Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Build Your Relationships

Who do you rely on the most?

I will admit that there are days when I am tempted to say "my computer." That's a mistake. It's people we rely on the most.

Who is most reliable in your life? Who do you talk to every day?

I've come to realize that I do need to talk with more people every day. It takes contact. It takes reaching out. Building relationships is not a little thing, it's more like a lot of little things. Recurring conversations add to the relationships we build. Spending time together adds to the relationships we build. Remembering birthdays, holidays, and special times is important, too. The key is in the conversation. How we communicate is so often who we are.

As a leader, building your team takes building your relationships. A strong team is built on durable, reliable relationships.

I will strive to communicate to more people more often in the coming days, weeks, month, and year. How about you?

-- Doug Smith


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

What About Absolute Truth?


What do you know that is absolutely true?

Careful -- how can you be sure?

I naturally believe some things absolutely -- but does that mean that they are absolutely true? I'm not advocating a kind of philosophical relativism here. I do not rule out the possibility of absolute truths. What I have discovered is very often we cling to what we believe to be true only to discover later that it was not true at all.

Why do we do it?

There is a comfort, a satisfaction, a security in standing by what we believe. It can even be healthy. But, it can also get in the way of listening. When my mind is totally made-up it makes it much harder to listen openly to someone else, to listen with curiosity. And, listening without curiosity is not listening at all -- it becomes a maneuver to express our own truth (as flawed as it may be, it seems perfect to us.)

I wish that truth was absolute. I wish that truth was universal. All too often, like ethics, it's situational. What delivers the most good and produces the least harm? Life can't always be simplified to an equation, but it does always include the math. When a truth consistently does more harm than good I question its degree of truth.

Stay curious, my friend. Truly listen. While few truths are absolute, it's easy to believe that ours are. What if they are not?

-- Doug Smith


Monday, December 26, 2016

Solving Problems: Identify the Why


Do you know why you have a big problem?

Before you start working on the cause, before you even think about thinking about solutions, ask yourself why you have this problem. Is it a goal you haven't achieved? Is it because you have taken on a new project? Is it about people or conflict?

Knowing why we have a problem is eye-opening. I've even discovered that what I thought was a problem was not even a problem once I identified why it concerned me or why it was there.

We do things to invite problems. We may not even be aware of it, but we open the door to problems when we try new things, make big changes, meet new people, expand our teams. We do need to do all those essential things of growth -- it's just that when we do, we invite new challenges.

Embrace those challenges. Figure out how you invited that problem to the party. And then decide what's next...

-- Doug Smith


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Building Your Team: Recruiting for Success


How do you recruit for your team?

Of course there are many important details to recruiting. The interview is only part of it. Working in collaboration with a skilled human resource team is a big help. But, you know what else is a big help? Getting a reputation as a great place to work. Becoming known as an empowered team that achieves its goals. Finding success with both better results and more friendly relationships.

It's your job as a leader to create the kind of environment where team members feel both part of the team and a key reason for its success. How are you doing at that?

What can you do today to help your team help each other toward more success?

-- Doug Smith


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Start With Decisions


Do you share leadership?

The most powerful teams share leadership responsibilities AND attitude. When you develop a team where people feel empowered to take charge, take responsibility, and take ownership you then no longer need to do all the difficult work. Delegation becomes easier. Collaboration feels more natural.

Start with decisions.

It's fast and easy as a leader to make all of the big decisions, but when you include your team in the conversations it takes to gain mutually shared understandings and collaborative decisions, you no longer have to "sell" your decisions --- people simply know what you as a team have decided and act accordingly. No passive aggressive resistance, no passengers on your team "bus" -- just fully engaged team members.

Start with collaborative decisions. The rest will be much easier.

-- Doug Smith


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Too Many Emails!

First of all, to my good friends (especially you, David) this is not meant for you to reduce your contact. And of course, my clients (love you!) email all you want. But I AM looking at you Lands End, Credo, MoveOn, Raymour & Flannigan -- and anyone else who fills my email in-box up with multiple emails a day. Really?

Too much marketing is too much. Even companies I love risk it all when they over-sell. One after another, one after another, it's all so exciting! (no, it's not) it's all so special (not really). My favorite? "Last Chance to..." (really, really NOT the last chance, so STOP fibbing, STOP the hyperbole, and cool your marketing jets!)

Inundating our in-boxes is the fastest way to get uninvited. Every day, I unsubscribe from something. Want to be next to get unsubscribed? Keep flooding my in-box. You'll. Be. Gone.

Glad I got that off my chest. Now it's time to unsubscribe from someone...

-- Doug Smith


Saturday, December 10, 2016

Who's Your Coach?


Sometimes it seems like everyone is a coach. But, does every one of those coaches have a coach?

Can there be TOO many coaches?

Who benefits from coaching?  Not a trick question! Everyone benefits from coaching.

Whatever your goals as a leader are, you are far more likely to achieve them if you have a coach. Someone to hold you accountable. Someone to encourage you. Someone to help you think out loud, live out loud, grow, fly, release. A coach.

High performance leaders are not only great coaches, they find and benefit from great coaching.

We all need coaching. Why not get the coaching we need?

-- Doug Smith


Friday, December 9, 2016

What About The Millennials?

I'm sharing this because occasionally one of my learners will ask "what can we do about the millennials?" with complete exasperation.

There are lots of answers and lots of approaches. Think of this as part one in a dialogue here. Here's what Simon Sinek recently said.





Wednesday, December 7, 2016

High Performance Leaders Set The Pace


Are you the hardest working member of your team?

When I worked at Aon, the CEO Pat Ryan said that "the speed of the leader is the speed of the team." That made an impression on me then and it still does. Are you the kind of supervisor who sits back and waits for your team to do their job -- or do you set the pace? Do you show how important the work is to you? Do you demonstrate commitment to your customers AND to your team members?

Set the pace. See what happens. You'll like the results.

-- Doug Smith

Need help getting your supervisors to set the pace in your organization? Bring our two-day workshop, "Supervising for Success" to your location. Contact me today:

doug@dougsmithtraining.com


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

How Do You React to Resistance?


How do you like change?

Are you on-board every change that comes down the pike? Do you accept every new idea?

Neither do your constituents. Neither does your team.

Resistance isn't always right. But, it isn't always wrong, either. Someone who tells you their objections is doing you a favor: now you know. Now you can do something about it. Change the "thing" or change the way you deliver the "thing"...or dig deeper to figure out what's behind the resistance.

Even the most brilliant projects need acceptance to succeed. Work on that while you work on your brilliant goal.

-- Doug Smith


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Successful Supervisors Keep Solving


As frustrating as it is to encounter a problem that resists any solution, there could be a benefit. Stay mindful. Stay attentive. Stay alert. Imbedded in that big problem are lots of little problems. Maybe they need to be solved before you can move forward. Maybe solving them will lead to a break thru that helps you in other areas.

The problems that we fail to solve sometimes lead to those we do. And, that's no little thing.

-- Doug Smith

Interested in developing the supervisors in your organization? Contact me today about bringing our two-day workshop "Supervising for Success" to your organization. And if you're really in a hurry, there's a one-day version available.

doug@dougsmithtraining.com


Thursday, November 17, 2016

No Excuses

Do you know who cares about excuses?

Nobody.

And yet, people persist in presenting their ever best excuses. It's a waste of time and breath. Nobody believes excuses anyway, so why not let them go.

I had a boss once who said "we live in the land of no excuses." It sounded harsh at the time. It is not harsh. It is correct.

Why make excuses? Nobody cares about them OR believes them.

Here's what to do instead. Get things done. Lead. Drive forward. Achieve your goals.


High performance leaders NEVER make excuses. The very idea irritates them.

How about you?

-- Doug Smith

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Learn, Learn, Learn!



How long will it take to get it right? When do we get to be perfect?

I'm not holding my breath on that one. No one is perfect. No process is perfect. No lesson is even perfect. We learn from our mistakes and largely from what doesn't work.

As long as we change it, as long as we keep growing, as long as we learn...we'll get there. Maybe not (certainly not!) perfect...but mighty fine indeed.

What are you working on today?

-- Doug Smith



Monday, October 31, 2016

If You Don't Know, Ask Why


Questions are powerful. I've been lucky to work with two powerful mentors. Each helped me to realize and utilize the importance of questions. Lester T. Shapiro told me, "The principle role of a leader is to ask relevant questions."

Relevant questions get to the heart of things. Relevant questions get to the motivations, needs, and causes of things. Ask relevant questions.

Another great mentor, Andrew Oxley, told me "If you don't like the answer to a question, ask a better question."

Powerful stuff. And here's the thing: there are always better questions. We need never be the victim of someone else's poor communication skills again. Simply ask better questions. It's up to us as leaders to keep the inquiry going long enough to complete a satisfactory dialogue. It can be hard work. The work is worth it.

Part of those questions includes the most demanding question of all, the deepest question of all, the question most likely to trigger defensiveness: "why?"

Use why sparingly. Use why with compassion. But do use why. Leaders (hey, really everyone) need to know why.

If you don't know why, ask.

Why wouldn't you? Because it's too much work? Because others might get defensive? Because you don't want to put anyone on the spot? Get over it! Why? Because you deserve to, you need to, you want to know why.

-- Doug Smith


Monday, October 17, 2016

Share Leadership


Someone is in charge. You may have thought it was you. Do you share your leadership or keep it to yourself?

Share. It's not an either/or proposition. Even when the buck stops with the leader, the leader can still share leadership. Share decision making. Share idea generation. Share development.

I like the concept from "The Art of Possibility Thinking" by Rosamind Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander -- lead from any chair.

When anyone in the room can contribute, the contributions are better. When anyone in the circle has a voice -- the voices all matter. When anyone in the room can lead, we lead much more responsibly, with more compassion, courage, creativity, and clarity.

Share leadership. It's not losing. It's sharing the win.

-- Doug Smith


Quick Link: Here's a great summary of the 12 concepts from "The Art of Possibility Thinking"


Sunday, October 16, 2016

How's Your Point of View?


If you suddenly appeared to your much younger self, would your much younger self even recognize you? Despite maybe resembling your parent, you are a very different person.

At least you should be.

We grow. We change. Our points of view evolve. Sometimes in that change we can get lost and forget the heart of what is still most important to us.

Our point of view can shift so gradually OR so suddenly that we do not even notice. We go on. We muddle thru.  We do things that at one time would surprise us.

Right or wrong, do you know what you've changed in your values, your goals, your dreams?

I've recalibrate some of my expectations formed from an evolving point of view. I've played roles that no longer suit me. I've left so much work on the field that the field of play has hidden completely some days. Enough of that. Enough of slipping into oblivion. I'm going kicking and singing!

How about you?

-- Doug Smith


Thursday, October 6, 2016

A Creative Leader's Approach to Boundaries


How firm are your boundaries? Are you willing to try new things, even if they are so new that they seem frightening?

When I worked at GE there was a lot of talk about creating more boundarylessness. Yes, they made up the word. The broke a semantic boundary in service to their notion.

It's not that there are no boundaries. We need those. It's just that our boundaries tend to get fixed into configurations that constrain us unnecessarily. We need to break those boundaries, or simply pass thru them without breaking them. They become (again, as we referred to them at GE) as permeable boundaries.

Nature knows all about this. Got a fence? Nature will find a way around it or over it or thru it. Build a wall? Nature will find a way to slowly knock it down. Cities and states? Nature doesn't care. If a storm is headed your way, those artificial boundaries that you think are so sacrosanct will not protect you.

Be like nature. Test your boundaries. Cross those borderlines sometimes. Innovate. The creative leader sees boundaries as possibilities, not barriers.

How about you?

-- Doug Smith

Monday, October 3, 2016

High Performance Leaders Stay Curious


Do you have all the answers? Probably not. Let me go out on a limb here -- neither you nor I have ALL the answers. Even when we think we do.

High performance leaders DO have a lot of confidence. It's easy for us to assert our will and believe we know exactly what we're talking about. And, maybe we do. But even then -- even then -- we can learn. Even when we KNOW the answer for sure, guess what? There are other answers. Other people's views. Other perspectives. And they matter when it comes to leading people.

And even when we think we do have all the answers, how permanent are those answers? What could possibly change that will change our views, our needs, our responses?

We don't know what is going to change, but something is. Count on it.

So let go of pretending that you know all the answers and I will, too. Get the views of others. Get the cool ideas into the mix. The possibilities will expand!

-- Doug Smith


Saturday, October 1, 2016

High Performance Leaders and Emotions



Are you an emotional leader?

I had a boss once who put his fist thru a wall. He got lucky. If he hits a stud, it's a broken hand, at least. But he hit pure dry wall and his fist went right thru. He was making a point. I don't remember what his point was, but it was obvious that he was angry. He was also out of control.

Leaders can't afford to look out of control. Scare your team and they'll lose productivity faster than you can say "update the resume."

I've lost my temper, too -- but never put my fist thru a wall (at work. I did once in college in the apartment where I lived, but that's another story. Oh, yes I did fix the hole.)

Sure, leaders can have emotions. But if our emotions get out of control they get in our way. Our teams panic. Our customers walk. Our families cringe.

I'm not advocating any kind of flat line robotics here. Enjoy your emotions. Cry. Laugh. Cuss if you need to. Enjoy the joy that's there in life's rich palette of emotions. Just don't get sloppy about it.

Why not align yourself with some positive emotions? How about these high performance leadership emotions -- joy, faith, delight, passion, patience, compassion, curiosity, creativity, courage...let those hang out all over the place. But keep the crazy ones dialed down.



-- Doug Smith

 

Friday, September 30, 2016

There Is No License for Laziness


I like to take a day off once in a while. I enjoy long walks with nothing to do but walk. It's not all about outcomes and goals. But those outcomes and goals ARE still important. We earn our leisure, don't we?

The trouble with casual laziness is that it's contagious. And, laziness is persistent. And, before you know it, laziness becomes a way to be.

Don't be lazy. (That's me, talking to myself. Listen in if you want to!)

I like to come up with crazy ideas. I like to do weird work. I like to take long walks with nothing to think about but thinking.

I've lived long enough to be eccentric. But not long enough to be lazy.

Now, get busy...


-- Doug Smith


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Know Why You Do What You Do


Remember that advertising slogan for a very questionable publication that kept saying "Inquiring minds want to know"?

We all have inquiring minds. We all need to know. And what we need to know the most is why. Why do we do what we do. What makes what we do cool, important, necessary?

It's never just a job. It's never just an interaction. There is always a reason why.

Know why. Figure out your why. Identify your mission.

Then roll with it.

-- Doug Smith

P.S.
My good friend David Spiegel has pointed out that Simon Sinek is a great source on WHY. Here's the video where I first was drawn to his thinking on this:




Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Beat Chance


"That was lucky."

"If it's meant to be it will happen."

"Guess it just wasn't my time..."

Nonsense.

It's not up to chance. It's not up to the universe. It's not up to luck.

It's up to you.

Get busy.

-- Doug Smith


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Work Through Distractions


How many times today have you been distracted from your goal? Maybe THIS is a distraction? So I'll make this short: are you working on your most important goal today?

-- Doug Smith


Monday, September 26, 2016

Grow Beyond Your Limitations


What holds you back the most? For me, it's often that I over-analyze. I want to be sure. I calculate possibilities and assess risks so much that the energy can drain right out of the moment. And, when the moment is gone, we can lose the opportunity.

I'm working past that. I'm not quite at the point of the movie "Yes Man" (a great flick and a step in the direction of take the action, do the thing, just say yes!) but I'm better than before. Isn't that our job? To get better than before. To grow more. To keep going in the direction that set off in, to make things better?

You've got limitations. I've got limitations. All G-d's children have limitations. It's out job to grow beyond our limitations.

-- Doug Smith


Saturday, September 17, 2016

It's Up To You


There is a lot of material out there declaring how the universe is on your side, how all you need to do is manifest what the universe is sending you, how you can attract good things by just being open to what the universe offers.

Some of it is quite inspiring. Much of it is entertaining. It's even delightful. It feels so promising, so hopeful, so optimistic. But, it's nonsense.

The universe does not care.

I believe in a higher power (G-d!) and I do believe that G-d cares and will facilitate what is within G-d's will. But the universe?

It's random. It's mathematical. It's endless. It's amazing. But it does not give a crap about you, me, or anyone else.

You want to achieve your goals? It's up to you. You want to see the biggest problems solved? Again, it's up to you. You want pizza for dinner? It's up to you.

-- Doug Smith

Friday, September 16, 2016

Work To Be Done


Many years ago when I was music director and touring with Child's Play Touring Theater we were putting together a show for children with a work-related theme. Children are often fascinated by jobs, by what their parents do, by what they see adults doing in the world.

It was just one of hundreds of shows that we did, but I remember one song from that show that I wrote especially. The first verse was:

there's a little bit of work to be done
an American phenomenon
there will always be a little bit of work to be done
to be done, to be done, by everyone...

I can't take credit for the lyrics because we used poems and stories written by children as the basis for our material. It was fun.

And it reminds me today that what was true then is still true today. There's a little bit of work to be done. We have problems to solve. We have goals to achieve. High performance leaders are never finished.

Even as I near retirement age (don't fret, my bills will keep me working for years!) I realize that there is so MUCH work to be done!

So many inequities to fix. So many wrongs to right. So many problems to solve.

Today, I think I'll roll up my sleeves and do a little work. How about you?

-- Doug Smith



Thursday, September 15, 2016

Inspire Noble Goals



You know how to set goals. You do your best to lead. Are you setting more noble goals? Here's what i mean by noble goals: achievements to make the world a better place to live. Goals that do no harm. Solutions without side-effects.

That's tough work.

It starts with setting the right goals.

They might be bigger than you can ever imagine achieving. Don't wear yourself down. Be reasonable. But, set those noble goals anyway. We all need something big to work toward. And, heaven knows, we all need a better world.

-- Doug Smith


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Make Room for the Big Stuff

When will you get to the big stuff?

Are you working on the big stuff right now? Are you working on the energizing, team-changing, life changing problems and goals that make the difference between a leader-in-name and a high performance leader?


No time? No room. Listen, nobody has room for the big stuff. We all have room for the big stuff. It's all a decision. Make that decision. Work on the big stuff.

Need to find time for the big stuff? Get the little stuff done. Finish it. Get it out of the way. It probably will take less time to finish than fret over anyway, so get that stuff done.

The report you've been putting off. The schedule. The budget. The cleaning. The decorating. Get it all done.

The big stuff is waiting.

-- Doug Smith

P.S.

Here are the big goals that have my attention. I have no idea how to achieve any of them, but thought that sharing them is a start. I shared them previously on one of my other blogs:

dougsmithtraining.blogspot.com

Here are some goals worth growing for:

  1. Achieve peace thru dialogue
  2. Reform banking into a fair and stable system
  3. Build stronger relationships thru deeper conversations.
  4. Develop shared understanding by discovering, exploring and creating art and music.
  5. Normalize climate thru conservation and renewable energy
Well, in a way, the solutions are already mentioned in the goals. Maybe that's a mistake. I certainly don't teach problem solving that way -- by imbedding the solution in your goal. But maybe you get the idea. This is big stuff. So please excuse me -- I've got some little stuff to get done!

The exact URL for the post:

http://dougsmithtraining.blogspot.com/2016/09/grow-through-noble-goals.html



Sunday, September 11, 2016

Give That Crazy Idea A Chance


You can't keep a good idea down. Yet, so many leaders think that if they disagree with an idea - no matter how much merit it might have - that they can hold it down. Stopping a good idea is a bad idea.

How can a leader know if an idea is a good one?

You may never know for sure until you try it, but here are some signs:

- most of your team likes the idea
- the idea is a game-changing, even revolutionary concept
- the creative disagreement the idea stirs up creates energy
- you are moved from stasis to action
- the idea promote growth
- the idea is expressed with respect and enthusiasm

I often catch my first impulse being incorrect. I have learned to be careful of following what people affectionately call "gut instinct". My work in six sigma project management proved to me once and for all that gut instinct is often flat wrong. Our gut instinct equals our built in bias. Our gut instinct is that trench we keep marching in because it's too hard to get out of.

Our gut instinct is an illusion.

Stay curious. Examine, even explore that idea that rubs you the wrong way. It just might be the idea that you and your team need the most.

-- Doug Smith


Friday, September 9, 2016

Drop Irrelevant Goals

Collage by Doug Smith


How does it feel to work on goals that don't matter? Frustrating! And yet we do it. Once committed (or worse, once assigned) we plug along on some goals that have lost their relevance. They don't matter. No one really cares, least of all us.

What's the point?

That slows us down! In my workshops I often quote Brian Tracy on setting priorities. "In order to prioritize we must have the courage to de-prioritize." No one can do everything.

Since we can't do everything, we must decide what we will not do. Often, as unpleasant as it may feel, that means letting go of goals that don't matter anymore.

Drop those irrelevant goals. Work on those that matter. Work on those that energize you and lead you toward your mission. Time marches on. March to the band that makes your heart beat with verve and happiness!

-- Doug Smith


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Let Go Of Plan B


Do you always form a plan B, just in case plan A doesn't work?

I do that a lot. I like to manage my risk. It's good to have a back-up plan. One never knows what to expect. Things happen that leave us vulnerable and even empty-handed.

But a Plan B can also get in the way. If you find yourself focusing too much on Plan B, your Plan A suffers. How serious are you about your Plan A? Are you willing to work relentlessly, no matter what, on what you really want? Do you intend to achieve your goal?

So go ahead and form a back-up if it helps. But don't let your back-up drive you. Plan A is Plan A for a reason. Work that thing until you get it.

-- Doug Smith


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Focus On The Goal


Don't you just hate it when a problem has you stumped? It is aggravating. Some problems just dance faster than we can keep up. The symptoms grow. The pain persists. The solution hides.

Focus on the goal instead. What is it that you truly want?

Convert your problem into a goal. For example:

"Everyone shows up late for our meetings" is a problem. Changed into a goal it becomes:

"How can I get the right people in the meeting?"

Do you see the difference? It's very subtle, yet profound. The first implies helplessness "oh woe is me" and the second implies that there is a way to do it -- we just have to figure out how.

Go with the goal. Focus on the goal. That will take care of the problem.

-- Doug Smith


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Think of it As Coaching, Not Discipline


Are you a tough disciplinarian as a leader?

This isn't criticism about those who chose to hold their people to tough standards. You do what works for you and your team. I do offer the possibility of asking though, how is it working?

Leaders must be tough. There isn't any doubt in my mind about that. Leaders must also be tender. The times to be tough are usually in private. There may be some exceptions. I remember one time I absolutely let a team member know in no uncertain terms that their behavior was unacceptable, and I did it in front of the whole team. They welcomed it. That team member was inching toward out of control which was no good for them or for the team. So I let them have. Loudly.

But I can count on one hand the times that has happened in my over 35 years of leading teams. It wouldn't take a whole hand, either.

One other time that I did that was embarrassing to the team member, the team, and ultimately to me. I ended up apologizing, even though I was completely correct in my instant (and loud) feedback. Embarrassing a team member has very little benefit and a whole lot of hurt. I've learned not to do it.

Instead of thinking that I must, simply must, discipline the people on my team who are struggling I've come to learn that it's coaching that they need. Steady, unwavering, observational coaching. People can (and usually want to) be held to a standard. They just need help. Not criticism. Not insults. Not loud shouting insistence. Steady, unwavering, attention to detail.

It's not micromanagement if someone needs it.

Coaching, not discipline. We all benefit from coaching. And almost none of us wants anything resembling punishment.

Coach and coach and get better at coaching. It works.

-- Doug Smith


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Put In the Creative Work



Are you waiting for an epiphany of discovery? Do you think that creativity is going to sneak up on you and then surprise you with a flash of inspiration?

Here's the news: it  does not happen that way.

No sudden burst. No bright light of inspiration. No spirit-like brilliant glimmer of impulse.  Creativity is hard work. Putting in the time. Steady development. Practice. Making mistakes and correcting your direction. Creativity is more the result of a steady supply of study and work than it is a blast of sudden inspiration.

You may get that blast of inspiration -- but probably only after putting in the work.

Put in the work.

-- Doug Smith

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Set Big Goals


Set big goals. Set goals you don't have a clue how to achieve. They will stretch you. They will grow you. They will bring about change.

And change is the direction you're headed whether you like it or not. As my friend Andrew Oxley once told me "nature only knows two directions - growth or decay. If I were you I'd choose growth."

What's your biggest goal? If it's big enough, you likely don't even know how MUCH it will change you. But change you, it will.

-- Doug Smith


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Push for Clarity


Ambiguity could be good but might not be. That's purposely ambiguous. It reminds me of something a fraternity brother of mine once said to another brother:

"John, you're a nice guy, but you're a little wishy-washy."
"No I'm not," said John, "well, maybe a little..."

Yeah. And maybe a lot.

Ambiguity drives me crazy. People who don't commit for whatever reason cause me a kind of anxiety. There may not be much that I can do about it, but I do my best to clarify what the heck is going on.

Leaders must clarify. We live with ambiguity -- we can't always know how things will turn out. Not everything is even in our control. So things can get fuzzy around the edges. In the mean time, there are important things that we can clarify:

- who we are
- what our values are and mean
- what is our mission and vision
- our most important goals
- our character

Once we have a firm, clear understanding of those five important things, any ambiguity simply exists at the mercy of any of those five. We'll know when we know, but in the mean time, clarify as much as possible.

People will resist your efforts to get clear. Get clear anyway. People will look for wishy-washy options. Reduce the gray areas and focus on what is most important. You might change your mind, but you likely won't change my mission.

How clear are you about what is important to you?

-- Doug Smith

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

What Is Your Next Training Opportunity?


How long has it been since you've attended any training?

What are you learning right now? There are many ways to learn. Training is just one. You could read a book. You could launch a project. You could listen to a recording or watch a video. The possibilities abound.

Training is just one of those possibilities, but it's an important one. It's your chance to practice new skills in a safe environment until you can practice them under stress. It's exploring, discovering, practicing, and mastering.

When I was a volunteer fire fighter we had to attend lots of training. Our certifications were important, not for the piece of paper, but so that we knew (and our crew members knew) that we had what it takes to survive. In addition to weekend and weeklong programs, some took several weeks. And even between training sessions we had weekly drills where we refreshed our existing skills and worked on new ones. The learning opportunities never stop. Take advantage of them.

Do you have what it takes to survive and thrive as a leader?

What's your next training opportunity?

-- Doug Smith

Friday, August 19, 2016

Keep Persisting

Here's a trick question - when do you give up?

It's a trick because maybe you don't give up. When the goal is important enough, you don't give up. And if the goal isn't important enough to persist, why would you even work on it?

Choose your goals carefully. Work on what you consider vital to your success. And then act relentlessly on your plan. Persist.

There is no substitute for persistence. It will get you through when the world throws all kinds of road blocks your way. And you can depend on that. So persist.

-- Doug Smith

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Talk About It

Are your team members skilled at creating deeper conversations? The kinds of conversations that go far below the surface level of day to day trivial. The kind of conversations about values, mission, goals, and (gasp!) feelings.

You do know that your team members are living, breathing critters with (yes...) feelings, don't you?

I remember what it's like as a front line supervisor trying to ignore those feelings. They didn't go away when I ignored them -- they just got more complicated.

Strong teams are built thru deep conversations. Got a problem? Talk about it. Need to focus more on a particular goal? Talk about it. Wondering what comes next? Talk about it.

I remember Susan Scott saying that relationships are built one conversation at a time -- and (most importantly) that the conversation is not about the relationship, the conversation IS the relationship. She also says that the heart of leadership is conversation.

So when we want to be better leaders, the fastest path to that is deeper, more meaningful conversations. We don't need to agree on everything. And yes, that means that we may stir up some emotions. How else can we achieve our difficult goals unless we stir things up and ignite the passion in our work and in our team?

Successful supervisors build strong teams thru honest conversations. No baloney. No lies. Tell your truth openly and with respect, and watch how much respect comes back at you.

-- Doug Smith

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Build Enthusiasm for Your Goals

Are you enthusiastic about your goals?

How do you know?

Here are some positive signs of enthusiasm for your goals:

- talking about them!
- prioritizing your work around your goals
- starting your day with your goals in mind
- scheduling your days with time to work on your goals
- involving other people in your goals
- sticking with your goals even when things get in the way
- Getting as creative as you need to get to stay on track to achieve your goals
- Refusing to get talked out of your goals

How else do YOU show enthusiasm for your goals?

People can tell when you are filled with enthusiasm for your goals and you know what? It's contagious. If you want other people to care about what you're working on, show them how important and how cool it is.

It's what successful supervisors and leaders of all kinds do.

-- Doug Smith


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Start Strong, Stay Strong

Is it easier to start strong as a leader or to start tender? Which gives you the most payoff? Which gives you the most credibility?

Start strong.

I don't mean bossy. No one needs or wants you barking orders at them. By start strong I mea get a grip on what you want from your team and let them know. Coach, coach, coach every single team member from struggler to super star. Everyone.

Who benefits from coaching? Everyone. Get them the help they need to sharpen their skills and expand their capacity. Give them so much feedback that it becomes as natural as breathing. When you've reached that point -- when feedback (both sending and receiving) becomes as natural as breathing -- you are well on your way to a very strong team.

And isn't that what you want? How strong will your team get if you're not strong?

Your team looks to you for your strength. They draw inspiration from knowing that no challenge is too tough and no upper management person is too constraining to keep your team from achieving its goals.

Start strong. Stay strong.

Here are five key leadership strengths to begin with and develop:

Clarity: Knowing your mission completely and given it priority.

Courage: Say and do what you mean with resilience, reliability, and persistence.

Creativity: Find and use new ideas. Expand your possibilities. Make things better.

Compassion: Speak and act with kindness.

Centering: Take a mindful and balanced approach to your work and your relationships. Be here completely.

Team members will test you. They'll want to discover how much grief you'll take, how persistent you are in your expectations, how thorough you are in your feedback. If you are weak, quiet, and loose -- the team will become weaker, looser, less assured.

You don't need to have all the answers. But you can't be afraid to try.

It's not something you're ever finished with because there is so much growing to do and so much to learn. So why not start now?

What have you learned today?

-- Doug Smith

Start Strong, Stay Strong

Is it easier to start strong as a leader or to start tender? Which gives you the most payoff? Which gives you the most credibility?

Start strong.

I don't mean bossy. No one needs or wants you barking orders at them. By start strong I mea get a grip on what you want from your team and let them know. Coach, coach, coach every single team member from struggler to super star. Everyone.

Who benefits from coaching? Everyone. Get them the help they need to sharpen their skills and expand their capacity. Give them so much feedback that it becomes as natural as breathing. When you've reached that point -- when feedback (both sending and receiving) becomes as natural as breathing -- you are well on your way to a very strong team.

And isn't that what you want? How strong will your team get if you're not strong?

Your team looks to you for your strength. They draw inspiration from knowing that no challenge is too tough and no upper management person is too constraining to keep your team from achieving its goals.

Start strong. Stay strong.

Here are five key leadership strengths to begin with and develop:

Clarity: Knowing your mission completely and given it priority.

Courage: Say and do what you mean with resilience, reliability, and persistence.

Creativity: Find and use new ideas. Expand your possibilities. Make things better.

Compassion: Speak and act with kindness.

Centering: Take a mindful and balanced approach to your work and your relationships. Be here completely.

Team members will test you. They'll want to discover how much grief you'll take, how persistent you are in your expectations, how thorough you are in your feedback. If you are weak, quiet, and loose -- the team will become weaker, looser, less assured.

You don't need to have all the answers. But you can't be afraid to try.

It's not something you're ever finished with because there is so much growing to do and so much to learn. So why not start now?

What have you learned today?

-- Doug Smith


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Set That Problem Free

Collage by doug smith
Have you ever held a problem so tight that it couldn't get away?

I have.

Why would we do that? We get so comfortable with a problem that it's hard to imagine living without it. But what good is that? It's a problem!

Or is it?

Maybe we need to see beyond what we keep defining in pain as our problem and embrace whatever is as whatever is. If that sounds like double-speak, forgive me for a second and think about it. The situation is the situation. Calling it a problem does not change what is going on. Agonizing over how much misery it is bringing us, our team, or our organization does not help.

Here's what I suggest instead. Set that problem free. Stop calling it a problem. It's the situation. Call it that if you like or don't call it anything at all. Set it free.

Set a goal. What is it that you DO want? Whatever is going on now, what environment, situation, action, or relationship do you really want? Go for that.

Set a goal. Design a plan. And then work your plan until you've forgotten all about your problem.

And, do you know why you'll forget all about your problem? Because your problem will be gone.

-- Doug Smith

Monday, August 1, 2016

Remember The Heart

When I worked for GE and I was learning project management, they had a popular expression that was often spoken with pride and just a touch of arrogance. "In God we trust, all others show us the data."

We used to say that opinions were like noses. Everyone's got one. So what. What does the data say?

Since then data has become even more important. We rely on data for so much. It drives decisions. It sorts product offerings. It calibrates without feeling the temperature of the times.

And yet...what about the heart? Haven't you sometimes had a feeling that something wasn't right and discovered that you were right? There wasn't any data to tell you, it just hit you as true.

Relying on your gut instincts can be dangerous. Our intuition is wrong at a surprisingly high frequency. But data isn't everything. How we feel matters. How our customers feel matters. What we bring to our work through our emotions matters.

Rely on the data. What other choice do you have? But please, remember the heart as well.

-- Doug Smith


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Get To Know Your Audience

How much time do you spend preparing your slides for a big presentation?

I know, I know. It can take up a lot of time. And I'm not complaining about anyone spending time doing a great job on the slides. There are far too many word-heavy lousy presentations out there. Who needs to sit thru any more of those?

The slides are just the beginning, though. No. Let me take that back - they aren't EVEN the beginning. They are just part of the presentation. You know the two biggest parts of the presentation? (Careful, let's get the order, the priority right here...)

1. Your audience
2. You

That's it. The two biggest parts of your presentation. Presumably, you have something great to share. Certainly, you are going to edify your team and your constituents. You are an inspiration.

But only if there is something between your audience and you. Only if there is a relationship there. That's the there, there. What trust leads to the truth of your relationship?

It takes time. It takes conversations. It takes listening carefully and paying attention. That's tough work. And, it's the best work going

People may enjoy your slides. They may laugh at your humor. They may take notes on your talking points. But its you, you, you they either care about or disregard.

What are you giving your audience to remember? Is that you?

-- Doug Smith

If you'd like to improve your communication skills and deliver more powerful presentations, contact me about bringing a workshop to your location.

doug@dougsmithtraining.com


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Don't Fool Yourself

Do you know who we lie to the most? According to don Miguel Ruiz, we tell the most lies to ourselves.

This does not surprise people. Lately, I've been asking people in workshops that question and the number one answer, easily, is that we lie the most to ourselves.

As Bob Newhart says in the MadTV video that always makes me laugh, "Stop it."

Simple, but not easy. We dig in. We want what we want. We cling to who we are (and were) whether or not it propels us into who we could be. Who we could be can wait when we're too stubborn to change.

Stop it.

Our stubborn tendencies only fool ourselves. Those habits we won't break. Those excuses we repeat. Those self-limiting behaviors and beliefs.

Just stop it.

I will if you will.

-- Doug Smith

Here's that Bob Newhart and Mo Collins video.




Monday, July 25, 2016

Be Strong Without Being A Bully

There is a balance that leaders must find. Go too easy on your team and they will perceive that you don't care. You're not there to create a country club atmosphere. There are standards. There are goals. There are expectations. Your job is to communicate those goals and expectations and follow-up to make sure that your team is achieving them.

That does not mean shouting, demanding unreasonably, or bullying. You know who works for a bully? Only people who have no choice, and then they deliver the bare minimum. The popular image of a yelling, demanding boss only works in the movies. In real life, people find ways to leave the bully flat.

No one wants a weak supervisor. They want someone who has their back, who backs them up, who lets them know when they are delivering exemplary results and who also lets them know when they need to feedback. People want and need feedback. Just choose it carefully. Focus on the behavior, not the person.

No one wants a bully, either. Yell at me, shout at me, call me names, deride my character OR my intentions and I am out of here. No one wants or needs that.

Successful supervisors preserve respect and dignity even while requiring strong results. It's not either or. As is the case in so much of leadership, it is a question of balanced.

You do want to be known as someone who is balanced, don't you?

Find the balance.

-- Doug Smith


Monday, July 18, 2016

Keep Building Your Strengths

What happens to people who take their strengths for granted?

Wouldn't it be terrible if a strength faded out of lack of development?

Our strengths are important. High performance leaders build on their strengths and find ways to apply them in service to their mission and their team. It's easy to step away from a strength when the responsibilities of leadership get heavy, but don't do it. Stay true to your strength. Keep developing it. Utilize it.

Never give up on what you do best. When others do it better, when others criticize you, when you feel frustrated and down -- never give up on what you do best. You're just a reach away from a break-thru. Keep reaching.

-- Doug Smith


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Dream Creatively

In your dreams do you find yourself solving problems?

We glamorize dreams. We think of them coming true easily. But is that the reality? Or is the situation really about hard work, solving problems and achieving your goals?

Living your dreams is not about conclusions so much as it is about process. The process of living your dreams involves getting better each day, working harder than you've ever worked before, and persisting even when the odds are against you (especially when the odds are against you!)

Living your dream is probably going to increase your need to solve problems creatively. The problems will emerge, whether you like it or not. Are you ready to dream creatively, think creatively, and work creatively?

Good. Let's get started.

-- Doug Smith

Friday, July 8, 2016

Have A Good Day

How you feel when someone says to you "have a nice day"?

They mean well, or not, it just does not usually mean much to me. Have a good day. But today I discovered in my email feed an interview from Wharton with Caroline Webb who wrote a book, "How To Have A Good Day" and though I was skeptical at first, it turns out to be a great read.

It also includes a podcast of the interview, so if you prefer listening to reading, there you go. I like and enjoy both (but don't do both at the same time, the article is a summary of the interview and not a transcription).

As leaders, we need to not just expect to have good days, we need to create them. I enjoyed Ms. Webbs advice on this and invite you to check it out here:


How to have a good day

Same link, full URL:
http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/160523b_kwradio_webb-caroline-webb/?utm_source=kw_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2016-07-07

I'll let you glean what you will from it. One thing I found in complete harmony with my approach to optimizing your results is to take a positive view on your goals -- state them as what you will do more of and NOT what you will eliminate or do less of. Turns out that when we stay positive we relax the defensive mode which tends to immobilize us, and instead we can achieve our goals.

And that's what high performance leadership is all about.

Have Create a great day!

-- Doug Smith



Thursday, July 7, 2016

Be Demanding, Not Demeaning

Are you a demanding leader?

The good news is that people like to be challenged. They won't ever ask you for it, but they enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that is only obtained by tackling something tough.

So you can be a demanding leader. As long as you are respectful as well. No one, absolutely no one, wants to work for a demeaning leader. Someone who insults your integrity or your character is no fun to be around -- and even worse, is not effective. As a motivator, demeanors diminish rather than build.

No insults. No lost patience. No anger. Persistent, gentle prodding. Strong instructions and insistent follow-up, yes. Insults - no.

Leaders can be demanding without being demeaning. Go for it.

-- Doug Smith


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Find Someone To Learn From

Do you have a mentor? A coach? Someone you can learn from on a regular basis?

Working with someone who helps you grow, who helps you learn is one of the best and fastest ways to advance your career. You'll be surprised at what you learn.

I've often (yes, often) been astounded at how something that seems impossibly hard for me to do looks easy to someone else. I've learned (the hard way) that just because something doesn't work for me doesn't mean that there is no way to make it work.

It might require expertise. It might require help. It might require the firm yet gentle touch of a seasoned professional.

There is a way. Working with someone who can coach you shortens the path of learning needed to get things done that otherwise seem unachievable. You can do it. Maybe not right now. Maybe right now is the learning opportunity. Maybe right now is the first of a dozen attempts needed before success rings its shiny bell.

Maybe it's not working now. Keep working.

-- Doug Smith


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Grow Beyond Your Limitations

What's holding you back?

We all have things that try to hold us back. They stand in our way looking formidable, even when they are simply flimsy excuses.

They wall us in. Maybe it's that touch of anger that creeps into your voice when a team member lets you down. Maybe it's that fear of the unknown that keeps me from calling a potential client. We've all got stuff.

Limitations feel like boundaries, but they are not.  We can not only navigate our limitations, we can break thru them and grow past them. In essence, as leaders, that's part of our job. Grow beyond your limitations.

I'm going to work on that this week. How about you?

-- Doug Smith