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Showing posts from May, 2023

Keeping Score

You don't need to keep score, but remember: someone is. Someone is paying attention to the way you handle feedback. Someone is monitoring your voice tones when you talk with team members. Someone is watching to see how you react when you are challenged. People, and especially leaders, are constantly evaluated. Will you be a perfect 10? Will you be a mixed up combination of varying opinions? Will you consistently treat people with the kind of respect and attentiveness that makes scoring irrelevant? High performance leaders relax on the scoring and focus on centering. Your self, your team, and some part of the world - all more centered, focused, balanced, and alive. (Oh, and don't worry -- it takes a lifetime to get there...) -- doug smith

Taking Command

Do even facilitative, participative leaders need to take command sometimes? However reluctantly, the answer is yes. But, reluctance is not necessary (or helpful) under the circumstances that require a strong leader to take command. In a crisis, under the duress of a situation hindering collaboration, when there is no time to the right situation, the leader simply must take command. How? With respect. With dignity. With urgency. We do not rip away the authority and influence of the group and we do not lock ourselves into a pattern of command-and-control as philosophy in the future. Here's what we can do to make sure that our sudden command is accepted, respected, and achieved: Plant the seed - even in quiet times, even when things are going smoothly and the team can make group decisions, high performance leaders let the team know what types of incidences will cause for command. Rely on an ally - the best leaders are still not perfect. Build relationships with a few trust

Insulting the Leader

We live in wild, wide-open times. People feel confident and entitled to say whatever they want, whenever they want, about whoever they want. Freedom of speech is wonderful, isn't it? Don't we value candor and honesty? Of course. And, we also value respect, decency, dignity, and truthfulness. When as leaders we are insulted should it be cause for alarm? We don't need to take insults personally, but we do need to take them seriously.  How we respond will set the tone. The ways that we react will set an example for everyone on our team (and many people off of our team) for leadership behavior. Can we remain professional, respectful, truthful? Can we manage our emotions? If the insult is true, that is valuable feedback. If the insult is false, there's no reason to get upset. High performance leaders remain leaders even when that leadership is disparaged.  -- doug smith  

Be Careful With That Power

Do you ever let your power go to your head?  Here's a sure sign that the answer is yes: if under pressure you invoke your job title. "Well, I'm the boss and here's what you need to do." Yes, it is sometimes necessary to invoke authority, but it always comes with side-effects. One of those side-effects is the habit of relying on that authority. It's fast, but builds shallow relationships. It's expedient, but what about those times that you are wrong? It's faster to force your views and authority on someone but sure to create resistance. What is better? It's better to pause, talk it through, find the mutually shared value, and focus on collaboration, rather than agitation. You'll enjoy the good results much, much longer. -- doug smith

Meet In The Middle?

Should we meet in the middle? When we find ourselves locked in a disagreement that won't resolve, stuck inside a problem that we cannot solve, let's take a step back. If we keep pulling apart, where does that take us? If we step a bit closer to each other, where does that take us? When our differences are poles apart perhaps we need to explore common ground in the center. -- doug smith  

Yes, It Is...

Think for a moment about a time when you did your best work. Think about a time when you found a flow, when time did not matter, when things seemed in harmony and when you did your best work. Wasn't that great?  You are not done. You are just getting started. Your best work is still ahead of you. You might need to get some bad work out of the way first, but hang in there. Seriously. Your best work is still ahead of you. -- doug smith  

On Silence

Sometimes I talk too much. Have you ever said anything that you regret? If you're telling the truth, I'm going to guess "yes." Leaders do that sometimes. And, while we owe it to our teams to speak up and express ourselves clearly, there are times when silence is better. Silence is better when the words you are about to speak are better spoken by someone else. Silence is better when the opportunity is for the team to learn from their own words and actions. Silence is better when the words we are about to say are in anger. How can we know the difference? When do we need to speak up and when do we need to shut up? Try this: pause for three seconds and at least one deep breath (more if you can.) Your answer may appear in that silence. -- doug smith

Should We Honor The Past?

There is a lot about the past that should make us uncomfortable. As long as people have been around we have found ways to cause problems and land in conflict. As leaders, it is our job to navigate our teams and organizations to better places. We desire and deserve better expectations and superior results. In the process we must do what we can to fix the errors of the past. That does not mean we must burn it to the ground. That does not mean that we must disrespect all that came before. It is possible to honor the parts of the past we grew from, while growing in ways that make the present and the future much better. Honor the past. And, then move ahead. -- doug smith  

Set Goals for Each Day

How often do you set goals? While goals do come in all sizes, from task level to life-changing, I set a few goals each day. Honestly, most ARE task level: "follow-up with Kellie..." "Send syllabus to Holly..." "Invoice client XYZ by 3:30..."  but they are still goals. Finding the right number (fifty is too many!) and prioritizing the order is and essential part of planning and it all starts with setting goals. Write it all down, and defer what does not matter. Focus on what you care about now. Setting goals for each day keeps your days productive. Even if (especially if!) one of those goals is "take a walk and rest..." -- doug smith

On the Usefulness of Organization

What if I had said "hierarchy" instead of "organization?" Would you have a different reaction. Like many people, I have spent considerable time fighting hierarchy. It is often necessary to do away with the old because it just doesn't work anymore. It always feels like the structure is there to slow you down, to prevent you from acting as fast as it feels you need to act. Is that always true?  Although we rebel against hierarchy, without clear and structured organization we fall apart, bit by bit. Chaos doesn't need a catalyst to cause catastrophic results.  It may (often!) be better to pause. Breathe. Ponder. Test. Ask. While many a manager has stood in my way during ambitious projects -- guess what? The times that they were right to slow the project down in order to "get it right" and in order to weigh all of the side-effects made profound differences in the effort.  Move quickly, yes, but not so quickly that you break what you'd considered un

What if?

It is a recurring theme: something needs to be done, and yet isn't getting done. Or, there is an urgent problem to be solved, and no one is solving it. When the cause is important a leader will emerge.  What if that leader is you? -- doug smith  

Take Charge

When do you have to get off of the sidelines and take charge? When there is an urgent problem, and no one is willing to step up? When you care about the outcome, and the outlook is grim? When your instincts tell you to move forward? Yes, yes, and yes. Sometimes we have to lead because no one else will. -- doug smith

Basic Respect

How important is trust in a team? When I ask leaders this question the usual answer is "It's everything. Without trust the team falls apart." I'd agree. Your team members must trust you as the leader to act with their interests in mind as well as the interests of the organization and of your customers. And you as the leader must be able to trust team members to perform in ways that serve the mission, help your customers, and help each other. I'd also add that trust starts with respect. Where does respect start? This is not a chicken-or-egg question. The answer is clear: respect starts with the leader. When you respect your team members, they witness how important that is, how useful it feels, and how necessary it remains. Show respect, receive respect -- in that order. It does not work in reverse. -- doug smith

It Could Be You

Have you ever sat thru a meeting or event and wondered, "Who's in charge of this mess?" Do you encounter broken processes that get in the way of success and that interfere with customer or team member happiness? This can be a challenge, but it is also a choice:  If you look around and wonder "who is in charge of fixing this mess?" it could be you. It probably is you.  -- doug smith  

Yes, or No

It's that simple: yes, or no. I've heard many leaders bemoan the trouble it takes to get a lazy worker to work. If that's really the problem, the possibilities but be fewer (and more immediate) than you think. A poor performer can be redirected, re-skilled, and learn to improve. Some of the best performers on teams that I have worked with struggled at times, but turned it around because they applied themselves to the mission, to the vision, and to their goals. Heck, I've struggle as well and in some cases without the valuable feedback and coaching that was provided I probably would have crashed and burned. But someone who simply refuses to perform thru laziness simply must go. Yes, or no -- are they willing to work, or no? As someone in one of my workshops once said, "sometimes you have to help them prosper -- some place else." -- doug smith  

Where Does It Start?

Leaders encounter a lot of resistance. You can probably think of at least three examples in your own experience of dealing with people disagreeing with you. It probably made your job tougher. Conflict isn't always bad, but it is usually uncomfortable. Even handled well, it takes time.  What can we do to prevent the kind of resistance that wastes time?  We can disagree about details and still get along if we agree on our values. But if we disagree about our values then our details can't be trusted. To build momentum, agreement, and effectiveness, I think that it starts with shared values.  What do you think? -- doug smith

Recognizing Mistakes

How long does it take you to recognize when you've made a mistake? It varies. That time as a child when I put my little hand on a hot stove, I knew immediately that was a mistake. But that time that I lost weeks of work and sleep over a broken relationship, that took awhile to figure out. It's even possible to rationalize a mistake.  It's as if a thief says "I deserve this because I've had a hard life" or a counselor says to themselves "of course it's fine for me to love that client in that possibly inappropriate way because they do love me don't they?" That's dangerous territory for a leader. We might even need other people to let us know when we get close to the margins so we can pull back to safety. We might need hedges around our walls around our moats to keep us safe. And unless we recognize a mistake, we won't learn from it.  It's hard to correct mistakes, and harder still if we keep defending them. -- doug smith  

Bad Rules?

What should we do with bad rules? If you added up all of the rules you are subject to during your life they would likely fill a three-hundred page book (and that's NOT counting the Apple User Agreement...) If we distilled all of those rules down to the really necessary ones, you could fit them all on one page. But instead, we face volumes and volumes of rules written by other people who have only THEIR interests in mind, who do not consult us on our preferences, and who expect to enforce those rules as if they were the Ten Commandments. What do you think of that? The other day an organization that was interested in influencing me listed a set of rules so arcane, so arduous, and so mean that I couldn't even READ them all (without gagging) much less agree to them. Where does that arrogance come from? What makes people think that other people will adhere to such one-sided rules? Doesn't that make it harder to defend the rules that DO make sense? If we confront people with enou

Get Stuff Done

Leaders get stuff done through other people. We establish visions, follow our mission, and set goals. Goals are a way to remind ourself to get stuff done, but it's the work that you do that gets stuff done. Do the work. -- doug smith  

The Wisdom of the Past

Change, change, change. We break things apart. We tear down walls and build new ones. We erase boundaries and discover traps underneath. Change is hard enough, and so we make it fast. We accelerate. Go, go, go! Behind us, structures and visions and experiences so easily forgotten that they fail to lead us on. Do we dare forget? Would we be better served to honor what went before as we forge our way ahead? Remember, that the wisdom of the past may be filled with flaws, but there's also much relevant truth. Study what is true, because it matters to you. -- doug smith  

Will They Follow You?

What if you declared yourself a leader but nobody followed you? It's not automatic. Even when it is your job title, in the end people decide whether or not they will follow you. I've done my best whenever I'm in a leadership position to create an environment of shared leadership. I'd rather facilitate success than drag everyone there. Still, not everyone responds the way you'd expect. Ever have someone resist following you? Ever have someone act in an insubordinate way publicly? Even escalating the energy might not work if they refuse to follow. It is a fair question to ask someone if they will follow you.  They could say "no" and if they do, maybe one of you is in the right place -- or maybe you've just got some more influencing and sharing to do. But, they can't say "no" forever, can they?  Check the rest of the team. Are you, as a team, moving forward the way you planned? Are you achieving your goals? Are you leading, in whatever your

Saying it best by listening

Think about the best communicator you know. Not someone famous (unless you know them) but rather someone you interact with.  Have you noticed their communication skills get better over time? (If they didn't, you might have a different view on them...) No doubt they work on it and keep developing those communication skills. There's always something to learn. We are never finished developing our communication skills. I know I've got a lot of learning to do when it comes to communication. How about you?  Think again about that great communicator you know. Could it be the some of the times you felt they were the best at communicating that it had very little to do with what they said, but more with what they didn't say? Could it be that the way they listen says more than they could say any other way? Saying it best by listening is always welcome. I'm going to try to do that more often. How about you? -- doug smith

First, Respect

Is there something important that you need to say to someone you're not getting along with at the moment? Are you reporting a problem to people in your organization? Is that conversation difficult, controversial, or problematic? Say it with respect and kindness or keep it to yourself. -- doug smith