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Showing posts from June, 2015

Solve Your Biggest Problem

What's your biggest problem?

Will that problem get any smaller on its own?

Some people advocate solving lots of little problems in order to generate energy and momentum. I can see the logic to that, and if it's working for you, keep going.

I've also seen big problems that stall any progress at all. Team members talk about them. Customers rumor about them. Leaders lose sleep over them.

When you've got a problem that big and that troubling, isn't it time to do something constructive about solving it?

Solving your biggest problem is the fastest way to grow.

How can you take the next step toward solving your biggest problem?

-- Doug Smith


Before you even get to the solution stage of a problem, turn it around. Rephrase the problem statement into a goal. Instead of what's troubling you, express the goal that you want to achieve. What's your goal?Ask a close associate if the goal clearly states the situation you want instead of the problem. If it d…

Make the Hard Decisions

Have you ever hesitated to make a tough decision? Maybe you even knew what the decision should be, but something held you back?

That's happened to me. Sometimes it's that struggling performer who isn't willing to get better and needs a decision about moving on. Or, maybe it's a strategic change that will basically rebrand something important I've been working on.

Why do we hesitate? Will the decision get better? Will time add a dimension of security to what we decide? Or, are we simply stalling.

We must make the hard decisions.

Sometimes the best decisions are the hardest ones to make. 

People are effected. Strategies shift. Customers could even be surprised. Slowing down doesn't help. A needed change knows only change. The sooner we make that tough but certain decision, the better off we are. High performance leaders make the tough decisions quickly.

And then we keep on moving.

What tough decision have you been delaying?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Tr…

Take the Uncertainty Out of a Goal

Do you have a goal that seems stuck because you don't know what to do next?

What a sinking feeling it is when a goal slowly fades away for lack of action.

Here's what works better for me:

Clarify your goal - make sure there are these three components: an action verb, the result that you want, and the time for the deadline. They don't need to be complicated. The simpler the better. Just keep the ART in them.Set an aggressive action plan and stick to it. Act relentlessly on your plan every day. Those three things will make a pronounced difference in your goals.
Take the uncertainty out of a goal by working on it everyday.
You'll be glad that you did.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Front Range Leadership: How to achieve your goals

doug smith training: developing creativity

Reinvent Yourself

Who are you today? What's different about you today from yesterday?

Even though change can make us dizzy, it's the way of growth. Many famous creative people are known for their uncanny ability to evolve: Madonna, Bob Dylan, Meryl Streep, Miles Davis - and we can do it, too.

While holding onto what works, we can grow in other directions. We can ride the creative train of change.

Creative leaders constantly reinvent themselves.

Where's your next change?

What's your next phase?

What's your first step in a new direction?

-- Doug Smith

doug smith training: developing creativity

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

Focus On The Problem

Have you ever been so deeply entangled with a problem that you feel like it's become you, or you've become it?

I know that I have. Some problems trigger our nerves into a chaotic sense of attachment to trouble. We don't remember choosing it. We wouldn't have asked for it. We didn't reach out to grab it - but there it is, clinging to us so tightly you can't tell us apart.

Yuck, eh? We don't want that. We want creative answers, not burdened weights and clinging symptoms.

We can do better.

We can focus on a problem and work to solve it creatively without making it part of who we are. The problem is NOT who we are. The problem is the problem. Restating the problem as a positive goal to achieve helps, as does keeping our center when the rest of the world spins madly toward trouble.

We can do better in steps. We can do better by degrees. We can dramatically do better all at once.

Centered leaders focus on a problem without becoming the problem.

Stepping aside, hol…

Think Beyond Your Filters

How much of what we see is filtered by who we are?

Probably far more than we ever realize. When we look through the same filters every day, year in and year out, the filters remain invisible. No matter how much our cultural background, education, personality, family, and bias filter our vision we just don't see it.

That's beyond amusing - it's dangerous. When we think we're making logical decisions, there's always (always!) something illogical filtering our choices. We need help to see through the filters. We need feedback. We need persistence. We need creative and open minds.

Problems provide the opportunity to think beyond our filters, to find truer clarity.

When we collaborate on identifying the real causes of our problems - when we ask the right questions, we can penetrate the thick filters of experience and open ourselves to the undiscovered. In there is the magic. In there is the secret. In there is the way beyond our bias.

Are you ready to cut through some of…

Pass The Problems Test

Do you feel tested by problems?

I've had tough problems that not only test my abilities but also my willingness to solve them. Still, solving them is the best solution.

Problems have a way of testing our vision and values.

They shine a light on our willingness to stick to our values no matter what, even if it would "make the problem go away" to cut some corners or put a standard on hold. But you can't let values slide - that's why they're values. You can't cut corners on what's right.

Stand up to that problem. Analyze it in fine detail. Find the solution that falls within your vision and values, with no compromise.

Because if we let the latest problem get the best of our values, there's no end to that temptation.

-- Doug Smith

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals  

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

What have you learned today?

Set Your Own Goals

Do other people get to set your goals for you?

It happens to all of us at one time or another - a boss or peer or partner, thinking that they know what is best, attempts to set our goals for us. The problem is, they aren't us, and when someone sets our goals for us, it's really all about their goals, and not ours. But then we're expected to achieve them.

Of course we must meet our employer's expectations. Naturally, our leaders set goals that we should align our goals to. But shouldn't we determine what those goals are?

Be careful about letting other people set or change your goals.

Talk about it. Help them as much as you can. Keep your focus and center as you work on your mission. But be careful of any goals that take you away from that mission. Avoid any goals that just don't make sense.

What goal are you working on today?

-- Doug Smith

doug smith training: developing creativity

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

What have you learned to…

Face Your Hidden Truths

Do you ever hide from yourself?

That might sound silly, but I think I've done it. We hide from ourselves when there is something about a problem that we need to solve that is really more about the choices we make that what is happening to us. In other words, sometimes we cause our own problems.

We break our own diets. We ignore our own exercise regimen. We avoid the people on our team we most need to talk with. We keep conversations light that need to go much, much deeper.

We don't do these things all the time, but when we do, they contribute to (and even cause) the problems in front of us.

To solve our toughest problems we must be willing to face our own hidden truths.

What kind of hidden truths? That's up to you.

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

doug smith training: how to achieve your project goals

Find Your Problem's Secret Ingredients

Did you know that many problems have two secret ingredients?

No, it's not a special sauce or patented process. The secret ingredients are two things that hide under all the symptoms and cloud a problem solvers focus on the situation.

Centered problem solvers figure out what are the secret ingredients and how they are effecting the ideas being created, the pain being felt, the reactions of the people involved. Very often there are two secret ingredients:

Problems have one or both: a solution and/or a viable use.

Sometimes people don't want to solve what is framed as a problem because it already serves their needs. They like it. A person may not see the injustice in unequal distribution of resources if they have all the resources they need. A person may not see hunger as a problem if they eat in fine restaurants every night. A person may not see unhappy customers as a problem if the work is easier when the customer goes away.

The viable use could even be sensible, useful, and cor…

Let Your People Determine Their Goals

Who sets the goals on your team?

It's absolutely necessary to set clear, meaningful goals for every team. Certainly, as a leader you have goals of your own. But who sets the goals for your people?

The best bosses I have worked for always let me set my own goals. They had to be goals that aligned with the goals of the team, of course. And, they had to be ambitious and in some way, noble. I got lots of guidance on writing those goals but the writing was up to me. The goals we eventually agreed on may have been revised a few times, but they were MY goals and so I was fully energized around achieving them.

Isn't that what leaders want? Fully energized team members who relentlessly act on their plans to achieve their goals create great teams.

Be careful about giving people goals, especially those that will not improve their situation.

It's much better to quietly collaborate and, in the end, let your team members clearly set their own goals.

What do you think?

-- Doug Smith


Discover the Absolute Truth

How can you tell the truth from the near-truth?

We are surrounded by near-truths - things we don't dispute because they seem reasonable and don't get in our way. We pay unfair taxes. We tolerate poor service. We spend our time on activities that don't always interest us. And, we do these things (and hundreds of others) without question because, well, it's just easier. We convince ourselves that it's part of our lives. We accept near-truths over the hard work of examining, analyzing, and solving the petty problems of life.

What if we didn't approach near-truths with acceptance? What if we challenged them? What if we assertively held to our vision and values even when it meant saying "no" to someone who did not want (or expect) that as an answer?

That would take courage, wouldn't it? That would take creativity to find a way to do it with respect. That would take compassion to do it without creating harm for others. That would take clarity around wha…

Breathe New Air

How would you define problems? Some people might call problems aggravations. Some people might call them challenges. Have you ever thought of them as signs of life?

While we probably would not seek out problems on our own, when we do have them it means we're still breathing! We've still got something to do. We've made it this far with hope for the future.

I like to think of that as part of our leadership breathing cycle. We inhale, learning all that we can and enjoying the journey, and we exhale to make room and recharge and grow.

Problems are a sign of life. Breathe new air in toward your goals. Then make room for them to happen.

What new air do you need to breathe today? Where is your next area of growth?

-- Doug Smith

High Performance Leadership: Solving Problems. Achieving Your Goals.

doug smith training: how to achieve your project goals

Solve the Problem Before The Pain

Why is it that we so often wait until a problem is a real pain before we solve it?

It could be because we're so busy. It could be because we're so distracted. It could also be that we hope secretly that the problem just goes away.

But, problems don't just go away, do they? They tend to get worse until they are attended to. Left alone, problems get  bigger.

Why not solve a problem before you feel its pain?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: High Performance Leadership Training

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Choose What You Learn

Did you ever have to learn something that you didn't want to learn? Maybe it was a required course in school and nothing about it appealed to you but you had to take it anyway.  How much of that do you remember? Did you put much of that learning to use?

We tend to gravitate toward what we like. Why would learning be any different? With so much available to learn, our results will be much better when we look to learn in areas that interest us.

The learning we seek is the learning we keep.

Why not focus on the learning that we both need AND want?

-- Doug Smith

High Performance Leadership: Solving Problems. Achieving Your Goals.

doug smith training: how to achieve your project goals

Do Your Best With Time

Here's another guest entry from my good friend and fraternity brother David Spiegel. If you know anything about the East Coast you'll get a sense for how his day went. If you ever struggle with managing time, some of this may sound familiar. As Dave says, we can't really manage time -- it's what we do with it that matters.
Now, let's hear what Dave has to share:
In a week where I have dedicated myself to regaining control over my time, I have come to realize that I am trying to accomplish something impossible. Time is time. Every day has exactly 1440 minutes to it and no matter what we do,we can not create any more of it.
So instead of creating more time we spend our energy trying to make better use of those precious minutes each day.We attempt to manage time. 
Well guess what. We have no control over time. Time itself can not be managed. We can not speed it up or slow it down. 
Do you know why a watched pot never boils? It's a time thing!
The only thing we can…

Be Careful of Detours

How easily are you side-tracked? It's happened to me dozens of times: I have a great goal and a plan in place and then something comes along that completely derails my plan. I get distracted. Other people's ideas appear. Things come up.

Every detour from your goals takes you further from achieving them.

When distractions appear, find out what item is more closely aligned with your mission and work on that. If your goal was clearly and correctly written, it's probably that goal.

If not, simply finish the distraction and redirect your attention to the plan. Because while plans change the more we work on them, they don't get done at all unless we do work on them.

What's the next step in your most important goal's plan?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

doug smith training: how to achieve your project goals

Remember We're Part of The Problem

Have you ever gotten so deep into solving a problem that you missed the fact that you were part of the problem?

I don't like it when it happens, but sometimes I realize that the problem only exists because I've created it. I put it there. It's the results of my actions.

Sobering. Disconcerting. Not fun. But, sometimes we're the problem.

Centered problem solvers realize that their part in the problem may be tough to see, yet it's likely there. What we do in looking at the problem has a lot to do with who we are. When we take the time to center ourselves before reaching conclusions, we end up with better conclusions.

Sometimes as we analyze a problem we are also analyzing ourselves.

Are you open to that?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

doug smith training: how to achieve your project goals

Focus On The Mission And Help With Goals

Do you spend most of your time on strategic issues or tactical tasks?

The common thought on leadership is that the higher you go in an organization the more you should focus on strategic things and the less you should spend on tactical tasks. That makes sense. And yet, is it the whole picture?

Wherever you stand as a leader, your team members look to you for help and support in both the mission AND in their individual goals. So yes, focus on the strategic aspects of communicating your mission. Remember also that your people may need help on their goals - and you are likely the best source of that help.

The art of leadership is keeping a team focused on its mission while also helping each member with individual goals.

Are you ready for that? Are you doing that?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success 

doug smith training: how to achieve your project goals

Encourage Creativity

How important is creativity to your team's success?

The best teams that I have ever worked on were also the most creative. True, some of them were in the arts (I do a lot of film, theater, and music projects) but certainly not all.

I remember great creative touches in six sigma projects, in business migrations, in product designs, in process changes...any project with a new deliverable (which should be every project) benefits from more creativity.

What can leaders do to encourage creativity?

Entertain new ideasTry new thingsKeep everyone on the team learningBuild a team that talks about creativityAdd warm-up activities to your meetingsCreate visuals (other than slides) that show the details of what you're working on AND also the emotions behind itAsk your team members for creative insightsPretend you are an artist (because you probably are anyway!)Play musicShare insights from creative guest speakers There are no limits to your creative possibilities.

Creativity thrives where ev…

Teach The Hard Lessons, Too

Do you challenge your team members with tough lessons? Life changes, project changes, team realignments, product ends, process modifications, and the harsh reality of competition are just a few of the tough lessons that our team members endure. Sometimes it's up to us to prepare them for those lessons. It may even be necessary for us to teach them.

Adults are not always happy to learn what they most need to learn.

For example, some lessons that have been rough (but necessary) for me include:

It does no good to run from negative feedbackSometimes the mistake was intentionalMaybe my perspective is the one that is skewedWe all carry hidden biased points of viewEven though people say anything is possible, that's not always trueSometimes the critic is right ...and more.
What harsh lessons have you learned that maybe at first you avoided?
What tough lessons should your people learn from you?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

doug smith training: h…

Follow Your Plan

Are you following the plan you set to achieve your most important goal?

I've seen so many teams get the first two steps of goal achievement correct, setting a clear goal and developing a plan, only to fall short in the execution of their plan. I've done it myself.

It takes discipline to stay with your plan. It takes dedication to act relentlessly on your plan. Yes, the plan will likely change. Steps and actions will be moved around and changed. Still, the plan is their to help you achieve that goal.

How is it working?

To achieve your goals, follow your plan.

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

doug smith training: how to achieve your project goals

High Performance Leaders Communicate Urgency

When you communicate to your team you have a clear message. Do you also communicate how urgent that message is? Can your team members tell how important your message is?

High performance leaders communicate the urgency of their message. Not that every message is urgent - and when a message is not urgent team members appreciate knowing that, too. When the message is critical and when it is essential that everyone on the team respond in a vital and urgent manner, high performance leaders make that known.

A leader must communicate two things: the message, and the urgency of the message.

We communicate urgency through our tone of voice, our body language, our timing (when we give the message) and the words we use. It is completely possible for a leader to remain calm and still communicate a great sense of urgency.

How will you know when your urgency has been correctly received? Ask. Make it part of your message. Get the feedback that you need. For example, "This move is highly importa…

Act On Your Goals

What are you doing for your top goal today?

The key to an effective action plan is doing it: acting on your action plan. As obvious as that seems to me, there have been many times when I've set an appealing goal but failed to act on it. Goals, like bread and milk, have expiration dates. Those dates aren't stamped where you can read them easily, but they're there. When we let time tick away on our goals without taking actions to achieve them, they slip away. Sometimes they slip away unnoticed. Sometimes they slip away in tears. But, they slip away.

We can do better than that. Let's do better than that!

A goal is as good as its plan put into action.

No better and no worse. Without that plan put into action, the expiration date comes and goes and another opportunity is lost.

Let's put our plans into action today.

What part of your best goal's action plan will you work on today?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

doug smith traini…

Find The Joy In Solving Your Problem

Are your problems all work and no play?

I know how that feels. The more work they seem the less likely I am to work on them, which means that they then don't get solved. That's not what I want.

When we look at problem solving as a chore it's not wonder that we avoid it. Why would we ever subject ourselves to actions that cause us discomfort or inordinate amounts of work? But, problems are more than that. In addition to the satisfaction of actually solving a problem, the process of solving a problem can also be filled with joy.

The process of solving problems brings us together with those we collaborate. It increases our need (and ability) to be creative. It develops the courage it takes to confront issues. It builds more compassion within us for those who share similar (or worse) problems. And the focus that we can feel while in the process to solve problems helps us to feel even more alive. When we are focused, when we are centered, solving problems makes us more of who w…

One Great Way to Improve Your Interviewing Skills

Do you interview job candidates? Do you find yourself being interviewed? Would it make you a better leader if you could be both a better interviewer and interview?

There's a lot to improving our interviewing skills, and the reasons to improve are important. When we are more skillful at interviewing it gives us:

More highly qualified team membersGreater leadership opportunitiesOpportunities to avoid costly mistakesClearer understanding about situationsUseful team development informationCritical problem solving examplesStories we can share ...and more. 
Here's the fastest way that I know to improve interviewing skills. Stay curious.
You don't need twelve action steps or a plan for tips and techniques that take hours of practice. Oh, those will help and do them if you like. But, your biggest single boost in interviewing comes from staying genuinely curious.
Curious about the other person, about what they have to say, about the questions that they ask, about the journey that ha…

Show Your Team That You Care

Does each team member on your team know how much you care about your vision, your mission, your goals? Even more importantly, do they each know how much you care about them?

Team members look to their leaders for skill, for initiative, for courage, compassion, creativity, and clarity but most importantly they look to leaders who care.

Showing your team members how you care about them will develop the type of loyalty and effort you need as a high performance leader to solve problems and achieve your goals. It's what we want, but it is oh so easy to overlook.

Leaders often take for granted that people know how much they care. Sometimes, leaders don't even invest the level of caring that is needed for people to feel valued and connected. It's hard to measure, this caring, but without it all of our other measures suffer.

As leaders, we need to care, and we need to communicate that caring to our team.

Team members don't expect us to be perfect. They know that we'll make…

Centered Leaders Find The Choices

Do your limitations ever bother you?

I don't like my limitations. In a perfect world everything would be possible and nothing would hold us back. We just don't live in that perfect world yet.

Every team, every project, every goal has its own constraints. There are things that hold us back.
But within those constraints we have many choices. We always have available creative possibilities. Looking for those possibilities is half the fun. Find those choices keeps us focused and working toward our goals.

Centered leaders see choices in every constraint.

Are you uncovering your choices?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

doug smith training: how to achieve your project goals