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Showing posts from January, 2016

Choose Your Response

When was the last time that someone said something to you that triggered a strong emotion?

Was that their intention?

Sometimes people push our buttons - they find our little insecurities or idiosyncrasies or pain points and push them until we feel an emotional response. That's an opportunity, but it sure doesn't feel like one at the time.

Long ago, I would react to those moments with an emotion-triggering response of my own. That'll show 'em. Take that. What do you think of that?

The trouble was, that's just trouble. I've never fixed an unhealthy situation with an unhealthy behavior. What I've learned is, to breathe. Take a big breath. Give my response about five seconds before letting it come out. By doing that, I create a much better response.

We don't choose how people communicate with us - but we do choose how to respond.

I'm working at responding positively every time. How about you?

-- Doug Smith

Centered Leaders Use Setbacks Positively

The trouble I have with setbacks is that I usually make more of them than is necessary. I interpret the results, which distorts the facts, which increases the feelings, and then it feels like a mess.

It does not have to be that way.

Setbacks create opportunity. Maybe a situation didn't turn out the way we planned. New facts abound. Something must be done. We might need to focus more carefully on our mission and our goals.

But it's a setback, not a disaster.

Centered leaders use setbacks to pivot toward the direction of their mission.

It's not a time to agonize. It's a time to change. Positive change.

Here's something positive I'd like to share: for every setback I've experienced (and there have been plenty) within a year of that setback I feel better, stronger, happier than ever. Not at first. Not even in a week. But by keeping my goals in view and my heart moving forward and my mind positive, better things happen.

Think about one of your setbacks from long …

Take Charge

Is it possible to be a centered, highly participative and collaborative leader while also acting with a take charge sense of focus?

It may not be easy, but I do believe it's possible. My favorite leaders have all been collaborative. They operate with respect and cooperative appreciation. And, when necessary they take charge.

High performance leaders get things done. Usually, that means with the help of other people. Relationships are essential. And, results matter, too. Taking on a fair share of the unglamorous work shows a team that the leader is willing and able to work side-by-side. This can be profoundly motivating. Leaders who roll-up-their-sleeves and help with the messy side of the work show that their passion is authentic.

Centered leaders take charge when the need arises. The need arises constantly.

Get the views of others. Collaborate. Listen, rather than command. And when the moment calls for it, show your authentic passion for the work by taking charge when things need …

Centered Leaders Build Trust

How's your trust factor?

Centered leaders care about relationships as much as results. People matter. For us to be high performance leaders, for us to achieve our goals, we need strong, resilient, cooperative relationships with the people we rely on.

You can't build relationships without building trust.

How do you build trust? How do we become ever more trustworthy?

We build trust by keeping our promises. We build trust by doing our best to help people rather than hurt them. We build trust by allowing our compassion to balance our courage.

Trust is not just important to a leader - it's priceless.

What will you do to build trust today?

-- Doug Smith

Leadership 101

Have you been through Leadership 101?

There may be hundreds (maybe thousands) of courses, workshops, and trainings on Leadership 101 to prepare a leader for action and success. Many of them are useful. Many of them are not.

If you are in preparation to become a leader or you are a front line leader just starting to figure it all out, here is my shortcut list to the skills you must develop to succeed as a leader:

take chargebuild trustsolve problemsachieve your goals When new leaders work on and accomplish those things the chance for success are much greater - possibly even assured.
Take charge: step up to your new responsibilities and accept the idea that you may no longer act like a victim in anything. You are in charge. Make decisions. Stay true to your word and tell the truth. Consult with people, collaborate with people, listen carefully to others and remember that there is no passing the blame for leaders. Whatever else happens it's up to you.
Build trust: Get to know your peo…

The Magic of Possibilities

How many possibilities are there?

Endless possibilities!

So when we're working on problems, there are always more possibilities to draw from. We just have to identify them. When we are building teams, achieving our goals, communicating for results, building relationships -- there are always new possibilities for how to do it better, faster, and smarter.

It takes possibilities stop solve problems and solving problems opens new possibilities. 

It's a virtuous cycle of innovation. Come up with new possibilities, solve problems with those possibilities, and enjoy the new possibilities that emerge.

What's your next possibility?

-- Doug Smith

And These Things, Too

What are your outside interests?

In addition to working as a trainer and consultant, I'm active in the arts. I'd love it if you'd check out these additional blogs that I write and maybe even subscribe. It's something.

douglas brent smith: one of those places I park my poetry, collage, and music.

doug smith training: my company originally started out with this name and you shouldn't be too surprised if it goes back to it when I relocate. The focus is also likely to shift to developing communication skills such as better conversations, more productive meetings, and more powerful presentations.

centered problem solving: leaders must do two things well or face losing their leadership: solving problems and achieving their goals. this blog focuses on what i call centered problem solving.


-- doug smith

Here's Your Invitation

Are you waiting for an invitation to be creative?

Good news -- life is an open invitation, particularly to be creative. Life invites us constantly to solve problems creatively, to meet people creatively, to design things creatively, and to interact creatively.

The invitation is already there.

If you're waiting for an invitation to be creative here it is: be creative!


-- Doug Smith

Don't Judge That Creative Idea Too Soon

Are you a fan of your inner judge?

We all have an inner judge (sometimes called inner critic) who wants to assess everything. To the inner judge, nothing is ever perfect. To the inner judge, there is always fault to find.

How annoying. We grow up with this inner judge and let the judge drive us when we're not paying attention. When we lack focus on what is truly most important our inner judge tries to decide for us, and usually makes poor decisions. As Don Miguel Ruiz has said, "our inner judge lies."

Judging a creative idea too soon is not fair to you or to the idea.

You'll have time to judge. You'll have time to decide. But imagine how many more possibilities you'll have to work with if you first choose to stay curious.

I promise to work on that every day from now on. How about you?

-- Doug Smith

Double Down On Love

I'm going to keep this short today, because if you and I can do this, we will make something (maybe a lot of things) better today:

Double down on love. There is never too much.

Now, you know what to do. Me, too. Let's get started.

-- Doug Smith

Stay Open to Surprise Answers

Do great ideas sometimes surprise you because they don't seem so brilliant at first, but end up being exactly what you're looking for?

I'm often surprised by what should have seemed obvious. Maybe I didn't consider the source valuable enough. Maybe I didn't listen with enough curiosity. A nifty idea slips in and I let it slip out.

It doesn't have to be that way. We can grab those surprise ideas and answers. We can stay curious.

The solution to your problem could be so unexpected that you resist it.

Are you willing to stay curious enough to see what possibilities have to offer you?

Action Step

Some time today you will be tempted to make a quick and dismissive judgement on what seems like a crazy idea. Just for today, instead of judging that idea, stay curious. What's in there that you might be missing?  What if you tried the idea instead of ignoring it?

-- Doug Smith

Keep Checking

Do you instantly know the solution to every problem?

I don't. I doubt that you do, either. It's easy to reach for obvious solutions, except that they seldom work. We usually need to dig deeper.

Our first assumption about the cause of a problem is often incomplete.

We blame a person -- and they were only a factor. Other people were involved. We blame a procedure, without checking to see why that procedure is in place. We blame ourselves, when we might not have had anything to do with the cause.

Dig deeper. Catch the whole situation. Find a solution that will last.

-- Doug Smith

Deal With The Problem

Are you ignoring a problem? Is it quietly buzzing around your conciousness in the background but so far you're putting it off?

How long do you think you can put it off? How long before the problem catches your attention.

I've noticed that problems usually have two troubling traits in common:

- They don't go away on their own, and
- Left alone, they get worse

Is that your experience, too?

A problem that is ignored will manifest until it can't be ignored.

And by then, it's much harder to solve and causing much more damage.

Why not tackle that crazy problem right away?

-- Doug Smith

Do What You Want To Be Remembered For

What are you famous for?

We're all famous for something. Maybe not "cover of Time magazine" famous or "story on the news" famous or even "one million likes" famous, but we're each famous for something. There is something about you that people think first about when they think of you. What is it?

Could it be the way that you treat people with compassion? How does that show itself?

Could it be your courage under difficult situations? Why would anyone call you courageous?

Could it be the creative energy you bring to projects and teams? What is it that you do that adds creativity to any of your efforts?

Or, maybe it's the clarity with which you bring to any meeting, goal, event, or team. You have a certain clear vision that is unwavering and easily understood. Is that it?

Or, is it something else?

We are each known for something, and will likely be remembered when we're  gone for that something. It's not exactly our legacy, but it is our i…

Find Your Courage

Where does courage come from?

Are some people born courageous, or is it developed with experience?

I don't know the absolute answer to that, but I do know that we can create courage. We learn courage. By acting with courage we become courageous.

That means facing our fears and acting anyway. That means acting on that impulse to stand up for ourselves or others when abuse is about to happen. That means leading when others run away.

It's up to us to provide our own courage.

It's not easy. It's not always fun. It's just necessary to be a centered, high performance leader.

Where will you find and use your best courage today?

-- Doug Smith

Centered Leaders Seek Peace

What's your image of an assertive leader?

We have been bombarded (and that's the right word) by images of strong, forceful leaders who get what they want no matter the cost. The image of a boss taking charge, firing people, embarrassing people, pushing people beyond their limits has shifted from normal, to unacceptable, and back to normal. Many people see that kind of boss as respectable and even admirable. A forceful, narcissistic, people-be-damned boss is not normal and it is not admirable.

Centered leaders have no need to force people. Centered leaders have no appetite for or need for coercion. The brow-beating, chest-thumping, cave man boss of the media belongs in the cave.

Declarations about carpet bombing to express our will or closing our borders to prevent immigrants from entering our blessed country do not come from a place of peace and can not lead to peaceful outcomes. Any expression of violence simply leads to more violence. Any indignity forced on a person or peop…

Play The Game

Are you developing your performance? How about the performance of the people on your team?

It can feel like a game and that we're in constant competition. I'd much rather work collaboratively than competitively, but guess what? -- I still must compete with myself to improve. Status quo won't do. Performance must constantly improve or we're going backwards. There is no standing still.

Developing performance is a game we all can play.

Just like a game we must explore, discover, and practice. Tougher goals lead to stronger skills. More chances at success make success much more likely. It's not a game anyone must lose -- we can all win. When you get stronger, I can also get stronger. When I get smarter, you can also develop your intelligence. It's not a zero sum game, it's a game of endless possibilities.

Developing performance is like a game.

Play the game.

-- Doug Smith

What I Learned from One Too Many Dream Sequences

Do you like art that's on the edge? Does it interest you when a work of art tries our patience by breaking what were once-comfortable boundaries?

For some people, boundary busting is the very essence of art. For others, it's cause to change the channel, cancel the subscription, pull the grant.

On the continuum of innovation that stats from extremely conservative and extends to the end of wacky bizarre, the art that I appreciate the most (and sometimes create) leans way toward the wacky. My nickname in college was Wildman for a reason.

For many theater productions I worked with a long term partner who was great at reigning me in when I got too far along that continuum. She was always instantly candid when the wacky drifted off the chart. She kept our audience in mind and painted some boundaries on my creative landscape.

One year, when I was helping to develop a Christmas play for our church, without that valuable partner (who was busy with other stuff) my boundaries expanded to…

What I Learned from Unexpected Change

Does change ever sneak up on you?

Do you ever think that things have finally normalized, stabilized, settled-down, only to have something really big reveal itself as the Next Big Change?

It happens.

We can prepare for change, adapt to change, embrace change, even drive change and there will always be changes that surprise us. Big things. Life changing things. Out of nowhere, they surprise us and suddenly a huge part of our energy is spent in dealing with the change.

Even high performance leaders must deal with surprise.

I once owned a little green bungalow in Chicago. I loved that little house. I loved it even before I bought it. I would walk by it on my way to the bus, always going down 39th Place so that I could see that house. "Someday" I told myself, "someday I am going to buy that house..."

When the for sale sign did come up on it, I bought it within a week. The house served our little family well, and even though the bedrooms were cold and the electric was sk…

Develop Fearless Creativity

Are you fearlessly creative?

I can hear someone's inner critic already, "What would that even look like?"

What do you think? I think fearlessly creative looks like someone taking risks with design. It looks like someone changing their logo. It looks like someone shuffling the usual and familiar in favor of something novel and new.

Fearless creativity takes off the chains. Fearless creativity dusts off the old patina. Fearless creativity sends the inner judge out for milk and cookies while it plays in the field of possibility.

Have you developed fearless creativity?

Few things attract more respect than fearless creativity. Don't hold back. Jump right in. Take that chance.

It starts right now.

-- Doug Smith

Admit It, You're In Sales, Too

Daniel Pink has famously said that everyone is in sales. What do you think?

I think he's right. Whether it's internally convincing your boss or your board about a project or doing your best to connect clients with goods and services, we're all selling something.

That's not a bad thing, it's just a thing. We all must influence. We all seek to add value and to do that need to convince someone of something. That's sales.

Occasionally, I'll receive feedback (criticism) about my sales pitch. Yes, I sell. I sell resources, I sell training programs, I sell my services as a trainer, consultant, and (sometimes) entertainer. It used to bother me, but now I see the benefit. Think of it as marketing if you like, but it all starts with sales.

No sales, no organization. It's as simple as that.

I promise not to judge your sales pitch if you promise not to judge mine. Let's share feedback instead.

Let's listen. Let's evaluate. And whenever we can, let's …

Take A Creative Perspective

Do you ever keep coming up with the same unlikely solutions to a problem?

What if you looked at it differently? What if you saw the problem as a creative challenge?

Turn it upside down. Twist your intended results around. Think of it as a benefit to some unidentified journey. Turn that movie's unhappy ending into a surprisingly happy one. Mix it up. Mash it up. Paint it a better color. Turn off the color and see it in black and white.

What does that have to do with problem solving? When solutions elude us we need better solutions. Think creatively, act creatively, reconfigure creatively.

How much easier would it be to solve that problem if you saw it with a fresh, creative perspective?

After all, if you haven't fixed it yet, it's time for something new.

Some Sample Creative Problem Bending Questions

How could I get MORE of this problem?Who on earth might LOVE this problem?What makes me think that the results are undesirable?What could I do that would create the exact opposite…


How much do you practice?

Ask any musician, and they will likely say "not enough". Even the ones who practice for hours every day. Why should leadership be any different?

Centered, high performance leaders practice the skills that they are developing. Maybe it's patience. Maybe it's another language. Maybe it's coding (yes, even leaders should code). We are meant to be constantly growing and learning. That takes practice.

We might not always feel like practicing a skill but it's the best way to get better.

What new skill are you practicing today?

-- Doug Smith

Be Careful About Judging

I've said this many times - be careful about judging.

I've judged people without knowing the whole story. I've judged people without the compassion that it requires to be human.

If you're a judge, go ahead and judge. If you're not a judge, you might want to ask questions and suspend your judgement long enough to figure out what's really going on. We seldom have all the answers and very often we lack the very answers we need to make a true assessment.

I regret little, but one thing is every time that I've judge another person.

I don't like being judged. Do you? Then what gives us the willingness to judge others?

Judging actions is fair. Judging motives is tricky. Judging people is going too far. Judging people is God's work, not ours.

I'll do my best to resist every impulse to judge today. How about you?

-- Doug Smith

Keep Your Creativity Moving

What have you created today that did not exist yesterday?

We may not create something completely new every day, but the opportunity is there. We can write something new. We can design a prototype. We can launch a relationship that was an acquaintance and turn it into a creative and warm friendship.

The opportunities surround us. The possibilities are endless.

Do what you need to do to keep your creativity moving.

Share your ideas. Ask someone to coach you. Join a class. Frame that drawing and hang it on your wall. Let people know what floats your boat, and that boat will sail farther than you ever dreamed.

Repeat after me -- "I am getting more creative every day..."

Does that idea appeal to you? How will you achieve that today?

-- Doug Smith

Learn Beyond The Point Of Discomfort

Do you always learn things the first time you try them?

If you do, please teach me how you do that! Learning takes the right attitude, the right tools, and the right repetition of trials. We fall off that bike the first time we get on it. We hit a sour note the first time we pick up a horn. We learn by degrees, even when we earn a degree.

We seldom learn anything perfectly the first time we try it. Or the second, or the third...

Yet we so often stop at the point of competency. That's when the learning has just begun! There is a huge range of learning ahead of and beyond competency. It's the road to mastery.

We do not need to master everything. But imagine the joy of mastering what matters to you most. Wouldn't that be great? Wouldn't that be life-enhancing? And (most important) won't that take more learning than you've already done?

-- Doug Smith

Answer The Right Questions

Do you ever answer the wrong question?

I do that sometimes. Instead of keeping my focus on the goal, or the mission, I can become fixed on what I just want at that moment in time. When that happens, I ask the wrong questions, such as "how can I make myself happy right now?" and "why am I so confused?"

The right questions focus on the big picture. The right questions focus on goals, visions, and values.

Answering the wrong question will likely slow you down.

Here's are questions that help me --

What's my goal?Does this goal match my values? My vision?Is this the best use of my time right now?Will this even matter a year from now? What questions work best for you? 

-- Doug Smith

Forgive And Keep Your Boundaries

Do you find it easy to forgive?

Some people forgive easily and some people don't. I was involved with someone once (well, OK, more than once) who could not seem to ever forgive. That's a hard place to be.

I am certain that we forgive in order to forgive ourselves. We let go of our anger (and any thoughts of revenge) for our own health -- as well as for the health of our relationships. Forgiveness is not just nice, not just compassionate -- it's necessary.

Still. That does not mean we can set ourselves up for more abuse. Forgiving does not need to change our boundaries. We let go our anger, but maintain our values.

Forgiveness sometimes requires persistent boundary watching. It's not permission to repeat the wrong.

Forgiveness is not a sign of softness. It's proof of the strength we have inside, the resilience we deserve, and the vigilant protection of our health that is simply part of living.

Is there someone in your life in need of forgiveness? Or, just as importan…

A Fish Out of Water Doesn't Run

How does it feel when someone expects you to do something that you know you're not good at?

I find it frustrating.

Sometimes I can develop the ability to get better at it. It's even possible to master the task if we work hard enough at it. But, that's expensive and time-consuming.

Some things can't be taught to people who have no capacity for the task. Do you really want to learn how to be a race horse jockey? (especially if you're built like LeBron James?) Does it make any sense at all to train a chef how to build a house? Can you teach a fish to run the marathon?

A fish out of water doesn't run.

No amount of shouting or motivation will get that done.

Have you been trying to motivate any fish lately?

-- Doug Smith

Ponder That Goal

Have you ever committed to a goal too quickly?

I sure have.  It sounds great and I want to please the client and before I know it, there's a commitment to a goal that eventually loses steam. It might not even make sense. It often is unachievable. Let's not do that.

Instead, let's take a moment (at least!) to think it over. Does the goal match our values? Does the goal support our mission? Do we have the resources and motivation to achieve the goal?

Sometimes we need to ponder a goal a few days before committing to it.

Acting fast is great. Acting foolishly is costly.

Unless the delay seriously compromises the ability to achieve that goal, it might be worth considering.

Are you rethinking any goals that you've already committed to?

-- Doug Smith

Creativity Can Help You Stay Young

How young do you feel?

Not how old are you but how young do you feel? How we feel about ourselves has much to do with how healthy we are.

Why not feel young? Why not feel younger than we are?

Here's how I keep feeling younger - thru creativity. Making things. Writing things. Drawing things.

Coming up with new solutions to old problems is creative. Finding reasons to BE happy (rather than otherwise) takes a certain level of creativity.

Talking with others can even be creative. Instead of falling into a habitual pattern in your next conversation, try asking some creative and provocative questions. Questions like:

What would you do if you had to trade places with your least favorite person?What are three ways you can think of to make your strongest relationship even stronger?What problems have you not thought of yet that could change your life?How many rooms should you have in your dream house? You get the idea. Keep it fun. Keep it curious. And, keep it creative.
What's your next…

Grow Faster

Are you still growing?

Now is a great time to make sure that you are. We need to grow. The world is changing so quickly that those who keep growing can keep up and those who don't keep growing fall ever farther behind.

It's not a race, it's an opportunity. We must keep pace. We must keep growing, we must grow faster than ever.

To grow faster, never stop growing.

Learn. Train. Practice. Read. Explore. Develop. Grow.

Growing is essential. Growing continuously helps us grow faster.

What are you doing to grow today?

-- Doug Smith