Thursday, March 31, 2016

How Will You Lead Today?

"Leadership is based on inspiration, not domination; on cooperation, not intimidation."
-- William Arthur Ward

Is it possible to be a high performance leader and still be kind, compassionate, participative?

Absolutely. In fact, that's the best way to sustain leadership and success -- by combining courage with compassion, clarity with creativity. Centered leaders focus on both people and results, with no compromise to either. If the pie isn't big enough, bake a bigger pie. If the solution leaves out constituents, choose another way.

Leadership isn't easy - that's why so few people really rise to the call. It's essential, it's necessary, it's vital -- and it's your choice.

How will you lead today?

-- Doug Smith


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Work That Plan!

"Constant and determined effort breaks down all resistance and sweeps away all obstacles."
-- Claude M. Bristol


I enjoy designing a plan to achieve a goal. Listing the tasks, estimating the times, scheduling them - that all appeals to my analytical side. Then comes the hard part: getting it done.

But it's not really hard. It's one step at a time. One movement, one action, one call, one thing. At - a - time.

Design a cool, appealing plan. And then, most importantly, act relentlessly on your plan.

As Larry the Cable Guy says, "get -er done!"

-- Doug Smith


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Stay Optimistic

"I never saw a pessimistic general win a battle."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower

"The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails."
-- John Maxwell



Are you feeling optimistic?

I like that sense of "things will be great, things will be better" and the energy it takes to make that true. It's hard to summon up energy for change when I'm pessimistic.

That doesn't mean carrying an attitude of everything-will-work-out-no-matter-what. We do need to work. We do need to focus. We do need to set meaningful goals and then work like heck to achieve them. But staying optimistic helps. Then, lead. Take charge. Move ahead. Help it to happen.

What are you optimistic about today?

-- Doug Smith

Monday, March 28, 2016

No Complete Failure

"Make failure your teacher, not your undertaker."
-- Zig Zigler

You know that we can learn from our mistakes. You might also know that failure carries many valuable lessons. I like the expression that comes from NLP (Neurolistic Programing) "there is no failure, only feedback."

There's always something to learn. Any effort that results in learning is not a complete failure.

So it's up to us. While we would never choose to fail at anything (oh horrors!) sometimes we will. Whether we learn or not is completely up to us.

Find the learning. Find the success.

What have you learned today?

-- Doug Smith


Sunday, March 27, 2016

That Awesome Gift of Listening

"The greatest motivational act one person can do for another is to listen."
-- Roy Moody

How would your work and your life be different if everyone you encountered listened carefully, compassionately, and attentively to each other?

It seems so simple, yet it's not. Listening takes focus. Listening takes attention. Listening positively takes curiosity.

How curious are you when you listen?

Here's what I'm working on: listening without judging. I remember a time when I had an answer to every question, an opinion to every view, and something to say in any situation. I wasn't wise enough to know that smart wasn't always enough. We need to listen.

Listening is a gift as profound as any you might give today. Who will you give that free yet awesome gift?

-- Doug Smith

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Big Goals, Little Tasks

"Great things are done by a series of small things brought together."
-- Vincent Van Gogh

A big project can seem overwhelming. Our aspirations can seem too big. Our expectations are frequently recalibrate by what seems like a tough reality.

Instead of looking at the big, big, too-big-to-achieve goal, what if we looked at what David Allen calls "the next actionable step"? What if we, as Brian Tracy advised, "chunk it down"?

Do one thing. Do the next thing. And keep going.

I find it useful to project from when I need to finish something and then spread the little tasks out on a plan to accomplish the big thing.

The Big Thing is just a series of little things. And little things don't scare me a bit.

How about you?

-- Doug Smith



Friday, March 25, 2016

Courage Does Not Allow Us To Bully

There is strength. There is courage. There is assertiveness. None of them have room for bullying.

When leaders cross the line from courage to bullying they may feel immediate gratification but they have planted the seeds of long lasting and critically damaging conflict. If people cannot obtain what they are entitled to fairly, they will find another way. And that other way could be bad for the leader who created the disparity.

No matter how committed we are to a cause, to a mission, to a goal, it is never our right to impose any of that on others.

The courage of our convictions does not allow us to disregard the rights of others.

There is no license for that, ever.

-- Doug Smith


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Compassion Does Not Require You To Be A Victim

Is it possible to be too compassionate?

I suppose that it depends on what you mean by compassionate. Certainly, we owe it to other living beings (and I include all living beings in that, not just people) kindness, grace, caring, and working to create tolerable or better living conditions. We are fundamentally here to help others.

But that does not mean that we need do anything anyone asks. We need not become a victim. Some people are in need beyond our capacity to provide that need. Some people take advantage of our desire to help. Some people (gasp!) simply can't be trusted.

I come from a tradition of faith that says help anyway, and I believe that is best. Help anyway. Do what we can. But...and maybe I'm going out on a limb here...but not to the point of becoming a victim. Sometimes we must say no. Sometimes we must walk away.

Compassion does not require foolishness.

We are not required to surrender our selves when evil prevails.

Please do not misunderstand me. I do NOT mean that as a license to simply walk away when we could make a difference. I do not mean "look after number one" no matter one. But, if we DON'T look after number one in critical situations, there may never be a number two. Or three. Or anyone else.

By all means help. As much as we can. Without being foolish about it.

What do you think?

-- Doug Smith


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Let Them Feel The Consequences

Do you ever rescue your team?

A mistake that I made when I was first starting to supervise was to rescue my team (and everybody on my team) every time they made a poor choice. I considered it compassionate, and maybe it was, but sometimes people need to see the results of their actions. What's to stop me from being rude to a customer if I never see the reaction on the customer's face or have to deal with their disappointment?

What's to stop someone from wasting resources on a project if their resources are constantly expanded?

Sometimes we have to step back, take off our superhero cape, and let results fall where they will.

Centered, high performance leaders sometimes must let people feel the consequences of poor choices.

Not to put them in danger. Not to embarrass them. But to help them learn.

Have you rescued anyone from the consequences of their actions recently? What will you do the next time they need to be rescued?

-- Doug Smith


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Mistakes Don't Care

I can't erase my mistakes, how about you?

I've learned that mistakes don't care how we feel about them. We do have a choice, though. That is the choice of whether or not we learn from those mistakes. It helps to talk about them. It helps to analyze what went wrong. Eventually, though, we must move on.

We live with our mistakes, whether we want to or not.

Why not get over it, and move on?

-- Doug Smith


Monday, March 21, 2016

Press Your Boundaries Forward

How tight are your boundaries?

When I worked at GE an expression that was popular was "boundaries". We were boundaries in our search for solutions, in our work to satisfy customers, and in our pursuit of profit. Boundaries were permeable, not insurmountable. With one exception: integrity. That was one boundary that could not be stretched, could not be crossed, and could not be ignored.

But for other boundaries much of the time our sense of what the boundary is depends on our perspective. How fixed it is depends on our creativity. How cold it is depends on our compassion. How formless it is depends on our clarity. And how limiting it is depends on our courage.

We need to consider all four of these leadership strengths when we find ourselves held by boundaries.

Without examining our boundaries and staying curious about why they are there or what function they serve we stay stuck. Stuck is not where we want to be. To get past stuck might take creativity, and it certainly takes courage.

Courage lives outside of our comfort zone and presses our boundaries forward.

Forward toward our goals. Forward toward our vision. Forward toward a better world.

Press your boundaries forward and avoid getting stuck again.

-- Doug Smith


Sunday, March 20, 2016

Stay Courageous Through Resistence

What is the typical reaction to courage?

Often, people respond to true courage with resistance. They push back. They run away. They refuse to change.

That should not surprise us. We should expect it. I've worked on projects where the biggest part of the goal achievement involved working through the resistance. People didn't want to change software. People didn't want to print less. People didn't want to move from Chicago to Trevose, PA. But in each case the change was inevitable, and embracing that change was necessary. For those of us driving those projects, we had to maintain our courage and conviction even when people were unhappy and rebellious.

Courage is more often resisted than appreciated.

You won't always get an award. In fact, you will seldom get an award for your courage. But, your courage is still required.

Of course it's not easy. It wouldn't take courage if it was.

How courageous are you prepared to be to achieve your goals?

-- Doug Smith



Friday, March 18, 2016

High Performance Leaders Combine Courage and Compassion

What do people look for in a leader?

I believe that there are four key strengths that leaders must develop: clarity, courage, creativity, and compassion. As leaders we should develop these in connection with each other.

I was thinking about this as I was leading a workshop on controlling chaos yesterday. When we are leading our way (and others' way) through difficult situations it is no time to be shy. It's not the time to sit back and wait for something to happen. It's not the time to get passive.

High performance leaders make their expectations clear. They raise the bar. They look for people to give their best, speak up, and be assertive.

It's easy to go over the edge, though. It's easy to fall into an extreme. Leaders do it frequently and are often portrayed in the media as strong and confident even though that occurs at the expense of other people's self-esteem and well being. Centered, high performance leaders do not lead and achieve at the expense of other people -- they lead in collaboration with other people.

That means that high performance leaders need a carefully developed combination of courage and compassion.

Courage without compassion leads to bullying. Compassion without courage leads to surrender. High performance leaders combine courage and compassion.

What are you doing today to develop your flexibility, centeredness, and use of both compassion and courage. The magic is in the blend and that's where your best results will be found.

-- Doug Smith


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Keep Building Your Team

When are your team building efforts done?

You know the answer to that. There's always more to do. Relationships can be made stronger. Processes can be constantly improved. Performance can get better.

The work of building your team is never done.

Spend meaningful time with each member of your team. Make your team meetings collaborative and fun. Roll up your sleeves and work side with your team members. That's part of the work of a high performance leader.

Sure, it does take more time and effort. Isn't your team worth it? How about your results? How about your success?

-- Doug Smith



Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Keep Your Past Problems In The Past

Do problems from your past trouble you?

I've sometimes found myself in a pattern of drudging up old problems from the past, as if they had anything at all to do with the present situation. They don't. Oh, they can certainly complicate things. And old problems will stick around as long as you invite them to. Don't invite them.

The problems of our past belong in the past.

Let's leave them there. Drop them like the dead weight they are.

When we fully resolve a present day problem it stops popping up in the future. So if past problems are popping up, maybe they aren't resolved. Resolve them. Retire them. Let them go. But, keeping them around sucks all the energy out of the room and has the problem solving effect of tying your shoes together. Why do that?'

Did you solve that problem? If so, let it go. If no, you know where to go: back to the plan to finish the job.

-- Doug Smith

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Feel Good About Your Goals

How do you feel about your goals?

If they are big, noble, ambitious, and fun you probably feel good about them.

If they are small, inconsequential, and discordant with your mission or values, you might not feel so great about them.

We get to choose.

Our feelings will tell us all about our goals and their importance. When we feel unhappy with our goals, it's not our feelings that are out of whack - it's our goals.

Our goals should make us feel good about ourselves.

Our goals should tell us that we are working on important things and making a positive difference. Our goals should show us that we are growing. Our goals should bring a smile to our faces.

Maybe not all of your goals will set the world aglow or keep you grinning. But, shouldn't some of them?

-- Doug Smith

Monday, March 14, 2016

High Performance Leaders and Criticism

I used to run away from negative thoughts. They could be mine, or someone else's. Sometimes someone close to me would bring an idea that just scared me, or bothered me, and I'd pretend to ignore it. That wasn't a good idea.

Just because someone is negative doesn't mean that they're wrong. They could be wrong. They could be right. They could be far off the mark, and they could be close. We owe to them and ourselves to stay curious enough to figure it out.

A negative thought includes the potential for positive action.

I'm all in favor of positive action. Sometimes, a critical comment gets us going.

High performance leaders are not afraid of criticism. It tells a story. It tells us about our relationships, our processes, our goals. When people express themselves, positively or negatively, until we listen they won't go away, they won't be at their best, and we won't collaborate as well as we should.

Take on that criticism. Stay curious. Sometimes we don't know what we don't know. Isn't it better to find out?

-- Doug Smith


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Learn From Your Mistakes

Wouldn't it be great to stop making mistakes?

I would like that. I would love to never need to apologize again, or redo something I thought was finished, or reconstruct a project after it goes sideways. But mistakes still happen.

High performance leaders don't stop making mistakes, but they keep learning from them.

Learning how to do things better next time. Learning which relationships will make us more durable, more able, more agile. Learning which decisions needed just a little more feedback.

Learn constantly. That's the key. Stop, breathe, and think it over. What did I learn? Where's the lesson in this mistake for me?

Keep learning. It makes a difference.

What have you learned today?

-- Doug Smith


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Life Never Stops Teaching

Which learning curve are you climbing?

The lessons keep coming. When we keep growing, our energy sparks with new creativity, new courage, new compassion, and new clarity. When we keep growing, life's adventure brings more smiles than troubles.

High performance leaders make it a point to keep learning. That means taking on the tough assignments. That means listening to the needs of your team and building on their ideas. That means constantly debriefing, decoding, and deciding. There's a lesson in all of this somewhere. Centered leaders find the lesson and grow.

Life never stops teaching. What have you learned today?

-- Doug Smith


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Problems Make Us Stronger

Did you ever stop to think how much you owe to your problems?

No, I haven't gone nuts. Think about it. Every problem we solve, every solution we design, gives us a level of focus and creativity that we didn't have before. Problems help us grow (because if we don't grow, the side effects are bad.)  

Where would you be today if you'd never had a problem to solve?

The next time I have a problem, it will be the opportunity I seek. Maybe the problem is the key to the next big step. Maybe the lesson to learn will propel me forward farther than I could have ever gone before.

Problems make us stronger. Isn't that comforting?

-- Doug Smith


Monday, March 7, 2016

Learn Constantly No Matter How Annoying It Is

Some things that annoy us the most grow us the most.

I never asked for some of my biggest lessons. I probably didn't ask for any of them. They hurt. They bruised. They provoked anxiety. They made me sweat. But I learned.

I learned that people need lots of attention. That sending an email isn't enough. That a handshake (and even a kiss) doesn't mean that a deal won't ever be broken. That broken promises (especially when a kiss IS involved) are the hardest lessons to take.

We go on. We strive forward. We learn. We forgive.

I am annoyed by big lessons. My ex-wife once gave me a little present that was a miniature traffic cone with the words "Oh no, not another learning opportunity!" on it. That about sums it up: not right now please, I'd rather not get that lesson.

We don't always get to pick the timing, but we do get to decide whether or not we learn from those things that annoy us. Things like the team member who isn't finishing the important task, or the boss who has no patience for doing things right (Aren't you done yet???), or the financial transaction that went in the wrong direction. We can have the experience and learn, or we can just endure the experience (and then probably experience it again later because we haven't, you know, learned.)

Guess we might as well learn...

What have you learned today?

-- Doug Smith


Sunday, March 6, 2016

Is It Really Your Problem?

Just because someone tries to give you a problem doesn't make it yours.

Leaders get shoved problems all the time. Because your good at solving things, people are inclined to help you with more work. Do you really want more work?

One of the first jobs of a high performance leader is to develop the people on the team. Teach them to resolve conflict. Train them to solve problems. Help them achieve their goals (but don't achieve them for them).

It takes more time. It takes more patience. It's the centered, high performance approach to leadership.

Building your team frees you up to stay strategic. Building your team makes your team not only more effective but also happier. Isn't that what you want?

So the next time you see a little reverse-delegation heading your way, cut it off at the pass. And pass it right back.

-- Doug Smith


Saturday, March 5, 2016

Majestic and Vital Leaders

We are the giants that are so dependable. We have risen from the ground,weathered the seasons and the storms. We stand tall against all skies, the bright blue ones and the ones that are grey and daunting. 
Yes my friend,we are as the mighty oaks.
Beautiful and majestic and vital in a very special way. 

-- David Spiegel

Do you have a mentor? Is there an older person in your life you trust who can guide you and coach you as you work on your goals?

I've been fortunate enough to have worked with some strong and bold mentors. They haven't always been older than me. Sometimes a great mentor is younger than you, and when you get to be my age, it's highly likely than many younger people can provide expert advice, guidance, and coaching. In fact, most of the best coaching I receive now comes from people younger than me.

Here's my point. Whether the guidance and feedback comes from someone older, younger, or the same point, don't disregard it. Think it over. Evaluate it. We all need feedback. We all need coaching. We all have blindspots that stand in our way. We all build walls that we need help navigating. I am so grateful for that help. Help from people older, and help from people younger.

When you look at someone older than you I hope you will recognize that they are still vital, still filled with life, still bursting with energy. Yes, our hair might be grey (or gone!). Yes, we might walk a little slower. But we are still powerful. You are also powerful. Centered, high performance leaders realize that it is in community with each other that we are all most powerful.

Just something to think about as you get busy on your next goal. You are busy, aren't you?

-- Doug Smith


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Laugh!

Do you laugh out loud?

People have all kinds of laughs. Some are very quiet. One of my best friends can laugh without making any noise at all.

I like a laugh that makes a lot of noise. I like the sound of life in its finest ripping thru the air with a boisterous happiness unmatched by any regulations. Laughter says so much. It tells us that things are funny, things are good, things work out, and that even the toughest events, given time, can turn into big laughs.

Laughter is good for the creative spirit.

When we laugh, we release enough stress to open up space for more creativity, more compassion, more clarity, even more courage. Laughter helps, laughter builds, laughter releases. High performance leaders know how to laugh, and they laugh often. It's fuel for your success.

Find something worth laughing at today, and let it rip. You'll feel good about it, I'm sure.

-- Doug Smith