Wednesday, August 31, 2011

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?
- Tell me what you think that means...
- What are the leaders missing that you'd do something about?
- What should be our first step to make that better?
- How does that match up with your vision of a better world?
- Do you have any goals around that?

The next time a question about sports or TV pops into your mind as you start or continue a conversation, why not take the opportunity to ask something deeper?

Learn more at the workshop: Communicating for Results

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

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 challenged you the most?

Who gave you the most support in a time of need?

What is it about your favorite people that makes them your favorite people? How can you do more of that today?

Monday, August 29, 2011


What is good about mistakes?

We do not seek out mistakes, and yet sometimes a mistake leads to something better. Sometimes a mistake is the learning opportunity we need to move forward, to get unstuck, to see things in a new way and do what we really need to do.

Mistakes often lead to new beginnings.

What did you learn from your most recent mistake?

Are you applying what you learned to move forward and improve?

Saturday, August 27, 2011


When do you seize an opportunity?

Are you able to stop what you're doing long enough to work on an immediate opportunity?

Opportunities are not interested in our schedules.

They don't wait. They don't delay. They don't nestle nicely into what we have available. We either move on an opportunity when it presents itself or we watch it fly away.

Are you keeping your eyes open for opportunities today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Perpetual Leadership Development

When does leadership development stop?

What leader does a leader spend the most time developing?

Leaders are never finished with their own development and their team's growth.

The process always starts now, and the process never ends.

My advice to any new leader is:

- Get the training you need
- Talk to lots of seasoned leaders to find out what it takes to succeed
- Get to know everyone on your team
- Say hello to everyone on your team every day
- Find a coach who will hold you accountable
- Try new things
- Explore opportunities to develop your clarity, courage, creativity, and compassion
- Care about your team
- Focus on your goals and how to achieve them
- Read sage advice from leaders you admire and appreciate
- Build your character by radically telling the truth
- Over communicate. Over communicate!
...and on and on, an endless list of ways to develop as a leader.

What are you doing today to develop yourself and grow your team?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Core Development for High Performance Leaders

What are the core deliverables in personal development for high performance leaders?

High performance leaders discover their gifts, develop their capacity, and optimize their results.

Knowing what you are best at -- so that you can bring that full speed and all out to your life and your team, developing your skills and your ability to expand your horizons and extend your boundaries, and finally -- producing the type of transforming results that make a difference in your team, in your life, and in your world.

That's a full time job.

Which of those are you working on today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Meetings by Consensus

How does your team make decisions?

Are your meetings times to work through your projects and move closer to your goals? Or are they dominated by one person who makes a series of announcements and decisions?

Which works better for you?

High performance leaders who manage meetings by consensus power up performance.

When everyone has a hand in the decisions, those hands end up pushing the agenda forward.

How much better could your team meetings be?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

High Performance Leaders Confirm Consensus

How can you be sure that your team has reached consensus on an important decision?

Sometimes a team effort requires consensus -- a state of full support from every team member, whether or not they all agree that it is the best idea or plan. Once a deep and meaningful dialogue has taken place, the agreed upon plan is followed.

WIthout a genuine consensus the plan can fall through. If people do not take their commitment seriously (because they don't support the idea) the chances of success grown dim.

When consensus is necessary, high performance leaders take the time to confirm consensus before moving on.

They do it by:

- asking and then listening intently
- double-checking on any doubts
- confirming individuals, face to face and not just a group
- taking the time to let the idea sink in
- getting clarification from individuals on what consensus means
- getting commitment from people on what they will do to support the plan
- providing plenty of opportunity for dissension as the decision is being made
- working thru (and not glossing over) dissension until objections have been handled

What else can you do to guarantee consensus?

It takes longer, but when you need consensus make sure that you have it.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Monday, August 22, 2011

High Performance Leaders Provide Time to Recharge

How do your team members recharge and relax?

Even the most energetic team members sometimes need to relax. As a leader, do you provide opportunities for people to do what they need to do to keep their fuel tanks full?

High performance leaders find ways to give their top performers time to recharge and relax.

That might be different for each person, so how do you find out how people like to recharge?

Ask them!

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Friday, August 19, 2011

Where Is Your Center?

If all you've got is yourself the road of leadership is tough indeed.

Leaders need more. Leaders need a center of purpose, calm, and understanding. Leaders need to know that what they work for is bigger than themselves.

High performance leaders are centered in something bigger than themselves.

Where is your center?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Leadership Development and Serving

What is the entry point for leadership development? How do you get started?

How do you take your leadership skills to the next level?

By serving.

The highest level of leadership development is serving. The starting point to leadership development is also serving.

The purpose of leadership is serving a higher purpose that helps other people live better lives.

Anything else is settling for far too little.

How will you serve today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Learn more in the workshop: Supervising for Success

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

High Performance Leaders and Alternate Learning

High performance leaders use alternate learning when they need to.

What's alternate learning? Ways for your people to learn what they need to learn that do not involve the leader teaching it. Ways such as (but not limited to):

- special projects
- sitting in at higher level meetings
- finding a new mentor
- partnering up with another team member
- attending an off-site training event
- helping another team with a task
- meeting new people

... and there are many, many more ways. My point is that it is not always up to the leader to teach everything a team member needs to be successful. Sometimes, it's not even possible.

High performance leaders recognize when someone is beyond that leader's ability to teach and help them find another way to learn.

Think about someone you have been nurturing, teaching, or mentoring. Are they still making as much progress toward their goals as you both would like? Do they seem stuck? Have they advanced beyond how you can help them in any particular area?

Sometimes the best thing that a leader can do is let go and let someone grow.

What do you think?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Monday, August 15, 2011

Do Centered Leaders Ever Need to Micromanage?

It's almost a curse word in the lexicon of leadership: micromanage. Haven't we all felt resentment at being overly managed? Haven't we all bristled at the manager who seems to want to control every aspect of our jobs, maybe even our very lives?

And so as leaders we work hard to develop other approaches. We build skills that create participative, transforming leadership. We seek to motivate thru influence rather than power, because in the end, as John Maxwell said, "leadership is influence."

But what if your job goes beyond leadership? What if the core of your job is to supervise?

It's one of those things that makes front line supervision one of the toughest jobs in any organization. We are called to lead, to motivate, to inspire AND to achieve ever improving results. And, sometimes we must supervise a team member who simply does not get it.

It's not because people are bad or have bad intentions. Most of the time, if someone is not meeting our expectations, they may simply not know what those expectations are. Or, they may not have the knowledge or training to achieve those expectations. But sometimes they lack the desire.

Whatever the case, some people need more attention than others. To treat every person like a superstar who is self-motivation and fully equipped to do the job does a disservice to them and to your team. New hires, struggling performers, people who are in the wrong job for their strengths, and people who do not fully understand the expectations need more attention.

It doesn't make them any less valuable or respected -- they just need a little hand-holding now and then.
No one likes to be micromanaged but at various vital times everyone needs it.

The truly tough part as a leader is balancing the patience and insistence we need to pull that off. It's in paying more attention without creating a co-dependency. It's holding someone accountable without crushing them under unrealistic expectations.

And as front line leaders who are pushing for high performance results, sometimes what is meant as persistence from us can feel like insistence or impatience to others. Push on. The ultimate respect for someone is to expect that they will do the job they are hired to do -- with excellence, constant improvement, and the will to achieve their goals.

And if lack of willingness or an inappropriate job fit eventually do prove to be the problem, sometimes the kindest thing that a leader can do is to help them find their way someplace else.

No one ever said it was easy to be a high performance leader.

Who on your team requires extra attention? Are you making sure that they are getting it?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Fix the Process, Not the Person

Do your processes allow people the comfort of a reliable way to get things done?

Have you engineered the fastest, safest, most reliable way to navigate your transactions?

Too often leaders focus on getting PEOPLE to work harder, faster, and smarter and neglect the processes that people have to work with. Yes, it IS important for each of us to constantly find ways to develop ourselves so that we CAN work faster and smarter -- but most of the time what stands in our way is a flawed process and not a personal shortcoming.

If you've ever fixed a process, you know what a great lever that is toward success.

And, if you've ever tried to fix a person, you know what a long road of frustration that can be.

Optimized processes can protect people from their own imperfections. Fix the process, not the person.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The More With Less Paradox

There are never enough resources. There are always enough resources to get started.

It's a paradox. Our people sometimes strain to understand why as leaders we seem to ration our resources. Who gets what and what they get to do with it can be endless sources of political debate. What's at the heart of the paradox? What can we as leaders do about it?

High performance leaders challenge their people to do more with less while making sure that they have what they need.

The part that many leaders miss is -- making sure that they have what they need.

To get started, to get moving, to feel a sense of energy and motion toward their mission and goals, people need to have the resources that they need.

Are you as a leader prepared to provide those resources?

What will you do today to make sure that your people have the resources that they need?

Remember, to do more with less, a team needs something to start with.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Centered Leadership and Gifts

As a leader, do you make good use of your team member's gifts?

Centered leaders find ways to develop and use all the gifts of everyone on the

Which team members and gifts are you under-utilizing?

What can you do about that?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Centered Leadership and Being Helpful

What kind of attention do you expect when you are being helpful?

How much should our help be noticed?

Oddly enough, sometimes we do more as leaders when our own hands are unseen in the process. Letting other people reach discovery, find the answers, and reach decisions are key elements of centered leadership.

We are most helpful when our help is unnoticed.

It's there. It's solid. It's useful and to the point. We just don't make a big deal about it.

How can you be helpful for your team today without drawing attention to your efforts?

-- Douglas Brent Smith