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Showing posts from 2011

Does Ranking Team Member Performance Make Sense?

Do you rank employees?
Does your organization use a system of listing employees from "top performers" to "bottom performers"? You may call them something else, but do you use that kind of system?
When I worked at GE we were forced, as leaders, to force rank our employees. Everyone had to fit within 9 categories. We used whatever measures we could to arrive at something resembling a logical order.
The problem is, how do you compare across job platforms? How do you compare the performance of a claims adjuster to recruiter? How do you compare a customer service rep to an underwriter?
How do you know that you are measuring the right things?
How do you know that your assessment is accurate and unbiased?
How do you know that next year your company will need the same skills and goals as this year?
If you hired correctly in the first place and have been doing your job as a team leader to develop a cohesive, high performance team that works collaboratively with each other …

High Performance Leaders And Possibilities

Life is too short. Life is full of infinite possibilities. Which scenario are you working?
It's your choice.
There's no doubt that time is our highest premium. And yet, there is so much that we can do. So many possibilities. So many problems to solve, so many goals to achieve. High performance leaders go after those possibilities. They find the people who can best help them, and they find people who they can help.
Possibilities are right there for the right leader to move forward.
Why not get busy on them today?
-- Douglas Brent Smith

Centered Leaders Create Positive Change

Do you feel the need to make radical changes in your team?
Are there deep flaws within your organization that you've just got to transform?
It can be tempting to equate radical with rude. It can seem reasonable to bend rules to change them. Centered leaders know, and practice better habits for change.
Maybe it takes longer. Maybe it involves more people. Certainly, it involves all the clarity, courage, creativity and compassion that a leader can invoke -- but centered leaders find ways to radically change things with dignity and respect.
Revolutionaries need not be ill-mannered or violent.
There are an infinite number of paths to positive change.
How can you approach change more positively today?
-- Douglas Brent Smith

High Performance Leaders Use End-Runs Very Carefully

Have you ever gone over your boss's head?

Have you ever by-passed a team member who could have helped you solve a problem and instead gone to her boss?
It can feel fast. It can feel satisfying. It can ruin your team.
Yes, there ARE times to use an end-run and get to the part of the chain of command that will act fast and solve a pressing problem. But those times are few and tend to look very much like emergencies, or matters of personal privacy. If a team member is breaking the law, you have no viable choice other than to go over their head to authority. To avoid doing so is irresponsible, and in some cases even criminal.
But hopefully in your organization, those instances are rare. Much more common are those times when it simply feels more convenient to skip over someone who seems to be obstructing us and talking to a more powerful, more friendly decision maker.
What does that do to your relationships, though? Does it build, or damage trust?
Does it help your team in the long ru…

Mistakes for Supervisors to Avoid

What kind of mistakes should a supervisor avoid?
There are all kinds of mistakes that you can benefit from, but also an endless number of mistakes that could put you out of business.
One kind of mistake is easily avoided: the mistake you've already made. At least, in theory. Shouldn't we learn the lesson the first time? Shouldn't we be able to re-direct our efforts and do it right? Maybe, but also it's possible that we will repeat the mistake -- again and again, until the lesson is truly learned.
Seriously, mistakes can be valuable learning lessons -- but only if we learn. If we do not learn from our mistakes we most likely get more opportunities in the form of mistakes until we do.
Making mistakes once is no guarantee against repeating them. It takes learning and change to avoid the obvious.
It can be helpful to learn from the mistakes of others. Think about the worst boss you've ever had. You wouldn't want to repeat that set of behaviors would you? But do you…

Centered Leaders Build Confidence

What do you do to build the confidence of your team members?

Centered leaders understand the balance that it takes to provide both support and challenge to team members. Support helps people remain on target even when things get tough. Challenge helps people build confidence by succeeding on their own.
Confidence powers people to take on new work, create new paths, and achieve their goals.
Confidence is a fuel better not to be wasted or stifled.
What more can you do to build confidence within your team?
-- Douglas Brent Smith

When Should Leaders Micromanage?

After decades of developing leadership to include influence, rather than control, we've seen a return to micromanagement. Bosses will be bosses and sometimes that means doing their best to control every little action on the team.
It didn't work well in the past, and it doesn't work well now.
There are instances when leaders must exercise more control: introducing new team members, developing raw talent, handling an emergency. But, once that new team member has an understanding of the mission, once that raw talent is not so raw, once the emergency is over, centered leaders do well to return to an approach of shared leadership. Our influence is made greater by sharing it with others, not by lording over them with a tight grip and reckless insistence on details that match your style, but not theirs.
The art of leadership is recognizing and assessing one's own tendency to micromanage. Centered leaders let go of control to increase their influence.
Who have you been trying …

Noble Goals

Centered leaders help people to achieve noble goals.
It's fairly common for leaders, in search of performance, to pound (metaphorically) on their people about achieving goals. It can be annoying.
Of course your people want to achieve goals. They want to do something important. They want to have an impact in the world. They want to feel valued and valuable.
They want to achieve noble goals: things that matter in the world, that make things better, that do no harm, that reflect a kind of creative beauty and significance.
Why not help them with that?
-- Douglas Brent Smith

High Performance Leaders Make Courageous, Creative Change

How many times have you seen a problem solved and wondered if the solution was worth the effort?
How often have you seen leadership drive change that no one wants and that in the end creates no value?
All too often, probably.
The solution to any tough problem should include a clear change that makes a courageous, creative difference.
Things should be made better by change. Processes should be streamlined by change. Customers and team members should find more joy in interacting because of change.
Any change that delivers less is a problem unsolved, a promise broken.
As centered and high performance leaders, we can do better than that.
What can you do today that will make your next change effort both more courageous and more creative?
-- Douglas Brent Smith
Solving Problems | Achieving your goals

Developing Core Skills

Centered leaders know that their development is never finished. Learning how to use your strengths is important to building a prosperous future.
Learning how to deal with your shortcomings prepares a leader for avoiding blind spots, hazards, and careless mistakes.
Centered leaders are intentional and dedicated about the time they spend developing courage, clarity, creativity and compassion.
Courage to speak and act with conviction, character and the will to accomplish a task or goal.
Clarity to know which version of the truth people are sharing and to focus intentionally on a well understood mission.
Creativity to find new answers, solve persistent problems, and introduce marvelous and pleasing new works.
Compassion to consider the wants and needs of other people in everything that they do. To do no harm and where ever possible, to do as much good as they can.
Balancing each of these four core skills is the very act of centering: finding that place where you operate at your peak and bring …

Re-invention Problems

Have you ever faced a problem that was so bizarre, so gnarly, that you couldn't even begin to think of an answer?
Conversely, have you ever lived with a problem for years before even discovering that it WAS a problem?
Some problems are not for solving but for re-invention. What can we create new that better serves our mission?
When we get the mission right, the problems get easier.
-- Douglas Brent Smith

Reinventing Ourselves

How often do you change?
Not little changes, not incremental changes, but really big changes. Changes that radically effect the way you operate. Changes that send you in a new direction. Changes that even readjust your circle of friends.
That's how fast the world is changing -- in ways that force us to change or fall behind. Small changes are not enough, we need to frequently reinvent ourselves.
Centered leaders know that it's everyone's job to constantly reinvent ourselves.
What is your next change?
What is your next reinvention?
-- Douglas Brent Smith

Problems Are Often Conflicts of Interest

Problems come in many forms but often they represent conflicts of interest. People can disagree on what they want and clutch onto what they have in ways that create shortages and unnecessary competition over resources, people, and ideals.

When there is competition over resources it can slow a team down. What's a leader to do?
Start the conversation. Create the dialogue. Centered leaders uncover what's hidden to probe more deeply into the causes of a situation. Maybe it really is a problem -- or maybe it is a misunderstanding or misperception.  Misunderstandings can often be negotiated out of. Misperceptions can be clarified.
Problems are often conflicts of interest. Solving the problem requires sorting out and dealing with each conflict and each interest.
What conflict of interest are you currently experiencing? Who can you talk to about it?
What interests might you share? How could that lead to a solution?
-- Douglas Brent Smith

Learn more in the workshop: Solving Problems

Centered Leaders Create Conditions of Equality

Have you ever had the urge to get even?
Perhaps someone did you such a serious wrong that the only way you felt you could purge yourself of the bad feeling was to pass that bad feeling back to them in the form of revenge.
Great plays and movies have been dedicated to the pursuit of revenge. But great happiness is not the result of revenge.
Getting even by lashing out, striking back, and causing harm (whether that's passively or actively) only perpetuates a cycle of harm.
Better than revenge is dialogue. Better than revenge is creating equal footing to talk things thru, to figure out the source of the harm and to heal that source.
Centered leaders resist the temptation to get even by creating conditions of equality.
What can you do today to bring conditions somewhere closer to a level of equality?
Doing so will neutralize a large amount of ill will.
Doing so will help create a better world, not a more aggressive one.
-- Douglas Brent Smith

Does Punishment Work to Motivate People?

Do you believe that people only respond to two basic motivations, punishment and reward?
If that's the case, then punishment should be an effective motivator, right? People will do whatever they have to do to avoid punishment, right?
Fear certainly does effect behavior. A strong leader may create an atmosphere where people will do what they are expected to do to avoid punishment. Fear may prod some people into towing the line. They will do what they are told to do. But, they will likely do no more.
Fear creates a lowest common denominator mentality. Of course we do not want to be punished so of course we will do whatever it takes to avoid that punishment. Sometimes, whatever it takes creates side-effects that leaders don't want, don't count on, and don't deal with effectively. It can spiral into an non-virtuous cycle of failure.
No leader really wants that.
Here's one of the biggest problems with leading by punishing:
People find ways to get even with those who pun…

Force Is A Poor Problem Solver

What happens when you solve a problem by force?
It can be any kind of force that pushes people beyond their will to do something they do not want to do. It can be effectively on a short term basis, but eventually leads to side effects that are more intractable and resilient than the problem that was solved.
This includes military action, cuts to staff, reduction in wages, reduction in scheduled work hours (resulting in cuts in pay), punishing people for doing what was standard operating procedure a day ago, and on and on.
Think about a time when you were forced to make a change and had no say in it. I'm not talking about gentle changes to a process or doing things differently despite our stubborn impulses to stay in the same path. Sometimes (often) we DO need to change beyond our will. But there are ways to get people to change their will without forcing them to.
Forcing anyone to do anything creates side effects.
Solving problems by force creates new problems that are persistent and …

Centered Leaders are Patient

How much patience do you have with your team?
Yes, it is a leader's job sometimes to be an impatient challenger. We need to constantly raise our standards and push the edge of what can be achieved. We need to meet our goals.
While doing that -- while being impatient with stasis or low performance -- we must also be patient with our people. Finding what is standing in the way of success, rather than losing patience with our people, takes more time but is far more effective.
Do your people know the goals? Then your impatience will not help to achieve them: your help will. Your guidance. Your persistence. Your focus. Your creativity. Your support.
Leaders who lose patience lose support.
People have little patience for leaders without patience and will seek other paths as soon as it is feasible. That's not double-talk, but reality: your own patience will pay off with the persistence and loyalty of your people.
Much of the business world has abandoned loyalty to their people as a v…

Should Team Members Compete With Each Other?

How does inserting competition into your daily relationships effect those relationships?
When I was very young I competed for places on sports teams. I had to be better skilled (or in some cases better connected) than other potential team members just to make the team. Once on the team, we were often pitted against each other in competition for the inner rewards of being on the team: playing regularly, getting positive feedback, getting the admiration of our peers in the crowd.
But the cost was ever so high. Competing so strongly against other youth who played the same position, we did not help each other. Instead of making each other stronger and better prepared, we worked on our personal skills and hoped our own places were secure. They weren't.
There is always someone better at what you do. If they are on the same team and do not help you, they may stay better than you but they are not as strong as they could be -- and of course, neither are you.
Team members who are forced…

Is That Problem Worth Fixing?

How much time do you spend working on things that aren't worth working on?
If we are honest with ourselves, the answer is probably "too much".
That goes for problems, too. We can spend an inordinate amount of time trying to fix any number of things that really do not require fixing. They do not need our attention because they are likely to go away on their own, or they are problems we really don't care about, or maybe because they are simply the perceptions of problems.
Maybe they are just another way of doing something.
Before you solve a problem, are you sure it's worth fixing?
-- Douglas Brent Smith

Centered Leaders Create Sustainable Success

Have you ever worked for a short time leader who focused on short time results, at the expense of any sustainable success?
I once worked for a company that held a culture led by what we called parachute leaders. They would show up from some other remote (to us) site, where they apparently had a quick turn-around success record, and as if parachuting in to the rescue would proceed to radically try to change the culture, chop the headcount, and trim the team up for sale.
It was demoralizing. Quarter to quarter, for a year or two, they would look like superstars. But, never having been with any team for more than two years they never saw the end results of their slash and burn change making. Eventually, the positive results turned sour. But by then the organization had been sold. Sometimes, after the results took a nose dive, the organization would be dismantled and scrapped.
Real leaders create sustainable success. Real leaders create teams that produce growth without the harmful side …

Centered Leaders Confront Injustice

As a leader, are you often confronted with injustice? Do you witness actions and events that are simply unfair?
Anyone who lives long enough will be frequently faced with injustice -- whether it's felt personally or witnessed effecting other people. Many people ignore and walk away from injustice. It's too hard of a battle, it's not my fight, it's not the right time...any number of rationalizations can stop us from doing what in our hearts we know we should do: confront evil.
Did I say evil?
Yes, injustice is a kind of evil. It may not even be intentional, but it must not be permitted to stand, because it gains strength and credibility the longer that it does. When we have come to permit and then accept injustice it becomes an institutionalized part of our lives.
After thousands of years of injustice, it's easy to think that it's already too late, that we're all really institutionalized to injustice until it is practically an invisible part of our value syste…

Noble Goals

What is a noble goal?
A noble goal leads you, and others, to produce work that makes life better. A noble goal does no harm in the process of doing much good.
You know that one of your goals is noble when you are not the main beneficiary of its success.
Noble goals make you feel good, but they are not really about you at all. It is in service to others that we find our most profound joy.
While we can achieve anything we set our hearts, minds, and souls on, it is our duty to focus on noble goals.
What noble goal will you work on today?
-- Douglas Brent Smith

Genuine Values Persist

Goals change. We can get part way to the end of our goal and realize that it no longer makes sense.
Our boss can change our agenda, nullifying a goal we had been working on.
Even our mission can shift when our company is bought by another company.
Goals change. But genuine values persist.
What matters to you as an individual, the values that you live by, tend to last for a very long time.
Do you know your values?
Have you written down the values that drive your actions, that steer your course?
It's the one single act that will most help you make important decisions: formalizing and expressing your true values.
High performance leaders operate with clearly defined and articulated values. They express what they believe.
Why not do that right now?
-- Douglas Brent Smith
Solving Problems | Achieving your goals

Strategic and Communication Skills

Supervisors often bring strong technical skills to the job. When they have worked in technical jobs prior to becoming a supervisor, they were often the best at what they do. They know the ground level part of their business well enough to solve problems and deal with day to day issues.
Leading is all that and more. High performance leadership requires attention to detail AND a constant view of the big picture: where is your team, your market, and your customer base headed? What does the future hold?
Strong supervisors learn to add strategic and communication skills to their technical ability.
What are you doing today to develop your sense of the big picture?
-- Douglas Brent Smith

Are You Grateful?

Do you appreciate what you have, who you know, and how you've gotten where you are?
Does your experience give you time to appreciate the joy found in that experience?
Gratitude is a kind of fuel for centered leaders. Appreciating the good in what is gives us new ways to move forward toward more good. See it, and more is sure to follow.
A grateful leader fears no shortfall, because there is always more good to come.
Just look at all the good that has already found its way to you...
-- Douglas Brent Smith

Centered Leaders and Acts of Kindness

What does kindness have to do with leadership?
Only a truly centered leader can co-create the kind of organization that makes a positive difference in the world, that sustains the most life-affirming values, and that binds people together in mutually beneficial ways.
Centered leaders focus on positive acts of kindness.
It is amazing how many of our problems relate to unexpressed kindness, or the lack of kindness. So much of what we endure is unnecessary. So much of our potential is within our kindness.
What little acts of kindness can you as a leader perform today -- for your people, for your customers, for your world?
This can take the form of:
- kind words - anonymous gifts - skillful coaching - forgiveness - help - smiling - playfulness - a generous sense of humor
What other acts of kindness can you think of?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Centered Leaders Know the Difference Between Mission and Ego

How do you know when your vision has crossed the line into your ego? Is what you want part of a noble plan or a symptom of a simple pain?
Centered leaders test their vision against their values to separate character from ambition.
They do this by:
- Asking people they trust to give them very honest feedback
- Checking in on their values: are they living them or just aspiring to them? - Comparing their actions to their values
- Comparing their vision to the character they want to be remembered for
Centered leaders know the difference between their mission and their ego.
How will you stay centered in your quest for success today?
-- Douglas Brent Smith
Solving Problems. Achieving Your Goals

Recruit and Develop Your Team's Talent

How much time should you spend recruiting your key players?
How much time should you spend developing the players you already have to become the key players you need?
It's not a strict equation, but instinctively a leader should spend as much time developing the existing members as the leader does spend looking for new talent. Ignore either one and opportunities are lost for taking your team to the next level.
The synergistic combination of recruiting and developing provides you with: New insightsFresh approaches to your processesInnovative solutions to your problemsAccelerated momentum toward your goalsAn invigorated sense of energy Why not give it some thought today: how can you recruit your as yet unseen talent? And, how can you better develop the talented people you already have?
High performance leaders recruit and develop powerful players. Get the right people and develop them fully.
-- Douglas Brent Smith

Team Appeal

What do other people think of your team?
What do non-team members say about your team, the way you operate, and your results?
Are you creating a stir in the world? Is your team making a difference?
How can you upgrade your team's curb appeal? Because you will need to recruit some of the best people available to take your team to the next level, won't you?
What will make your team so exciting that strangers want to join?
Some possibilities include:
a vision so compelling that it energizes peoplea culture of adventure, excitement, and creativityteam members who clearly succeed as part of the teamresults that make things betterprocesses that are fundialogue that leads to lasting relationshipsways to resolve conflict that dignify everyone involvedfield-changing products or servicesenergized and delighted customers
What ideas can you add to the list?
What will make your team SO exciting that strangers want to join?
-- Douglas Brent Smith
Developing Leadership Skills

Centered Leaders Say Thank You

How often do you say thank you?
Think about the supervisors that you've worked for in the past. Do any stand out in particular? Did your favorite ones tend to thank you -- often and sincerely, for the work that you'd done? Did they ever thank you for simply being who you are?
Centered leaders say thank you. A lot.
A centered leaders most frequent phrase is "thank you".
With all of the emotions that we must deal with in the workplace, there is one emotion that I'm sure everyone could use more of: appreciation.
Expressing sincerely, thoughtful, specific appreciation is a lubricant to leadership success. You can't run your engine effectively without it. You also can't fake it. Centered leaders do more than express appreciation -- they first find ways to feel it by appreciating the talents, skills, and efforts of their people.
If you are paying attention, the opportunities are all around you.
Are you saying thank you enough to your people?
-- Douglas Brent Smith

High Performance Leaders Make the Tough Choices

Are you ever faced with tough choices?
As leaders, we are often forced to choose between and uncomfortable decision and one that impacts people in negative ways. How do we make budget cuts without cutting people?
How do we change our direction without leaving some valuable people behind? How do we innovate while maintaining our cash flow?
These and more frequently create the need for quick and decisive actions.
Centered leaders make the tough choices without regrets or blame.
That takes a balanced, experienced, and practiced amount of clarity, courage, creativity, and compassion.
Clarity to know your vision and mission and all that includes (and does not include). Courage to make the tough decisions even when they may be unpopular. The strength to get the help you need in making those decisions and in pushing questions forward to get what may be unspoken or hidden answers. Creativity to find solutions that expand your possibilities, rather than limit them. Taking the chances to discover wh…

What If A Customer Is Impossible to Please?

Do you have some customers who are never happy? Despite your best efforts, do some customers just seem to be a bad fit?
Of course a business owes it to their customers to deliver the best possible service, to care with passionate caring about keeping promises. Organizations must work thru their mistakes and constantly improve their level of service to their customers. But, is it just possible that some customers can't be pleased?
They ask too much. They take too much time. They complain constantly. They go over your head. They soak up valuable resources over transactions that should have been over long ago. You've probably experienced some of them.
The reality is that some people are simply unhappy. Not much that you can do will keep those unhappy people happy. Their pleasure is in pulling you to their level of unhappiness. Don't accept that. Don't go for that. Stay polite, stay professional, and take care of yourself and your people: set them free.
Customers who can&#…

Meeting Deadlines

Do you have any team members who seem to miss every deadline?

You've extended them over and over again, hoping for success and still the deadline rolls around and they are not finished.
Why is it that some team members can meet their deadlines and others can not?
The answer may be in the types of assignments that they are taking on -- or it might be in how they perceive those deadlines.
Team members who miss nearly every deadline are saying more than they know.
They may be saying more than you know. As a leader, it's your job to find out.
As a leader, how often do you have coaching conversations with those people who are working on important deadlines? Do they know how important they are? Do they see the big picture of how their deadline connects to the plans of others?
High performance leaders pay attention to deadlines, make certain that they are possible to achieve, help provide the resources needed to achieve them, and lthen insist that those deadlines be met.
If you're…

High Performance Leaders Stick to Their Priorities

As a leader, do you find yourself tempted to sidestep your priorities on occasion?
Do you have prominent customers or team members who ask you to go around your selection criteria, to avoid your top priorities, and to instead prioritize their requests?
While that may be occasionally necessary, I do have my doubts.
There is a reason that high performance leaders set and keep their priorities. Otherwise it is all too easy to slip into a mediocre system of handling only what is right in front of your face, and missing out on your big goals. You can even miss out on your mission.
Priorities are most effective when they are clearly exercised daily.
High performance leaders stick to their priorities.
-- Douglas Brent Smith
Teleclasses and Workshops for Front Line Managers and Supervisors

Multiply Your Joy

How do leaders (or anyone else for that matter) increase their happiness? How can you increase your joy?
One way is to be aware of joy when it happens. For many people (hopefully) that happens many times a day. To multiply those feelings it's necessary to first truly feel them, savor them, and reflect on your role in creating those feelings.
We have far more to do with creating our own happiness than we'll likely ever know.
Embrace your moments of joy in order to multiply them.
With enough practice, happiness becomes a way of life.
Wouldn't you rather work with a happy leader than an unhappy one? So in a way you owe it to your work as a leader to embrace happiness.
- Think about your most recent "rush" of happiness. Experience it again by thinking about it with sincere appreciation.
- Who can you help create a moment of joy today by bringing your own joy into the room?
-- Douglas Brent Smith
Teleclasses and Workshops for Front Line Supervisors

How Performance Leaders Must Deal with Paradox

What do you do with paradox? (A paradox is a seemingly true statement or group of statements that lead to a contradiction or a situation which seems to defy logic or intuition. -- Wikipedia)
How do you explain your company's need to reduce expenses and expand at the same time?
High performance leaders must deal with paradox. They must deal with the fact that sometimes we need to hold what appear to be two conflicting ideas at the same time in similar (if not equal) measure. There is no easy answer. We wrestle with complicated problems that have no simple explanation. Some must be left to evolve. Some must be carefully sculpted into a sensible blend. But our issues are often not a yes or no proposition.
How leaders explain their need for paradox determines their credibility.
How do you expand energy without using public domain acquisition of property?
How do you reform banking without failing to compete internationally?
How do you adopt austerity measures and reduce unemployment?
Faced w…

High Performance Leaders Get Feedback Often

Have you ever wondered what on earth was going on in the mind of a leader?
Have you found yourself in the throws of the effects of a decision that was far more serious and pervasive than the leader knew?
I can remember being in situations where the team members were saying things like "change is good, but this is chaos!" and "why would they do such a thing?" and "do they realize that this will drive the best people out of here?"
Did these leaders do these things on purpose to rock the boat so thoroughly?Well, maybe sometimes. There are leaders who trash and burn a team to move it to another place -- sometimes (rarely) for the better but usually just closer to that downward spiral of dissolution.
But most of the time that I've seen leaders make catastrophic decisions it has been from well-intentioned ignorance. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but they had no idea how disastrous it would be. They could have known, though if they had just bothered to…

When The Truth Requires Clarification

Have you ever thought that you understood something, only to later discover that you didn't get it at all?
Have you ever been deceived by a "near truth" that you had wanted to be true and so you filled in the blanks that weren't there, only to discover later that it wasn't true?
The truth takes work.
What we believe, and what is true are not always the same thing. While we can (sometimes) control our beliefs, it takes more work to dig down and discover the truth behind a statement, a story, a view.
The truth often requires clarification. Shared meaning is not automatic.
I remember times when I truly wanted to believe that what someone was saying resonated with the truth because I liked that person. And, they may have believed that their statements were true. But, I've learned to be careful about "versions of the truth" and "degrees of the truth. The best way to find out if someone is SAYING what you think you are HEARING is to clarify. Ask for e…

Finding the Cause of Performance Problems

What do you do with a performance problem on your team?
How do you know what is causing your team member and your team to miss a goal or deliverable?
Do you automatically think of it as a people problem, or do you dig deeper?
High performance leaders identify the causes of performance problems in collaboration with the people involved.
If your evidence is pointing to one individual, talk with that individual about what is standing in the way. It may surprise you.
Think of track that runners use during a race. They start in different lanes, but all of the runners share the same track. If it is muddy, it effects them all. If it is in perfect condition, they all have conditions that are conducive to running their best race.
But some will contend for the win and some will simply finish the race. It doesn't make them bad people, it just means that there will almost always be faster runners in the race, and runners that will not quite compete with those faster runners. In a way, that's …

Parallel Problem Solving

Have you ever had a boss who seems to constantly confront you with new problems?
Everyday there is something new for you to solve, some new challenge that boss gives to you personally and then dashes off.
I had a boss like that once. I often wondered why he trusted so many problems to me? Why was I personally in charge of so many vital issues on the team?
Then I became a bit flattered by the notion. If my boss was giving all those problems to me, he must really trust me. He must really think that I'm a quality thinker and problem solving. That must be it. How cool is that?
And then I realized: he was asking several people about the same problems. He was parallel processing solutions in the laboratories of his team members' minds. One or more of us would come up with viable solutions. One or more of us would develop ideas that the boss either couldn't or didn't have the time to develop himself. And they would be different ideas than if we were all in the same room, when in…

Problems Mean We're Ready to Grow

How do you know when you're ready to grow?
Since we basically have two choices: growth or decay, our best choice is always growth.
The need for growth is always around us and some signs are more clear than others.
Having problems, for example, is a clear sign that we're ready for growth.
We need to grow to acquire the skills we need to tackle those problems. We need to grow beyond our limitations. We need to grow as people in our key strengths of clarity, courage, creativity and compassion. We need to grow.
So if you have problems, don't let them shove you in the direction of giving up to decay. Instead, smile and take them as the dashboard for growth that they are.
Having problems is a great sign that you're ready to grow.

-- Douglas Brent Smith
Leadership Teleclasses and Workshops

Helping Other People Solve Problems

As a front line leader, how much time do you spend helping other people to solve their problems?
Not the people who report to you -- their problems are YOUR problems, too. But, people around you, perhaps your peers, maybe your friends -- people who simply have tough problems that need help. How often do you help?
I remember with great fondness times that friends have helped me to solve problems. I was stuck, I was in over my head, didn't know what to do about basic problems (like repairing a car or getting a refrigerator up a flight of stairs) and friends have always come to the rescue.
Some problems are more complicated than that of course, and friends are invaluable then as well. Talking it through, exploring your options, even just letting words come out of your own mouth that you need to hear (a little like therapy?) help in hundreds of ways.
By proactively staying willing to play that role for others: to help them with our problems we not only quietly create a network of people w…

Solving Problems and Perspective

Have you noticed how much our ability to solve problems relies on our perspective?
Sometimes we get too tight to think. Sometimes our thinking is so narrow that even the walls seem to close in on us as we struggle with a persistent problem.
It costs almost nothing to take a fifteen and think it over.
Talk with a trusted friend. Maybe the conversation will be about the problem at hand or maybe it will be about something else. Take a break. Many problems look smaller after a cup of coffee and a friendly conversation.
Isn't it worth a try?
-- Douglas Brent Smith
Workshops and Teleclasses for Front Line Supervisors

Solving Problems With the Help of Other People

What do you do with problems that you can't solve?
Do you have a few aggravating problems that persist beyond every individual effort you've been able to develop?
Maybe it's one of those problems you can't solve on your own.
There's no shame in that. Every supervisor and manager has a constant list of persistent problems nagging them, bothering them, percolating in the background just waiting to bubble over. We can let them bubble, or we can get help. People solve problems with the help of other people.
Find people who can help. Think of the biggest, toughest problems that people face, and you'll likely see that they best way for people to solve those problems is with the help of other people. It's why we hire professionals to take care of problems that we could never solve, but that they have all the training and experience to solve painlessly.
It's just one of the thousands of reasons why other people are the best thing going -- collectively we are so much…

Doors to Creative Solutions

Do you have a leadership problem that is just too stubborn to go away? Is finding a solution proving to be difficult?
There's no need to give up.
The doors of creativity are there for you to open. Doors that include collaboration, courage, connections, and surprises. Doors that let the light thru even when they're closed. Doors for which you might need to ask a friend for the keys.
But the keys are there. So ask.
Dig a little deeper. Involve someone new. Try something unusual. Look at your problem from a new angle. Focus on expanding your possibilities.
High performance leaders find creative solutions to stubborn problems.
Yours is coming -- keep looking.
-- Douglas Brent Smith
Leadership Training for Front Line Supervisors

Creating Alignment

What is the connection between your actions and goals?
How do your goals connect to your overall mission and purpose?
Do you have a sense that what you do matters and gets you closer to accomplishing what is most important to you?
High performance leaders align their actions to their goals and their goals to their mission.
It's how they get things done that matter.
It's the filter of success. Does that task that someone is asking you to do contribute to your purpose? Then do it. If it doesn't, negotiate another path, another step, perhaps another set of hands to get it done.
Our time is too valuable to spend it on anything that does not contribute to our happiness, and our happiness is largely dependent on doing what matters most to us and that contributes to the well-being of others.
We can run, we can hide, but without that alignment of action, goals, and mission how will we ever reach our potential?
Alignment creates that guidance that we need in times of uncertainty.…

Centered Leaders and Beliefs

Do you know why you believe what you believe?
It's easy to take for granted that what we each belief is (of course) the truth. It's common to adopt a set of beliefs without giving them too much thought or analysis. That can make for a comfortable and confident lifestyle, but it can also lead to a flawed value system and unproductive behaviors.
Think of the person who grows up in an environment of distrust or abuse. To them, that may well seem normal, but to others that will not be welcome.
Or consider the person who grows up in a home where people are not valued as much as individual effort and success. Right or wrong, that person may struggle when placed in an environment where team work is valued over individual desire.
Centered leaders consider the needs of others as they work toward accomplishing noble goals. To do that, we must consider how we are filtering those needs through our own lens of perception. Do we even see what people want and need or do we see them as someh…

Letting Go

Are you working hard on any goals that you shouldn't be?
Are some things getting in the way of your success?
It's easy to accumulate a full schedule of meetings and tasks surrounding goals that were not ours to begin with but now consume all of our time.
Bold leaders weed out those types of goals. Strong leaders focus on the goals that they align with their mission. High performance leaders let go of goals that don't belong.
When we let go of the wrong goals it makes room for the right ones.
Maybe that goal made sense at one time. Maybe it was thrust to you from someone else who meant well but who was not fully away of your mission or the list of goals you were already working on. Maybe the goal just doesn't belong to you.
What goal should you let go of today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

The Way Things Are

How do you feel about the way things are?
Is this the world you dreamed of as a child?
Are there things about this world that you would like to change?
The task of a leader is to improve the way things are.
Because we each cannot do it alone, we approach the world thru the role of leader: someone to rally the people, gather the resources, and get the job done.
There's so much work to be done.
When do we start? How do we get moving?
It's always the right time to improve the way things are.
What's first on your list today?
-- Douglas Brent Smith

Borrowing A Bit From John Wesley

John Wesley, the famous theologian who was instrumental in launching what became the United Methodist Church and who spear headed a huge Christian revival, once said:
“Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can.” (quoted at ThinkExist)

It's been quoted in various ways. The message is clear. Do good no matter what: no excuses. It can feel like a full time job, but in a way, isn't it our only job? Don't we all want to leave footprints that matter by creating a better world, developing better relationships, and helping those who can't help themselves?
I'd like to paraphrase Mr. Wesley a bit today in the context of centered leadership and say:
Do good where ever you are, even if you're in the wrong place.
What's the worng place? Any place where you're not appreciated. Any place where you are resisted. Any place where you feel like …

In The Way of Your Goals

What might stop you from reaching your goal?
Every goal has a list of things which stand in the way and must be dropped.
Does that sound harsh? Does that sound cold?
Even as I write this I can think of at least a dozen things that might stand in the way of me reaching my goal-centered tasks for today.
Maybe you have a list as well.
Things like...
-- excuses -- time wasters -- ambiguities -- mixed priorities -- other people's goals that don't match yours -- recreational activities -- too much facebook, twitter, etc...
You name it. Your own goals have their share of roadblocks with one cure: drop them.
Get rid of whatever stands in the way of your goal, or watch it stand in the way.
You decide.
-- Douglas Brent Smith

Solving Problems in Groups

Groups solve problems faster when they take the time to know each other.
It's not magic, but it's essential.
I've worked with groups that did not want to warm-up, that did not want to get to know each other, that did not want to talk about feelings. They wanted to jump in, analyze, find a solution and move.
The trouble was in agreeing to the possibilities. Without knowing each other, how can we judge each other's possibilities?
Without knowing what makes us feel the way that we feel, how can we assess each other's ideas?
Without taking the time to know each other, we can get stuck in posturing, staging, hiding, and diverting.
Take time to get to know each person in your project, on your team.
It will pay off.
-- Douglas Brent Smith

When Followers Are Hard To Find

Not every cause creates a buzz. Not every leader find the people needed to move the movement. Sometimes followers are hard to find.
Have you ever tried to lead an effort and found that you were mostly alone?
What happens next?
Remembering that if it was easy, it would have been done long ago, leaders with a focus on making necessary and timely change keep at it. Followers may come and go, but the cause remains.
Centered leaders lead even when followers are hard to find.
That's the part that calls for influence.
Are you ready?
-- Douglas Brent Smith

Communicate Your Goals

Who do you tell about your goals?
Who knows what you're working on and can ask you about your progress?
Once we tell people about our goals they know what we're working on. We can then choose to go about our business as usual or we can focus on achieving those goals. The people we tell about our goals will have a natural curiosity about our success. Wouldn't it be great to be able to share that success? Wouldn't it be great to actually achieve those goals?
State your goals. Again and again. Tell everyone who will listen. Ask them to hold you to it.
Then see what happens...
-- Douglas Brent Smith

Dessert of Darkness

Lead long enough, and some type of crisis will develop. Stay the course and eventually you will find obstacles to overcome.
Resistance is a natural part of progress. Difficulty is bound to follow innovation. How do you handle it?
Does every leader eventually travel thru a dessert of darkness when you're not sure of the answer and not even sure of the direction?
What will pull YOU thru?
Having an answer before you get to that dessert is critical to success.
-- Douglas Brent Smith

Time and Success

As a leader, do you factor in time as a part of your plan?
Not just deadlines, but the time it takes for people to develop, for logistics to fall in place, for people to see the value of your goal?
It's tricky, I know. Too much time and your opportunity can pass you by. Too little time and things might not quite coalesce the way you need them to.
Centered leaders know that time is a critical part of success and that the amount needed varies. Stay the path.
Are you giving your big ideas the time they need to develop?
-- Douglas Brent Smith

Six Tips for Creating Deeper Conversations

How do you create deeper conversations? A deeper conversation takes you beyond small talk and into shared meaning. During a deeper conversation you feel listened to and you listen and understand both the facts and feelings of everyone in the conversation.
Here are six tips that help to create deeper conversations.
1. Listen actively with empathy.
2. Identify facts AND feelings.
3. Share responsibility for success.
4. Think creatively about what you say AND hear.
5. Express yourself openly and honestly. No hidden agenda.
6. Nurture your relationships with kindness.
How can you use these six points more often? What I've seen work is to keep them on a sheet of paper nearby as you intentionally practice creating deeper conversations. You might not hit all six at first -- or every time -- but by making yourself aware of the possibility of using these six tips I think you will find a higher quality and deeper level of conversation filling your life.
Isn't it worth a try?
Want to g…

Ask Deeper Questions

Do you find yourself in conversations that linger on the small talk without getting to any substance?
It's perfectly natural to initiate a conversation at a shallow level by talking about sports, or the weather, or current events -- but how do we take it to the next level?
To really develop vital relationships, shouldn't we take our conversations to deeper levels? Shouldn't we find out more about what each of us is all about? Shouldn't we get the important issues -- things we really care about -- up in the air, examine them, probe them, and find some kind of shared meaning (whether or not we agree)?
If you're still talking about the weather or sports, try asking deeper questions. People crave deeper conversations.
What kinds of deeper questions? I'm sure you can come up with some great ones (and I'm eager to hear what they are). Here are some that I've heard or used:
- How do you feel about that? - What would you do about that if you could do anything? …

Our Best Memories

Are your best memories about things or are they about people?
Things can make us happy -- in the moment. People (and relationships) can sustain us for a lifetime.
Whether you are a front line leader or an executive or somewhere in between -- people are the true magic in any organization. The times we create together, the projects we bring to the finish line and the goals that we achieve are all because of how well we worked together as people.
Happy times are happy because of the people involved. The road to that happiness may sometimes be rocky, but it is in the sharing, the caring, and the bonding that we become who we are and filter our memories.
I can sometimes be isolated for long stretches of time working on a project, writing a piece, or designing something that thrills me. But it is when I share ideas, deeper conversations, and time together with other people that I am most happy -- and it is those times that I most fondly remember.
Who do you remember the most fondly?
Who challenge…