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Showing posts from March, 2023

Problem After Problem

  As soon as I solve every problem I can think of I think of more problems. That's not a bad thing, but it is a thing. We live with an endless supply of problems. All the more reason to keep busy solving them. -- doug smith

Start With a Question

As a recovering know-it-all I have stopped pretending that I know everything. No one does, so how could I know everything? But, there's still an endless thirst to learn everything, to gather as much knowledge as I can and put it to use and then share it.  That comes with lots of reading, tons of research, and constant education. And -- best of all -- with lots of questions. Every useful answer started as a brilliant question. Start with a question, and maybe the knowledge will flow. And if it doesn't --- ask a better question! -- doug smith Note: If you've been in any of my events you probably know that I learned to ask a better question from one of my mentors, Andrew Oxley. His exact quote is "if you don't like the answer to a question -- ask a better question." Thanks again, Andrew!

Flexible Perspective

Sometimes a flexible perspective comes in handy. It is a convenient way to reduce stress. For example, do you know anyone who drives you crazy? Someone who annoys you and creates tension in your life? Most of us do. Here's a little shift in flexible perspective: I like to think of the people who drive me crazy as the people who spark more learning. Since I'm all about learning, anything that sparks more learning must have value. It might not be easy learning, but still worth the experience. What do you think? -- doug smith

Find the Connection

Have you ever been at a loss for words? Doesn't it always happen at an inconvenient time? I'm sure it doesn't happen to every one but for some of us, under pressure, forced to say something, we can't say anything at all. It's like an animal that freezes at the sign of danger -- maybe if we sit very still the awkwardness will go away. It won't go away on its own. But, you know what does help? Connection.  I discovered that the awkward feeling gives me a choice -- I can detach completely (or try to) which leads to even more tension, or I can see that feeling as a kind of connection. Someone cares enough to want a response. That is no small thing. That is, in fact, a wonderful thing. We're connected! Once I see the connection, communicating becomes much easier because it is suddenly less threatening.  Try it. I think you'll like it. The next time (and thereafter) when you feel that awkward silence controlling you because of uncertainty or nervousness just b

Why Punish Each Other?

Has anyone ever given you the "cold shoulder" by refusing to talk to you? They know you're there, they avoid you, they simply stop communicating...How did that feel? It feels bad. Maybe we've all done it at one time or another, suddenly becoming uncommunicative. In some relationships it can last for years, slowly drifting apart until there's nothing left in common. It doesn't have to be that way. As awkward as it feels, talk about it. Get the issues on the table. Chances are that neither one of you are completely right or completely wrong. Forgive the other person so that you can forgive yourself -- because until that happens there will always be a lingering hurt. Refusing to talk feels like a harsh punishment.  It feels like fighting, when understanding would be better for all concerned. Talk about it. -- doug smith

Respect and Kindness

Communicating effectively includes talking about the tough stuff. We might even appear confrontational when we oppose with strength and courage. We can disagree and keep talking. As long as we listen and keep an open mind, we can influence best when we are open to being influenced. Part of that is speaking, and listening, with respect and kindness. Creating, and preserving a sense of dignity.  When we cana talk about it with respect and kindness we can talk about anything. Seems like a good place to start. -- doug smith  

Trust the Truth

It's hard to escape it: there are lies everywhere. Behind every lie is a liar, someone who knows that they are deceiving people. The lies might be obvious. They might even rationalize the lies into harmless ways around the truth.  There is no way around the truth. The only way to the truth is telling the truth. It's tempting to rationalize our own reactions to lies. After all, they lied first so what's the harm in twisting the truth just a little for a good cause. No. You can't stop a liar from lying, but you don't have to play a liar's game. High performance leaders with integrity tell the truth. -- doug smith

Quick Presentation Advice

Have you ever seen a presentation that was all slides and not much presentation? You know all the signs: fonts too small, too many words, unrelated charts, busy, busy, busy. People won't remember your slides. They'll remember you. Especially when your presentation involves them -- the audience. Make it for and about the audience and then it won't even matter if your slides work. -- doug smith  

Keep Talking

Some of the best conversations I have ever been part of started a bit on the excited side. Well, to be honest, they might have been way over the side and into stormy territory. Elevated emotions and loud tones of voice. That is not my preference. I like calm. I like quiet. But, more than that I like understanding. I like to understand the people I talk with and I love it when they understand me. Sometimes that starts and ends calmly and sometimes that includes a little spice. Keep talking.  That's what I've learned. When it feels hard to say, keep talking. When you're so excited that you can hardly keep the words moving forward, keep talking. When the wrong words emerge and you instantly regret it, keep talking. Breathe. Smile (when you can!) and keep talking. Pause generously to listen. Listen to slow your talking down and truly hear what else is being said. Let it season you, inform you, calm you. Listen, and then talk. If you can't talk calmly, keep talking until you

Appreciate Your Team

While we are each different, we all share many things in common. One thing your team members do share in common is the need to be appreciated. No one wants to feel taken for granted. It doesn't cost a thing to say "thank you" once in a while and it adds so much positivity that we should probably do it more often. We all want to be recognized and appreciated. As leaders, we are in a position to do more of that, so why not start today? -- doug smith P.S. Thanks for reading this! 

Those Annoying Opportunities

Sometimes people can get on your nerves. Interrupting, ignoring, disagreeing, even laughing at the wrong time can feel like an intended insult. Taking that kind of interaction as an insult, though, will not improve the quality of the interaction.  I like to think of the people who drive me crazy as the people who spark more learning.  It might not be the lesson they want to teach me that I learn, but there is certainly something there worth learning. If we missed all learning that wasn't fun we'd miss a whole lot of learning.  Those annoying learning opportunities are sometimes exactly what we need. -- doug smith ]

Courage to Speak

There have been times when I wanted to say something because I thought that it was important and yet didn't say it. I learned that avoiding a difficult conversation usually leads to even more difficulties. Keeping a problem to yourself is not a great strategy. The words won't be perfect. We might sweat when we say them. Disagreement could rise. That's fine. If it is important to you, say it. Sometimes it's less about what you say and more about your willingness to say it. If it takes courage to speak, you should probably speak. -- doug smith  

Test True

How often is your truth tested? How often do people check to make sure that everything you've communicated to them is true? When it comes to your team, the answer is every day. High performance leaders can not stand to slip and deceive anyone on the team because it is sure to be caught. Maybe today, maybe tomorrow, maybe some time down the road, but it will surely be caught and when it is, the team becomes a bit less effective Every day your truth is tested so you might as well make it true. If you're going to be tested, you might as well test true.  -- doug smith  

Word Power

If you've ever had a boss say something mean to you, it's likely that you still remember it vividly. You probably won't ever forget it. Leaders do need to provide feedback and much of that feedback may be constructive -- coaching involves helping others improve their skills in order to achieve their goals -- but that constructive feedback can, and should, be delivered in a positive, dignified way. Not mean. Not nasty. Not insulting. Words meant to hurt are better left unsaid. -- doug smith

Talk About It Because...

You can't fix everything by talking about it but you can't fix anything unless you do. Talk about it. Sometimes it will seem rough. There may be deep feelings involved. The words may come slowly. Maybe even the wrong words will come. It is a challenge. Talk about it anyway. What unresolved issue do you need to talk about?  -- doug smith

Better Still

I don't like rejection, yet it's a part of life. I don't like it when people don't support a project that I'm working on, and still there are usually people who don't see the value in a new change. How about you? We could take that personally and stop doing the thing that matters so much to us -- or we could do something else. We could improve that thing. We could make that thing shine. We could make that thing irresistible. We could use that feedback to find new ways to achieve our goal.  "They" as we so often like to call "them" don't know what's best for you -- and still they can be seriously helpful.  When they tear down your plans, build something better.  Won't that feel great? -- doug smith

Be Amazing

Circumstances influence how we act. While we all do have limitations, we can all also exceed and overcome many of those limitations. To be honest, we can all be amazing when we need to be. Whatever is going on, that capacity, that ability awaits. Push that button. Ignite that fire. Step on the gas. We can be amazing when we don't have any other choice. Remove the other choices because they are not for you. Instead: be amazing! -- doug smith    

Why We Need Another Opinion

Do you remember your last wrong decision? It probably felt right at the time. Surely, the logic that you used was precise and strong. But, still it didn't turn out the way that you'd prefer. Leaders benefit from multiple opinions and varied views. We can get so locked into a decision that we forget to truly test it. Are we getting carried away? Have we forgotten about hidden bias? Is it just too emotional a reaction to the situation? The trouble with a gut reaction is that it often eventually makes you sick. Instincts often stink. We need reminders, we need calibrators, we need alternatives. Our own memories are so flawed that they are hardly trustworthy. Test those assumptions, validate those memories, get the help that you need. -- doug smith

Help Your Team Grow

Are you helping your team grow? Not in size, although that can be useful. Growth in terms of ability, skill, motivation, traction, change, endurance, happiness...are you building those components in your team? If you are the right leader for your team you'll help them grow.  Otherwise, they'll find someone who does. -- doug smith  

What Comes First?

High performance leaders know that any initiative takes both logic and emotion, but which comes first? Which will get you moving, and which will keep you on course? Knowing that you can't live without either one, it's useful to organize the team in ways that optimize your chances of success. Logic usually waits for emotions to express themselves before anyone cares about logic.  Tune up your team's emotions, or the logic will fall flat.  -- doug smith


Leadership is a climb. To make that climb, sometimes we need to clear the path. Sometimes, we need to build the bridge. Always, we need to work well with others. When resistance gets in the way of a noble cause, high performance leaders push on. They act, they show resolve, they mobilize with unrelenting energy. That takes guts. That takes courage. Courage may not always provide answers but it certainly does empower them. Get the answers you need, but by all means lead. -- doug smith  

Agree First

When it comes to problem solving, when it comes to change, when it comes to leadership -- agreement is what propels you forward. Reach agreement on the motivation for your initiative and the rest is scalable details. -- doug smith

Expand Your Thinking

I get stuck on an idea and the more I think about it, the more I like that idea. Is that the best strategy? Not as an exclusive approach to decision thinking because what if that idea is flawed? It's better to get some more thinkers in the mix. A little disagreement can test an idea before the idea has a chance to test you. Leaders need diverse thinkers to help them expand their limited perception. When we're wrong we don't even know it unless someone else opens our mind. Keep that mind open. That next idea might be much better. -- doug smith  

What's the Pay?

No one works for nothing -- even (especially) in a not-for-profit organization. Unless there is some kind of reward, even the most noble seeming work can get tedious in a hurry. If you are leading volunteers, what's the reward that they can expect? There are many possibilities, but you won't find them unless you search. Possible rewards include: Increased status Public thanks Recognition Sincere gratitude Forgiveness Promotional opportunities Smiles Time spent without demands Flexibility Listening As leaders, it's worth asking "what's the pay?" because those who are "working for nothing" are not. -- doug smith

Ask First

High performance leaders ask many questions before giving any answers. When in doubt, ask first. -- doug smith  

Practice Builds Character

Short and to the point: practice builds character. Experiencing imperfection, enduring failure, trying and trying again -- there is no other way to acquire that massive benefit other than practice. Practice your skills. Practice your discipline. Practice your changes. As we practice it sharpens and strengthens us as long as we respond to the results we generate with openness and willingness to change.  Not there yet? Don't give up -- practice. Practice builds character and any success worth achieving relies on character to endure. -- doug smith