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Showing posts from May, 2016

Communicate with Those Who Are Close

Do you ever struggle to communicate with someone really close to you?

Maybe it's a family member. Maybe it's your team. Maybe it's someone you are building a relationship with.

Even with much practice, it can be difficult to communicate with someone we're really close to. We take some messages for granted. We expect them to know exactly what we want (turning them into the mind reader they are NOT).

We can even lose patience.

I've had days when I spent the whole day helping other people learn how to communicate more effectively only to come home and fail to communicate clearly, or attentively, with my own family. I'm not proud of it. I worked to get better. But there you have it. Sometimes it's hardest to communicate with those we are closest to.

We push their buttons. They push our buttons.

It's a good time to practice our communication CLUES to Success:

Create agreements
Listen with curiosity
Understand the facts and feelings
Express ourselves clearly…

Brace Yourself On The Edge

Do you pride yourself in being cutting edge? Do you try new techniques, stay creative, build innovation instead of comfort?

Good for you. And if you said no, allow me to encourage you to push the edge a bit more. Get out of your comfort zone. The really big goals makes us just bit uncomfortable. We might even sweat.

Push the edge, even knowing that sometimes when you push the edge you get pushed back. People might object to the radical new approach. They might take exception to your changes. Push the edge anyway.

Leading often means going where no one else has gone. All the way to the edge. Pack a lunch, it could take a while, but do stay with it.

-- Doug Smith

Dear Home Office

Have you ever worked in the field with the responsibility of reporting to a home office?

How did that feel? I've noticed that there are big distinctions between people working in the field, doing the work, selling the product, delivering the goods, facing the customers... and people in the home office who make the rules, collect the cash, drink free company coffee, and call in sick if they need a day off.

When you work in the field you don't call in sick because then you don't get paid. At least not what you'd make by doing the work.

So when someone from the home office wants to give you feedback, how does that feel?

Maybe they have something to offer. Maybe they will give you tips that make a difference. Or maybe you might want to write them a note something like this...

"Dear Home Office...

Your advice sucks so please keep it to yourself. We know what works and what doesn't. We see our customers' faces. We feel their pain. We need new rules like we need…

Create a Positive Perspective

How much of what we see is true, and how much is filtered by our perspective?

While it may all seem true, it is all filtered by our perspective. We do not get a choice. Our perspective filters everything. How can we ever be sure that OUR truth is THE truth? We can't. It isn't. It is simply our truth as presented by our perspective.

There's no reason to get all anxious about this. It is simply there, whether or not we worry about it. But, there are things we can do to improve our perspective.

We can read great books and articles. We can keep learning. We can stay curious. We can stop judging quite so much and simply experience. Life is a collage, and we are largely in charge of what pieces fit into that collage, but not completely. We cannot evaluate completely our own perspective with the device that created it (our our minds).

High performance leaders recognize the influence of filters. They realize that their own perspective is always open to interpretation and never av…

Solve Problems and Free Up Your Creativity

Creativity is an essential ingredient in solving problems. But, have you ever considered how much more creative you might be once those problems are solved?

Problems take up so much energy. They slow us down. They sit heavy on our mind. All that bandwidth is being taken up pondering the problem. Solve it, and the space is open. Solve it, and you can apply that creativity to something,

If you're creative NOW -- imagine how creative you can be without the load of the problems that are slowing you down.

Centered problem solvers -- engineers of the exquisite -- realize that all the noise a problem makes is better quiet and stilled. Solve it -- and then create!

-- Doug Smith

Call Fewer Meetings

Do you have too many meetings?

Many leaders do. Staff meetings, committee meetings, team meetings, project meetings, all-company meetings...the list goes on. Most of us can think of many meetings that were simply wastes of our time.

Time is too important to waste is bad meetings.

Do the people in your meeting want to be there? If not, maybe it's not a meeting that you need. Maybe there's another way to communicate your message. Maybe the work that is waiting is too important to wait.

We can like the feeling of having a meeting. It feels like we're doing something. But if we're not -- if we are delaying real work, maybe we don't need that meeting after all.

What scheduled meeting could you eliminate this week? Wouldn't it be nice to have that time to be...well, happy and more productive?

-- Doug Smithy

Are You Doing The Work?

Have you ever seen a work of art and wondered what burst of creativity led to its creation?

Inspiration is a funny thing. It's easy to romanticize it as some magical flash that happens  to us. We're minding our own business and wham! Inspiration!

That's not what really happens. Creating something wonderful takes more than inspiration, and inspiration comes to those who have paved the way.

People who have paved the way thru practice. Thru handwork. Thru training and coaching and trial and error. Lots of error. Lots of practice.

To create something that stirs the emotions, that feels as if it IS spontaneous, takes much more than spontaneous inspiration.

Emotionally moving creativity is hard work.

As one of my best acting teachers often said, "Are you doing the work?"

-- Doug Smith

Insist On Improvement

Who on your team needs to improve? Most front line leaders can think of at least one person right away who really needs to improve. Their performance is disappointing, and they might even be sitting on the bubble of an early exit.

Absolutely, work with them on improvement. Coach them, collaborate on a plan, follow-up diligently, and firmly insist on progress. Laziness and apathy are not options.

Of course, you also know who else needs improvement. You do. Every leader faces the constant need for development. Build your core skills. Improve your ability to communicate for results. Find new ways to build your team. Grow. Insist on your own improvement.

Insist on improvement from everyone on your team. Even the super stars. In fact, your super stars need improvement the most because if they do not feel that they are being challenged and growing they will likely leave. And then where will your team be?

Do you want to build your team? Insist on improvement.

Not harshly. Not with a stereot…

Celebrate Your People's Success

What do you do when some in your team achieves a new level of success? Maybe they got promoted. Maybe they won an award. Maybe they achieved a goal you've been coaching them on. What do you do?

They will notice. Whatever you do (or don't do) they will notice. Team members look to their leaders to both develop and recognize their achievements. Whether or not you had anything to do with their success, they want to know that you still support it.

It can be easy to forget. A key team member might graduate right out of our team leaving us a bit in the lurch. But we still need to celebrate their success. The team members who are still on the team are watching. They want to know how much you support your challenges. They want to know if you're on their side.

You are on their side, right?

-- Doug Smith

How Do Dreams Come True?

Who do you know who has achieved their dreams?

Whenever I think about the people who have gotten what they wanted - who have seen their dreams come true - it is clear that the reason they have achieved their dreams is because they have worked hard. Their dream is really a hard-earned goal achieved.

Sure, luck can be a factor. Sometimes we meet the right person at a party or convention who can put us in contact with other people who help us find a direction that leads to success. But, we still need to apply ourselves. We still need to work hard.

Find the mission. Set clear, action focused goals. Design a cool plan. Act relentlessly on that plan. And learn constantly. It's that simple and it's that hard. It's all a matter of focus and work.

What dreams are you imagining?

How can you make them come true? You'll need to know, because no one else is working on that for you.

-- Doug Smith

Take Your Own Advice

This is a tough question, and when I ask myself sometimes I don't like the answer: do you ever ignore your own advice?

I train people in leadership skills. One of the skills includes communication. I encourage people to identify, plan, initiate, and follow-thru on tough conversations. You know what I mean - the kinds of conversations that make us nervous. It takes courage, confidence, and focus to see them thru. But it's so important, conducting those tough conversations is at the heart of effective high performance leadership.

But sometimes I duck them myself. Whoa. Sometimes, I know I have a tough conversation that is needed with someone that I work with, work for, or live with and then...and then...suddenly I get so busy with other important stuff that the conversation misses its window of opportunity. Could that be a mistake? From my experience I'd say that is always a mistake.

I've learned to have the tough conversations, whether they are comfortable or not, whet…

Play A Bigger Game

Do you energize yourself with at least one inspirational quote of the day?

I subscribe to many email newsletters and I enjoy the ones that provide a short quote to get me going.  One of the newsletters I subscribe to comes from KristinCoach and Kristin Taliaferro is consistently apt at picking wonderfully inspirational quotes.

This one reminds us about playing a bigger game. Here is her selection for today:

We have all been hypnotized into thinking that we are smaller than we are. Just as an undersized flowerpot keeps a mighty tree root-bound or a little fishbowl keeps goldfish tiny, we have adapted, adjusted, and accommodated to a Lilliputian (trivial or small) life. But place the same tree in an open field or the fish in a lake, and they will grow to hundreds of times their size. Unlike the tree or goldfish, you are not dependent on someone else to move you. You have the power to move yourself. You can step into a broader domain and grow to your full potential.  -- Alan Cohen

Develop The Skills You Need

What skills do you need to develop in order to achieve your goals?

If your goals are big enough, you've put some stretch in there. That means you'll need to grow. You'll need to learn. What is it you need to develop next?

When I worked at Whole Foods, spending lots of time in the kitchen, I realized that to be the best possible supervisor I could be I'd need to learn some Spanish. So I studied. The company didn't send me to Spanish training, I just took it on myself, on my own time, and learned enough to help me achieve my goals.

When I worked at GE, anyone who had anything to do with project management had to become certified in six sigma. That meant lots of training, lots of development, lots of learning. And it helped in ways that still helps me today.

What do you need to learn? Where will you learn it?

-- Doug Smith

Get The Point

How effected are you by what other people think of you?

There have been times in my life when I was extremely effected by what some people thought of me. It steered me. It troubled me. It kept me trying to play the game of making people happy who couldn't really be made happy. Happiness is up to us.

I'm still working on it. A background in service jobs, a general desire to please, a sense of compassion can all lead me to try too hard to please. Yes, I'll do my job to the best of my ability. Yes, I will be kind. But, I can't drive myself crazy anymore wondering if people like me. Whether or not they like me is a reflection on them, not me.

At some point it doesn't matter what other people think of you. Get to that point quickly.

Then get busy on your goals.

-- Doug Smith

Not Too Many Goals

How many goals should you have?

Is there a limit?

I've known people who said that they had a hundred goals. They were working their way thru the list and checking them off one by one. Good for them. I  could never do that. It's too many. How do you even keep that many straight? How do you build energy for them?

Some people call a list like that a bucket-list. If that's what it is, it isn't so much a list of goals as plans for experience. That's very different.

Goals require work. Goals require attention. Goals require a level of focus seldom afforded anything else. The discipline that takes limits the capacity anyone has for setting goals. We can only do so much. Of course, we aspire to do more. Of course we put lots of stretch into our goals and our list of goals. But, we can only do so many.

I can't tell you what that number is. I find that 5 goals a day is a good number for me. Five achievable goals for each day and another 3 - 5 major goals that carry on --…

Share Decisions

Do you like working for a leader who makes all the decisions? Important decisions, little decisions, scheduling decisions, work distribution after another?

I know I do not.

I like to work for and with a leader who allows me to share in the decision-making. We talk about the details. We compare the options. We align our work to our goals.

How involved is your team in your team's decisions? It can be a trap to justify a "decide-and-announce" approach when it feels like those same decisions are being handed down to you from your manager or above. But don't do it. Find the choices. Explore the options. Share them with your people and see what a difference it makes in their productivity and morale.

Of course you're in charge. The bottom line likely does stop with you. But you don't need to make every decision.

I'm going to work at sharing more decisions. How about you?

-- Doug Smith

High Performance Leaders Solve Problems

Do you have "solving problems" as part of your formal job description?

Whether it's in there or not, you do realize that it's part of your job. For a leader, it's often most of the job. Solving problems in the business, solving problems in the organization, solving problems in your team.

It's everybody's job to solve problems.

The better we get at solving problems, the more able we are to achieve our goals. The two simply go together.

What are you doing to improve your problem solving skills?

-- Doug Smith

Get Started

Do you ever put off the big problems? Does it ever seem like there must be a better time to work on that really tough problem?

Now is the time.

-- doug smith

Need to bring problem solving training to your team or organization? Contact me today at:

Find A Problem Worth Solving

How do leaders turn into high performance leaders?

Find a problem worth solving and then solve it.

Aim for success. Set an ambitious, noble goal and then achieve it. Yes, that's easier said than done. It takes training. It takes development. It takes making mistakes, learning from them, and moving forward with determination.

High performance leaders balance their attention between people and results. You can't have one without the other for very long. Take care of your people. Build them. Develop them. Teach them. Make sure that they get the training they need in communication, performance, project management, creativity, and problem solving.

The best leaders I have worked for were all about those two things. They'd get great results from solving problems. And they'd use their strong relationships with people on their teams to bring about those results. Great leaders extend themselves thru others. To do that, build those others up. Help them become the best performers t…

Get Back Up When You're Down!

I'm happy to share this guest appearance from my good friend and fraternity brother, David Spiegel because it's a great article and well, he mentions me. 
"Life is like a roll of toilet paper.The closer you get to the end,the faster it seems to go."
-John Maxwell I love my song choice for my Sunday Song of the Day today, Corner of the Sky from Pippin.The song transports me back in time. Pippin may very well have been the first show I saw on Broadway.I had become involved in musical theater when I went to college. Growing up a stones throw away from the Big Apple, it seems strange that I had never seen a Broadway show until then.We had just struck set on our latest stage triumph,Celebration, a musical by the same gentlemen who brought us The Fantastiks.
For a college fraternity, we did an amazing job, assembling a cast and crew that to this day still fascinates me.The show has a magical quality about it. Those of us involved in this production all have fond memories of j…