Thursday, December 27, 2012

Centered Leadership Favors the Truth

Do you tell the truth?

Are you ever tempted to stretch or spin the truth to your own advantage or to spare the feelings of another person? How long does your lie last in the light of day?

That last question is a tough, big one. Here's why. I believe that the truth always bubbles to the top. Sooner or later, the truth will emerge. Whatever you say, whatever you do, you can not eventually hide what rings as true. Spinning won't help.

Centered leaders speak truthfully, with respect.

The respect is for everyone. We all need dignity. We all need to have our feelings nurtured and cared for. That means that when a tough truth is necessary, we deliver it as centered leaders with respect and kindness. It takes longer. It takes more work. It is well worth the time.

Try it today. Tell no lies, no matter how tempting or small. Remember, even a small lie is huge to someone.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

One Problem at a Time

How many problems can you solve?

Infinity plus one? Or one at a time?

Both. Start with one at a time and see what happens next. See how that works.

It's tempting to tackle multiple problems simultaneously. Tempting, but usually less effective.

Centered problem solvers focus on the problem at hand. The more problems we work on the better we get at it, but only work on one problem at a time.

Working on one problem often uncovers new problems. Write the new problems down and come back to them later.

Your main problem needs your immediate attention, or it wouldn't be your main problem.

Afterall, you'll likely never run out of problems. Why not solve them one at a time?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Monday, December 24, 2012

Is It Your Problem At All?

How often do people try to get you to solve problems you just don't care about?

Maybe it's important to someone else. Maybe you have some expertise that could help identify a viable solution. But, maybe you just don't care.

If a problem doesn't interest you, maybe it's not your problem to solve.

Clearly, you already have enough problems that DO interest you to keep you busy forever.

Why not focus on those?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Holding Judgment at Bay

Have you ever found yourself emotionally attacking what you thought was the cause to your problem?

It's tempting to jump to judgement when wrestling with a troubling problem. When causes seem to emerge, we can want to punish them, hold them down, to take them apart. It could be the wrong course of action.

We need to stay centered. We need to stay curious. We need to probe deeper to the true cause and deal with it unemotionally, as tough as that is.

Centered problem solvers Identify the causes of a problem without judging them.

The goal is to find viable, sustainable solutions to the problem -- not to punish it.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Centered Leaders Acknowledge Their Limitations

The sentence rings in my head. I can't forget it. I was enjoying a music video (back when MTV showed music videos all the time) of John Cougar Mellencamp. He was dancing up a ladder as he sang. I thought it was entertaining. His songs of blue collar living resonated with my past. And, here he was dancing.

And the sentence. "You can't tell he's not a dancer," said June (who is a dancer). "I don't like all that fake dancing..."

Fake dancing? To an authentic, practiced, disciplined dancer there IS such a thing as fake dancing.

To an authentic, practiced, disciplined leader is there such a thing as fake leadership?

Does it take more than saying the right words and following the right steps?

Absolutely. It takes character. It takes real courage, genuine clarity, authentic compassion and sparkling creativity. None of that comes overnight or accidentally. It takes work, development, training, focus, and feedback. The kind of commitment that a real dancer makes to dance.

You can't fool a real dancer. Centered leaders acknowledge their limitations.

They move beyond beginner's  steps and master the skills needed to lead effectively, to solve real problems and to achieve their goals.

Centered leaders work long and hard to develop the art of leadership.

Are you a real dancer?

-- Douglas Brent Smith  

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Five Qualities of Successful Leaders

What makes a leader successful?

There are many lists. Sometimes the lists go as high as 100 qualities. Sometimes they are fewer competencies but still too many to remember and too many to clearly assess on a personal basis. It's part of the difficulty of taking a 360 evaluation and making sense of it.

I like Adam Bryant's approach of focusing on five key leadership traits. We can quibble about which five leadership traits matter the most, but this is a workable list.

My own work has also identified five leadership traits that I believe clearly shows the strengths needed and how great leaders use their flexibility (or centeredness) to optimize their use of those strengths, even though we each vary in which strengths we use the most.

It is built on the work of centuries of personality sorters and bears similarities to several prominent ones which focus on four traits.

I see these four strengths as Clarity, Courage, Creativity and Compassion. The fifth strength is Centeredness, showing the flexibility and balance to utilize all of the strengths as needed in order to achieve noble goals.

Using all five strengths enables a leader to take care of people while also achieving excellent results.

Here's a link to Bryant's article, well worth the read:

The Corner Office, Adam Bryant On The Five Qualities of Successful Leaders

The charts compare Bryant's ideas (I created the chart so he might not totally agree with how they compare, but I present them here for your reflection) to the Front Range Leadership approach of Centered Leadership. See what you think. It's worth talking about. Maybe you can compare Centered Leadership to other leadership strength sorters. The point is this: centered, high performance leaders use a variety of strengths with flexibility and purpose. Leave any of these out and the leader is at the mercy of someone who is strong in the area ignored.

Which strength are you working on today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

To learn more about Centered Leadership strengths, explore our workshop: Supervising for Success.


Do You Have Room In Your Plans?

Do you have the right people on your team?

Will you be able to achieve your most ambitious goals with the people you are currently working with? Or, would you benefit from an expanded team with more experts, more passion, more drive, and more experience?

The good news is that the people are out there, whether or not you are already working with them.

Centered leaders are able to find room for everyone in their plan for success.

People who need your help. People who can help you. People working on their projects. People who tend to disagree with you. People who fit your team perfectly and people who don't. What you need and who you need is already available. Sign them up.

Incite their passion. Draw them in. Share what you have with what they have and see where that takes you. Do you have room in your plans for the best possible people? Shouldn't you?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Build the best possible teams in your organization by starting with our workshop: Building Your Team

Monday, December 17, 2012

Train Leaders Before Putting Them In Charge

When should supervisors get the training they need? Do you think that it is best to train someone for a highly responsible job before they start it, or do you think it makes sense to throw them into the row and see how they do?

So often, supervisors are promoted to their jobs and then do not get any specific leadership training to do the job. They come from doing a great job in their field as a technician, to going to a job where the skill set is entirely different, the needs are much more complicated, and the consequences effect many more people.

This article is worth the read to get some insights into how often managers lack the training they need:

We Wait Too Long to Train Our Leaders

Some of the data pointed out here is astounding, for example that managers typically supervise people for over 10 years before they get any training in it. That boggles the mind.

At Front Range Leadership, LLC we are in the business of making sure that front line supervisors and managers get the training they need. If you are developing leaders, we'd love to talk with you about our high impact and affordable leadership development workshops.

But whatever else you do today, give that article above a read.  We should train leaders before putting them in charge!


-- Douglas Brent Smith

Workshops to Consider for Supervisors and Managers:

Supervising for Success

Communicating for Results

Building Your Team

Solving Problems

Achieving Your Goals

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Centered Leaders Continue to Develop

When was the last time you were in a training program?

What have you done today to increase your leadership learning (and oh yes, thanks for visiting here to explore high performance, centered leadership).

Centered leaders continue to learn, to develop, to improve their skills. You're never really done learning.

Centered leaders continue to develop their:

- sense of play
- sense of purpose
- communication skills
- focus
- technical skills
- ability to collaborate
- problem solving skills
- team building tool set
- vision
- character

... and the list goes on. Whatever the circumstances, whenever the deadlines, who ever is on the team -- keep learning and striving to be the best possible leader you can be.

-- Douglas Brent Smith


Friday, December 14, 2012

Eliminating Barriers

What stands in your way?

Whenever we set goals, barriers find their way into our path. Things we may expect, like resistance from people who would rather have us working on other things, and things we might not expect like car repairs and job changes.

If the goal is important, stay with it. If the goal matters to you, face those barriers down.

Sometimes the barrier looks much stronger than it is. If we run and hide, or surrender, the barrier wins. If we face the barrier and look for a way around it or thru it, we win and we gain momentum in achieving our goal.

High performance leaders identify their barriers and find ways to eliminate them.

What is standing most prominently in your way today?

What can you do to deal with that barrier once and for all?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Watch Out for Misguided Solutions

When I worked at GE, we had an expression we used when we were tempted to move too quickly to solve a problem or fix a process: "go slow to go fast".

So often, by jumping headlong into a solution we create more trouble than we solve.

Some of our biggest problems started as misguided solutions.

Today, take your time on that big problem. Breathe. Think. Assess carefully. Allow your analytical side to hold sway over your crashing driver. Avoid making things worse.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Living Inspired Lives

When your team members look at you, do they see an inspired leader?

Do you live an inspired life?

Leading high performance teams is a daily challenge. To get to your goals it helps to have a sense of a higher calling, a mission to bring to the world that will make the world a better place. Once you have this, the rest is alignment: making your work cohesive and inspirational.

We already have all we need to live inspired lives.

Are you putting it in place to show that inspiration?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Land of No Excuses

Are you ever tempted to give a reason for a disappointment? If you miss a goal or turn up late for a task, does it occur to you to back up why that happened? If not you, are there people on your team who do that, who manage to come up with excuses?

There really are no valid excuses. We either achieve our goals or we don't. We either fulfill our responsibilities or we don't. We either keep our promises or we don't.

Breaking promises doesn't make someone a bad person, but as a leader you want to be very careful to staff your team with people who keep promises. People without excuses because an excuses can't even get you a cup of coffee.

High performance leaders drop excuses and look for possibilities. 

If a goal has been missed, what are the new possibilities? What exists now, right at this moment, that did not present itself before?

Centered, high performance leaders live in the land of no excuses but when excuses appear they know exactly what to do with them: create a new (tougher) level of accountability and move on to the next goal, the next possibility, the next opportunity. There is no excuse worth stopping for.


- For the rest of this week, make no excuses for anything. Nothing. Move on to the next possibility, accept your consequences, move on.

- For the rest of this week (and after that if you want to make a real impact) accept no excuses from anyone else. Ask them what they will do now that they have dropped the ball. Ask them what they will do now to make it right. Ask them what their opportunity -- and intention on that opportunity, is now.

As awkward as it may feel at first, you are a leading your team to accomplish something, aren't you?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Centered Leaders Act with Joyful Curiosity

How curious are you?

Do you ask your people questions about their interests, their lives, their dreams?

Do you dig into a problem with the curiosity of someone eager to know what makes it tick?

Centered leaders act with joyful curiosity. They ask, they dig, they explore and they search without judging too harshly what they find. The joy is in the search. The joy is in the discovery.

You'd be surprise at how helpful that can be in the middle of a big project. It can give you:

- Deeper knowledge
- Unexpected connections
- More engaged team members
- Innovative solutions
- Brilliant shortcuts
- Avoidance of otherwise unseen risks

... and so much more. Curiosity is the key to uncovering possibilities.

How can you show more curiosity in your current project?


1.Ask each of your people a provocative open ended question today - something like, "What would you do with this part of the business if you could do anything?”

2.Listen without judging to EVERYTHING your most important relationship says today. Listen with new ears, with new curiosity. Appreciate what is unique and suprising about that person.

3.Look with joy for something surprising today. And then, enjoy the surprise!

4.Look at your biggest project with a different point of view. What if you were deciding for the first time to fund this project? What would you want from it? What might it have that is totally different than anything you've ever worked on?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Friday, December 7, 2012

Centered Leaders Stay Positive

Challenges can send us into a panic. Troubles can wear on our will. As leaders, centered and focused on our goals and on making better organizations -- we do well to stay positive.

Pulling our skills together, working well with others, finding answers: that's what centered leaders do. Working with all of the clarity, courage, creativity and compassion they can muster, centered leaders find a way. You can find a way. We can find a way.

Our possibilities are limitless. Our problems are solvable.

Why not get started?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Involve Your Team in Solving Problems

Sometimes leaders try to do it all on their own. I've fallen into that trap more than once. It's not the best option. When we allow our team members to help solve problems, they grow their ability AND feel more a part of the team.

Involve everyone on your team in solving your biggest problems.

They'll be better off, and so will you.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Problem Solving Expectations

What do you expect from your people when it comes to solving problems?

Do you expect them to be able to handle tough situations? Do you expect them to collaborate on solutions, whether that is within the team or including other constituents outside the team?

Centered leaders make problem solving one of their core expectations.

They solve problems, and their people solve problems, too.


Sometime during the next week, ask key people in your team what they think are your expectations about problem solving.

Clarify any misunderstandings that arise about your expectations. Set the bar high on problem solving. Provide encouragement by asking what you can do to help in their development.

I think you'll like the results...

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Monday, December 3, 2012

Can Problem Solving Be Fun?

Do you look forward to solving problems? Is it really fun?

Much of the time, problem solving feels like a necessary hardship. We do it because we must. But what if it was fun? What if people looked forward to it? What if it became the best part of your day?

I've worked with many skilled problem solvers who also just happened to be artists, musicians, actors, and other creative types. We faced difficult, deadline-driven problems like how to get a set built overnight, how to make a boring three hour play a fast moving two-hour thriller, and how to raise enough funs to get a production launched. We dealt with mechanical failures, black-outs, labor strikes, and blizzards. We dealt with personality disorders, customer melt-downs, and lack of resources. But thru each instance, the creative teams pulled together, shared ideas, broke bread together, cried and laughed and laughed some more.

is that kind of team work transferrable to a business environment? I've seen it prevail there as well, and when it does it is usually because of the steady, good-humored, positive thinking, centered leadership involved. Centered leaders really do make a difference in problem solving. They can help hold together groups of people long enough to get the job done.

Centered leaders make problem solving fun, imaginative, and important.

Changing problem solving from a crisis mentality to a daily practice speeds it up and makes it so much more enjoyable and reliable. Wouldn't your people benefit from that?

What can you do this week to improve your team's ability to solve problems positive?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Learn more about centered problem solving in our workshop, Solving Problems

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Problem Solving Expectations

What if everyday we expected to solve more problems?

Instead of resolving to live with our situations, what if we changed what needed changing? Each day we have the opportunity to collaborate on better answers, newer solutions. Each day there are dozens of problems that cross our path just waiting for our intervention. Let's do it. Let's solve those problems.

What's first on your list?

-- Douglas Brent Smith