Thursday, December 31, 2015

Centered Problem Solving Similarity #1

This entry is a set of notes for my work in Centered Leadership and Centered Problem Solving. If you're interested in dimensions, personality types, and core concepts behind Centered Problem Solving this may interest you. If not, it won't.

My work in CPS (Centered Problem Solving) is based on four personality types. I've interpreted them as four core leadership skills in my Centered Leadership Model and added a fifth - Centering.

There are many similarities with other personality models so this work is somewhat derivative. It's also I hope an evolution and synthesis of several similar and yet disparate types of sorting mechanisms. The purpose is to help leaders become more effect and efficient problem solvers who are capable of building great relationships while achieving great results.

Our tendency, since we are strongest in one of the four types (however you define them) is to focus on either results or relationships. When we do that we incur a cost to the dimension we are no focusing on. It does not need to be that way. In the parlay of improv, it's not an either/or choice but rather a both/and possibility. We can have both. The key is centering our focus and remaining flexible in our leadership strengths. That does require us to develop those three strengths that we are not as strong in, while also managing and regulating the strength that we are most strong in.

I'm calling this article Similarity #1 not because it is the first that I've encountered but simply as a way to sequence my occasional writings on this topic. It is by no means the first similarity I've found but I did stumble into it today (while looking for images around Don Miguel Ruiz's The Four Agreements, which also fit within the category of similarities -- at least I can see how the four agreements relate and apply to the Centered Problem Solving and Centered Leadership model.)

The similarity I found today is Adizes Methodology. Here's a link to some useful information on that:

I encourage you to read it. Part of the reason for writing this is so that I can save that link and refer to it again later.

This chart, taken from that source, is especially interesting in tracking personality types (or strengths) and their dimensions:


It's delightful how it does correspond to the four types of personalities identified in many sorter tools such as those mapped in this chart:

I've also hand-drawn an overlay chart for my quick take on The Adzes PAEI Model slightly rearranged to correspond with my Centered Leadership quadrants, with Ruiz's Four Agreements tracked to each quadrant. Some people might see this as a stretch. I see it as a helpful view of how our strengths can be expanded, strengthened, and made more flexible.

The Four Agreements, while not an exact fit with the types, can be thought of as much as challenges for each type as they are strengths. Someone whose main leadership strength is Courage (Effort) must be careful to always do their best. Those of us who have Creativity as a core strength must learn the agreement "don't take anything personally". Those who are strong with Clarity are very interested in making sure that none makes assumptions. And, those whose core strength is Compassion must strengthen their ability to be impeccable with their word.

Of course, absolutely, all four types benefit from embracing and developing all four agreements. The more I think about it, the less I think the four agreements map to type. They are skills. They are agreements. They are major life changes. All four core leadership strengths should develop them.

Still, I found it curious and decided to share it here for future reference and as part of my ongoing work on developing Centered Leadership and Centered Problem Solving (and yes, I am well aware that there is ample and useful -- even brilliant work on Centered Leadership with a slightly different approach. Again, it's not either/or here but rather both/and. I highly recommend that you read up on the approaches to centered leadership (also sometimes called mindful leadership) as detailed in the fine work of Joanna Barsh and Johanne Lavoie in Centered Leadership, and from Janice Marturano in Finding The Space To Lead.)

Big Questions

  1. What similarities do you see in any of the popular personality sorters?
  2. Do you see preferences as another term for strengths? Why or why not?
  3. How can learning about our personality strengths help us develop our leadership and problem solving skills?
  4. What implications exist to apply personality sorters to collaborative, creative, and centered problem solving?
  5. For that matter, what similarities or differences do you see in what is described as collaborative problem solving, creative problem solving, and (my spin) centered problem solving?
  6. What personality types have you been avoiding when you assemble your problem solving efforts? What should you do about that?
-- Doug Smith

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Solve Problems Together

Centered problem solvers collaborate. When we involve other people we get better ideas, more cooperation, and more lasting solutions.

Solving problems together can be one of our strongest relationship builders.

We struggle together, we talk together, we build together, we fix together. We help each other see what we can't see alone.

Solve problems together -- you'll like the results.

-- Doug Smith

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Define Carefully

Have you ever found yourself defining yourself with your problems?

It's easy to do. When problems surround us we think about our life in the context of those problems. But they don't need to define us. We are not our problems. We are not the net result of too much happening or unsolved mysteries. We are much more than that.

Our problems don't define us -- our solutions do.

And even then, our solutions only send signals for who we are. We are so much deeper - our character, our beliefs, our emotions, our loves...we are so much more than what we do.

And far more than our problems would indicate.

Stay centered, stay focused, create the you that you want to be -- and solve one problem at a time.

-- Doug Smith

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Find The Right Help

Do you have all the help you need to solve your biggest problem?

When I have a problem that I'm struggling to solve, many times I discover that the reason is that I have not yet found the right person to help me.  That ace who was so helpful with the last problem, that team that got it all done -- they may still be lacking a missing piece of wisdom, inspiration, or skill to address the current situation.

Sometimes I just need to find that one person who is best equipped to take that problem on.

Not alone, but in harmony with the efforts already being made. When the right person shows up, it can make all the difference in the world.

Maybe that's true for you.

You may only be one person away from solving that problem.

Are you looking?

-- Doug Smith

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Solve It Now

What happens to little problems that are left alone?

They get bigger. They turn more complicated. They grow nasty roots. They require even larger interventions.

The time to solve that problem is now.

If you let a problem go long enough you just get a bigger problem.

And that's not what you want.

The time to solve that problem is when?  Now!

-- Doug Smith

Friday, October 30, 2015

Continuing Your Education

What good is a problem if we can't learn from it?

I think we can learn from any problem. In fact, one of the best benefits to centered problem solving is the willingness to learn and grow in the face of difficulty and challenge. We might not pick problems as our favorite way to learn, but they do provide that opportunity.

Think of the time it takes to solve a problem as part of your ongoing education.

There's no diploma, no graduation, and no degree but the lessons just might change your life.

Some of them have certainly changed mine!

-- Doug Smith

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Get Ahead of Your Motivation

Do you ever wait for motivation to hit you before you tackle a tough problem?

I've done that. I've waited for the right moment of motivation before starting to analyze what the problem is or before even defining the problem. The trouble with that is that the problem is getting larger the longer we wait.

We're in charge of our motivation. We create our own motivation. There's never any need to wait for motivation: just go.

Problem solving can't always wait for our interest or motivation. 

Problem solving starts when the problem arises. Why wait?

-- Doug Smith

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Dealing With Uncertainty

How will we know that the solution will work?

Have you ever asked yourself that question? The ideas are good, the reasoning is sound, the analysis as complete as you can make it, but will it work? Will it work?

There's some uncertainty in solving problems that can throw us off center. Our emotions can trigger reactions that impact our ability to follow-through with our action plan. The speed of the solution can vary enough to get us confused. While we navigate that uncertainty, it's staying centered that keeps on track. Centering our use of clarity, courage, creativity, and compassion in the midst of change creates the focus we need to stay the course.

Are you willing to trade the certainty of a problem for the uncertainty of a solution?

It's worth it.

-- Doug Smith

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Life Changing Solutions

Are you solving bigger and bigger problems?

Have you noticed that the more skill you gain as a centered problem solver the more you feel that impulse to solve even bigger problems?

Solving problems is life changing. Solving problems builds skills we need to help ourselves and others to solve increasingly more challenging problems.

Are you willing to solve a problem if the solution changes your life?

We need to do that. We need to solve the problems that change our lives. And there's no better time to start than right now.

-- Doug Smith

Saturday, October 17, 2015

What About An Unwilling Person?

Have you ever tried to help someone with a problem and discovered that they were not about to use your help?

People can be funny sometimes but they can usually be relied on to need to come up with their own solutions. We can each be grateful for help, but unless we have some influence on the solution, that solution won't seem valuable.

If solving a problem requires changing an unwilling person, we might need to redefine the problem.

Unwilling people see the situation differently. Unwilling people need willingness before change becomes a possibility.

What if we could achieve that by asking them to define their problem? And, taking it a step farther, what if they rephrased that problem as a goal? Once we've made it that far, all kinds of collaborative possibilities emerge.

But jumping in with a solution, especially one that requires someone else to change, seldom works.

-- Doug Smith

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Maybe Try Another Solution

What happens when we use the same solution over and over even when the problems change?

We don't really solve new problems that way do we? And yet so often we pull the same old tools out of our tool box and try the same old solutions.

New problems require new thinking. New problems require new solutions.

It's funny how we sometimes keep trying to same solution on totally new problems.

Funny, but not effective.

Let's do better than that. Let's be more creative. Let's develop new ideas.

How do we do that? Here are a few ways:

  • turn your idea upside down - how would it work reversed?
  • ask other experts what they think
  • ask people who are NOT experts what they think
  • look at the problem as if you were ten years old again. What would you do?
  • reframe your problem as a goal. How could you achieve that goal.
  • rethink your problem as a benefit. What would you do to get more of that problem? Now, how would you reverse that?
  • is the root cause what you think it is? what if it were something different? how do you know?
There are many more ways to stay creative.  Go for a walk, look at some art, attend a play (yes, do it!) go to a movie, play an active game -- get things moving within your self and you will likely get things moving within your ideas.

And the ideas are endless. Why settle for less?

-- Doug Smith

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Be A Durable Problem Solver

Do your problems threaten to wear you down? Are they pulling the energy out of you?

Sometimes problems do that to me. It's almost as if they're looking for me to surrender. I won't surrender.

A problem might wear me down but it won't wear me out.

How about you?

Will you endure? Will you persist? Will you be a durable problem solver?

-- Doug Smith

Monday, October 12, 2015

Face Those Problems

What happens when you face your problems head-on?

I've noticed that until I face my problems head-on they tend to stick around. They aren't afraid of me. They don't even care whether I care - until I show that I do care with some positive, goal-focused, centered action.

We have to face our problems before we can solve them.

They wouldn't have it any other way.

What problem can you face today?

-- Doug Smith

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Problems Hate Flexibiity

Have you ever noticed how much problems like to stay stuck?

Problems enjoy the routines that keep them in place. There's nothing like a nice deep rut to keep a problem around.

What problems hate is flexibility. The flexibility that comes from creativity, new ideas, new intentions, and new insights.

When we let go of our perceptions we can see new possibilities.

And those possibilities, once focused on a goal, have a marvelous way of leaving problems behind.

Isn't that what you want?

-- Doug Smith

Saturday, October 10, 2015

When Problems Hide

Do you have problems that hide?

For me, that can be hard to say, because if they're hiding, I might not know they're there.

And when they hide it tends to be because of my own unwillingness or inability to see them. Maybe they are problems because of something I've done. Maybe they're problems because I've something I've left undone.

Problems have a way of hiding behind our weakness.

To find the problem requires us to expose and deal with that weakness. That's not fun. That's not easy. It's just necessary.

Centered problem solvers work through their weaknesses and find their hidden problems.

What's hiding from you?

-- Doug Smith

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Keep The Pain Out

Can you solve problems without adding any pain?

Some people take a tough approach to problem solving. They focus on driving solutions whether or not there are side effects. The problem with that is that the side effects often turn out to be worse than the original problem.

Any added pain creates a future problem. The old problem might even resurrect itself, only redoubled in its persistence.

We can solve problems without adding pain.

Why not do that? As centered problem solvers, the only viable solutions are those that do no harm.

-- Doug Smith

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Put Peace In The Solution

Problems can be tricky. They are sometimes conflicts. They are sometimes puzzles. They are sometimes irritants that cause us to lose our center and think about getting even.

Getting even is never the answer.

Problems, approached from the view of how to achieve a goal, can be solved without creating harm. If there is harm in the solution, the problem isn't solved, it's just shifted to someone else. Centered problem solvers can do better.

The problem is not solved if there's no peace in the solution.

Why not solve the problem without planting the seeds of future conflict? Why not reach mutually beneficial solutions?

It's not just the high ground, it's the only ground that's truly grounded.

What do you think?

-- Doug Smith

Monday, October 5, 2015

It's Up To Us

Do other people solve your problems?

I have found that when I do expect solutions to come from other people, I'm usually disappointed. Other people can help. Other people are useful collaborators. Centered problem solvers work well with other people to focus, analyze, create, energize, and solve problems. But it's still up to us.

Depending on other people to solve our problems is the worst kind of useless illusion.

Other people help. Other people care. Other people support and challenge. But we are the ones to solve our problems.

-- Doug Smith

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Solving Is Not Judging

Can you solve a problem without judging it?

It's easy to get solving and judging confused. But I've noticed that whenever I am in judgement mode that I'm not truly analyzing the problem so much as reflecting my own weaknesses onto it. That's hardly helpful.

In effect, when I judge a problem, I'm judging myself. It could be my perception, my habits, my actions, or my intentions. In worse cases it's simply myself. That's too harsh. That's unnecessary. That's not even useful.

We don't have to judge ourselves in order to analyze our problems.

We analyze the causes of our problems from a centered place of focus so that we can separate them. All problems have causes. When we are the cause we can fix what we're doing or creating that causes it. But when we're NOT the cause, what's the point in taking the blame?

Do you have a problem you can disentangle blame from today?

-- Doug Smith

Saturday, October 3, 2015


Do your problems seem to be splitting your loyalties? Do you find yourself wondering how to honor all of your constituents when your problems are pulling you in multiple directions?

Sometimes this gets to me. How do I prioritize? Which problem do I solve? What comes next?

But it doesn't have to be that way. When we can focus on our true priorities: our mission and our vision and our values - the problems will align themselves. Some we solve (immediately!) some we defer (as soon as possible!) and some we simply let go.

Our problems need not polarize us -- they can instead unify us.

What if the best solutions solved multiple issues? Why not give that a try?

-- Doug Smith

What have you learned today?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Drop The Anger

Do problems make you angry?

Sometimes I get so angry at a problem that I get sloppy with that anger and it spills over at people. That's not good. That's not useful. That's not centered problem solving.

It doesn't help me to be angry with someone for not solving my problem.

My problems are up to me.

Other people can help, but I shouldn't assume that they will.

Other people can be great resources, but I shouldn't take them for granted.

And when other people make mistakes, getting angry won't make them smarter or better. It just makes them mad

I'm going to work on getting angry less often at unsolved problems because the side-effects are too dangerous. That feeling of anger is a sign, just not the sign I've been reading. Don't get angry, I'll tell myself, get active.

-- Doug Smith

What have you learned today?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Grow With It

Do you think that life has an inner sense of humor?

I do. It seems like some of my biggest problems are the points of leverage I need to get where I need to go. I would not choose to make it that way (who likes big problems?) and yet when I can clearly see the goal in the problem it moves me where I need to go.

Do you have a big problem that's driving you crazy? Are you challenged more than ever before? Is there a big problem that is on your mind all the time?

That big problem may be your best platform to grow.

Grow with it.

-- Doug Smith

Monday, September 28, 2015

Let Go Of That Personal Agenda

Does your personal agenda ever get in the way of solving a problem?

To my surprise, I've discovered that sometimes it does for me. Sometimes I'm so focused on achieving another goal that I lose track of the problem in front of me. My goal might be to reach a certain sales number, for instance, while losing track of building the relationship with the one person in front of me (sales or not!).

When we can suspend our personal agendas and see the true goal in the moment, it is much easier to center ourselves and prepare for true problem solving. What is the best solution? What do we all want and need in the situation? What is our best path forward?

Centered problem solvers let go of their personal agenda when it gets in the way.

I'm working on that these days. How about you?

-- Doug Smith

What have you learned today?

Saturday, September 26, 2015

My Problems Are Part of My Day

Do you ever have days when it seems like the whole day is one big problem? The problems add up little and big until all you can focus on is your problems?

It doesn't usually need to be that way. We can center ourselves around other blessings, other gifts, other circumstances. We can see everything that is going on and not just the turmoil.

I'm working on that today. Rather than having a big problem define my day I am working on letting the fun in, too. I am staying open to newness, to freshness, to kindness, and more. My problems are just part of what's going on and they are certainly not who I am. When I center myself, I can get closer to who I really am and detach from what is pulling my spirit down.

Please excuse me if I don't let my problems spoil my day.

There's so much else to experience.

-- Doug Smith

What have you learned today?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Who Is Number 2?

Who do you count on the most for help with problems? It's probably you. You, fully centered and alert, are you most valuable problem solving ally. Most of the time, it is all up to you.

Do you feel like you need help sometimes?

Of course! It may not always be the same person, but we all occasionally need help with the problems that we are working to solve. I've been blessed with some wonderful allies recently in solving some tough problems. They aren't yet solved, but the help that I'm getting from close allies is making the problem solving not only easier, not only more centered, but also more life affirming.

You are your most valuable problem solver you know. Who's number two?

-- Doug Smith

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Take Charge of Your Problems

Who's the boss, your problems or you?

As we center ourselves and calm that center so that it can be at its best, we do not surrender any assertiveness. We remain alert. We remain ready. We take charge of the situation creating our problem and focus on the goal that we plan to achieve.

Sometimes a problem is so troubling that it changes our center and sends us wobbling toward uncertainty. Some problems can infect us with unwanted negative thinking. Even when we know better, it takes discipline to redirect our misdirection.

Feeling negative about a problem won't solve the problem. Stay positive, focus, and take charge.

You are bigger than any problem in front of you.

What negative notion should you drop today? Are you ready to drop it?

-- Doug Smith

Monday, September 21, 2015

Avoid Neglect

What happens when we neglect a problem?

Would you agree that the problem gets worse? Problems are not good at fixing themselves. They need our help. They need our ability to center ourselves and focus on fixing what causes us (and others) grief.

We shouldn't neglect our problems. We can't neglect neglect (avoid neglecting by neglecting it). We should take action.

Problems get worse with neglect.

They don't stay the same and they don't get better. Problems ignored are problems spinning out of control. We can do better than that.

What positive action will you take today toward solving one of your previously neglected problems?

-- Doug Smith

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Embrace The Possibilities!

Stay with me for a moment on this - are you happy about your problems?

If you're like me, "Yes" would not be your first answer. What makes them problems is what makes them aggravating. And while it may sound like a cliche, problems really are both a pain AND an opportunity.

Each problem represents a very real opportunity to make something better. Each problem means that have a field to play and grow in. It's a lumpy field, a gnarly field, a field where we may fall and skin our knees, but it's a place to grow.

More problems just means more possibilities.

Not that we want to create more problems. Life will present us with all the problems we need without us looking for them. But those problems are gifts. Those problems are possibilities. Centered problem solvers embrace those possibilities.

Centered problem solvers know that their problems do not define them, but they do provide doorways to fascinating changes and sometimes those changes can change who they are.

What possibility is confronting you today?

-- Doug Smith

Monday, September 14, 2015

Understand Your Problem

Have you ever tried to solve a problem that you didn't fully understand?

How did that turn out? Whenever I try to solve a problem that I don't fully understand I'm not happy with the results. I solve the wrong problem. Or I solve a symptom of the problem but not the root cause.

We need to go deeper. We need to take the time to understand what's going on. We need to understand our problem before we solve it.

It's counter-productive to solve a problem we don't understand.

Let's take the time to figure out what's going on. Let's understand our problem first, and then set about coming up with possible solutions.

Do you understand your biggest problem today?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: High Performance Leadership Training

What have you learned today?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Take Responsibility for Your Problems

When does centered problem solving begin?

How do you start as a centered problem solver?

We begin to solve our problems the moment we take responsibility for them.

Are you ready?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: High Performance Leadership Training

What have you learned today?

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Fix The Process

Do you ever try to fix your problem by fixing people?

Many leaders have asked me to help them with that over the years. They want to fix their people. They think that training will do it. Or that coaching will straighten it out. Or a new job.

Sometimes people do need help. We each have the responsibility of continuing to learn and to grow. Our development largely determines our future.

But when it's a process that's broken, trying to fix people will only frustrate them. The process doesn't care. Fix it. Solve that part of the problem first.

It won't solve your problem trying to fix people if the process is broken.

We all endure broken or partially broken processes. What process could you be fixing right now?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: High Performance Leadership Training

What have you learned today?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Manage Your Constraints

Do you have a constraint that's bossing you around?

Maybe it's a budget that's too small. Maybe it's a lack of time. Maybe it's a process that isn't optimized and keeps slowing you down.

Manage that constraint.

Give it attention, but not surrender. Give it focus but not control.

Centered problem solvers manage their constraints rather than letting their constraints do the managing.

A constraint is asking for attention, not giving you a command.

You're still in charge.

Now, what constraint is pushing you around today? How will you deal with it?

-- Doug Smith

Saturday, September 5, 2015

More Than Brainstorming

Do you brainstorm to develop solutions?

Most of us do. Brainstorming is a useful tool, even if many people do it incorrectly or incompletely. They do it incompletely because they stop too soon, as soon as they reach that awkward silence.

That awkward silence doesn't mean that we're done - it means that the best ideas are yet to come - if we give them time and space to develop.

Brainstorming a solution to your problem is not always enough. It helps to know your criteria for success.

How will you decide? How will you narrow your choices? Who will you be or become as the result of your choices?

Problem solving is more than brainstorming. And it starts by figuring out who we are, and who we want to be.

Who do you want to be?

What do you want your problem solutions to show about you?

-- Doug Smith

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Find the Hidden Problem Sustainer

Is someone benefitting from your problem?

What if there is a hidden problem sustainer involved in keeping things the way they are? If someone is benefitting from your problem, not only will they not try to help you solve it - they could even work to keep it right where it is.

Why would a company in charge of building prisons take an interest in reducing the prison population by reducing the causes of crime?

Why would an oil company making a fortune do anything to create clean, sustainable energy?

Why would a wealthy family that benefits from the personal and professional contacts developed thru generations of wealthy friends do anything to provide better opportunities for others who are not in their network?

Does that all sound cynical? Too cynical to be true?

I don't mean to get overtly political here, but think carefully the next time you wonder why a problem with apparent solutions available does not get solved. Could it be that someone is resisting the solution?

Find out who is benefitting from a problem before you try to solve it.

Because otherwise, you're attempting to solve two problems at the same time.

-- Doug Smith

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Front Range Leadership: High Performance Leadership Training

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Be Careful About Symptom Solutions

What's the lazy way out of a problem?

I think the lazy way out of a problem is to pretend that it's not a problem after all. To make some kind of false peace from it and mask your true feelings. To live with the results as if the results were not only inevitable but better than you could have hoped for, anyway.

That's not solving a problem. That's rationalization. "I can't fix it anyway" or "It's too hard to fix" so "I might as well enjoy what we've got..."

Yes, it does make sense to experience what is here fully and to appreciate the value. But not if that means accepting a situation that is unhealthy and unproductive.

Be careful about solutions that only make you feel good about the problem.

Because when even when you feel good about the problem, the problem is still there.

-- Doug Smith

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Front Range Leadership: High Performance Leadership Training

Monday, August 17, 2015

Each Solution Takes Courage

What if you had a great idea for a solution but lacked the courage to implement it?

I'm afraid that it happens all the time. We can see the solution, but the changes it would take require too much of our stamina, too much of our determination, too much of our willingness to change.

It can be inconvenient. It can be discomforting. And so, very often, we don't adapt the solution.

It's taken a long to time to embrace alternative sources of energy, for instance. We seem to finally be making significant progress in converting to solar power and battery technology instead of relying exclusively on fossil fuels. Did we wait too late? Let's hope not, but let's learn from this that when we can see the solution we should muster up whatever courage it takes to adapt that solution even when we encounter resistance from people who have other interests in mind.

That's the big challenge, isn't it? Competing agendas can drain the courage right out of us. But, we can't let that happen. We must, as centered problem solvers (as opposed to agenda-driven problem solvers) engage everyone who can either implement or offset our solution ideas. We need the help of our opposition.

That takes courage.

Knowing the solution to a problem only helps when you have the courage to implement it.

What solution have you been holding off on because of the resistance you know that you'll encounter? What can you do about that today?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership:  High Performance Leadership Training

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Problem AND The Solution

They can drive you crazy. They can compound the issues. They can slow you down.

But, they can also help you to solve the problem.


People are at the center of every problem - AND every solution.

When we as centered problem solvers work effectively with people - when we collaborate and make the most of our clarity, courage, creativity, and compassion - we solve problems faster and with greater rates of success.


-- Doug Smith

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Front Range Leadership: High Performance Leadership Training

Monday, August 10, 2015

Get People To Help With Your Problem

How often do you try to solve a problem all by yourself?

All too often, in my case. Is it pride? Is it confidence? Or, is it just a reluctance to ask for help when help is needed?

Our problems are divisible by the number of people we get to help us.

Why not get the help we need?

I'm going to work on that. How about you?

Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: High Performance Leadership Training

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

What have you learned today?

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Get To Know Your Team

When you are working to solve a problem, how much time do you spend getting to know your team?

When we collaborate on problem solving we surround ourselves with people who can help. But not all teams are the same. The people on the team largely determine how successful we will be. A centered problem solver considers the needs, personalities, and skills of the people on the team and gets to know them better.

A problem solving team needs time to understand each other as well as the problem.

Maybe all you need is a round of introductions. Maybe all you need is a useful and bonding warm-up activity. Maybe you need a meal to relax and settle into a productive team energy. Figure out what you need and give it the attention it deserves.

The people on your team are people.

What more can you do on the next collaboration in order to learn more about the people involved?

-- Doug Smith

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals 

Front Range Leadership: High Performance Leadership Training

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Solve The Problem, Preserve The Person

When you're solving a problem, do you consider the impact on each person involved?

It's easy to seek to solve a problem by fixing a person or two, but people are not easily fixed. You might even say that people don't need fixing. But sometimes they do need taking care of. Sometimes they are impacted by both the problem and our attempts to solve it.

We need to center our focus on that impact. We need to take care of the people who are part of the solution.

Solve the problem, preserve the person.

Because when we hurt the people, we have not really solved the problem.

-- Doug Smith

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Front Range Leadership: High performance leadership training

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Find Peaceful Solutions

Have you ever been involved in solving a problem only to feel like the solution created about as much conflict as it solved?

The best solution is not always the fastest. We need to consider everyone involved. If our solution creates hardship for some of our constituents, they are likely to resist it. We can create more problems with a partial solution than we solve.

If there's no peace in the solution then it's not a solution.

Solutions that create more tension, more stress, and more conflict are temporary. They push the problem aside momentarily but it always comes back tougher and more resistant to change.

Find peace. Find mutually beneficial outcomes. Solve those problems in ways that the solutions persist.

What's your idea of peace?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: High performance leadership training

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Thursday, July 23, 2015

You're An Artist

Do you consider yourself an artist?

I'm often astounded at how many wonderfully creative young people forget to stay creative as they get older. Why do people stop drawing? Why do people stop singing? Why do people stop playing?

When we leave artistic gaps in our lives those voids are filled with content we may not have chosen. When we stop creating art we lose a part of ourselves that is meant to help with our happiness. Trying to solve problems without bringing out our inner artist is likely to doom us to rather pedestrian solutions.

We can do better than that.

We can stay creative. We can play. We can keep drawing, painting, collaging, sculpting, dancing, singing...we can keep our inner artist alive and help it thrive.

The art of problem solving is in staying curious, creative, and open to change.

The art of living is keeping our inner artist alive.

What wonderfully creative act can you play with today?

Go ahead. See how much it helps you in your centered problem solving!

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: High performance leadership training

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Larger Community

Our problems serve as reminders that we are part of a larger community.

Within that community are people who impact our problems, who cause our problems, who feel our problems, and who sometimes suffer from our problems. Working together collaboratively we can solve those problems in ways that keep us individually centered and community focused.

Any other way? Any way that does not consider our community risks being a partial or flawed solution.

Let's keep the larger community in mind.

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: High performance leadership training

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Avoid the Emotional Attachment

Do you ever get emotionally attached to a problem?

I do. I'm not proud of it and I'm working on stopping it but sometimes a problem gets under my skin. Sometimes a problem wraps me up into an emotional ball that now gives me a second problem to deal with.

You can get mad at that flat tire and change it or you can just simply change it. The choice is yours.

Why not solve a problem before you get emotionally attached?

It will go faster and think of all that energy you will save.

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: High performance leadership training

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Friday, July 17, 2015

Our Own Problems

Can you solve my problem for me?

Probably not. And, you probably don't want to. Yet we often think that we can solve someone else's problems.

We can help. We can teach. We can provide an environment that makes problem solving possible. But, very seldom can we solve someone else's problem.

You can help me solve my problem, but I'm going to need to do it on my own.

To come up with the true root cause. To develop the best strategies for finding the solution. For selecting the solution. And, (most importantly) to implement the solutions for achieving my goal.

You can't do that for me -- or anyone else.

We can help, but we must involve the people who feel the pain of the problem in order to solve that problem.

It's both a relief, and a new level of responsibility. Are you ready?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Front Range Leadership: High Performance Leadership Training

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Can You Take The Emotion Out?

Has that problem got you in an emotional stir?

I've had problems that get me more twisted than a day-old Philadelphia pretzel. It's all geometry and no flavor. The image is there, but the joy is gone.

It doesn't need to be that way. We can center ourselves long enough to minimize the emotional load. We can see what's there, without adding our fifty ways of stressing out.

Most problems are easier to solve once you take the emotion out.

Worth a try?

-- doug smith

Front Range Leadership: How to achieve your goals

doug smith training: developing creativity

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Create Space for a Solution

Are you too close to your closest problem?

Is it holding you back from the creativity you need to move forward? Does your toughest problem knock you a little off center?

Sometimes we're so tangled up in a problem that we first need to create space for a solution.

Someplace safe. Someplace centered. Someplace where we (and the problem situation) can breathe.

How will you center yourself in that moment?

-- Doug Smith

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

What have you learned today?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Face Your Hidden Truths

Do you ever hide from yourself?

That might sound silly, but I think I've done it. We hide from ourselves when there is something about a problem that we need to solve that is really more about the choices we make that what is happening to us. In other words, sometimes we cause our own problems.

We break our own diets. We ignore our own exercise regimen. We avoid the people on our team we most need to talk with. We keep conversations light that need to go much, much deeper.

We don't do these things all the time, but when we do, they contribute to (and even cause) the problems in front of us.

To solve our toughest problems we must be willing to face our own hidden truths.

What kind of hidden truths? That's up to you.

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

doug smith training: how to achieve your project goals

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Find Your Problem's Secret Ingredients

Did you know that many problems have two secret ingredients?

No, it's not a special sauce or patented process. The secret ingredients are two things that hide under all the symptoms and cloud a problem solvers focus on the situation.

Centered problem solvers figure out what are the secret ingredients and how they are effecting the ideas being created, the pain being felt, the reactions of the people involved. Very often there are two secret ingredients:

Problems have one or both: a solution and/or a viable use.

Sometimes people don't want to solve what is framed as a problem because it already serves their needs. They like it. A person may not see the injustice in unequal distribution of resources if they have all the resources they need. A person may not see hunger as a problem if they eat in fine restaurants every night. A person may not see unhappy customers as a problem if the work is easier when the customer goes away.

The viable use could even be sensible, useful, and correct. Identifying something as a problem doesn't mean that it IS a problem, and certainly not for everyone.

That's why centered problem solvers stay curious. That's why to solve a problem on a long term basis (I'm hesitant to say forever) it's useful to figure out what the secret ingredients are. Your secret ingredients might vary, but they are probably there. What will you do about them?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

doug smith training: how to achieve your project goals

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Walk Carefully To Solutions

What happens when you jump to conclusions?

I know that I've jumped to many conclusions and usually didn't like where those leaps took me. Not only does it take me to the wrong place faster, it keeps from from finding the right place. Jumping to conclusions gives us deeply flawed answers to our problems.

Jumping to a solution before we've truly analyzed a problem usually gives us exactly what we expected. 

And sometimes, that's not the best answer. Usually, it's not the optimal solution.

How can you ground yourself when you feel about to jump to a conclusion?

Relax. Breathe. Center. Find your focus. What exactly IS it you're working on? What exactly IS your goal? What exactly are you seeing and what do you only THINK you are seeing?

Walk carefully to that solution. It will wait for you.

-- Doug Smith

doug smith training: how to achieve your project goals

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Solve The Problem Before You Feel The Pain

Why is it that we so often wait until a problem is a real pain before we solve it?

It could be because we're so busy. It could be because we're so distracted. It could also be that we hope secretly that the problem just goes away.

But, problems don't just go away, do they? They tend to get worse until they are attended to. Left alone, problems get  bigger.

Why not solve a problem before you feel its pain?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: High Performance Leadership Training

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Discover the Absolute Truth

How can you tell the truth from the near-truth?

We are surrounded by near-truths - things we don't dispute because they seem reasonable and don't get in our way. We pay unfair taxes. We tolerate poor service. We spend our time on activities that don't always interest us. And, we do these things (and hundreds of others) without question because, well, it's just easier. We convince ourselves that it's part of our lives. We accept near-truths over the hard work of examining, analyzing, and solving the petty problems of life.

What if we didn't approach near-truths with acceptance? What if we challenged them? What if we assertively held to our vision and values even when it meant saying "no" to someone who did not want (or expect) that as an answer?

That would take courage, wouldn't it? That would take creativity to find a way to do it with respect. That would take compassion to do it without creating harm for others. That would take clarity around what is true.

Discovering the absolute truth dramatically clarifies the possibilities and the solutions to a problem.

It takes the fog out. It opens the more impartial lens and removes the filters. It's invigorating. It's dangerous. It's necessary to focus on what matters most.

What matters most to you could be different that what matters most to me, or to your partner, or to your team. My central question here is: do you know what it is? What matters most to you? Is that your focus? Does that clarify truth for you and help you eliminate automatic acceptance of near-truth?

-- Doug Smith

High Performance Leadership: Solving Problems. Achieving Your Goals.

doug smith training: how to achieve your project goals

Monday, June 8, 2015

Focus On What You Really Want

Do you ever find yourself midway through solving a problem and wondering why you are bothering with that problem?

Or, do you ever think you've solved a problem only to discover it was just a symptom of a bigger problem?

Before solving a problem it helps to focus on what we really want.

What's the goal?

I like to reframe each problem into a goal-statement so that the work becomes positive: we work on what we want to achieve, rather than what we seek to avoid.

It makes a difference. It's much easier to stay centered with a goal in mind, and it's much easier to keep that goal in mind when we stay centered.

What problem can you convert into a positive goal?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

doug smith training: how to achieve your project goals

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Remember We're Part of The Problem

Have you ever gotten so deep into solving a problem that you missed the fact that you were part of the problem?

I don't like it when it happens, but sometimes I realize that the problem only exists because I've created it. I put it there. It's the results of my actions.

Sobering. Disconcerting. Not fun. But, sometimes we're the problem.

Centered problem solvers realize that their part in the problem may be tough to see, yet it's likely there. What we do in looking at the problem has a lot to do with who we are. When we take the time to center ourselves before reaching conclusions, we end up with better conclusions.

Sometimes as we analyze a problem we are also analyzing ourselves.

Are you open to that?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success

doug smith training: how to achieve your project goals

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Open New Opportunities

Have you ever noticed than right after you solve a problem you still have lots of great ideas swimming in your head?

New insights emerge just begging to be captured and the energy you've spent to find one solution has lead to dozens of viable ideas.

Grab those ideas. Capture those thoughts. Find the next big thing in your work.

Every problem solved opens new opportunities.

It's just another great reason to work + play at solving those pesky problems!

What's your next big idea?

-- Doug Smith

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Saturday, May 16, 2015

What If It's A Combination?

Wouldn't it be great if there were one absolute answer to every problem? What if there were one universal tool that would always serve us, one magnificent process to problem solving forever and for always?

There are many great problem solving processes. There are many great approaches to leadership. Styles change, tools grow, people evolve. One single answer seldom does the trick.

That unsolved problem just might need a combination of solutions.

Dig them up. Look them over. Try them again. Put them together like the pieces of an elaborate puzzle or the moves in an intricate game. There is an answer there. You just might have to fuse a few together.

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success 

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Solve or Manage That Problem

What do you do about problems that can't be solved/

It's not that you can't solve them or that you haven't found the person who can solve them, some problems simply can't be solved. They must be managed instead.

The best source of help and information I've found on unsolvable problems is the book Polarity Management - Identifying and Managing Unsolvable Problems by Barry Johnson.

The book includes valuable insights about spotting and managing unsolvable problems. He calls these polarities: "sets of opposites which can't function well independently." Within each pole, or opposite force, are upsides and downsides - things we would want to keep and things that we could live without. So often we do not get to choose one or the other - in order to keep the good aspects of a force we must live with the bad. To live with the bad, we must manage the forces in action.

We do not do that by eliminating either side. We manage both sides.  We make peace with the reality that faces us while still not giving in to dysfunction. Instead, we seek high performance results by skillfully using what's available in optimal ways.

A simple example from the book is breathing: In one phase we inhale to intake oxygen. In the other phase we must exhale to clean out the carbon dioxide and prepare us for the next inhale. The two are opposites and yet interdependent. You can't really have one without the other.

I like breathing as an example because it is such a crucial part of operating as a centered leader. When we face troubling situations, when we work on unresolved problems, when we deal with strong personalities we must remain to breathe skillfully, mindfully. Taking the time to manage that breathing (even for a few seconds) allows our natural systems to operate more effectively. We'll breathe no matter what (when we are alive!) and yet we can influence the quality of that breathing through intentional, practiced actions.

Similarly we will have unsolvable problems no matter what - yet we can manage them and achieve our best possible results when we skillfully, mindfully apply high performance management techniques and practices.

A problem that can't be solved can be managed. The future is always open to re-design.

I'm all about solving problems and achieving goals. But, when the problem is really a polarity to be managed, that's the path to take.

What unsolvable problems are you wrestling with today? Could it be that they include polarities (opposites) that could be regulated or managed? What's your next step?

-- Doug Smith

Front Range Leadership: Training Supervisors for Success 

doug smith training: how to achieve your goals

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Solving Other People's Problems

With all the problems each of us have, should we find time to solve other people's problems?

It's a tricky question. Unless the person with the problem is invested in the solution, the solution is not likely to work. But, can we offer help?

Helping other people with their problems (whether it's an individual or a peer's team) not only helps them, it helps us. We grow. We develop more skill. We learn from the mistakes of others. We explore new ways of looking at things that can transfer to our own uses. And, most importantly, we develop our relationships with other people.

It is by solving other people's problems that we solve our own.

It's not magic, but it can sure feel that way.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Friday, March 27, 2015

Surprise Yourself

What if the opposite of your solution is a better solution?

How innovative are you? Are you willing to take creative risks?

Taking the time to flip expectations can be invigorating. Looking at the opposite of your goal can be enlightening. Life is filled with possibilities, and sometimes we have to sneak up on them and let them surprise us.


-- Douglas Brent Smith

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Look Beyond The Problem

How much do you think about your problems?

There are times in our lives when problems become the center of our existence, instead of letting the center of our existence navigate our problems. Wherever you are on your problem solving journey, I offer these humble thoughts on problem solving to you today.

  • Sometimes a problem can be a tick to a new life.
We aren't expecting it. We didn't ask for it. But, there you go. Another step in the trip.

  • Problems reveal our character.
How we respond says more about ourselves than about our problems. Are we centered? Do we create focus? Do we explore the new possibilities with curiosity?

  • Problems, puzzles, and predicaments -- do you now which you are stuck in?
When we are most centered in our approach to observing, accepting, and responding it almost doesn't matter what the nature of the problem is -- we can focus with our most noble and pure intentions.

When it works. Sometimes a problem knocks us down and laughs at our humble ego thinking we've got it all figured out. But not when we are fully centered. Not when those problems are just something to unravel.

What are you thinking about today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Friday, March 6, 2015

Maybe Change?

Sometimes a problem will require you to change before IT will.

Are you willing to make that change?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Centered Problem Solvers Check Their Ego

Does your ego ever get in the way of solving your problems?

Sometimes I cling to an idea that no longer makes sense. Sometimes I avoid launching into the analysis of a problem because it might put my assumption on the line. It could even bruise my ego. Yikes.

We can do better than that.

Sometimes my biggest obstacle in solving problems is my ego. Once I let go of that the solution is clear.

Are you willing to let go of your ego long enough to really see the problem's root cause?

I think you'll like the results.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Monday, February 16, 2015

Increase the Compassion

It isn't easy, is it? Our reflexes, when we feel harm, is to harm in return. That's a formula for endless cycles of harm, and no end to our problems.

What if we paused instead?

What if we increased the compassion instead of the vengeance?

Some problems simply require us to increase our compassion to find the solution.

As hard as that sounds, it's easier in the long term.

How can you increase your compassion toward that tough problem today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Friday, January 16, 2015

Problems Will Teach You Either Way

Have you learned much from solving problems?

I've found that in every problem there are essential lessons to learn. By learning these lessons I've been able to avoid repeating some problems. Other problems have been avoided altogether by heeding the lessons of the problem at hand.

By solving a problem we get the benefit of the solution as well as the lessons that the problem had to teach us.

But if we don't solve the problem, we still get to learn. Sometimes, we get to learn over and over.

Failing to solve a problem may teach you more than solving it.

You just might not enjoy while you learn.

What have you learned from solving problems?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Friday, January 9, 2015

Keep Focused

Did that big problem throw you off center? Do you have an unresolved problem that's distracting you from your goal?

Centered problem solving keeps us focused whether or not the problem is solved.

We stay focused when we remember to come back to our center, to breathe, to stay aware of what is going on right now without judging it or pulling it into the past. Centered problem solving keeps us grounded when the emotional wind threatens to blow us away.

Find the balance you need for this situation, right now, within your strengths of courage, creativity, clarity and compassion. Somewhere within that reserve is your ability to solve that problem and remain focused during the difficult work of finding the right solution.

You can do it.

You've done it before.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Centered Leaders Stay Focused

Are you easily distracted?

Many of us are blessed with the ability to shift our focus instantly. We can move our attention from the problem we're working on to a few items on our phone. We can forget what's pressing on us and drift into long periods of cat videos or project management cartoons.

Centered leaders stay focused. Centered problem solving keeps us focused whether or not the problem is solved. 

The goal, to put it simply, is the goal. All the problem is doing is standing in the way of the goal.

Are you a centered leader?

What are you doing to continue in your leadership development?

- Douglas Brent Smith

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