I am unreasonably competitive. I get so excited about winning that I can work thru vast amounts of trouble to achieve a goal. I've learned though, that while in sports it may be true, in most enterprises your goal does not need to be a zero sum game. You can win without creating any losers.
Because if anybody loses, it's not over. If anyone perceives that they were taken advantage of or abused or cheated -- or even if they just feel like they lost without a chance to get what they really wanted -- the struggle is not over. They'll be back. The conflict will rage on. Unless.
Unless when you win your opponent also wins. It does not take some imaginary Valhallo to achieve this. It starts with identifying what each person wants. What is the goal? Then, carefully, compassionately, courageously creating many alternatives. The more possibilities you can generate the better your chances are of a victory that won't sour your relationships.
What stands in your way when it comes to achieving your goals?
Life will give us lots of obstacles. We have to learn how to deal with them. But, we also give ourselves some unnecessary barriers. We build walls out of our limiting beliefs.
Limiting beliefs are those thoughts that we believe so strongly that they prevent us from doing what would otherwise be possible. They are different from person to person, but they often sound like this: "I'm not good enough...they would never appreciate me...I failed at this before so why try again...that's the kind of person who always gives me trouble..." and on and on.
Our limiting beliefs are so deeply ingrained, many of them formed when we were very young children, that we often are not even aware that they are there -- or that they are limiting our possibilities.
Our job is to increase our possibilities and choices, not limit them. Not to take unnecessary risks or subject ourselves to danger, but to overcome the little hurdl…
So you think you understand? How many times have you been wrong?
I've been wrong too many times to count, even if I only counted this week. Usually it's about something that I think I understand, but do not. I'm not sure I'll ever understand romantic love, for instance. Just when I think I do, SURPRISE!
I'm not sure I'll ever understand why good teams fall apart. We work hard to build them, we make our customers happy, and then one day SURPRISE! our team squeaks and bleeds.
To understand keep learning. The facts keep changes. The faces keep changing. Life keeps rearranging. Don't get it yet? Don't worry, just roll up your sleeves and keeping asking questions. Keep the inquiry active and you'll keep moving ahead. One humble step at a time, perhaps, but moving ahead.
It's dangerous to pretend we understand...so often we do not.
Have you ever pretended to understand something that someone said, even though you didn't? Maybe it seemed like too much effort. Maybe you were just trying to be polite. I've done it. The quiet smile, the gentle nod, the secret "I've got no idea what you're talking about" whispering in the background.
Sure, it takes longer to ask more questions. It requires us to stop in our tracks and LISTEN. But it's worth it. Because it's dangerous to pretend we understand when we don't. Feelings get hurt (I know, I've hurt them.) Ideas get misunderstood (I know, I've misunderstood.) And trusts get broken when we pretend.
Today, I'm going to do everything I can to actually understand when someone tells me something important. How about you?
And, how do you know it's important? They're telling you!
Leaders do not settle. Good enough is not enough. Almost will never do. As my dad used to say, "Anything worth doing is worth doing right," and leadership must be done in a fully attentive, fully focused, high performance way. High performance leaders insist on ever increasing performance. To get there, they encourage positive action after positive action. Step by ever reaching step to a higher level, to a better degree, to a higher quality.
It's what high performance leaders do.
High performance leaders provoke positive actions.
What positive action will you provoke today?
-- doug smith
Leadership Call to Action
The next conversation you have with anyone on your team today, take a moment to provoke a positive action. Encourage your team member to do more, to add quality, to add value to something otherwise routine. Keep provoking until that positive action is a reality -- and then keep provoking until that positive reality is a habit.
How do they know? Is it from your flexibility? Is it from your discipline? Is it from the time that you take to talk with each and every one of them on a regular basis?
Times are tough for many team members. They are wrestling with issues that we don't even know about, plus some issues that we DO know about. How leaders respond makes the difference between a functional team and a dysfunctional one.
Go for the functional, fully moving forward team that delivers on performance. Build trust, build relationships, spend time getting to know your team and letting them get to know you. The payoff is immense.
Lead with clarity, courage, compassion, and creativity. If you don't know where to start, start with compassion.
Leading with compassion builds trust.
And trust propels high performance teams to success.
Go for that success. You can do it. You're the boss!
It might seem obvious, but it's worth remembering: strong goals provide you with strength. They provide you with strength of purpose, strength of direction, and strength of endurance. A goal that you truly care about, that's written with clarity provides help when others try to hinder. Lots will try to get in the way. The best goals resist this resistance and persist to achievement.
A solid, clear goal can withstand any judging.
-- doug smith
Leadership Call to Action
Check in on your top three goals today. Are they providing you with strength of direction? How could you make them even stronger? What will you do today toward achieving them?
You are, as the team leader, at the center. You set the tone. You set the speed. You set the mood.
Those are powerful abilities, if you use them in high performance ways. You'll need power, and you'll need strength, and you can't grab that from anyplace else other than yourself. Your team is counting on you. Whether or not they tell you, they depend on you to be their strong leader. The strength of patience. The strength of persistence. The strength of high expectations.
Pull your team together. Talk with them individually AND as part of the whole team. Let them know how to succeed and they'll do their best to do so.
As much as you might want it to, your team will not build itself. It needs a strong leader.
There are all kinds of hazards a high performance leader must navigate. Competition, customer misunderstandings, difficult hires, troubling team members. But there's one hazard we don't have to fall into and that's the problem of people who do not listen but who try to influence us with their own outrageous opinions. Let them try. We can listen. But, if they do not listen in return, we need to be careful about heeding their hazardous advice.
Be careful about following someone who does not listen. They could be lost.
Do you like a good argument? Do you get excited with the adrenalin rush of proving someone wrong?
I do. Except...it doesn't work that way. Do you ever really prove someone wrong with an argument? Work isn't after all debate club. No one has to cede to your cogent, meaty, precious points. Few people are persuaded by hefty logic or prolific pronouncements. They tend to turn away instead.
What works better is curiosity. What is more influential is staying open to the thinking and processing of others. They might be wrong, of course. But, what if they are correct? What if at least PART of what they're saying is logical and practical?
Gasp! Stranger things have happened. Stranger things indeed.
Stay curious. There's mysterious, undeniable, unbreakable power in it.
Curiosity is more powerful than rhetoric, dogma, or unquestioned truth.
There's a skill that, once you start using effectively, begins to feel like a superpower. You never have to settle for a poor answer again. I learned this from my mentor Andrew Oxley, who taught me "if you don't like the answer to a question, ask a better question."
It takes practice. At first you might run out of questions. But, if you stick with it and work at it you can always, always, always come up with better questions. And if you get stuck, silence can even be your better question. Just don't give in. Just don't give up. Ask better questions.
Remember what Andrew Oxley said:
If you don't like the answer to a question, ask a better question.
-- doug smith
The trouble with too many top priorities is getting them done. Too many top priorities means you don't really have priorities -- just a really long list of goals.
Have all the goals you want. Goals are great. I've know people who carry a list of 100 goals. They check them off one by one, and some have truly accomplished nearly half. That takes time, and feels more like a bucket list than a goals list.
Top goals are what you work on first. Top goals are what you prioritize above all else. Top goals are where your results make a meaningful distance.
High performance leaders show the courage to focus on five top goals.
Have you ever worked for a perfect leader? Me, either. And neither am I a perfect leader. We can't be perfect, yet we can work to be on the work toward perfection. It's a road we'll never finish.
I've been blessed to work with many great leaders, none of them perfect. But, some people have not been so lucky. Some people seem to have worked for a long streak of frustrating leaders or bullies. Maybe some of those people are headed for (or already on) your team. The news is good, though. You can greatly influence their future experience, even if you were previously less than what they needed in a boss.
It's a new day. It's a new time. You can be a new, improved, effective, attentive, high performance leader.
Be the leader you always wished you had.
Someone else is wishing for that, too.
Have you ever noticed that people tend to default toward rejection? A "no" comes quicker than a "yes." That's annoying to a sales person, but it's big trouble for a team leader who has a team stuck in the status quo. For teams, for leaders, there IS no status quo. A leader's job is to provoke change, to spark action, to get stuff done.
High performance leaders provoke. Not to be bossy, but to be effective. When people aren't responding it's time to lead with more strength, more resilience, more persistence. It's time to provoke.
How do you provoke?
Keep asking questions. Keep communicating your expectations. Talk about it at length -- so much that if your team member is tired of hearing from you simply say that they will hear less when they have done more.
High performance leaders provoke positive actions. And, they don't stop until those positive actions start.
Have you ever been stuck with goals that no longer work for you?
Did someone else stick you with those goals, or did you do it to yourself?
High performance leaders set lots of goals, but they don't get emotional about realizing that they can't possibly achieve all of them. Life brings complications, strategies change, better goals come along.
Working on a project, working for a boss, working on change -- if the goal is big enough there is likely to be disagreement. That's OK. Talk about it. Negotiate. Find a goal you can agree on instead of grudgingly plunging forward on a loser. And then, stay calm. There's no need to take a disagreement personally.
We can disagree on goals without becoming disagreeable.
Do you like yard sales? I know that some people do. The few times that I've participated in yard sales there were always eager shoppers there BEFORE the announced opening time. I've even seen a man (who was extremely well-dressed for yard sale shopping) carrying a map with all of the local yard sales marked, numbered in the order of starting time and access. He was looking for extreme bargains, with some very specific items in mind (he had to have boundaries, he was making the circuit on his bicycle.)
Some people love yard sales. The bargains, the sudden finds, the thrill of the hunt. I do not enjoy them as much, because some have an air of desperation: please buy this crap that I don't want anymore.
It's not all crap. But, some is.
One particular yard sale that wore me out and sucked the joy out of them for me was set up by my significant other at the time. It's the yard sale in the picture above. That's it, just about -- the whole yard sale. Do you see anyth…
A long time ago I was a Blue Willow china fan. I collected pieces wherever I could find them, one at a time mostly, at garage sales, antique shops, and occasionally home goods stores. My collection was humble and yet it brought me much joy. Somehow the subtly Asian look to the pictures which seemed to be telling untold stories fascinated me. My grandmother had a complete set and it was a joy to eat and drink from them.
One day I decided to order a complete set so that my family could not just admire them, but also eat from them every day. Frugal person that I am, I was enticed into buying a big box of the set by mail order. This was long before Amazon or any kind of online ordering and the picture in the magazine looked great. I could hardly believe my luck!
Until the box arrived. It was a big box, to be sure, and carefully packed. The very first thing I saw though, at the very top of the packing material, was a roughly printed set of "instructions…
You might not solve that problem by talking about it, but what if you did?
Centered problem solvers create dialogue. They listen and share in order to reach mutual understanding. The first step to mutual agreement on the solution to a problem is to understand the problem AND each other.
Here's another guest entry from my friend and fraternity brother, David Spiegel.
Late yesterday afternoon, as I was finishing my last run of the day, my daughter Becca called me.
She was having one of those "I think you need a Snickers" days.
Without rehashing each and everyone one of the multitude of things that were annoying her, suffice it to say she was less than a happy camper.
As she ranted on and on, barking about the challenges of the day, each description ended with her saying "what does it matter?"
She was not questioning the event itself. She was questioning why she bothers to make the choices she does, trying to create the life that she wants. What does it matter if I watch what I eat....the scale doesn't move! What does it matter if I workout as much as I do? The damn scale still doesn't move.
What does it matter that I get blood work done?
The doctor doesn't care to understand my lifestyle. He has pre-formed opinions on how he believ…
At one time or another (and probably MOST of the time) we resist change. It's causing us to do something differently and that is an effort we probably did not ask for. If it's not your idea, change is an aggravation.
I don't like it when my phone decides to upgrade. Every single new release for the past two years has been worse, not better than the previous one. And yet, I have no control over it other than to switch to another phone that will likely offer the same aggravation. My current choice is to get over it and move on.
If I control something, I make the changes that I want (most of the time.) New car? That's up to me. New coffee cup? Ditto. New client? That's in an area of influence, but not control.
That's why the flow chart I've created. Do you control it? Then do that.
Can you influence the change? Then get busy and build more influence.
If you cannot control OR influence a change you still have two choice. You can roll with -- …
Have you ever had a boss who yells at you? I have. I hated it. She was the one boss I've quit. I left the job because no matter what I did, she only saw the need for correction and yelled, insulted, and belittled me. She was a bully.
People leave people who yell at them.
We all get excited. We all might raise our voices occasionally. But, there are seldom any reasons worth the damage to yell at a direct report.
Leadership does not mean loud. Sometimes it's the quietest voice in the room.
We have so much capacity that we do not use. Like a warm spring day that goes by without a refreshing walk, once the capacity is gone, there is no getting it back. We renew each day, and then each day is gone. We develop and deploy our skills and opportunities to use those skills inch by us when we're not looking.
The problems in front of us -- those that are not hiding, give us no excuse for not using those skills. High performance leaders apply their strengths in order to take the energy of those problems and convert it to some good.
Problems. Every leader has them.
How many problems could stand up to you using all of your clarity, courage, creativity, and compassion?
"The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are." Joseph Campbell
Responding to my email from yesterday, I heard from a dear friend. She commented "Loved this thought for the day!".
It made me smile.
It also gave me pause to remember how and when she and I first met. We were freshmen together entering college, away from the comfort and safety of our parents homes. We had the same major at the time, music.
It was during those early days of being on my own, that I chose to pledge a fraternity. I truly believe this experience was a significant part of me becoming the person I am and not the wuss that I could have been.
This was not what anyone would consider the party animal or jock mentality frat that you often see portrayed in movies. It was however a place where the notion that you stand up to a challenge, rather than run away from one became part of who I am.
It would have been easy to spend my college days anonymously,getting by and following a path that some &q…
How much of leadership is service? Maybe a better question is, how much should it be?
It is not unusual to struggle with serving and being served. As we progress as leaders, it can feel as if we need to be served a bit more. We have people report to us. We have responsibilities and levels of authority. And yet, at the heart of it all, isn't what high performance leaders do most is serve?
We serve our mission. We serve our goals. And, most importantly, we serve our people. Team members, customers, constituents, peers, leaders...we serve our community.
When we do that, it suddenly all makes much more sense.
The strongest motivator is service to others.
Are you ready to serve? How will you serve your people today?
Are you working hard on your goals? I hope so. Goals require attention, effort, and energy. And you know what else goals benefit from? Help. Specifically, help from other people.
And where do those people come from? They could be your team. They could be your peers. They probably START though with people you have helped before. When you help others to achieve their goals, they become remarkably more available to help you with yours.
When you help other people achieve their goals they become more powerful allies.
Whether you are working on goals that need help or not right now -- reach out to see who else you can help. Maybe they'll reciprocate and maybe they won't -- but there's nothing TO reciprocate unless you help first.
-- doug smith
Leadership Call to Action:
Think about a friend or co-worker who is working on a project that you are not involved with. Sometime in the next week, call them and ask how you can help.
At one time, I was not a patient person. I had things to do, places to go, people to see. If people were slowing me down, it got me upset. If people were taking too long to do what seemed like an easy task, it got me upset.
The problem with having no patience is that you could spend a lot of time being upset. And what does that give you?
I've been working on it. While leaders may benefit from some impatience (are you done yet?) they truly need patience to achieve their mission. The big goals, the vision, the mission - all that takes time and patience. Let the butterfly work its own way out of the cocoon. Let the plant grow. Let your team member learn how to do what they need to do (even when, not if, it takes longer than it would have taken you.)
Patience takes practice.
How do you practice? Every time you feel impatient, breathe and whisper to yourself "ah...this is a patience growing opportunity."
I’m numb to judgement — even my own judgement of myself. I know I’m doing the best I can. Judging yourself is a huge vulnerability because everyone else is already doing it for you. And if you’re not in that place, you’ve got no shot. Everybody else sucks at stuff too. ~ Gary Vaynerchuck
I'm sure that if I took a look back at my writings from this time of year for the last few years, my messaging to myself would be pretty much the same.
New Year's day is just one more day on the calendar. January 1st does not bring new a new beginning to my life.
The idea that this upcoming year will some how magically be better than the last one is silly to me.
Simply put, I wake up each day with the knowledge that I will work hard at being better today than I was yesterday. Just that simple.
Every day is an opportunity to create a better version of me than I was the day before. Therefore, it is only logical that by doing this, this year will see an improved version of David of last year.