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Showing posts from 2019

Tradition And Change

Are you keeping up with change? I find myself sobbing just a little every time my mobile phone wants to install an update. How do I know it'll be better? Can't I just wait a little while? What if I like things the way that they are?

High performance leaders are in the business of change. We rock the boat for a living. As Tom Peters once said "if it ain't broke, break it." That quote is more than twenty years old and we've been rocking the boat constantly since then.

What about the people who fall off of the boat? What about the details that are tried and true and tradition? Is there a place for tradition in today's rapidly changing world?

Yes, there is. Tradition is more than the way things used-to-be. Tradition is more than old habits. Tradition is a topic worthy of a book, but for now here are a few things tradition means.

Tradition is honoring the past and the people who built that past. That past got us to here, so they must have done something right…

You've Got This

Problems are signs of life.

Keep living. Keep giving those problems all they can handle. You've got this.

-- doug smith

Be Bold

Goals worth gold require us to be bold.

Be bold.

-- doug smith

Are You Ready?

You don't need to be perfect to take on a bigger goal.

The goal is ready for you. Are you ready?

-- doug smith

The Truth Will Prevail

High performance leaders tell the truth. Since that can sometimes be hard, we are often tempted to stretch the truth (in other words, to lie.) While lies can fool people for a while, the truth will inevitably emerge. How will you feel when it does?

Telling a lie only proves that you haven't thought of a better answer. 
You do have a better answer: the truth.

The truth will prevail. Tell the truth.

-- doug smith

Character Is In The Actions

Some days it's easier to preach than perform. Resist that temptation.

Telling people what to do works for a little while, but eventually they are going to watch to see what YOU do. Character, no matter how it is presented verbally, is revealed in action. Kindness is shown by helping. Courage is demonstrated by standing down an evil force or intention. Creativity is demonstrated in the art created, not the art criticized.

I've sometimes fallen into the temptation to preach. It comes easy. Opinions just roll off my tongue. But, I'm working on that. Preaching is easy. Performing takes work. Practice build character. Do the practice.

-- doug smith

Sing Your Song

The song of success contains many variations.

-- doug smith

I'm not the world's greatest singer but wow do I love to sing. And, sure enough, I cannot sing everything. Almost no one can, of course. We're all limited by our vocal range and even though we can expand that vocal range, almost no one can sing ALL THE NOTES.

And, we don't all like all the songs.

Success is like that. What one person calls success, another might think of as torture. I know some jobs that people absolutely love that would irritate me to try to do. My own definition of success has evolved over the years. As I have discovered my limitations in some areas of aspiration (oh no, I CAN"T hit that note, or OH NO I'm NOT going to be a professional athlete!) I have also discovered new horizons -- all very colorful, exciting, and new.

Success can be this simple: think of a goal, write it down, achieve it.

Of course it's work. Naturally, there's much more to it than that. And yet, the so…

Make That Step

Have you ever shared a problem that is so sensitive you just want to keep it to yourself?

I have. Sometimes I have been weak when it comes to talking about problems. I get all quiet. I practice my secret power of invisibility and simply disappear. Well, no, but in the past sometimes I have acted as if that was a possibility. Anything to avoid talking about a troubling problem - especially an interpersonal one.

Maybe some problems should be kept to yourself. But in my experience, they are much harder to solve that way -- and if they involve another person, virtually impossible to solve alone.

Unwillingness to discuss a problem is pure cowardice.

Grab the courage. Muster up the nerve. Talk about it.

That's the first step into solving it, so make that step.

-- doug smith

Calm and Urgent

How's your sense of urgency?

When I worked for Whole Foods, it was considered a very big deal to constantly display a sense of urgency. If you were walking from one place to another, you moved with a sense of purpose. If you were working on a task, you gave it your all. Every moment was spent finding ways to do things faster, ever faster.

That's tough to sustain over the course of a full day and yet, like a muscle you can develop the ability to operate with a perceived sense of urgency. Breathe, yes. Relax, sometimes. But when it is all on the line -- with a customer or with your team -- how's your sense of urgency?

High performance leaders are both calm and urgent. Calm at their center and urgent about achieving their goals.

-- doug smith

High Performance Leaders Ask for Feedback

How often do you get feedback on your performance as a leader?

We're all busy. We all have things to tend to. Yet, if we are leading people, how do we know that we are leading with hearts of service and helpfulness? How do we know that our own agendas are not displacing our true mission?

We all make mistakes. We all have weak spots. We need someone to let us know when we go off the track and when we miss the mark.

Even people of noble character have weak spots in their values. That's why we need feedback and coaching.

-- doug smith

It Takes Open Communication

Have you ever kept something to yourself and later regretted it? I sure have. Have you ever felt something and failed to share that feeling, even though someone else could benefit from sharing the feeling? Ditto.

We're not perfect. We make mistakes. Hiding those mistakes does not erase them. I don't know if you can ever really erase a mistake, but talking about it helps.

Get better at talking about it and it will get better.

Talk about it.

-- doug smith

Hard Work

Do you envy people who seem to be naturally gifted? They seem so comfortable in their craft that the work is invisible and all that remains is the gift, the talent, the performance?

While the raw material may well be a gift, the actual deliverable is the result of hard work. Musicians must practice. Actors must rehearse. Athletes must work out. There are so many talented people working as hard as they can right now that no-one gets to slack off and shine. The stakes are too high, the field is too crowded.

The good news is that as crowded as the field is, there is room for everyone. All it takes is work. Hard work.

Creative inspiration isn't magic -- it comes from hard work.

Note to self: do the work.

-- doug smith


Sometimes I keep it all to myself. That is seldom a good idea.
Better, far better, is to talk about it. Get it out. Share.
Listen, pause, think it over, speak.

Speak your mind, speak your heart, speak your peace.

-- doug smith

All Edge in Moderation

I once had a boss who, during my performance evaluation, told me that I was doing a good job as a leader but that I needed to develop more of an edge. I wasn't quite assertive enough. She was concerned that people might take advantage of me.

I worked on my edge as a result. I sharpened it thru steady practice. I had an edge to end all edges.

At the next evaluation, what do you think she suggested?

"You need to dial that edge down a bit," she laughed.

It's not either/or. Assertiveness is valuable and necessary. Aggression, not so much.

You don't have to dull your edge -- just don't cut yourself with it.

-- doug smith

Something Other Than Games?

If you turn the system into a game people will game the system.

Competition isn't the only way to achieve excellence. What if you could find a way that didn't also bring the side-effects?

-- doug smith

Collaborate to Celebrate

You don't need to be the first to come up with the solution to a problem for the solution to work. Stay open to the ideas of others and you never know when brilliance may come your way.

Collaborate the work to celebrate the success.

-- doug smith

Communicating for Results: Say It

Knowing what to say is only valuable if you say it.

Say it.

-- doug smith

Build Your Team's Character

Building your team's size requires that you also build your team's character.

How do you build your team's character? By insisting on following your organization's values. By recruiting team members who have track records of operating with clarity, courage, compassion, and creativity. By living the integrity that you can then insist on, and by always telling the truth.

Any corruption or bad habits in your team multiple as your team gets larger. Start where you are, and keep quality in your integrity. No cheating. No cutting corners. Total and complete integrity. When I worked for GE we were charged with working with integrity and that was defined as following the spirit and letter of the law. If it's not "technically" wrong, it is wrong. You can always figure out the spirit of a regulation -- what it is designed to support or to prevent. Go with that. If you can't figure it out, find someone who can.

Building your team's character starts with bui…

Tough and Tender

The art of leadership is combining tough and tender in the same breath.

-- doug smith

It's More Than Talk

Every conversation is an opportunity to make someone's life better. Take the chance.

-- doug smith

Big Goals, Please

Go for goals that light you up, even if they frighten you.

-- doug smith

Set Short Goals

A goal too long to remember takes too long to solve. Set short goals.

-- doug smith

Support People First

Do you want to be influential? Do you want people to support your ideas?

People support ideas that support themselves. People can be trusted to look out for their own interest. It's not new, it's not complicated, but it's true and unavoidable.

Support people first, and then (maybe) they'll listen.

-- doug smith

Playing the Game to Win

Are you competitive?

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.

You can play the…

Tackle Your Limiting Beliefs

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…

Clarify, Clarify, Clarify

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 often we do not.

-- doug smith

Do You Really Understand?

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!

-- doug smith

How Strongly Do You Provoke?

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.

You can do it. You're the boss…

Lead with Compassion

Does your team know that you care about them?

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!

-- doug smith

Strong Goals

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?

Your Team Needs a Strong Leader

You're not just part of the team, are you?

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.

That's you.

You can do it. You're the boss.

-- doug smith

Be Careful

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.

-- doug smith

Stay Curious

Do you like a good argument? Do you get excited with the adrenalin rush of proving someone wrong?

I do. 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.

-- doug smith

Pick the Right Goals

How many goals do you have?

How many of those goals are contributing to your mission, your sense of purpose, your reason for being?

It's a smaller list, isn't it.

The right goals help make the right decisions.

Which list are you working on?

-- doug smith

Try Not Lying

High performance leaders communicate without lying. That's harder than it sounds.

So hard, that hardly anyone ever does it.

-- doug smith

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 -- …