Skip to main content


Showing posts from June, 2016

Keep Inventing

It might be comforting to think you know everything, but it wouldn't be true. Even in a narrow field, even after years of experience, high performance leaders continue to learn.

It's all changing too fast to know it all. Not only do the questions keep changing but so do the answers. What we thought we knew turns out not to be true. What seemed certain is now up for grabs.

From dietary changes to political revolutions to scientific advances to philosophical re-thinking -- all we can do as leaders is keep up, shape up, and keep inventing.

When are done? We are not ever done.

Keep inventing.

-- Doug Smith

High Performance Leaders Stay Calm

How are you under pressure?

When deadlines loom, when the client calls upset, when demands are unreasonable -- how do you react?

High performance leaders are not screamers. That stereotype might play on TV but never in a real workplace. Real leaders remain calm under pressure.

It's possible to communicate a sense of urgency without being a jerk. It's possible to elevate a conversation without yelling.

If we get angry it just gets in the way. People will react but they will also (actively or passively) get even. The cost is too high to get loud and emotional. High performance leaders stay calm.

Take a breath. Heck, take three deep breaths. Center yourself. Keep a view of the big picture. And then let the work take care of the work.

-- Doug Smith

Deliver Quality AND Quantity

Do you ever feel forced to choose between quality or quantity? You either make it right or you simply get it done fast?

That's a false choice. It's not either/or. Sure, it's tougher to do more and do it well. That's why we train. That's why we focus. That's why we work hard.

I've had times when I worked very carefully, very slowly, and very fastidiously on something to get it perfect. And you know what? It did not end up perfect. It ended up plenty good, but plenty good could have been reached in half the time.

I'm not saying cut corners. Do things right. Build in quality. Find the ways to make your processes, your thinking, and your doing faster, better and smarter. Build in quality AND quantity.

Because in today's fast-paced, highly competitive, rapidly changing world, what other choice have you?

-- Doug Smith

Inspire Noble Goals

How would your team describe your goals? Ambitious? Lofty? Aggressive? Self-serving? Noble?

What is a noble goal?

I think a goal that is noble intends no harm. It drives action toward making things better for others. Noble goals create a better world, without creating any losers.

Great leaders inspire noble goals. They focus on aligning their actions with accomplishing their mission -- a mission that simply makes things better.

It's too easy to be self-serving. It's too easy to check the box on goals that highlight our strengths. The growth occurs in noble goals. Solving difficult problems. Creating opportunities for others. Living large without bloating the ego.

Noble goals are tougher. That's why they lead to better results.

Kick your own high performance leadership into gear today. Talk to someone about how noble your shared goals are. You might just inspire someone.

-- Doug Smith

Get Going!

What goal are you working on?

Maybe you don't spend every minute of every day working on your goals. I certainly don't. But when I do work on my goals they propel me forward. They get me going.

Find your favorite goal. Work on it.  Even if you start with the smallest task. Put one task after the other like little steps leading to a lofty elevation.

Goals get us going. Because standing still goes nowhere.

-- Doug Smith

Forget Maybe

How do you feel when someone on your team says that "maybe" they'll finish something?

How strong is your confidence with a response of "maybe?"

Your confidence with maybe should be zero. Maybe is uncertain. Maybe has a ton of wiggle room. And much of the time people will wiggle right out of a commitment using the word maybe.

Maybe I'll work out.

Maybe I'll finish that project this week.

Maybe I'll pay attention to protocol.


If someone on your team says "maybe" ask for clarity. What do they mean? Maybe what? How about a real answer? How about some certainty? What can they say yes to?

-- Doug Smith

High Performance Leaders Create Every Day

What have you created today?

High performance leaders are constantly creating. It could be a new product, a new service, a new relationship, a new work of art. We create to improve. We create to solve. Leaders create.

Creativity leverages itself.

When we start to create, we think of more to create. When I write my morning pages (see Julia Cameron) it sparks new ideas. Even when what I'm writing is utter drivel or emotional purging, the impulse to write remains and is much more easily converted to action.

Creativity inspires itself.

Draw a picture, paint a painting, act in a play, write, sing (even if it's just in the shower) and your creative juices start flowing. You can't help it, or stop it, you become more inspired by firing up your creativity. It's simple, you've just got to do it.

Creativity wants your attention.

If you're at all like me, you've had stretches of time (like that time working in a glass factory) when creativity feels like too much of a…

Communicate Intentionally

Does your team know how you feel today?

They are probably paying much more attention to you than you realize. They probably do know exactly how you feel.

We let people know our feelings in dozens of subtle ways. Whether or not we say hello. How we say hello. Our eye contact. Our tone of voice. Whether or not the door is shut, the music is on, the phone is available.

People are going to figure out how you feel. Wouldn't it be helpful if they figured out how energized, motivated, and supportive you are?

We communicate how we feel whether we like it or not. Why not communicate positive, productive feelings of friendly joy?

It's entirely possible. And -- sparks high performance results.

-- Doug Smith

Move Your Team Ahead of Its Balance

Do you ever intentionally throw your team off balance?

I once worked with another manager who had a completely different style than mine. He was direct, authoritative, boss-like. And yet, his people loved him. Style is just a start. And Russ backed up his style with a heart as big as all outdoors. Sure, he was boss like, but in a lovable, Lou Grant kind of heart-of-gold.

But his sense of humor was wicked funny. One day he told me that he was going to rearrange his team's workstations.

"I'm going to change every single one," he said. "Everyone is going to come to work and discover that they sit somewhere else."

"Won't that rock the boat?" I asked.

"Absolutely. It will rock them right out of their complacency. And the ones who have been relishing their coveted places will see what it's like next to the copy machine. And the one next to the copy machine will finally get a break. It will shake things up. Some of them will hate it."

Talk Your Problems Over

Do you talk about your problems?

I do not mean complaining. Who needs that? Corner me with some complaining and I'll find the fastest path out of the room. Oops, I think I have to count my socks or alphabetize something.

Not complaining. Constructive inquiry. Curiously wondering what's causing things to be other than you'd like them to be. Asking other people's opinions. Digging into the issues with an open, curious mind.

Not that you'd expect anyone else to solve your problems. But, what if they did? What if they had a brilliant notion worth exploring? What if they were suddenly so interested in the issue that they helped you solve it?

I've seen it happen. People like to help. And, they often see things much differently than I do, which helps me see with a new perspective. That could be where the best ideas live. That could reveal the wonderful answer to dozens of otherwise completely entrenched problems.

Talking about our problems is not the same as solving …

Choose Your Impact Carefully

Have you ever stopped to think how many lives you effect as a supervisor?

If you've been supervising a while, the impact of your decisions, your coaching, your personality, your style, your goals -- nearly everything you do -- has reached many people. Dozens? Hundreds?

Team members. Customers. Clients. Peers. Bosses. You are one influential son of a gun. And, like it or not, that influence creates impact in people's lives.

Maybe they find better ways to perform. Maybe they find new relationships that encourage them. Maybe they correct nonproductive habits and begin to better achieve their goals.

The work is never done, so the impact knows no limits. Supervising is such a big responsibility because it alters so many lives.

Choose your impact carefully.

You never know who will remember you as the rock star you are.

-- Doug Smith

The Only Time To Stop Developing People

How long should a front line leader work to help a struggling performer recover?

It's easy to spend considerable time devoted to the poor performers on a team. As leaders, we want them to do well. As accountable supervisors, we need for them to make significant contributions in order for the team to achieve its goals.

So we give them time. We give them training. We give them coaching. Patiently, firmly, assertively, resolutely -- we work to develop each and every person on our team.

Until it's clear that some people are not only NOT seeking development, they resist it. They don't work hard, they don't learn, and they don't accept any kind of feedback for improvement. They might even resist a performance improvement plan completely designed for their own benefit. Who knows why anyone would resist development so much? Who knows why they dig in and turn off our best efforts to help them? Some people just won't get with the program.

There is an answer for those ty…

Create Clear Expectations

Do your team members know exactly what you expect?

It seems like such a simple thing, and yet so many supervisors miss this opportunity. They expect people to know their expectations.

We can do better. We can be clear about our expectations. Communicate to your people your standards, your criteria, your expectations. Let them know what you want.

Who knows? They'll probably deliver.

-- Doug Smith

Are you looking to develop the supervisors in your organization? Bring our two-day workshop, Supervising for Success in to your location. Contact me for details: