Friday, December 24, 2010

It Takes Collaboration and Individual Performance

How was your most recent brainstorming session?

What's your experience at group creativity?

Chances are, your performance has been mixed. Getting people together is a wonderful way to get lots of ideas, and sometimes when you get lots of ideas you get great ideas. But not always.

People want to get along. A skillful facilitator can make sure (most of the time) that the group does get along. What is more difficult is assuring the sponsor of the session that the outcomes will be what they want.

Some people work well in groups, and some work well individually. Some great ideas come when people think on their own.

These are some of the points brought out in the summary article from the Wharton School of Business. Here's there promo and link:

How Group Dynamics May Be Killing Innovation
To come up with the next iPad or Amazon, the pacesetters of the future need solitary brainstorming time, according to new Wharton research. In a paper titled, "Idea Generation and the Quality of the Best Idea," Wharton professors Christian Terwiesch and Karl Ulrich argue that group dynamics are the enemy of businesses trying to develop one-of-a-kind new products, unique ways to save money or distinctive marketing strategies.

Bookmark and save this stimulating read. Take it out before planning or attending your next problem solving or creativity session. It is worth considering.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Friday, December 17, 2010

Teams are never complete

Is your team complete? Have you built the perfect work group capable of achieving every goal you could ever conceive.

Probably not.

Centered leaders realize that a team is never fully complete and needs constant change.

Not change just for the sake of change -- but meaningful, mission-based, vision-focused change.

Are you ready for that?

What will you do today to bring that closer to reality?

Douglas Brent Smith

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Persistence of Compassion

How long does your compassion last?

What circumstances sustain your sense of caring and which tend to work against it?

As a leader, your job is to persist in your patience and compassion. That doesn't mean buckling in or being weak. It does mean caring enough about people that they can feel your emotion.

The true measure of compassion is it's persistence.

How do you measure up?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Changing The World

What are you working on that could change the world?

Do you have a vision and a mission for making things better?

Have you assembled a team?

The clock is ticking - when will you take your dream to the next level?

What are you working on that could change the world?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Who Trains Your Customers

What do you do when your customers are rude to your team members? Do you tolerate that behavior under the slogan that the customer is always right? Or do you have a way to educate or guide rude customers toward respecting your team members?

Rude customers need relationship training. Are your people ready?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Learn more in the workshop: Building Your Team

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Customer Is Not Always Right

Do you think that the customer is ALWAYS right?

Are there some times when it's possible that the customer is wrong and not entitled to their demands.

The customer is not right when disrespecting team members.

As a leader, you have an obligation to watch out for the respect given or denied your team members. They are watching you, and will respond according to how you treat them AND how you allow them to be treated.

How do you treat them when the customer is flat out wrong? 

Is that what your team expects?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Learn more in the workshop: Building Your Team

Know What's Urgent

If everything is urgent then nothing is urgent. Centered leaders prioritize with clarity.

Have you ever had a boss who told you that everything was urgent? Everything had to be done RIGHT now, with no excuses, and no differentiation?

How did that work for you?

If everything is urgent, how do you know what to do?

Prioritize according to your vision and mission, and the rest clarifies. What is truly important emerges from what truly matters. What matters in your vision and your mission. Most everything else is "nice to have".

If everything is urgent it all becomes the same. There's no time for that.

Centered leaders prioritize with clarity -- so that people truly know what to work on first.

- Douglas Brent Smith

Friday, November 26, 2010

Centered Service

How do you treat your team members when it comes to delivering top notch service to customers? What if some of those customers are difficult? REALLY difficult?

Can you possibly take care of customers without first taking care of your team members?

That means that we do not sacrifice team members at the alter of service. Yes, customers are entitled to great service but NO, they don't get to trash our team members in the process.

One of my current team members tells me of a story about working at Trader Vic's. He said that if a customer abused you, the manager politely walked that customer out of the store. Abuse of team members was never welcome. Abusive customers can shop someone else.

Centered leaders satisfy customers without sacrificing team members.

In the end, that leads to better service for everyone.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Monday, November 22, 2010

Today's Challenge

Catch as many people as possible today doing a great job and thank them enthusiastically.

Not just a little "thank-you". Not just an email. Thank them with big energy. Let them know WHY what they did was important and HOW it will help you. What is the benefit? Why is this a big deal?

It will make a BIG difference in their day and in your future!

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Clarify Before Criticizing

Have you ever said something incredibly critical about someone only to find out later that you were wrong?

It's a tough situation for a leader. It can be embarrassing. You can find out that the person you criticized was correct in the long wrong and far more important to you than you'd ever realized.

I've jumped to conclusions at times only to look for ways to jump back to where I'd started. The trouble is, there's no reverse gear to conclusion jumping. You get where you're headed, whether you like it there or not.

As a result, I tell myself to pull back a little before making that jump.

What does it mean to be truly centered? How do effective leaders make the best of their information, make intelligent choices, and avoid jumping to conclusions?

Centered leaders clarify before criticizing.

Ask questions. Listen carefully. Suspend judgement. Smile.

Remember, it's almost never too late to criticize, if that's what you really want to do and if that's what really serves you best. Surprisingly often, though -- it's NOT what serves you best.

Try it out today. If an impulse arises to criticize someone (whether they're actually with you or not), stop. Think about it. Clarify .

Everyone does something for a reason. Do you know what that person's reasons are?

Centered leaders clarify before criticizing -- and often leave the criticizing behind in favor of exploration -- and collaboration.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Learn more in the workshop: Communicating for Results

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Missing Pieces

What are the missing pieces on your team?

What part your main process break down just when you need them the most?

Who on your team is performing with a mixed sense of priorities or is lacking connection with the team's vision?

High performance leaders find and fill the missing pieces on their team.

What missing piece are you working on today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Sunday, August 29, 2010

How To Explore The Tough Questions

How are you at asking the tough questions?

As a leader, much of your job is in asking the tough questions. This differentiates leaders in a big way. By ducking the big questions, conflicts remain unresolved. Hidden agendas remain hidden. Team coherence suffers when too much is kept secret. People start acting in ways that are counter-productive and misguided because the lack of clarity has taken away the guidance they seek.

Sometimes we need to ask the tough questions.

Who should a leader ask the tough questions?

- Team members
- Peers
- Leaders above
- Constituents all around you
- Customers
- Regulators
- Even the competition

What are the tough questions?

The tough questions are those you probably already know but may feel uncomfortable asking:

- What's going on?
- How are you in that big project?
- Where are you in achieving those goals?
- What will you do if your resources come up short?
- Where will next year's customers come from?

... and many, many more. The tough questions have no easy answers and usually involve more work. But the questions and the issues are there whether or not you know about it. Whether or not you know what they're thinking, they're still thinking what they're thinking.

Centered leaders don't back away from the tough questions.

Centered leaders explore tough questions with courage and compassion -

  • the courage to raise a difficult issue and face it head on
  • the compassion to listen thoroughly to the views of others and delay reaching conclusions on their content or their character.
Look at your conversational partner with respect. Listen carefully to what they have to say. Hold off on judging them so that you can learn all of the relevant facts and feelings by asking every question you need to ask. See where they're at, and ask what they would do next.

It could possibly be the biggest and best thing you do as a leader this week. When will you start?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Learn more in the workshop: Communicating for Results

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Shared Goals

Who knows about your goals?

Who do you tell what you plan to achieve? Who, if anyone will hold you accountable?

A goal shared with another person becomes more than twice as important.

Vocalizing it, sharing it, mulling it around - brainstorming ways to achieve it -- these are all ways that your goal can become more alive once it is shared with someone you trust.

It could be a coach. It could be a mentor. It could be a friend or partner. Share you big goals with someone who cares that you succeed and see what a big difference it makes.

What will you do about your goals today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Do you have a sense of momentum?

When I used to play sports - basketball and baseball mostly -- every game had a sense of momentum.

No matter what the score was, I could tell which direction the game was headed and often, who would win based on the feeling of momentum.

Winning has a momentum of its own. Standing still is no momentum at all.

What is your momentum like? Where are you headed? Are you building a winning game?

Where will you be a year from now if you keep doing what you're doing now?

Will that be where you want to be?

What will you do today to energize your momentum in the direction you want it to go?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tough Questions

The toughest words from a high performance leader usually come in the form of questions.

What are you working on?

What are your goals for this year?

Where are you on your goals?

What happened to your deadline?

These and other questions probe to discover what's going on -- one of the kindest and yet toughest questions of all from a leader or counselor or friend:

"What's going on?"

Talking tough situations takes patience and compassion. It also takes courage, persistence, creativity, and clarity. What are you trying to accomplish? How will you know when you've succeeded? What questions will elicit totally open and honest answers, even if the answers are tough to say and tougher to hear.

As a high performance leader, what questions must you ask today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Monday, August 16, 2010

Leadership Drama

Is drama a good thing or a bad thing in your organization? Or is there another way to look at it?

Think of drama as excitement. Maybe it's conflict. What is that conflict all about? What's driving it? What is changing or needs to change in order for your people and your organization to operate more dynamically, more effectively?

Centered leaders understand and share the drama in their organizations.

What's exciting? What scares you so much you're practically breathless at the thought?

Drama produces energy and energy can drive the change you need.

How can you as a leader identify and utilize the drama that's present in your organization and in your life?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Friday, August 13, 2010


Profit measured in only money is not sustainable.

What do you think?

Sooner or later, someone will find a way to make more money, or even to take part of your share (market share, attention share, money share).

What does your organization do that really matters? What do you do that will persist beyond your generation?

Profit measured in only money is hardly profit at all.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Time on the Front Line

How much time do you spend working side by side with your team?

Are you willing to sweep the floor and take out the trash?

Do you interact with your customers everyday?
Front line supervisors gain credibility thru front line experience and spend time working directly with their people.

That doesn't come from hiding in an office.

How much time will you spend on the front line today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What You Don't Know

High performance leaders help people identify what they don't know about themselves so they can choose wisely.

We all have things that we don't know about ourselves - things that we do or say that may not be contributing to our goals. High performance leaders take the courage and compassion needed to share that feedback with their team members and peers.

They also encourage others to do the same. Asking others to let you know what you've been missing about yourself encourages them to give you the feedback you need to raise your own performance.

Who can you share this valuable type of feedback with today?

- Douglas Brent Smith

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Problems Spark Growth

Leaders will ever run out of problems to solve which oddly enough is cause for celebration. Problems spark growth.

Problems provide us with opportunities to think differently, to work collaboratively, and to build relationships.

What problems are you working on today? How could you look at them differently that might help you appreciate the opportunities?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Value of Your Service

What if customers paid exactly what they thought the value was? Would your business prosper?

Have you ever given a tip to a street performer? Also known as buskers, street performers rely 100% on value to value transactions. They have barely two minutes to make an impression, and only get paid what people think they are worth. Sometimes that's a dollar, sometimes that's a dime, and usually "customers" keep on walking without paying anything at all.

Could your business survive using that model?

I've considered it as a model for my leadership training practice. Come to a workshop, or get some coaching and consulting and then pay me exactly what you think it was worth. What stops me? Not sure. Is it fear of the unknown monetary value? Is it fear that human nature might be to grab for the bargain (free!) and move on?

If a business demonstrates value that the customer is seeking and delivers on that promise, shouldn't people pay what is fair (or even more)?

What do you think?

Imagine a doctor who only got paid if the patient was happy with the service and treatment.

Imagine a restaurant where you not only tipped what the server was worth but also paid the restaurant what the service/decor/food/atmospher was worth.

Do we trust people enough to trust their judgment on what to pay?

In this bargain grabbing low economy world will people always underpay?

What do you think?

Are you willing to rely on the busker payment method for at least one of your goods or services? Why or why not?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

P.S. update: I keep thinking about this from time to time. What surfaces often is the inequity of how we as a society pay people. Many professionals prosper, but my friends in retail, food service, and early childhood education struggle with below-median wages and ever shrinking benefits. If we made that voluntary, would it decline even further?

Are people valuing the right things? Is the work provided by that cashier really less valuable to you than you already pay?

I still don't know the definitive answer, so I welcome your opinion. How do we value your service?

(22 September 2012)  

Friday, March 12, 2010

Finding Direction

It's showdown time. It's time to roll forward with a strategy and direction that gains traction, momentum and (dare I say it) revenue.

My years of leadership experience and leadership development time spent at major corporations has not yet paid off with a prosperous training organization. Events have conspired to stand in the way, but mostly what is needed is some "money where your mouth is" leadership. Let's get this party started!

What I do best: provide highly participative workshops to train managers and supervisors how to improve their results.

I had great successes at GE and at (gulp) AIG. I've had some continued contracting success as well. But my company has yet to penetrate the market with a convincing blast of development. The time is now.

Here's the focus for Front Range Leadership, LLC:

Three core workshops on -

As we (yes, there will be new members and partners in the company!) move forward I expect to use this blog to continue expanding our leadership insights AND to provide progress updates on our own growth.

Want to come along for the ride? Sign up to follow, follow our tweats at or just stop by every once in a while at Front Range Leadership and see how we're doing.

All feedback is welcome, and all insights into leadership (especially the three core topics listed above) will be appreciated, evaluated, and probably quoted. And you can quote me on that!

Douglas Brent Smith

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Developing Character

Centered, high performance leaders develop their character as well as their skills.

Character to withstand challenges...

Character to develop meaningful, honest relationships...

Character to make conscious, attentive choices...

Character to live to the fullest while considering the needs of others...

Learning the lessons that life has to teach us builds character.

How we apply those lessons reflects the character that we have developed.

What character traits are you as a leader developing?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Overcoming Limiting Beliefs

Do you have any limiting beliefs?

We all have limiting beliefs. We all think things that may not be in our best interest because they slow us down, hold us back, limit our ability. Many of these beliefs aren't even true.

"I'm not good enough" "They would never agree to that" "My supervisor just doesn't care" "Management just wants to hold you down" - these are all examples of limiting beliefs.

Thinking them long enough can even make them individually true.

Recognizing our own limiting beliefs is the first step to overcoming them.

- What beliefs do you have that may be holding you back?

- When was the last time you let go of a limiting belief and started believing that something was possible for you? What would it take to do that again?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Optimal Learning

What do you as a leader do for optimal learning?

For growth to occur, learning is essential. There is no growth without learning.

Optimal learning balances support and tension. Centered leaders stretch their people compassionately. 

Projects become challenges, but not ordeals. Goals become accountable but not punishing. Courage and compassion walk hand-in-hand.

Optimal learning is the degree of expansion we can endure without breaking. It's knowing when to immerse and when to withdraw. It's work and it's play.

It's not a paradox but rather a balance. Centering helps you find and sustain this delicate balance.

- How do you balance support and tension?

- How do you stretch your people compassionately?

- How do you stretch yourself?

- What are you working on RIGHT NOW?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Learn more in the workshop: Supervising for Success

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Confident Leaders

What do you expect from your people?

Could they possibly achieve more toward your unified vision than YOU ever have -- and would you be emotionally OK with that?

Confident leaders expect their people to exceed their own accomplishments in pursuit of the common vision. It's how high performance leaders multiply their efforts toward success.

Are you confident enough to expect more from your people?

Are you making it possible for your people to succeed?

What will you do today to open more doors to success for your people?

-- Douglas Brent Smith