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Showing posts from April, 2015

Face the Pain Directly

Can you solve your biggest problem without facing the pain it produces?

The only motivation we need to solve a problem is to recognize the cost of not solving it. Leaving it alone gives us what we've got and that is seldom enough. To move toward growth, to achieve our goals, we must find a way around or through the things that block us, the things that cause us grief, our problems.

Very often the solution is imbedded in the description of that pain. Getting to work late makes the boss angry. The pain is the boss's anger, but the cause is getting to work late. The fix? Get to work on time. What's the solution to that? There is a world of possibilities.

When I procrastinate my projects run late and then my deadlines back-up causing me stress. I don't like that kind of stress. It's a kind of emotional pain. How do I fix that? Maybe not procrastinate on those projects and solve that problem.

The solution isn't always so obvious, but it's there. The pain doesn&#…

Ask A Better Question

What do you do when you don't like the answer to your question?

What if the answers to your problem aren't arising as fast as you'd like?

One of my mentors, and someone I still enjoy working with, Andrew Oxley likes to say "If you don't like the answer to a question, ask a better question." That's a powerful way to improve communication.

To get better communication results - the results you are looking for, ask better questions. Stay curious. Probe with kindness.

If you can't find the answer, ask a different question.

The answer is likely in there. We never need accept failure as final. Keep curious, keep asking, reframe instead of blaming, and our patience will pay off.

What questions do you need to ask?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

Doug Smith Training: How to achieve your goals

Build Your Team's Learning

Is your team learning fast enough?

Is your team learning deep enough?

Is your team putting into practice the lessons they should be learning from the feedback that is available?

Building your team operates on may levels and in many disciplines and one of the most important is in their learning. Constant change requires  constant learning. What are you doing as a high performance leader to facilitate that learning?

Are they getting the training they need? Do you install learning-focused processes into your meetings? Do you make use of feedback to find what works and identify the opportunities for improvement and growth?

That's all part of building a high performance team. That's all part of getting your projects done on time, in budget, and to your quality standards. That's all part of achieving your goals.

Things get better when we learn how to make them better and put our learning into action.

How are you building your team today?

-- Doug Smith

Interested in increasing you…

Thrive on Possibilities

Do you  believe that anything is possible?

I'm careful about going that far - I know for certain that I will never play basketball in the NBA or play bass with the Beatles no matter how much I want to or believe it. Belief does have limits.

For many people those limits are far more restrictive than they need to be. Despite our limitations, the world (the universe!) is filled with wonderful, exciting, curious possibilities. We could (and should!) spend our lives exploring those possibilities.

Not in regretting what is no longer possible - in discovering what is.

One of my favorite books is The Art of Possibility - Transforming Professional and Personal Life by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander. It's a great guide in how to see the possibilities and potential in people, processes, places, performance with an attitude that welcomes success.

Imagine that - an attitude you can carry with yourself in every endeavor and every interaction that invites success. New possibilitie…

Do Your Best

How do you feel when you do your best?

Do you feel stronger, more creative, more in charge, more successful? I do - when I do my best. That takes extra effort. That takes constant focus. That takes an occasional (well, OK, sometime a frequent) redirect of energy and attention to move in the direction of my best. But, it's worth it.

There are many ways to achieve success and they all require you to do your best.

Why not accept that as a guideline and apply it wholesale to what we do?

-- Doug Smith

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

Be Careful About Perfection

Do you have a tendency toward perfection?

I'm all about quality. As a basically analytical personality I strive constantly for perfection. The trouble I run into is that it isn't usually necessary to achieve perfection. Insisting on re-doing and revising repeatedly in pursuit of perfection can keep me from finishing something important.

I've learned to be careful about perfection.

My acting coach, Brian McCulley has a favorite expression "Done is better than perfect".

Maybe not always - but usually.

I've learned to move forward. To keep doing. And to finish. Things can usually be revised later, but it pays to get them done.

In many of my workshops I ask my participants to invent a game. The game has only two criteria for success: it much help us learn something about the workshop content, and it must be fun. It does not need to perfect. There isn't really any way the games they invent could be perfect. But they are fun, and they produce learning. It'…

Learn How To Achieve Your Goals

Do you have it all figured out?

Last week I had a couple of people in one of my workshops who thought they had it all figured out. There was nothing left to learn. There were no tips or tricks or tools or techniques that could make their lives better. It was what it was and that's all there was to it.

I feel sorry for them. They have doomed themselves to a life of overwhelm. Smug in their suffering they get to continue to suffer, like some technician stuck in the hellish hole of routine disaster. It doesn't have to be that way. It isn't that way at all.

High performance leaders continue to learn. If you care about achieving your goals, you keep learning. New ways of doing things. New ways of improving your personal productivity. New ways of adjusting your perspective to a view that matters and helps.

There's never been a perfect model for education but that's never prevented people from learning. Build your own model if you need to. Find one that works. But please,…

Get the Problem Solving Team You Need

Do you have the people you need on your team to solve your biggest problem?

You might need to find them. You might need to develop them. You might need to recruit them. But, you need them. You need who you need.

It doesn't fool you or the problem to proceed pretending that you can solve that big problem without the necessary resources. Get what you need or stop fooling yourself.

I hear what you're thinking (that's spooky but you know what I mean, don't you?) in that sometimes you just have to suck it up and put on your super hero cape and get it done all by yourself or with the limited resources you have. Just because resources are limited doesn't mean you can't develop them. And, just because resources are limited doesn't mean you can't interest another superstar in your work if the work is valuable enough.

Your work IS valuable enough, right?

Get the help you need.

Even superheroes need teams when the problem is big enough.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Double Your Team's Productivity

Is your team as productive as it could be?

I haven't seen a team yet that was. We can all improve our productivity. That doesn't mean asking people to work harder or longer. They're already tired of that (just ask them). What it does mean in finding things in your processes that you can fix. It means identifying which customers are taking up most of your time and why (and if they are actually earning you money or costing your money).

It means bringing out the potential in each and every team member. It means to STOP having silly time-wasting status report meetings and instead, get things done.

It means to stop making excuses or complaining and to think of better ways to do things.

Productivity is an endless cycle of improvement if you move in that direction. And, that's the direction your team wants because the only alternative is entropy. Yuck.

What could your team do TODAY that would double its productivity?

Why not ask them?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Improve your team&…

Make Every Answer Count

Do your people ask you a lot of questions?

I remember as a supervisor getting tons of questions, so many in fact that I appointed my number two (who was smarter than me at the technical details anyway) in charge of any question focused on the technical details. That freed me up to answer questions about discipline, vacations, team orientations, training, or the occasional rambling series of questions meant to just spend some quality time with the boss. I'm thinking of you, Carl.

It feels flattering to get so many questions. I must be smart, and I must have answers if so many people ask. That is only partly true, but I did learn that how I answered each question mattered.

How the supervisor answers questions largely determines how valued each team member feels. There's a line wide enough to park your car on between answering too much and answering too little. Supervisors have lots of attitude. They also have lots of work to do, so it's tempting to give the briefest of brief…

Stick with Plan A

How earnest is your mission? Is it clear, indisputable, energizing?

My partner Dorinda has a favorite expression, "If you have a plan B to fall back on you'll fall back on it."

I'm not saying that we don't often need a plan B. When we are leading high performance projects we need to manage our risks and that means establishing contingencies. But, those contingencies do NOT mean abandon the mission. The mission is the mission.

There's no plan B for a genuine mission.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Get Fresh Data

How old is the data that you are relying on to complete that project?

How certain are you that the information you are relying on is timely and true?

Statistics age faster than milk. Get fresh data when you need it.

Oh yeah, you probably need it now.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Are you launching a big project? Contact me today about how to get your project team ready for success.

Treat Your Goals Seriously

How many unachieved goals have you left behind?

I'm not judging because I've left plenty of goals behind. Some deserved to be left behind. Some goals never made sense and never got the energy they needed to be achieved.

But some -- some goals that were supposed to be important to me withered on the vine until they became untenable, unachievable, inedible.

Don't you hate it when that happens?

Treat your goals seriously and they'll payoff.

Ignore them and well, they won't.

What's your choice today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Learn more about what to do next on your goals in our webinar How To Achieve Your Goals. 

Front Range Leadership  |  Fast, affordable leadership training

Clarify Misunderstandings

Are you ready for a bold statement?

I don't know if it's statistically sound, but intuitively it feels true. See what you think:

More than half of our problems are simply misunderstanding our situation.

Misunderstandings come in all sizes:

what someone saidwhat they meant by what they saidhow strongly someone feels about somethinga person's willingness or unwillingness to helpthe measurements we are relying ondeadlinesspecifications
You get the idea. Unless as leaders we constantly clarify the meanings we are seeking we are open to misunderstanding the situation. And that can lead to serious problems that, left misunderstood, only grow worse.
Start by clarifying the situation. Maybe you don't even have a problem after all. And if you do, then now you know more about what that problem is.
-- Douglas Brent Smith
Interested in helping your team develop its problem solving skills? Bring our one-day workshop Solving Problems to your location. It's surprisingly affordable…

Remember Tradition While Creating the Future

How traditional is your team?

Has your team carried forward patterns from the past that stabilize and simplify how things get done? Does your team honor the accomplishments of the past while working toward the future?

I remember working in an office with no computers, no fax machines, and no expectation of 24/7 service. It's not that I miss those days, but I do remember them. I also remember loyalty without the need for loyalty programs, and a work ethic that didn't need to be taught because people brought it with them.

Things change. For the most part I believe that the general state of the world is improving. We develop new technologies. We build new configurations of teams. We learn from diversity and experience. We improve.

As leaders we are responsible for co-creating the future. How we lead, which projects we support, and the people we inspire determine what tomorrow will look like. That is an awesome and wonderful responsibility.

We can do that enthusiastically and sti…

Test Your Assumptions

When we want to communicate for results -- to achieve something, to reach shared meaning, we need to constantly clarify and test our assumptions.

Does smiling and nodding mean agreement?

Does silence infer disagreement?

Is that frown on their face a sign of trouble?

What does it all mean?

We get into trouble communicating when we rely on our assumptions as truth. Maybe they are, and maybe they aren't, but my experience has been that more often than not our assumptions are not truth. Not the truth of the people we are seeking shared meaning with.

If you don't test your assumptions they'll keep lying to you.

And, that's probably not what you want.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Front Range Leadership  |  Fast, affordable leadership training

Cooperate, Collaborate, and Co-Inspire

Who is your favorite artist?

Unless you were an arts major, you probably named someone well-known like Picasso or Van Gogh. But there is a world of wonderful yet lessor known artists out there waiting for you to discover.

What does that have to do with leadership?

As an artist, I've learned that leadership is most effective when it is shared. When responsibility is part of the job description for each person on the team, the team does better. Leaders benefit from being creative. What could be more creative than the arts?

That doesn't mean that all leaders must be artists -- but it does mean that all leaders can benefit from learning from the creative approaches artists must take -- to create, to collaborate, to survive.

Here are my suggestions to explore this more:

visit a museum or gallerygo to a concertsee an unusual, independent filmwalk thru the art section of a local fair or flea marketdraw a picture you've never drawn beforepick out a tune on the next musical keyboar…

Stay Curious

Do you remember how curious you were as a four-year old?

I don't remember too much myself, but as a parent I sure do remember how my children were at that age and all through their childhood. Curiosity is a key strength of children. They are constantly testing, trying, investigating, and inductively learning how the world works and where their most fun opportunities could be found.

As leaders, we owe it to our teams to encourage more curiosity. What if we could capture the curiosity we felt as children and perpetuate in ways combined with our adult knowledge to develop better products, faster processes, and more eloquent customer service?

I think that we can.

Centered leaders stay open and curious.

Open to possibilities, and curious about what they don't already know.

I'm willing to work at being more curious today. How about you?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Front Range Leadership  |  Fast, affordable leadership training

Stay Relentless and Flexible

Do your action plans ever weigh you down?

I've been on projects where the action plans were so detailed, so precise, and so constricting that each task felt like a burden in my day. It took the fun right out of it.

Yes, we do need detailed plans to achieve our goals. Yes, we do need to relentlessly follow our plans in order to overcome certain obstacles. But, we can have fun in the process. We can add our creativity. We can embrace new possibilities. We can improvise a new script when the old one seems stale.

Goals are meant to give us more hope, not to chain us to a plan.

When the plan slows us down, dance!

Well, maybe not really dance. But I have been known to break into dance and noticed that it helps. What works for you to get your creative juices flowing?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Looking for ways to achieve your goals? Contact me about attending or scheduling our webinar How to Achieve Your Goals.

Build Agreements As You Solve That Problem

How many times during a problem solving effort do you pause to reach an agreement?

In one of the many subtleties of managing a problem solving team we find our leverage in our agreements. When teams take the time to reach and confirm agreements on the details and behaviors as they go they are far more likely to be able to reach agreement on a solution AND the implementation of that solution.

Sometimes agreeing on the right solution to a problem is tougher than coming up with a solution. 

We generate lots of ideas. We develop some energy around our own ideas. We fatigue and subliminally wish to move on. We push when we should be listening. All of those issues are handled quickly when our team gets into the habit of reaching agreements.

Agreements on details such as:

how will we interact as a team?how do we reach decisions?what is our process for managing conflict?when do we step away and take a break?how long will we invest in this project?what are our roles?what is our default decision …

Balance the Optimism on Your Team

Do you lead a team of optimists? Do they expect to succeed no matter what?

Positive energy is powerful. Building optimistic teams can lead to better results. Creating the kinds of teams that people enjoy working with facilitates your success. But, is it possible to be too positive?

High performance leaders must manage their focus and their balance. By centering our view points and attitudes, and remaining open to all kinds of possibilities (even the ones that we would not choose) we stand a much better chance of overcoming obstacles and achieving our goals.

Successful leaders balance optimism with realism almost every minute.

They ask questions like:

what's the best thing that could happen under these circumstances?what's the worst thing that could happen?what are our strengths that will serve us well today?where are our challenges that could trip us up?do we show signs of a positive and affirming attitudedo we have a grasp on reality so that we're not surprised by an issue,…

Make Things Better

Why do front line leaders spend so much time solving problems?

Because we want to make things better. We must improve the status quo. We must develop higher performance from our people -- and that means solving problems.

Problems surround us some days. Some we need to delegate to others but some we need to roll our sleeves up and handle. Helping the people on our team to solve problems (which is not the same as solving them for them) bonds us, grows us, and prepares us for the achievements ahead.

The cardinal rule in problem solving is make things better.

How are you making things better today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Front Range Leadership

Solving Problems   |   Achieving Your Goals

Get to the Root of Your Project Problems

Have you ever tried to solve a project problem by throwing more resources at it?

More people, more budget, more tools, more materials?

The problem with solving project problems is that we often end up solving symptoms and not the problem itself. To solve the problem we need to find the root cause.

To find the root cause it helps to hold deeper conversations. High performance leaders create the kinds of environments where deeper dialogues can achieve shared meaning. More important than "truth" (because truth is constantly open to interpretation and misinterpretation) is reaching shared meaning. We know what we are talking about and we agree on both the facts and the feelings.

It's easy and tempting to ignore the feelings but when we do we allow the feelings to distort the facts. Then where are we?

Getting to the root cause of a project problem takes patience, curiosity, and skillful communication.

The answer to your project problem is probably not more resources.

The answe…

Find New Answers

How quickly do you reach for an old answer to a new question?

Maybe something looks familiar, like a performance problem, and the easiest thing to do is follow the path of the progressive discipline process. Maybe it comes so easy that we jump at it a little too soon.

Or maybe your project seems to be stalled and you remember that once it helped to energy the team by getting really exciting (maybe even yelling) about your expectations. It worked once.

What if there are some new answers? What if we could stop long enough to allow new ideas to incubate? What if somewhere under the surface we could find a quantum leap solution that send the old issue packing for good?

Centered leaders constantly find new answers to old questions.

Even when the old answers seem fine -- what if?

What old answers could you retire for just today in order to attract something new and exciting?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Front Range Leadership: Fast, affordable leadership training.

Help Your Enemy?

"When I make my enemy my friend have I not destroyed my enemy?"
-- Abraham Lincoln

Do you have any enemies?

Enemies are hard to deal with. They oppose us. They demonize us. They violate our values and breech our assumptions of peace and healthfulness. They stand in the way. They do us harm.

I do hope you aren't experiencing enemies of that nature. But many people are. What's to be done?

We so often select violence as the solution and yet, how has that worked so far? Any violent solution to an enemy problem simply sows the seeds for future conflict and more enemies.

We can't fight our way out of a fight.

An enemy does not need your help to find a reason to oppose you. They will develop reasons of their own. Challenging those reasons, opposing those view points simply fuel the enmity.

Work the relationship not the reason.

Not easy. Not always possible at first view. Seldom safe. But what if we stayed truly curious about what is going on? What if we listened carefull…

Leadership Training Provides Important Benefits

If you've ever worked in an organization that provides no leadership training you already know what a challenge that is. Leadership training prepares front line leaders for providing the kind of high performance leadership needed to solve problems and achieve their goals. Here are some quick articles I found that point out additional benefits to training.

Invest in Experiences
From FastCompany: Science explains why it provides more happiness to spend money on experiences rather than things.

In experiences we share with other people, collaborate, feel, and learn. The best training provides that as well.

Employee Training Is Worth The Investment
Many of the benefits of training include: improving retention, helping in recruiting, adding flexibility and efficiency, helps in job transfer. I would add that it provides the growth we each need to move forward toward achieving our goals.

How Employee Training Benefits Everyone
More benefits are identified here plus the eye-opening statement…

Work On Your Top 3 Goals

Do you work on your top three goals every day?

I'm working to get better at this: creating focus on the three most important goals every day. Not just having the goals in front of me but doing something to move them forward.

Our top three goals need our attention and energy every day.

Not just when we feel like it. Not just when someone reminds us. Not just when we don't have any other choice. Every day.

I'll work on that today. How about you?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Front Range Leadership

Achieving Your Goals

How to Achieve Your Goals

Act Relentlessly On Your Goals

How much energy will you give your most important goal today?

How many tasks on your biggest goal's action plan will you complete?

Centered leaders achieve their goals with clarity, courage, creativity, and compassion. 

And, in order to put those high performance leadership skills into motion they create clear plans and then act relentlessly on those plans every day.

What's your next big goal task?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Are you interested in achieving your goals? Schedule or attend our webinar "How To Achieve Your Goals" and see what happens!

Find Creative Solutions

Does that current problem look a lot like a previous problem? Are you tempted to try the same solution that you've used before?

Just because a problem looks like a previous problem doesn't mean the same solution will work.

In fact it could mean exactly the opposite - the previous solution didn't work. If it had, you wouldn't be recognizing the same old problem.

High performance leaders learn how to find and encourage creative solutions. They dig deeper, beyond the obvious answers. They discover the actual causes and move to create better paths to their goals.

Think of that old problem as a new problem and find a new solution. Wouldn't it be nice to solve it once and for all?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Learn to deal with your team's problems more effectively by bringing our one-day workshop "Solving Problems" to your location. Ask me how here:

Challenge Your Team

What unusual, really big, thoroughly challenging project is your team working on this week?

High performance leaders help their teams find challenges worth completing. The status quo is not where you or your team belongs. You belong in the space of creativity, innovation, and vibrantly significant change.

Bigger challenges are signs of growth.

And, growth is where you want to be.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Interested in helping your team grow and take on bigger challenges? Bring our one-day workshop "Building Your Team" to your location.  Ask me how here: