Monday, February 29, 2016

Be Your Best You

I wrote an aphorism that I wanted to share, but have held back because it sounds a little edgy; it sounds a little presumptuous, maybe even conceited. That's not my intention. So in order to share it, let me first share this: it's up to each of us to be our best. Whatever anyone thinks about us, that does not define us. What defines us is what we see in ourselves and how we put that into action.

How much clarity we bring to any issue, is completely up to us.

How courageous we are under pressure is not up to anyone else but us.

The degree of creativity we bring to the world depends on our daily practice and our willingness and discipline to develop that creativity.

Our compassion can not be given to us -- we must make it, feel it, show it ourselves.

It's true for you. It's true for me.

Your best you is up to you.

That keeps changing. That keeps growing. It's our lifetime project and adventure: perpetual improvement.

Now here's that aphorism that I was reluctant to share: don't blame me for not being who you thought I was.

You see, I can't control what you think. What I control is who I am - and who I become.

Hopefully, that will be helpful, useful, and fun.

What are you doing today to become more of your best you?

-- Doug Smith


Sunday, February 28, 2016

Practice Creativity Every Day

What have you do creative today?

Did you try a new breakfast? Did you draw something wild and beautiful? Did you write in your journal?

Creativity thrives when we practice our creativity. We must stay busy in our creative world to keep our creative edge sharp. Any musician knows this. Any writer knows that when we write everyday we stand a much better chance of creating something remarkable. There is no substitute for practice.

Your creative muse expects you to practice every day.

Inspiration must be fed. Inspiration must be nurtured. Do you want to do amazingly creative things? Then do something creative every day.

What's your next creative step today?

-- Doug Smith

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Find Your Creative Center

Are you looking for more balance in your life?

I facilitate some workshops that include people who are desperately looking for ways to balance their work and their life. Sometimes they are looking for a magic wand, and that's not available. There are ways to find this balance. There are things that each of us can do to keep our focus. One essential ingredient is to keep in touch with our creative center.

Our creative center is that part of us that simply knows when we need to move from the ordinary and find creative ways to move forward. Our creative center stores up our creative experiences and makes them available when they are needed (and, they are needed often!)

Our creative center is that place where we can balance our flexibility with our urgency in order to see more possibilities. Anxiety, worry, and tension are often generated by the failure to see more possibilities.  But we do have the tools to overcome that - the creativity that we develop can supply the focus and energy we need to overcome the stress we feel.

Find your creative center and the rest of you s much easier to balance.

The more creative we are, the easier it is to find that center.

Draw. Paint. Sing. Dance. Doodle. Write. Appreciate. Share. Dream.

The creative possibilities are endless -- and all available to you.

What's your next creative thing?

-- Doug Smith

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Key Questions to Stay Curious

photo of Rusty the cat by Judi Madigan
photo of Rusty by Judi Madigan
How curious are you?

In my workshops on communication and achieving your goals I point out how important it is to listen with curiosity. We are most attentive when we are most curious. Instead of jumping to conclusions or judging before it's necessary, high performance leaders center their listening around staying curious.

How do you do that?

One way is by asking relevant questions. One of my mentors, Lester T. Shapiro (who wrote the book The Training Effectiveness Handbook) once said that the primary role of leaders is to ask relevant questions.

Here are some questions that I've found extremely relevant and that help me to remain curious:

What is your case?

We are always building a case and not always aware of the case that we're building or why. It might not even serve our best interests, and yet we can talk ourselves into anything. Stay curious about what you really want, what you think you want and (most importantly) is what you think is true really true?

What is your goal?

What do you want to achieve? Are you sure? Are you committed? Is your goal in this situation compatible with who you want to be known as?

What is your agenda?

What are you doing, consciously or unconsciously, to create the environment you just operate in? Is that what you want? What might you need to change to create your best possible world? Who can help? When will you begin?

What are your assumptions?

Interrogate your truth (as Susan Scott would say. For more on this see her great book Fierce Conversations). Identify possibilities, fallacies, misdirections, lies, hallucinations, dreams, rationalizations, and all fuzzy thinking. Stop making shit up!

What is unknown?

Identify the missing pieces. What's happening in the background? What has led to the current situation? Know what you don't know so that you can learn it. What do you need? Figure out what other people are looking for in the situation and if you can all reach a mutually beneficial outcome. Sometimes we're drawn into a competition that isn't even needed.

What do you need?

What do you need and where can you find it ini order to achieve your goals? Who can help? Be very honest about what resources you must have, and which are simply desirable but not critical. The first step to getting what you need, in order to get what you want, is to know what you need.

What are you curious about?

Stay open and curious no matter what. Consider wild, fun, miraculous possibilities. Stop judging and simply accept. You can always evaluate later on. That inner judge or inner critic is not gone for good, just on a break. Make the most of it. Challenge assumptions. Challenge limitations. Challenge imperfections. Smile.

That last point, to smile, is not a humorous throwaway. I mean it. Smile. See what a difference it makes. And for heaven's sake -- stay curious!

-- Doug Smith

Monday, February 22, 2016

Creativity Is Not Just Off and On

How creative do you feel right now?

I'm going to guess that you feel some degree of creative. Maybe you're creative enough to start working on your next masterpiece, and maybe you aren't, but you hold in your hands and your senses some degree of creativity right now.

Why not use it?

Create new ideas. Build new things. Chart new directions. Enhance, enliven, enrich your life and your world by doing creative things.

Even in an off day, we all have some degree of creativity. Maybe we are more creative on some days than others, but there are NO days without creativity. Not if that's what you want. Not if that's what you insist on. Creativity is there for your use, whenever you can conjure it up.

Creativity is more of a continuum than a binary switch.

It's not off or on. Your creativity is always there. Why not take advantage of it and exercise some creative muscle today/

-- Doug Smith


Sunday, February 21, 2016

Stay Patient and Strong With Your Goals

Big goals take strength. Ambitious goals take courage. Any goal worth anyone's attention will meet with resistance.

Work thru that resistance. Stay the course. Stay patient even when other people, broken processes, and stupid events get in your way. It's not the end of your goal, it's just a moment in a test of your will.

Are you certain about your goal? Is it important to you? Is it noble, worthy, and helpful? Then see it thru.

When the goal is strong enough, your patience is long enough.

See it thru.

-- Doug Smith

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Reduce The Conflict On Your Team

Is your team in conflict?

If your team is large enough (say, more than three people!) that's about like asking if they are breathing. Put people together, and you will find some conflict.

Some conflict is necessary to work thru issues, to generate new ideas, to test assumptions. Too much conflict and the team loses effectiveness.

As leaders, we must keep listening to our team. What's going on that drives them crazy? Where are they running into struggles? Who is having trouble getting along?

Reducing the conflict on your team will liberate more creativity.

How?

Make sure that people can express themselves and that when they do, that they agree to communicate with respect. A little respect goes a long way, but a lot of respect is needed to keep a team going.

Other ways to reduce the conflict in your team include making sure that you have agreements on roles and responsibilities. Seek and arrive at clarity on who does what. Make sure that your people have the tools they need to do their job. Challenge them, but always with respect and with the compassion to know when too much is simply too much.

A balanced leader leads a balanced team, so keep your own focus and center yourself around your core strengths -- not just when times are tough, but all the time. Use your core strengths in generous and yet appropriate portions. The right combination and balance of clarity, courage, creativity, and compassion makes for success in solving problems and achieving your goals.

What can you do today to get ahead of the conflict on your team and help you to keep your balance and focus? Will you do that?

-- Doug Smith


Friday, February 19, 2016

Centered Leaders Play

Are you playful? Can you find the fun in your work situation?

Whether you are solving problems, achieving your goals, communicating for results, energizing your team, or improving your performance, whenever you can find the play you can find the power. Play gives you the power you need. Make it fun. Fully focused, fully centered, fully balanced, fun.

My favorite leaders have been quick to laugh. The people I enjoy spending time with the most have a joyful sense of play that helps both relationships and results. Centered leaders play.

Centered leaders see play the heart of enhanced performance. 

Then they play.

Are you having fun?

What could you do more of as a leader that would bring more fun to your team?

-- Doug Smith

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Measure the Right Things

Peter Drucker famously said "What gets measured gets done." Have you noticed how true that is?

As high performance leaders we must take care to measure the right things because if we measure (and reward) the wrong things, we'll get more of what we don't want. What we want are the results of our goals. What we want are positive experiences for our customers and profitability for our organization.

In any environment there are things worth measuring and things better left unmeasured. If we want to create a collaborative team that is energized by working well together, we need to measure levels of cooperation, NOT levels of competition. Don't set up a contest that forces your team members to compete against each other if you expect them to help each other. Don't reward people who do the most of anything unless that anything can be fairly accomplished.

Keeping score doesn't guarantee that you're counting the right things.

What you measure should impact your organization positively in one or more of these six areas:


  • Increasing Revenue
  • Reducing Expenses
  • Increasing Customer Happiness
  • Increasing Team Member Happiness
  • Operating in Compliance with the Law
  • Acting with Social Responsibility
If your score keeping thwarts any of those efforts, you are likely counting the wrong things.

What is your team's most important measure? As a leader, how are you energizing results in that area?

-- Doug Smith


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Little Goals Support the Big Goals

Have you ever had to push a stalled car? When it's not moving, it takes a big push to get it going. Unless you're headed downhill. If you're going to stall, stall headed downhill. Stall only when you're already headed for the finish line.

Of course we don't get to pick when our goals will stall. They surprise us. Barriers appear we'd never expected. But we can plan for that. We can support our big goals with a series of smaller goals that keep our momentum going, our team energized, and our plans on track.

That big goal might need a few little goals to get your creativity going.

Give your big goals all they help they need. Break them into little goals and watch your progress add up. Climb that mountain, but get headed downhill to the finish line as soon as you can -- support your big goals with little goals that matter.

-- Doug Smith

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Energize Your Team With Your Attention

How much attention are you giving your team?

One of the toughest lessons I learned when I was a beginning supervisor was to give my people enough attention. The struggling performers need attention. The superstars need challenges and support. Everyone on the team needed something, even when (especially when) they didn't make those needs clear.

High performance leaders find ways to give each team member the attention needed.

Attention is useful. Attention is immediate. Attention is critical.

Attention is the sincerest form of energizing your people. 

Energize your team. Give them the attention that they need. What's the best and easiest way to do that? Talk about it. Initiate conversations with each team member. Take the talking just a little deeper than usual. Talk about what matters. Ask how they feel. Listen to their hopes, their goals, their motivations.

That kind of attention is pure magic.

-- Doug Smith


Monday, February 15, 2016

Solve Problems Creatively by Practicing Your Creativity

Do you want to bring more creativity to your problem solving?

I would guess that the answer is "of course!" More creativity leads to better solutions. Oh, yes and it's more fun. Can problem solving be fun? Absolutely, but only if you bring enough creativity into the process to get past the aggravation and move forward to the fun.

Creative problem solving requires creative practice. Find ways to sharpen your creativity.

Find ways off line. Go for a walk. Visit a museum. Draw a picture. Make up a joke (that's harder than it might seem). Create!

This is your coaches prodding, working on you in this moment: go create something!

Practice your creativity the way a great pianist practices their art and craft of playing the piano. You've got you keep your fingers on the keys. Go!

-- Doug Smith

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Live Your Commitments

How committed are you to your mission? To your goals?

How much do you think that other people notice that?

Our commitment matters. People only follow leaders who are clearly committed to their central purpose.

You can't fake your level of commitment.

People know. We constantly show our level of commitment through our actions. Are we working on those goals? Are we serving our customers in ways that support our mission? Are we creating a better world through clear, compassionate, courageous, creative words and actions?

Let's work on living our commitments. Otherwise, they aren't really commitments are they?

-- Doug Smith


Friday, February 12, 2016

Watch Out for Perfection

"Don't touch a thing because it's already perfect!"

What is perfect? What is perfection?

High performance leaders understand that perfection is not only difficult to achieve, it can be a lie.

A big, boldface, look the other way you silly person lie. Why? Because when we do not want to see our own faults we gloss over them, we hide them, and we pretend that they are not there. But they are.

Working for perfection is commendable and sensible. Pretending that we have already achieved it is deceptive and dangerous. Let's not do it.

What if the appearance of perfection was the clearest sign of danger?

It probably is.

-- Doug Smith


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Projects Rock

Do you enjoy project management?

Projects provide us with all kinds of challenges (many of them associated with people) and all kinds of benefits. I spend much of my time facilitating project management workshops for people just starting out in their project management portfolio and sometimes they are doubtful as to the benefits. But the good stuff is there.

Projects bring about change. Projects bring about growth. And, projects provide us with a perfect opportunity to grow as leaders -- because if we do not grow and learn we can scarcely complete the work in front of us.

Every project gives you the opportunity to improve you and your world.

Isn't that cool?

-- Doug Smith


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Learn from Each Test

How many tests do you face today?

We face all kinds of tests. Tests of our skills. Tests of our will. Tests of our relationships.

If you're like me, you don't pass every test. I've messed some things up in the many years of putting things together, creating, coaching, selling, and serving. Sometimes the learning curve is so steep it does not seem like there is an end.

It's not always fun.

While we may not pass every test, we can always learn from them.

We can learn how to be better prepared. We can learn the secrets to the most effective process steps for what we need to do. We can practice. We can learn to repair relationships with honest, gentle, courageous, and compassionate communication.

I don't know what tests I'll face today - but I do plan to learn from every one. How about you?

-- Douglas Brent Smith


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

There Is More To It

Why don't people understand?

Sometimes I get so frustrated because I'm trying hard to make someone understand about a problem and they just don't get it. It doesn't seem big enough, important enough, or urgent enough to prod them into action.

For example, why do we tolerate a banking system that pays less than one percent interest on savings and then charges up to 20% interest on loans? Isn't that a system for robbing the poor? And why do we allow banks to charge people $39 overdraft fees, and then another fee when there's no money to pay the overdraft fee? Isn't that profoundly cruel and stupid?

That's just one example. Problems abound. Some folks will listen, some won't. Some will take action, some won't.

How other people respond to our problems may be inaccurate or incomplete.

They don't understand...yet. They don't get it...yet. They are not ready to act...yet.

High performance leaders do not give up. Centered leaders find a way to stay balanced, focused, and ready. It's not over -- it's only getting started.

-- Doug Smith


Monday, February 8, 2016

Self-Esteem Is Up To You

Do you work better when you feel good about yourself?

Of course! At least, I do. When I'm strong, confident, and prepared my work is much better. It builds my self-esteem and helps me solve problems and achieve my goals.

But, it's up to me to find that self-esteem. It's up to me to build that confidence. No one else can give it to me and my work doesn't care.

Have you noticed that your work doesn't care about how you feel about yourself? Your work is your work.

Your problem doesn't care about your self-esteem.

Your problem just needs to be solved. Will it? It depends on what you bring to your problem.

Do you want to bring a great sense of self-esteem? That's up to you.

Think about your previous successes. Think about problems you've solved before. Draw on your own clarity of purpose, creativity of design, courage of action, and compassion for others and then realize what a cool person that makes you. Yeah, you.

Self-esteem is up to you -- and you've done plenty already to earn it!

-- Doug Smith

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Improve the Communication

Creative problem solving is at the heart of your best future.

Solving problems by developing new solutions is something that high performance leaders do best.

To build and energize their teams, and to equip them best for solving problems, high performance leaders work constantly to improve the communication on their team. Better communication comes about through deeper conversations, more productive meetings, and more powerful presentations. That takes learning and practice. That takes honesty and effort. High performance leaders realize there is really no such thing as over-communicating.

Most problems find progress once you improve the communication.

How will you improve the communication in your team this week?

-- Doug Smith

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Develop Yourself

What are you learning these days?

Leadership is a matter of communication, dedication, and learning. If we expect to stay ahead of the changes constantly coming our way, we must keep learning.

High performance leaders keep learning.

We're either developing ourselves or falling behind.

You don't want to fall behind, do you?

-- Doug Smith


Friday, February 5, 2016

Make The Tough Decisions

We face many tough decisions. High performance leaders get more than their share of difficult decisions. Delaying those decisions will not make them easier. The best thing that we can do is to carefully analyze the facts, identify our feelings, separate what's real from what's imagined, and decide.

Failure to decide brings about a default decision we may not like. Instead, decide.

No matter how complicated, no matter how challenging, no matter how many real (and imaginary) side-effects: decide.

I've had a series of truly tough decisions in the past year - how to best care for my aging mother, what to do about a broken and estranged relationship with someone who was previously my best friend, when to begin thinking about a new relationship as more than friendship, even decisions as big as where to live, where to locate my business, and who to live with. None of that has been easy, but deciding has allowed me to create goals and plans that align best with who I am and who I am becoming.

Decide.

The harder the choices are the more important it is to decide.

What decisions have you been delaying? What are you waiting for?

-- Doug Smith


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Create Inspiration

I am never bored. Whenever someone tells me that they are bored, I do not understand. How can that be possible? There is so much to do! There are so many problems to solve! There are so many goals to achieve! And, there is so much fun to be had in the arts, in sports, in interpersonal conversation.

Can inspiration be the same way? I think so. I never lack inspiration. I might lack motivation (Judi has told me that I occasionally procrastinate -- even though I teach NOT to!) but I am always inspired. I am inspired by potential, by possibility, by other people, by goals, by a mission, by my beliefs. Inspiration is free and plentiful. When we nurture our own inspiration it grows, and when our inspiration grows so does our potential and our power. It's truly wonderful. Hey, it's inspiring.

High performance leaders never lack for inspiration - they create it.

Create inspiration today - in yourself, and in others. See how cool that can be.

What's inspiring you right now? Get more of that!

-- Doug Smith


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Our Flaws Are Reflected

Do you know what bothers me the most? Behaviors from other people that I struggle with myself. Anger, disappointment, impatience, disorganization. When people give that to me, I don't like it, because I don't like it in myself.

It's not always that way, but when it is, the emotions can be high.

Our flaws are reflected back at us. Usually, the reflections get stronger and stronger until we correct those flaws in ourselves.

It's never ending, always important, vital and obvious: we can't fix other people but when we improve ourselves other people get mysteriously easier to deal with. It's not magic, but it sure feels that way.

As leaders we often find ourselves with team members who share the exact flaws that bother us the most -- our flaws reflected.

I'm working on fixing what I can fix: my own flaws.

How about you?

-- Doug Smith



Tuesday, February 2, 2016

High Performance Leaders Grow

What have you learned today?

That's my favorite question. Admittedly, as a professional consultant, coach, and trainer I am biased in the direction of development. It's what I do. Still, think about it. To keep pace, to keep strong, to keep happy, isn't growth essential?

Grow. Learn. Develop. Get the leadership training you need. Discover new things. Stretch. High performance leaders know that there is no standing still. High performance leaders grow.

Do what you need to do to stay sharp and grow.

What's your next step in your leadership growth journey?

-- Doug Smith


Monday, February 1, 2016

The Joy of Supervising

This is directed to all the front line leaders out there. It's a tough job. Having been a supervisor (both in an office environment and in retail) I know how tough it is. You're right there at the front, dealing with customers, team members, and bosses. Right there in the middle. It's a lot of pressure, isn't it?

Today I want to point out some of the joys of supervising. It can be such a tough job that we forget what's good about it. But, it's not all stress. Supervising also provides these joys (and potential joys):


  • Seeing someone develop their talent beyond their first expectations
  • Collaborating to solve process problems and making jobs easier
  • Bringing a smile to a customer's face
  • Achieving your goals, even when it seemed impossible
  • Growing as a leader
  • Learning from mistakes and gaining the ability to smile at them
  • Making a powerful difference in your organization
  • Setting a positive example of shared, participative leadership
  • Holding yourself accountable and getting more done as a result
And there are many more.

Although the job of supervisor is often not what we expected, it delivers powerful opportunities for fulfillment and joy.

What additional supervisory joys can you name?

-- Doug Smith