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Showing posts from 2013

Develop Your Creativity at Upcoming Denver Improv Bootcamp

No boots required! Join us for a fun filled, game driven, community building weekend of improvisation.
You will work and play with an improv coach and a group of people ready to take your talent to the next level via improvisation.
Build your acting skills, practice your creativity, and develop new ways of expressing yourself in group settings.
Using a wide variety of improv games, expert coaching, and acting exercises you’ll be able to:
§Explore and practice improvisational basics §Develop a “where” a “why” and a “who” inside a scene §Build your self-confidence §Improve how you work with other people §Create fun and collaborative stage environments §Develop believable characters §Increase your on stage energy §Learn the basic techniques of improvisation §Stop going for the laugh and get more laughs §Practice the art of instant drama
Camp runs from 7:30 pm to 10:00 pm Friday, and 9:00 am to 4:00 pm Saturday. Light refreshments will be served. Lunch Saturday is on your own.
When: Friday, January 24…

No Escape to the Past

Do you ever find yourself lost in thought about how nice things "used to be"?

They probably were not that nice.

We filter, we sort, we gloss over petty wrong-doings, and we glamorize the past. Besides. It's past.

There is no escape in the past. Progress moves forward.

Which way are you going?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Lift Each Other Up

Who lifts you up creatively? When you think about the people you know, who among them startles you with how much they inspire you to act creatively, even when you make mistakes?

So many people underestimate so many others. We are all capable of great things. We all have an endless store of creativity to draw on. How we think about other people can strongly (and sometimes strangely) effect how much creativity, promise, and potential they deliver.

Why make that small? Why not expand it? Why not grow our possibilities as creatively and expansively as we can?

Any belief that diminishes another person is flawed.

The next time you're tempted to think small of someone, catch yourself and think instead, "I wonder what creative store house of knowledge they have that I haven't discovered yet..."

See if it makes a difference.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

GOALS for Today

How will you inspire yourself to work on your goals today?

Today, out of nowhere, this little acronym occurred to me:

Go strong
Overcome obstacles
Act relentlessly
Learn constantly
Serve the greater good

What do you think? Maybe it's not a whole training program. Maybe it's not a teleclass. Time will tell. But, it makes sense for today, don't you think?

Goals require us to go strong and act decisively. We must take action!

When we do take action we are likely to experience resistance (from ourselves and from others) so it makes sense to work to overcome those obstacles. Don't let them stop us. Move forward.

Which brings us to the need to act relentlessly. We'll get distracted. We'll be given new work to do. Relationships will bring up new needs. But even while all that and more is going on we much work our plan. We must act relentlessly on our plan.

When we are assertively working on a plan we are likely to make some mistakes. New opportunities arise. Th…

How are your expectations?

Do your people know for certain that you expect very high performance? Do you create an environment where your people are constantly challenged to work toward the next level? To exceed customer expectations? To grow new ideas and put outdated ideas out of their misery?

It starts with your expectations. Whatever you are currently expecting from your people, I invite you to expect more. Let them know their journey has just begun. Let them know that you will support them in their struggles and that you fully expect them to struggle. If there is no struggle, they are likely holding onto easy expectations. You can do better. They can do better.

Strong expectations fuel strong performance.

Make sure that your expectations are strong.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

How about that goal?

Do you like being followed up on your goals?

I really think goals are important. Helping people achieve their goals is what I do. And yet -- and yet, when I get followed up on, it can irritate me. I didn't expect it. It feels rough. And yet it helps me get that goal achieved.

This week I've been working with a nurse because my mom just got out of the hospital. Part of the deal was getting her medications in order, organizing them and helping her get them into one of those pill boxes for the week arrangements.

Between doctor and physical therapy appointments, trips to the grocery store, and shuttling people around I just didn't quite get around to buying that pill container.  Until the nurse followed up with me. Then, guess what. I bristled just a little, and then I went out and bought it.

Mom's pills are all nicely organized now, thank you very much.

And thank you nurse Linda, for the follow-up.

How do you react to follow-up? Are you getting all the follow-up you need…

Should you trust your instincts?

Do you roll with your instincts? Trust your impulses? Rely on your sixth sense?

Instincts can serve us well. They can also be flat wrong. How do you know? How can you tell?

Practice. Research. Learn.

Trust your instincts, but prove them carefully with data.

The further you get pulled from testing your point of view, the tougher it is to save you from yourself when things go sideways.

And things will go sideways.

How do you test your instincts?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Upcoming Free Teleclass: How To Achieve Your Goals

Our next teleclass is free! How to Achieve Your Goals is open for registration now right on our home page or on the info page for the teleclass.

WHEN: Tuesday, October 29 at 10:00 am Mountain Time

You'll get the call-in number and download link when you register here.

Here's what to expect:

With all of the resources available on goals, why is it that we so often miss goals that matter the most? 

During this session you will set into motion a plan for prioritizing and achieving your most important goals. 

The goal setting and achieving habits that you create will serve you well in every new project and goal that you want to accomplish. In your personal life as well as your work-life you will find the material you cover in How To Achieve Your Goals to be action-packed and results oriented.

You’ll participate in a highly interactive workshop where you explore, discover, and practice the skills you need to achieve your goals.

Who Should Attend

If you are interested in achieving your goa…

Your Problem Is Calling You

Can you hear it?

Maybe it's softly speaking to you or maybe it's more of a loud scream of excited desperation but it's there:

Your problem is calling you.

Hey you, over there -- don't you want to fix this thing? Don't you want to put this problem behind you? Don't you want to feel the thrill of putting this problem away, of developing a great solution and making people really happy about it?

Well, people will be happy if they want to but you know what I mean -- solving the problem will take the pain out of some folks' situation -- and even if it's just YOUR situation, don't you think that's worth it?

Your problem is calling you -- why not act now?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Get some help with your problem by booking our Solving Problems workshop at your location.

No Room for Unkindness

Does it sometimes feel like dog-eat-dog out there? Have you refined your edge to a sharp, cutting point?

It does take energy to achieve your goals. It DOES take persistence. It does take the ability to disregard naysayers who stand in your way. But it also takes kindness. It also takes compassion.

In our path to achieving our goals we do best to balance our skills of clarity, courage, creativity and compassion.

Our beliefs should keep us going, and should keep us focused on how our work and life effects other people.

Beliefs that leave room for any unkindness are flawed.

It might feel like it takes longer to consider other people -- but in the long run can't you feel how right it is?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Check our teleclass: How to achieve your goals

It's Not About Me...

I miss the point when I design my life around my happiness.

Happiness doesn't come from chasing it.

Happiness comes from fulfilling work, making a difference, meeting many challenges, and making this a better world.

Does that sound lofty? I agree. Does that sound impossible? Not at all. The less I make it about me, the better off it is for me.

Weird, eh?
How about you?

I miss the point when I design my life around my happiness.

Centered leaders balance their concerns for others with their concerns for themselves. We need collaborative efforts to build better teams, lead more effective organizations, and accomplish more noble goals. That's what makes it fun.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Are You Married to that Problem?

Has a problem got you where you live? Are you married to it? I don't mean that your problem is your actual spouse. Geez. Get over that and build your relationship if you think that's the problem. (yeah, me too).

What I do mean is that sometimes we tend to fall in love with a problem. It starts to get comfortable. It becomes the way things are. It cozies up to us all friendly-like and acts like it belongs and before we know it we almost (I did say ALMOST) enjoy having it around.

We take comfort in the familiar. It's that sense of recognition that shuts off that troublesome need to think. But that's not what we want. That's not who we are. We can do better.

It's hard to solve a problem you're in love with.

So take a good hard, analytical look at that problem. Maybe it's NOT something you want to live with. Maybe it IS something that you want to solve.

Why not get started solving that problem today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Learn more about our workshop Sol…

A Supervisory Benefit

Did you ever notice that companies often cut managers but seldom cut supervisors?

Makes you wonder just how important that supervisory job is, doesn't it? As often as it can feel challenging, there is much to be thankful for about being a supervisor. Everyday is a new opportunity. Every team member is a new sign of unlimited potential. Every customer is a chance to make a difference in the world.

Take pride in being a supervisor. Your organization, your customers, and your people need you.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Why Not Choose Happiness?

Think about it. So much of what happens to us in life depends on how we react to it. If you're like me, you've occasionally (well, OK, more often than I'd like to admit) gotten angry at things you had no control over. I've even been known to shout at a football game and throw a pillow. Wow. Dangerous, eh?

But unless that anger can be channeled into energy to do something (say for instance I was actually on the football field and could TACKLE an opponent) it's not doing us much good. It's not doing us any good.

So why not make a better choice?

When something in life disappoints us, do we need to get unhappy? Will that change things? I also admit to getting upset when things don't go my way. Did that improve the situation? Of course not. There are better choices available.

So this week, facing deadlines and new living arrangements and travel delays and irate relatives (OK, my mom is mad at me again...) I will choose happiness instead. Puppies and kittens. My…

How to avoid the distraction of someone else's goals

Do people interrupt your work on your own goals because they want you to work on theirs?

How do you get back on track? How to you keep your focus on your own goals?

People mean well. It's a good thing that their goals are important to them. And, in many cases we find the time to help them with their goals and sometimes they reciprocate. That's healthy. What's a problem is getting so pulled into someone else's situation that your own goals go untended. That does not lead to success or happiness.

Here are some ways to keep your focus on your own goals:

1. Schedule time to work on them. Keep that time inviolate. When people interrupt, let them know when you will be available and not until then.

2. Post your goals so that others can see what you're working on. If you've written them skillfully enough, other people may interrupt so that they can work on YOUR goals.

3. Find an isolated placed to work on your goals (I'm doing that right now to avoid interruption!…

Plan a Little, Do a Lot

I tend to overplan.

Maybe it's from my years of working in insurance and doing my best to reduce every possible risk. Maybe it's from being analytical. Planning pulls me in.

It's better to put things in motion. It's better to put some action into my action plan. It's better to get things done.

Plan a little, yes -- but then DO a lot.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Hidden Problems

Have you ever noticed a business that seems to be the last to notice their own problem? Customers notice, but the problem persists. It lasts so long that it doesn't seem like the business even knows about it. But they should.

It's the long line that never gets shorter -- or that always gets long at the same time.

It's the product that always runs out just when sales are picking up.

It's parking lot with no more spaces so customers drive in and then drive away (without buying anything).

Just because you don't see a problem doesn't mean your customers don't either. 

They do notice. And it might just be chasing them away.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Why not bring our Solving Problems workshop to your organization and get some of those nasty problems out of the way?

The Land of No Excuses

I once worked with a leader who said that he and his team lived "in the land of no excuses." It stuck with me. It shed light on the heart of many problems, which is people refusing to face up to their responsibilities. It feels easier sometimes to avoid accountability, but all it does is delay the inevitable show-down with the truth.

Why not skip that unconvincing dance step? Why not take ownership from the start? Why not live in the land of no-excuses?

How many fewer problems would you have if you eliminated excuses?

Yours, and others?

My guess is that most of your problems would melt away in the heat of truth and responsibity.

How would you like that?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Contact me today to see if your organization qualifies for a special rate session of Solving Problems: Creating the Collaborative Space for Success.

Conflict is there to get our attention

Have you noticed?

When you're excited about something, when your blood is really moving inside your body, when you emotionally react to the way things are going, there is often a conflict involved.

Do you pay attention?

Do you slow down enough to center yourself?

There's a message in there for you. There is feedback, a promise, an opportunity, a solution to be discovered. Conflict is trying to tell you something.

Conflict is there to get our attention.

Are you tuned in?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Penalties Come Back

Have you ever noticed the side-effects of penalties? People have hundreds of ways of balancing the equations of life, and work hard to balance those they see as unfair. Penalties seem fair to those people imposing them, and nearly always seem unfair to those people who experience them.

While some penalties are necessary, does it ever seem that we rely too much on them? Especially when those penalties backfire in the forms of broken relationships, hard feelings, resentment, and revenge. They perpetuate a cycle of ill will.

We eventually pay the penalties we impose on someone else.

Why not find more kind and lasting solutions?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Who's Problem Is That?

It's easy to blame someone else. It's easy to hide from responsibility. It's just not all that effective.

We often have more responsibility in a problem than we will admit.

Once we do admit our responsibility the solution is much easier to find.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Get Help and Balance with Your Leadership

Do you ever get tired of leading?

Does it ever seem like what you're working on will just never get done unless you do it all?

The price of leading can be heavy. Challenges push against our efforts. People resist our best ideas. Tasks remain unfinished. How do we keep on moving forward?

Leaders must breathe. Leaders must pause. Leaders must find the help that they need.

Centered leaders build support from people who can help them relax, who can keep them from taking themselves too seriously, who can add a sense of spontaneity to their work and life. It doesn't just happen. The time to build that support is before you need it. The time to invest in friendship, teamwork, and vision is now.

If we take leadership for granted it becomes a weight too heavy to hold.

Why not lighten that load?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Of Course You Have An Ego...

Have you ever seen this sign? Leave your ego at the door.

Ever try to do that?

It's not easy, is it?

Of course not. It's not easy to step away from who we think we are. It's not easy to be mindful of everyone else in the room and leave yourself outside, counting clouds and wondering where all the fun is.

That ego wants to come along.

Just keep it under control. Stay curious. Stay respectful about other people. Keep it light. And for heaven's sake (and I'm REALLY talking to myself here, too) DON'T TAKE YOURSELF TOO SERIOUSLY.

No one else does.

If you have a pulse you have an ego. Why pretend otherwise?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Whatever You Call It

Are you fooled by big boasts about world class or state of the art?

Didn't think so.

I've seen companies call something "world class" that was at least five years outdated. I've heard about "best practices" so many times from so many people with a hidden agenda that it nearly became code for "don't believe what you are about to hear..."

You're not fooled. I'm not fooled. Who do we think IS fooled?

Calling yourself world class does not make it so and does not fool anyone either.

Calling something a best practice already dates it as obsolete.

Let's drop the buzz words. Let's forget the braggadocio. Let's be as honest and direct as we can.

What do you think?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

What are your patterns of success?

When things go right for you, really right, what makes that happen?

When you are at your best, what did you do to get there?

We each have our own individual patterns of success. There are things that each of us do -- distinctive and individual, that create the conditions we need to do our best. We don't always do that of course -- which is often the source of our struggles, the reasons we falter, the regulators on our engines. When we can discover what makes us hum, what gets us into that flow, what brings about our success -- then we stand a much greater chance of LIVING there, of creating it whenever we want to, of performing at our best.

And isn't it everyone's job to perform at our best?

Individual performance often follows an individual and distinct pattern of success.

Here are some ways to discover your pattern of success:

1. Think about the times that you created the most success. What lead you to the results that you achieved? What things did you do with more intens…

More Possibilities

Are your possibilities endless? Do you search for more possibilities every day?

Solving problems is all about finding solutions. Creating innovation is all about finding possibilities.

Living a rich, full, robust life is all about exploring possibilities. Places to see, people to meet, experiences to touch. New combinations. New environments. New games to play.

Centered leaders focus on their possibilities to achieve their goals.

Your creative process is always ready for more possibilities.

Are you?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Confront Those Problems

Do you want to meet that problem head-on, or wait for it to crash into you full speed?

Nobody is perfect. I've side-stepped plenty of problems in my day, and almost always regretted it. Little problems, left alone, often turn into big problems. Really, really BIG problems.

Solutions left unexplored have never helped me out. It's only when that problem is confronted that I stand a chance of overcoming it and achieving my goals.

High performance leaders confront, rather than avoid, their problems.

It's a lesson I keep on learning.

What problem do you need to confront today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith


Trust takes time to build.

It lasts from a series of trustworthy acts: telling the truth, making the tough choices, acting with integrity, keeping promises, staying curious, and keeping the needs of all concerned in mind. It's not easy. Most of us violate our sense of trust every day. Maybe even every hour.

Centered leaders continue to build trust. They work at it. They bring their character, their discipline, and their strengths in ways that help other people to succeed. They create winners without creating losers. They honor those who trust them by consistently honoring that trust.

Leaders who take trust for granted will soon be living without it.

And it's not easy to get back, once lost.

What makes people trust you?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Earning Influence

How do you extend your reach?

How do you provide your greatest possible impact as a leader? Not through control, not through authority but through influence.

And your influence is completely up to you.

That's great news, and also challenging. Influence must be carefully built, but not as a goal -- as an outcome. Setting out to "dramatically improve my influence" sounds self serving, and is. Influence comes about by doing other great things:

- helping people
- getting things done
- demonstrating integrity
- building innovation
- encouraging performance
- living creatively
- showing courage
- communicating with clarity
- providing compassion

...and the thousand other ways that we develop influence without really trying. It's not the influence that we're going after, but it is the influence that we gain as a result of doing other wonderful things.

It's up to each of us.

You can't delegate influence.

You've got to earn it.

How are you developing your perf…

Creativity Leads Productivity

Are you looking for ways to be more productive, or to help your team become more productive?

Trying to go faster is of limited use. Working harder will wear you out. Blaming yourself does not help. What you need is more creativity.

Creativity leads productivity by unlocking new ways of doing things. By breaking limitations. By forging new techniques. By testing the impossible. By focusing on solutions instead of issues.

Sometimes the problem is outside of you, but the solution starts within.

Find it. Create it. Do those activities that open up your mind to new possibilities. For some people that is exercise. For some people it is painting. For others it's a stimulating conversation with a trusted friend.

How can you spark more creativity that can lead to more productivity?

Here are just a few possibilities:
Think of the opposite of your deliverable. What would it take?Combine an idea from other process. How would that work?Take a walk and let your body energize your ideas. What hav…

What Your Audience Wants

Do you know what your audience wants?

Do you consistently deliver on what your audience perceives to be your key promises?

Better service. Friendlier relationships. Cooler products. Fewer problems. Convenience. Or is it more than that?

Maybe your audience is looking for something distinctive. Maybe your audience wants to know why you are their best choice. Not someone cheaper. Not someone more controversial. Not someone with more bells and whistles. You.

Here's what I think it comes down to:

Tell me a story. Leave out the boring parts. Surprise and delight me. Now you know what your audience wants.

Is that what you are providing them?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Sometimes Learning Takes Work

Have you noticed that not all learning is easy? That sometimes, the lesson in front of you took far more effort than you'd expected or wanted?

We learn in so many ways. Some of them take work. While music comes naturally to me, I do have to really work to learn a new language. My Spanish is broken and at an elementary level, but brings me such joy I plod on, even though it comes with much difficulty.

Projects learn at the speed of the team, and sometimes the team is reluctant to learn. "Why can't things just work the way they always have?" "How long do we have to stay with this until it turns out the way we want it to?" These are questions team members sometimes ask. It depends, of course. It depends on how fast, and with how much difficulty, we learn what we need to learn.

If all learning was effortless it wouldn't do us much good.

It's in the effort that we stretch. It's in the difficulty that we grow. It's in the testing that we prosper.

How Do You Handle Disappointment?

What do you do when things don't turn out like you planned?

How do you bounce back and get yourself back on track?

Do you check your plan? Do you retrace your actions? Do you vow to better prepare the next time?

Sometimes circumstances foil even our best plans. Often, surprised and stunned we stumble over an unexpected obstacle or two (or twenty). Inside, though, is a lesson. Deep within the experience are the seeds of something better.

Probing, questioning, exploring with curiosity the surprises we found we may discover that they needn't have been surprises at all. Perhaps we could have prepared for them, afterall. Maybe we have more control and influence over our destiny than we gave ourselves credit for.

What do you think?

Each disappointment is an invitation to better preparation.

It's not a guarantee -- but it's better insurance than ignoring the possibilities.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

One Thing at a Time

How many things do you do while you're eating a meal?

Taking notes? Watching TV? Tweeting? Facebooking? Reading?

It's not surprising or unusual to do any one or all of those activities while we eat. We do live in a multi-tasking world. But eating is eating and wonderful in itself. What if you only spent the time in a meal, on that meal? What if you gave that meal your full attention?

Turn everything off and eat your next meal in silence. Be fully attentive to your meal. Enjoy this part of your life.

There's time to get back to multitasking later. For now, mindfully eat, and see how refreshed and re-energized you become.

Who knows, it could very well give a boost to your performance.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Getting Better at Feedback

As a leader, are you working on your feedback?

While some people are more skilled at feedback than others, we can all improve how we deliver it, how we accept it, and what we do it once we get it.

When we ask for feedback we create an expectation of action: what will we DO with that feedback?

People take your requests for feedback most seriously when you ask frequently and respond immediately.

Ask. Listen. Consider (instead of judge) and respond.

Then, as it says on the shampoo bottle, "rinse and repeat..."

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Following Up

How often do you follow-up with your people on a project?

Do they know that?

Different people need different frequencies of follow-up of course. You may have some superstars who hardly ever need follow-up and will still get their tasks done. Then there are those who if you do not follow-up frequently will not get their tasks delivered.

As a leader, how do you decide when to follow-up?

I like to ask the people I'm working with when they would like follow-up. If their answer makes sense (and most of the time it does) then that's what I go with. The follow-up happens on their schedule and they are prepared to report their progress.

If their answer does not make sense all that means is that the conversation continues until we reach agreement on a schedule that does make sense. Maybe I've underestimated the time they need. Maybe they are more responsible than I'd expected. Maybe they have information I need to know, but not until a certain time. It's also possible that …

Compassionate Competition

Does business feel like dog eat dog?

Does competition drive you and others to the edge of aggressive, gnawing, clawing feelings that leave you drained?

Or, do you thrive on it?

We do live in a competitive culture. When jobs took on a new scarcity it forced many people to view their opportunities from a limited point of view. If opportunities are limited, don't I have to act aggressively to seize those that come my way? Don't I have to defeat the competition convincingly and swiftly?

At what cost?

Not at the cost of our values. Not at the cost of our integrity. Not at the cost of our kindness.

Fiercely competing does not force you to compromise your values.  Fiercely competing does not force you to treat people unkindly.

It is possible to compete compassionately. Strive for your best outcome. Challenge other in your field of influence. Move forward assertively. AND act in ways that show kindness, consideration, and strength of character.

At the end of the big game, people will r…

Quick Thoughts on Problem Solving

Do you spend much of your time solving problems?

Are you tempted to jump to solutions before you've truly understood the problem?

It's nothing to feel guilty about. Most of us do it most of the time: jumping to fast solutions before we see all the threads of the garment stuck around our necks. Throwing light into the darkness and missing the shadows behind us. Stumbling thru the caves of our intentions and forgetting the vision that led us to this mountain to begin with.

That's why I enjoyed the short blog entry here:

The Real Roots of Problem Solving

I especially like this observation: "Problem solving does not start with brainstorming options; brainstorming is only effective when it is preceded by clarity, focus, and understanding."


That's why in the problem solving process we use at FRL it starts with FOCUS. It's important to know what it is you are looking for. What is the ideal state?

Then we move to ANALYZE. What's going on? What is caus…

Centered Leaders Ask Questions

When you are in a conversation, who asks the most questions -- you or the other person?

Are you able to stay curious for long stretches of time and send your inner judge out for milk and cookies? You know, the judge who wants to evaluate what your conversational partners say and dismiss anything that's not in your agenda. You wouldn't like that from anyone else, so why do that to anyone?

Centered leaders ask questions.

Big questions. Little questions. Probing questions. Non-leading questions asked out of pure curiosity. Questions to see what sides of the truth are still a mystery.

Knowing what questions to ask is often more useful than expertise.

The possibilities are endless.

Ask, and then wait long enough for genuine answers.

It's worth it for the surprises alone, but there will be much more in it than surprises.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Curious? Check out our workshop "Communicating for Results".

Take Care With Your Goals

Is there a dark side to setting goals?

Let me be clear -- I firmly believe that setting ambitious and noble goals is critical to your success. We need targets. We need measurements. We need goals.

It's also true (centered leaders must be comfortable with an occasional paradox) that goals can create risks and temptations that must be avoided. If all we care about is the outcome, we may well break rules and hurt standards -- even other people, in pursuit of those outcomes.

Creative, noble goals consider the needs of others. Chasing a dream with a deadline is important and it is also important to stay within the boundaries of ethical, disciplined behavior. There can be no cheating to hit the metric. There can be no cooking the books to show better results. There must be character.

Achieving goals is our time to show our best use of clarity, courage, creativity and compassion. We dare not let any of them get out of balance.

A recent article from  Setting Goals Can Sometime…

Begin with Serving

Have you thought about leadership as an act of service?

Imagine that you're in a meeting with an organization you care about. The agenda is unseen, the progress is stalling, and things feel out of control. Do you step in to help? That's leadership.

What about a cause that matters? Do you contribute? Do you send your thoughts and ideas to people who can influence the outcomes? Do you influence the outcomes? That's leadership.

Leadership development begins with serving.

Opportunities abound.

- help at a local school
- serve food at a local kitchen for the homeless
- volunteer as a fire fighter
- teach Sunday school
- contribute to causes that matter to you
- help build houses with Habitat for Humanity

If you want, you can find a cause that resonates with you and then help. It will build your leadership skills. It will increase your potential. And, it will help to create a better world.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Making Creativity Stronger

Are you using your creative muscles?

Centered leaders continue to work on their creativity. They use it. Whether it is in problem solving sessions, team building, coaching, performance evaluations, or achieving their goals -- successful supervisors keep the creativity flowing.

Your creativity -- and the creativity of your team.

How do you make it stronger?

- Listen carefully to the ideas of others
- Learn something new -- especially a new language or a new art form
- Attend arts events and locations
- Laugh
- Take up a creative hobby -- paint, make collages, knit, draw, write -- the possibilities are endless
- Socialize with creative people

What other ways can you think of to flex your creative muscles?

Your creativity grows stronger the more you use it.

So, use it.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Problems of Your Own

Does it feel like your organization has more than its share of problems?

They aren't going away by themselves, are they? They are not mysteriously and miraculously getting better. Your problems need your attention.

Every organization must wrestle with its own problems.

They can be ignored for a while. They can be rationalized. But eventually, unless each problem is solved or managed the problems will only get worse.

It's solutions that you want.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Just Kidding

Has someone ever said something to you that stung, sounding like a sharp insult -- only to be followed up with a quick "just kidding!"?

Are they kidding? Or not?

The sting is still there. The truth behind their statement unclouded and set free like running dogs in a department store. Things are going to get knocked over. Expectations are going to change.

Just kidding.

Maybe you're in the middle of a deep examination of important problems. Maybe the challenges in front of you are adding tension. Maybe the stress causes nervous laughter and crude joking. Maybe they are kidding after all. Have they found a sensitive spot? Is this your soft white underbelly of pain? Could they even know how close they are to your nerve?

Just kidding.

When someone says "just kidding" find out what they really mean but haven't said.

It's there. No kidding.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Centered Leaders Pay Attention to Emotion

Do you ever wish that your team members were a little less emotional? Do you ever find yourself wondering why people are so upset?

We want to be productive. We want to get things done. We do want to achieve our goals. Sometimes emotions get in the way.

The very same emotions that get in the way can also propel us toward our goal. There is energy there. Maybe it's misdirected. Maybe it's obtrusive. Probably, it's inconvenient. But there is solid useable energy.

Listen. Pause. Breathe into it and out of it. Let another person's emotions be there own. You don't need to adopt or adapt it. But before either of you can move on, you will need to accept it. Validate it and move forward. There are better things ahead -- it just will take even more listening, suspending of judgement, and work.

Logic has very little influence over emotion.

We need to understand how that emotion feels.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Add a Touch of Kindness

What would your customers say about you, as a company and as a person?

Would the words "kind" or "compassionate" be a part of their description?

Think about a person you know who you would describe as kind. Whatever is is that they do for a living, what is it that makes them kind, or compassionate?

Is it the way they show that they care? Is it the way that they listen to you, even when you know you might be babbling just a little or way off base? Or maybe is it the way that they lightly touch you by the hand -- on your shoulder or on your back in a non-threatening willingness to feel and to help?

We can all be more kind. We can all be more compassionate. When I think of those who have been most kind in my life they just happen to be those who are also the most trustworthy. Their agenda has always been open and gentle: simply to help. It's the nurse at the glass factory who dressed my cut and sent me back to work not with judgment but with encouragement. It'…

Does Your Solution Hold Problems?

First, there is a great idea.

Second, there is detraction. Dissension. Opposition.

Third, the idea lies dormant, unimplemented, dead.

Great ideas need energy. Great ideas need support. Solutions to problems must be fully supported to have any chance of success.

We can solve even big problems quickly given the right amount of support and the minimal level of resistance.  Leaders and problem solvers get into trouble when we ignore the need for support.

If your solution creates problems for others it's not a solution at all.

It might feel right. The data might even prove that it will work. But unless people support it, what chance does it have?

And, since people naturally resist change anyway, if your solution comes loaded with problems that were not there from the start, why would people support it? Take the time to find out what the problems are (real or perceived) and then take the problems out. Only then will your solution rise and prevail. Only then will the people you need to su…

Validate and Move Forward

Can positive thinking solve everything?

Staying positive is a wonderful tool. Still, we often encounter people who are not feeling quite so positive. We often must interact with sour moods, tough dispositions, or even tougher situations.

Telling someone to affirm the positive doesn't make it easier for them. It's better to validate their feelings and then help them to move on.

Listen > Acknowledge > Validate > Move forward

People are much more ready for whatever comes next once they know they have been heard and believed.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Are You In The Mood for Problem Solving?

Have you ever noticed people getting grumpy, just when they need to be at their best?

Problems can bring out the skepticism in us. They can rankle our intentions and sour our mood. When that happens, don't deny it. Experience it. Let it find you in the moment and then let it go. Are you ready? Let it go.

We can solve more problems in a good mood than we can in a sour mood.

While we can't force a good mood, there's not much benefit to holding onto a discontented one. It's served its purpose once it has your attention.

As a problem solver, it's time to move on.

If your role is the leader in the problem solving effort, it's time to create a better space. Bring some things into the environment to build more comfort, trust, and energy:

- food
- water
- soft music
- light
- warmth
- confidence
- acceptance
- appreciation

What else could you bring? What works best for you? What would work best for your group?

Sour moods serve their purpose -- but only for a short time …

Gaining Perspective

How do you see a problem clearly?

Could it be that problem you are working on has clouded some issues? Could it be that you've come to see it a way that is uniquely all yours?

Sometimes we have to step away from a problem in order to see it clearly.

Take a break. Ask someone else. Look in another direction. Change things up. Open up your mind to new, fully present possibilities.

It can make all the difference in the world.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Interested in learning more about solving problems?

Do you have a group that could grow faster and deliver better results by solving more problems?

Explore our workshop, Solving Problems.

Reason to Grow

There are thousands of valid reasons to grow, and very few for not growing.

Every problem that can't yet be solved is a reason to grow.

Reason for you, reason for your team members, reason for the world.

What will you do to grow today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

How Are You Developing As A Leader?

Have you given it much thought lately? What are you doing to develop as a leader?

Are you working on your skills? Are you building relationships?

Have you found new ways to exercise, practice and develop your clarity, courage, creativity and compassion?

The art of leadership requires constant development.

Things you could do:

- take a teleclass
- sign up for a workshop
- take on a new project
- build an ad hoc team to solve a problem
- get coaching to achieve your goals
- mentor another leader
- find a mentor
- read more about leadership

... the list is filled with wonderful potential.

What will you learn today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Staying Centered

How do you react when you are pulled from your center?

It starts out natural, centered. It's our normal state of life. Focused. Alive.

We grow. Forces enter our lives. Distractions pull us from that center, sometimes so far that we forget our center entirely. The tough stuff is rough enough and then suddenly it seems something so trivial can knock us off balance.

The most surprising little things can pull us from our center.

- critical feedback we did not expect
- flat tires
- lines at the department of motor vehicles
- beggars in the fast food drive up window lane
- team members who casually disagree without listening
- not listening ourselves

Endless possibilities. Relentless temptations.

My, oh, my sometimes. Still. Embrace the stillness. Remember we started out in that stillness, centered.

Sometimes returning to that centered stillness takes everything we've got. But it gives back more than we ever held.

Staying centered is worth it.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Is That Project For You?

How often are you asked to do a project that you don't really want to do?

Maybe it's a project that you have tasks due. Maybe it's a project that does not align with your goals. Maybe it seems like more trouble than it's worth.

Some of the most important choices leaders make are the projects they refuse to do.

High performance leaders, when they can, refuse projects that:

- are not aligned with their goals
- are not aligned with their organization's goals
- are not aligned with their organization's mission and vision
- could be best handled by someone else
- have already been assigned to someone else

You need to have the authority to refuse the project of course. It may not be a popular decision. But how much effort do you want to put into low priority projects that you don't want to do?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

To arrange training in project management, leadership, or handling multiple goals and projects, contact me at:

Results and Relationships

Are you a people person, or a results person?

People tend to favor one or the other: results, or relationships.

Naturally, we like to think of ourselves as leaders as being versatile, flexible and well rounded. Of course we DO value both results and relationships. Truth be told, we likely lean on one more than the other. It doesn't make us good, bad, or indifferent; it just makes us people.

Centered leaders remember to nurture relationships as they communicate for results.

It's not one or the other. It's not either / or. We can have both results and relationships. We simply need to know which one we are favoring at the moment, step back, and make clearly certain that we take care of both.

That's what centered leaders do. How about you?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

No Fear of Goals

Have you ever seen anyone get close to achieving a goal and then step away? They back off just short of getting the goal done. While many factors came seem like barriers and keep us from achieving our goals, sometimes it's fear. Fear of change.

Fear of goals is fear of change.

Things will be different. Standards may change. Expectations will increase. The bar will be raised on performance. Achievement will advance. Performance will need to improve.

But achievement must advance. Performance must improve. Stasis doesn't work for us. We need to keep moving, keep growing, keep changing. Setting ambitious goals and then achieving them helps us get where we should be going.

Don't fear your goals. Achieve them.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Shared Understanding

How can you be sure that what you just said was understood?

Isn't it enough when they nod their head?

Isn't it enough when they say yes?

Maybe. And then again maybe not.

Building shared understanding requires the time to explore your meaning in some detail. Agreement is unsteady unless their is understanding behind it. Before I honor that promise to cut your lawn, I really ought to know whether your lawn is a quarter acre, or twenty square smiles. Before you agree to call me on Thursday we both should understand what time zone we're going to be talking in.

Effective communication reaches a clear, shared understanding.

Understanding includes:

- details
- facts
- emotionsc- intention
- conditions
- circumstances
- environment
- deal breakers
- relationships

... and more. It depends on the message. What I've found is that most people do not go deep into the message to truly know if they've achieved both understanding and agreement. Usually as leaders we need both. Agre…

Cleverly Resisted Learning

Did you ever hide from a lesson?

Have you ever had a truth revealed right in front of you but wouldn't let it shine?

Sometimes we know what we should know but keep running away from it. Maybe it's our true vocation. Maybe it's a relationship we know is over but keep stringing along. Or, maybe it's that relationship that is more than we will admit.

Maybe it's a place we live and need to move on. Maybe it's a mistake we keep repeating -- like starting jobs that aren't meant for us or driving cars that we don't even like.

It could be staying with a project long after the value has been squeezed out of it and it no longer makes sense. We've seen this before, why don't we shut the project down and move on? Why don't we go to our sponsor and say that the triple constraints are blown, the goal is out of reach, and the project is a dog?

Some of our most useful lessons are at first vigorously resisted.

But we can learn. We can grasp the obvious. We c…

Trusting Someone

Do you have someone you can tell anything to?

Are you also willing to listen to anything that they have to say to you? Even when it is about you?

Centered leaders build the kinds of relationships that are filled with open and honest communication. And some of those relationships are more meaningful, more close than others. Since leaders require honest feedback -- the kind that doesn't spare any feelings because the feelings are already secure -- it's important to build a relationship with a trusted advisor. Someone you trust more than anyone else because you are sure that they always have your best interests in mind.

A trusted advisor is reliable even when you disagree.

Reliable as a friend. Reliable as unselfish in the moment. Reliable in looking out for your best interests.

And when you disagree you can do that with respect, with compassion, and with honesty. It's possible that your advisor is wrong. And isn't it also possible that they are right?

-- Douglas Brent Smi…

Hold Onto Your Vision

How firm are you in your commitment to your vision?

In my over 25 years of business I have read hundreds of visions that were so abstract that they couldn't inspire even the most dedicated of followers. Or, they were so long that no one could remember them. And, don't assume that the upper executives do a better job of remembering and embracing their company vision, because many of them can't remember them or distinguish them from those of other companies.

It doesn't have to be that way.

You can have a memorable, actionable, vision that inspires you and others. Something that you can really get your figurative arms around and love. Something that instantly explains who you are as an organization. If you don't have that already, I urge you to do whatever it takes to get it. Keep it short (frankly, ten words is long enough and shorter is even better). Keep it specific. Make it count.

Keep listening to others in your organization. Find out what your customers are look…

Overcoming Obstacles

What stands in your way? What prevents you from achieving your goals?

The bigger your goal, the more likely that obstacles will spring up. Sometimes they are very real and very formidable. At other times they simply look formidable but amount to small walls that are easily overcome -- once the effort is made.

How do you overcome an obstacle?

The first step is to recognize it. Acknowledge it. Admit it. And then clearly define what exactly it is that is standing in your way.

Did you put it there? Is it something that you secretly want and so have done nothing to overcome? Did someone else put it there and was it intentional or not? What function does the obstacle play? Will anyone else miss that thing standing in your way if you get rid of it once and for all?

Will you need help? Will you stay with the effort even if working toward overcoming that obstacle brings about side effects?

The art of leadership is overcoming the obstacles to your plan without creating harm.

If your solution hu…

Expanding Your Influence

How wide is your circle of influence?

Do you have someone you can call to help you solve a problem, no matter what that problem is?

We're faced as leaders with accomplishing great things. We're faced constantly with doing more with less, with improving performance, with making things better, smarter and faster. None of that is easy. Little of that can be done alone. We need help.

High performance leaders are always expanding their influence. 

Developing relationships.
Doing favors.
Listening intently.
Lending a helping hand.
Supporting worthy organizations.
Achieving noble goals.
Helping other people with their projects.
Constantly learning.
Taking responsibility.

Those types of things are much more important than a latest blog posting or tweet. Face to face human help is priceless and builds our influence -- not so that we can help our own careers, but so that we can join in doing great things to make this a better world.

Sound good to you?

What can you learn today that will h…

Work on Influence

What is the most important tool for a leader? How can a project manager herd all the cats needed to get the project done to specification, on budget, and on time?

Through influence. Building strong relationships able to respond quickly to needs. Delivering constantly on promises so that promised are owed. Helping others and thanking them meaningfully when they help you.

The most important tool for a project manager is influence.

Understanding people so that they will take the time to understand you. Figuring out what they are about so that what you are about matters. Appealing to a person's desires not to manipulate them but because you sincerely care about those desires, those dreams, those visions

What are you doing to build influence today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Beyond Uncertainty

Do you ever find yourself polarized, stuck where you are, because where you are going seems so uncertain?

Should you take that big step, make that big decision, launch that unstoppable change?

Leadership is often filled with uncertainty. We don't quite know the outcome. We feel that twinge of doubt or fear. Centered leaders push forward.

What we can't be uncertain about is our ability to prevail. We must be certain that in finding our balance, finding our center, and seeking noble goals that we will achieve what is best. It may not even be always what we planned for, but we will find better outcomes.

Centered leaders show the courage to move forward when the outcome is uncertain.

With solid values. With centered focus. With calm resolve. Persistence pays, when courage takes the wheel.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Bring Out The Best in Your Team

Did you ever wish for a different team? Maybe a team with all of the top talent. Maybe a team with perfect dynamics and top performers who achieved every goal and drove you to new places.

Of course.

We want high performance teams. We want to achieve our goals. We want innovation that old teams never achieved and current teams seam to struggle with. Still, our team is our team.

Short of dismantling it and starting over (which some leaders do choose to do) it is up to us instead to help our team grow into the team we are most proud of. The team of our own dream.

The art of leadership is making the most of the team that you have.

All of its strengths. All of its challenges. All of its capacity.

Centered leaders guide their teams to the next level of success. We don't simply ride on their backs barking orders. We must go the distance. We must:

- coach them patiently
- involve them constantly
- empower them fearlessly
- account for them vigorously
- inspire them courageously
- forgive …