blame other people?

Sure, other people make unreasonable requests. Other people use inefficient processes. Other people make mistakes and talk endlessly when we know we should be working. But think about it. Other people can only do that TO you if you let them. Take charge. Move along. Keep your focus.

Other people can only wast your time if you let them.

Why let them?

-- Doug Smith


Sunday, November 1, 2015

High Performance Leaders Serve Without Pandering

How does it feel when someone expects too much from you?

I've known people, sometimes customers, sometimes team members, some times family members, who simply cannot be pleased. Nothing is ever enough. No matter how I've tried to meet their needs, those needs are deeper than the well of resources that I draw from. They wear me out.

I've learned that there are limits. High performance leaders do serve their constituents, and they do it gladly. But they also recognize their limits. At some point, people need to step up and reach for their own goals. At some point we need to step aside.

You can never give anyone everything that they need. That's their job.

Who do you need to step aside from today? How will they know that you mean it?

-- Doug Smith


Saturday, October 31, 2015

Help From A Friend

How does friendship influence your work?

I've had some great friends at jobs I've held. They did more than was expected of them and proved helpful to me on many occasions, especially in working to achieve goals.

Friends outside of work are just as important, and maybe more so. Friends give us strength. Friends give us hope. Friends give us support when the rest of the world seems too harsh for words. Friends laugh with us, stay with us as we cry, and hold fast when the winds of fortune blow the hardest.

It's sometimes amazing how much a friend can help to move a goal forward.

With expertise, patience, skill, practice, persistence...and mostly, with the love of a friend.

-- Doug Smith


Friday, October 30, 2015

Create Your Inspiration

Have you ever been caught waiting for inspiration?

I've had times when I knew that something needed to be done but I was waiting for inspiration. I'll be ready when I'm ready, I'd fool myself into thinking. What's the best way to be ready? -- get started.

There's no inspiration to wait for -- only the inspiration that we create.

How will you inspire yourself today?

-- Doug Smith


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Energize Your Work

How do you get going in the morning?

I'm not talking about coffee - I like that as much as anyone. What practice or ritual do you do to energize your mind, spirit, and body for work? That's important, because that's largely how we energy our work, by energizing ourselves.

I do some things on a consistent basis. I pray each morning, mostly giving thanks for so many wonderful blessings. Sometimes I ride my bike, sometimes I walk and in either case it becomes a kind of moving meditation that is both relaxing and reinvigorating.

I write. I list. I focus on my goals. All of these things get me going.

Because I live a diverse life that straddles many disciplines, sometimes my warm-up practice varies based on what performance I'm taking on. But there's always some kind of warm-up.

Singers warm-up their voices. Athletes warm-up their muscles. Writers warm-up their ideas (one great way is thru automatic writing, simply writing whatever comes to mind as a way to get ideas flowing, especially as detailed in The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, one of my favorite books.)

Every practice needs a warm-up; every goal needs a spark. How will you energize your work today?

If not today, how about tomorrow?

-- Doug Smith

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Caring About Our Team Members

What would you say if a news reporter asked you how much you cared about your team members?

Do you think about them when you're not at work? Do you enjoy the time that you do spend together?

I've had some wonderful team members in the many jobs I've held. Some that made work feel more like play. Some that remembered things about me that made my life easier and happier. Some that set such good examples for me that I emulated their behavior and became a better person as a result.

Team members are a big part of our lives. It's not just work. It's important to care about our team members as well.

We spend too much time with the people we work with to pretend that we don't care about them.

What does caring about them mean? Treating them all with respect and dignity. Speaking openly. Accepting, and giving both positive feedback and feedback for improvement. Laughing. Sometimes, even crying together. We're all people and the more that we recognize that the more happy, and productive we can be.

How can you appropriately show a team member that you care today?

-- Doug Smith


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Procrastinate Procrastination

What are you putting off?

I have had a few things lately that I've been procrastinating on because they were unpleasant or difficult. Figuring out housing questions, for instance. Identifying where, if anywhere, to relocate my business. Identifying how to increase my business capacity for more (and better paying) clients.

Some things we can put off because life keeps on going and business keeps humming along. But until we grab ahold of those goals that we need to set, there is something missing.

Here's the thing worth procrastinating on: procrastination. Let's put that off. Let's tackle the tough stuff that's right in front of us and leave the excuses behind.

We deserve more than procrastination gives us.

Let it go.

-- Doug Smith


Monday, October 26, 2015

What About Common Sense?

Have you noticed how uncommon common sense is? People often make mistakes that seem completely reckless, simply because they don't use any common sense.

The most common thing about common sense is how it's so commonly ignored.

Sometimes we ignore common sense because it seems cliche. But ignoring it doesn't make it less true. For example, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. That seems sensible enough, and yet how many times do people go forward with a scam or a lie because they want to believe that they just can't lose. Guess what? Everybody can lose, especially if we disregard common sense.


"The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense."
-- Thomas A. Edison

Mr. Edison accomplished a few things in his day, so when he values common sense, I think it makes sense.

How about you?

-- Doug Smith


Friday, October 23, 2015

Find Your Flexibility

Do you ever wonder where your best choices are hiding?

I've had times when I felt painted into a corner by circumstances. It's easy to get emotionally stuck in that corner. Easy, but not very useful.

Climb out of that trap and look for possibilities. Creativity teaches us that there is always a new way to see and do. There is always a new combination, a new set of rules, a new world of possibilities. Simply looking for those possibilities is usually enough to uncover some.

I've know people who give up on their dreams because they no longer seem possible. What I've learned about that (having let go of a few dreams along the way) is that it is well worth the time to figure out what is it about that dream that appeals to you. What makes that dream cool? Why do you want it? What do you want out of it? Maybe there are far more choices and permutations to that dream that you'd considered.

Living your dream could be much more flexible than you realize.

The next time you feel like letting go of a dream, ask yourself what's in the dream that you really want the most. You can probably still have that.

-- Doug Smith


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Forgive and Keep Your Focus

Do you ever have someone stand between you and your goal? Does it ever sometimes seem that the actions of someone were an intention attempt to thwart your progress?

Maybe, like me, you were over thinking the whole thing. People do things that we would not choose or pay for. People surprise us. Our job, as centered high performance leaders is to keep our focus anyway.

Centered leaders forgive without giving up the goal.

There's no success in revenge or in keeping resentment. Success is in remembering your mission and acting relentlessly on your goals.

With that kind of focus, with that kind of passion, even people who at first seemed opposed to your efforts may find themselves eventually strongly attracted to them.

And if not, why not forgive them until they do?

-- Doug Smith


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Bring Success to Others

What is your primary goal as a leader?

I consider my primary goal to be "helping people to achieve their goals." The most challenging thing to that is that I don't succeed unless others do.

The longer I work, the more I am convinced that is true no matter what your primary goal is. To the extent that we help others, enrich others, empower others -- that's the degree of success we achieve.

What if your success depends on your ability to bring success to others?

Will it change the way you do business? Will it change the way you look at others? Will it recalibrate success?

Sure. We have goals for ourselves. What I'm wondering, though, is how much more do we get when others do well as well?

I'm thinking that the answer is: a bunch more.

What do you think?

-- Doug Smith



Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Is It Really Common Sense?

Do you ever get feedback that doesn't make any sense to you?

I do. Sometimes when I'm training a group of people I can spot a person who simply refuses to learn. That person will show with their body language that they don't want to be there. They have very few comments and the things that they do say are caustic.

They are probably what trainers call "prisoners" in the room. They didn't want to be there in the first place. Some leader has sent them there because they need to change some key parts of their performance. But since they have refused to so far sending them to training probably won't reform them. Even when they know what to do, they won't let go of their nonproductive or abrasive habits.

Sometimes they'll leave a comment on the evaluation form around how the whole thing was just "common sense". Heaven forbid they should actually learn something, so they must minimize the content. I say this with some edge because I know that it's always one person out of a room filled with people with the rest of the people sharing responsibility for success and taking charge of their own learning so they enjoy it, they benefit from it, and they put it to use. They don't blame their lack of growth on "common sense" content.

Don't call it common sense if you're not using it. 

Nobody is fooled by that.

-- Doug Smith

P.S.
I wrote the "grab line" on this: don't call it common sense if you're not using it, in 2013. Since that time I don't think a single person has devalued any of my workshops with a comment that it was just "common sense" so maybe the feedback, as abrasive as it was, was useful after all. I do all that I can now to encourage learners to take whatever the content is to the next level. And, thankfully, it seems that they are.

What do you do with feedback you don't enjoy?


Monday, October 19, 2015

It's Time

Who has time? Time presses on each of us. We need time to get things done. We need time to develop ourselves and our relationships. And we all have the same 24 hours each day.

Time isn't waiting to see if we're paying attention.

Time moves with or without us.

What we do with that time matters.

How will you use your time today?

-- Doug Smith


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Debrief and Move On

Do you keep remembering mistakes?

I have a tendency to sometimes think about perfecting the past. Guess what? I can't do it. The past is gone. The mistakes I've made are done. Unless I learn from them I might repeat them, but worrying about them does not help.

Besides, mistakes can lead to success. Not by repeating the mistakes, but by learning from them. Figuring out what upgrades are available. What new skills we need. What new relationships to develop. What course corrections are in order. When mistakes wake us up to new possibilities, they can lead to success.

If you want success you'll need to endure a few mistakes along the way. 

That's a great way to learn.

-- Doug Smith


Saturday, October 17, 2015

Did I Do That?

How do you feel when you realize that the cause of your problem is you?

I'll admit it, it's so easy to blame something else for anything uncomfortable but often the root of the problem is something I've done, thought, or ignored. Awareness isn't always easy; it's just necessary.

Often we are the cause of our own problems without realizing it.

That's why we need feedback. That's why we need help. That's why we need enough self-esteem to admit when we're wrong.

How do you feel about that?

-- Doug Smith


Friday, October 16, 2015

Oh Those Difficult People!

Do you have a difficult person in your life?

Most people can think of at least one difficult person. Someone who it is just plain hard to get along with. They constantly irritate. They frequently fail. They mess around with our expectations. They make interaction tough.

They. They. They.

What's our role in the interaction? What are we doing to make it tough? What can we change?

The easiest and best thing to change about difficult people is how we interact with them.

Then we can influence their behavior. Then we can show them how we like to be treated. Then we can show them what respect, compassion, courage, creativity, and clarity looks like. When we are the centered leaders we need to be, others will respond.

They won't be perfect. They might still be difficult. But they will respond. And little by little when we make the interaction more positive, they become more positive, too.

Besides. What if we're the difficult person?

-- Doug Smith


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Maybe Try Another Solution

What happens when we use the same solution over and over even when the problems change?

We don't really solve new problems that way do we? And yet so often we pull the same old tools out of our tool box and try the same old solutions.

New problems require new thinking. New problems require new solutions.

It's funny how we sometimes keep trying to same solution on totally new problems.

Funny, but not effective.

Let's do better than that. Let's be more creative. Let's develop new ideas.

How do we do that? Here are a few ways:

  • turn your idea upside down - how would it work reversed?
  • ask other experts what they think
  • ask people who are NOT experts what they think
  • look at the problem as if you were ten years old again. What would you do?
  • reframe your problem as a goal. How could you achieve that goal.
  • rethink your problem as a benefit. What would you do to get more of that problem? Now, how would you reverse that?
  • is the root cause what you think it is? what if it were something different? how do you know?
There are many more ways to stay creative.  Go for a walk, look at some art, attend a play (yes, do it!) go to a movie, play an active game -- get things moving within your self and you will likely get things moving within your ideas.

And the ideas are endless. Why settle for less?

-- Doug Smith





Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Train Your People

Are your people getting the training that they need?

Full disclosure - I provide training for a living, so of course I believe that people should constantly train and keep their people in training.

But aside from that, I've seen so many dysfunctional teams fall to pieces and clash with each other simply because they haven't developed the skills that they need to effectively do the job.

Communication skills. Leadership skills. Problem solving skills. Goal attainment skills.

People need training.

Training is more a sleep-inducing e-course. Training is more than orientation. Training involves exploring, practicing, discovering, and performing the skills needed to prosper and achieve your goals.

Are you people getting enough training?

It's probably impossible to over train your people.

What do they need to learn next? What will do to support their learning?

-- Doug Smith


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Progress Is Sometimes Messy

Wouldn't it be nice if we could rely a clear and steady path of progress? Like a smooth road to paradise progress would pamper us and reinforce us and keep a reliable pace.

It's not like that, though, is it?

Progress is scattered. It comes in fits and starts. It sneaks up on us and then it hides for what feels like a lifetime. It kicks us in the butt right after kissing us on the cheek.

Progress is sometimes messy.

But if we keep learning, that mess can be a joy. If we keep growing, that mess can be organized into a fabulous and fun picture. When we stick with it, when we embrace it, when we stay curious instead of judgmental, progress can please us endlessly.

Where is your point of progress today? How can you keep it going?

-- Doug Smith

Monday, October 12, 2015

Learning and Growing

What happens when we don't solve a problem?

What happens when we fail?

I've worked on some big problems and fallen on my face. I had a plan, a had a goal, but the problem got the best of me. Crap happens. But in the process of working on that problem, as unpleasant as it was, I learned. I grew. I changed. Problems are there to help us grow.

Even when we fail to solve a problem we learn and grow by working toward a solution.

Maybe we solve it later. Maybe we change direction. Maybe we never fix what was bothering us. But when we stay open, curious, and creative we learn.

And learning is often enough to make the journey worthwhile.

What have you learned today?

-- Doug Smith


Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Personal Side

Do you take things personally?

Some of us are more sensitive than others and no matter what leadership training we've had can often take things personally.

It's easy to say "don't take this personally" but when someone does say that, I almost always prepare to take whatever they have to say personally.

What choice do we have? We're people. Of COURSE we take things personally.

But as centered, high performance leaders we must learn when taking things personally makes sense and when it gets in the way. We need feedback. We need to improve. We need to fix processes and designs instead of trying endlessly to fix people. And that requires us to take care about taking things personally.

Besides, it's seldom even about us, is it?

Centered leaders take almost nothing personally while realizing that almost everyone else takes everything personally.

Yes, it is a matter of sensitivity - but the kind of sensitivity that allows us as leaders to see when someone has taken a remark to heart and maybe taken it so personally that they've become defensive or less effective. No strong leader wants people to be less effective.

So when we take things too personally, thats our opportunity to learn, to reflect, and to breathe.

And when those around us take things too personally, that's our opportunity to stay curious, compassionate, and creative. How can we turn the moment from one of judgement to one of joy?

It's possible. It takes practice. It takes work. It takes a centered, high performance leader.

-- Doug Smith


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Where Courage Comes From

Where do you find the courage you need?

Most of us need more courage than we already have. Courage for those tough challenges. Courage for those days that wear us down. Courage for the enemies we have not yet met.

You can't buy an ounce of courage. You can't borrow it from someone else. While other people can inspire us to courage and activate the courage within, courage must come from ourselves. We find it within. We develop it. One step at a time, one courageous act at a time.

When we stand up to oppression. When we stand up to opposition. When we face the fears that life invites into our lives, we build more courage. When we assertively ask for what we want without taking that thing away at someone else's expense, we show courage.

No one else can ever give us the courage we need.

It's up to us.

Think about the most courageous person you know. How did they develop that courage? What is it that they do and say that tells you that they are courageous?

There's no limit to the courage that we can develop except our own lack of willingness. How willing are you to keep developing more courage?

The world needs more courage. Every extra bit of courage you bring will be welcome.

-- Doug Smith


Friday, October 9, 2015

High Performance Leaders Deal With Anger

What do you do when someone in your range of influence is angry?

It can be discomforting. It can be disruptive. Anger is tough to handle under the best of circumstances. And yet, handle it we must.

Centered, high performance leaders are careful about anger. Careful about their own anger and careful about their reactions to the anger of others.

I had a boss once (a very long time ago) who told me that I had a problem with anger. That made me angry. The reaction to anger is sometimes defensiveness, sometimes fear, and sometimes (surprise!) more anger. Whatever our reaction, our bodies are usually poised for action. What we do in that moment of activation is critical to our success.

If our life or emotional well-being is being threatened, that steers our direction. But usually, although it feels that way, we are not actually under any threat.

So we must deal with anger productively. We must say what we want without blaming others for it not being there. We must listen with curiosity to see what is behind the charged emotions. Instead of fencing in whoever appears to be in opposition to us we must collaborate on ways to move the fences back. Liberating that feeling of constraint is useful and bridges the gaps we feel rather than pushing others farther away.

Does it take work? Of course! That's why we're leaders - to show that whatever the problem, whatever the conflict, whatever the strong emotion, there is always a better way.

Unresolved anger doesn't go away on its own.

We might as well deal with it right away.

-- Doug Smith


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Find the Center

When things unravel, when life goes crazy, when people are losing sense over senseless things, how do you keep it together?

For me, the key is to pause long enough to breathe. The expression "center yourself" is meaningful to me because it helps me find some calmness in what otherwise would be chaos. We only get a few seconds to find that center, but the good news is that's all that it takes.

As a person of faith, I also take that brief moment to check in with that higher power. Call it what you will, for me G-d fills that space with the peace I would not normally find on my own. The center.

When we're in conflict we can center ourselves before trying to influence anyone else.

Why would they respond to any attempt to calm them down if we're flying off the edge? Operating from our center, we can best help others center as well.

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

-- Doug Smith


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Learn from the Mistake

Do you remember what you learned from your last big mistake?

I learned to communicate more openly and without filters. My last mistake was a big smack in the face and recalibrate everything I do. Nobody wants a mistake like that, but I'm grateful to have learned and to still be learning. The side effects aren't even over yet, and so I'm sure that the learning has just begun.

Centered leaders learn from their mistakes and change the habits that lead to those mistakes.

Habits are hard to change. They are more easily replaced by effective, useful habits, rather than simply dropped. We want to do something. The trick is to choose what works.

My friend David Spiegel is an expert at changing habits. Just knowing that he reads these posts has given me a new habit of making sure everything I write here has some value. At least I think it does. Not just value, but useful value. Something that I hope someone can put to immediate use.

One of the things that Dave does is to help people lose weight. In today's world that's an important mission. Health is so critical.

I help people lead more effectively, mainly through better communication. After my last big mistake (a failed relationship) it occurs to me that maybe my real, most true mission should be helping people communicate more effectively. Especially leaders, but really - everyone benefits from communicating more effectively.

So that's what I'm gleaning from my recent big mistake. High performance leaders use their mistakes as levers to a higher plain.

What did you learn from your most recent biggest mistake?

-- Doug Smith


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Dump Anonymous Feedback

What's the problem with anonymous feedback?

The list is long. When people can say anything they want, without any accountability, they are sometimes rude. The feedback becomes exaggerated. Not knowing what to do with it (who do you try to please?) it frustrates the person receiving the feedback.

Anonymous feedback encourages anti-social comments. It opens up a level of venting that is not healthy for either party. And, rather than building relationships, it tears them down.

The best place for anonymous feedback is the garbage. It's too easy to be negative when no one knows who you are.

Hold people accountable. Teach them that two-way communication is responsible, respectable, and useful. Let's keep the trash talking on the basketball court and build relationships of worth at work.

-- Doug Smith


Monday, October 5, 2015

Give Opportunity Your Full Attention

Do you hear that? It's opportunity knocking. What will you do with it?

Opportunity has a short attention span. It peaks in, it gives you a little signal, and then without waiting moves right along. We can't put a hold on chances that come our way. We often have only a few seconds to decide and then what looked so promising is gone.

Gone without saying goodbye. Gone without leaving clues to what could come next. Gone.

When opportunity arrives, give it your full attention.

It won't wait.

-- Doug Smith

What have you learned today?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Key to Delegation

How are you at delegating? Would you like to know more people you could delegate to?

I like to think of delegating as sharing the work. It's not dumping work on others because really, who likes that? Nobody wants a leader who makes you feel like saying "duck" when you hear them walking your way (having had leaders like this, it makes the day one little traumatic shock after another).

But, people DO like leaders who share with them meaningful work. Juicy assignments. Stretch goals that don't break but do cause us to grow. Those kinds of leaders, high performance centered leaders, develop their teams by building individual and collaborative skills.

It means finding meaningful work and sharing it. It means building relationships that are so close that the leader knows what each person on the team needs and is looking for in order to grow. That isn't quality time, that's time. Lots of time. Spending time together. Getting to know the team.

Successful leaders expand their delegating by building relationships.

It identifies mutually beneficial work. It builds trust. It allows us to challenge while also supporting our people.

Isn't that what you want as a leader?

-- Doug Smith



Saturday, October 3, 2015

Drive That Project

What propels your projects forward?

We set goals. We form plans. We build teams. And then, when it's important, we drive our projects forward.

Every project needs a leader intent on getting it done.

How important is it to you?

Does your team know?

How will you prove it?

-- Doug Smith




Friday, October 2, 2015

Keep Your Dream

Do other people impact your dream?

Well, you might say, of course they do. I know that they can impact my dream - will they cooperate, will they interfere, will they help? That's not what I mean.

If people dismiss your dream as unimportant or unachievable, how do you react? There was a time when that might have been a dream-ender for me. I wasn't secure enough in my dream to let objections go without taking them to heart.

But people don't know everything about your dream. They don't know how important it is. They don't know how powerful YOU are. Whether you embrace and energize your dream is up to you. Other people can help, but they should not hinder your progress.

Easier said than done? Most important things are!

Someone's lack of a dream doesn't need to get in the way of your dream.

It's yours, after all. Own it.

-- Doug Smith

What have you learned today?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Keep Moving

Are you living the dream?

When I worked in retail it was a common response from team members, whenever someone would ask "How are you doing?" to say "Living the dream!". There was more than a hint of sarcasm in that response. The only thing dream like about stocking the shelves sometimes is the dream like trance you feel in between interruptions.

And yet - I also knew people in retail who were truly living their dream. They were making a positive difference. They were delighting customers. They were innovating and enjoying themselves. They were happy.

Maybe it's not so much what you do as it is how you do it.

Living the dream is above all, active. It's when I am most focused on working things that are important (to me and to others) and achieving new results and developing that I feel the dream is right here with me right now. And to keep that - to sustain that dream - takes constant work. It takes constant learning. It takes risks, chances, and effort.

Even when you're living the dream you still must work hard to stay there.

How's your dream? Are you living it? Are you working to keep it going?

-- Doug Smith

What have you learned today?


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Fuel Up

What keeps you going?

Is it a great conversation? Maybe a note from a trusted friend? Or could it be that long phone call with someone you haven't talked with for a long time?

I find all of that energizing. Also, reading great books, taking long walks, and yes of course - achieving goals along the way.

Every goal achieved is fuel for even greater success.

So as I work on my smaller goals, I know that they are leading to bigger goals. As I achieve my big goals, I know that I'm ready for even more.

How about you?

-- Doug Smith

What have you learned today?


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Add Up Your Goals

What do you goals add up to?

Do they add up to major changes? Do they show the progress in your career? Do they provide motion for your growth and change?

I realize that many people wander thru life with no true goals. They clock in and out. They go thru the motions. They walk beside their shoes. We are meant for more than that. We are meant for great things. We are meant to leave footprints that help others to walk - not cause them to trip.

Our goals add up to a different life.

A different life than the one we started out with. A different life than the one we are living. A better, more purposeful, more directed, more powerful life. A life of growth, change, and helpfulness.

I'm going to start paying more attention to what my goals add up to. How about you/

-- Doug Smith

What have you learned today?


Monday, September 28, 2015

Make Progress On That Big Problem

What have you done to fix your biggest problem today?

My biggest problem is relocating. I'm not even close to figuring out what that means or where it will be, other than it is highly likely to be back to my home state of New Jersey. For a variety of reasons, it's time to come home.

It's easy to get polarized and immobilized though when it comes to making big decisions and solving big problems. So today I'm going to do what Brian Tracy calls "chunking it down". I'll take that monumental problem and find a small piece of it that I can do.

I will also practice what I preach when it comes to problems and convert my problem to a goal. Instead of "don't know what to do about moving" as a problem, I will rephrase it as the goal of "Relocate my business and my life to New Jersey by August 2016."  As is the case with most of my goals, I hope and plan to achieve it far ahead of the deadline - but the deadline is real.

It's energizing to commit to a deadline. It's even more so when you create some way of making yourself accountable (say for instance, writing about it in your blog!).

Let's do this!

How about you? What do you think of as your biggest problem? What if you changed that problem into a goal?

What if you became focused on chunking that goal down into manageable pieces?

What piece could you do today?

-- Doug Smith

What have you learned today?


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Create Better Goals

How do you get better results?

Create better goals.

It's not all that you need but it's a great place to start. Whenever I create a goal that I find to be energizing that translates into more attention and action. Whenever I create a goal that has a noble outcome, I feel better about devoting resources to achieving it.

Great goals are exciting. Great goals contain opportunity for growth. Great goals get you going.

Here are what I believe to be the three key ingredients for great goals:

ACTION WORD:
The action word explains exactly what you will do. Create, make, deliver, teach, propel, design, change, sell, fabricate, transplant, modify, steer, obtain, tell, paint, draw, write...words like that.

RESULT:
The result is what you plan to achieve, usually expressed with some unit of measure. For example - a 200 word novel, 150 pounds, a graduate degree in chemistry, fifty new prospects, a year without crime, three healthy meals a day...whatever it is that you want to achieve.

TIME:
This is the easiest one - your deadline. When will you complete your goal by? While it is the easiest to write, you do want to be careful about setting a time that is both reasonable and reasonably ambitious. It shouldn't be too easy but it is worthless if it's impossible.

Those three key components are easy to remember, easy to write, and propel people into action. I've taught SMART goals many times and they certainly have merit. They just aren't that fun to write or that easy to remember. The next time you need to set a goal, make it an ART goal. Action word + Result + Time.

Better goals create better results. 


And, isn't that what you want?


-- Doug Smith

What have you learned today?

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Adjusting How We Interact

Do you find some people difficult to get along with?

There are all types of difficult people. Some are difficult because they say things that offend us. Some are challenging because they do not say what they are thinking and yet expect us to read their minds. Some people have opinions so sharp and abrasive that we wonder how anyone gets along with them. We can find a hundred ways to disagree and a thousand ways to avoid people who make us feel uncomfortable.

Is that our best choice?

I've discovered that to some people I am that difficult person. My insights around that are that I didn't set out to become that difficult person. It wasn't my idea to say things or do things that anger the very people I most want to influence. Sometimes it happens by accident. Sometimes it happens out of misunderstanding. And, it's always unfortunate.

What if your difficult people didn't mean to be difficult either?

What if we could adjust something that would improve our interactions? What if there were a way to talk about it without getting defensive or provoking defensiveness?

When we develop the skill to adjust the way we interact with people - based on the situation and the mutually held needs at the time - our chances of truly communicating improve dramatically.

Maybe not completely. Maybe not perfectly. But our chances of connecting and understanding improve.

Isn't that worth a try?

What good does it do to go thru life thinking of some people as difficult? What if they were simply different? What if we could find common ground?

It's hard to change people and much easier to change how we interact with them.

I'm going to keep working on that. How about you?

-- Doug Smith

What have you learned today?




Friday, September 25, 2015

Learn How To Solve Them

Do you know how to solve every problem confronting you?

I sure don't.

I teach problem solving and yet there are some problems that I'm wrestling with that I will need to learn how to solve. Like practicing a dangerous sport, there could be some bruises. But I will learn what I need to learn.

We aren't meant to live without problems - we are meant to learn how to solve them.

That means moments of discomfort. That means cognitive dissonance when we don't know what we don't know. That means staying the course even when it's dark and dreary. We can learn, we will learn, and when we do learn we are better as a result.

What are you working on learning today?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: High Performance Leadership Training

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

What have you learned today?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Stay Encouraged

Do you ever get discouraged?

It's not a weakness, but it is a roadblock. Even when we don't choose to get discouraged, once that feeling is there it can stand in our way.

We missed. We made a mistake. We failed. Crap happens. What I've learned (and keep relearning) is to dust myself up, jump back up and find something compelling to get encouraged about.

Sometimes picking the positive path really is empowering.

Getting discouraged isn't going to get you what you want. 

Remaining unhappy won't achieve your goals.

Let's move forward.

I've had some really big disappointment in my personal life this year and yet as I see sparks of sunlight at the end of a rather dark tunnel I know that I've kept moving through the encouragement of friends. When I am not able to encourage myself, I am not without help - friends will encourage me.

Do you have friends who encourage you? Are you encouraging your friends? We're all in this together, my friends. Let's stay encouraged!

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: High Performance Leadership Training

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

What have you learned today?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Who Is Number 2?

Who do you count on the most for help with problems? It's probably you. You, fully centered and alert, are you most valuable problem solving ally. Most of the time, it is all up to you.

Do you feel like you need help sometimes?

Of course! It may not always be the same person, but we all occasionally need help with the problems that we are working to solve. I've been blessed with some wonderful allies recently in solving some tough problems. They aren't yet solved, but the help that I'm getting from close allies is making the problem solving not only easier, not only more centered, but also more life affirming.

You are your most valuable problem solver you know. Who's number two?

-- Doug Smith

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Navigate The Detours

Do you ever get lost?

Some days it feels like I could get lost in the shower. Before the days of navigational devices I spent a lot of road time simply finding my way and getting back on the path to where I was going. Some of that was do to vision problems that have been corrected, but some of it was also failing to skillfully navigate the detours.

Things will throw us off track. Things will alter our path. We'll take trails we hadn't counted on and be asked/required to use routes that are new and strange. Keep moving.

Even the fastest path to where you're going might contain a detour or two.

When we learn to navigate the detours, the view is much more enjoyable.

Think about a detour that you didn't expect to take. What did you learn from it? Have you ever had a detour that turned out to be the best possible road for you to take?

Navigate the detours - and enjoy the view.

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: High Performance Leadership Training

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

What have you learned today?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Keep Your Focus

What happens when we lose track of what we really want?

We get problems. We get delays. We get excuses. None of that is what we want or need.

Sometimes problems develop because we lose focus on what we really want.

We get distracted. People make us busy. Procrastination overcomes us. None of that is necessary and none of that is unavoidable. We can stay clear on our mission. We can maintain our focus on our goals.

How is your focus today? What will you do to redirect yourself if you should get distracted?

How else will you ever get exactly what you want?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: High Performance Leadership Training

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

What have you learned today?



Sunday, September 20, 2015

Embrace The Possibilities!

Stay with me for a moment on this - are you happy about your problems?

If you're like me, "Yes" would not be your first answer. What makes them problems is what makes them aggravating. And while it may sound like a cliche, problems really are both a pain AND an opportunity.

Each problem represents a very real opportunity to make something better. Each problem means that have a field to play and grow in. It's a lumpy field, a gnarly field, a field where we may fall and skin our knees, but it's a place to grow.

More problems just means more possibilities.

Not that we want to create more problems. Life will present us with all the problems we need without us looking for them. But those problems are gifts. Those problems are possibilities.

What possibility is confronting you today?

-- Doug Smith


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Tell Your Family

Have you ever worked on something so important that you could hardly stop thinking about it, and yet didn't tell your family about it?

How will they know what drives you? How will they know what that "distracted look" on your face means?

I have too often gone too long completely immersed in my work while keeping my family members in the dark about what I was working on. I need to learn to tell them what exactly is so compelling and so exciting about it so that they know, when I get pulled to that work, that it isn't because I'm avoiding them.

Don't avoid your family. That's not what meaningful work is about. Involve them. Talk about it with them. Show them that you can and do enjoy a healthy passion for your family and your work.

Does your family think your job is as cool as you do? Why or why not?

Your work is your gift to the world. Your family is God's gift to you. Don't slight or take for granted either one, and don't keep either one in a box. It's your life.

Yep. I'm talking to myself on this one. If it hits you as relevant, too, that's just a bonus.


-- Doug Smith


Friday, September 18, 2015

It's All A Work In Progress

Have you reached perfection?

Of course not. Neither have I. It's easy to expect perfection but we already know how that turns out. What is reasonable to expect is progress. Growth. Change. Discipline. We can work toward perfection without losing interest because we don't reach it.

Working on our work.

Working on our skills.

Working on our problem solving.

Working on our relationships.

It's all a work in progress.

Are you making progress today?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: High Performance Leadership Training




What have you learned today?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

High Performance Leaders Show Confidence, Curiosity, and Courage

What do you consider the most important traits of a high performance leader?

We could create a very long list of those. Five core strengths of a centered, high performance are clarity, courage, creativity, compassion, and centeredness.

High performance leaders also show confidence and curiosity. Not so much confidence as to appear arrogant, but enough to assure the team that you are headed in the right direction and developing every day. High performance leaders also show an above-average amount of curiosity. Curious about questions, curious about answers, curious about what motivates the people on the team.

To build your team to become its best, stay curious about each team member. What makes them tick? What motivates them? What challenges them? What do they need to bring their top performance to the team.

Because high performance leaders build their teams, improve performance, and achieve their goals.

They also operate effectively under pressure.

How much pressure are you under? We know we're in a growth mode when we're right at the edge of the most pressure that we can take. But, high performance leaders don't buckle under pressure. They don't give in to the temptation to run away from a challenge. To build the team to its fullest, high performance leaders much show how it's done. As James Kouzes and Barry Posner detail in their great book The Leadership Challenge, the best leaders model the way.

Successful leaders handle pressure with confidence, curiosity, and courage.

They show how it's done. And they do it.

How are you modeling the way today?


-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: High Performance Leadership Training




What have you learned today?

Resource Suggestion: The Leadership Challenge, by James Kouzes and Barry Posner. If you're interested in increasing your effectiveness and influence as a high performance leader, this is one of the best books available.