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Showing posts from September, 2018

Listen First

How quickly do you make up your mind about whether someone is right or wrong? Is it possible that you sometimes make up your mind too quickly? It happens frequently. That proposes an additional challenge of forcing someone to defend a position before they know for sure that it's THEIR best option. I've done it. You've probably done it, too. I've decided to turn away a sales offer that clearly could have been a benefit to me. Why? I'd made up my mind not to buy. I've also turned away great invitations just because I'd already decided to keep a time free, instead of staying open to new opportunities. The new opportunities MIGHT have been fantastic, but once I stopped listening it became impossible to tell. How about you? The fix to this problem is simple and easy: listen. Before you make up your mind, listen with genuine, sincere curiosity. Maybe you know, and maybe you don't -- listen. It becomes harder to listen when we become convinced that s

Improving Performance Starts with Feedback

Sometimes people get better on their own, and sometimes they do not. High performance leaders don't take the chance that people will get better on their own. The key starts with feedback. When people know exactly what they did, it's possible to do it better the next time. Are your people meeting their metrics? Are they delighting customers? Are they inspiring you? Share your observations. What did you see, hear, smell, feel? What was useful about what happened? How could it be even better. We all benefit from feedback. Successful supervisors make sure it happens. -- doug smith

Supervising For Success

What do your team members think about your supervisors? How are things on the leadership front? So often highly effective technical workers are promoted to supervisor and then struggle. They don't know what to do. Why aren't their team members doing their jobs? Where's the motivation? If any of these issues occur where you work, you might want to consider our two day workshop, "Supervising for Success." There's no shame in struggling as a supervisor, but there's no need for it, either. Take advantage of our forty plus years of leadership experience to develop supervisory skills in these key areas: Leading challenging conversations - discover how to talk about what you need to talk about Setting goals quickly and developing a robust plan to achieve them Coaching and developing your team members How to solve performance problems and turn that poor performer into a motivated star How to set priorities when everything feels like a top priority

The Best Goals...

The best goals spark inspiration, dedication, and perspiration. Anything less is not for you. -- doug smith

Sometimes, It IS The Relationship

Do relationships impact your problems? Maybe not always, but sometimes. Relationships can both help and complicate problem situations. How we attend to the relationship impacts the problem. Whether or not we attend to the problem affects the relationship. Not every problem can be solved by helping a relationship, but those than CAN be, must be or they remain problems. -- doug smith

Building Your Team: Happy and Productive

Which comes first, happy or productive? Many people will say that happy comes first, and that happy team members are more productive. I don't dispute that because I've seen it happen. Some of the best team members I've ever worked with brought an inner joy to their work that became contagious. They were more productive, and soon other team members around them were also more productive. I think that it is also true that productive team members are happier. It's possible to create more joy in the team when the people involved are highly trained, skillful, attentive, and focused on making customers delighted. The wonderful side effect to this great work is great joy. High performance leaders do what they need to do to create this great joy. It comes from knowing your team members, from helping them when they need it, from making sure that they have the help and resources that they need, and most of all, from appreciating their results AND their efforts. The bes

Your Team Is Changing

When was the last time your team changed? If you answered "today" or "about a minute ago" you are thinking the way that I'm thinking: your team is constantly changing. Every time you add someone to your team, it changes. Every time you say goodbye to someone from your team, it changes. Your team changes when you change a process, when you change a procedure, when you change a rule, when you change the schedule...on and on your team is a relentless mixture of change. The good news is that team leaders can influence that change. You have the opportunity to change in ways that makes your team better, faster, smarter. Your change is open to better change. Changing one person on a team could change the whole team. High performance leaders build constantly, change intentionally, grow patiently. They change on purpose, and so does their team. -- doug smith

High Performance Leaders Grow

High performance leaders grow. They grow their teams. They grow their organizations. They grow themselves. Growth produces strength, resilience, and opportunity. How are you growing today? -- doug smith

Not Quite Perfect, But...

There are no perfect people and there are no perfect processes. Still, we must improve. Performance matters and we can "perfect" that performance even though we will not achieve perfection. Perfection is somewhere in the practice. Practice. -- doug smith

Keep Working On Those Drafts

Have you ever thought that you've got this leadership thing all worked out? I've never reached a point where I thought "that does it, it's all easy from now on..." It gets better, but not necessarily easier. As the goals get bigger, the plans take longer. As the tasks pile up, the discipline must grow or it all stumbles to a stop. Just when you think you've got your team where you want them, a star performer leaves, or a struggling performer slips even further. The work never stops. Some of it is the science of leadership (mind your metrics, facilitate your meetings, improve your processes) and some of it is art (develop your people, conduct those on-the-spot tough conversations.) The art of leadership seldom stops after one draft. Don't stop. Keep moving. Keep learning. Keep growing. -- doug smith

Clarify Your Shared Values

Companies sometimes post their espoused values. Do they really live by them? It depends on the company. It's worth asking questions, with curiosity, to see if they really do live by those values. Questions like: what does integrity mean to you? how do you create an environment of development and support? how do you make sure that equal opportunity is an active part of your culture? how do you balance competition and cooperation in your company? can you give me an example of a time when your organization was tempted to do something that would have been good for profit but bad for people? what did you do? Values sound great. Values sound uplifting and noble. It is important to make sure that they are real. The problem with shared values is that they are so rarely shared. Check to be sure. -- doug smith

Clarify What You Think You Heard

When was the last time that you misunderstood someone? It might have been more recent than you think. We are all misunderstood sometimes. Without clarifying and confirming, we are misunderstood far too many times. Remember, most of the time we misunderstand something we are not aware of our misunderstanding. Clarify constantly. -- doug smith


I'm not a good dancer. I used to think that I was, but then I figured out that it was my partner who was such a good dancer that she could also make me feel like a good dancer. It was wonderful. And, when I realized later, when she'd moved on to a new partner, that I was NOT such a good dancer, at first I wanted to stop dancing. It was so disappointing. It was all just an illusion. And then, I realized. It didn't matter. There are degrees of dancing. Somewhere there are people who dance even better than my former partner. Somewhere there are people who can hardly dance at all. No matter where we start, in dancing or in leading, we can always level up. Start where we are and get better. And, realize that the dance is not about us at all anyway. The dance is, and always has been, about your partners. Your creative muse likes to dance. It will open up new roads to you. It will light you up and allow blood to flow to the places that make you tingle. Listen to that muse

Expand Your Possibilities

Do you know how powerful your goals are? The best goals spark curiosity, which inspires creativity, expanding possibilities. -- doug smith

Ask With Curiosity

In every workshop I facilitate - every one - I share this important piece of wisdom from one of my mentors, Andrew Oxley: "if you don't like the answer to a question, ask a better question." That's profound. That's powerful. That's endlessly useful. Often, people will struggle with that. Sometimes they ask, "How do you ask better questions? What if you can't think of one?" Here's the answer. Ask with curiosity and you'll think of better questions. Stay curious, my friend. -- doug smith

Highlights of This Week's Workshops

It's was great to work with two highly motivated groups this week, one in Washington D.C. and one in Frederick, MD.  Here are some photos from the workshops.

What If We Start With Appreciation?

Do you believe that you are appreciated enough? If so, you are probably lucky and have a healthy sense of self-esteem. Many people do NOT feel appreciated enough. Leaders often do a great job of applying pressure on their teams to achieve more. The results do improve. Does it matter how people feel about it? I think that it does matter. You can only push so long before the pushing leads to falling down. People can drift into being difficult because their lives have become difficult. The job is a big part of that. Too much pressure and release is unstoppable. That can make a person seem difficult. No one wants to feel taken for granted. We all crave appreciation. Some people crave far more than they ever receive, leaving a gap where something must fill the emptiness. That something could make the person seem troubling and difficult. It's hard to appreciate a difficult person, but until we do they are likely to stay difficult. -- doug smith

Discover Your Problem's Puzzle

Problems! If the solution were obvious it would be no problem. We have to sit with it, figure it out, focus on our goal, and move forward. Maybe we move tentatively at first. Maybe we boldly act with decisiveness. Maybe we first solve the puzzle behind the problem. The puzzle is the piece of the problem that is not obvious, yet is strongly effecting the outcome. Maybe it's on there periphery. It could be understated. It could be misunderstood. It is puzzling and must be teased out of its dilemma status into an openly more obvious presence. We can't do that if we ourselves are flying in all directions. We must sit still and breathe. We must center ourselves. We must scrutinize the puzzle. Your problem is more than a puzzle but the puzzle will not be denied. -- doug smith

Creativity and Order

Chaos may spark creativity. Order makes it useful. -- doug smith

Hear That Volume?

People are constantly trying to communicate. We can't take for granted that we are hearing them or that we are heard. It takes concerted listening with curiosity. When we don't put in the effort to truly listen, the message keeps coming at us. When we misunderstand the message, the message keeps coming at us. Every time we fail to listen the volume increases. I'm working on listening better. How about you? -- doug smith

It's Not One or the Other

Which is more important to you as a leader, results or relationships? That's a trick question of course. You do not need to pick one or the other. In fact, high performance leaders focus on both and they start with relationships. Take care of your relationships and your results will improve. -- doug smith Leadership Call to Action: Build the relationships on your team today. Spend at least part of your day having meaningful conversations with team members, one at a time.

Reward Results AND Relationships

Competition is useful. Usually, cooperation is better. Incentives have their value, internal motivation is massively more powerful. While high performance leaders DO focus on achieving their goals and delivering positive results, part of that is built around healthy relationships. Take the time to get to know your team members. Listen to their stories, their heart songs, their hardships, their views. When they achieve their goals, reward them with signs of your appreciation. And, when they consistently act as responsible adults within your relationships to achieve those results, show your appreciation. It doesn't need to cost any money. Sometimes a "thank you" is enough. We need healthy relationships to sustain trust. Without trust, a team member could be tempted to game the system in order to hit the numbers. That's not what you want. Sustain the relationships to keep the results both strong and ethical. Be careful about rewards that only recognize results.

What If We're Not The Problem?

Centered problems solvers know that while people are involved in problems, it does no good to ascribe blame. Whose fault is it? It almost doesn't matter, and looking for whose fault it is will distract you from actually solving the problem. We were all involved. When we look at it that way, and determine how we can each help contribute to a solution, the problem because more manageable. Solve the problem and let the people be the people. We need to solve problems without making each other the problem. No need to add a problem to your problem. -- doug smith

The Problem With Taking A Problem Personally

Taking a problem personally just makes it harder to solve. You've got the problem, AND you've got the upset. Shake free of the upset when you can (hint: always) and stop taking it personally. The solution is waiting for you to discover/invent/explore it -- do that instead of making stuff up in your head about how it's all Taking a problem personally just makes it harder to solve. -- doug smith

It's Not About The Blame

Centered problem solvers don't know everything, but they do know this: blaming someone for your problem just gives you another problem. Skip the blame. Create a solution. -- doug smith

Criticism And...

Are you good at criticism? I am. It's so easy to find what's wrong with something and there have been times when I'm more than happy to share that criticism. What I've learned, though is that criticism may be necessary but there are useful and not useful ways of delivering it. Negative energy comes from negative input. If all I communicate is what is wrong with what I see, it both shuts down the desire for feedback AND distorts what I see. It would be extraordinary for anything to be all wrong, or all right. There are degrees of excellence. High performance leaders work to increase the degrees of excellence. That is helped by respecting whatever we're evaluating. Share your observations, certainly. Just be sure to observe what works as well as what does not work. Balance criticism with hope and confidence or the criticism will do more harm than good. And high performance leaders are all about doing what's good. -- doug smith Leadership Call to A

Spend Time With Your Team

Are you working on building your team? If you're not building your team, it is slowly falling apart. One of the best ways to build your team is to get to know your people. Spend time with them. Create deeper conversations. Talk about what's important to them. To be a better leader, get to know your people. -- doug smith

Are You A Patient Leader?

People make mistakes. High performance leaders and their teams find ways to learn from those mistakes AND to let go of the negative energy that mistakes can produce. Who needs the side-effects? What use is the guilt? High performance leaders inquire, listen, stay curious, and learn. There are likely more emotions and facts in play than you realize. By taking time to stay curious and learn, it's easier to understand what happened and take steps to do better the next time. And isn't that what we want? To do better the next time! Patience empowers forgiveness. Take a breathe. Practice patience. -- doug smith

Ignorance in Problem Solving

It's frustrating to misunderstand a problem, or to deal with someone you are certain has misunderstood the problem. In that situation, influencing clarity is more difficult, and finding a solution stays clouded in ignorance. The most troubling problems are rooted in ignorance. You know that feeling that you're dealing with someone who just doesn't know what's going on? The frustration it causes, the distortion it encourages, the ignorance it perpetuates while frustration mounts? What if you're that person, and you don't even know it? The most troubling problems are rooted in ignorance, and sometimes we're the ones who do not know. Centered problem solvers make room for that possibility - the chance that they do not know what they do not know. It's not the solution, but it's a start. -- doug smith

You Might Be Surprised

A problem might be showing us a new way to see a situation. It could be discordant without being destructive. Some things looks problematic because they're difficult, or unexpected. Centered problem solvers take the time to breathe and to view the problem objectively. What's really going on? How much is situation and how much is perspective. Inquire into what is going on. You might be surprised. -- doug smith

How to Help Yourself

How do you help yourself? Help other people. When we help other people we enhance our own self-esteem. When we do right for others we build relationship equity. And, most of all, when we help others we create a habit of service that makes the world a better place. Serve first, and see what happens. It's a habit worth developing. To help yourself the most, start with goals that help other people. -- doug smith Leadership Call to Action: Check your top three goals. How do they help other people? Which one helps people the most? What if you gave that goal your first focus today?