Please enjoy this transcript of this episode with L3 Founder, Doug Smith. It was transcribed and therefore might contain a few typos. For ways to connect with Doug, check out our show notes.
Doug Smith: 00:00 Don’t judge anyone’s leadership. Don’t judge their season of life and don’t judge their relationship skills and most likely if there’s any other areas that you’re judging people in, stop. If you see areas of lack and people, here’s what you do. Number one, give them grace. You want to know why? Because there’s a thousand areas that you could be judged in as well. There’s a thousand areas that you’re, falling short as well and so give people grace. Nobody is perfect. This is the L3 Leadership podcast, episode number 219.
Doug Smith: 00:37 Hey everyone, and welcome to another episode of the L3 Leadership podcast. My name is Doug Smith and I am your host. I hope you’re doing well. In today’s episode. You’ll hear me share a lesson on the six biggest mistakes that I’ve made in my leadership journey so far, but before we dive into that, I just have a few brief announcements. I want to thank our sponsor Alex Tulandin. Alex is a full-time realtor with Keller Williams Realty, and if you were looking to buy or sell a house in the Pittsburgh market, Alex is your guy. He’s a member and a supporter of L3 Leadership and he would love to have an opportunity to connect with you. You can learn more about firstname.lastname@example.org I also want to thank our sponsor, Henne Jewelers. They’re a jeweler, owned by my friend and mentor, John Henne, my wife Laura, and I got our engagement and wedding rings through Henny jewelers and we just think they’re an incredible organization. Not only do they have great jewelry, but they also invest in people. In fact, they give every engaged couple of book to help them prepare for marriage and we just love that. And so if you’re in need of a good jeweler, check out Hennejewelers.com with that being said, let’s dive right into the lesson, enjoy it, and I’ll be back at the end with a few announcements.
Doug Smith: 01:39 Hey everyone. Today, I’d like to talk to you about the six biggest leadership mistakes that I’ve made so far in my journey. And before we get started, I’ll just say this, that I’ve made millions of mistakes up to this point in my journey so far and I’m sure I’ll make millions more. But as I reflected on my journey, the mistakes that I’m sharing today are the ones that have been the most significant and have caused the most significant growth in my life. And so I thought they would add the most value to you. And my hope is when you listen to this lesson that you will learn from some of my mistakes and not make them yourself, that would be my hope. So let’s dive right into this. The first mistake that I made in my leadership journey was I judged the leaders ahead of me.
Doug Smith: 02:15 I judged the leaders ahead of me. I judge the leaders in three specific areas that I’ll share with you. The first was their actual leadership. I would say things like, well, if I had their job, I lead a thousand times better. And maybe you’ve made statements like that and maybe you’re actually thinking that in about a leader in your life right now. And here’s the questions that I thought asked myself and you need to ask yourself is, would you do a better job? And how do you actually know? And do you have any idea what it’s like to sit in their seat? Because the reality is you don’t, and you don’t know if you do better. The reality is until you sit in their seat or have a similar position, you have no idea how you would do or what you would do it.
Doug Smith: 02:52 And here’s an even harsher reality. You might do better. That’s true. You might be a better leader, you might take things to another level. But here’s the other reality. You might not, you might not be as good as you think you are or you might not be able to say to take it to the next level. And so stop judging people’s leadership. The second area I judged leaders’ lives in was people seasons of life. Now, this was mostly in my twenties, but I remember, you know, looking up to leaders in their thirties who started to have children and a balanced work life a little differently. And I thought they were lazy. If they had to leave work a little bit early to go pick up their kid or be with their kid, I would just thought, man, they’re lazy or they’re not a great leader.
Doug Smith: 03:28 They’re not willing to do whatever it takes. That was dumb. I would just say that that was dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb. And you know, when I stopped judging people, people seasons of life when I had kids, and that was my new season of life. And now I don’t judge anyone in any season of their life. I’m just going to say that. So stop judging, have empathy, have empathy for people and the season of life that they’re in. Because unless you’ve experienced it, you have no idea what it’s like to go through their season. And the third area that I judge people in a was their relational skills. You know, I would look to, to leaders who weren’t as good relationally or didn’t have as much emotional intelligence. And I would say, well, if they don’t know how to lead people, they don’t how to coach people in a loving way.
Doug Smith: 04:09 But the reality was that it’s really hard to lead and manage people even if you’re good with people. In fact, I would argue sometimes it’s actually harder to lead and manage people if you’re good with people. Because as I’ll share in a future mistake, you could be a people pleaser and so you won’t lead people when you have to lead them because you value the relationship. But I’ll get into that in a minute. So I judged people’s leadership. I judged people seasons of life and I judged people’s relational skills as leaders. And here’s what I learned about that. Mistake number one, I read this quote recently, I love this. “Judging a person just does not define who they are. It defines who you are.” “Judging a person does not define who they are, it defines who you are.” Just dwell on that for a few minutes.
Doug Smith: 04:50 And the lesson here is simple. Don’t judge anyone’s leadership. Don’t judge their season of life and don’t judge the relationship skills and most likely, if there are any other areas that you’re judging people in, stop. If you see areas of lack of people, here’s what you do. Number one, give them grace. You want to know why? Because there are a thousand areas that you could be judged in as well. There are a thousand areas that you’re, you’re falling short as well, and so give people grace. Nobody is perfect. Number two, here’s a novel thought, and I’ll talk about this in another mistake, but have conversations with them about it. Do you know that they may the, Oh, I shouldn’t say they may. I know leaders have blind spots and they, you know why they don’t. They call them blind spots because they don’t know about them because their blind spots, and so you, through having a conversation with them about their leadership or an area that they’re struggling in, may enlighten them and may help them grow to the next level in their leadership.
Doug Smith: 05:40 So have hard conversations. And number three, fill in their gaps. Fill in their gaps. Do you know why you’re judging people? You’re judging people because you probably are judging people in the areas of your strength. That’s what I know, and they’re probably not as strong in those areas as you are. But here’s what I want you to know. Do you know that that’s probably why you’re on staff there and that you can fill in their gaps as a leader, if you see gaps in leaders’ lives, fill them in. You’re probably strong where they’re weak. So make up for that. Make up for that and help them grow in that area. But fill in the gap. And the second lesson I learned with this mistake is it’s easy to judge people when you’re not the leader. But here’s what I know. One day you might be the leader and when you are the leader, people are going to have a tendency to want to judge you and just imagine how that will feel if you were in that seat.
Doug Smith: 06:27 Have empathy for leaders. One of my favorite stories was I interviewed Clint Hurdle and the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates in a pursuit number 123 of the podcast. And I highly recommend that listening to that. It’s one of my favorite interviews that I’ve ever done. But it, Clint said when he became a manager for the first time in the major leagues, he caught every manager he ever had an apologized to them, but why? Because he realized what it actually took to sit in that seat. And it’s really easy to judge when you’re not in the seat, but, once you sit in it, you have all of the empathy in the world. So stop judging people. That was the biggest, one of the biggest mistakes that I’ve made in my journey. The second mistake that I made in my leadership journey is not knowing how to have hard conversations, not knowing how to have hard conversations.
Doug Smith: 07:10 And I just, I recently did an entire lesson, in episode number 204 of the podcast on how to have hard conversations. I’ve gotten all kinds of feedback on how helpful that podcast episode has been. So if you haven’t listened to that and you struggle with this, I can’t recommend listening to that highly enough. I share everything I’ve learned about having hard conversations. And again, that’s an episode number 204 and it’s just called how to have hard conversations. But I’ll just say this about the mistake that I made because I didn’t know how to have hard conversations in my leadership journey I judged people and I was really passive aggressive. I’d hold a lot of anger and bitterness inside and frustration. And so as a result, instead of going to the person, I would gossip and I’d gather everyone around me and turn people against the leader.
Doug Smith: 07:53 It was just horrible. I had no empathy. I gave no grace. I showed no mercy. I was constantly frustrated with the people I was judging. And here’s probably the biggest thing about this mistake is I never actually solved the problem because I didn’t know how to have hard conversations. And until I learned to have hard conversations, I never solved everything. And I just went into the circle of frustration. It was horrible. And so the lesson here is to learn how to have conversations, stopped bottling things up and deal with it. And again, I encourage you to listen to the takeaway is listening to episode 204, and start having the hard conversations that you need to have. The third mistake that I made in my leadership journey, and to be honest with you, this is the biggest area of growth in my leadership journey right now.
Doug Smith: 08:36 But it’s being a people pleaser. It’s being a people pleaser. The reason this is my biggest leadership challenge is I love people. I’m naturally a people person and all the personality tests that I take, it’s like, you know, highly, highly, highly relational and I always believe the best in people. But here’s what I know. And John Maxwell says this, he said, you can’t lead people if you need people. You can’t lead people if you need people. And if you’re naturally a people pleaser, this is going to be a long, a season of growth. But I’m telling you that it’s worth it. And, I had a mentor in my life actually tell me, because I’m a people pleaser. He actually told me about my leadership journey and I’ve seen this happen. He said, Doug, you’re, you’ll lie to people and you won’t lie to people intentionally, you won’t want to you.
Doug Smith: 09:25 And in fact, sometimes you won’t even know you’re doing it, but because you want to please people, you’ll tell them what they want to hear instead of being honest with them. And so be aware of that and learned to be self-aware around that. And that’s an area that I’ve really had to pay attention to. Am I just telling thing people things that they want to hear or am I telling them what they need to hear? Something that’s significantly helped me in this area, recently, I was in a leadership meeting at our are a organization and one of the other leaders, spoken to my life and he said, this is a little faith-based, but he was speaking about a book he was reading and uh, about Jesus and the Bible. And Philippians chapter two it says that Christ Jesus, the son of God, laid down his privileges as the son of God to come to earth and basically was no longer the son of God, right?
Doug Smith: 10:11 He laid down his privilege to become human. And he talked about we need to think about our privileges in life. And he said, Doug, you’re privileges in life and you may not even view it as this is that people like you, people like you, and it’s really easy for people to like you and you’re highly relational and it’s very easy for you to build relationships, but in leadership, maybe you need to lay down your privilege of being liked for doing what’s best for the organization and for doing what’s best for the individual. And, and that was a game changer to me. And he said, Doug, I see you in, in leadership meetings and you start to push people. You start to challenge people. You start to be honest with people until you feel like the relationship is in jeopardy until it gets uncomfortable relationally.
Doug Smith: 10:55 And then he said, then you either make a joke or change the subject. He said, keep pressing on that key pressing on it because it’s the most beneficial thing you could do for someone is to be honest with them and help them grow and develop. And so the things that, the lesson in this mistake and, and things that I’m processing in this area or this, I have to ask myself, what is in the best interest of the people I am leading? What is in the best interest of the people I’m leading? And it’s always to be honest with people. I love what Leslie Braksick said. She’s been on the podcast. She said, if you’re not being promoted, it’s likely that you’re missing a piece of feedback that someone hasn’t given you. And the reality is, as a leader, I usually have feedback that will help people go to the next level.
Doug Smith: 11:35 But I often lack the courage because I’m a people pleaser and don’t want to jeopardize the relationship. But if I’m going to do what’s most beneficial for the people I’m leading, then I’m going to be honest with them. And a quote that’s been a game changer for me in this area. The last year’s Brene Brown, she said clearest, kind, unclear, is unkind, clearest, kind, unclear is unkind. And so I’m doing everything I can to lead people, to be clear with them and to tell them what they need to hear, not what they want to hear in this area. And the second question that I’m asking is, what is in the best interest of the organization? Not just what’s in the best interests of the individuals, but that, do you know, I shouldn’t say, do you know what I’m learning is there’s times where you have to put the organization ahead of the person.
Doug Smith: 12:15 If a person isn’t the right fit to move the organization forward, it may be time for them to move on. And that might be the most beneficial thing for them. And it might be the most beneficial thing for the organization. But if you’re a people pleaser like me, these are challenging issues. And so I’m doing everything I can in this season of my life to learn to lead people and not need people. But it’s very, very challenging. But that’s a mistake that’s costing me multiple times, but I’m learning to grow through it. The fourth mistake that I made in my leadership journey, and I’m sure every leader’s guilty of this, but just it’s doing everything myself and being afraid to ask for help, doing everything myself and being afraid to ask for help. I think as leaders, this is a challenge for everyone. I think a lot of us, we start off our careers getting things done and executing.
Doug Smith: 13:01 However, and I’ve reached this point in my life, we get to a point, if we continue to grow, we get to a point where we can no longer do everything ourselves. It becomes unsustainable. And so we’re forced to ask for help. Unfortunately, I waited until I was forced to ask for help until I needed help because there was nothing else because I couldn’t do everything. But if I could go back and, really just challenge myself, I would have asked for help sooner. I would have gotten a team around me quicker and I would have been willing to pay for help quicker. It just would have saved me so much. So, stopped doing everything yourself and start asking for help. That was a big mistake that I made. The fifth mistake that I made in my leadership journey was thinking in silos, thinking in silos.
Doug Smith: 13:44 Too often in my leadership journey, I thought about my job or my department instead of thinking about the organization. I love what Craig Rochelle said. He said, start thinking like an owner, not like an employee. Start thinking like an owner, not an employee. And here’s what I thought about it says I’m a wrote employees focus on their job and their job only, but owners think about everything in the organization. And so the progression that I needed to make quicker than I did not make in my leadership journey quick enough and I’m certainly there now. But first I asked the two often, how can I make my job better? And that’s everyone’s role. Clearly, you want to do a good job, how can I do my job better? And you want to do as good as you can, but as a leader, you don’t want to just think, how can I do my job better?
Doug Smith: 14:28 You want to start to think, well, how can I make our department better? How can I make our department better? And that should be on your radar. Hey, in addition to my job, what can I do? What can I say that will make our department better? And then as you continue to grow in your leadership journey, how you should think on a daily basis is how can I make our organization better? Not just how can I do my job well and how can I make my job better? Not Just my department and what I can do for them, but hey, how can I make our organization better? You need to think like that. But too often in my leadership journey in the beginning, I just thought about my job in my role instead of the organizational impact that I could make. So start thinking like an owner and stop thinking like an employee if you want to be a leader.
Doug Smith: 15:07 And the sixth mistake that I made a, and the, this is the last one, is just realizing the importance of risk management. I failed to recognize the importance of risk management. Now I mentioned this earlier, but, on all the personality tests, I’m a sanguine, I’m a high B on the predictive index. I’m a high, I on the disc profile. Bottom line is I like to have fun, pretty much no matter what, right? I want to make everything a party. So as a result, I naturally will not think through risks and a given situation. And I’ll just say this about the mistakes. This did not work out so well in my leadership journey, early on and throughout my twenties. And I have a few stories to prove it, but I’ll say this, I’m not going to share them on this podcast just to prove to you that I’m actually thinking about risk management.
Doug Smith: 15:54 See, right, I am managing my risk by not sharing the stories where risk management has gone wrong in my leadership journey. But here is what I know, and here’s what I’ve learned. Is that in leading, you have to think through risk management. You have to, and if you’re like me and you’re not naturally good at risk management, then get around people who are, and let me just preface this, if you’re a people person like me or like the high sanguine, the people who are good with risk management are probably going to drive you nuts, right? They’re going to drive you nuts because they’re going to seem like a brake pedal when you might be a gas pedal and you want to go, go, go, and they’re saying, no, no, no, we got to think about this. And to be fair to them, you drive them nuts.
Doug Smith: 16:36 I promise. I promise you that. I drove people who think through risk management crazy, um, throughout my journey. And so, it goes both ways, but this, this is just we need each other, right? People who are gifted risk management and think that way, are wired that way for a reason. And they could save you and your organization from your greatest regrets. And I love that. And so, people who think through risk management are naturally gifted to that are so important. So if you’re not naturally gifted, or to think through risk management, surround yourself with people who are and allow them to teach you to think through risk management. It’s been so beneficial to have people around me who helped me see the risks and helped me think through it. And now I’m at a point in my journey where I’m actually thinking through risk management.
Doug Smith: 17:18 I’m not perfect at it. It’s still not my greatest strength, but I’m a lot better than I was in my twenties. And maybe if we meet sometime in person one on one, I’ll share with you some stories that have gone crazy. So there you have it. Those are the sixth greatest mistakes that I’ve made in my leadership journey. I hope they helped you more than anything. I hope that they’ll stop you from making the same mistakes and your leadership journey. And the next month I’ll be sharing some things that I did well on my leadership journey. But I really hope this helped and I would love to hear from you what mistakes, resignated with you and also love to hear what mistakes you’ve made in your leadership journey that you’ve learned from. So thanks for listening and I’ll talk to you guys next episode. Hey everyone, and thank you so much for listening to my lesson on the top six mistakes that I’ve made in my leadership journey.
Doug Smith: 18:02 If you would like a copy of the notes, you can download those at L3leadership.org forward slash episode 219 while you’re on the site and make sure that you say sign up for our email list. When you do, you’ll get a free copy of my ebook Making the Most of Mentoring, which is my step by step process for getting and cultivating relationships with mentors. So I encourage you to download that. Also, when you sign up for the email list, we send out an email every week, coat l three weekly, which is a list of resources and, and tools to help leaders grow. And I think it’ll add a ton of value to your life. So make sure you sign up for that today. As always, I like to end with a quote, and I’ll quote Kurt Warner today. He said this, and I just love this quote. He said, “If you’re willing to put yourself and your dreams on the line, at the very least, you’ll discover an inner strength you may not have known existed.” I love that. I’m saying it again. “If you’re willing to put yourself and your dreams on the line, at the very least, you’ll discover an inner strength do you may not have known existed.” Thank you so much for listening and being a part of l three leadership, Laura, and I appreciate you so much and we will talk to you next episode.