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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 

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