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Ask Your Team


Energize your problem solving team today, tomorrow, and everyday.

Not sure how? Ask them how. They know.

-- doug smith


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Qualities of a Leader

Do you have the qualities of a leader?

I'm sure you know that leadership is not just a title. Leadership is what we bring to the organizations we lead in order to develop our people and achieve our goals. That's easier said than done and it doesn't necessarily come naturally.

When I think about the qualities of a high performance leader I notice similarities with what I would consider to be a high quality, high character person: curious, brilliant, adventurous, determined, attentive, focused, ambitious, strong, kind, worthy, ethical, resilient, spiritual, healthy...the list is long.

I've also come to believe that while many qualities are important, there are five that are absolutely essential. You could lead without these qualities, but the job is much harder that way and the outcomes are more volatile.

The five qualities I aspire to are: courage, clarity, creativity, compassion, and centeredness.

I define centeredness as the skillful use of the other four qualities i…

Leaders Develop Leaders

Peter Drucker (and others) said that it's the job of a leader to develop more leaders, not followers. High performance leaders surround themselves with people who show initiative, who get things done, who are ready to lead. They develop, sustain, support, and promote leaders without any fear or jealousy.

Surrounding yourself with leaders who are growing and creating success will only make you more successful. It's what leaders do.

Leaders develop leaders first to sustain long range high performance results.
Better results, with their people taking care of themselves and each other.

Isn't that what you want?

-- doug smith


Always Add Compassion

Tough leaders with an edge get stuff done, and when they add compassion they add significance.

Always add compassion.

-- doug smith


Compassionate Feedback

What do you do when you know that your feedback for someone on your team will be tough to hear?

Before I learned better, I would sometimes just keep the feedback to myself. I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings, after all. And they made it this far without that feedback so...

But that's not the most compassionate approach. Withholding something that could make someone's life and performance better is not being sensitive, it's being ineffective. Tell them what's going on. Tell them what you are thinking. Offer your suggestions.

It can still be kind. It can even be graceful. It might even contain a bit of humor. But it's best as feedback when it is clear and to the point.

Prepare for that difficult feedback. You already know that there are right ways and wrong ways to deliver feedback. Plan, and practice. Get it right.

Before you give feedback imagine how it would feel to hear that directed at you -- and then adjust accordingly.
Be the boss you always wante…

Build Yourself

How far can your team go? How much work can your team do? How successful can your team become?

I have two answers to all of those questions. The first answer is "amazingly so." The second answer is harder, "only as far as you allow."

Your team's biggest limiting factor is you. That's hard to hear, perhaps, but also liberating. Grow yourself and you will grow your team. Limit yourself and...well, you get the idea.

In order to build your team you might also need to build yourself.
Build your ability to listen. Build your ability to take charge. Build your ability to solve problems. Build your ability to lead.

Build yourself. Your team will follow.

-- doug smith


Easy on the Judgement

Do you like to be judged? Me, either.

It doesn't mean that people don't have to follow rules, because they do. It doesn't mean that we don't care about quality, and fairness, and justice, because we do. But it does mean that maybe judging someone in a moment of emotion is not the best strategy. It does mean that judgement seldom, if ever, changes any one.

Today, just for today, can we please go easy on the judgement? Turn the volume down. Dial the intensity lower. Stay kind.

Harsh judgment delays peace.
Curiosity invites peace in.

-- doug smith


Two Word Mission Statements

What is your two-word mission statement?

I'm sure you've seen a lot of mission statements. I have, too. Most of them are so long that I couldn't remember them if my job depended on it. And yet, in many ways, your job does depend on it.

I've learned that if you keep it brief, it's easier to remember which makes it easier to do and much more likely to shine as the strategic guiding light that you're looking for.

Try this. First, identify what you do. Second, identify how you do it. Put those two things together. If you don't like what develops, try again. Find yourself a two-word mission statement and see how empowering it makes you feel. If you like it, keep it. If you don't, try again.

What is your two-word mission statement?

Mine is "developing leadership."

It's an abbreviated version of the full mission statement of "developing leadership with clarity, courage, creativity, and compassion." I like both. I can remember both. But…

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 reflect on your…

Raise Your Expectations

Have you peaked yet?

Truthfully, you've likely peaked many times. Reaching the peak need not be the end, but rather the start of even better performance.

When I first set a goal to walk 10,000 steps a day it seems hard. That's a lot of walking. How would I ever get anything done? And for a while I hovered between 6,000 and 8,000 steps. Better, but not my goal.

Then, I started (with lots of effort) reaching 10,000 steps on a daily basis. It got to be routine. I figured out how to keep moving enough to achieve my goal. And you do know what you've earned once you've achieved a goal, right? A bigger goal!

I've leveled up my goal to 12,000 steps a day, and on most days I do get it. I'm still humble about it though, because some people have told me how they routinely exceed 20,000 and even 30,000 steps. That's a lot of walking!

I raised my expectations, and my goal improved. It may not last forever, but if it lasts long enough to reach excellence in your field, …

What Is Your Team Teaching You?

What have you learned from your team today?

It's not too late, and your team has a lot to teach you. Sure, your job as a leader includes training your team members and making sure that they develop in ways that help them while also achieving your team goals. What many leaders forget, though, is that your team is also constantly teaching you.

They are teaching you what they need to succeed. They are teaching you how their interpersonal dynamics are developing. They are teaching you how effective your leadership style is. It may not always seem like it, but they have things to tell you that may not be said directly with words.

How is their performance? Are they happy? Do they feel connected to something larger than themselves? Are they proud to be part of the team? Do they feel valued and appreciated?

Watch their body language. Listen to their tone. Get clarity around what their words say. Stay attentive to what they have to teach.

Every team teaches its leader whether or not they&…