Monday, February 29, 2016

Stay Creative

Do you think about creativity everyday?

When we think about creativity everyday it spurs us into action, it develops a sense of wonder, it prods us into moving out of the ordinary and into the extraordinary.

We can even reach a state that is so creative we forget that we're thinking about being creative, we simply create. New things, better things, wonderful things.

Better leadership, better communication, better problem solving. Better living.

Stay creative and you won't ever regret it.

It makes us brighter, makes us smarter, makes us more alive.

What are you doing to develop your creativity today?

-- Doug Smith


Sunday, February 28, 2016

Practice Creativity Everyday

What have you do creative today?

Did you try a new breakfast? Did you draw something wild and beautiful? Did you write in your journal?

Creativity thrives when we practice our creativity. We must stay busy in our creative world to keep our creative edge sharp. Any musician knows this. Any writer knows that when we write everyday we stand a much better chance of creating something remarkable. There is no substitute for practice.

Your creative muse expects you to practice every day.

Inspiration must be fed. Inspiration must be nurtured. Do you want to do amazingly creative things? Then do something creative every day.

What's your next creative step today?

-- Doug Smith


Saturday, February 27, 2016

Find Your Creative Center

Are you looking for more balance in your life?

I facilitate some workshops that include people who are desperately looking for ways to balance their work and their life. Sometimes they are looking for a magic wand, and that's not available. There are ways to find this balance. There are things that each of us can do to keep our focus. One essential ingredient is to keep in touch with our creative center.

Our creative center is that part of us that simply knows when we need to move from the ordinary and find creative ways to move forward. Our creative center stores up our creative experiences and makes them available when they are needed (and, they are needed often!)

Our creative center is that place where we can balance our flexibility with our urgency in order to see more possibilities. Anxiety, worry, and tension are often generated by the failure to see more possibilities.  But we do have the tools to overcome that - the creativity that we develop can supply the focus and energy we need to overcome the stress we feel.

Find your creative center and the rest of you s much easier to balance.

The more creative we are, the easier it is to find that center.

Draw. Paint. Sing. Dance. Doodle. Write. Appreciate. Share. Dream.

The creative possibilities are endless -- and all available to you.

What's your next creative thing?

-- Doug Smith


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Key Questions to Stay Curious

photo of Rusty the cat by Judi Madigan
photo of Rusty by Judi Madigan
How curious are you?

In my workshops on communication and achieving your goals I point out how important it is to listen with curiosity. We are most attentive when we are most curious. Instead of jumping to conclusions or judging before it's necessary, high performance leaders center their listening around staying curious.

How do you do that?

One way is by asking relevant questions. One of my mentors, Lester T. Shapiro (who wrote the book The Training Effectiveness Handbook) once said that the primary role of leaders is to ask relevant questions.

Here are some questions that I've found extremely relevant and that help me to remain curious:

What is your case?

We are always building a case and not always aware of the case that we're building or why. It might not even serve our best interests, and yet we can talk ourselves into anything. Stay curious about what you really want, what you think you want and (most importantly) is what you think is true really true?

What is your goal?

What do you want to achieve? Are you sure? Are you committed? Is your goal in this situation compatible with who you want to be known as?

What is your agenda?

What are you doing, consciously or unconsciously, to create the environment you just operate in? Is that what you want? What might you need to change to create your best possible world? Who can help? When will you begin?

What are your assumptions?

Interrogate your truth (as Susan Scott would say. For more on this see her great book Fierce Conversations). Identify possibilities, fallacies, misdirections, lies, hallucinations, dreams, rationalizations, and all fuzzy thinking. Stop making shit up!

What is unknown?

Identify the missing pieces. What's happening in the background? What has led to the current situation? Know what you don't know so that you can learn it. What do you need? Figure out what other people are looking for in the situation and if you can all reach a mutually beneficial outcome. Sometimes we're drawn into a competition that isn't even needed.

What do you need?

What do you need and where can you find it ini order to achieve your goals? Who can help? Be very honest about what resources you must have, and which are simply desirable but not critical. The first step to getting what you need, in order to get what you want, is to know what you need.

What are you curious about?

Stay open and curious no matter what. Consider wild, fun, miraculous possibilities. Stop judging and simply accept. You can always evaluate later on. That inner judge or inner critic is not gone for good, just on a break. Make the most of it. Challenge assumptions. Challenge limitations. Challenge imperfections. Smile.

That last point, to smile, is not a humorous throwaway. I mean it. Smile. See what a difference it makes. And for heaven's sake -- stay curious!

-- Doug Smith



Monday, February 22, 2016

Give Your Creative Muse A Break From Your Inner Judge

Send your inner judge out for milk and cookies. 
Is your inner judge constantly working? Do you hear your inner critic finding fault with things?

We need to be able to analyze. It's useful to be able to differentiate, evaluate, and decide. But, our inner judge is such a strong voice that it sometimes drowns out everything else. When that happens, nothing looks right. When that happens, our creativity suffers.

Your creative muse is not in love with your inner judge.

Your creative muse would like a break, now and then, from an endless stream of criticism. Some ideas are going to be wild. Some musings will be suspicious in usefulness. Some creations might fall apart eventually. But they all need time to percolate, time to brew, time to stew, and time to form legs enough of their own to survive the inner critic in us.

So give your creativity a break from your inner judge. Your ideas will thank you for it.

-- Doug Smith


Sunday, February 21, 2016

Give Your Team Energy and Focus

How energized is the team that is working on your biggest goal?

No team? What will it take to interest others in your goal? Isn't it worth the time, the effort, the energy to get as many people involved as it will take to achieve your biggest and most noble goal?

It starts with focus. Keeping your focus on that wonderful outcome. Identifying your true mission. Aligning your efforts with all of your work.

Give people focus, and the energy to drive that focus appears.

A brilliant idea is irresistible. Let people know your brilliant ideas.

We create energy with our focus. 

And energizing your team is a critical part of achieving your goals.

-- Doug Smith


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Remember Your Forgotten Ideas

You know the feeling: you have a brilliant idea! It's the answer to a problem that you've been working on. Or, it's a new way to develop or deliver your product or service. It could even be a new work of art, from your hands to the world. If.

If you could only remember it.

Here's why I do to remember ideas: I carry paper and pen everywhere. My journal is always nearby. The material on its pages may not always be coherent, but the ideas are there. My morning pages may spill oodles of angst and anger, but the ideas have a place to go. It can still be a hunt to find that idea I remember having a year ago, but it's there.

Write it down. Capture it. Take a picture. Draw a diagram. Keep your brain working on your genius of an idea, and help it remember by leaving a map.

The creative ideas that have been forgotten are enough to keep us busy for years to come, reinventing.

It takes a lot of great ideas to achieve our goals. Let's make sure we build a supply.

Why not make retrieval easier? Write it down.

-- Doug Smith


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Let's Be Honest About Our Goals

I hate hidden agendas. When people have motives that they do not reveal it is the worst kind of lie.

That's why I appreciate the truth so much. We can't all, and can't always, handle radical truth. We need a little filtering to keep from walking around with bruised feelings all of the time. We can handle truth delivered with respect. We can handle truth that is useful. And, we can certainly handle the truth about our goals.

What do you want? What's your biggest goal? Once we start sharing that level of truth we can genuinely help each other the most.

Being honest about our goals is necessary to tell the truth.

What do you want, how do you define the success of what you want, and when do you want it.

Action word + result you want + time.  That's what I call ART goals and the best way to get the most out of them is to be upfront and honest. Once we know what we want, we can intelligently decide whether to agree or not.

Anything less is pretending.

Go for the truth.

-- Doug Smith


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Little Goals Support The Big Goals

Have you ever had to push a stalled car? When it's not moving, it takes a big push to get it going. Unless you're headed downhill. If you're going to stall, stall headed downhill. Stall only when you're already headed for the finish line.

Of course we don't get to pick when our goals will stall. They surprise us. Barriers appear we'd never expected. But we can plan for that. We can support our big goals with a series of smaller goals that keep our momentum going, our team energized, and our plans on track.

That big goal might need a few little goals to get your creativity going.

Give your big goals all they help they need. Break them into little goals and watch your progress add up. Climb that mountain, but get headed downhill to the finish line as soon as you can -- support your big goals with little goals that matter.

-- Doug Smith


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Energize Your Team With Your Attention

How much attention are you giving your team?

One of the toughest lessons I learned when I was a beginning supervisor was to give my people enough attention. The struggling performers need attention. The superstars need challenges and support. Everyone on the team needed something, even when (especially when) they didn't make those needs clear.

High performance leaders find ways to give each team member the attention needed.

Attention is useful. Attention is immediate. Attention is critical.

Attention is the sincerest form of energizing your people. 

Energize your team. Give them the attention that they need. What's the best and easiest way to do that? Talk about it. Initiate conversations with each team member. Take the talking just a little deeper than usual. Talk about what matters. Ask how they feel. Listen to their hopes, their goals, their motivations.

That kind of attention is pure magic.

-- Doug Smith

Monday, February 15, 2016

Solve Problems Creatively by Practicing Creativity

Do you want to bring more creativity to your problem solving?

I would guess that the answer is "of course!" More creativity leads to better solutions. Oh, yes and it's more fun. Can problem solving be fun? Absolutely, but only if you bring enough creativity into the process to get past the aggravation and move forward to the fun.

Creative problem solving requires creative practice. Find ways to sharpen your creativity.

Find ways off line. Go for a walk. Visit a museum. Draw a picture. Make up a joke (that's harder than it might seem). Create!

This is your coaches prodding, working on you in this moment: go create something!

Practice your creativity the way a great pianist practices their art and craft of playing the piano. You've got you keep your fingers on the keys. Go!

-- Doug Smith

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Stay Patient and Strong With Your Goals

Big goals take strength. Ambitious goals take courage. Any goal worth anyone's attention will meet with resistance.

Work thru that resistance. Stay the course. Stay patient even when other people, broken processes, and stupid events get in your way. It's not the end of your goal, it's just a moment in a test of your will.

Are you certain about your goal? Is it important to you? Is it noble, worthy, and helpful? Then see it thru.

When the goal is strong enough, your patience is long enough.

See it thru.

-- Doug Smith

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Start With Your Focus

Have you noticed how much your performance depends on your focus?

Whenever I am clear about my focus, and steady in my attention, my performance improves. It can reach the level of flow, where I'm no longer even aware of time passing or skill execution -- but that only comes after mindfully keeping my focus on the here and now, on what I'm doing. How about you?

When you start with your focus, do you achieve better results? Are you goals easier to achieve?

Even when our mission is clear, we need to keep our focus on identifying that mission and bringing our actions to the front of achieving our goals in service of that mission.

Your performance starts with your focus.

Do you want to improve your performance? Improve your focus.

What's your focus for today?

-- Doug Smith


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Make It Matter


How much does your biggest goal matter?

What are you willing to do in order to achieve that goal?

Big goals require commitment. Big goals can even require sacrifice. In the famous line from "The Untouchables" Sean Connery as Jim Malone said "what are you prepared to do?" What are your limits? Are you all in or partially committe
I'm not advocating the kind of all in personal life sacrifice that Malone was requiring, but it is a question worth asking around our goals. What are you prepared to do? Work overtime? Ask for help?

A goal doesn't much matter unless you're willing to pay a price.

What price are you willing to pay?

-- Doug Smith


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Grab A Mission With Energy

Does your mission inspire you? Do you move quickly on your goals in order to get closer to fulfilling your mission?

A mission must be inspiring or it's not much of a mission.

If your mission doesn't give you energy, maybe it's not your mission.

It could be someone else's energy (if they're inspired by it) but it's not yours unless it drive you forward.

Rewrite it. Review it. Redo it. Your mission is there for a reason: to guide you to success and happiness. Identify your real mission and run with it full speed ahead.

Create a better world. Achieve your most noble goals. Walk a life of happiness: grab a mission with energy and live it for all you're worth.

-- Doug Smith


Monday, February 8, 2016

Self-Esteem Is Up To You

Do you work better when you feel good about yourself?

Of course! At least, I do. When I'm strong, confident, and prepared my work is much better. It builds my self-esteem and helps me solve problems and achieve my goals.

But, it's up to me to find that self-esteem. It's up to me to build that confidence. No one else can give it to me and my work doesn't care.

Have you noticed that your work doesn't care about how you feel about yourself? Your work is your work.

Your problem doesn't care about your self-esteem.

Your problem just needs to be solved. Will it? It depends on what you bring to your problem.

Do you want to bring a great sense of self-esteem? That's up to you.

Think about your previous successes. Think about problems you've solved before. Draw on your own clarity of purpose, creativity of design, courage of action, and compassion for others and then realize what a cool person that makes you. Yeah, you.

Self-esteem is up to you -- and you've done plenty already to earn it!

-- Doug Smith


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Extreme Creativity

How extreme is your creativity?

It can be hard to be a little creative. Once the creativity flows we tend to let it fly - full tilt, unhindered, unmasked, extreme.

That can cause problems. Still we must remain creative.

To achieve our goals, to solve our problems, we must remain creative.

Extreme creativity is often misunderstood.

"Why did you paint it THAT color?"
"What on earth were you thinking?"
"Did you know that would happen?"

We can create something so new that people do not understand it. We can also create something that is distinctive yet flawed. I have at times created something that I loved so much that I failed to see its flaws. That's one reason I advocate collaborating in our creativity. Get help. Build a team. Work together. Our strengths left unchecked turn into weaknesses. Working creatively with other people frees us up while holding us up as well. We might need help seeing boundaries that are there for a reason.

Collaborating allows us to put the pedal to the metal and flow with it unchecked. And with the help of others, it's up to us to continue to be clear, courageous, AND compassionate as we create. The beauty is in the balance.

What's the most extreme creative thing you've ever done?

-- Doug Smith


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Keep Developing

We're either developing ourselves or falling behind.

What will you do to develop yourself today?

-- Doug Smith

Monday, February 1, 2016

How's Your Common Sense?

Calling something "common sense" doesn't mean that you don't need it. We're never finished learning.

What have you learned today?

-- Doug Smith