Go Slow to Go Fast


What happens if a leader goes too fast for the team? Does it do any good to leave the team behind?

High performance leaders remember that they are ahead of their team. It may take a minute for them to catch up. It may take some convincing to get everyone on board. You might need to slow down to gather momentum.

Otherwise a leader could miss something important.

Travel too fast and you'll see too little. Stop. Breathe. Maintain your balance. Center yourself and your team. You'll see (and do) so much more.

-- doug smith


Upcoming Workshop: Improv for Everyone

doug smith - improv workshop


Improv for Everyone - Improv Workshop




Anyone who knows me well knows that in addition to facilitating leadership workshops and helping people solve problems and achieve their goals, I am also a creative artist enthusiastic about improv.

If you're in or near Bucks County, PA, here is a great chance to explore and practice improv.

Sign up here



Solve Problems for Yourself AND for Others


When you are solving a problem, do you consider the impact your solution will have on other people?

I've seen leaders who impose solutions on their teams that make the job worse, not better. While some degree of resistance to any solution is natural, your problem has a much better chance of staying solved if the solution you pick is supported by your team.

Does your solution make the job easier?
Does your solution make your customers happier?
Is your solution elegant and simple and yet robust enough to solve the problem?

The purpose of problem solving is to make life better for you AND for others. Centered problem solvers consider the needs of everyone impacted by the problem AND by the solution. Don't let your solution damage your solution. Change management is part of your task. Centered problem solvers do the whole job.

Do the whole job.

-- doug smith

Leadership Call to Action:


  • Before implementing the next solution you come to, check with the people who will be impacted by that solution. You're checking for these things: 
    • do they support the solution?
    • how will they be impacted by the solution?
    • does this solution makes things better for them, for their customers, for your team?


Uncover the Lies

background image: aftermath of fire on elm street, louisville, colorado

We all tell lies. In my workshops I often ask the question "Who do we lie to the most?" and the answer follows quickly as "ourselves." We lie the most to ourselves.

Weird, isn't it? How can we even fool ourselves? But someone we do.

It's so easy to lie to ourselves that we usually don't realize that we're lying.

Take a moment. Breathe. Give yourself the truth test once in a while (say, every day!)

You CAN handle the truth.

-- doug smith


On Problem Complexity


Break it down.

Work it out.

Analyze the root cause of the problem. Involve the people who are involved. Take the time it takes to take the problem seriously.

Complexity is no excuse to avoid solving a problem.

-- doug smith

Let It Go


As soon as something is gone let it go.

-- doug smith


Leadership Call to Action:

That thing that's been on your mind but has long since left your life? Let it go.
That team member who was disruptive or lazy and is no longer on your team? Let it go.
Let it go.





Your Team Cares About Your Character


What does your team think of your character? Do they know and understand your values? Would they say that you are living those values, every day?

We work hard at what we do. Leading has its glorious days and it has its tough days. No matter how hard you work, unless your character -- how you behave -- is trustworthy and noble, people will know. If your character turns people away, who will you lead?

People will forget your work if your character flaws get in the way.

No people are perfect -- not you, not me -- but I do my best to live each day with character and integrity. How about you?

-- doug smith

Leadership Call to Action:

Have a three-part conversation with someone on your team today about one of your values.

How to do the three-part conversation:


  1. Small talk
  2. Talk about one of your values and what makes it important
  3. Appreciation for something that team member does that demonstrates that value or some aspect of that value




Leadership Affirmations: Positive Or Not

Leadership Affirmations - doug smith training

Once we start leading we encounter resistance. Some people are in the early stages of learning how to follow. Others find it uncomfortable if they are not in charge. Often, it's just a habit of negativity driving the moment.

High performance leaders stay positive, whether the team is positive or not.

You are a mighty performance force - stay positive.
You have a mission worth working on - stay positive
Your goals are your goals, whether people are positive or not.
You are positive!

-- doug smith


One Goal Too Many?


The boss gave goals. Lots of goals. The strategy was to stretch everyone on the team beyond their capacity, beyond their expectations. And, sometimes it worked.

Until it didn't. People do need to stretch. People do need to grow. But high performance leaders don't break them.

One goal too many could result in none achieved.

-- doug smith


What Elements Make Up An Effective Team? | John Lyden | Expressworks Int...

This brief video poses the theory that in order to build an effective team it is important that the people on the team get along. Interpersonal dynamics are important.

While this may seem obvious to anyone who has worked with many teams, it is still important.



How well do the people on your team get along? What are the interpersonal behaviors that your teams needs and wants? Why not explore that idea at your next team meeting? It's cheaper than a retreat, requires no trust falls or zip lines, and might just be the best thing you do for your team this month.

-- doug smith


Leadership Call to Action:


Gather your team. Plan a substantial portion of your meeting (or maybe nearly all of a meeting) to asking your team members the following questions. Make sure that someone is capturing the answers on a group memory (white board or flip chart or similar display.)


  • What interpersonal behaviors do you find most helpful when working with others?
  • What habits or behaviors are getting in our way
  • What interpersonal skills is our team best at?
  • What interpersonal skills would you like to see more of?
  • What interpersonal skills do we currently lack and need to do more of

Honor Your Past


Have you ever worked for a leader who is totally dedicated to tearing down what was before in order to move ahead with a new agenda?

How did that feel?

When you're in favor of the agenda, it could feel fine. But, for at least some of that leader's constituents the tearing down of the past felt like cruelty, like heartlessness. It causes people to dig in, to resist change, to do whatever it takes to repeat past processes rather than proceed past them.

High performance leaders have a heart. It is completely possible to build an exciting future while also honoring those parts of the past that got you where you are. There are no perfect organizations. If you care enough to lead a team, please do care enough about that teams heritage to honor the work that came before.

It's not a way to get stuck in the past. It's a way to move forward with dignity.

Honor your past so that you can avoid repeating it.

-- doug smith


Leadership Call to Action:


Be your best. Appreciate something worthy from your organizations past.


No Running Away


It's tempting. It seems so easy. A little hiding here, a little running there and who would notice? You'd know. You'd feel it. That ache would still be there to solve that problem before it unwinds you.

The problem with running from our problems is that they are usually attached.

Rather than run, why not solve that problem?

-- doug smith


Leadership Call to Action:

What problem have you been avoiding? Today, do something about it!

Things you could do right away:

  • Convert your problem statement into a goal
  • Talk with a friend about it
  • Make an appointment with a professional about it
  • Draw a root cause mind-map to uncover the root cause
  • Silently write a list of one-hundred ways to solve your problem
The possibilities are endless. Do something.




Peace Requires Patience


What could be more important to a leader than peace?

We live in a world where peace cannot be taken for granted and where for much of the population peace is not even available. So many things that leaders have done in national interests, in theological interests, in self-interests, and in revenge or spite, have resulted in wars, not peace.

Leaders with clarity, courage, creativity, and compassion choose peace. That means finding answers that may not be immediately satisfying. That means finding forgiveness when vengeance seems appropriate. That means standing up to constituents who demand any treatment of fellow human beings that is not human, not kind.

Peace requires patience.

What can you do today to bring about peace somewhere, somehow?

-- doug smith
 

Leadership Call to Action:

Be your best. Bring about peace.





Focus Your Goals


High performance leaders take care of the details. What helps the most in taking care of the right details is keeping focus. Knowing what is important is the first step, acting on what is most important is the next step.

No one can do everything, so high performance leaders maintain a sharp focus.

To determine that focus, identify your goals. Align those goals with your mission, and the focus develops naturally. Prioritizing becomes easier when you know what is most important.

What is your focus? Our goals reveal our focus, so be sure to focus those goals!

-- doug smith

Leadership Call to Action:


Play hard, work hard, be smart!

Challenge Your Fears


What are you afraid of?

We're all afraid of something. Some of us are afraid of many things. It makes sense to be afraid when danger threatens your physical or emotional well-being. If your life is in danger, deal with it promptly even if that means running away.

Could it be that our fear centers are over-working? Is it possible that we avoid too many things that need a healthy supply of confrontation?

High performance leaders confront their fears. They face into the risk knowing that they will grow in the process. It takes practice. It takes building muscles over the years and continuing to learn long after you think you know all the answers. That's just the beginning.

Fears are there to warn you AND to challenge you. Can you handle this? Are you ready for this? Are you going to let this turn into an opportunity or a stalling game of keep-away?

Challenge your fears, don't worship them.

You're bigger than they are.

-- doug smith

Leadership Call to Action:

Fear is an offer. Face in and accept that offer as an opportunity to grow, to prevail, to lead. Say yes.





Find Solid Ground


We all have agendas. All organizations have agendas. All movements (useful or not) drive agendas. This leads to a variety of mixed motives and unsavory outcomes. This leads to conflict and trouble.

It doesn't have to be that way. What you live for, what you trust in, what you drive could be for the benefit of all. What you live could be a model for how you want to be treated -- and isn't that below the surface of most worthy faiths?

Found your faith in love. Seek that good in the world that you can accent, amplify, and add. Add love

Unless your faith was founded on love it's standing on shaky ground.

Add some stability. Add some endurance. Add some goodness. Add love.

-- doug smith

Leadership Call to Action:


Whatever you do today, add love.


Leadership Conversations: Relationship Building



What are your leadership conversations about?

High performance leaders conduct all kinds of conversations -- around performance, goals, aspirations, tasks, schedules, development, customer service, process improvement...all KINDS of conversations. Something every high performance leadership conversation needs is time to build the relationship.

Unhurried. Deeper conversations. Getting to know your people.

That's one reason why two-thirds of the three part conversations we help develop at doug smith training contain relationship building:

1. Small talk
2. Big talk (goals, performance, etc.)
3. Appreciation

You could think of it as a performance sandwich but that's not all of it. The "bread" of that sandwich is all about getting to know each other better, spending meaningful time together, and bonding in such a way that working together becomes easier and more effective.

You're still the boss. You still get to decide in the end. But, as you get to know your people better you'll see how they are becoming more ready to make their own decisions, to take on their own challenges, to lead on their own.

Leaders drive change and change disrupts. People get flustered. Feathers get ruffled. How do your people know that you're still on their side when you challenge them beyond their cozy comfort zone?

Talk about it. We can't tell what something means to our relationship until we talk about it.

Talk about it.

-- doug smith

Leadership Calls to Action:


  • Stay curious
  • Turn toward all offers to connect (when your people want to talk today, talk. Today.)

Infinite Possibilities


Problems pile up. Answer hide. Frustration builds. Still, there are always more answers. There are always more possibilities. Our biggest challenge is to give up before we have explored enough possibilities to find a winner. There's a winner (or two or more) in there. Keep digging. Keep generating ideas. Keep focused on possibilities.

We may never run out of problems but we'll also never exhaust our possibilities for solving them.

-- doug smith

Leadership Call to Action:


Stay curious!

Leadership Affirmations: Answers


You've got this. It's another great start to another great week. Whatever the challenges you face, you are ready. And if you're not ready? You'll learn!

High performance leaders find the answers and today, you are ready to find some answers.

-- doug smith

Leadership Call to Action:


Be your best!

Everyone's Got Advice


Have you ever been given bad advice?

No matter how much someone insists that they know what they're talking about, maybe they do and maybe they don't.

Have you ever given advice that might not have been the best?

If you have, it probably wasn't intentional and you might not even remember it now. We sometimes give advice with the best of intentions but that advice is not exactly what is needed.

Before taking the advice of someone else, here are some of the things I look and listen for:

  • Do they understand my situation?
  • Do they have my best interests in mind?
  • Have they asked enough questions to determine what is needed?
  • Have they ever experienced the same kind of situation - and if so, how did that turn out for them?
  • Will they be there to help with the implementation of their advice?
Ask these questions first before jumping to that advice.

Giving advice is often the first sign that a person is not qualified to give advice. Everyone's got an opinion but not all opinions are helpful.

But that's just my advice -- what do you think?

-- doug smith

Calls to Action

Values evolve over time. If values are ever true, they refine without denying what once was. They grow. They distill. They find ways to self-generate the results they aspire to.



Here are some values I've refined into calls to action. I don't just agree with them, I expect to do them. To show them. To act on them. Sometimes it goes well, and often I fall short. The journey is a long one, so keep going.

Here are my current calls to action:


  1. Be your best
  2. Stay curious
  3. Say yes! Communicate, Connect, Interact!
  4. Challenge yourself
  5. Reach out with compassion
  6. Expand your possibilities
  7. Appreciate
  8. Play nice, work hard, stay smart
  9. Learn constantly
What are your values? What are your calls to action?

-- doug smith




Inspiration: Get to Know Your Team


How well do you know your team?

Leaders spend a lot of time with their team members, but sometimes don't get to know them very well. If you asked them what their dreams were or what they thought about at night before they went to sleep, would it surprise you?

High performance leaders expand their capacity of knowing their team. They learn what they don't know and explore at deeper levels what makes their team members excited, what makes them worried, and what makes them feel valued.

When a leader can let the team members know that they are valued, their value increases.

I don't know anyone as well as I think I do. I'm going to work at getting to know them better.

How about you?

-- doug smith



Think About It


It is possible to agree too quickly. Talk about it to make sure that you understand the agreement.

Is it really what you want? Will you be able to live with this as a decision? Do you support the likely result?

An agreement is a choice. Make sure it is the right choice for you. Then, once you have made the agreement, keep it.

It's what high performance leaders do.

-- doug smith

Honor the Absent


Do people in your organization gossip?

It's not harmless chatter. Gossip creates problems with reputations and generates disrespect. Without a person there to defend themselves, gossip is a poisonous mix of half-truth and hyperbole. It's bad stuff.

When I worked at GE we had a guideline that made perfect sense: honor the absent. If you wouldn't say something if someone was sitting right next to you, then do not say it. Honor their absence and their humanity.

Whether or not we agree with the goings-on and accounts of someone, if they are not there to defend themselves, maybe silence is the nobler path. Smearing them, swearing about them, and telling stories that are at least partially (and possibly, completely) untrue are behaviors that are beneath us. It's better to avoid gossip completely.

High performance leaders know that to communicate for results it pays to stick to the truth AND to respect the people involves. Respect your audience, respect your topic, respect the dignity of your organization.

It is possible to honor the absent without defending them. Tell your truth, without disparaging the reputation of someone not there to defend themselves.

What do you think?

-- doug smith


Video Case Study: The Psychology of Tyranny - Alex Haslam


Did Milgram get it wrong?

This video raises some intriguing questions that are relevant to our studies of high performance leadership. It raises issues around obedience, control, leadership, followership, context, and even evil.

Watch the video (17:49) and then reflect on the questions below.




Reflection and Discussion Questions:


  1. What meaning regarding obedience have people commonly concluded based on Milgram's  research?
  2. What are the factors in play that effect the participant's willingness to continue with the experiment, even though it appeared to be inflicting pain?
  3. How did the context of the experiment effect the outcomes?
  4. What additional information was mentioned in the video that we don't usually hear about when it comes to this famous experiment?
  5. What is the surprising conclusion to this research when examined thru the lens of this talk?
  6. Given the circumstances as you understand them, would you have continued to administer the shocks past the point of safety?
  7. How did the subjects react when given direct orders?
  8. What does this tell you about the nature of influence and leadership?
  9. Could this knowledge be used for both noble and for evil intent? How do you respond to that? 
  10. As a leader, what use can you make of this information?





Respect Anyway


Do people need to earn your respect?

Some people do believe that it is necessary to prove yourself worthy of respect before someone should grant you respect. What's the problem with that? When we put ourselves into the position of judge we also open the door wider to being judged.

Can people tell when you respect them?  Undoubtably. We seem to have an inner radar that differentiates respect from disrespect -- or worse, disregard. We can tell, and we care. Deeply.

Whatever a person has done in the past that we might question, it is still possible to treat them with respect. Kindness, compassion, even love know no limits.

Respecting someone does not mean that you agree with everything that they've ever done -- or even with what they are  doing or saying right now. Respect means that you treat them with human dignity, fairness, compassion, and honor.

I know that it can be tough to show respect in the heat of an argument or when someone is not acting in a likable manner. It can be tough to respect someone who irritates the crap out of you. Hey...respect them anyway.

I will do my best. How about you?

-- doug smith


Healing Silence


Silence in your anger gives it time to heal.
-- doug smith


Leaders Recognize Anger


Are your team members ever angry with you?

Whether you are a creative artist, a business person, a not-for-profit consultant...whatever -- when we are doing important, passionate work we will sometimes generate anger. It might be unexpected. It might be provoked. People get angry.

Anger can cloud our understanding. We can disagree. We disagree every day with some one (and sometimes it feels like half the world!) The better path, better than getting upset, is to clarify. If we disagree, we can figure out how to understand. Unless we understand, all the anger in the world is wasted energy. High performance leaders find ways to disagree respectfully while staying open to new possibilities. Ever been wrong? I'm wrong at least once a day.

Disagreeing with my truth is often useful. Getting angry at it seldom is.

-- doug smith


Push Against Your Limits


Creativity, like leadership, requires us to stretch. To be at our most creative we must grow. Since we are surrounded by limitations, that can cause some discomfort. Which boundaries should we cross? Which lines are mental and which are metal?

How do we create without getting hurt (or worse, hurting?)

I'm not sure. Maybe that's the wrong question. Maybe the question is -- what limits should we ignore today? What limits should we buck against and stretch?

If a limit is telling you that you are NOT creative -- ignore it.
If a limit is telling you that you cannot grow -- defy it.
If a limit is telling you that the world doesn't need your creativity -- laugh it off.

The world needs you. The world needs your creativity. The world needs you at your creative best.

The creative life pushes against limits.

Keep pushing.

-- doug smith


Make The Creative Choice


We are about as creative as we want to be. We may know people who seem much more creative. We may situations when we ourselves felt more creative. Still, creative is a choice. How you live your life is also a choice.

Why not choose a creative life?

Creative in what you do and how you do it. Creative in how you think. Creative in how you solve problems and achieve your goals. Creative.

The creative life is a choice that you make.

Let's make that choice.

-- doug smith


Are You Paying Attention?


It's easy to get distracted. Screens call out to us everywhere. Even a once peaceful wait in a reception area is now punctuated by a wide-screen TV.

Heads down, we miss opportunities. Eyes locked on a screen, we miss the people around us.

That screen might spark a little creativity in you but most of the time it might also be standing in the way. Let your mind wander. Pay attention to your surroundings. Let nature spark a little creativity in you. Flow with that creativity and give it your full attention.

Not just a second, not just a moment, but your full attention. Creative notions have a habit of dissipating if we don't focus on them, pay attention to them, keep them alive.

The creative life is not a part-time creative swipe. The creative life is rich, deep, and full AND very jealous of screen time. It would rather have you spend time being creative.

The creative life wants your full attention.

How are you doing with that?

Miniature Sketch - doug smith - doug smith training - developing creativity


Creative Actions



  • Take a walk. Leave your phone at home. Breathe. Let your mind wander. 
  • Write, by hand, for at least twenty minutes. If necessary to avoid distraction, leave your phone in another room.
  • Keep a small sketch pad nearby and when you get bored the next time instead of picking up your phone, doodle a sketch. It doesn't matter if its any good -- it's a doodle.
Happy creative life -- you deserve it!

-- doug smith

Today's Creative Affirmations

doug smith training - developing creativity


Everyone needs a little affirmation once in a while. Here are some quick creative affirmations for you.


  • Creativity is my middle name!
  • When my friends think of me they no doubt think of me as being creative
  • I can develop my creativity in a million ways
  • My creativity is unlimited!
-- now, go create something wonderful!

-- doug smith


Today's Creative Affirmations

You deserve a day of creativity -- and you are well-equips to bring it on!

These are for you:

  • I know creativity when I see it because I am filled with creativity!
  • However creative I have ever been has been just enough and now I can do more!
  • I can create on my own and I can create in collaboration -- my creativity is my choice.
  • No one can EVER talk me out of my creativity!
  • Creative stuff is about to happen!
-- great for you! Now go get creative!

Red Radiating Ball of Rays -- doug smith training - developing creativity



-- doug smith


Creativity We Breathe for Everyone


The creative life shakes hands with your better self, your happy self, your complete yet untapped potential self - a quick and colorful and powerful entity of sensational art. Living, walking, breathing creativity in the moment, in all moments, for ourselves, and for everyone.

-- doug smith


Draw Something

Draw Something - sketch by doug smith

Do you still draw?

All of us draw when we're kids. Some better than others but all with imagination and enthusiasm. My first sketches were yellow wax pencils (designed for writing on glass) on black photo-album paper. Not brilliant. Not representational. But I still remember the moment of fun and abandon.

Draw something today. Draw it with total abandon. Let your tool decide, let your hand go wild, draw something.

Drawing something with open up a part of your creativity that will serve you well wherever you need it. And, don't you need it right now?

-- doug smith