Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2019

Better Than Average

You've seen the classic bell curve. The vast majority of the data points fall in the middle. That's just about average. Most performance, most people, most results, tend to be just about average.

That's not for you. That's not for me. High performance leaders work harder, communicate better, coach longer, and reach farther. Better than average.

Let's do that again today. Whatever you do, beat the average. Do better than average. Be excellent.

-- doug smith




Video: One Thing Your Team Needs You To Do

Share What Motivates You

If we don't share what motivates us we shall certainly share what de-motivates us.

Energize yourself to energize your team.

-- doug smith


Where Is Your Team Headed?

Have you ever seen steps to nowhere?

Since I travel a lot, I occasionally see a building with stairs that appear to lead nowhere, at least no where safe. Access is only semi-blocked, so the danger exists even if the destination is sketchy.

Does your team have a destination? Have you updated your team's mission this year? Things are changing so quickly that what may have seemed important as recently as a year ago could be out of date now (or soon.) Is your team up to date? Do you have a vision for a vital future?

Avoid those stairs to nowhere. Plan a vital, energized, noble future for your team. Get them involved. Show them how a high performance leader leads.

-- doug smith


Attention to Detail

High performance leaders pay attention to detail. They know what matters most and they manage it precisely. They eliminate distractions and focus on the main thing.

Do you manage what matters the most to your organization?

Is your organizational house "tidy" and in order? If you want to empower people, make sure that you have the best processes in place to allow the flexibility they need. When there is a right way to do something, train your people that way.

Attention to detail. It makes a difference.

-- doug smith



Video: Gain Respect by de-escalating the drama

From Don Miller, author of StoryBrand, who shares brief, useful videos he calls Business Made Simple Daily. I find the insights so useful that I recommend subscribing. Most are only a couple of minutes long and can get your day off to great, ambitious, energetic start.

This video is about gaining respect. One fast way is to deal more effectively with drama. Too often a situation is overly dramatized and while that can get attention, it can also lose respect.



The fast way to gain respect? De-escalate drama and tension. Remain calm, pull away slightly, and imagine the least dramatic solution to the problem.


Video: Regression to the Mean

Fascinating video on the impact of feedback on performance and how our expectations are often deceived. Is positive feedback more effective, or is negative feedback a higher impact to performance?




Refection Questions What do you think?

If regression to the mean (falling back or rising up to the average) is to be expected, which type of feedback do you think is more effective - negative or positive?  Why is that?








You Know About Assumptions

Assumptions are short cuts. Assumptions are lazy paths to uncertain places. Assumptions get us lost more often than they get us found.

You know about assumptions: don't make them.

Like many simple concepts, that's easier said than done and yet completely necessary. I'm so good at making assumptions and making things up that I have to constantly remind myself not to do it. The best habit to prevent assumptions is to ask questions. Clarify, clarify, clarify. Get the real facts. Discover the honest feelings. Clarify, confirm, test those assumptions!

Assuming you know means that you don't. Communicate better by asking.

-- doug smith



Should You Talk About Your Problem?

How often do you share your problems with other people? There was a time in my life when I kept everything to myself, considering it too personal and figuring that no-one had time to help me with my problems. But, you know what? Sometimes we share problems even when we don't share. People can tell. Problems effect performance. Problems effect service, Problems rob us of happiness and sap us of our energy. We need to solve our problems, not hide them.

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

Should You Do a Team Building Event?

Team building is great and can be a true morale booster -- if your team is ready for it. If the team morale is already low, though, a team building event might be the last thing you need. How do you know?

Before scheduling a team building event, check to see how each team member would feel about it. That means spending time with each of them, one on one, to discover how things are going. How are the dynamics? Does everyone enjoy working on the team? What are the challenges and the issues?

You could even introduce some low risk team building activities into your regular meetings. You don't need a zip line or trust falls in the wilderness to get closer as a team. Sometimes, just a warm-up question before a meeting is enough to start the bonding. Questions like "if you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?" and "if money were no object, what would you do?" and "if you could make one fundamental, game-changing change to our business,…

Video: Four Words - Tom Peters

In this brief video, Tom Peters explains two key ideas: 18 seconds (the average time before a doctor interrupts a patient) and four words (a powerful way to keep you listening.)



Video: Summary of "Crucial Conversations"

I do recommend reading the book. It will help you handle conversations that feel like confrontations and to do it in ways that honor everyone in the conversation. In the meantime, watching this quick summary video from The Productivity Game will give you immediately useful tips on navigating those crucial conversations.












No Giving In

Are you ever tempted to give up?

I don't mean in the big scheme of things -- of course you should not give up on that -- life is a beautiful gift and meant to be meaningful and joyful. But, on the smaller, less grand things. I am often tempted to give up or give in because:

a) I want to be cooperative and in-service to others, and
b) I do not like conflict

The trouble with giving in is that you don't get what you want. And while it's easy to see that is not your best outcome, it's also not great for those who must work with you.

Think about it. If you yield to every autocratic order barked your way and every bureaucratic nonsensical procedure how much would that slow you down? It might slow you down to, oh say, zero.

We must sometimes confront the thing that stands in our way. Stands in our way of justice, stands in the way of our freedom, stands in the way of our dignity. (You could build a wall of all the bricks of injustice that stand in our way.)

Leaders don't…

Dealing With Mostly No

Have you ever noticed that a lot of people default to no?

If you ask them for something -- no. If you offer something for sale -- no. If you promise a truly great experience in exchange for a small investment -- no.

We are hard wired to say no.

The trouble with that is that we miss yes.

One of my favorite movies is "Yes Man." I know that it is a silly movie. I know that it's broad and insane and not at all realistic. But if you haven't seen it, give it a chance. Say yes. It's all about a character played by Jim Carrey who is in the habit of constantly saying no. Then one day he goes to a Yes Convention (or something like that.)  And of course, since it's a seminar, his life is changed. He begins to say yes. At first very reluctantly, but once he gets in the flow of it he says yes to everything -- too much in fact, putting himself in danger. Of course he does, it's a movie.

I like the yes man in yes man better than the no dude.

I do not say yes all of the…

How to Deal With Change You Don't Like

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 -- …

One Thing to Let Go

What's your reaction if someone on your team makes an excuse for failing to achieve a goal or complete a task?

That's what I thought. I don't like it, either.

And here's the thing -- no one believes excuses. There is zero payoff to an excuse.

We might as well break the habit, face the facts, and tell the truth. We completed the task or we didn't. If we didn't, there is no-one but ourselves responsible.

There are no believable excuses. We might as well stop trying to use them.

-- doug smith


Be Direct and Clear

Sometimes, with good intentions, leaders provide incomplete directions. Then what do the followers do? Usually, they follow with incomplete results.

It takes a moment longer. It takes a bit more thought. It's important. When you're delegating, when you are providing guidance, when you're giving directions, make them complete, direct, and clear.

If you want someone to use the stairs instead of the elevator, how about telling them where the stairs are?

-- doug smith


Energize with Priorities

Your team can't do it all. I know how it feels to leave something undone, it's not fun. The harsh reality though is that we cannot do everything and neither can your team.

That's why it is urgently important for you as a leader to let your team know what's most important. When you are clear about your absolute priorities, your team can focus on what matters most and finish the highest impact work.

It's a choice.

Energize your team around what's most important and then the unfinished unimportant tasks can be forgiven.

Let them know.

-- doug smith


Insist on Results

Do you insist on positive results?

Team members will struggle sometimes. As high performance leaders part of what we must do is to teach the people who need teaching. And guess who needs teaching? Everyone! Including us!

Every day, part of what leaders do is teach. Through intentional as well as spontaneous coaching, mentoring, prodding and motivating, our role is to help other people achieve their goals, and in so doing achieve our own.

We teach -- patiently, persistently, even unrelentingly. We teach -- and then we need more. We need progress, performance, and results.

Leaders are teachers who insist on results.

Remember to teach. Remember the output.

-- doug smith



Video: Key Points in Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

As a bonus, I finally learned how to pronounce this author's name. As a practical use of 8 minutes this is hard to beat - a great video with fascinating visuals and an easy to understand summary of a book that's not an easy read.

I'm sharing it so of course I can remember to watch it again later. It's also time to read the book again.

Here's the video:





Four Important Factors:

FocusFreedomFeedbackFour % Challenge It's well worth checking out the other quality material available at The Productivity Game.

Delegate for the Right Reasons

Do you delegate?

Many leaders struggle with delegation. Some don't delegate enough because they worry that the work will not be done to their satisfaction. That's a case for developing both the leader and the people the leader could delegate to. It can be overcome.

Some leaders struggle with delegation by only delegating work they'd NEVER do -- mundane, routine, or nasty tasks that the person getting the work doesn't want either, they simply have no choice. That is no way to endear yourself to your team.

We do need to delegate though. And sometimes the work that we delegate is routine but simply needs to be done. During the time that I worked there, my team leader at Whole Foods once told me, "we don't pay supervisors to wash the dishes." She did go on to say that handling the dishes for 15 minutes set a good example, but washing them the whole shift simply kept the supervisor from leading.

A more powerful form of delegation is done for developmental of …

Initiate the Tough Conversations

Do you avoid tough conversations? If we know that we need to talk something over, but avoid it because it makes us uneasy, the difficulty remains unresolved. If we avoid talking with someone because THEY are difficult to talk with (maybe they sulk, or yell, or roll their eyes...) the problem remains stuck AND it remains ours. That's not what leaders want.

Taking the time to learn how to better communicate in those tough situations helps leaders to reach their team members, assert their needs with their bosses, and collaborate more successfully with their peers. It's a win for everyone when communication prospers with clarity, courage, creativity, and compassion.

It's not easy. That's what differentiates high performance leaders.

High performance leaders initiate the tough conversations that others avoid.

It gets easier with training and practice, just like any other skill. And while tough conversations may never feel like a breeze, they are often the path to better rel…

Goals In Service to Others

Are goals selfish? Is it self-centered to pursue your goals?

Our goals are important. Successful goal achievement brings positive results along with a healthy sense of self-accomplishment. It builds our esteem. Even when those goals are dedicated to outcomes that benefit others more than ourselves, in fact, perhaps more so.

Serving others as we achieve our goals builds good will, strong relationships, and more sustainable results. When others are happy, in addition to ourselves, the results are more likely to persist.

It is at once unselfish AND self-improving. It's a winning combination: creating and achieving goals that serve others.

We are best at achieving our goals when they are in service to others.

I'm in favor of the best results possible for all. How about you?

-- doug smith



Getting Help By Helping

Are you working hard on your goals? I hope so. Goals require attention, effort, and energy. And you know what else goals benefit from? Help. Specifically, help from other people.

And where do those people come from? They could be your team. They could be your peers. They probably START though with people you have helped before. When you help others to achieve their goals, they become remarkably more available to help you with yours.

When you help other people achieve their goals they become more powerful allies.

Whether you are working on goals that need help or not right now -- reach out to see who else you can help. Maybe they'll reciprocate and maybe they won't -- but there's nothing TO reciprocate unless you help first.

-- doug smith


Leadership Call to Action: Think about a friend or co-worker who is working on a project that you are not involved with. Sometime in the next week, call them and ask how you can help.


Five Keys to Happiness

We could spend the rest of our lives chasing happiness. There are books, seminars, retreats, and workshops galore to help us get there. I do not disparage any of that. Happiness is wonderful.

Is there a faster way?

Here is a consistent way. Yes, it does involve changing habits. None of the habits are too strenuous. It's balance. It's consistency. It's health. Here are five keys to happiness:


SleepExerciseEat healthy foodsDrink more waterSpend time in nature You knew all that already, didn't you? Consider this a gentle and happy reminder. Five keys to happiness. Sure, there are more. Work on as many as you like. These five will not let you down.
-- doug smith


When To Trust Your Feelings

Do feelings effect the way that you lead?

Feelings are part of who we are. The challenge is, how do we know when to trust our feelings? It's possible that our feelings are out of balance or even irrational given the circumstance. Our imaginations can fool us into feeling things that are of no value and are not necessary. Jealousy, envy, insecurity, paranoia -- while any of these feelings could sometimes be appropriate, they are very often inappropriate and even harmful to our well being.

But sometimes we have to trust our feelings, don't we?

Yes, and here is when. Trust your feelings when first feel centered, healthy, and rested. Trust your feeling when you can differentiate facts from feelings. Trust your feelings when you are willing to confirm facts and stay curious about contradictory facts.

Feelings are too important to ignore. They are also too powerful to let them rule. Find a balance. Sort through the total picture. Stay in charge.

How do you feel about that?

-- doug …

Video: How to create a culture of high productivity & low stress

From the Life Hack Bootcamp series featuring the cheerful and direct Demir & Carey comes this 13 minute video offering useful tips for creating teams that are productive and less stressed. You could call it Knowing When to Manage and When to Get Out of the Way. Good stuff!






Easy Answers

Are you looking for an easy answer?



We have so many simplified solutions these days. Our web sites give us big fonts to read, our phones send us reminders and even count our steps (got to get those 10k per day!) and our cars give us automatic transmission, power brakes, automatic lights, and soon will even drive themselves so that we can sit absorbed in our phones.

We've been getting used to easy answers. I'm not advocating giving back those easy answers - without a GPS I'd spend considerable time lost - but too much leisure also takes away muscle. We need the struggles of a tough solution to keep fit.

As tempting as it is, easy answers are not the only answers. We need a second light to see the shadows behind that all too easy to find solution. What are the complications? Who else is affected? What happens later?

Easy answers often play out hard. 

We need more than easy answers because easy answers sometimes play out hard. It's not all grab-and-go, sometimes we need t…

Withholding Communication Is Cruel

If something is bothering you, do you talk about it?

For years, I would push down my feelings and keep them all to myself. Do you know what good that got me? No good at all. Unless we talk about our outer AND inner lives, how can we expect anyone to help us, to join us, to feel influenced by us?

Withholding communication prevents you from feeling fully and dealing completely. Keeping it all inside keeps the air out. How you breathe in there?

Have you ever stopped talking to someone? Some people do it suddenly, ghosting the person they once talked to (maybe even someone they professed great love for) giving them no opportunity to understand what's going on. And some have more dignity than that - they TELL you that they won't be talking with you anymore -- and then they follow thru -- by not talking to you anymore. A person I once thought was the love of my life didn't just break up with me -- she cut off all communication.

Maybe you've done some degree of this. Maybe y…

How to Analyze Root Cause Using Mindmaps

The Five Why's is a famous and useful tool for conducting a root cause analysis in problem solving. I've applied the idea of asking why five (more or less) times to get at the root cause and applied it to mind mapping. Since many problems have more than one cause, applying the process to a mind map keeps the door open for identifying many possible causes. While any one may appear to be the root cause, it is only in comparing all of them that you can clearly see the best opportunity. Here's the process that I use:


Start your mind map by writing your problem in the center. (In the example above, Stairway Accidents is the problem.)Radiat out reasons why there is a problem. What are the causes? What causes that cause? ("what causes" is as useful as "why" and without the emotional turmoil.)For each cause, ask why it's true or what causes it. Why that cause? What causes that - and radiate out your answers.Some "what causes that" may produce more…

360 Focus Takes Help

Leaders, of any team, have limited vision. We can only see so much. What we see is also filtered thru our own beliefs and perceptions. A healthy self-image may add a positive spin to an otherwise cautious moment. An unhealthy self-image might make an otherwise positive experience incomplete. We need help seeing it all.

High performance leaders seek, receive, and utilize feedback. That means asking your team how you are doing. It includes talking (frequently) with your boss about your goals and how you are doing on your plan. Getting opinions from your customers also helps balance out your viewpoint. To truly know what's going on, leaders need to ask.

Are you asking? Are you getting the feedback you need from every direction that you need it? Today is a good day to ask someone who works with you, what's working great. And then, ask what you can do better. Because we can always do something better.

-- doug smith


Leadership Call to Action: Ask someone on your team to share with …

Mind Your Leadership Roles

What roles do you take on as a leader? Front line supervisors must own many roles, including some they may not enjoy. Supervisors must lead, consult, advise, counsel, discipline, confront, defer, decide, revive, inspire, deny, build, reduce, cut, maximize, minimize...all depending on the state of the organization and the mindset of the team.

When I was a supervisor, I did not enjoy the role of enforcer or disciplinarian, and yet those roles became necessary. I did have to enforce the values of the organization, even when they were inconvenient. I did have to discipline team members who had lost the ability to discipline their own behavior. Sometimes, sadly, that even involved saying goodbye.

Know the roles that you must play. Follow your roles when they harmonize with your values and your goals.

It's easy to ignore our most important roles, but it is a critical mistake to do so. As Grandmom Smith once said, "mind your roles." You'll be glad that you did. Maybe not t…

Use Your Leadership Strengths

Our leadership strengths are like muscles. The more we use them, the more we apply them to situations, the stronger our strengths become.

How many problems could stand up to you using all of your clarity, courage, creativity, and compassion?

Use your leadership strengths. Develop your leadership skills. Solve those problems and achieve those goals with the ease and elegance that you deserve.

-- doug smith





Build, Not Break

It's risky to ascribe motives to a problem. A problem is a situation, not an intention. And yet, we often do, don't we? We think of a problem with a personality out to do us harm. We can even think that a problem is out to break us, to wear us down until we don't matter. That is not true. The problem - the situation - does not care. When we pause to identify the goal that we want, instead of focusing on the problem, we can identify ways to achieve that goal and build our way out of trouble and into success.

A problem does not need to break you.

Problems are meant to build you, not break you.

-- doug smith




Go Beyond Analysis

Do you enjoy analyzing a problem? I can analyze all day long. It is useful, and it's even satisfying. But it does not solve the problem. Problems are persistent and do not care about your analysis. To fix a problem, we've got to do something.

Your problem will probably survive analysis. Do more.

-- doug smith


Leadership Call to Action: Think about a problem that you have been analyzing recently. If you have not already done so, write down all the possible causes of that problem.
What is your next step beyond analysis? What part of that step can you do this week?