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Showing posts from May, 2015

Take One Brave Step

Where does courage come from? How do we as leaders develop the courage that we need to stand up to resistance, overcome injustice, and develop our people even when resources are low? It's not a pill that we can take, it's not anything that we can buy; we develop courage one step at a time.

One step toward correcting the mistakes that we make. One step toward confronting a wrong. One step toward practicing assertiveness, not aggressiveness, in stating what we want in a situation.

We make mistakes along the way. We become too assertive. We fail to speak up when we see someone being disrespected. We let our boss incorrectly criticize a team member. But, we can correct those mistakes. We can redirect our work in courage toward effective behavior.

Courage does not require perfection.

It requires steps in that direction. How do we get started on our path to courage? Take one brave step at a time.

What step toward courage can you take today?

Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training…

Focus On What's Important

Have you ever noticed that the people who need the most help with time management are really skilled at resisting any help with it?

I've heard so many excuses that they would fill Lake Michigan, and most are so light they'd float on the top. They're light because they ARE excuses, and not reasons.

That doesn't make them any easier to overcome. We fall in love with our reasons, even when others see them as excuses. We cling to our constraints as if they are holding us (body and soul) together.

What's a person to do? How do you help that time-challenged performer become more productive? Even more important, how do you become more productive yourself when we all have our little clinging constraints holding us back?

Goals are a way to help us focus on what is important.

It all starts with the goals. When we set goals that are aligned with what is most important (our mission, our values, our expectations) they help us navigate the waves of procrastination, time-wasting, …

Involve The Right People In The Solution

How does it feel to solve a problem only to have many people complain about the solution? What are the chances of that problem staying solved?

It's tempting as a leader to take the fastest possible path to a solution. Sometimes that means deciding ourselves. Sometimes that means excluding the people who would be most impacted by the solution. That often leads to another problem to solve AND the need for some powerful change management.

Why create another problem?

Sometimes a solution aggravates people more than the problem did. Involve the people within the situation in finding a solution. 

You never have to convince someone that their own idea is right. Why not find out what their idea is?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

On Or Off The Team?

What do you do with a team member who doesn't seem happy on the team? What do you do when that unhappy team member fails to meet your standards or perform to your expectations?

Whenever this has happened to me it's been cause for deep concern. Why on earth won't they get on board? What are they waiting for? And, then I've learned that sometimes a team member's biggest obstacle to success is me. For one reason or another we've confused our messages, twisted our signals, and started on opposite paths unnecessarily.

The best place to start - if it's possible that I'm part of the problem - is in dialogue. Talk it over. Think through the situation. Find out the perspectives of the person involved. Reach agreement on building the start of an ongoing conversation that includes what I call the CLUES to Success:

Create agreementsListen with curiosityUnderstand the facts and the feelingsExpress yourself positivelyShare responsibility for success When we're bo…

Are Your Standards Consistent?

Did you ever work for someone who seemed to have one set of standards for you, and another for someone else? How easy was it to please them? How did it make you feel?

While we do need to act in flexible ways leading others, since each person is different, we owe it to the team to hold to our standards. Performance standards may be variable as a team member matures (they may be expected to do less when they are new to the team and progress in a reasonable manner to the top standard) but they should be consistent. When they stop being consistent who do you think notices on your team? Everyone.

If you suddenly change standards don't expect people to like it.

People need to know the reasons for things. Suddenly requiring everyone on the team to do more isn't magic - people either embrace the standard or resist it - and when the change is too sudden or unreasonable the only sensible choice is to resist it. As leaders, that's not what we want.

Instead, we should explain the reaso…

Pay Attention to Details

Do you balance your strategic self with your tactical self? Even though the more responsibility we get the more strategic we should become (managers are paid to be more strategic than supervisors who should be more strategic than technical team members) we still must pay attention to the details.

Details left unattended tend to drift away from the level of quality you expect.

High performance leaders follow-up. They pay attention to details. They trust people to handle their tasks AND they follow-up to make sure that their trust is rewarded.

The work is seldom done just because it's delegated. The details still matter.

Supervising for success requires relentless attention to detail.

Is that micromanaging? It depends. Once you know that someone is completely capable of handling a set of details without your help, then of course allow them complete responsibility on that. But until you're sure, simply assigning something is no assurance that the details will be right.

That's …

Focus On Your Goals

Have you looked at your goals today?

I encourage you to do that now, or perhaps right after reading this. Take a look at what you've defined as important. Do you still agree? Is that the best use of your time? Is your action plan getting you where you want to be?

When we focus on our goals we tend to achieve them.

Take a look.

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success 

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Solve the Problem or Manage It

What do you do about problems that can't be solved/

It's not that you can't solve them or that you haven't found the person who can solve them, some problems simply can't be solved. They must be managed instead.

The best source of help and information I've found on unsolvable problems is the book Polarity Management - Identifying and Managing Unsolvable Problems by Barry Johnson.

The book includes valuable insights about spotting and managing unsolvable problems. He calls these polarities: "sets of opposites which can't function well independently." Within each pole, or opposite force, are upsides and downsides - things we would want to keep and things that we could live without. So often we do not get to choose one or the other - in order to keep the good aspects of a force we must live with the bad. To live with the bad, we must manage the forces in action.

We do not do that by eliminating either side. We manage both sides.  We make peace with t…

Practice Listening

If you asked just about anyone what's the most important component to better communication what do you think they'd say? What do you say?

I think it's listening. No matter what we say, if we don't skillfully listen to what we are receiving in connection with our intentions, our efforts are less than optimal.

There have been times when I've had so much to say that it seems like I just don't stop talking. On and on I ramble with passion about the item I want others to adopt. It's a quality that gets me going but that can slow me down if I don't remember to pause long enough to listen. Really quiet myself enough to hear what's going on. Sometimes it's words, sometimes it's body-language, sometimes it's pure energetic incongruence, but something is always going on. Listen.


It works when I am rambling on too long. It works when someone else is rambling on too long.

If you speak long enough you're likely to disagree with yourself. 

Manage Your Team Carefully

Do you manage your team with a strong hand, controlling the details with precision and strength? Or, do you tend to maintain loose boundaries and let your team members take charge of their destiny more?

Is it really one or the other?

Old school leadership is all about control. Define the goals, set the rules, then rule with an iron fist. Let them know who's boss and never let them forget it.

Slowly, and with great reluctance, that gave way to a newer school of thought - more participative leadership involving dignified treatment of team members (oh yes, they became more like team members than employees) and shared leadership. Used skillfully, it results in a more engaged workforce. Used carelessly, it results in chaos and unsatisfactory results.

As is so often the case, it's not one or the other. As leaders we must have the strength to make decisions. We set the standards. We model the behaviors we are seeking. And we provide guidance for those who need it (hint - at one time …

Find Clarity

How do you handle ambiguity?

I was once told that high performance leaders must be comfortable with ambiguity. The answers are not always obvious. Sometimes, the answers aren't even discoverable. Move forward even when you don't know what the outcome will be.

That's fine. I think it's more than that. Ambiguity is fine if you're already fuzzy about your goals. We can make peace with ambiguity when we are navigating uncharted territory. But it's more of a paradox than orthodox. While we must not be unhinged by ambiguity, it is clarity that opens the door to achieving our goals.

Clarity tells us if we are operating within our values. Clarity tells us if our goals are on track for success or derailing from inaction.

Absolute clarity of purpose prevents endless amounts of wasted time.

And as a centered, high performance leader you don't want wasted time.

How clear are you about your purpose?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success


Keep Those Filters Open

How much gets through your mental filters?

We all perceive the world through our individual filters. Some are mental, some are cultural, some are generational, and some are gender based. That's just a few, we've got more filters than we even know about, distorting what we see and impacting our decisions.

It takes effort to keep those filters open, to keep them from squeezing out every new idea or discordant movement that could lead to innovation, creativity, and change. We need those new ideas and so we need to monitor and regulate our own filters. In some cases (such as prejudice and persecution) we may need to eliminate certain filters altogether.

We must be careful that our daily filters don't block the answers to our problems.

They will if we let them.

Take charge of your filters. You do want to see beauty and brilliance when it appears, don't you?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success 

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Make Progress On Your Goals

Have you ever been so busy and distracted that the whole morning goes by without even knowing what you did in all that time?

I've done it. One distraction leads to another. One fascination opens doors to new branches of a constantly blooming tree that's completely unrelated to the garden you're supposed to be cultivating. Time doesn't care how we spend it. How we spend it is up to us.

To achieve our goals, we need to work on them. We need to relentless work our plan. Then, instead of wondering where our time when we can see: it went to achieving our goals. It went to working on our mission. It made us more productive and successful.

It's a beautiful day when you make progress on your goals.

Why not make some progress on one of them right now.

Right. Now.

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Cross A Boundary Or Two

Has a hard problem got you tied in a box? Are the boundaries so bound you aren't moving forward?

Even obvious problems can feel like puzzles. Even easy problems can appear paradoxical - one answer is true, and yet it is false. One solution will work, and yet it won't. We wrestle with, balance, and confront two or more competing ideas knowing that something is true about each of them.

When a problem is a paradox you may need to cross a boundary or two to make sense of it.

Flip it around. Turn it inside out. Push the limit until the limit surrenders. Suspend all disbelief until something believable emerges. Maybe it's your answer, and maybe it's not. It could be another bunny trail down the rabbit hole of mystery. But your answer is there somewhere - somewhere beyond its current boundary.

What's got you boxed in?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Go With The Truth

Are you ready for a challenge that could be tougher than it sounds?

Go twenty-four hours without telling any lies.

That's right, go with the truth 100%. It's radical. It's dangerous. It's hard to do.

Why is it so hard to do? Because we tell little lies all day for a hundred different reasons, some good reasons and some just lazy reasons. We lie to save someone's self-respect by telling them they look great when we can tell that's not true. We lie about what we eat. We lie about what we're thinking when we catch a glimpse of an attractive person while we're standing right next to our spouse. We lie.

We lie to protect ourselves. We lie to protect others. We lie so much that often we don't even realize we are lying. That's a weird way to live. We can do better.

I'm not talking about speaking so radically that we hurt people's feelings. Whatever we say we should also choose words with respect and usefulness. And as we do, why not pick true o…

What If You're Not The Best?

Here's another guest entry from my good friend and fraternity brother David Spiegel. He's knows I'm a big Bruce Springsteen fan, so it won't surprise him that his fine email today caught my attention.

Oh yeah, and the message is a winner, too!

" A time comes when you need to stop waiting for the man you want to become and start being the man you want to be"
- Bruce Springsteen
I was asked "do you regret giving up on music?" The question momentarily caught me off guard. Regrets? Unlike in the song, I really don't know that I have any. I try to never live in the woulda coulda shoulda world that comes when I buy into regrets. When I snapped back to the question my answer was a resounding no, not at all. I shared with my friend my thoughts and feelings and then we moved on.
Since then I have revisited the question.  Why didn't I regret it? I was a good musician. No I was a very good musician. I was accomplished,dynamic and one might even say pass…

Develop Your Team's Persistence

How hard does your team try?

"We're doing the best we can."
"Are you sure?"
"We can't do any more, we're already at capacity."
"How sure are you about that?"
"It's too much, I just feel like giving up."
"What will that get you?"
"Is that what you want?"
"I want to stop struggling?"
"What does that sound like to you?"
"Sleep. Or worse. But it doesn't hurt anymore."
"Are you sure about that? What if you kept trying? What if better than trying, you insisted on doing. Achieving. What if the harder it is to succeed the bigger the success? What if as a team we persisted until we won?"
"That would be good."
"Yes, it would. Let's get started."

When you talk with your team members, do you talk about persistence? Do you encourage people to keep working (not trying - beyond trying into actually getting things done)?


Find Your Capacity

How hard can you work? How much do you know? What skills are your best?

Could you be already doing your best -- or is it possible you have much more capacity for growth, development, training, leadership, and productivity?

Even when it feels like we are giving everything we have, most of the time there is more to do. We have more capacity. We harbor increased potential. The best of us is yet to come.

The world needs your gifts at their optimal capacity.

To solve problems, to achieve goals, to supervise to success, to communicate for results, to build the best possible teams, we all need to find and explore our true capacity. And do you know why? Because our true capacity is not frozen in place - it can (and should) grow. How do we grow our capacity? By finding it, challenging it, and growing it.

Today's a good day to start. What do you think?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Learn To Build A Better Tomorrow

Do you have all the answers yet? Are you finished learning?

Of course not. Learning is a lifetime necessity, especially for leaders. Centered leaders learn constantly and apply what they learn to make things better. To solve problems. To achieve their goals.

What we learn today can bring about a better tomorrow. 

Isn't that what you want, a better tomorrow? It can happen, but it's up to each of us. What will you do? What will you learn?

What have you learned today?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Get Support for Your Goals

Who do you have helping you to achieve your goals?

If you're anything like me, you are sometimes tempted (well, beyond tempted) to go for it all by yourself. But, there's a difference between sharply focused clear dedication and missing an opportunity to get valuable support.

Sometimes when we enthusiastically talk about our goals people will just show up to help us. It's like magic. We don't have to wait for that magic, though. We can simply ask for the help that we need.

Knowing how to achieve your goals is important. Getting the right support for them is critical.

What support do you need? Who could help you today to move your biggest goal forward? Will you ask them to?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Get Perspective On Your Problems

Have you ever noticed that someone else's problems can look far worse to them than they do to you? Have you ever thought how easy it might be to solve someone else's problem, yet they can't seem to see how easy it is?

Could that be happening to you as well?

I know that it happens to me. I can get choked up and bound by a problem that years later seams simple. Our perspective filters everything, especially our problems.

When problems are close to us, it can be hard to see them clearly. Our emotions tangle up with our logic creating a spaghetti like pile of abstract  roadblocks. We can do better.

Our closest problems look very different to someone who is not so close to them.

Get some perspective. Get some help. Clarify what is really going on and see what it will take to untangle it.

What problem do you think needs a new sense of perspective today? How can you get that more detached, clear, and honest perspective?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Super…

Drop That Fear of Rejection

Does the fear of rejection get in the way of your communicating?

It has for me. So many times I have wanted something and started to express that desire and then when the possibility of rejection arose I backed off, or stumbled, or mumbled and just plain missed the opportunity. Projects I could have launched. Dates I could have had. Friendships that could have formed. Partnerships that could have created success. Opportunities have often simply evaporated over the fear of rejection.

I'm not a psychologist and can't explain completely how rejection works, or why it feels worse from some people and worse for all of us at various times in our lives. I've come to think though that the fear rejection just plain stands in our way, for no good reason.

So what if we're rejected? We won't burst into flames. We won't sink into a muddy hole. We won't disappear. The rejection will come and go and we decide what to do next. We decide.

Rejection is not about us, but about…

Recruit Successful People

What kind of people do you look for when you're building your team?

As leaders we are constantly building our team by developing the people already in the team and by recruiting new team members. Whether or not we're hiring, we should always be looking for creative, clear, courageous, compassionate people with records of creating success.

They could be small successes. They could be low margin successes. They could be things that simply have made things better or easier. People with habits of creating success can be relied upon to continue creating success.

It helps your team grow. It helps you learn.

Surround yourself with successful people. Even if they are not part of your team the influence they can have on your team is both positive and profound.

There's no better time to learn than when you're surrounded by successful people.

What have you learned today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

doug smith training: how to ach…

Give Yourself Some Compassion

Are you hard on yourself?

When we are driving hard toward a goal, when we miss on a task, when we make mistakes, we can put more pressure on ourselves than anyone else. As leaders, we feel the pressure of the results and the need to please the people involved. It can become overwhelming.

We need compassion for others, absolutely. That is one of the five core strengths of leadership. We also need some of that compassion for ourselves.

We must have compassion for ourselves to show that compassion for others.

When we're angry with ourselves it's tough to be kind. Start by being kind to yourself. As we used to say when I was a kid, "cut yourself some slack".

You'll need that slack to help others.

What have you been pressing yourself about today? What if you eased up just a little? What if you thought a few loving thoughts for yourself?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Start With Your Top 3 Goals

How do you start your day?

Many people start by checking their email. Some start by poking around in their social media. Time slips by and the morning is quickly consumed by activities producing small (or no) results. We can do better.

What if we started by focusing on our goals? What if the first thing we did each day brought us closer to achieving our goals?

It doesn't replace getting ready for work activities (eating, exercise, centering, praying - whatever you do). It simply puts our focus on productive work when it's time to get to work.

Start your day by looking at your top three goals and deciding how you will work on them today.

This gives you the opportunity to:

Uncover new possibilitiesPlan for meaningful segments of time to work on major tasks (and schedule that time)Focus on prioritiesSchedule time to get the help you needMake use of your high energy times to work on high energy tasks Yes, you'll be interrupted. Yes, your plan may change. But why not start with w…