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I'm not a good dancer. I used to think that I was, but then I figured out that it was my partner who was such a good dancer that she could also make me feel like a good dancer. It was wonderful. And, when I realized later, when she'd moved on to a new partner, that I was NOT such a good dancer, at first I wanted to stop dancing. It was so disappointing. It was all just an illusion. And then, I realized. It didn't matter. There are degrees of dancing. Somewhere there are people who dance even better than my former partner. Somewhere there are people who can hardly dance at all. No matter where we start, in dancing or in leading, we can always level up. Start where we are and get better. And, realize that the dance is not about us at all anyway. The dance is, and always has been, about your partners. Your creative muse likes to dance. It will open up new roads to you. It will light you up and allow blood to flow to the places that make you tingle. Listen to that muse

Expand Your Possibilities

Do you know how powerful your goals are? The best goals spark curiosity, which inspires creativity, expanding possibilities. -- doug smith

Ask With Curiosity

In every workshop I facilitate - every one - I share this important piece of wisdom from one of my mentors, Andrew Oxley: "if you don't like the answer to a question, ask a better question." That's profound. That's powerful. That's endlessly useful. Often, people will struggle with that. Sometimes they ask, "How do you ask better questions? What if you can't think of one?" Here's the answer. Ask with curiosity and you'll think of better questions. Stay curious, my friend. -- doug smith

Highlights of This Week's Workshops

It's was great to work with two highly motivated groups this week, one in Washington D.C. and one in Frederick, MD.  Here are some photos from the workshops.

What If We Start With Appreciation?

Do you believe that you are appreciated enough? If so, you are probably lucky and have a healthy sense of self-esteem. Many people do NOT feel appreciated enough. Leaders often do a great job of applying pressure on their teams to achieve more. The results do improve. Does it matter how people feel about it? I think that it does matter. You can only push so long before the pushing leads to falling down. People can drift into being difficult because their lives have become difficult. The job is a big part of that. Too much pressure and release is unstoppable. That can make a person seem difficult. No one wants to feel taken for granted. We all crave appreciation. Some people crave far more than they ever receive, leaving a gap where something must fill the emptiness. That something could make the person seem troubling and difficult. It's hard to appreciate a difficult person, but until we do they are likely to stay difficult. -- doug smith

Discover Your Problem's Puzzle

Problems! If the solution were obvious it would be no problem. We have to sit with it, figure it out, focus on our goal, and move forward. Maybe we move tentatively at first. Maybe we boldly act with decisiveness. Maybe we first solve the puzzle behind the problem. The puzzle is the piece of the problem that is not obvious, yet is strongly effecting the outcome. Maybe it's on there periphery. It could be understated. It could be misunderstood. It is puzzling and must be teased out of its dilemma status into an openly more obvious presence. We can't do that if we ourselves are flying in all directions. We must sit still and breathe. We must center ourselves. We must scrutinize the puzzle. Your problem is more than a puzzle but the puzzle will not be denied. -- doug smith

Creativity and Order

Chaos may spark creativity. Order makes it useful. -- doug smith

Hear That Volume?

People are constantly trying to communicate. We can't take for granted that we are hearing them or that we are heard. It takes concerted listening with curiosity. When we don't put in the effort to truly listen, the message keeps coming at us. When we misunderstand the message, the message keeps coming at us. Every time we fail to listen the volume increases. I'm working on listening better. How about you? -- doug smith

It's Not One or the Other

Which is more important to you as a leader, results or relationships? That's a trick question of course. You do not need to pick one or the other. In fact, high performance leaders focus on both and they start with relationships. Take care of your relationships and your results will improve. -- doug smith Leadership Call to Action: Build the relationships on your team today. Spend at least part of your day having meaningful conversations with team members, one at a time.

Reward Results AND Relationships

Competition is useful. Usually, cooperation is better. Incentives have their value, internal motivation is massively more powerful. While high performance leaders DO focus on achieving their goals and delivering positive results, part of that is built around healthy relationships. Take the time to get to know your team members. Listen to their stories, their heart songs, their hardships, their views. When they achieve their goals, reward them with signs of your appreciation. And, when they consistently act as responsible adults within your relationships to achieve those results, show your appreciation. It doesn't need to cost any money. Sometimes a "thank you" is enough. We need healthy relationships to sustain trust. Without trust, a team member could be tempted to game the system in order to hit the numbers. That's not what you want. Sustain the relationships to keep the results both strong and ethical. Be careful about rewards that only recognize results.

What If We're Not The Problem?

Centered problems solvers know that while people are involved in problems, it does no good to ascribe blame. Whose fault is it? It almost doesn't matter, and looking for whose fault it is will distract you from actually solving the problem. We were all involved. When we look at it that way, and determine how we can each help contribute to a solution, the problem because more manageable. Solve the problem and let the people be the people. We need to solve problems without making each other the problem. No need to add a problem to your problem. -- doug smith

The Problem With Taking A Problem Personally

Taking a problem personally just makes it harder to solve. You've got the problem, AND you've got the upset. Shake free of the upset when you can (hint: always) and stop taking it personally. The solution is waiting for you to discover/invent/explore it -- do that instead of making stuff up in your head about how it's all Taking a problem personally just makes it harder to solve. -- doug smith