Saturday, March 17, 2018

leadership dot #2101: point of view

People generally want to be right. What makes it more difficult, even for open-minded folks, is to absorb the concept that while they may be right, others may be right, too.
This simple exercise can help illustrate the point.

If you look at the figure from this perspective, it is a 3:

From this side, the same shape is an M:

But from this way, it looks like a W:

And from the other direction, it appears to be an E:

Someone might see this drawing and report that it was an E, 3, M or W – and be correct.

The next time you hear a statement that differs from yours, think of this dot. Ask yourself whether they literally have a different point of viewing rather than a different point of view.

Thanks, Mike!

Friday, March 16, 2018

leadership dot #2100: sound of silence

When someone does something that displeases you, what is your initial reaction? If you are like many, your tendency is to raise your voice, but it may be more effective to do the opposite. Silence can be a more powerful tool in your supervisory arsenal.

A colleague recounts the story of an employee who erred and after she gave her explanation and mea culpas, he sat there and nodded. The silence was more unnerving than a reprimand would have been, and she said so. “Aren’t you going to yell at me?” she asked. No.

In a vastly different arena than supervision, the puppy training manuals encourage the same treatment when the dog has an accident. Instead of scolding, ignoring the puppy and giving it the silent treatment is claimed to be more powerful. Puppies want affirmation and affiliation so instead of scaring it, shun it and behavior modification will come more quickly, or so the theory goes.

While I am not advocating for silence in all (or even many) situations, saying nothing does have its role. If the deed is already done, the person has acknowledged the error and learned from it, there may be nothing more meaningful to say.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

leadership dot #2099: test run

Yesterday I went to a meeting to learn about new regulations for a grant I am writing. There is a substantially new financial reporting form, and within minutes of reading it, many of the attendees had questions about what information was needed. The administrator did not know the answers; the financial reviewer was not available, and we left the meeting with more questions than answers.

I think of how many times we are all guilty of preparing a new form or policy that makes perfect sense to us but ends up being confusing for the user. Wouldn’t we be better off if we made it a part of the process to test our products or process with those who will be using it before implementing them?

Prototyping is precisely the final stage in Human-Centered Design, where a model or draft of your concept is shared with those who will be engaged in the solution. The goal is to get feedback from the end users early in the process to reduce your risk, learn what is/isn’t working, and make iterations to change the design for the better.

It may feel like it takes more time to prototype and field test, but in the end, you’ll save yourself time and gain allies as you create a better process. What idea do you have that needs to go out for a test run before it’s final?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

leadership dot #2098: hybrid

While waiting for a recent meeting to begin, the participants began discussing their dogs. My four-month-old is a cross between an English Cream Retriever and a Golden Retriever – and she was the most common of the bunch. Others had recently acquired a Bernadoodle (Bernese Mountain Dog/Poodle), a Cockapoo (Cocker Spaniel/Poodle) and Goldador (Golden Retriever/Labrador). What happened to the generic Beagle?

It seems that genetic engineering is prevalent in the dog world these days. Science has made it possible to take positive traits from one breed (i.e.: no shedding) and blend it with desired traits from another lineage (i.e. great personality). It has resulted in a robust market for all kinds of hybrids and “boutique dogs.”

It got me wondering why the same principle couldn’t be applied in organizations – taking the positive aspects of one service and crossing it with desired characteristics of another. It already happens in many online professional development courses – mixing low cost (online learning) with relevant material (formal education). Planet Fitness combines the best of gyms (equipment) with a casual user model instead of bodybuilding (free training). Southwest took the self-serve aspects of bus travel and the speed of air travel to create its model.

Ask yourself the “if only” question. If only…retrievers didn’t shed so much. If only fitness trainers were included in membership so people actually kept going. If only affordable education was offered on topics that adults really wanted to learn…Then create a new hybrid combination of your own that gets your client’s tails wagging.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

leadership dot #2097: extended

Instead of utilizing an outside contractor for the administrative office renovation, a local organization opted to deploy the services of their company’s in-house facility crew. The decision was made primarily to save money, but it yielded unexpected benefits that are even more enduring than the new walls and furniture.

Members of the facilities staff, who normally do their work outside of the headquarters area, were suddenly face-to-face with the organization’s leadership for an extended period of time. Administrators interacted with facility staff – and gained an appreciation for the quality of work being accomplished. More than that, the interaction led to humanizing of both teams – it was no longer “THE Administration” or “Facilities”, and instead became Joe, Tammy, George and Ann.

The renovation project provided an opportunity for two groups to collaborate in ways they had not previously done and resulted in cost savings, connections and a source of pride in the new space.

Think about how you can utilize in-house groups to work together in ways that do not normally overlap. Can the front-line staff work together with the senior leadership on a process re-design? Is there a way for middle managers to attend an interactive workshop with the board and humanize the other team? Can community members or neighbors be invited to serve on a task force that impacts how they interface with your organization?

Having an annual meeting or holiday social is better than doing nothing to cultivate camaraderie, but it is in the extended interactions that the real magic occurs. Try to overlap your disparate groups in ways that allow them to get to know each other instead of just meet each other. Even if it results in expenditures instead of savings, it’ll be worth it.

Monday, March 12, 2018

leadership dot #2096: the meaning

If I asked you what the purpose of the Post Office was, you might answer “to deliver the mail.” While you would be correct, there is a deeper purpose to their work.

The official mission states: “The Postal Service shall have as its basic function the obligation to provide postal services to bind the Nation together through the personal, educational, literary and business correspondence of the people.”

It reminds me of Simon Sinek’s appeal to organizations to Start with Why and to articulate their underlying purpose instead of just sharing what they do or how they do it.

Clearly, the mission states a deeper reason for the Post Office's existence, but the Smithsonian Institution’s National Postal Museum (the former DC Post Office) has an even more emotional “why” chiseled on its building:

Messenger of Sympathy and LoveServant of Parted FriendsConsoler of the LonelyBond of the Scattered FamilyEnlarger of the Common Life

Carrier of News and KnowledgeInstrument of Trade and IndustryPromoter of Mutual AcquaintanceOf Peace and of Goodwill Among Men and Nations.

Think of how you describe the work you do. Is it: “deliver mail”, “provide postal services to bind the National together” or to be a “Messenger of Sympathy and Love…”? Your work may be more meaningful if you articulate the meaning behind it.

Source: USPS Historian

Sunday, March 11, 2018

leadership dot #2095: happy ending

Intellectually we know that if we recycle items that they are repurposed into other goods, but the process by which this happens is elusive. Several stores have added displays to make a more direct connection between recycling and its end game.

Madewell clothing promotes recycling of jeans – which are then turned into housing insulation. Their “donate your jeans program” has prominent displays in the front windows and throughout the store, making a connection between products that most people would not normally associate together.

The Eataly supermarket shows how their carts come from recycled bottles hopefully helping customers see that recycling actually does have its benefits (in addition to giving the franchise recognition for its environmental consciousness!)

Many organizations are doing good things in the area of sustainability. Follow the lead of these two businesses and connect the dots between efforts on the front end and their implications. We all like to see a happy ending to the story.