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Showing posts from April, 2023

Asking the Right Questions

"Questions are taken for granted rather than given a starring role in human drama. Yet all my teaching and consulting experience has taught me that what builds a relationship, what solves problems, what moves things forward is asking the right questions." -- Dr. Edgar H. Schein, Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling Retrieved 29 April 2023 from:  

It's a Job!

Jobs are a balance of learning and repetition. We forge new ground and we walk on well-worn territory. The routine wears us down, even when it's necessary.  High performance leaders show the value of a well practiced, skillfully executed job routine. Discipline in work comes from the extra effort of pushing thru when the task is due. Maybe you did it before, maybe you'll do it again -- give it all you've got right now. Someone is watching. -- doug smith 

Finding Deeper Conversations

We talk at the surface level (when we do talk!) most of the time. The good stuff, the material and the feelings and the knowledge that can help us the most is deeper. Baring our souls. Opening our hearts. Exercising our minds. Why don't we do more of that? As leaders, we should be experts at facilitating deeper conversations. We should create the space for people to feel safe, open, and free to say what they think and feel. We may not agree with them, and given enough time to think and feel openly, they might not even feel that way, either. When we take the time to express, listen, and process, then can get to a deeper place surrounded by better results. Taking a conversation deeper may feel risky but that's where the gold is. Deeper! -- doug smith

Your Inner Peace

Do other people upset your inner peace? Do you ever find yourself getting emotional over something someone said, or did? Oh, have I ever done that! So many times! It's not inevitable though, and as leaders we do well to get our emotions under control. We do control our emotions. It may not feel that way, because emotions are extremely strong. We can tame them, we can control them, we can manage our emotions. In a world where emotionally intelligent leaders are needed more than ever, gaining that sense of inner peace is essential. Taking a deep breath. Reflecting on what we've learned. Meditating. Praying. Expressing gratitude. Building social equity by serving with kindness and compassion. The work is long and steady and -- strictly optional.  Will you take the option?  Develop your emotional core of strength, focus, and centeredness and it will serve you (and the people you serve) well. Your inner peace belongs to you.  -- doug smith  

Help that Returns

How much time do you spend solving problems? Leaders who I have talked with say they spend a lot of time solving problems. The ones who seem to actually SOLVE most of those problems say that many of those problems belong to someone else -- they are simply helping. We can't help everyone solve their problems but we can probably help a lot more people than we do. Helping someone else solve their problem can likely lead to you solving your own. How does that happen? We learn by solving problems. New techniques, new tools get grown and sown into our repertoire of material. We become more adept. Also, by helping other people, those same people become much likely to help you when you needed. And hey, it also feels nice. Give some help, and watch gleefully when it returns. -- doug smith  

Clarity and Creativity

Is it possible to be too creative? Possible or not, many people fear that. They back away from radical innovation because it's scary. How can you know? How can you keep your creative juices in proportion to the juice available? How much is too much? More often than not, too much is not the issue. By holding back, by stepping fearfully, we are much more likely to settle for far too little. That's not for you, is it? That's not for me! And, yet, I don't want to over-do it, either! Yikes, what are we to do to create and maintain enough balance so that we have the creative energy to test the unknown without jumping off a cliff? It takes clarity. Clarity around a vision. Clarity around solid values. Clarity around current priorities.  Clarity gives us the guardrails we need to know how much is too much. Touch on that clarity. Develop that clarity. Rely on that clarity and fear diminishes.  Creativity balanced with clarity bridges the possible and impossible.  There may not b

New Tools

Do you ever catch yourself relying on old tools? We've all got those tools that just seem to fit comfortably into situations that we feel the need to fix. Stock quotes, favorite lines, basic interventions, templates left from some long ago project... It's not that they won't work (sometimes they do!) or that we should abandon them forever. Instead, it's a matter of branching out, dancing faster, jumping into new waves of motion. Learn how to use new tools, give the old ones a rest, and see how much more useful your whole set of tools becomes.  I'll try that -- how about you? -- doug smith


Solving problems can be challenging, especially when we're not even sure of what we want. How can you know what the solution is supposed to look like when you only focus on the pain of the problem? Get past the pain. Get past the problem. Knowing what you want from a solution is the first step in getting it. Set a clear, honest, noble goal and the rest gets very much easier. -- doug smith

Your Truth Now...

Do you know anyone who has every bit of the absolute truth? Nothing can ever convince that type of person that they could be wrong. It could be because they know for sure that part of it IS true.  But do they really? I'm not saying that all truth is relative (although certainly SOME is...) But, unless we keep an open mind and stay curious, how will we ever know, how will we ever grow? Tell me the truth, just don't pretend you know all of it. -- doug smith  

Powerful Curiosity

If you've attended any of my events on communication or leadership, you know that I believe that curiosity is powerful. It is more powerful than many alternatives. Curiosity is more powerful than rhetoric, dogma, or unquestioned truth. Curiosity is more powerful than judgement, or data, or drama.  Stay curious, and see how powerful it is! -- doug smith  

Note to Self #201

Any time I'm tempted to judge I want to reach for love instead. It's better for others, and also better for me. -- doug smith

Creativity and Discipline

Creativity and discipline are not mutually exclusive, they are mutually dependent. To rely on both, develop both -- creativity to light the fire and discipline to keep it lit. --  doug smith  

Find Your Way

Have you ever had one of those days when you just couldn't find your mojo? You know what I mean? That flow, that creative spark, that mojo that lights you up and helps you find your way to the end of a project? I'm a huge fan of creativity because it helps me in times like that. Rather than worry if what I'm working on is the "best thing ever" or maybe just an incomplete mess, getting started just takes getting started. Get it going and then fix it in the mix. Maybe it comes from working in movies when the most common phrase is "back to one" meaning try again, that just didn't work -- or try again, maybe we can get it better. We can always get it better, but we've got to get it started first. Maybe it comes from being a musician and knowing that it takes tons of practice to get a piece right. I'd love for it to be perfect the first time around, but not only is it never perfect -- it takes many times around. Your flow may take a few times arou

Better Communication Solves Problems

Imagine how many problems we could solve by improving our ability to communicate. Interpersonal problems, organizational problems, team problems, political problems, maybe even scientific problems -- all would be better managed if we communicated more effectively. I'm working on getting better at that. How about you? -- doug smith

Secret Agenda

If you or your team, or anyone on your team has a secret agenda, how is that working for you? In team building, establishing trust is a long effort and easily broken. People are watching you, and others on the team, every step of the way. When we keep secret agendas and try to manipulate people into helping us fulfill those agendas, that trust cracks open. Who is that secret agenda hurting the most?  Some random team member? Some soft-spoken customer? A vendor who is struggling to make their own budget? A regulator? That secret agenda is hurting your team. High performance, centered leaders tell the truth. They set goals that are easy to understand. They honestly detail the vision, mission, and agenda of the team. Lacking that, the team is lacking. -- doug smith

Generate Possibilities

Is your team creative? When you need to solve a problem, does the team create lots of possibilities? Rather than lock in on what is already in motion, what if you found something completely new, completely different? Possibilities open us up. Curiosity gets us closer to what we haven't been able to see before. Answers to deep questions, solutions to problems, resolutions to long-standing conflict, innovative products and services -- all come from opening the door to possibilities.  Create more possibilities, create more success. -- doug smith

Rise on Strength

Nobody is perfect. Especially, leaders who are managing big problems and dealing with difficult situations. That's not an excuse, it's a reality. Insisting on perfection will lead to disappointment. Disqualifying based on imperfection disqualifies all. A bigger question is, "can we tolerate the level of imperfection?" Another better question is "have that leader's shortcomings clouded and neutralized (or even reversed) their strengths?" We must not let our shortcoming devour our strengths.  We're better off rising on our strengths. To do that, we must never let our shortcoming prevail. Rise on clarity, courage, creativity, and compassion.  Rise. -- doug smith

Think About That

Some people think that your mind can change anything and that you can completely determine the outcome of something based on how you think about it. I'm not sure that I'd go that far. How about you? That kind of thinking does not have to be absolute to be powerful, though. I can't think hard enough to make the earth revolve around the moon but that doesn't mean that my thoughts are powerless. If you can change your mind you can change anything. You'll see it differently, experience it differently, and in effect change it. Does that sound contradictory?  "I'll have to think about that..." "Yeah, me, too..." - doug smith  

Situational Ethics

Life is simpler when you follow a clearly prescribed set of ethics and base every decision on it. Or, at least how it feels at first. It's not so simple after all. We are frequently faced with ethical decisions that require either an iron-clad adherence to a principle that will result in an outcome we do not want, or exercising some flexibility in our choice which then risks throwing the entire value out. It is complicated. It requires learning. It requires sophistication not easily developed.  The trouble with unbreakable codes is that they will eventually break you. The trouble with situational ethics is that it might not regard your situation very highly at all. It takes work. It takes clarity, courage, creativity, and compassion in balance to know what is right. And, it takes the patience to realize that after that balance is measured carefully and applied we will still make mistakes. Love first, and step lightly around the rest. -- doug smith  


Some things, no matter what you call them, remain unchanged. Spinning the image or shining the stains won't work when the truth speaks louder than deception. Stealing in the name of game playing or competition is still stealing.  It's simple: do not steal. Not in the name of a cause. Not in the name of a religion. Not in the name of strategy. If you wouldn't want it taken from you, don't take it from anyone else. Do not steal. -- doug smith

Action and Learning

How do you know if that idea is brilliant or not? When faced with plenty of possibilities, how do you decide? Evaluate carefully, narrow the long list down, and then what? Some ideas lead to dead ends. Some notions lead to break-thru. Actions and learning decide.  Act relentlessly and learn constantly until you achieve your goal. -- doug smith