David O. Smith

Leadership Coach


David O. Smith

Having led high growth business across many industries, Davebrings a fresh perspective and practical applications to his Leadership Coaching. He helps Founders, C-level and emerging leaders better leverage their strengths while managing with more confidence and conviction. Hisunique insights and fluency with leading younger talent helps clients find leadership approaches best suited for their distinct skills and abilities.

Leadership Coaching Experience

  • Charter Communications, GE Digital
  • Celgene (Bio-tech), High Ridge Brands (CPG)
  • Tech Start-ups (TripleLift, SimpleReach, Bluecore, Convexity, Persistent Systems, PulsePoint)
  • eXelate (data and analytics), itBit (Blockchain)
  • BrandShop (ecommerce), RightClick (recruiting)
  • Active Intl., TrueAction/Ebay (advertising)
  • Hedge Funds (Governors Lane, Hedgeye, Protégé Partners)
  • Consumer products (LittleBits, Tegu Toys

Small Business will go Bankrupt soon: what are politicians doing?

Reactive to Proactive: 5 Steps to IgniteTeam Performance

“I am so busy!”

It’s a constant refrain from my coaching clients. Leaders at every level. In any business or market conditions. Year round. “Crazy busy!”

Schedules crammed with status updates, check-ins, and progress reports. On our heels all day reacting to the incoming. Endless email streams. The gauntlet of meetings. Troubleshooting,problem-solving, conflict intervention and mending egos.

I know. That was me!

“No time to think when you’re firefighting all day.” The killer pace is grueling. Everything is URGENT! Day after day after day. “It’s a vicious cycle I can’t break!”

“And, what’s the point?!” leaders grumblein our sessions. So little of their work feels meaningful or vital to small  business. Too much time refereeing or scorekeeping. Not enough in their role as Coach and Catalyst; developing people, building teamwork and culture or sparking innovation.

Why is this chaotic culture of “Busy” so prevalent, even among experienced leaders and team members?

In today’s workplace, interruptions and distractions are epidemic. A UC Irvine study found knowledge workers spend only 2-3 minutes on any given task. 35+% check their emails every 3 minutes while switching between apps and websites 300 times per day! According to Harvard research, people spend 45+% of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they are currently doing.

Adding to the discord is the universal expectation for immediate responses to emails, texts and chats. Collectively, weall assume whatever is top of mind for meshould be top of mind for you.

The silver bullet for managing these demands? Our abilityto multi-task. The problem;multi-tasking is a myth.  

“We are biologically incapable of processing information-rich input simultaneously,” writes John Medina in BrainRuless

What we perceive as multi-tasking is just our brains toggling back and forth between undertakings. And since the brain consumes 20+% of our body’s energy, all this mental booting up and powering down is exhausting. Medina cites studies showing people who are interrupted take 50% longer to accomplish tasks and make up to 50% more errors

No wonder it feels like we’re spinning our wheels!

Fact is, the human brain operates most effectively during periods of uninterrupted focus and concentration.This is no surprise to anyone who hasmarveled at how much can be accomplished on a long flight or sequestered in a remote hovel.

Thus, attention is every Business most valuable asset. How well attention is leveraged will determine the effectiveness of any organization. Best-selling author and Founder of Basecamp Jason Fried insists, “As leaders, our top responsibility is to protect our employees’ time and attention.” As well as lower anxiety levels.

Leaders can boost performance by intentionally managing their teams’ attention.As a result, people up and down the organization will streamline workloads while finding time for the most impactful and fulfilling initiatives to drive the business.

With the following 5 steps,any leader can enable their teams to be less reactive and more proactive.

Nothing wastes attention more than the non-stop distractions afflicting offices everywhere. And nothing is easier or more cost-effective to address. (It’s free!)

Start by shutting down your email. Turn off notifications. Silence the smartwatch and put your phone in a drawer.

That’s irresponsible,” leaders rail at me.  “Clients will go ballistic!” The push back I endure for this suggestion is epic. “I’ll get canned!”Maybe you feel this way. Or others in your organization share these fears.

Here’s an exercise that can assuage these concerns.Have your team take an inventory of emails/texts/chats over the past week. Split them between External (client or vendor) and Internal. Tally up how many required (a) your immediate action, (b) your action or (c) no action (i.e., cc’d, FYI, SYK, CYA etc.). 

Most folks have found less than 5% of inbound communications require their immediate attention yet they are constantly monitoring the other 95%!Managing one’s time for the exception rather than the rule is unproductive.Additionally, this evaluation demonstrates how often we pull our own fire alarms. And heighten stress unnecessarily.

Have teams define what is truly “Urgent”. Establish a commitment to respect colleagues’ focus and be more thoughtful about when to disturb others.

Confusion and uncertainty slow down firms of any size or maturity. Clarity will increase organizational speed while tempering apprehension and angst.

Weekly One-on-Ones are the ideal medium to spell out expectations. Ensure everyone understands priorities, deliverables, time frames, metrics of success, decision-making authority in addition to their specific roles and responsibilities. Create a forum where all team members feel safe to ask for help or lobby for resources they need to get the job done.

There is a saying that “Wisdom is the ability to discern between the Urgent and the Important.” In most organizations, the tyranny of the Urgent is smothering important Strategic Initiatives.

To help teams stop wasting attention on unnecessary obligations and practices, scrutinize “To Do” lists.  Pinpoint duties that can be handed off or eliminated.Leverage collaborative platforms to provide visibility into projects and reduce the need for status updates and progress reporting.

Adding longer stretches of calm, uninterrupted concentration enables anyone to perform better.

Slug Focus Blocks into calendars at the start of each week. Team members can use these 45 to 75-minute periods to take specific projects as close to completion as possible. After spending 15 minutes responding to inbound communications, jump back into another Focus Block.

Establishing this style of time-blocking will ensure execution is sharper and productivity is at its best.

Every team member has big ideas they wish to to tackle. Too often, these impactful initiatives haven’t been thought through.Work on undefined“vague notions” will be frustratingly slow with the gravitational pull of routines, familiar tasks or “To Do” list box checking consuming our mind share.

To break this pattern, help each team member identify 2-3 Strategic Initiatives; the business building, people building, team building, culture building or idea building undertakings to accelerate company growth.

Next, develop Proactive Plans for each. These detailed action plans are not complex. In fact, they are commonly used in other aspects of everyone’s work.

For each Strategic Initiative, ask the following: What is the Current Situation (Pt. A.)? Where do we want the project to go (Pt. B)? What are the Deliverables and Outcomes that will establish when we have achieved the Objective? How long will the project take to complete? 3 days? 3 weeks? 3 months? 3 years? What are the Milestones along the way that will demonstrate the project is on track? And finally, what specific Action Steps are needed to go from A to B?

Once action steps are determined, they can be rolled into daily “To Do” lists and the Strategic Initiatives are more likely to be achieved.

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