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?