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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

Beyond The Individual

"Why don't people want to work today?" It's a question I've heard many times. The frustration is real -- it feels harder than ever to find people with a solid work ethic who are willing to do the work it takes to get stuff done. They are there -- but it can be frustrating when we're confronted with people who won't do the job they are paid to do. I like to tell people that I've never had a job that I didn't hate at first but then eventually grow to love. Every single job is tough when we're first learning how to do it. Motivation, behind the monetary reward, is often hard to see. But the rewards are plentiful once you find them. The rewards of working with great people. The joy of finishing what you started. The warmth you get from carefully and completely serving a customer. People who don't seem motivated simply have yet to find the joy in work. Instead of getting frustrated, what if we showed them how much joy the work is already providi


Have you ever had a great thought that somehow escaped you and never found any traction? It's common for me to think I have a great idea (thinking about the thinking!) and then just letting is fade away like some mist on a foggy day. Where's the motion? Where's the action? Philosophy has to move from the head to the hands to do any good. Do you have commitments? Great! What are you doing about them? -- doug smith  

What About Your Stress?

Have you ever had a leader who felt the need to let you know how stressed they were? "There's all this pressure on financials..." or "it's not easy being in charge..." or "I need you to consider my needs, too..." and so on. Leadership comes with stress. Leaders need to rise above the safe levels of just letting things roll around you. Stepping up comes at a cost of uncertainty. What if that's not a bad thing, but rather a stimulating thing? Your stress ins not your team's problem. They've got stressors and problems of their own. They'll do their best until they learn a better way to do it. They've got time to improve. What they don't have is time to fix your stress. You know who IS in charge of your stress? Of course you do. That's you. -- doug smith


Dear Leaders everywhere: Results matter! Of course. We all know that. Let's remember this, please: People matter more. -- doug smith  

By The Hour

If you've ever been on both sides of the fence, you know the differences all too well. Having been blessed with a long and interesting work life I have spent some of that career as an employee and much of it as a contractor.  When I first started, contracting was less common and the distinctions were clear. Employees were expected to be loyal to the company and contractors had their own agenda: they served their current assignment without any expectation of extended loyalty. Contracting, or gig-working, has become so common that many people within a company will assume that they can expect the same behaviors from a contractor that they would from an employee. Some do everything they can to lock in a gig worker without actually providing any of the benefits of being committed that they have to hire lawyers to ward off lawsuits and organizing. That does not create an engaged workforce. Expecting loyalty from a temporary worker is the silliest of assumptions. You know they aren't

Flattened Out?

For most of my career, one organization after another has gone to extremes to "flatten out" the organization. Layer after layer of leadership was stripped away. In theory, this speeded up the decision process. This was meant to take some of the old bureaucracy out of procedures and streamline processes.  Middle manager after middle manager found their careers ended. Years of organizational memory dissolved. Barriers came down, but so did opportunities. What once presented ample opportunities for advancement for many slowly became rare perches for a precious, carefully selected few. Did we go too far?  Is it possible that we have an impression that people care less about career development because there is LESS career development to be had? Should we re-layer our organizations? People are looking for opportunities to rise -- where will they find them? -- doug smith  

What You Need

What do you need in order to lead? Does it take a title? Authority? Election or selection to be chosen the leader? While all of that helps, it's not what you need most. You don't need permission to lead, but you do need strength of character demonstrated with courage, clarity, creativity, and compassion. Start with a foundation of those core strengths, and the rest will be easier.   -- doug smith

Sensitivity and Toughness

The art of leadership includes knowing when to be sensitive and when to be tough. It could even be a combination of sensitive (caring about the feelings of others) AND tough (standing your ground.) High performance leaders balance sensitivity and toughness to make sure they don't break themselves or anyone else.  -- doug smith