Thursday, January 31, 2013

Looking At Our Own Mistakes

photo by Stephen Downes retrieved at flickr/pictures/stephen_downes
Have you ever hidden from what's good for you?

Do you ever find yourself in a box of your own design?

I can get defensive sometimes. A piece of criticism heads my way, and I'm not only ducking, I'm swatting it away like a nuisance. Full red alert keeps me from getting what I need to hear.

Not always, but sometimes I'm not feeling secure enough to look at my own opportunity for improvement.

Do you ever find yourself hiding from your mistakes? What do you think happens as a result?

Here's what I learned about that:

If you want help with a problem, be willing to look at your own mistakes without getting defensive.

How else can you ever fix them?

How else will people be willing to take the risk of communicating openly and honestly with you?

Feeling defensive is normal -- acting defensive is a choice.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Recognizing A Problem

Are you the first person to know when you've got a problem? Or, are you somewhere further down the list?

Dorinda often says "recognition is the boobie prize..." meaning that while self-knowledge is valuable, it doesn't solve your problem. It's a good start, though.

Recognizing a problem is a positive step toward solving it.

Once we know that a situation is ready for change, we can set about changing it. That doesn't guarantee that a solution will be easy to find, but at least we'll start looking.

There are positive ways to do this. Positive ways to become self-aware faster and get started earlier:

- Encourage more feedback from people. Whether or not we like the feedback, it can sometimes help.
- Keep score of your own results. Is your performance growing? Or, is there unstated opportunity?
- Test your assumptions. Just because things are quiet doesn't mean a storm isn't brewing. Check.

These aren't the only ways to recognize a problem, but they all do work. What other ways have you found to self-identify a problem opportunity?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Solving Problems   |   Achieving Your Goals  

Saturday, January 26, 2013

What You're Looking For...

Have you ever thought of the perfect solution to a problem -- only to discover that it wasn't much of a solution after all?

The excitement builds, the light bulbs shine, the energy flows, and then -- moments or days later it just doesn't seem valuable at all.

That's nothing to fear. When we are generating ideas it is easy to fall in love with a few. That doesn't make them bad, but it doesn't necessarily mean they will solve your problem, either.

Let them rise to your attention. Let them keep you charged up. And then evaluate them fairly using the criteria you've already set up for a solution.

Centered problem solvers need the passion and energy of creativity AND the logic and focus of clarity. Know what you're looking for and it becomes SO much easier to find.

When you're solving problems, remember those solutions that sounded good but didn't work? What was missing?

-- clarity of purpose
-- criteria for success
-- stakeholder acceptance
-- practical application
-- centered alignment to your mission and goals

Any solution can sound good in the flow of the moment. Centered leaders keep all of their key skills available to balance, define, and act.

What works best for you?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Unlimited Creativity

Do you ever worry about using up your creativity? There's no need: you have an unlimited supply.

Maybe it hides sometimes (mine does, like a funky little mouse who will only come out for a cookie) and maybe it goes days on end invisible, but it is still there, as deep as ever, and available for you.

When we need to solve problems, when we need new ways to achieve our goals, when we need to make something more fun or interesting so that people will get involved, our creativity is there waiting to activate something wonderful.

Sing the song. Draw the picture. Dance the dance.

Your creativity is unlimited. Learn more, do more, rinse and repeat. 

The fun, the brilliance, the excitement is yours for the taking.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Monday, January 21, 2013

I'm Sorry Is Not Enough

Dorinda and I watched Lance Armstrong confess to doping. Oprah did her usual great job of inquiring without judging, and yet asking questions so frank, so disarming that Lance simply answered them in what appeared to be his most honest approach. He may be sorry. I'm not here to judge. But sometimes he didn't seem completely sorry, and was not prepared to do much but talk about it.

This is topical and someday we may all forget about Mr. Armstrong's disgrace and his apologies. I mention this because it has become expected that famous people, flawed like the rest of us, who commit terrible indiscretions or hurt other people at some point do their public very sincere apology and expect that all be forgiven. Or, at least forgotten enough so that they can continue to do what they do and prosper. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Either way the damage has been done. Saying "I'm sorry" rings a little hollow and lands incomplete. Those harmed remain harmed.

"I'm sorry" is not enough. We learn from 12 step programs that whenever it does not create more harm to do so, we owe the people we have harmed an amends. We need to make it right. We need to pay them back, perhaps three-fold or more, for the harm that we have done. If we stole $100, we should pay them back in a value of $300 or more. It's not easy. It's deeper than words. It's more lasting and more significant.

As high performance leaders it is easy to overstep our boundaries. In the name of results we can harm others, sometimes mistakingly and sometimes through a narcissistic oversight. That's one reason we need feedback from trusted confidents as well as from people we might not really want feedback from but who will give us completely unfiltered insights into our behavior.

And when we do cross the line, when we do harm, we need to make it right. Saying "I'm sorry" is not enough. Compassion is wonderful, and sometimes a great start toward justice.

Think about someone you've wronged. Is there a way that you can make it up to them today without re-harming the in any way? And, if not them, can you make it right to the universe? Show the courage that it takes to make amends.

Try it. See how much more authentic that is than simply saying "I'm sorry"...

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Five Lessons From Lance Armstrong's Failure

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

On To Something Better

Do you ever get stuck in a project? Things slow down, progress is slight, and enthusiasm wanes?

I've been in projects where the meetings continue long after the energy is gone. The people bring their lip service but not their tools, their obligations but not their commitment. One of two things must be done in those cases:

1. Ignite the project into a burst of energy and race to the finish line.
2. Terminate the project.

Why drag on? Why accomplish less than you could?

The sooner you finish that project the sooner you can do something much better.

Won't that feel good?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Passion in Anger

Sometimes I get angry at the silliest things. I once got angry at a boss who said I had an anger problem. I traveled the road from denial to defensiveness to objection. It's easy to get lost on that road.

People get angry for a lot of reasons, and I've managed to feel most of them. It doesn't make me an angry person (I hope) but it does mean I'm a person who gets angry. Who doesn't?

Some people handle their anger better than others. That's admirable. Good for them. It can be done with therapy, will power, training, prayer, meditation or medication.  We do have to handle our anger. Getting angry is acceptable, but acting negatively based on that anger is not.

High performance leaders see anger as unfulfilled passion and find ways to convert it to productive use.

Whether it's our own anger or someone else's, there is so much energy there! Why not channel it? Why not direct it? Why not use it for meaningful, noble, productive change?

I had another boss who said "I'm not afraid of your anger -- passion is wonderful -- just direct it respectfully and productively."


The next time something makes you (or someone you know) angry, take a moment to explore where that passion really wants to go. It might be worth the journey, without the side effects.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

More Than One Cause

Have you ever figured out the cause to a problem, only to discover later that maybe it wasn't the cause after all?  Maybe there were multiple causes?

It so often happens that what appears to be obvious is not so obvious at all. Underlying factors linger. People cling to agendas. Processes remain broken.

There is usually more than one cause to any problem. Search beyond what seems obvious.

Surprises are better discovered early.

Causes left undiscovered remain in effect.

-- Douglas Brent Smith