Sunday, July 31, 2011

Fear and Feedback

When we find ourselves in the middle of a problem, fear can slow us down.

Fear can immobilize us just as we are about to achieve our goals.

Fear can be a signal, but it does not have to be a brake.

Fear is feedback, not your fate.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Problem Solving Collaboration

Do you try to tackle all problems on your own, or do you work with other people?

A problem solved collaboratively has a better chance of success than one solved in isolation.

Even some things that seem like individual problems benefit from the help of others who take an interest in your success and may even help to hold you accountable.

Who can you work with today to tackle your most pressing problem?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Centered Leadership Focus

Centered leaders stay ahead in the field without getting lost in the weeds.

How do they do it?

By getting precise, open, honest feedback and using it.

By keeping their focus on their vision, regardless of the distractions.

By building teams of energized, focused, centered team members.

Sound tough? That's why it's a full time job.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Leadership and Process Improvement

As a leader, how much attention do you give to improving processes? Do you watch your team install a process and then simply let it flow on and on -- or do you drive a constant focus to improve that process?

Too often I've seen leaders spend their efforts trying to fix people, when the center of their problems is usually broken processes and procedures.

Any process can be improved until it's no longer necessary. And then you can shut it down. It's work is done.

So keep improving those processes. If you're still doing it, you can still improve it.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Monday, July 18, 2011

Leadership and Feedback

How quickly do you get feedback on the job you are doing?

How often do your people receive feedback directly from you? from your customers?

High performance leaders know that the faster you get your feedback, the shorter is your road to higher quality.

What can you do today to increase the speed of your feedback?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Art of Leadership: Conflict and Peace

Do you spark conflict? Do you avoid it?

Do you see benefit to fair-minded, passionate conflict where people are still respected but the issues are tackled aggressively?

The art of leadership includes sparking conflict that is not self-serving and establishing peace that is not surrender.

Which of the two requires your immediate attention today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Best Result

Is the best result what you really want?

I know you want a result that is best for you -- but often we can confuse what is best for us and our teams vs. what we seem to really want.

This can work against us.

How do we overcome this?

Check in on what you really, really want. What is it that you are hoping for? Is that aligned with your vision and goals?

If it is, go full speed ahead. Make it happen. Get busy achieving your goals.

And if it isn't, it's time to talk it over with someone who can help you with that.

Or would you rather get something other than what you want?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Reluctant Team Members

Have you ever had people on your team that didn't seem to belong there?

For whatever reasons, they seemed unhappy and discontent. Despite your best efforts to engage them, they didn't quite connect and in fact stubbornly resisted connecting.

Most teams get some reluctant team members. Effective teams do something about it. It's an act of kindness to help reluctant team members either move forward or move on.

Sometimes moving on is the best thing for them. It even strengthens your team.

It's not something you do casually or without compassion. It's something you do carefully and intentionally. But sometimes it has to be done.


- Do they participate enthusiastically at team meetings?
- Do they come up with new ideas?
- Do they support the ideas of others?
- Do they support and exemplify your team's values?
- Do they work to support your team's vision?
- Are they helping your team to meet it's goals?
- Do they speak enthusiastically about your team's future?
- Do they interact effectively with other team members?

While it may not be necessary to get a yes answer on all of these questions, too many "no's" will tell you something important about what's going on and the need for change.

Are you ready?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Monday, July 4, 2011

Dealing with Loss

How fast do you expect people to "get over" dealing with loss?


I find that often we expect people to be over it all too quickly. We move quickly thru our own loss on the surface to give the appearance of normality and cling to some kind -- any kind -- of routine to get us back on track. But what is back on track? To what extend is there no going back? How do we acknowledge our true sense of loss and how do we allow others to do the same?

I saw a funny play the other night, "Becky's New Car" at the Theater Company of Lafayette. It's a charming comedy filled with human foible type laughs and some serious explorations into what makes us who we are. Comedy that also provokes thinking is a treasure.

One of the characters is broadly sketched for his many faults. He's funny because he's so seriously concerned with his own needs that he hardly sees the needs of others. So we laugh. And we laugh at his tight clinging to the past, especially the loss of his ex-wife. It's a death that society would expect him to be over and ready to move on. The audience laughs as he references his loss (and his attempts at recovery) over and over. And, there is something funny about repetition. But it's not all funny.

I talked with the actor, David Bliley, briefly after the play was over. As an actor myself, I could sense that he put some serious work into his role and was taking the grief component seriously. He was. "I'm not really playing some of those lines for laughs," he said, "and I don't necessarily think they're funny..."

"I could tell," I said. "In part, that makes it even more funny, and yet it's poignant at the same time. We expect people to be over grief all too soon..."

"I agree," said David. "I've never lost a wife to death but I know that breaking up is grief enough that you don't get over all that fast...I wanted to show that grief is serious..."

Thank you for that, David. Grief is serious and long lasting. Some parts of our grief never go away. Some loss we never fully recover from. We go on. We build new lives. We try new things. We launch new relationships, but the loss is a permanent part of our lives. And why not?

It is not a judgment of someone's character that they continue to carry their loss. It's an act of respect and love for the person they lost. Or the people they lost, for as we get older the losses keep adding up. One person after another leaves our life and we must face the future without them. We can still smile, we can still laugh, but we must not pretend that we aren't still effected that they can no longer share that laughter.

I've experienced loss in my life, as I'm sure you have. This has been a tough year, losing both an ex-mother-in-law that I dearly loved and a step father who was always kind and generous to me and who had become inseparable from my mom. The losses are fresh, and the effects persistent. In conversation with my mom yesterday, she cried telling me a story about her beloved Jack.

I cried a little, too.

What does this have to do with high performance leadership? What do centered leaders have to do with grief?

Everything, perhaps. As leaders it is our job to help people navigate change and to provoke new directions. All of that produces loss, which produces grief. We need to experience that grief, understand that grief, empathize with that grief, and support those others whose experience of that grief may take longer than ours.

Centered leaders are compassionate, patient, and generous with their flexibility toward recovery. People can be relied on to be people, and people in loss are not always ready for work Monday morning -- even two weeks or two months after a profound loss. We can hold people to standards without crushing them under the wheel. The art of leadership is remaining human while getting the work done. Building the kinds of teams who not only tolerate grief but support those who are experiencing it can only lead to greater long term loyalty and success. It's not easy. Attendance policies direct us to weed out those who miss too much time. Goals call for immediate and constant action. But as leaders it is our responsibility to keep both courage and compassion in the game.

And so I ask leaders everywhere to keep in touch with their compassion. Remember that just because you may have forgotten someone's loss, that they haven't and they never will. It's not an excuse to avoid work, because we all have losses to deal with, but it is a reason to remember that some days that grief is more present than others.

When we are gone, don't we hope that we are missed?

Why would it be different for anyone else?

Centered leaders show compassion, courage, clarity, and creativity in their daily work. Sometimes, some days, that component of compassion is all that people need to see...

-- Douglas Brent Smith