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Showing posts from 2019

The Team You Build

Do you love your team? I've been so blessed and lucky in my life to have been part of some truly outstanding teams filled with people who challenged me, supported me, and made my life (and work) better. I have loved the people on those teams and many years after working with the people on those teams I still think of them fondly almost every day. The team pictured here was one of my early teams at the Ryan Insurance Group. The talent on that team, and on other teams, astounded me every day. We had our struggles, but they were hard working, brilliant people and I miss every one of them. There have been other great teams of course. Today I think about this group and what it grew into as we expanded, improved, and grew as people and as a business. I was not a perfect boss, and I'm sure I sparked more than a little frustration now and then, but they patiently dedicated themselves to achieving the goals of the team. I'm proud of that team. I invite you today to reflec

People First

High performance leaders always remember that people are the reason we do what we can do. Take care of your team, and your team will take care of you. Make your goals centered on improving things for people first, and people will respond. -- doug smith

How to Stay On Track

How often do you review your goals? My experience, and my studies, show that it's best to review your goals every day. Even if you don't review all of your goals (some people have dozens of them!) it is helpful to review your top five. Keep them in front of you. Remind yourself why they are important. Reinforce your motivation to achieve those goals. And then, work on them. Goals can keep us on track when we are otherwise distracted. What are your top five goals? Have you reviewed them today? -- doug smith

Solve Those Supervisory Problems

Front line leaders either know that they can't hide or they soon learn it the hard way. You can't hide, and you can't hide your problems. Performance problems, attendance problems, quality problems, morale problems, skill problems, motivation problems...nearly any and every team has more than its share. Why should yours be any different. Pay attention. Talk about it. Get your team to collaborate. Find the root causes. Explore possibilities. Solve those problems. Everyone knows when a supervisor is ignoring a problem. ...and there's no payoff to ignoring a problem. The payoff is in the solution. Solve those supervisory problems. -- doug smith

No Excuses, Ever

High performance leaders are not swayed by excuses. -- doug smith

Does Your Team Hear You?

How we communicate is how we lead. High performance leaders communicate clearly, creatively, courageously, and with compassion. Clear, so that the message is understood. The mission is strongly centered as the focus. The goals are clearly aligned with the mission. The leadership actions support the goals. Creatively, because problems are not easily solved and do require new ideas. Because people prosper better in a creative environment. Because growth is the preferred direction. Courageously, because the more important your work is the more resistance you are likely to encounter and it takes guts to overcome that. It takes courage to stand your ground against the temptations to cut corners and shave ethics. It takes courage to keep going when it feels like your cause is lost. It takes courage to stand up to your boss in support of your own team. Compassion, because while high performance leaders must deliver on their goals and produce increasingly outstanding and high qual

Video: Tom Peters - Appreciate

A short video from one of my top influences in leadership development, Tom Peters.

Find the Magic

A high performance leader is tough without being abusive and tender without being soft. Find the balance and the magic is yours. -- doug smith

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from our place to yours! -- doug smith

Attention to Details

High performance leaders pay attention to details. Sure, we must be strategic. And yes, it does make sense to delegate as much of the details as we can. Still, we can never let the details slide. Just a few of the details that we must tend include: are your customer happy? are your team members energized by the work AND by each other? are you showing the appropriate levels of respect for the people who work around you? is your cash flow headed in a positive direction? is your core business still viable? is your work environment conducive to building and engaging collaborative teams? Details matter. No matter how high you rise in the organization, the details will either sustain you or drain you. Work for the side of sustaining. High performance leaders pay attention to details. Are you? -- doug smith

Meet Your Standards

Does every single member of your team understand and follow your team standards? Leaders can get lazy about the behaviors they accept and the behaviors they tolerate. It can feel like a hassle to remind team members that they must keep your team norms and meet your expectations. Remind them anyway. It's tough to tighten up loose standards -- do it anyway. Where is your team headed with sloppy, loose, carefree standards about what is acceptable and what is expected? Down. That's not for you. That's not what you want. Meet your standards. Remind your team how to meet your standards. And keep quality (and morale!) high. It's something that high performance leaders do. -- doug smith

Achieve That Goal

A problem is just an unfulfilled goal. -- doug smith

Set Those Expectations

High performance leaders set goal achievement expectations from the start. During the hiring process, during orientation, during training, and especially during those critical weekly one-on-one conversations, high performance leaders set clear expectations. They tell their people more than once. They stay attentive. Average performance is not for you. Go for more. Lead others toward high performance. Build those wins for everyone on your team. High performance leaders set goal achievement expectations from the start... ...and keep it going! -- doug smith

See the Light

A problem left to its own tends to grow. See the light. Find the solution. Fix that problem. That's what high performance leaders do. -- doug Smith

Leadership Is A Choice

Even if you are promoted by surprise, even if you inherit the role, even if you have no idea how you suddenly came to be in charge, leadership is a choice. Leadership is a choice to influence for the greater good. It's a choice to develop people so that they can get a job done. It's a choice to stay with it disappointment after disappointment with the discipline it takes to refine, develop, discover, and deploy the tools you need to succeed. Leadership is a choice we make over and over and over. Make the choice. Take the learning. Make things better. It's up to you. -- doug smith

Spare Those Feelings

Is hurting someone's feelings inevitable? Perhaps, sometimes, no matter what we as leaders do we will somehow hurt someone's feelings. But, if that happens as an accident or as the result of someone else's low self-esteem at least we didn't intend it. Most of us have known leaders who DO intend it. Leaders who play with people's feelings are playing with fire. It may feel like a fine way to manipulate someone into giving you something you want, but there is a heavy cost. The relationship takes some bumps and, often, the bounce-back reverberation (some might call it karma) is big. Very big. Being careful about other people's feelings is in the end also taking care of your own. Hurt feelings seek revenge. Why bring that about? We never escape unscaved when we hurt someone's feelings. What to do instead? Talk about it. Listen with curiosity. Show social courtesy and compassion. It's better for your relationships -- and therefore also better for

Keep Your Promises

We've all broken promises. It's possible that we didn't even realize it when we did. Maybe we mentioned an opportunity to someone and then didn't follow-up on it. Or, maybe we promised someone a gift after a big favor, and then forgot all about it. We don't always mean malice when we break a promise, but still the pain is there. People count on their leaders. They want promises kept. A broken promise is remembered forever and the person who broke it loses a bit of credibility in the promise. High performance leaders keep their promises, even when it's not convenient to do so. It's hard to keep a promise -- that's what makes it so powerful when we do. Please, keep your promises. I'll do my best to keep them, too. -- doug smith

Talk About That Problem

Do you ever avoid talking about a problem? I have. Many times. Truthfully, too many times. And you know what? The problems didn't get better on their own. High performance leaders need to talk with their team members about any problems occurring in the team. What we hear won't always be pleasing, but what we don't hear doesn't go away on its own. We should talk about it. You can't fix everything by talking about it, but you can't fix anything unless you do. Talk about it. -- doug smith

How Are You At Problem Solving?

Problems tend to reveal your character. What you do, who you involve, who you impact, how you deliver -- it all speaks to the problem but more importantly, to your character. It's possible to solve a problem without creating another one. Do you? It's possible to achieve a goal without destroying someone else's goal. Is that your habit? How you solve problems tells the world all about you. Problems tend to reveal your character. -- doug smith

Positive Assumptions

You CAN do it. You HAVE all you need. Your leadership makes a difference. We make assumptions every day, even when we know that we shouldn't. There's no reason to be annoyed. Instead, simply reframe. Making assumptions? Make them positive. If you're going to make assumptions you might as well make them positive. -- doug smith

Be fair

Things aren't always fair, but you can be. It's your call. It's your decision. The leaders who gain unconditional support start by leading with unconditional fairness. Tough call? Be fair. Difficult decision? Be fair. Doubtful outcomes? Be fair. No one will ever accuse you of being too fair. -- doug smith

True Agreements

High performance leaders do not take shortcuts when it comes to agreements. It takes time with people to develop the consensus and support that you need to achieve your goals. It takes honesty, dedication, and patience. Some people can only be convinced by facts. Many people can only be convinced by emotions. But, until a leader reaches agreement, the team isn't truly going anywhere. Barking orders is temporary. Even your most grand vision pales in comparison to the needs of others when you are driving them toward change. What's in it for them? What's the truth behind the change? Why does it make sense and feel right to reach agreement? Telling someone that they must agree to something is not an agreement. Put in the work. Communicate. Share ideas. Collaborate. And, then reach a real agreement. -- doug smith


Strategy gets you started; discipline keeps you going. That looks like showing up early, staying late, attending to the details, mapping the big picture, and mobilizing team members every day. It means reading material in your field, related to your field, and in other fields where you never know when a bit of inspiration might appear. Your strategy is important. It sends you a detailed message for your plan. But you are more than your plan. You are a high performance leader with goals to achieve. That takes discipline. Strategy gets your started; discipline keeps you going. Keep going. -- doug smith

Developing Every Day

The art of leadership is increasing your creativity, courage, compassion, and clarity every single day. What are you developing today? -- doug smith

The Truth Will Prevail

High performance leaders tell the truth. Since that can sometimes be hard, we are often tempted to stretch the truth (in other words, to lie.) While lies can fool people for a while, the truth will inevitably emerge. How will you feel when it does? Telling a lie only proves that you haven't thought of a better answer.  You do have a better answer: the truth. The truth will prevail. Tell the truth. -- doug smith

Find the Truth

A truth that you don't know is more dangerous than a truth that you DO know. Find the truth. You can take it. -- doug smith

Courage to Change

High performance leaders, creating beneficial change, usually encounter resistance. Change is threatening to the status quo and those people who like things just the way they are will dig in. They will push back. That's one reason why courage is one of your core leadership strengths. Develop more courage, and you will have the strength to stand your ground. Find more courage and you can make the changes you already know are needed but which have someone been stalled. Find that courage. Make that positive change. Let the resistance to change come. Courage is amused by resistance. -- doug smith

A Busy Week!

Toms River - Group Activity Here are some photos of some brilliant, terrific, fun learners in leadership workshops this week. Toms River, NJ North Haven, CT North Haven, CT -- Growing their influence

Take Initiative

If you're going to wait for someone to tell you what to do they're going to expect you to do it. Get ahead of that drama. Take initiative. Set your own plan. Get things done. It's what high performance leaders do. -- doug smith

It Takes Discipline

You can't train for the olympics by watching a three-minute video. And yet, some people think you can learn leadership that fast. You can't. Besides, imagine all the cat-video distractions you'd encounter along the way. High performance leadership takes real training, real devotion, steady discipline, and constant learning. Oh, and it never ends. -- doug smith

Time to Learn

What you learn is up to you. -- doug smith

No Bullies, Please

Are you an assertive leader?  High performance leaders must be assertive. They need to express their expectations clearly and frequently. They need the courage to stand up to aggressive behavior without getting aggressive themselves. That's where the science of leadership can meet the art of leadership: knowing how much to dial up your assertiveness and knowing how much to keep steady, to keep centered. Holding your ground and holding your own does not mean holding anyone else emotionally hostage. People will disagree. Strangely enough, some people will fail to meet your expectations. We can deal with that without getting started on raging, yelling, or berating. All of those aggressive behaviors produce side effects and none of them are desirable. Instead, breathe. Think things through. Work on the relationship and the results will follow. Focus only on the results and the relationship could unwind. Bullies get paid back when they least expect it. Why not treat people wit

Get A Grip

It's tough being a front line leader. Everyday someone challenges you on some point that you thought was obvious or long-ago decided. Every hour some customer demands the impossible. Every week some team member leaves, or contemplates leaving, sending the recruiting process into overdrive. It's tough. As leaders, we must be up to the challenge. We must toughen up. We must build muscle around the soft underbelly of centered leadership - not as far as the iron fist inside the velvet glove - but close. Our goals matter. Our team matters. Our support of the organizational mission must be unwavering and courageous. The rewards of effective leadership extend much farther than the financial, though. A leadership job well done results in more powerful people. It results in teams that achieve its goals. It results in people going much longer and farther than they'd ever imagined. Leading at its best helps people serve with joy and inspiration. I recommend it highly. G

Turn That Problem Around

A problem is just an unfulfilled goal. -- doug smith I have a challenge for you. It's not that hard, but it does take practice. Here it is: instead of thinking of a problem as a problem, turn it into a goal. Instead of thinking about what is causing you unhappy results, focus on the results that you DO want and identify all of the ways to achieve those results. Turn that problem around. Make it a goal. A problem is just an unfulfilled goal. Take care of the goal, and say goodbye to the problem. -- doug smith

The Problem With Some Problems

The problem with some problems is your adversary's failure to see it as a problem. -- doug smith Some problems are more like conflicts. The symptoms are clear, but the "problem" for you could be an "asset' for someone else. As long as someone is gaining from the situation, it's tough to convince them that there is a problem. When that happens, your adversary is not going to willingly change things. You'll need to show them how the status quo is not only unsatisfactory for you, but also contains a downside for them -- maybe not now, but eventually (and decisively.) And if you can't find that, you may need to create it - or live with the current situation. The problem with some problems is your adversary's failure to see it as a problem. Clear the fog for them. Show the pain. -- doug smith

How do you handle resistance?

The more resistance you get the more impact you could have. -- doug smith Leaders create change. Change causes resistance. Lately, it seems that we are given lots of change without any influence over what that change will look like. It's easier to simply force the change than to build consensus. That's fast, but I doubt that it's sustainable. As high performance leaders, let's do better than that. Let's handle resistance by listening. There might be merit in the resistance. There is, at least, human nature and feelings involved. Every time leaders bull doze a change thru, something is broken: trust. How do you handle resistance? If your changes are creating vocal resistance, it might mean that your change is truly important. It could also mean that it's off-base. But, forcing it thru doesn't increase its value. The more resistance you get the more impact you could have -- if you take the time to explore what that resistance is all about. -- do

Find the Discipline

It takes discipline to discover what is otherwise not available. -- doug smith How do you find the answer to building your best team? Is there a magical formula? Teams take work and the work is never done. For a leader to find the time to talk to each team member one-on-one frequently it takes the discipline to set a schedule and THEN to follow it -- even when your boss tends to pull you away and even when you get distracted by other urgencies. Your team members deserve your time and they need your time. Even when they do not ask for your time, they need it to connect, to calibrate, to collaborate. Give your team members one-on-one time and the payoff will be great (even if it takes a while to notice, hang in there.) The answers to your problems, the solutions to your challenges, the magic secret sauce that differentiates your team from dozens of others that are otherwise similar, hides in the discipline of doing the work. It takes discipline to discover what is otherwis


Sometimes it takes courage to get you out of the trouble that courage got you into. -- doug smith Have you ever been so bold that you regretted it? High performance leaders DO need courage. We need to be able to make the tough decisions. We need to be able to stand our ground when we are challenged by irrational or unethical demands. But, sometimes our courage gets the best of us. That courage that allowed you to insult the senior official? That's trouble, and it probably wasn't courage at all but something closer to arrogance. That courage that had you stand your ground against a tough customer? It might have cost you their business. With courage must come respect. With courage must come compassion. And, lacking either of those two critical ingredients that courage we feel might cause more trouble than we intended. When that happens only courage will get you out: the courage to apologize, the courage to correct, the courage to repair. Sometimes it takes courag

Set Your Own Limits

People who put limits on your goals are not helping you. -- doug smith I'm not saying that anything is possible. Whether or not that's true is not the point. Have you ever been seriously slowed down by someone who lacked any confidence in your own abilities? Has anyone ever rained on your parade? Silly, isn't it. It's your parade. It's your goal. It's your effort. Whether or not you can do anything is hardly the point. The point is that your goal is YOUR GOAL. And you CAN achieve it. -- doug smith

Sometimes You've Got to Say No

Yes can be a trap. We want to please, so we say yes. We want to be great team players, so we say yes. We want to be exemplary family members, so we say yes. Have you ever worn yourself out with your own yes yes yes? Yes. Me, too. Sometimes we've got to say no. No to the goal that someone else wants us to complete but that interferes with our own goals. No to the task that should be done by someone else. No to the questionable ethical (or clearly unethical) demand. No. Unless we have the courage to say no, our yes always belongs to someone else. Let's own our own yes by owning our own no. -- doug smith

Do The Work

Trust your ambition but do the work. -- doug smith Dreams are great, and yet it takes more. Ambition is powerful, and yet it takes more. It takes a detailed and powerful plan. It takes working each step of that plan. Even when people resist and even when team members act like anything but team members. Do the work. Build the relationship. Spend time and grow. Trust your ambition, but do the work. -- doug smith

Go Toward Happiness

Improve and move in the direction of happiness. -- doug smith We have the choice of so many directions. Decisions confront us everyday. Reactions tempt us into emotions we can barely control. Name an emotion, I've chosen it, and probably so have you. Why not choose a better direction? Why not step toward what works? Why not move in the direction of happiness. It may take work. It will certainly take practice. But we can do it. You can do it. Improve and move in the direction of happiness. Isn't that where you want to be? -- doug smith


Appreciation for a smile leads to more smiles. Smile! -- doug smith