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Showing posts from 2024

You've Got This

The struggle never ends, nor is it meant to. Signs of a struggle offer opportunities to grow. When it's right in front of you it's time to stand tall and muscle up. You have what you need. You know what to do. You've got this. -- doug smith  

Stay Young

It might feel like our youth abandons us, but it's always available within us. Ask questions. Try new things. Meet new people and make new friends. That field of work is also a field of play. Stay young. -- doug smith 

Figure Out Your Mission

Your purpose, your vision, your mission matters. With all of the hard work ahead, make it worth the effort. Figure out your mission and suddenly everything makes sense. -- doug smith  

Release Resistance

  "I don't know..." "What don't you know?" "If any of this makes sense..." "You doubt the merit of the work?" "The work, the mission, the whole thing..." Doubt is natural. It's part of any important mission. Without doubt, how can you be sure? But, doubt can be paralyzing and stop the work. Doubt can be self-fulfilling. If you are sure about your purpose, if you are sure about your mission, there is work to be done. Let doubt spark action instead of resistance.  -- doug smith

Choose Your Story

Have you thought about how many stories you add to your life? We are so interested in understanding the meaning of everything that if we can't easily find the meaning we simply make it up. We tell stories to explain what we believe, even if what we believe has zero evidence or proof. Ordinarily, that's annoying. When dealing with a problem, that's a disaster in motion. Things we do to expand that story include ascribing motives to people we believe are responsible. They include interpreting words and actions as malicious, when maybe they were simply capricious. They include telling tales of woe and victimhood that do not lead to sensible solutions. It's another problem within a problem. But we can choose. Be careful about adding a story to a problem that only makes the problem worse. You don't want to make the problem worse, do you? You want to solve it. If your story is not leading to a positive outcome, maybe just maybe the story is wrong. -- doug smith

Secret Time

There's a secret way to stretch your time. Well, it's not that BIG of a secret, and some people might disagree, but if it works for you, wouldn't you make use of it. Here it is: Fill your time with joy and you find you have more time. More time, better time, easier time, wonderful time. It's just a feeling, of course, because as far as we know we all have equal amounts of time -- from moment to moment. Creating great moments though last and so, tada! you find you have more time. It's worth a try...even if you don't end up with more time, you do end up with more joy. -- doug smith  

Leadership Thru Communication

  We lead the way we communicate. It's hard to tell one from the other. The way you communicate defines your style. The way you communicate determines whether people will be influenced by you or if they will resist you. There isn't any separating the development of leadership from improving communication. You need them both. Think of all of your leadership opportunities: conversations, meetings, presentations, rallies, speeches, huddles, feedback, evaluations...all of it centered on how you communicate. If you want to be a great high performance leader, it starts with effective communication. -- doug smith

Developing Leadership

We are constantly developing leadership -- the work is never done. New challenges, new people, new goals. That includes how we lead and who we develop as current and future leaders. Developing leadership is a constant. What's your plan? -- doug smith 

Break It Down

Sometimes goals get too big to get done. They sound great, we care deeply about them, but then they just stand there staring at us as we stare back. They don't get done. If I want to get a big goal going, I need to break it down into smaller pieces, what Jack Canfield calls "bite-sized pieces." Write down all of the little tasks that it will take to achieve that big goal, and then tackle those little pieces one by one.  You may not finish the goal in one day and you probably don't need to. But by breaking it down into easier tasks you'll create momentum and put yourself on the path to achieving your goal. And isn't that exactly what you want? -- doug smith

Too Much Drama?

Too much drama at work? The answer is almost always "YES!"  Difficult behaviors, difficult people, conflict after conflict can cause us aggravation. What's worse is when drama is piled on top of the conflict, and it almost always is. "There's so wrong!" "She's so difficult!" "He went behind my back!" "This would be a nice place to work if it wasn't for..." You get the idea and you no doubt feel the drama. We are constantly trained to be dramatic to get what we want, to respond when we don't get what we want, or to simply get attention. It's on TV. It's in literature. It's in the movies. It's even on youtube. Drama, drama, everywhere. It's natural that we'd come to think that drama is natural. Even if it is, it is still a choice. Do you want to make something dramatic, or do you want to dial it down? Do you want to remain centered and calm, or do you want to bathe yourself and others in drama?

Adjustable Expectations

  How important are your expectations to you? Have you adjusted them lately? Or, have they been adjusted FOR you? It's important to know what we expect and manage what we expect. Too much, and you'll disappoint yourself. Too little, and you could under-perform. We control our expectations. And, we also adjust those expectations.  Problems have a way of recalibrating our expectations. it could take longer to reach our goal. It might be impossible to reach our goal. Until we solve the problem, our expectations could stall. Life, and work, is filled with unexpected adjustments. What did you expect? -- doug smith

Hope In Responsiveness

Managing what we control is important, even as what we control is less than what we'd like it to be. But, since our thoughts are on the list of what we control, why not control our thoughts in ways that manage our actions, our words, and our emotions? Hope is a choice. We can think about hope in ways that are empowering. Not as some magic formula. More like a guiding direction. We can choose "I have hope for the future" and  "I have hope for the team" We can have hope for the resilience to figure out just enough to keep moving positively. Our hope is less in control and more in responsiveness. We hope knowing that whatever happens, we'll respond. And by exercising the control that we do have, we are much more likely to respond positively. At least,  that's how I feel this morning! -- doug smith  

On The Bright Side

  There are good times and there are bad times. You've had both. What if your best time is still ahead? Your happiest time is always still available.  It's something to look forward to, and something to create. -- doug smith

Which Comes First For You?

Centered leaders must skillfully deal with one paradox after another. Here's another one: Priorities determine time, and time determines priorities. If we don't make time for our priorities, time will decide for us what is most urgent, most pressing, most noisy and we'll end up working on something we did not plan on. But, if we schedule time based on our priorities, the paradox gives way to true prioritization. I didn't make this up -- I'm just working on doing it more consistently. How about you? -- doug smith 

Paradox Number 21

Maybe it's not a paradox. Maybe it just feels counter-intuitive. Still, it seems to be true: To get more done, practice creating times when you get nothing done. Schedule down-town. Focus on not focusing. Let your mind wander and explore. Creative artists know that this works. It might feel disorienting at first, yet it does work. To get more done, sometimes you've got to do less. -- doug smith  

Emotional Additives

We are a bundle of emotions. When we're at work we might try to leave our emotions at home, but they will sneak in. Emotions are powerful. Emotions are influential.  Emotions can cause problems when people over-react, melt-down, freeze-up, or fight. We become so consumed that we over-simplify. Our demands increase, our effectiveness does not. Emotions seldom solve problems. Pay attention, but be careful about serving your emotions (or anyone else's).  -- doug smith  

Accept and Level Up

It's a challenge to constantly strive for improvement. With an ever-raising bar there's no sense of accomplishment because we're waiting for the next improvement. Push, push, push! It may not be a science, but it sure is an art to be able to balance yourself and accept what is while working to level up more. Of course it can improve. Nothing is perfect. We are as leaders all about continuous improvement. Let's just remember to appreciate what we have already earned, what our teams have already accomplished. Imagine better, but appreciate what is. Your happy place is dynamic. -- doug smith  

Healthy Leaders

How many eighty-hour work weeks do you put in? That's not meant to judge, but to ponder. I've put in plenty of eighty and more hour work weeks and while I don't regret any of them I know that they haven't all paid-off proportionately. It's possible to work so hard that you miss what's important. It's a frequent paradox that the longer one works the less productive they become. I've learned to tell myself: Take a break. Relax. Let it all come to you, flow thru you, and go on its merry way -- if only for a little while. Drink water, exercise, meditate, pray, and relax.  Healthy leaders build healthy teams. Take care of yourself. -- doug smith  

In The Moment

Now is the time. My mind does wander, and when it does I lose a sense of being in the moment. Oh, I'm sure the thoughts are important, and flying all over the place looking for the next brilliant idea. Being here right now though is better. Moments that we show up for will belong to us forever. So that they'll be there for us when, you know, we should be in THAT present moment. It's not a perfect science. It's not a perfect world. Some moments DO matter more than others. I'm working to live right here in this moment. How about you? -- doug smith  


Do the people on your team get enough appreciation? Are you sure? No one wants to be taken for granted. We all benefit from recognition and appreciation. Plus, when high performance leaders give out appreciation, they discover that not only does the person who is receiving the appreciation enjoy it, it's also enjoyable for the giver. It's free, and the results are wonderful. Appreciation brings its own reward. -- doug smith

Do You Tell It Better Every time?

Do you share any fish stories? You know the idea, the fish you caught gets bigger every time you tell about it. I do not fish but I'm sure I've told some whopper fish stories.  Even though we cannot perfect the past, we sure do try. Intentionally and unintentionally, details change. We remember things differently. We remember the last time we remembered. The original phenomenon swims in a river that no longer exists. Our story is different every time we tell it. We don't need to change that, but we should definitely be aware of it. -- doug smith P.S. Is today's truth better than yesterday's truth? Let's just not lie about it... 

Moving On

  One of my friends has a favorite expression for when she's ready to stop talking about something -- "Moving on!" It can be frustrating to hear that when you want to keep talking, and yet profoundly useful, too. We could keep getting upset about something we can't (or are unwilling to) change. Or we can move on. Maybe that's true about our mistakes, too. There were too many mistakes in the past to carry them all into the future. Let's move on. -- doug smith

Hard Truths Anyway

There have been times when I was teaching a program called "Communicating With Tact and Diplomacy" when one or more of the participants would tell me "this is my last chance -- HR sent me here to fix me or I'm gone..." How's that for a challenge? Get fixed or get gone. I very often tell people that I can't fix anyone because people are not broken in places I know how to fix. But, that's not a great thing to say to someone who has their working life on the line. It might sound diplomatic, but it is not helpful, and maybe not entirely true. Entirely true? What even does that mean? Isn't something true or NOT? The point is, we do not need to fix anyone in order to help them fix the way they perform. In my classes I do sometimes help people become more diplomatic -- but that is a start, not an end destination. There is something better than diplomacy and that is compassionate truth. It's harder, it takes more time, it's often easily misunders

Remember The Big Goals

It's easy to "major in the minors..." or focus so much on small details that we miss the big goal. I've done it. Chances are that you have, too. Events wash us forward and we get "lost in the trees." Here's what I tell myself when that starts to happen, "Don't let little goals get in the way of big goals." It's another note to self, but you're free to benefit from it, too... -- doug smith  

Can We Be Honest?

This might sound like a paradox, or a riddle, at first. I think of it as a koan.  It can be hard to be honest with yourself but it's the only way to the truth. Like it or not (and sometimes I do not like it) if we are honest with ourselves we can see our tender little fragile assumptions. If we're brutally honest with ourselves we can taste the vinegar in our lies. When we insist on exploring the truth before declaring the truth we have a much better chance of finding the truth. What do you think? -- doug smith


  Leaders, when they are smart, develop their strengths. Wherever you begin, you can always develop more courage, clarity, creativity, and compassion as strengths. However strong you get, you can always get stronger. Strong character recognizes its own imperfection. Humility is a strength, too. -- doug smith

More Than One Outcome...

Have you ever noticed that once you've achieved a goal that you gain more than one outcome? You gain what you set out to achieve, which is wonderful, AND you often gain a deeper, stronger, more collaborative relationship with at least one other person. When it takes more than one person to achieve a goal, you gain that extra closeness with someone that is hard to get any other way. Some goals wouldn't be worth achieving except for the relationships that they build -- and that makes them well worth achieving. -- doug smith

Play Fair

We all know the temptation to cut corners, skirt rules, and dance along the line of cheating. But, whatever it takes, however hard it is, it is best to play fair.  When the truth discovers you, let it be a truth worth sharing. Play fair. It does take extra work. It's easy to find people who do not play fair and who seem to be getting ahead. That's not for you. It's much better to feel the complete satisfaction of leading with integrity. If you game the system you ultimately game yourself. Play fair. -- doug smith  

Clarity Always

  How do you feel about being misunderstood? It makes me frustrated, but I've learned that being frustrated in someone else's inability to understand me has no pay-off. Instead, the opportunity is to clarify how I'm communicating what I want to say. If they didn't get it, I need to try something else. I could say it in a different way, or use a story to illustrate, or identify data that supports the message, or let them tell me first to see what they already know...many ways to clarify and clarify we must. We are so often misunderstood that we must work extra hard to be precisely clear in our meaning. We can always do that, and it's not likely that someone else will do it for you.  Clarify! -- doug smith

Celebrate Progress And..

When was the last time that you were frustrated in trying to learn something? If you can't remember, maybe it's time to learn something new -- something tough and challenging. Truly worthwhile endeavors are often struggles. The satisfaction comes not only in the final result, but also in the progress toward that final result. The best way to avoid a sad let-down once a goal is achieved is to enjoy the journey all the way thru. Celebrate your progress! Not so much that you feel finished, but enough so that you feel able. Celebrate progress, and then keep on progressing. As that beat poet and philosopher Harry X. Tudas once said, "Feel in the groove but continue to improve." -- doug smith

Pass The Learning On

  If it's worth learning, it's worth teaching. If you want to be sure that you've acquired a skill, do your best to teach that skill to someone else. You'll quickly find your gaps. You'll humbly stumble in some of the difficulties. And that will all help you learn while you share the knowledge that you are gaining. If it's worth learning, pass it on. -- doug smith

Prevention: Why Wait?

There is usually more glory (and satisfaction) in solving a problem than there is in doing the hard work ahead of time to prevent the problem in the first place. It means paying attention to risk, rather than dismissing it with some wildly optimistic notion that things will stay steady and true and always work out for you. That would be great, but have you considered the potential problems. Potential problems have a way of turning into actual problems. It takes less energy to prevent a problem than to solve it. Why wait? Fun or not, prevention works. -- doug smith

Collecting Problems?

Does it feel like you're collecting problems? One thing leads to another and before you can resolve one issue another pops up?  It's like being in the middle of a movie when you just keep falling deeper into one hole or trap after another. There is usually more than one solution to any problem. If it feels like you're just collecting problems, try collecting solutions instead. You can't have too many solutions, so be generous with your generating. -- doug smith  

Take a Positive Step

Sometimes it's too much to muster up a big effort. Maybe that's when a little effort gets us going. Even the smallest positive effort has a positive impact. Let's start with that. -- doug smith  

Shifting Perspective

How flexible is your perspective? There is value in seeking a different point of view, especially in setting goals and in solving problems. Any way we ever look at anything is always a limited view. That's a broad (and possibly inaccurate) statement and yet what if it's true? Or, as my alternate perspective might state, what about it is true? Or even, what about it could be true? Sometimes we hold our problems too close to see what's causing them. Shifting the perspective opens up new vistas. That might be all we need to see the best possible solution. -- doug smith  

Assess The Risk

Fast is good, and sometimes dangerous. Easy is preferable, until it isn't. We make trades in a hurry without enough analysis because the convenience seems worth it. Our premise is "how bad could it be?" and maybe, just maybe it could be quite bad.  Be careful about accepting a premise that can later be weaponized. Because, if it can be weaponized, it will be... -- doug smith   

Truth First

A clumsy truth is more noble than an eloquent lie. The lie is so tempting. It feels like it preserves our ego. Instead, it delays the bruise that's bound to appear. Clumsy truths unnerve me sometimes. As Brene' Brown might say, we just need to risk being vulnerable in order to make the better choice, to disclose our truth. Awkward, sure. Embarrassing, maybe. But let's go with the truth first. It's a vital step toward going with the truth always. -- doug smith

It Won't Be Easy

  How often do you avoid difficult conversations? Most people avoid difficult talks a lot, don't you think. I've been known to conduct both ends of a conversation in my head for weeks, and never get around to actually initiating the conversation. Because that's what it takes -- to initiate the conversation. Maybe even to frame it from the standpoint of you don't know HOW it will turn out (so what's the point of rehearsing it?) but for sure you do know that it will not be perfect. A difficult conversation does not need to be perfect. Nothing ever is. Difficult conversations become easier when we don't expect them to be perfect -- or easy. -- doug smith

A Little Bit At A Time

  Do you exercise? We all know that we should, and many of us should exercise more. We should exercise our bodies (those of us blessed with the ability to do so) and we should exercise our minds, too.  The mistake that I used to make was trying to do too much improvement too fast. If I hadn't exercised for a long time, I'd go right for a big day of exercise. All that got me was sore muscles and no new habits. I like the expression "take baby steps." Tackle a little bit at a time. Make incremental improvements. Start small and gradually gain more.  A little bit at a time physically, and also a little bit at a time intellectually. We're designed to get smarter, but we've got to work our muscles. Incremental improvement wins. It works for me. How about you? -- doug smith

Yesterday's Assumptons

  Assumptions get us into so many problems, don't they? We know better, and yet they are hard to resist. "I'm sure they'll get that done on time...I know they agree with me...Of course we're right about this...people will work harder if you pay them more..." On and on, the list of assumptions is long.  Where do those assumptions come from? Most likely, they aren't new. Assumptions are based on what once was true, or what we at least believed to be true. Even if they WERE true in the past, assumptions may no longer be valid. Yesterday's assumptions require inquiry today.  Don Miguel Ruiz has as one of his "Four Agreements" Don't Make Any Assumptions. As noble as that is, and I absolutely love the book "The Four Agreements" I think it is a challenge too big to win in order to not make any assumptions. I like to rephrase it as "Question Your Assumptions." You ARE going to make assumptions. I AM going to make assumptions.

Why Do People Work?

  "It's so hard to find anyone who wants to work these days..." "I know what you mean, they just want to stand around and read their phones." "If you can find them at all..." Is that how it has to be? Is that how it feels? Everyone in awhile even a high performance leader needs a reality check. Maybe you agree, and maybe you don't, but here's a free reality offering for you: People don't want to work for you -- they want to work for fun and profit. Lead them TO that and they'll follow. We could make it more complicated, but it's not. What do you think? -- doug smith

Have You Tested Your Values?

We tend to believe that our values are absolute and true, but to truly know that we need the courage to test them. To withstand resistance and temptation. To try after trying gets hard. Have you tested your values? Have your values been tested? -- doug smith  

Not By The Numbers

As quantifiable as it may be, productivity is in the end, highly subjective. "How can that be?" "We define importance. We define what matters. You can decide how much is enough." "But it's all numbers. It's all measurable..." "Yes, once you've decided what matters. Once you've define the quality you want. None of the productivity matters unless the quality is there." "Well, my boss wouldn't agree with that very much." "How much do you like working for your boss?" "Not very much..." You might disagree. Many people do. But consider this: would you rather have exactly what you want, or a whole bunch of what you don't want?  I thought so. -- doug smith

Deeper Still

The root cause of a problem may be deeper than you think, with roots of its own. Look closely. Look very closely. -- doug smith  


  Everything is open to interpretation. To dispute this is an interpretation. It is, therefore, indisputable. Or is it? Stay curious. Let's see what happens. -- doug smith


How do you show someone respect? Without it you will find it hard to hold onto any respect of your own. Without it you may even find it hard to get things done. Those who outrank you are much more help to you when you show them respect. Those who report to you are much more motivated when you show them respect. And, those at your level are far more likely to be cooperative and collaborative when you show them respect. Show respect by: listening, without judging speaking truthfully avoiding gossip allowing for disagreement without anger acknowledging rank and authority There are dozens of ways to show respect. What would you add to the list? -- doug smith

Get In Step

Quick quiz: what are your top three current goals? It's OK to think about it, but if you have to think too long that means that you haven't really thought about it previously. Your goals matter because you matter. Your goals (not those given to you by someone else) shape your near-term future. Your goals shape you as well. Goals are solid steps toward your hopes and dreams. The path is yours. Why not keep moving? -- doug smith  

Understanding Comes First

A solution posed too soon might just be another version of the problem. It's tempting to rush thru analysis. Tempting, but costly. Few problems are solved until they are truly understood. -- doug smith  

Noble Need

How are you at holding people accountable? Without raising your voice do you make your expectations clear and then guide people toward achieving them? It's not about micromanaging. It's about giving people the balance of choice and criteria for success that they need to attach any task to a noble, appealing mission. The responsibility for resposibility rests with the leader. Holding people accountable is a noble need. -- doug smith  


The toughest decisions are the ones you have no control over. Remember that when you make decisions that effect those who have no voice in the call. -- doug smith  

Big Goals Big Commitments

  Ask yourself what you'd be willing to trade to achieve your biggest goal -- you may need to make that trade. I'm not saying that you should. That's up to you. A goal is just a goal and not your entire life. But, if it's really important to you, are you treating it as if it IS that important? Are you designing a plan? Are you acting relentlessly on that plan? Are you learning constantly? Big goals mean big commitments. -- doug smith

Tough and Tender

  It's possible to be both tough and tender as a leader. Be tough on the task, and tender on the person. -- doug smith