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What's Your Superpower?

Would you like another super power?

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."

Try it.

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


Set 5 Top Goals

How many top priorities do you have?

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.

How many do you focus on?

-- doug smith


You're It

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.

Start today.

Be the leader you always wished you had.
Someone else is wishing for that, too.

-- doug smith

Provoke Positively

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.

-- doug smith


Own It

High performance leaders make peace with their mistakes without pretending that they never happened.

-- doug smith


If you have the same problem that you had a year ago you have not yet found the real problem.

Keep digging.

-- doug smith


Goals are Negotiable

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.

-- doug smith


There Is Always Another Goal

Achieving a goal does not promise you perfection. There is always another goal.

Find it. Set it. Get it going.

-- doug smith


The Loneliest Yard Sale

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…

Variations in Quality?

How do you feel about quality?

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…

Should You Talk About Your Problem?

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.

Got a problem? Talk about it.

-- doug smith

You Matter! Dave said so! by David Spiegel

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…

Go for the Big No

Do you have trouble saying no? It bothers me sometimes. I want to please people. I want to do what's right. I want to say yes.

But, sometimes the answer has to be no. You just can't do everything. Brian Tracey says "your yes is meaningless until your no means NO."

Absolutely. People will resist. People will commiserate. But sometimes you need a really firm, truly big NO.

To make your "yes" your best yes, make your "no a "hell no."

That means no under any circumstances. No completely. No beyond manipulation. Just plain hell no.

-- doug smith




How to Deal With Change

Who likes change?

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 -- …

No Need to Yell

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.

-- doug smith



Use These Four Core Strengths

How many problems could stand up to you using all of your clarity, courage, creativity, and compassion?

Not many, my friend. Not many at all.

High performance leaders solve problems. What are we waiting for?



-- doug smith


Use It All

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?

-- doug smith



How I Avoided Becoming a Wuss - By David Spiegel

"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…

Keep the Big Picture In Mind

When it's all important, it's important to determine what is MOST important. Filling our days with little things could squeeze out the big things.

The big things matter.

High performance leaders keep the big picture in mind from project to project and from goal to goal.

-- doug smith


Are You Ready to Serve?

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?

-- doug smith



Getting Help By Helping

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.

Right Now

How many moments does a leader have? How many do YOU have?



We don't know, do we? What we do know is that we have this moment, right now. What we do with this moment is done and then over. What we do with this moment is our choice. Let's do something great!

High performance leaders set great examples by doing great things in the moments that they have.

Right now is the perfect moment.

Can you feel it?

-- doug smith



Patience

Are you a patient person?



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."

Silly? Not as silly as living without patience…

I Didn't Look Back, But If I Did... by David Spiegel

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. Th…