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The Road Is Distorted

Have you ever been on your way somewhere and suddenly realized that you were on the wrong road? Before GPS, that would happen to me frequently. I'd get lost. Things looked different than I expected.

On our road to our goals, things can get distorted. Our expectations, formed with optimism and trust, can get twisted or tumble over a cliff. The road to any goal requires a toll. Are you prepared to pay that toll.

One early toll is seeing thru the distortions. To achieve our goal we need to see clearly. That could mean seeing things thru someone else's viewpoint. Find out the facts, sort out the feelings, and focus on as much objective truth that is available.

The road ahead is distorted. It's up to us to stay centered, focused, and on the right route to our goal.

Keep you map handy.

-- doug smith


What Are You Making a Case For?

What are you selling yourself?

Before we can convince anyone else of anything, we first convince ourselves. What have you convinced yourself about your goals?

Are your goals backed by plans? Are your goals exciting, enticing, and tasty? Are you so proud of your goals that you can't wait to tell other people?

Or are you building a case for the status quo? I'd let that go. The status quo is far too heavy to carry and leads to nowhere. There is no real status quo, only slow decay.

Instead, I like to make a case for action. A case for moving forward toward achieving new goals.

How about you?

-- doug smith


Stay Creative

Don't let anyone or anything stop you from being creative. It's power you have to use to make things better and achieve your goals. Sure, it sometimes might aggravate people. It might cause some people to bristle at having to look at things a new way. It's important. Stay with it.

Creativity will get you out of more trouble than it ever gets you into.

-- doug smith


Building Your Team: Recruit Constantly

Team building. It's a never ending process. It starts with recruiting. Who you bring into your team makes the chemistry of your team. Who you bring into your team sets the players in place to do the work that needs to be done.

Take your time with recruiting. Start by getting to know the best talent you can. You never know who might be interested in joining your team, but first get to know them. Learn from talent everywhere. Explore places you might not usually explore to find the talent that can take your team to the next level.

They might not join your team now. They might not even be interested. But, someday they might. The only way that someday arrives is if you start the dialogue today.

Who do you know who you wish was on your team right now? What if you gave them a call?

-- doug smith


Provoke Something Positive

Leaders do not settle. Good enough is not enough. Almost will never do. As my dad used to say, "Anything worth doing is worth doing right," and leadership must be done in a fully attentive, fully focused, high performance way. High performance leaders insist on ever increasing performance. To get there, they encourage positive action after positive action. Step by ever reaching step to a higher level, to a better degree, to a higher quality.

It's what high performance leaders do.

High performance leaders provoke positive actions.

What positive action will you provoke today?


-- doug smith

Leadership Call to Action The next conversation you have with anyone on your team today, take a moment to provoke a positive action. Encourage your team member to do more, to add quality, to add value to something otherwise routine. Keep provoking until that positive action is a reality -- and then keep provoking until that positive reality is a habit.

You can do it. You're the boss…

Strong Goals Provide You Strength

It might seem obvious, but it's worth remembering: strong goals provide you with strength. They provide you with strength of purpose, strength of direction, and strength of endurance.  A goal that you truly care about, that's written with clarity provides help when others try to hinder. Lots will try to get in the way. The best goals resist this resistance and persist to achievement.

A solid, clear goal can withstand any judging.

-- doug smith


Your Team Needs a Strong Leader

You're not just part of the team, are you?

You are, as the team leader, at the center. You set the tone. You set the speed. You set the mood.

Those are powerful abilities, if you use them in high performance ways. You'll need power, and you'll need strength, and you can't grab that from anyplace else other than yourself. Your team is counting on you. Whether or not they tell you, they depend on you to be their strong leader. The strength of patience. The strength of persistence. The strength of high expectations.

Pull your team together. Talk with them individually AND as part of the whole team. Let them know how to succeed and they'll do their best to do so.

As much as you might want it to, your team will not build itself. It needs a strong leader.

That's you.

You can do it. You're the boss.

-- doug smith


Video: Marshall Goldsmith and Feed Forward

From Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, Executive Coach, comes this is a great way to share fast, low risk coaching with a number of people. The three steps are simple and easy:

Write down an area you'd like to improve that would have a big impact for youAsk for 2 positive suggestions for the future that would help with that areaRepeat getting positive suggestions from others in the group There are two simple roles for the process:


No talking about the pastNo judging or critiquing ideas
Here's Dr. Goldsmith describing the process in one of his highly useful videos:

I found this article and video from one of my favorite sources of leadership advice, GetLighthouse.com, here.


What's Your Superpower?

Would you like another super power?

There's a skill that, once you start using effectively, begins to feel like a superpower. You never have to settle for a poor answer again. I learned this from my mentor Andrew Oxley, who taught me "if you don't like the answer to a question, ask a better question."

Try it.

It takes practice. At first you might run out of questions. But, if you stick with it and work at it you can always, always, always come up with better questions. And if you get stuck, silence can even be your better question. Just don't give in. Just don't give up. Ask better questions.

Remember what Andrew Oxley said:
If you don't like the answer to a question, ask a better question. 
-- doug smith



Set Five Top Goals

How many top priorities do you have?

The trouble with too many top priorities is getting them done. Too many top priorities means you don't really have priorities -- just a really long list of goals.

Have all the goals you want. Goals are great. I've know people who carry a list of 100 goals. They check them off one by one, and some have truly accomplished nearly half. That takes time, and feels more like a bucket list than a goals list.

Top goals are what you work on first. Top goals are what you prioritize above all else. Top goals are where your results make a meaningful distance.

High performance leaders show the courage to focus on five top goals.

How many do you focus on?

-- doug smith

Goals and Decision Making

We may so many decisions. Big, little, routine -- lots of decisions. When it's harder than usual to decide (because the issue is complicated or the choices are vast) it helps to rely on our goals. Which decision supports our goals? Which decision gets us closer to achieving our goals?

The right goals help make the right decisions.

-- doug smith


Video: How to Get Your Boss to Like You

I gain much from watching these brief videos from Business Made Simple featuring Don Miller. If you enjoy them to you can subscribe. This one features some quick advice on how to get your boss to like you.


It's You

Have you ever worked for a perfect leader? Me, either. And neither am I a perfect leader. We can't be perfect, yet we can work to be on the work toward perfection. It's a road we'll never finish.

I've been blessed to work with many great leaders, none of them perfect. But, some people have not been so lucky. Some people seem to have worked for a long streak of frustrating leaders or bullies. Maybe some of those people are headed for (or already on) your team. The news is good, though. You can greatly influence their future experience, even if you were previously less than what they needed in a boss.

It's a new day. It's a new time. You can be a new, improved, effective, attentive, high performance leader.

Start today.

Be the leader you always wished you had.
Someone else is wishing for that, too.

-- doug smith


Goals Are Negotiable

Have you ever been stuck with goals that no longer work for you?

Did someone else stick you with those goals, or did you do it to yourself?

High performance leaders set lots of goals, but they don't get emotional about realizing that they can't possibly achieve all of them. Life brings complications, strategies change, better goals come along.

Working on a project, working for a boss, working on change -- if the goal is big enough there is likely to be disagreement. That's OK. Talk about it. Negotiate. Find a goal you can agree on instead of grudgingly plunging forward on a loser. And then, stay calm. There's no need to take a disagreement personally.

We can disagree on goals without becoming disagreeable.

-- doug smith

Choose Growth

Problems are aggravating, inconvenient, and frustrating. High performance leaders -- successful supervisors -- build muscle around solving problems that comes from practice, application, and outright solving. One problem after another, solutions come from facing the problems head-on.

A problem could lead to frustration, OR it could lead to learning and growth.

Go with learning and growth.

-- doug smith



Prioritize by Dropping those Dead Goals

Are you carrying any useless goals? Maybe they didn't start out useless, but still you carry them long after the energy has drained. If you've got goals that you no longer care about, that have no real customer, and don't align with your mission, you might want to let them go.

Focus on the right goals. The ones that make you both smile and sweat. The goals that once you have achieved them take you to a different place, put you in a better mood, or build something contributing to your success. Let go of the wrong goals to make room for the right ones.

The right goals help make the right decisions.

-- doug smith

The Royal Moves

Supervisors are asked to make more moves each day than a complicated game of chess. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes you end up in what feels like a stalemate. But you keep on pushing, you keep on growing, and you keep on growing.

Making the right moves, what I'd call the Royal Moves, requires training, experience, and an open mind. You need the open mind when the moves don't go exactly as you planned.

Are you making the royal moves?

Are your people growing, thriving, excelling, and delighting their customers?

Are you making the royal moves?

Is your own career developing in ways that challenge you and still bring a smile to your face? The royal moves keep you growing. It's deciding to plan more carefully so that the unexpected is not quite so unexpected. It's building the relationships that help you resolve inevitable disagreements. It's taking the time to coach your team members every day instead of letting administrative details pull you away. Th…

Work On Yourself

Work on yourself and then working on others gets much easier. They're more receptive, and you're more prepared.

-- doug smith



Bring the Light

High performance leaders spend much of their time coaching their people. We coach so that our team members can learn to generate the energy and effort they need to do their best work. We coach so that our team members will light up. But, sometimes, the light within our team members wanes. Sometimes, they need a boost. Sometimes they need us to light the way for them.

Bring the light. Light the way. Keep them on track. Then, watch them shine.

-- doug smith



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!