Monday, August 31, 2015

Don't Just Go Through The Motions

Have you ever caught someone simply "going through the motions" in communicating with you?

They say the right words, their motions seems fine, they just aren't fully engaged in what's going on. They appear to listen, but it feels like their mind is somewhere else.

So many of us go through the motions. We read our mobile phones when we're with loved ones we seldom see. We keep an eye on the television while our significant others tells us something important (hint - when it comes from your significant other it's all important), we phone it in.

It's one of my biggest faults and it has recently come back to haunt me as I experienced that level of inattentive attention returned. It doesn't look mean, it doesn't look premeditated, and yet it hurts at a level that sinks gradually deeper until it can't be excised.

The other day I was riding my bike and I came upon a man playing with his dog. At first it looked really charming. The dog was very earnest in the pursuit of the ball that the man threw (using some contraption on a stick that kept him from having to bend over too far).

But then I noticed what the dog struggled with. The man was really paying no attention to the dog at all. He was occupied in a conversation on his mobile phone. He went through the motions, and kept the dog busy, but never gave the dog what it was really looking for: companionship, praise, feedback, interaction. They were just going through the motions.

It was profoundly sad in a way (granted, I'm going through some sadness right now that filters what I see, but still) because the dog wasn't really getting what the dog wanted out of the interaction and the man was simply fooling himself into thinking that he was keeping the dog happy. He wasn't. The dog was keeping itself happy, but missing what it cared about the most.

The following I write more for me than anyone else, and I hope others will also benefit:

Don't miss what you care about the most.

When someone is talking with you, give them your full attention.

When you have the opportunity to share your presence with loved ones: show up. Be there. Interact. Listen with curiosity. Enjoy the space between you.

When you catch someone "going through the motions" with you, call them out. Ask the what they really want in that moment. Maybe it's not the right time. Maybe they are avoiding the conversation you both really need to have. But whatever you do, where ever you are, do not ever settle for going through the motions again

Life is too short for that nonsense.

Action Plan


  1. Really show up for someone today. Drop everything else that you're doing and give them their full attention. Live every moment of that time together, together. 
  2. When you catch someone else going through the motions with you (and you likely will) take a moment to smile, breathe, and gently remind them what you'd like to focus on. Remember - they're doing the best they know how to do in that moment - but you BOTH deserve better. Learn better together.



-- Doug Smith


PS: Thanks. This was a rough one for me to write because it's been one of my most challenged areas. I like to multi-task, I like to keep an eye on the ball game, I like to read the NY Times - but I'm learning to show up more for other people. Please, it's so important.


Friday, August 21, 2015

Be Happy!

What makes you happy?

I'm lucky that lots of things make me smile. Lots of things make me happy. A really good baseball game (and yes, it does help if the Phillies win), a great guitar solo, a fabulous concert, a bike ride in the early morning, a walk in the woods, a hug from a friend (a real hug, not one of those little half hugs with an immediate pat on the back), Chicago stuffed pizza...playing with my children (and now, my grandchildren!) all kinds of things make me happy.

And in many cases, other people have contributed to making those things available. But I'm the one who has to find them. And when I do - I'm happy!

No one else can tell you how to be happy.

They might try. Advertisements will entice you to find happiness in their product. People will offer you happiness by connecting with them. Events will promise amazing joy and miss the mark. It's up to you. It's up to me. It's up to each of us to make ourselves happy.

Are you happy today?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership:  High Performance Leadership Training

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

OK, I know (really!) that you just need to see and hear this, "Don't Worry, Be Happy"


And just for fun, here are some pictures of my grandchildren:



Add caption

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Be Careful About Judging

How many times a day do you judge other people?

It might be more than you realize.

We judge people all the time: their clothes, their hair, their weight, their gait, their intentions, their pretensions - there's so much to judge we spend an inordinate amount of time doing it.

And for what? Does it help? Does it make them better performers? Does it make us better leaders?

I know, some people judge more than others. If you are the type of person who manages how much they evaluate and judge others well then good for you. My point is that we can all judge less.

The world doesn't depend our judging to keep spinning. Our judging doesn't create better quality. It's what we do to help that makes the meaningful changes. It's what we do, not what we judge, that helps us evolve.

Judgment is seldom rational. It's not based on realistic expectations or planned development, but rather more based on how we were raised, who were our friends in early childhood, what our teachers taught, and all kinds of life experiences that taught us that judging was part of living. And, maybe it is - but it can be a much smaller part. If we judged ourselves with the frequency and standards that we require of nearly everyone else we'd see how impossible those judgements are to please.

We seldom judge people by the same standards we want to be judged.

We want freedom to make mistakes. We want the flexibility to change our minds. We want to be able to try new things even if they don't work the first time. We want to express ourselves and feel appreciated, not judged.

What do you think? Couldn't we all be just a little less judging today?

I'll try if you will...

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership:  High Performance Leadership Training

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Evolve To Something Better

Are you evolving?

High performance leaders evolve. Sometimes you can see it in revolutionary changes - they suddenly go from maintaining the status quo to driving exceptional and innovative performance. Sometimes it's incremental - happening so slowly that it's almost imperceptible until one day you realize: wow, they have really accomplished some major goals.

That takes growth. That takes change. That takes evolving.

Our goal is not just to keep pace. Our goal is to evolve something greater.

What are you evolving today?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership:  High Performance Leadership Training

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Find The Right Solution

Are you a big fan of brainstorming?

As someone who works in problem solving, goal achievement, and in the arts as well, I love anything that adds to our creativity. Brainstorming is a great way to generate lots of ideas - especially when we take the time to learn new ways of doing it. True creativity is a constantly expanding process.

But, sometimes the right solution is right there in front of us. Sometimes we slow ourselves down by digging too deep when the gold is right in front of us.

You don't need ten thousand solutions to your problem if the first one works.

Determining what will work helps. Figuring out the real cause of our problem provides detailed guidance. If the solution works, you're done.

Do you ever look too hard for a solution? How can you spot a perfect idea when it emerges?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership:  High Performance Leadership Training

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals


Monday, August 17, 2015

Pay Attention to the Facts AND the Feelings

Have you ever had a hard time getting someone to understand what you were saying because they were too emotional?

That can be frustrating, especially for those of us who mainly focus on facts first, and not so much on feelings.

But feelings are important. To some people, the feelings come first. Until we care about their feelings, they likely don't care about our facts.

We all feel things differently. Sometimes, what seems like a small challenge to someone else could be a cause for hurt feelings for another. We feel what we're feelings and hope that others can understand that. It takes attention and work.

When feelings are fragile, answers are hard to find.

We need to take care of our feelings and the feelings of others. That doesn't mean that we must share those feelings, but we do need to understand them. That answer we're looking for is likely hidden by a fog of feelings too thick to ignore.

Don't ignore it.

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership:  High Performance Leadership Training

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals


Sunday, August 16, 2015

How To Stay Patient

Are you a patient person? Do you ever lose patience with people because they are disappointing you or missing your expectations?

I get impatient sometimes. Why can't people do the simple thing I asked, quickly? Why do I have to wait in line? Why don't they understand what I just said?

Then I realize that the things I am most impatient about (miscommunication, incomplete service, broken expectations) are sometimes the very things that I am weakest at myself. My impatience comes from my own inner mistakes.

I seem to have the least patience with those parts of people that are most like my own.

That's sobering to consider and also liberating. It teaches me where my own areas for development appear. It helps me to breathe a bit and become somewhat more patient.

It's valuable feedback.

Here's how to stay patient: take impatience as early feedback on your own performance (not someone else's). Then work on that.

It also helps to breathe, and smile.

What makes you impatient?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: High Performance Leadership Training

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals



Saturday, August 15, 2015

Solve It Without The Blame

Have you ever tried to solve a problem by finding the person to blame?

How did that work?

It doesn't work for me. I will admit occasionally thinking "this is all their fault" and carrying around that little unproductive burden. It doesn't help.

Finding the solution to a problem usually does not require assessing blame. If it helps you find the root cause of the problem, the action then is not to assess that blame but to solve the root cause. Those are very different actions.

"It's all your fault so fix it" is very different than "I've noticed that when you are abrupt with a customer that they sometimes stop buying our services. What is creating the need for being abrupt? How can we provide a better conversation for the customer?"

Face it: no one will take the blame for your problem. Solve it without the blame.

What problem have you been blaming someone else for? What if you worked on fixing the problem collaboratively?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership:  High Performance Leadership Training

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals


Friday, August 14, 2015

Show People The Importance of Their Performance

Do the people on your team know how important their performance is to your team's success?

Can they articulate just exactly how they make things better, cooler, more high impact, more world worthy?

High performance leaders help their team members work on important work. When the team goals are achieved, it should be cause for celebration. Team goal achievement should accomplish great things that the whole team can feel great about.

It's easier to improve performance when you believe what you're doing is important.

Let your people know. Find ways for them to do important work. And, then watch how much they improve their performance.

Performance IS important to you, right?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: High Performance Leadership Training

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals


What have you learned today?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Take Responsibility For Your Decisions

What do you say if a decision you made turns sour?

Some leaders are tempted to blame others. Some leaders simply stay quiet. The best leaders that I've worked with own their decisions, right or wrong. If things turn out less than they expected, they say so. If the decision was off the mark the high performance leader takes the blame.

It doesn't fool anyone, anyway, to hide from a bad decision. Admit it, and move on.

Successful leaders take responsibility for their decisions.

How about you?

Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: High Performance Leadership Training

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals


What have you learned today?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Let Go Of The Past

Is there anything from your past that you are still holding onto, even though it is essentially gone from your life?

I'm guilty of this. There are things that I don't want to let go of, yet that do not serve me well. Old feelings. Old grudges. Old shame over mistakes other people have long ago forgotten. Useless baggage I carry to my next destination even though it slows me down.

We can always think of things that we would have done differently. We can always see more clearly in hindsight. We just can't really do anything with that.

Daydreaming about fixing the past gets in the way of living the present.

Let's live in the present. Let's be fully present right here and now. And, let's create the best possible future.

Does that work for you?

Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: High Performance Leadership Training

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals


What have you learned today?


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Enjoy Your Stories Developing

Have you ever noticed that something tough you once lived through, perhaps endured with some hardship, can much later become an amusing story, even a funny one?

It reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite people, a famous story teller, entertainer, musician, and comedian - Steve Allen. He said:

Tragedy plus time equals comedy.

(the quote has often been attribute to other people, but I'm on a bit of a mission to clarify attribution whenever possible and I'm fairly certain Mr. Allen was the first to say it. Here's the whole account, from an excellent source for clarifying attribution):


When I explained to a friend recently that the subject matter of most comedy is tragic (drunkenness, overweight, financial problems, accidents, etc.) he said, “Do you mean to tell me that the dreadful events of the day are a fit subject for humorous comment? The answer is “No, but they will be pretty soon.”
Man jokes about the things that depress him, but he usually waits till a certain amount of time has passed. It must have been a tragedy when Judge Crater disappeared, but everybody jokes about it now. I guess you can make a mathematical formula out of it. Tragedy plus time equals comedy.


Retrieved 8 August 2015 from:
Quote Investigator, http://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/06/25/comedy-plus/

I find Mr. Allen's insight extremely useful as a leader because often we find ourselves navigating adventures that just don't seem much fun at the time. We're trying to bring about cultural change, and people are resisting. We're relocating a business and loose ends keep tying us up. We're developing relationships and they hit on rocky interactions that leave our heads spinning. But if we keep in mind that not only will we make it thru the challenge,  but it will likely be a rich source for a future story - maybe even a humorous one, we can enjoy the journey more.

Keeping that in mind we can enjoy the journey a bit more, knowing that we can enjoy our stories developing, even as they discomfort us in their birth.

Today's problems can become tomorrow's rich stories.

Why not enjoy the writing as well as the telling?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: High Performance Leadership Training 

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals


Monday, August 10, 2015

How to Control Defensiveness

Do you ever get defensive?

How does that feel? For me, I can feel my blood pressure raise just a little. I might start to perspire. I get edgy and look for either confrontation or escape. The problem with that reaction is that I probably don't need it.

How about you?

When we get defensive it's because something about who we are or what we think feels threatened. We're challenged into a kind of alertness that might serve us well if we're really in danger. But, if we're not really in danger it can get in our way.

Defensiveness gets in the way of hearing real feedback. It gets in the way of learning. It puts a wedge between us and another relationship. We can do better.

How can we control defensiveness?

Here's what works for me:

When I feel those flashes of defensiveness, pause. Breathe. Stay curious, rather than defensive. That feeling of defensiveness is a sign that we are in the middle of a learning opportunity. Stay open to what's there, and the learning arrives.

That does not mean that we must agree with whatever criticism is headed our way. The feedback could be wrong. It simply opens the possibility that we could be wrong, too. We have a chance to learn. We can clarify by staying curious.

Discovering when we've been wrong should make us more curious than defensive.

Feedback can be accepted without causing anybody any emotional harm. "Thanks for that, I'm going to need to think that over..." is a great way to respond. "I hear what you're saying, and I will be sure to process that...thank you..." is another.

Leaders who communicate for results stay open and curious about feedback. And, by setting that as a positive, curious example others learn how to become less defensive as well. If we want our teams to be productive, reducing the defensiveness helps.

How can you work to stay curious, rather than defensive?

-- Doug Smith

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals 

Front Range Leadership: High Performance Leadership Training


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Get Your People The Training They Need

How much training do your team members get?

As someone who travels and trains people, I have noticed that many teams go short when it comes to training. The people who most need training somehow miss it. Leaders cut the budget in the one area that could possibly have the biggest impact on achieving their goals: well trained team members.

Of course, I'm biased. I make my living training people. But I've seen the value within the corporate world, within the not-for-profit world, and within the academic world.

People in the arts know that you need constant training to keep your performance improving. People in entertainment, too. Athletes take for granted that every season brings new requirements and new needs for training. Standing still is never an option. Standing still leads to decline, no matter what you do for a living.

Are you providing your people with enough training to match your performance improvement expectations?

How else do you expect them to get there?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: High Performance Leadership Training

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals


What have you learned today?

Saturday, August 8, 2015

High Performance Leaders Set The Pace

Does it ever feel like change is happening too fast for you?

Sometimes I do struggle to keep up. It can feel as if it would just be easier to go with the flow the way the flow used to be - slower, more sure, more steady.

But was that ever true?

We long for the old days of a slower pace, but honestly, think about it - the pace has always been fast. It's always been a struggle to keep up. We always face a future of rapidly shifting parts. When we shift with those parts, we keep the pace. When we fall behind, there's just that much farther to travel.

Life will change whether or not we keep pace.

We might as well buckle in, light it up, and keep moving!

Centered, high performance leaders not only keep the pace, they SET the pace.

Are you willing to set the pace? It's probably faster than you expected.

Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: High Performance Leadership Training

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals


What have you learned today?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Be Clear About Your Core Values

This is from my good friend and brother David Spiegel. I like how he's able to find a new perspective in surprising places. He's done much to turn his life into a model of his values, and I truly admire that. Here's Dave:


In his daily blog my friend and mentor wrote the following the other day:

"It's as important to be clear about what you won't do as it is about what you will do."

He was discussing the need to prioritize. We can't accomplish every single task every single day. We must therefore prioritize. Ultimately there are those things we accomplish and then there are those that we just will not do.
..."what I will not do!" 

I kept staring at this line. I had a completely different PERSPECTIVE on the words he used. To me they struck a chord not based on priorities but on values. Often times I find myself staring at a moral line in the sand that I just will not cross. It always comes down to what are my core values and beliefs. In most cases there may be more than one way to view a task or situation. In each of those cases I assess my participation and make sure that it is in alignment with who I am and how I live my life. 

There are on occasions situations where that little voice in my head says something is not kosher.It starts with being uneasy, grows into uncomfortable and eventually becomes unbearable. When it hits unbearable is when the big red stop sign appears. The line in the sand becomes a divide as big as the Grand Canyon and there is no way for me to cross it. It is at this point when I know that I have come across that which I will not do. Not out of anger, not for pleasure, not for amusement and certainly not for money.

Core values mean just that.hey are essential to who I am and how I live. They are uncompromising,non- negotiable and immutable. They are the code that I live by. The code like my genetic code that makes me who I am.

It is important to be clear about what I won't do!

Thanks for reminding me Doug!


p

David Spiegel


Re-motivate the Skeptic

Do you have anyone on your team who seems less motivated than you'd like them to be?

Maybe they even started out motivated and now some of the energy has drained from their behavior. They seem a little down. They aren't as energized as you'd like.

Centered, high performance leaders realize that everyone is motivated. Sometimes, though we fail to discover what it is that motivates each person on our team. Sometimes, we take a "one size fits all" approach to motivation which leaves some team members flat.

We can do better. We can re-motivate those skeptics who seem disengaged. We can energize our teams by finding out what motivates each and every team member. Not so that we can then provide them that, but so that they know and we know that we care. Caring about our team members - showing compassion and interest - is a powerful motivator. Why not put it into motion? Why not energize our team?

An unmotivated team member is not yet convinced that you have their best interests in mind.

That's easy to fix. Show them that you do.

How do you show your team members that you care?

-- Doug Smith

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Front Range Leadership: High performance leadership training


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Be Careful With Pressure

Do you like to be pressured into making a decision?

I always feel rushed if someone is in a hurry to convince me of anything (even something I really know that I want) and the impact is to hold off on committing. That's probably not what the person who is in a rush is going for.

We need a reasonable pace. We need to know that a decision feels right AND that it's logical. Too often someone will see the merit to their case and pound on one or the other - the feelings, or the logic. It seldom feels right if the logic is wrong, and it doesn't matter how logical it seems if it doesn't feel right.

As leaders we must take care of both the facts and the feelings. As people who's job it is to influence others, we must find a reasonable pace that walks in harmony with the pace the people we are seeking to influence need.

That takes practice. That takes patience. And, that takes a centered focus on what is truly important to begin with. If it doesn't feel right to us, if it's not sensible at all levels as well, why on earth would anyone else care?

I question the motives of anyone who is in a rush to convince me of anything.

Take your time. Listen. You might just prevent yourself from talking me out of what you want me to accept.

What do you find influences you the most?

-- Doug Smith

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Front Range Leadership: High performance leadership training



Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Tell And Show

Do you tell people how much you care?

That's a good start. Many people are slow to let people know how much they care. We'd like to know. We appreciate it when people appreciate us.

When you tell how much you care, do you also show that care? It's the difference between telling someone "I'll pray for you..." and telling them that PLUS sitting with them and their grief, or bringing them a meal so they don't need to cook one night, or letting them cry on your shoulder right then, right there. Showing is more powerful than telling. Put together, the impact is huge.

Tell me that you care and you've got my attention. Show me that you care and you've got my devotion.

Who can you tell - and show, how much you care today?

-- Doug Smith

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Front Range Leadership: High performance leadership training


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Smile!

Photo by L. Scott Force
How often does your team see you smile?

I've known leaders who haven't been known to smile. They seem almost grim. They could be fine leaders, sincere and high performance in nature but for some reason they just don't smile. How do you think a team reacts to that?

People like to see you smile. It puts them at ease. It creates a bond. It feels right because don't we all want to be happy? And, smiling is the most clear outward sign that someone is happy.

When you're happy, it's easier for me to be happy. When I'm happy (and smile!) it sends a little but powerful signal to you that it's perfectly OK for you to be happy, too. Let's all be happy!

There is something priceless about a leader who smiles.

Smile!

-- Doug Smith

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Front Range Leadership: High performance leadership training


Monday, August 3, 2015

Stay Clear On What You Won't Do

Can we do everything?

One of my favorite quotes from Brian Tracy is "in order to prioritize, we must be willing to de-prioritize."

No, we can not do everything. We must make decisions on what we will do and what we won't do. As centered, high performance leaders we must decide with authenticity and with focused attention. It's not an area where the default choice is likely to be the best choice. We must determine our priorities.

It's as important to be clear about what you won't do as it is about what you will do.

Are you clear in your priorities? Do you have the confidence and clarity to say "no" when you need to?


Action Plan


  • Think about your list of things to do for today. What is on that list that does NOT fit into your priorities? What is on that list that is NOT contributing to your mission or vision? Practice the clarity and courage it takes to de-prioritize those items for today.


-- Doug Smith

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Front Range Leadership: High performance leadership training


Sunday, August 2, 2015

No Hiding The Truth

What happens when someone tries to hide the truth?

It pops up, unexpected, full-blown and often unforgiving. There is no hiding the truth. The truth always bubbles to the top.

Pushing down what we regard as worth hiding, even when it's clearly true, simply delays the inevitable. The truth comes out, and then whoever attempted to hide it looks doubly suspicious and unreliable.

Also, when we try to hide the truth we suddenly limit our possibilities. What can we say? What should we suppress? Where are we headed? Who can know and who cannot know? Did we tell the wrong person already? Maybe we should just keep quiet...

Truth we try to hide becomes our tallest wall.

It's a weight we carry around wondering when we can let it go. It's a wall that prevents us from seeing the beauty that belongs in all truth, even the truth that troubles us.

What secret truth are you carrying around? Isn't it time to let that go?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Front Range Leadership:  High Performance Leadership Training 

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Be Careful of Punishment

How do you motivate people?

Many leaders take two clear approaches to motivation:
  1. if you do what they want, you get rewarded - OR,
  2. if you do NOT do what they want, you get punished
How does that work?

It has an immediate impact. People do respond. We will do nearly anything to avoid getting punished. And there is part of the problem - if we will do anything to avoid being punished that includes all sorts of things that a leader probably doesn't have in mind - such as gaming the system, cheating, stealing, lying, and covering things up. Probably not the team environment that you've got in mind.

Plus, punishment pushes the problem further down the road - the lack of belief and engagement - and amplifies what you lack even more. It reaches a pitch where bigger and bigger punishment is needed to have the same impact. Again, that's not what you want as a centered, high performance leader.

I'm not saying that there is no place for punishment. Some crimes can only be stopped by removing the perpetrator from action. But as a team leader - as a supervisor - as a project manager - all punishment will get you is bigger problems, disgruntled team members, broken trust, and endless manipulations.

Just because punishment is powerful does not mean that we should use it as a motivator.

How can you motivate without punishing?

Easy: 
  • Find out what motivates your people
  • Create an environment where they can make that happen
Real motivation is never manipulative. We aren't trained animals, are we? Real motivation comes from an inward focus on something dramatically important, noble, and life changing. While that's not easy - it's dramatically effective.

How will you seek to motivate your team today?


-- Doug Smith

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Front Range Leadership: High performance leadership training