Friday, January 19, 2018

leadership dot #2044: searching

A friend asked for my advice as her daughter begins the college search process. Maybe this advice can help you or someone you know as you embark on this milestone.

This is what I recommend:
  1. Visit campus when school is in session and do an individual visit at anyplace that you are serious about. Visit programs are fine to get an overview, but I would visit 1:1 to the schools on the short list.
  2. While there, watch how staff interacts with each other and with faculty/students. Do they call students by name when passing in the hall? Greet each other? Treat faculty and staff the same? I think you can tell a lot about the climate from informal interactions. Is it a “we” place or a “they” place — you want to go somewhere where the staff genuinely likes each other because they will work together better and be more likely to resolve problems for your student.
  3. Don’t pick a school based on a major, faculty member or coach. Yes, the institution should have the major that the student thinks they want initially, but chances are they will change majors and/or the individual person could leave. I used to tell students that they were looking for a fit in three areas: academically, socially (all out-of-classroom including athletics, involvement, the city, etc.) and financially. Consider it as a whole. The place with great academics may not be the best choice overall.
  4. See your final financial aid package before deciding. The “too expensive” school may become affordable and the lesser-cost one may actually require more personal investment. Know the numbers before you choose.
  5. Ask about freshmen retention: what are the numbers, what are the reasons students leave, what are they doing to help students stay. It will also tell you a lot about the climate and whether there is a culture of students-are-on-their-own or whether the institution invests resources toward student success.
The college search is a great paradox where on one hand it influences so much, but on the other hand, there are few wrong choices. I believe much of college is what a student makes of it. The same student can have a great experience and learn a lot almost anywhere if they put their mind to it. So don’t stress too much about it — go where the fit in the three dimensions feels best and enjoy!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

leadership dot #2043: habits

Since January is the month of many people trying to start new habits, some advice from writer Gretchen Rubin may be helpful. In her book Better than Before, Rubin categorizes people as Abstainers or Moderators when it comes to habit formation: Abstainers do best when they cut out the undesirable behavior entirely whereas Moderators feel deprived without some latitude to indulge on occasion.

Understanding your personal preference will go a long way in helping you keep your resolutions or achieve your goals. If you are an Abstainer, you are best by not ordering the popcorn at the concession stand because you have a difficult time eating “just a little.” You are better off by not turning on the television some nights because you find it challenging to stop after just one show, or you will find more success by cutting swear words out of your vocabulary entirely instead of just cutting back. Soon it becomes a habit to be without and Abstainers feel no sense of loss once their new, automatic response is engrained.

Moderators do best when they have self-imposed restrictions, but retain the ability to make changes in moderation. They can cut back on carbs, instead of eliminating them entirely. They succeed at reducing latte expenditures but don't’ need to stop having their treat. Moderators have the ability to say no to certain volunteer obligations and yes to others. If a Moderator attempts to cut something out entirely, they will resent it and push back on the behavior.

Understanding your leanings will go a long way toward setting you up for success. If you know you are an Abstainer, don’t tempt yourself by breaking the barrier and if you are a Moderator, don’t punish yourself by saying no to everything.

A little self-knowledge can go a long way in solidifying the behaviors that we seek to repeat.

Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin, 2015.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

leadership dot #2042: pass

For Christmas, I received a year’s subscription to the MoviePass – a new program that, for about $10/month, allows you to see one movie per day in almost any movie theatre. It has been the greatest gift!

What I have discovered is that I really like movies on the big screen – much more than I realized that I did. I have seen more films in the theatre in the past month than probably in the past year. I take more risks and see things that I would not have otherwise paid to see. I see movies that I love multiple times (and, in the case of The Greatest Showman, yet again for the sing-along version!). I go to the theatre because it is now literally cheaper than renting from Redbox as long as you can resist the concession stand.

Instead of going to a movie as a rare treat, I this month I have seen several movies a week. Maybe the novelty will fade (or the post-Christmas selection of films will wane), but for now, I am really enjoying this cinematic addition to my entertainment.
MoviePass is a confluence of two key trends: a) a subscription service where people pay a recurring fee to get access to something and b) the use of data to mine the purchasing habits of the buyers. Part of what funds MoviePass is the data that the company sells to studios about the demographics and attendance patterns of the users. They already know how many tickets are sold, but now they know much more about who has purchased them.

Think of how your organization can capitalize on either one of these behaviors. Can you offer part of your services as a subscription for your most dedicated clients? Or perhaps you have data that could be valuable to your efforts (or to someone else’s)?
Implementing either strategy could be the ticket to your organization’s future success.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

leadership dot #2041: silos

Many times when organizations are looking for new ideas, people’s minds center around expansion in the industry that they are currently in: colleges create additional majors, banks add new financial instruments, or retailers begin to carry a different product line. All of these are appropriate sources of new revenue but stay within known parameters (and thus limits to growth).

One farmer in Illinois thought about his resources in new ways. Instead of planting an additional crop or buying more acres, he moved beyond agriculture to venture into the recreation business by converting an old silo into a climbing wall. The existing height of the silo structure was perfect for climbing needs and with some retrofitting it has become a novel entertainment destination for people in the area.

Organizations often talk about “breaking down silos”, but maybe your quest should be to leave them standing – literally – and repurpose the use of your organization’s resources instead.

Monday, January 15, 2018

leadership dot #2040: love

I received a Christmas card that said: “When we don’t know exactly what to do, we use the guide ‘Do what love would do’ to remind us that our decisions and actions should always be worthy of those we love.” It was from Alia, a non-profit working with foster care innovation, but I have taken the mantra to heart this week as I attempt to train my new puppy.

When I put her in the crate on the first night, she howled – then cried the most pitiful whimper. I thought of what it must be like to be without her littermates and to be in this strange house, so I ‘did what love would do’ and put her in a laundry basket next to my bed and let her sleep there.

On Night #4, Emma learned that she could jump out of that basket – and that it was much more pleasant to relieve herself inside the warm house – so I ‘did what love would do’ again and insisted that she start spending the night in her crate. After a mere moment of protest, she snuggled in for the night and now freely goes into the crate on her way to becoming a well-mannered dog.

Whether with a puppy, a child or a supervisee, love doesn’t always mean saying yes. Sometimes love requires a definitive no and setting boundaries that will help foster love and respect going forward.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

leadership dot #2039: wires crossed

I recently donated blood and this was the office in which the staff took my vital signs and conducted my donation history:

Who thought that it was ok to leave the wiring like this? Did the installer prioritize speed over pride by leaving the job in this manner? Do the nurses even notice the entanglement when using this office to greet volunteer donors? Has the administration abdicated their responsibility for creating a professional atmosphere in which to conduct serious work?

I believe that the problem stems from the fact that it is a “general-use” office where multiple staff members meet with hosts of donors. No one has ownership of the space. It is used by everyone, so is cared for by no one.

Segments of highways receive more attention than this donor office.

Do you have common spaces in your organization that need to be “adopted” by someone to provide routine cleaning and inspection? Your space is part of your brand and reputation. Don’t let your wires get crossed as to who is responsible for maintaining it.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

leadership dot #2038: conversion

For Christmas this year, I gave my siblings a flash drive – with 3,347 family slides scanned onto it and made a print book with a selection of shots. It was undoubtedly a labor of love, but one that proved to be quite timely given other circumstances. The slides had been sitting in my basement in carousels for several years since we cleaned out the childhood home, but they had remained untouched.

When I started the scanning process, I found many carousels (aka hundreds of slides) that none of the “kids” had ever seen before: my mom and dad’s dating days, wedding and honeymoon; photos of my mom and her sister in high school and slides of times long before any of us were even a thought. While we had spent countless hours watching slides of the family, we always started with our childhood – where we could see ourselves in the pictures – without ever caring about those early days.

If I had not scanned those slides, I am positive that no one would have ever seen them, and now they have become prized treasures.

Think about what old media is lurking in the basement of your home or organization. Are there old documents or photographs that would be better put into a book that could be shared? Can you find untold stories in storage that should be put into a vehicle to be appreciated? Is there a project that would make the visuals of your legacy come to life?

It may not be easy to convert old memories into modern methods, but it is so worth the effort to do so.