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Showing posts from November, 2012

Getting to The Root Cause

How many times have you thought you'd solved a problem, only to see it re-emerge?

So often we work on a solution without realizing that we are simply impacting a symptom of the problem, and not the problem itself. It takes deeper inquiry to get at the heart of the situation. It takes patience to discover the root of the problem.

The root cause of many problems is misunderstanding the goal.

It turns out we are working on the wrong thing, or we are delivering something our customer did not expect or ask for. We get our goals confused and it feels like a problem. It is a problem

Get clear on your goals. Align your goals to your organization's mission. If a goal does not contribute to your mission, ask yourself seriously why you are working on it. If there is no reason, maybe THAT'S the problem.

--  Douglas Brent Smith

Learn more in the teleclass: "How To Solve Problem"

Finding Solutions

What are the benefits of solving problems together?

Problem solving as a team has far more value than simply solving the problem. Of course, we want the problem solved -- and we want more. We want more cohesive teams. We want healthier organizations. We want people who are open to growth and change.

Solving problems together can achieve all that and more.

By solving problems collaboratively we come up with better and longer lasting solutions. We engage our team members and constituents. We connect in ways that were once disconnected. We grow.

The solutions we find together will bring us together -- and that's worth more than any solution.

What problem could you be helping to solve collaborative in your organization?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Learn more in the teleclass: How To Solve Problems

Centered Leaders Create Room for Success

Does it sometimes feel like you're caught in a dog eat dog fight? One of my favorite TV quotes from an old episode of "Cheers". Norm enters as he usually does to the usual rousing greeting and imparts his insight of the day. In this episode it was, "it's a dog eat dog world and I'm wearing Milkbone underwear."  That about describes some days, doesn't it?

As leaders, we impact that. We often create the environment for our people. At the very least we influence the environment. Will that be a competitive environment of winners and losers? Or will that be a place where everyone, absolutely everyone can create a measure of success far beyond their previous expectations?

Our success does not require anyone else's failure.

It's not about winning so that someone else loses. We do no need to behave like beasts in the jungle fighting for survival. If we are higher, more centered, more focused compassionate and courageous beings we can create more.


Finding Hope

What do you do when your project seems so off track that you'll never find your way back?

What if you're so lost that nothing makes sense to you?

Most of us do experience times when things get rough. We lose when we thought we couldn't. We struggle when it started so easily. Our resources dry up just when we need them most. How do we hold on? How do we move forward?

Someone can help. You may not know who it is. You may have to ask more than one person (you probably will have to ask more than one person). But help is out there. Someone who has experienced similar troubles. Someone who has finished an equally gnarly project. Someone who knows how it feels to be lost and can help you navigate your pathway out of the darkness and into success.

If you have help, you have hope. 

And that my friend will take you very, very far indeed toward where you need to go.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Image credit: Southeast Regional Climate Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, ret…

Don't Wait to Solve Your Problems

Have you ever just waited for a problem to go away?

Does it ever seem that things will get better on their own so the sensible thing is to let that happen?

Well, your problem will change, that's for sure. But most times if it is a problem it gets worse on its own, not better. And even if it does seem to go away, what it leaves behind is more troubling than ever.

The landscape changes. The culture shifts. The processes stick. What you'd come to expect becomes unrecognizable.

Nature eventually solves every problem but she does not consider your goals in the process.

Take charge. Move the flow. Solve the problem.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Centered Leaders Get Angry, Too

It made me angry. How dare the customer push me like that? Clearly, he was accustomed to getting what he wanted by bullying people. I'd show him. He wouldn't get what he wanted from me.

But wait. Was I being at my best? Was my anger getting in the way? And, why exactly was I angry anyway?

Jim stepped in. He offered the customer a solution I hadn't thought of. One that would not cost us anything but simply require a minor shuffling of resources. In the end, no customer would be harmed by the shuffling and wouldn't even be effected. The bully left happy, but maybe he wasn't a bully at all. Maybe I was the one being unreasonable and hasty.

If it makes you angry, work with someone to fix what's wrong.

I'm grateful to Jim for stepping in. His calm perspective didn't see anger, but only possible solutions. That's what I needed in that moment. That's what the customer needed, too.

It doesn't take a perfect leader to be a centered leader. But sometim…

Centered Leaders Play Fair

Can you remember the first time you were playing an exciting game and realized that your opponent was cheating? What did that do to the game? What did that do to how you felt about your opponent?
We need the clarity of rules. We need to know that when we take the field of play there is a sense of organization that transcends individual will to win. If will to win is someone's first and only motivation, there is no limit to the damage they can do in pursuit of that goal.
It's not worth it. The game is more important than the outcome. Your character is more important than your won/loss record.
Just don't play with those who cheat.
And for goodness sake, don't ever cheat yourself! Centered leaders play fair, even if that extends the game, even if that causes them hardship, even when that puts the outcome of the game at risk.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Can Ethics Be Flexible?

Centered leaders work to develop flexibility in how they operate. Using their key strengths, they develop themselves into a balanced use of clarity, courage, creativity and compassion. That doesn't mean that sometimes they are less clear, or less means that sometimes what is most needed is one of the core strengths. Whether or not it is their core strength, they flex to use it. They make it available. They draw on it. And, it grows as they use it.

But what about ethics? Are their times when we need to flex out of our values to get a task done? Do we look the other way in the interest of compromise and necessity? Do we slide down a path of situational scruples?


Be careful about flexible ethics because they are most flexible with those who are least ethical.

Stretch your value, and it tears. Compromise your spirit and you risk it withering completely.

Yes, we are called to compromise sometimes -- on positions, on interests, on decisions. But, never on our values. …

Stop Rewarding Scoundrels

If you make the wrong bet, what happens to your money? No doubt, you lose it.

Whether it's on a sports team or the stock market, you are likely responsible for your own decisions, right or wrong.

If someone else makes a bet knowing that no matter how badly the deal goes down, they can't really lose because they'll still get paid and still have a job, what is to keep them from repeating bad bets? What's to keep them from acting like scoundrels who only care about their own bonuses and who pass the risk on to others?

We should stop rewarding scoundrels by not paying them. 

And, when they repeat their scoundrel behavior after warnings not to, it's time to help them out of the organization.

What do you think?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Listen Without Judging

Have you ever proposed an idea or solution to a problem only to have your idea dismissed immediately by someone? 
Instant critical response can dowse ideas faster than water on a candle flame. No matter how brilliant your idea may be, it will struggle to survive the search for perfection.
Solving problems together requires the compassion to hear someone else's truth without judging them.
It doesn't mean that you agree.
It doesn't mean that you will be adopting an idea immediately. It simply means keep the judge at bay long enough, and with enough care for the other person, to understand it's perspective.
It's what I call sending your inner judge out for milk and cookies -- the judge will be happy and you'll get to finally hear some ideas completely.
It's more than worth a try -- it's how to build more compassion in your team while generating more ideas.
-- Douglas Brent Smith

Solving Problems Requires The Courage to Tell The Truth

Can a problem be so tough that we deceive ourselves about solving it?

In any problem there is a temptation to soften the edges, smooth the rough spots, to paint a better picture than we see.

Sometimes we take sides and spin the truth in favor of our side, even when that contributes to a conflict or problem. We can do better than that.

Solving problems together requires the courage to tell the truth as you see it.

Not our version of the truth. Not our ideal of the truth. The truth as it exists, weak spots and all.

If we want to clearly analyze a problem, we must be willing to see, and tell the truth.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

High Performance Leaders Get the Help They Need

Can you do it all alone?

If each of us could do it all alone, we wouldn't need leaders, would we?

Some situations are easy enough to solve on our own, and other require help.

While we can solve some problems on our own we can usually solve them faster with help.

Are you getting the help you need with your toughest problems? Who have you helped in the past who could help you now? Who else has a vested interest in the situation and might be able to lend support?

High performance leaders -- the ones who get things done, solve problems and achieve their goals, get the help they need whenever they need it.

Isn't that what you want?

-- Douglas Brent Smith