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Showing posts from 2022

Tough AND Tender

High performance leaders are able to be simultaneously tough and kind. Tough on the task, tender on the person. -- doug smith  

Limiting Boundaries

How strong are your boundaries? How do you feel about limitations? When those limitations are placed on us by other people we tend to rebel. We don't like being told what to do or what not to do. Boundaries can feel like chains, even when they are well-intended.  Some boundaries are necessary. Not everyone has sense enough to avoid hurting other people, so we need protections from those types of people. But, some boundaries are needlessly restrictive: doubting ourselves, diminishing our self-esteem, holding us back from trying new things that we could enjoy.., Self-imposed boundaries are worth auditing for effectiveness: is this what we really want? Boundaries that stand needlessly in the way of our goals are not serving us well at all. I've had some boundaries that kept me from getting what I wanted until I realized what the wall in front of me was: me. How about you? How are your boundaries? You are bound by your own boundaries before anyone else ever notices them. It's n

Dial Up Your Motivation

 "It's just too hard!" they said, "and I can't find the motivation." "Where do you think motivation comes from?" "Powerful speakers, wonderful leaders, carefully written goals...I don't know." "You probably DO know. All of that is true -- we can find motivation in our circumstance, in our leaders, in our goals, but even if motivation smacks us in the face with a big wet kiss, unless we do something about it, what does it really mean?" "Is that supposed to be motivating?" "Only if you want it to be..." "But things are so tough!" "Sure they are. Always have been. Not likely to change. If the world was easy the soft would rule. If you don't want to BE ruled, you might need to find some inner motivation -- especially when you need it." Motivation matters most when times get tough. Find your motivation wherever you can. The reality is, motivation comes from yourself. -- doug smith

Centered Problem Solving : You May Need to Do Something

Centered Problem Solving : You May Need to Do Something : No matter what anyone tells you, some problems can not be imagined away. We'd like to believe that positive thinking can accomplish anything. Anything? I'm not so sure. It's comforting to think that our beliefs matter more than the facts -- but have you ever pitted your beliefs against immutable facts and prevailed? That stove top will still burn your hand no matter how much you believe that it is harmless. That gathered army on your border could still invade you no matter how positive you think about your enemies. I'm not against a metaphysical awareness -- far from it -- I just don't rely on metaphysics when physics is in control.  Imagine all you want. Believe all you want. But, that problem you are facing probably will need some action if you want to solve it. -- doug smith

Way Beyond What You Used to Be

Aren't you glad that you are past your mistakes? Oh you, and I, will certainly make more mistakes but hopefully we are long past who we used to be. Character grows from doing the right things. Wisdom grows from learning from your mistakes. Whoever we once were, it's our job to grow beyond that into someone better. Grow. Keep growing. Set and work on goals that push you onward. Grow so much that who you used to be scares you.  Because who you are becoming is so much better, and you just barely escaped what was. -- doug smith

Ask Your Customers

Customers don't want you to assume what they need -- they much rather tell you. Ask, listen, and then respond -- doug smith  

What About Slackers?

It's a question so often asked: what do we do about people who just won't do their job? What's happened to any sense of work-ethic? It's not gone. There are still plenty of people who are dedicated and hard-working. Ambition is alive and well, and work-ethic thrives among many. Still, those who seem to just phone-it-in (often with their phones in their hands scrolling away) seem to have multiplied: they're everywhere. It is frustrating to work hard while standing next to someone who is hardly working. But that's not the way it has to be. There is joy to be found in the work, even if some people are not trying very hard to find that joy. People who won't do their jobs have not yet discovered the joy in their work. If that makes you sad, imagine how hard it makes them. Part of our job as leaders is to help ignite that spark of joy in people, to help them discover the joy of work -- any work. Some people do show up already motivated, and some people do not. Our

Surprise! Learning!

Surprise! Learning is happening all around you, sometimes even TO you. I plan learning all the time, by reading, by attending workshops, by teaching, by scheduling adventures, by trying new projects...but you know what? Sometimes the best learning comes by surprise, when I least expect it.  From a problem...from a mistake...from a customer's remarks...from a student's suggestion... You don't have to have asked for learning for learning to show up.  "Keep learning," I tell myself, "Keep learning." -- doug smith

There It Is...

Before you change anything, ask yourself "what's the goal?" because once you've changed it, there it is! -- doug smith

Enjoy Your Job

I remember some days when I just didn't want to go to work. Maybe it was the commute. Maybe it was the idea of upset customers. It just didn't feel like the fun thing to do. But, you know what? I had to go to work anyway, and whether or not I made the most of it, the work had to get done. And it did. Fortunately, in every job I've ever had I've been able to find joy in the work. Once that clicks in, the work goes better, the customers smile more, and life feels right. So, I decided to embrace my work, whatever it is, and not only do my best but also enjoy myself as I did it.  You have to do your job anyway, why not enjoy it? It's worked time and time again for many, many people.  -- doug smith  

Listening to Customers

It can make such a great difference. When we want to actually serve our customers -- instead of just harvesting them for money -- our work becomes more enjoyable.  Customers can be annoyingly needy, but the annoying part is up to us and how we listen. Why do customers get excited? They get aggravated when they don't get what they want. Customer get irritated when the service does not meet their expectations. That does not mean that we need to give away the store to make a customer happy. Most of the time it only means that we need to listen. A customer who feels heard is far more likely to also feel satisfied.  When we don't listen enough for a customer to feel heard, they get louder. And louder. And louder. We have to listen to customers anyway -- why not enjoy it?  Why not listen with curiosity and respond with sincerity? It's better service than most customers get, and it has the bonus benefit of making us feel better, too.  

Overcome Resistance

Sometimes resistance to a goal is evidenced of its need. If it wasn't important, it wouldn't catch any heat. Keep going. Act relentlessly on your plan. -- doug smith

When Leadership Begins

When does leadership start? Is it when we have formed our mission? Is it when our ambition rises to the occasion and tells us to take charge? What do you think? Here's what I think: Leadership starts when we think of other people first. We need to be leaders in order to make things better for other people. if you're only making things better for yourself, that doesn't take leadership, that just takes initiative and ambition. But, when you see a way to make things better for other people as well as yourself, it takes leadership to mobilize people to help. Because without the help of other people, you aren't really a leader at all. -- doug smith  

Real Care

Have you ever been tricked into believing that a company cares about you, only to discover that once they have your money they don't? That doesn't feel good, and it happens all too often. Companies focus on marketing (because that's where the money comes from) and under-value the service. Some companies even strategically decide to reduce the level of service to their customers (I'm looking at you cable-company) based on cost considerations. A customer is only worth so much, apparently. That type of thinking is both wrong, and short-sighted. You've got a whole zone of possibilities available to you, all the way from treating customers poorly to treating them royally. What do you want to be remembered for? Don't fool customers into thinking that you care about them -- instead, really DO care about them. It feels (and works out) better for both of you. -- doug smith

Be Nice

Have you ever had a boss who thought that in order to get the best performance from you they had to treat you like dirt? If so, how did you feel about that? Leadership is a balance, but that balance too often leans to the side of manipulation and force. Being mean is a poor, sad, troubling strategy.  When is it appropriate for a leader to act like a jerk? Never. Many supervisors could double their effectiveness if they stopped acting like jerks. If you catch yourself about to get mean, come clean and restart.  -- doug smith


Over-simplification complicates things. -- doug smith

Still No Excuses

It's a rookie kind of mistake, an inexperienced-hasn't-learned-better error in judgement: making excuses. As one of my former bosses,  Bruce Green once told me, "Nobody cares about your excuses.: Offering an excuses looks unprofessional. It won't work. It won't change the situation. Own your mistakes and move on. After all, you did learn something from it, didn't you? -- doug smith 

Listening Bonus

  People listen to other listeners. Try it. It's amazing. -- doug smith

Status Booster

I'd prefer it if status was not a factor. Especially, when it comes to leadership, wouldn't it be better if we didn't need to concern ourselves with status? But there it is: status as a constant. In the face of all of the surface maneuvers around status, we also have the opportunity to prove our professionalism. If we can focus on the mission when other people focus on their own personal enhancement, we can get more done. People are more likely to follow a leader who serves the mission first and their own esteem much later. I'm not saying that esteem isn't important, only that it should be down on your list after serving your mission and other people -- especially the people you lead. When we are challenged -- when people force an issue to see how professional we are -- that can be managed skillfully. We do not need to over-react. We do not need to cover our exterior. An opportunity to prove your professionalism is reason to celebrate, because it can be a convincing

What's Your Status?

In my studies about performing and writing plays, one of the things that I learned was that there is always status in every scene. If two people are in a scene, one of them has higher status than the other and then for the rest of the scene there is a kind of struggle over that status. The one with lessor status strives to win, the won with higher status strives to preserve. It may not hold up for EVERY scene, but if you watch for it you'll see how prevalent that is. Why is that? Could it be that in LIFE we also struggle for status? Could it be that when we sense that we are being treated as if our status is lower than others that we do not like that and work to change it? If, as a leader, you visibly treat your team members as underlings, they will notice. If you treat them as equals -- keeping in mind different levels of responsibility -- as equals your team members will respond with more initiative. Isn't that more of what you really want? Whether or not you like it or suppo

Do the Work

Have you ever noticed someone acting as if they had a magic wand. They wait, they delay, they avoid doing work that clearly needs doing, as if some kind of miracle could rescue them. As a strategy, that's not going to work. When we've got a problem to solve and work to be done, hoping for a miracle will only create disappointment. We might as well resolve ourselves to doing the work. There's no such thing as magic. -- doug smith

Being Professional

What makes someone a professional? Many factors, you might say: - certifications - education - peer recognition - ability - attitude and while the list is long, here's what I think: When you behave like a professional, professional status will emerge. Because if you change how you approach your work to be focused on being as professional as you can be, by serving your customers to the fullest, by committing to only top quality -- when you change and form habits that reinforce your personal belief that you ARE a professional -- your results, and your reactions, change. Act like a professional -- why would you ever do anything else? -- doug smith

Leadership Productivity

Productivity = do what can be done with what is available. And if you add in leadership? If you add in leadership productivity becomes on time, on budget, and to quality specifications. Isn't that what high performance leaders do? -- doug smith

Beyond your goals...

Goals are important and when we focus on them intensely can impact not only ourselves, but also other people. We'd like to think that those impacts are all positive. We'd like to believe that what is good for us is also good for other people. That's not always the case. It is possible to focus so much on a goal that others around us feel short changed. It's a side-effect of sharp-edged focus to forget what's on the fringes, and sometimes what's on the fringes matters. We should always consider what effect our goals have on other people. We might still pursue those goals, but sometimes it's worth checking. How does your biggest goal impact your closest friend? -- doug smith

Goals for happiness?

Do goals make you happy? Goals are important. Think about some of the goals that you've achieved and you probably associate some happiness to them. But what about the goals that you do not achieve? What about the goals that you work hard on and when you DO achieve them feel a sense of let-down? It happens. Goals might not make you happy but they can help you identify and support what does. It's a process. Moving from one goal to another helps us narrow down the endless possibilities to those opportunities most likely to bring us joy. Goals do not equal happiness. They do, however, help. -- doug smith

Character and Goals

What comes first, building character, or achieving goals? I've seen people achieve their goals at any cost. Their dedication is unlimited, but the cost is too high. If achieving a goal changes who you are in ways that you would not have chosen or in ways that would alarm your friends, maybe the goal was too much. Character -- who you are -- matters.  If achieving your goal subtracts anything from your clarity, your courage, your creativity, and your compassion, that's too much. If achieving your goal diminishes your character -- how you live and treat other people -- that's too much. Achieving goals is important but so is building character -- and without character your goals don't matter. Character comes first. -- doug smith

When the goal matters

We've all set goals that we did not achieve. It could be that the goal was too large. Maybe the goal was beyond our control. Or, maybe we just decided it wasn't worth the bother. If work feels like bother, we may not bother to work. If the goal doesn't excite us, it's hard to see the point. Focus on the goals that DO matter, and make the difference from there. When the goal matters enough to you, you'll do enough for the goal. Both silence, and action, represent prioritization.  -- doug smith

How about those rules?

It's become almost glamorous to break rules. There's a kind of excitement to rebelling, to tearing apart a carefully constructed boundary. It might even be necessary. Before breaking that rule, though, it's worth wondering if that is also a dangerous thing to do. The more a rule is broken, the easier it is to break. The more rules that are broken, the more it seems acceptable. The more acceptable it seems to break rules, the more anarchy and chaos prevail. Choices sneak up on us and change everything that came before. If someone will break a rule for you they will eventually break a rule that you care about. How do you treat rules? -- doug smith  

Keeping those values

  People rationalize breaking their values all the time. It can be more convenient to let things slip just a little to hit a financial target, or to make payroll, or to reduce overtime, name it. Cutting corners on our values seems easy. But, how does that turn out? The cost to be paid for surrendering against our values might not even be immediate, but it will be certain and it might be profound. The proverbial slippery slope does not lead to a soft landing. It's easy to rationalize breaking a value but much harder to endure the eventual results. -- doug smith

Was It Only Imagination?

  Have you ever imagined something so much or so strongly that you believe it's happened, even when it hasn't?  Like a dream, a creative endeavor takes on a quiet life of its own. We see it. We feel it. We're sure we did our work to make it happen.  But if we didn't do the work, it didn't happen. That's why some  writers will not talk about a piece they're working on: if they talk about it too much, it already feels complete, and it's NOT. Our minds are wonderful, and sometimes they're funny. We can do that with "facts" as well. Our own inner bias convinces us that a particular view is true, even in the face of contrary evidence. We see that all over these days. What we imagine to be true sometimes gets in the way of what is actually true. It's the job of a true high performance leader to know the truth, to tell the truth, and to lead with the truth. Leaders who don't, don't deserve to be leaders.  -- doug smith

How is that plan?

  What's your goal? Is what you're doing achieving that goal? Once in a while I need to check my plan because it's just not up to the goal. There's no shame in it, but there's no game in it either to stay with a broken plan. If what you're doing isn't working -- you know what to do: something else. -- doug smith

Breathe and Begin

  Moment by moment, some moments are tough. They can fill us with challenges, they can weigh us down. Inevitably, when we apply our best focus, when we stay with our values, we prevail. On to the next moment! This moment will pass soon enough. Breathe, and begin -- start the next better time. -- doug smith

Chicken or Egg?

  Have you ever found yourself involved in a mission that feels disconnected from who you really are? It happens far too often. We start by chasing a dream, get distracted by chasing money, and get misdirected by a mission that makes no sense for who we are. Maybe it's the company's mission. Maybe it's your own mission that got lost in the fog of survival. We sometimes face a decision: keep working that mission, or listen to our heart. If your mission is forcing you into actions that make you uncomfortable from a values standpoint, you've likely reached a decision point. If your character and values can't survive your mission, abandon the mission. It's both difficult and simple. Simple in that it tells you what you already know, and difficult because the work still wants to be done, your boss still needs you to comply, your organization has already decided for you. You decide. It's your decision.  -- doug smith  

Fill In The Blanks

  Have you ever had an argument and only later on realized that maybe you didn't get it right? Maybe there was a missing piece of information. Maybe you had filtered things a bit from your point of view. It happens. When? All the time. Right or wrong, every perspective is incomplete. Sometimes we need to fill in the blanks by gaining another perspective, by hearing someone else's story. What's your rush? Get it right. -- doug smith

High Performance Leaders Are Accountable

  High performance leaders don't get to pass the blame. It's possible, but worthless, to blame someone else for your problems. Who will deal with the issue? Who will solve the problem? Who is accountable? Every problem is a leadership problem. Take charge. Forge forward. Rally the team.  That problem that concerns you belongs to you.  -- doug smith

The Challenge of Common Sense

  Have you ever wondered where all the common sense went?  What we often take for granted as easy to grasp knowledge goes unacknowledged by all too many people. What once was common has become uncommon: courtesy, flexibility, resilience, determination, perseverance...if these traits were ever common they have slipped into rare supply. Or have they? It depends on what you're looking for. It depends on what you are modeling. Wouldn't common sense be hardest to find by those who aren't practicing common sense? It makes me wonder. It also matters how we define common sense. Just because it feels right to me doesn't mean that it makes any sense to you. Our perspective does still matter. Common sense is easily confused with common bias. We see things the way we see things because that's the way we see things. That both makes no sense at all and yet defines sense-making. Or does it? What to do with all that?  Be careful about what you expect, because you'll get a lot o

Integrity First

What is it like to work for a leader who lacks integrity? Sadly, you probably already know. A leader who tells lies, who cuts corners on promises, who cheats to get ahead, who stacks the score against anyone else...the ways are endless and the impact immeasurable. It's all unnecessary. Start with integrity. Set high standards and keep them. Show the world that honesty works, and it will. A leader without integrity is deceiving, not leading. Start with integrity. -- doug smith

On Edge

The extreme of one thing is the introduction to something else. It might be better. It might be radically opposite. It will be a clear reaction. There is opportunity on the edges, as well as danger. How far is too far? -- doug smith

You Define Success

  Henry the Cat, photo by Judi Madigan It's tremendously liberating to realize that the only person who can define success for you is you. Not advertising. Not guidance counselors. Not consultants. Not bosses. You. You define success, and you also define failure. Don't let anyone define failure for you.  If you didn't achieve your goal, maybe you aren't done. Maybe your goal changed. Maybe part-way is far enough. You decide. I'm not saying to take it easy on yourself (although that's not altogether bad, either) but rather don't let others be too hard on you. You decide. You define success. Keep going until you get there. -- doug smith

You Might Need Both

  Where does YOUR motivation come from? It's worth checking in on that occasionally. When your motivation is energized, you can do so much more. When you really want what you're working on, you work that much harder. Maybe it's the goal. A great goal can energize you.  Maybe it's the motivation: getting you going to FIND and then achieve a great goal.  The goal can bring the motivation and the motivation can bring the goal -- you might need both. Why not get both going right about now? -- doug smith

Fragile Judgment

  When is a good time to judge? More often than not, NOW is NOT the time to judge. People do not crave or request judgment. They can benefit from feedback, but judgment leaves most people cold. Every judgment is a brick in a wall that has no foundation. It separates. It falls. It builds more walls. Judgment seems firm and strong, but more often than not it is fragile. Stay curious instead. -- doug smith

What Gets Appreciated Gets Repeated

  I say this a lot: what gets appreciated gets repeated. Have you ever done someone a favor only to have them forget all about it?  Have you ever felt under-appreciated? Many people do now, all over. Neglected, disrespected, unconnected. Yuck. High performance leaders grab every possible opportunity to thank someone for something great that they did. You can't do too much of this.  High performance leaders take the time to appreciate a goal achieved -- and the person who achieved that goal! -- doug smith Personal Note: The car pictured in this meme is a Ford Mustang that I once rented for a few days on a business trip. It was one of those "take any car you like in the row" deals and I very much liked the Mustang. A convertible! It wasn't mine to keep. It wasn't mine for long. But, I sure did appreciate it while we were together.  Your team members are a bit like that -- they aren't yours to keep and in many cases they aren't yours for long but while you ar

Excellence Matters

  Are you good at your job? Have you spent the time, invested in the training, and practiced the necessary skills so that you deliver excellence on the job? It's hard work. There's no easy shortcut. And, it makes all the difference in the world. Do you want to really love your job? Then, get good at it! -- doug smith

What are you missing?

  Leaders make mistakes. Oh wow, do they make mistakes. At question is, are we learning from those mistakes? Can we manage our emotions? Do we redirect our misdirection? Do we serve instead of pander? Leadership is hard. That's why people are asking you to be in charge. Learning constantly will make it better, but it will always be hard. When it stops being hard, ask someone what is it that you're missing -- because you are definitely missing something. -- doug smith


I like this quote about coaching, and I think it applies to much more than coaching. Maybe, just maybe, everything. Where does confidence come from? Well, you might be able to drum it up or talk yourself into it but that's shallow and not so resilient. True confidence comes form competence: knowing you can do what you say you will do, and doing it. It's reliability. It's sincerity. It's thousands of hours of practices and service. Phil Jackson had a lot of success in his career. His teams oozed confidence. And you know what? They were also really, really good. Build that confidence. Develop that competence. Learn constantly, every day. -- doug smith

Go Big, Go Bold

Is your big goal bold enough? Does it make you sweat? Does it make you nervous? Does it make you excited to think of the possibilities? Here's how I know that it's big: I can't possibly completed it yet until I have worked my way up to it with smaller, incremental goals. Think of it as training. Think of it as development. A bold goal prods action. Go bold! -- doug smith

Let Them Have It

  I say it a lot: "what gets appreciated gets repeated." When people please you, celebrate. When people meet your expectations, celebrate. Let people on your team know when they've done a good job. They're starving for that kind of attention. Let them have it. -- doug smith

Honor Your Org Chart

  Sometimes a manager, with every good intention, will skip around the supervisor who reports to them and provide direction to a team member. The supervisor is cut out of the equation.  It's fast. It sometimes works. It always has side-effects. The main side-effect is that the next time that same team member has an issue or a problem, they will go around their supervisor and directly to the manager. Before you know it, the manager is supervising the employee and the supervisor is cut out. That's not what you want. That's not what the supervisor wants. And, that's not good for your team. I know that in today's world there are fewer levels of leadership. It makes sense that people should be able to talk, at any time, to anyone in the organization. Keep your doors open -- just remember, you probably don't want a parade of people two levels down marching thru. -- doug smith

Design your environment

  Your work environment has probably changed in the past two years. Mine certainly has. Have you used those changes as opportunities to make your work environment more conducive to the work you want to do? Do you have things arranged in ways that help you think, help you create, help you achieve your goals? You will benefit by designing an environment that supports your goals. notepad...? It's up to you, just like everything else. -- doug smith

Always Recruiting

In lean staff times, in fully staffed times, in hard-to-find-the-talent times, we need to keep recruiting. Even when you don't have a hiring requisition, or an open position. Top talent doesn't always show up on schedule. Sometimes it peaks in thru the window. High performance leaders are always recruiting. Your next MVP is out there somewhere. Keep recruiting. Keep recruiting by: creating an environment where people want to work developing your people, no matter what stage of their career building diverse teams with all kinds of people saying positive things to people about your team smiling when you are asked about your team and about your goals Keep recruiting. -- doug smith

Look Inside

When turn-over is high, find out why. It's easy to blame the economy, and maybe that does have something to do with it. It is also easy to blame other exterior causes. If you can't fix those exterior causes, what can you do? Look inside. Turn-over means that someone who works FOR you would prefer to do something else. Turn-over means that the team has tension you're not addressing. People need to work someplace, but if they choose NOT to work for you, the thing you can change is you. Listen. Talk about it. Connect with everyone on your team more often. Fix processes. Pay fairly. There are so many things that you can do, and you do have to DO them. When turn-over is high, find out why -- and fix it. -- doug smith    

Is It Micromanagement?

Do you like to be micromanaged? I don't, and I don't know anyone who does like to be micromanaged. But I've learned that some people DO need it. Let's face it - some people will probably not get their work done on their own unless they are closely supervised. That doesn't make them bad people, but it does mean that they need supervision. They need attention. They need to be managed. It's not micromanagement if they won't get it done without your attention to detail. Help them help you: give them the management that they need. -- doug smith