Monday, June 29, 2015

Famous Cards for Everyone

LEARNING ACTIVITY (allow about 20 minutes)

Purpose:
To help the participants focus on their vision, their mission, and their key measures. It's also an opportunity to practice drawing.

Materials:
At least one sample baseball card for everyone in the group (you could use cards from another sport but I'm partial to baseball cards).

Blank index cards for each person as well. More than one is recommended in case they need to do-over an early attempt.

Process:

  1. Review the sample baseball card. Identify what makes it so useful. What does it report? Note the picture - what does it say about the person on the card?
  2. Write your vision and/or mission at the top of the back of your card. Do your best to keep it to ten words or less. If you don't currently have a mission, now's the time to write one!
  3. Think about what is important about what you do for a living and how those things are measured. Identify 3 to 5 key measures that you are held accountable for.
  4. Write a place on the back of the card to record your key measures for several periods of time. For baseball cards it's seasons (years) and that may be true for you as well. Or, it could be months or fiscal periods. You decide.
  5. If you know you know your key measures results, record those on your card. If you don't know them, how could you find them out? Do that.
  6. The fun part! Draw your picture on the front of the card. You might want to practice on scrap paper first. Do your best to express something about WHO you are, professionally, in your picture. It could be a serious drawing, a characature, or even a very elementary stick figure. Do your very best.
As always, be creative!

Debrief:
What did you learn?

What does your picture say about you?

What do your key measures say about you?

Could you have picked different key measures?

If your key measures were completely up to you, would they be the same as they are now? 



-- doug smith

doug smith training: developing creativity

You are welcome to use this learning activity in any context that you like. When you do, please cite it as:

Famous Cards for Everyone, Learning Activity by Doug Smith of Doug Smith Training.
(c) 2015 douglas brent smith


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Creativity As A Necessity

The mediator of the inexpressible is the work of art."
-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

What would we do without creativity?

Life would be so much less colorful. Songs would not be sung. Pictures would not be painted. And leaders would use the same old strategies that irritated people before.

Creativity helps us grow. Creativity IS growth, and we must never stop growing.

Creativity is a necessity. The next time someone implies that you don't have enough time to be creative, ask them how they'd feel without the things that make life worth living - joy, celebration, examination, and love. Yes, even love - for how much can we love without getting creative? 

What creative work of art (or commerce!) are you working on today?

-- doug smith

doug smith training: developing creativity


Friday, June 26, 2015

Try Fearlessness

What are you afraid of?

Just kidding. I'm afraid of lots of things. Losing my phone. Falling over a cliff. Wandering naked in the street. Just kidding.

But, aren't we all afraid of some things that are irrational to be afraid of? Don't we all hold ourselves back far more than we need to in order to protect ourselves from embarrassment, from harm, from making mistakes?

We will make mistakes. We will hurt feelings. We will stub our toes. That's part of the creative life. That's part of living.

Creativity needs a certain fearlessness.

We must be able to let go and let loose. We must be able to laugh at the fear that paralyzes our impulses and push through those walls of warning.

Full speed ahead! Imagine what we'll learn!

Developing Creativity:


  1. Talk to someone who scares you just a little. Not an actual criminal or dangerous person, just someone who scares or intimidates you a little. 
  2. See a scary movie, whether or not you like scary movies. Not one involving dismemberment (eww) but one filled with suspense.
  3. Draw a complicated picture with your non-dominant hand. Sure, it might be sloppy. Enjoy the surprising developments in illustration you're able to make.


-- Doug Smith




What have you learned today?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Be As Creative As You Want

Could you be more creative?

I could. I think I'm already plenty creative but I know that there is always an unlimited amount of creativity there for me to grab. I can always pull up some more.

How about you?

You are about as creative as you want to be -- and your creative potential is unlimited.

Let's go!


Being Creative:


  1. Draw a picture. It doesn't matter how great it is. Draw it.
  2. Take a picture of something at an unusual angle. Get all Orson Welles with it. Feel the difference. Describe it. Write about it. What if it were used for something completely different - what could it be?
  3. Tell yourself this: "I am becoming the most creative person I know and I love it."



-- Doug Smith

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals  

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

What have you learned today?


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Deepen Your Relationships

How deep is your deepest relationship?

Do you know everything about them? Can you talk about whatever is on your mind? Do you know each other so well that you can make each other laugh with the slightest gesture or word?

We can't get to know everyone that deeply. It would likely wear us out. But, we can get deeper on so many more relationships. So many of our friends and acquaintances barely know us. We can change that. We can creatively build relationships that help us smile, grow, learn, and solve problems.

Isn't it through our deeper relationships that our happiness blossoms most prominently? Aren't we most creative when we are with other creative souls?

The faster path to solving problems and achieving goals is thru deeper relationships.

Who can you get to know better today?

-- Doug Smith

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

What have you learned today?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Let Your Partner Grow

Do you limit your partner's growth? Whether it's a business partner, organizational partner, creative partner, or life partner, do you ever expect them to stay exactly the way they are?

I know I've done that. In love with the person who was, I sometimes yearn for more of that same person. I want that same perfect person. But that person changes.

We can't stay exactly the way we are. We need to keep growing.

Expecting our partner to be perfect is a harsh judgement on ourselves. Relax the judge and watch that wonderful partner grow.

Who have you held back a little lately? How can you liberate their creative self today?

-- Doug Smith

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

What have you learned today?


Monday, June 22, 2015

Unleash Your Creativity

Why would anyone hold back their creativity?

And yet, we do it all the time. I know that when I am at my most creative it becomes my happiest as well. There's no separating the higher quality of life from the greater degree of creativity. And yet, we let things get in the way.

Let's break the bonds that tie us down from creating great things. Let's cut the cords that wrap us into distraction. Let's tear down the walls that come between us and our creative best.

Unleashing our creativity makes us more valuable to ourselves and others.

Ready? Set? Go!

-- Doug Smith




What have you learned today?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Solve The Problems We Can Solve

Do all the problems of the world sometimes seem overwhelming? What on earth can we do?

What we can't do as individuals is solve them all. It's too much. I get tired just thinking about it. But, there is still much that we can do. There are problems that we can help solve. We can work together and focus on what matters most to us and set noble goals. Then, centered and creative we can achieve those goals.

Once we realize it's not our job to solve every problem it becomes easier to solve the problems we are ready to solve.

What problem are you ready to solve?

-- Doug Smith

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

What have you learned today?

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Listen Without Judging

Do you evaluate what someone is saying, while they're saying it?

Do you ever have your mind made up before someone is done talking?

I've done that. Many times. It's easy to jump to our own answers, and our own solutions before we hear the whole story.

We need to hear the whole story (or at least enough of it so that we know what the story really is).

Here's the best way that I know. Listen with curiosity. Listen without judging what the other person is saying or who they are. Listen.

To find the true causes of a problem we need to listen without judging.

It's not always easy. It takes practice. To get past our inner filters and snap judgements, it's worth the effort.

Are you willing to listen with curiosity?

-- Doug Smith

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

What have you learned today?


Friday, June 19, 2015

Uncover The Truth

Do you ever think that it's a bit hard to uncover the truth?

Sometimes I've worked on problems where the hardest part in getting through an obstacle is uncovering the truth behind what's causing it. And yet, once the truth is uncovered, things can get moving again.

People have their reasons for hiding things. Maybe they are afraid of the consequences. Maybe their self-esteem is at stake. Maybe they just don't know any better. As leaders, when we stay curious and persistent we can do everybody a favor by discovering the truth.

The objective, fact-driven, feeling-validated truth. Solving that for the whole world would take a lifetime. Solving that for each project is just plain responsible and certainly possible.

It takes more courage to uncover the truth and that's because the payoff is so huge.

Finding the truth helps us solve our problems and achieve our goals, and that's what project management is all about.

What deep-rooted truths does your project team need to discover? How can you help with that?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

doug smith training: how to achieve your project goals


Thursday, June 18, 2015

People Like Specific Appreciation

How do you feel, after doing someone a big favor or  completing a difficult task, when they simply say "thanks, I appreciate that..."?

For me, it's not enough. Appreciate what, exactly? And, does that mean you'll be expecting it again?

Instead of saying "I appreciate that" it is greatly upgraded when we add specifics about what we're thankful for and describe exactly how it helped.

Expressing specifically what was so good, and how it helped let's people know we understand the importance of it. No one wants to be taken for granted, and simply saying thanks is really light-weight in response. Let's do better. Let's do more. Let's be specific, authentic, and sincere.

People like specific, heart-felt appreciation.

If you want to energize your team, how about letting them know that you care - specifically.

How can you enhance the quality of your appreciation for others today?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

doug smith training: how to achieve your project goals


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Keep Moving



How do you feel about the status quo?

In the project management world, status quo is not enough. We must keep moving. We must act relentlessly on our plan. We must stay creative.

I'm fond of quoting my friend Andrew Oxley about this: "In nature there is no stasis. We can choose growth or we can choose decay but there is no standing still. Life only knows those two directions."

That's your project. There is no standing still. If it's standing still, it's decaying or getting worse or falling behind schedule or running over budget. There is no stasis.

There's no standing still so we might as well move in the direction we need to go.

Keep moving. It's your best option.

What part of your action plan has been standing still lately? What will it take to get it moving?

-- Doug Smith



Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Clarify Your Common Sense Assumptions

When you're working on a project, do you ever wonder why common sense is in such short supply?

People make mistakes that seem silly. Standard procedures are sometimes ignored creating havoc. Relationships that should be sound and happy feel haggard and lost. Where IS all this common sense?

When I'm the leader, I sometimes forget that not everyone shares my same view of common sense. Not everyone on the team has experienced the kinds of things that lead me to believe that certain project concepts are common sense and so they don't share that view.

We all have places in our work that seem simple to us but more complicated to others.

Just because something is common sense doesn't mean that people are doing it.

We may need to tell them about our version of common sense. We may need to make processes fool-proof. We need to make things easy.

The next time you think to yourself, "why are they missing that thing that is clearly common sense" consider the opportunity before you. Maybe for someone else to realize a piece of common sense they first must be told about it. Guess who gets to tell them?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

doug smith training: how to achieve your project goals


Monday, June 15, 2015

Find Your Project's Business Case And Compelling Story



Does your most important project include a financial business case AND a compelling story?

I've noticed that project leaders tend to forget one or the other. You need both. Why? Because half of the world is laser-sharp focused on the financials while the other half cares about the financials but needs a compelling story.

A compelling story is the cool reason why you are doing a project. It's the people side. It's the part that when the project is finished makes you and your constituents feel warm and fuzzy.

Maybe you're not a warm-and-fuzzy kind of person. I'm not. But, I've learned that the chances of sustaining support and achieving the project goals improves dramatically when the project includes both a business case and a compelling story.

The business case shows the financial impact of your project on the organization. It shows how will your project improve your results in any of these areas:
  • Revenue
  • Expenses
  • Customer Happiness
  • Team Member Happiness
  • Compliance
  • Social Responsibility
The business case is there - as the project leader you must articulate it. As long as your project is supporting and improving one of those six big financial impact areas you should have all the support that you need. The minute it doesn't, though the support can drain away.

The compelling story creates the excitement, the verve, the coolness that you need to get past the finish line. Oh yes, and it makes you a hero. Wouldn't that be nice?

Every project requiring  cooperation needs a business case and a compelling, emotional story.

What's your story?


-- Doug Smith





Sunday, June 14, 2015

Solving Problems Requires People to Change

Have you ever noticed that one of the toughest parts to solving a problem is getting people to adapt the solution?

We just don't like to change. Sometimes our solution feels tougher than living with the problem. The discipline of doing something differently, and better, is challenging.

Some of the biggest problems have the easiest of solutions. The challenge is influencing people to change.

What are your easy answers? What do you think prevents people from doing those changes?

How can we influence them quickly and collaboratively?

Answer those questions successfully, and lots of problems melt away.

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: High performance leadership training

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals



Friday, June 12, 2015

Track Your Project's Progress

You probably already have reports in place for your project. How certain are you about your project's progress? Is it moving as fast as you want it to move? Are you energizing your team with the progress your project makes?

A project without progress is begging for attention or closure.

If it was scoped correctly, planned carefully, and resourced properly your project should be making significant progress. People need to see that progress. People need to feel that progress.

If the energy has drained out of the progress, it's time to make a decision: ramp up the energy, or shut down the project.

What's your choice?

-- Doug Smith

doug smith training: how to achieve your project goals


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Solve Problems to Achieve Your Project Goals

Those pesky project problems! Do they ever bother you?

Wouldn't you love a project that had NO problems to solve so that you could race right through to the end?

That's not likely to happen very often and it's probably best. Solving problems exposes us to new ideas. Solving problems helps us focus on our project goals. Solving problems is the way to that faster conclusion.

The purpose of solving problems is to better achieve our goals.

When you look at it like that, they don't seem so annoying, do they?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

doug smith training: how to achieve your project goals


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Get Lots of Ideas

Where do your best project ideas come from?

When we're creating something new we need lots of new ideas. The ones we bring with us are great, but we might need more. We probably need more. We certainly need more.

As the project manager, part of your job is to find the best sources of new ideas. To spark some inspiration, think about where great ideas come from. They don't even have to be related to your project because great ideas from unrelated areas might just get your team going in a spectacularly new and creative direction.

Sometimes several unrelated ideas can produce the best solution to your project problem.

Get lots of ideas!

Why not invite some new ideas into your next project meeting?

-- Doug Smith

doug smith training: how to achieve your project goals


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Find The Help You Need

Does it ever feel like your project has one problem too many?

Just when you're about to solve one problem another pops up and keeps you from your goal. Just when we seem to have everything under control something else slips out of view and into trouble.

One problem too many just means that it's time to find the help you need.

Maybe someone on your project team has the answer. Maybe your project sponsor knows what to do. Maybe the customer has an idea that will take ten problems off the table and help you focus on the goal. Asking for help not only gets you closer to solving those project problems but it also energizes your team.

The help is out there. We just need to ask.

-- Doug Smith

doug smith training: how to achieve your project goals


Monday, June 8, 2015

Now Is The Time

When is the best time to be working on your project goals?

Right now, of course. Now is the time that we have. While we might be easily distracted our project goals are waiting for us to take action.

There is no better time than right now to work on your project goals. 

Act relentlessly on that project plan. Find the goal that's ready for the next action. Then, act!

-- Doug Smith

doug smith training: how to achieve your project goals



Sunday, June 7, 2015

Let Go Of Imbedded Solutions

Do you have a favorite solution?

I've misapplied solutions sometimes simply because they were my favorite answers. Need more flexibility? Take all the flexibility you need. Or not. The answer that first pops into our mind is not always the right answer. It's just the answer we know best.

That big problem might be easier to solve once we let go of that ineffective solution so deeply imbedded in us.

We might be conditioned to pick that idea. We might be in a pattern of dysfunction. We might be wrong.

Can you let go of an imbedded solution long enough to make room for something new?

You can always come back to your favorite idea if it turns out to be the best one. But it often isn't.

Solving project problems usually means creating something completely new. Where do your best NEW ideas come from?

-- Doug Smith

doug smith training: how to achieve your project goals


Saturday, June 6, 2015

Constantly Clarify Your Project Goals

How sure are you that the people on your project team are clear about the project goals?

I've often made the mistake of thinking that just people I was clear about the project goals that everyone else was also clear about them. They may need to hear about them more than once. Probably at least five times is the minimum that a team member needs to hear about the goals before they truly understand them.

As clear as they may be, you need clear understanding as well.

The more clear and direct your project goals are, the more likely you are to achieve them.

How clear are your team members about your project goals?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

doug smith training: how to achieve your project goals

Friday, June 5, 2015

Change A Moment At A Time

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by how much there is to change?

I know the feeling - there are so many big problems to solve that it can crush expectations and send me into a zone of retreat. But, that's not where I belong. That's not where any of us belong.

We belong involved in the work that makes life better. Better for us, better for our customers, better for our team members. Even (gasp!) better for our competitors and enemies.

There IS a lot to be done. No single one of us will be able to change everything. What we can do is change what we can change. We can work constantly at learning, developing, improving, growing, caring.

If I can't change the world I can at least change a moment at a time for the best.

We can build great moments. One moment at a time.

What will be your greatest moment today?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

doug smith training: how to achieve your project goals

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Always Offer Your Best

Have you ever noticed that a business you are dealing with suddenly offers a better deal to NEW customers than what you already have?

How does that make you feel?

Big data has produced so much specific stratification in our customer worlds that it is now possible to only give our best to those customers who are most profitable. It is possible to overlook those customers who have been loyal (and have gotten us to where we are) in favor of recruiting new customers. It is possible to treat different classes of customers differently.

Does that feel intuitively right to you? What if you're a member of a class that's treated with lower quality than another? Chances are, that IS happening to you in one transaction or another.

Do we really want to keep building a society where those who pay more are treated better? What about offering everyone our constant best?

That doesn't mean that we stop using data to identify our best opportunities or serve our best customers exquisitely well. But it does mean that we should give our best always - not reserve it for the highest paying people.

What do you think?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

doug smith training: how to achieve your project goals

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Answer The Phone

Do you answer your phone?

I do, but then most professionals in my generation do, too. There probably aren't as many generational differences in the workplace as people focus on, but I've noticed that one difference is how we treat the phone. A phone call means different things to different people, even different generations.

A phone call is still important. Even as we rely more on email and text messages and other ways of communicating online, a phone call provides a type of immediacy that can only be gotten in person or on the phone. It's vital for establishing and supporting customer relationships. It's critical to achieving your goals.

People who don't answer the phone are missing great opportunities to connect with customers, clients, and possible partners. 

Don't leave this very human element of relationship building unattended. Don't let your call-prompting system screen every-single-call so that no one can actually build a dialogue with you. Answer the phone.

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

doug smith training: how to achieve your project goals



Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Measure Within Your Values

How do you measure success?

Having been a manager, supervisor, and project leader for many years I've had to evaluate team member success in many different ways. We usually focus on performance that is connected some how to customer happiness. Sometimes, that's not as important in our metrics as profitability. It's easy to lost track of why we're doing what we're doing if we don't measure the right things.

I learned as a supervisor that if you're not careful about what you measure and how you reward performance that people will achieve the metrics you want even if they have to game the system to do it. They can miss the whole point of the exercise and instead worry about getting the reward.

We shouldn't do that to people and we shouldn't let them do that to us. We should use measures that tell us how we are doing about our financial performance, yes of course, AND also how we're doing at meeting our mission. Are we serving our purpose? Are the actions we are doing leading us to excellence in our field? Are we taking care of all of the constituents associated with our enterprise (customers, team members, suppliers, vendors, stock holders, regulatory agencies...)?

It's best to assess our scoring in the context of our values and mission.

If we get that right, everything will fall correctly into place. If we get that wrong, no amount of success will produce the value that we deserve.

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

doug smith training: how to achieve your project goals

Monday, June 1, 2015

Give Your Goals Energy

How do you energize your goals? How about your team?

Whether or not our goals have formal teams working on them, we do benefit from the help of other people. I like to consider those helpful other people as part of my goal achieving team.

For people to help on our goals we need to energize them. Inspire them. Engage them. Involve them. When we give our team energy that gives our goals energy.

There are lots of ways to energize those goal-teams, including:


  • Talking about the goal
  • Thanking people for how they have already helped
  • Staying curious about how the goal is useful to the team members
  • Explaining how the goal is part of a larger mission
  • Sharing your action plan
  • Asking for help
That's just a start, but it's a good start. The team won't stay energized on its own. The owner of the goal has to help.

When you give your energy to goals your energy is multiplied.

Your team provides the best source to that math. Energize your team, and they'll energize your goals. Energize your goals, and you'll energize your team. It's a wonderful, reciprocal, almost magical process.

How will you bring energy to your biggest goal today?


-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

doug smith training: how to achieve your project goals