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Showing posts from 2020

Enjoy the View

A great person, who used to be a friend of mine, once wrote a song called "Slow Down and Enjoy The View." It was a wonderful song but at the time, neither one of us really had much to slow down from. We had time, we had music, we had friendship, we smiled all of the time.
Then we got busy. Life got busy. Work got busy. Does it ever feel to you like you're just too busy?
Even in the middle of a crisis, it can feel like there is too much busyness to take care of business. 
The other day I was taking a walk and after several minutes realized that I was hardly experiencing the walk at all because I was thinking so intently about work. I physically stopped in my tracks, took a deep breath, and started walking again. It was time to slow down a moment, see what was around me, and breathe again. 
Slow down. 
When I worked at GE we had an expression, "sometimes you've got to go slow to go fast," and while that meant something slightly different than simply slowing down, …

Share the Happiness

Are you happy?
As tough as times can get, are you happy within those times? We don't ask for the times we are given, we are given the choice of how to respond.
How are you responding?
Are you doing the work that matters, that matters to others as well as to you? 
Something that I've learned from working over forty years is that the work that I do always (yes, always) has opportunity for joy. I didn't grow up to be a basketball star, or a rock star, or a movie star. But, I've been blessed to have been given meaningful work that makes a difference for other people. What I've learned is that when my work serves others, it serves me best. 
That makes me happy. 
What if what makes you happy is what makes other people happy, too? 
Do that.
-- doug smith

Say What's In Your Heart

Did you ever need to say something, but didn't.  Maybe it even felt like you couldn't.
That's happened to me. The words were in my head. The words made the trip as far as to my mouth, and there they stayed, unspoken.
It wasn't diplomacy. It wasn't discretion. What was it? Fear? Anxiety? Doubt?
If that has never happened to you, you are lucky in that regard. If that has happened to you, and you know you don't ever want it to happen again, resolve yourself to talk. To say what's on your mind and in your heart. When the moment passes, it may be gone forever.
Communication gets harder the less of it you do.
Talk about it.
-- doug smith

Not You

Do you ever ask yourself "what's wrong with that person?"
It can be difficult to see why someone else can't just do what we did to succeed -- because they aren't us.
Maybe they'll need to do it their way.
-- doug smith

Do Something on Your Goal

Can you think your way to success? Is positive thinking enough.
Optimism is great, but you've got to mix in plenty of action to achieve your goals. You've got to do something. As a chronic thinker, I am sometimes prone to procrastinating on what matters most. That's not a good idea and I do not recommend it. I've learned that even if the first halting steps are incorrect, some motion is better than stasis. 
But thinking about success helps. It can get you unstuck. It can fill you with optimism. And that I do recommend.
Thinking about success usually comes before achieving it.
Just do something, too.

-- doug smith

Work Your Plan

A good goal can survive setbacks. Stay relentless on your plan.
-- doug smith

Be Bold

Feeling stuck?
Open up. Quicken your pace. Get bold. Set a goal that gets you going.
A bold goal prods action.
Why wait?
-- doug smith

Is It Time to Change That Goal?

Do you tell people about your goals?
When you do, it helps you clarify what you want. It also builds in a bit of accountability. If I tell my best friend about a goal, she is definitely going to check up on me to see how that's going. I'd better get it done.
If I am hesitant to tell her about a goal, it could mean that I'm not yet taking that goal seriously. Or, maybe it's not yet clear what the goal should be.
Take your time enough to get your goal right.
If you catch yourself changing your goal when you tell people about it you should probably change your goal.
You might as well work on what is important to you.
-- doug smith

Talk About It: Start That Tough Conversation

Is there something on your mind that you are not talking about? Do you need a conversation with someone but keep avoiding it? It's tough, isn't it?
The conversations that feel like the toughest only get tougher the longer they are delayed.
Talk about it. Talk about it now.
-- doug smith


Situations, processes, designs, conditions, relationships -- so much up for grabs.
Working together to solve a problem fixes far more than just the problem.
Why not work together?
-- doug smith

Tingle Goals

Are your goals worth your time?
Find a goal that makes you tingle with anticipation.
That's the kind of goal that's worth your time.
-- doug smith

High Performance Leaders Get Stuff Done

Do you get stuff done?
At the end of the day, isn't that what leaders are paid to do? Oh sure, to do that means you must communicate effectively, build cohesive teams, solve problems, and improve performance. That's all part of the job. But mainly the job of leadership is to get stuff done. 
High performance leaders find reasons, and ways, to get things done.
How are you doing?
-- doug smith

High Performance Leaders Admit When They're Wrong

It's not easy for me to admit when I'm wrong. It's even harder if I don't see that I am, yet somehow...later on, my perspective shifts and I see what the other person must have been seeing differently.
That's one reason I've learned to pause before defending a message. I'm still working on it. We usually do have a moment to pause and think thru our response. What if you are wrong? 
When we are wrong and we admit it, we can usually recover the damage that might have been done. We can, with dignity and respect, restore the relationship to what it was before we said what was wrong. It's a big if, it's a might if, and it's an if worth considering.
It hurts to admit you're wrong, yet when you're wrong it hurts more NOT to.
-- doug smith

Non-negotiable Goals

When faced with a series of choices, how do you decide? Do you allow your goals to provide you with a sense of direction? 
Well-written, strongly considered goals do not waste your time - they save you valuable decision-making moments by fixing your direction. Faced with a dozen doors, any one of which could be (and would be) fascinating, you choose the door in the direction of your goal. 
That's why it's so important to take your time about your goals. To head consistently in the right direction, to make the best choices, let your goals be your guide.
The most powerful goals are nonnegotiable.
The time to negotiate your goals is before you commit to them. Once the commitment is there, act relentlessly on your goal. 
-- doug smith

Not Fooled

We are all deeply flawed people constantly choosing between improving or deceiving. 
You are not fooled when you improve. No one else is fooled when you don't.
-- doug smith

What Would You Say?

If someone wanted to discuss a problem with you right now, what would you say? 
Some days, I just don't have room for any more problems, how about you? Some days I just want to get thru and get some work done. How about you?
Some days, though, there is an opportunity to talk about what's going on and if that opportunity passes, it's gone forever. I remember a long car ride up the mountains to Breckinridge, Colorado one Valentine's Day when a problem (or hand-full of problems) unfolded a great opportunity to talk. For reasons still unknown to me, I could not talk. The words would not come. My body language didn't communicate what I was thinking and (perhaps) what I was thinking was too sad to say. I don't know. I wish that I did. What I didn't know at the time was that moment, during those steep climbs, there was an opportunity to resolve problems and that opportunity would never come again so freely, so safely, and so sincerely. It faded away.
It was still a g…

Respect Should Be Sincere

Faked respect is worse than no respect at all.
-- doug smith

The Next Time You Argue...

There's a lot of arguing going on. Does it seem to you like it's getting worse each day? People are losing friends, people are ignoring each other, people are letting logic slip out of their heads while the emotional train takes over.
It doesn't have to be that way.
You have some control of whether or not (and how) you argue.
The next time you are about to argue, try keeping this in mind: the impulse to argue is a signal to stay curious instead.
Maybe you'll learn something. Maybe you'll teach something. There's plenty of room to interact respectfully.
-- doug smith

High Performance Leaders Say Yes

If you had to guess, do you think that you use the word "yes" or the word "no" more often? Why does it matter?
Of course we have to say no sometimes. If you chase every goal you won't achieve any of them. But I find myself saying "no" sometimes before I've even given it much thought. It's a default impulse (no!) designed to keep us safe. The problem is, it keeps us isolated, too. It keeps us stuck.
Leaders who say yes more than no are easier to follow.
Enthusiasm matters. Passion engages. Certainty build confidence.
Try this: the next time you're give then choice between yes and no, pause. Silently count to ten. Then, consider, why not? Why not yes?
-- doug smith

Mutually Beneficial Lasts Longer

Winners should not forget that losers never forget.

Are you meeting their needs, too?

-- doug smith

Find Your Focus

You don't need permission to focus on what matters most.
-- doug smith

Maybe a Pause to Listen?

Do you ever wear yourself out trying to help someone else solve a problem? It is so tempting to come up with solutions. Even when you're sure they will work, will they really? 
I'm working on taking a pause. What is the request? What is the need? What is my role?
You may not need to solve someone else's problem -- they may just need your attentive listening.
-- doug smith

Your Ego Will Be Fine

Develop your character and let your ego take care of itself.

-- doug smith

Conflict and Character

All true leaders encounter conflict.

It's what you do with it that defines your character.

-- doug smith

Muscle Up

Once you know how to achieve your goals it's just a matter of will.
-- doug smith

The Right Goal

How do you know if your goal is the right goal? 
We have so many goals to choose from. Some agendas get in the way of others. Some goals might even be mutually exclusive -- you can achieve one or the other but not both.
But some goals create more possibilities, not less. Some goals promote both sustainability and growth. Some goals are all win and no loss.
The right goal keeps the wrong problem from harming you.
Take you time in committing to a goal. And then, give it all you've got.
-- doug smith

Clarify Your Goals

Clarity on your goals gives you strength.

-- doug smith

Your New Collaborators?

Does the way you look at a problem affect the problem? How does your own focus influence what happens in the process of solving a problem?

What if we could think of someone who gives us a problem as a new collaborator?

-- doug smith

Truth or Tales?

True story: when I was much younger I was known to tell a tale or two. They were usually rooted in reality, but I'd embellish the truth to make it more interesting. Like that story I'd tell about my trip to McSorley's in New York when I ran into John Lennon. We had a nice conversation. Except, he wasn't there. I thought of him, and he lived in New York at the time, but seriously was much more likely to be on the other side of town. Go figure.
How many times did I tell that tale? Maybe once or twice. Once to my best friend at the time. Did she believe me? Not if she knew me well enough...
How about you? Do your fish stories end up with bigger fish than you actually caught? Do you augment reality with some great tales? I got a great gift last December from one of my good friends and fraternity brother, David Spiegel. It's a coffee mug with the saying "Keep telling the stories" written on it. I love it. I don't think that he meant "tell tales."  I…

The First Step to Motivating

How much time do you spend motivating your team?

Trick question? How about this for a bold answer: all the time. Every moment that you spend with your team is an opportunity to motivate.  When you inspire your team their performance elevates.

But, where to begin? How do you get that fully energized, totally motivated team?

The first step to motivating others is wanting them to be happy.
Wanting them to be happy enough that you ask. Wanting them to be happy enough that you collaborate on creating an environment where their happiness can flower and grow.

No problem, right? Try this: ask them what motivates them. What energizes them? What gets them excited? And then?  Listen.

-- doug smith

Call to Action: Stay curious about what makes your team members happy. Ask!

Lead Without Producing Loss

We do not have to create teams where people either win or lose. We do not have to create organizations where people either win or lose. We do not have to create societies where people must either win or lose. We can make better choices. As high performance leaders, we can co-create better outcomes; ways for all of our constituents to benefit.

We can even compete without tearing down our competitors. What if every action you made as a leader improved the world, instead of producing a little tear in the fabric?

Zero-sum leadership is not sustainable or defensible. Lead without producing loss, or face your own eventual loss.

-- doug smith

Shine The Light

Problems keep us sharp as long as we don't keep them in the dark.

-- doug smith

When In Doubt...

When in doubt about what to talk about with your team, talk about goals.

-- doug smith

Keep Building

Teams need constant attention. You get them where you want them and then they change. Just like relationships. The dynamic is always moving. High performance leaders move with the team, gently directing and redirecting and communicating as much certainty as you have available.

Your team might need to grow before it knows it. Your team might need to slow down and focus. When we can put our coaching hat on and guide the ingredients we need become more clear. One-on-one conversations, powerful meetings, meaningful goals, clear roles...the list is remarkably stable even though the players are not.

You can build a team or tear it down. It's your choice.

-- doug smith

Communicate Better Every Day

Communicate as if your career depended on it. It does.

-- doug smith

What We Learn

What we learn becomes more important when we apply it.

Learn, apply, learn again.

-- doug smith

The Yes Appeal

What's your best offer today? Has an opportunity come your way? Are you ready for something new?

I have a natural tendency to default to defensive posters when an offer comes my way. I'm too busy. I'm not interested. I'm concerned.

Sometimes, a great offer gets lost in the attempt to avoid disaster. I'm practicing, though, a way thru that.
I'm practicing the pause. During the pause, before I say know, I spark the inner curious mind to consider. What if this is great? What if this is fun? What if this makes at least two people happy?

Before I say no, I think about my yes.

What do you think?

-- doug smith


When a leader's first thoughts are to service, all other jobs become easier.

-- doug smith

Unconditional Positive Regard

Something someone said in one of my workshops keeps popping back and I'm glad that it does. We were talking about dealing with difficult people, with difficult situations, with difficult times, and he said he approaches everyone from the same hopeful stance of "unconditional positive regard."

It's not something anyone has to earn. It's not something anyone can push away. It's a calm, focused, giving, loving way to look at those around us. Who around us? Everyone.

I have failed at this many times, even since hearing the words of "unconditional positive regard" and yet I do not surrender to the negative that creeps in when I'm off my game. Like a gentle redirection, like a soft return to the breath, I can think "unconditional positive regard."

Today is a great day to create a great day!

-- doug smith

Building Your Team With Familiarity

How well does your team know each other? Whether they work side by side, or across the globe from each other, the better your team members know each other's strengths and weaknesses, the better they understand how each communicates and what their interaction style means to them, the better they are likely to perform.

We spend so much time sorting out intentions. Speed that process up by helping your team members get to know each other. Facilitate deeper conversations. Lead powerful meetings where things get done. Teach each other how an action usually uncovers a need. Work better together because you care about each other. That's not instantaneous. There's no easy exercise. It takes time and presence to build rapport, and it takes rapport to build relationships.

Build your team by helping them get to know each other better.
You'll like the results.

-- doug smith

Dig This

You don't need excuses for failing when you use the creativity to succeed.

artbusinessmusiceducationgoverningleadingwriting What if your MAIN ingredient is creativity? That's good news because you've got plenty of it. But, you might have to dig.
Start digging!

-- doug smith

Develop Leadership With Service

Who, or what do you serve? As a leader, what is your way of helping others?

Leaders must first serve. They must first serve to even understand the importance of leadership. They benefit tremendously by serving people, other leaders, and organizations before ever stepping into a leadership role. People who have not learned how to follow have very little chance of successfully leading. The credibility, the resilience, the humility that serving provides build the character needed to lead others in difficult tasks, projects, and movements. Leading is hard, and the muscle comes from following, from serving.

Whether it's in the food industry, or emergency services, or education, or law enforcement, or housing, or foster care...there are dozens of ways to learn to serve and then to continue serving. It's what the world needs. It's what people need to develop leadership.

A leader who remembers how to serve will lead longer than one who forgets.
How, or who, are you serving today?

Make Something Better

What do leaders do?

Fundamentally, leaders change things by getting other people to help. We influence behaviors to suit our needs or the needs of some higher calling. What if that higher calling calls you higher still?

What if what we lead others to do makes something better? What if the change benefits everyone changed?

It takes a powerful leader to be able to lead without causing harm. Ego can get in the way. Agendas can precipitate tears. But, it is possible to create positive change without harm. Imagine the power of positive change without creating adversaries or harm. It's worth doing. We can do it. You can do it.

Become an unforgettable leader. Make something better. 
-- doug smith


Do you like surprises?

When I was still young I learned the hard way that bosses usually do not like surprises. They are problems. They mess with the plan. Surprises take the status quo and rock it on its side.

But sometimes the surprise does not cause the problem. Sometimes the surprise comes after the problem has already been working its messy distress under your awareness. The problem festers, flows, and then goes BOOM.


When a problem arises, watch out for surprises.
What if instead of waiting for the surprise you dealt with the problem?

-- doug smith

There's Always a Bigger Dog

Someone once told me that they always win.

"How does that work?" I asked.
"Simply," he said. "I always win because I'm the bigger dog."


But what happens when he meets a bigger dog? (and guess what -- there's always a bigger dog.)

If you embrace a dog-eat-dog approach to leadership be careful. You will most certainly be eaten by a bigger dog.

-- doug smith

New Ways Anyway

Creative leadership finds new ways to assemble your most vital and high performing teams.

-- doug smith

Stay Persistent

Have you ever gotten frustrated while looking for the solution to a problem? It's not just common, we should probably expect it. If it was easy, it wouldn't be a problem, would it? Maybe we just need to keep thinking. Maybe we just need to quietly identify possibilities.

What if the best answer to your problem hasn't been thought of yet?
The answer, even if it's just "manage the outcomes and make peace with the problem" is likely there. Keep digging.

-- doug smith

Big Effort

How important are your goals? Do you know how I can tell? I can tell how important a goal is by how disciplined and hard I work on them. Big effort = big importance. Little effort = just nice to have.

Your effort measures the true value of your goal.
I'm going to work today to put more effort into those goals that matter most. How about you?

-- doug smith

Where Do We Begin?

Things change fast. Things don't ask, they just change. Where do we go from here?

Wherever you are, there is room to grow. We may stay idle for awhile. We may sleep, rest, nurture. When we are ready, let's grow.

Where to begin?

Start with what's possible and grow.

Ready when you are...

-- doug smith

Letting Go of Perfect

My former acting coach, Brian McCulley once said that "done is better than perfect." I don't think he meant to minimize quality, because that is also important. But sometimes urgency is more important than perfection, considering that we'll never achieve perfect.

There are no perfect people. There are no perfect products. There are no perfect processes. We may travel John Wesley's road to perfection without ever getting there. That is completely fine.

I've learned to seek wisdom rather than perfection since discovering the endless amount of personal flaws has destroyed any illusion of perfect. Still, I travel that road, whether it's driving or as a passenger. It's a good road, even when it never ends.

I've also learned not to let it grieve me.  We are all here to improve. Let's keep improving.

When we look into the mirror, let's not expect perfection. Let's not let disappointment cloud our days. Expecting perfection is not a flatterin…