Monday, May 30, 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 and positively
Share responsibility for success

Without making assumptions or jumping to conclusions, we can do a better communication job.

Let's slow down. Let's practice listening. Let's give those who are closest to us our best effort at communicating, whether we are sending or receiving. Sure it's hard.

Don't give up.

-- Doug Smith

Saturday, May 28, 2016

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

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 more buggy software. Please, rearrange the furniture in your office or something. We're busy.

Love, those of us busting our humps in the field."

Of course you wouldn't really send a note like that, would you? But it's tempting.

The reality is likely that the people in the home office are working plenty hard. Their intentions are good. But without working in the field, with all respects, you just do NOT know know what it's like.

High performance leaders -- in the home office OR in the field -- take the time to understand the challenges and hardships of team members wherever they sit. They do it without judging people, and instead observe what is really going on. That takes more work. But, that's part of what makes them high performance leaders to begin with.

Lose the assumptions. Lose the attitude. Enjoy the work.

What do you think?

-- Doug Smith

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

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 available as universal truth. The learning continues.

Let's influence that perspective positively. Let's stay curious. Because like a pair of constant eye glasses, we take that perspective everywhere we go.

-- Doug Smith

Monday, May 23, 2016

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

Sunday, May 22, 2016

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

Saturday, May 21, 2016

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

Friday, May 20, 2016

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 stereotypical boss tone of authority. But firmly. Assertively. Be kind, be compassionate, be participative -- and insist on improvement.

-- Doug Smith

Thursday, May 19, 2016

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

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

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

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

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, whether I have time or not, whether I even want to or not. It's my advice, and I've learned to take it. Why don't I always follow that advice?

No excuses. No justification. But, I'm human. You're human. We're human. We're going to continue to make mistakes, even when we know better.

We can grow. We will improve. Perfection though, that's for the imagination. Even machines break down. Even computers cough up a metaphorical hairball once in a while.

I don't beat myself up about it and neither should you. But lets do face our limitations and if we need coaching or encouragement, find it.

I find it hardest to apply my own advice sometimes. But I'm getting better. How about you?

-- Doug Smith

Monday, May 16, 2016

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

Something to think about!

Words have the power to uplift and heal. Every Monday, an uplifting quote is selected and sent by life and career coach, Kristin Taliaferro "KristinCoach", and her team. Visit to learn more.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

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

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

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

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

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 -- projects.

Too many goals is about as useful as no goals at all.

I won't do that to myself. Why should you?

-- Doug Smith

Friday, May 6, 2016

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

Thursday, May 5, 2016

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

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

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:

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

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 they can possibly be -- even when they are filled with doubt about how possible that is.

Somewhere in your field -- right now -- is a problem aching to be solved. It's driving you crazy, it's driving others crazy, it's standing in the way. Tackle it. Solve it. And watch your possibilities grow.

What wonderful problem are you working on today?

-- Doug Smith

Monday, May 2, 2016

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 just how magical and transformative our production was.

Opening night soon became closing night as an outbreak of spinal meningitis shut down the campus at the then Trenton State College known today as The College of New Jersey today. Little did we know, as our leader, my friend, brother and mentor Doug Smith, his shaking hand holding a cigarette near his head literally lighting it on fire, announced that after months of planning, rehearsing,set building and all of the rest of that which goes into a production of this magnitude, that what seemed tragic to those of us involved in this, would be the stepping stone to greatness for a good many of us.

I remember leaving campus that night heading to our impromptu cast party.Spinal meningitis or not...we were going to have a cast party! It was a wet, blowy rainy night and the bill board announcing our yearly Fall production had been blown over. As my frat brother Rick and I drove past it, he stopped the car. We got out, stood the 4 x 8 hand painted plywood sign back up and set it proudly back up at the main entrance to the campus. As we headed away, he turned to me and said "well, there it in a nutshell. Just like that sign, it's not about getting knocked down, it's all about getting back up!"


Fast forward a few short weeks later. Here I was sitting and waiting for the curtain to rise on my first Broadway show adventure. In the opening ensemble number, a young Ben Vereen pulled a handkerchief through his hand placed on the floor and magically the stage gave rise to scrims and a set that just blew me away. I literally fell from my seat to my knees.

I knew in that moment that magic was possible.

Soon, I was back on campus. The decision was made to start rebuilding what we had lost in the Fall fiasco with an unprecedented Spring production. Since Mr.'s Jones and Schmidt (the writers of Celebration) had been with us when this journey began, they might as well be our muse for the second act, so we chose The Fantastiks.

The rest is just so much more Phi Mu Alpha lore and legend. The following Fall we tackled Cabaret, a moment in my personal timeline that to this day sets the standard against which I measure any and all of my successes. Successes all born from what at that time felt like the end of the world.

Little did we know just how seminal an event like this could and would be.
It set me on my course to find my Corner of the Sky!

-- David Spiegel