Sunday, March 31, 2013

#303 peep, peep

I wonder how many people will wake up today to find some PEEPS products in their Easter baskets.  It must be an awful lot, because according to their website, on average "5.5 million PEEPS are born each day!"  

The famous yellow chicks have been around for 60 years and are now joined by countless other colors, shapes and holidays.  What is most remarkable is that they have taken on a life beyond being eaten as candy.  There is an annual eating contest (Peep Off), numerous contests, world record competitions and even official art exhibits that feature Peep displays.  The website features recipes (PEEPS kabobs anyone?), a "PEEPSonality" quiz, and more products and social media feeds than you can shake a chick at.  

Reputable organizations such as the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune host PEEPS contests: where old, hard, stale marshmallows are crafted into a dioramas that draw thousands of on-lookers.  

There are also unauthorized recipes on how to infuse them with vodka, ways to make them at home and scientific experiments to test their alleged indestructibility.  How did this unremarkable treat from Pennsylvania become such a phenomenon?  

It seems to me that they have done a good job of combining an element of tradition with finding ways to create an experience with the concoctions.  The contests, Flickr sites, displays and judging all engage people with the product in a tangible way.  The PEEPS are no longer a generic, interchangeable candy, but a "must-have": both to make the Easter basket complete and to provide materials for future social events.

What lessons can you take from the Just Born candy company?  How can you take your product/service and capitalize on social media to involve others with new uses of what you offer?  Can you look the other way and embrace the quirky, irreverent ways that people play with what you produce?  Can you do things to actually encourage it?

This Easter, think about the size of the market that can support the making of 5.5 million marshmallow globs each day.  They are doing something right -- think of what you can do, and then "hop to it".  

Happy Easter!

--- beth triplett

Saturday, March 30, 2013

#302 playlists of life

I am like my iPod -- comprised of a wide variety of playlists:

> Mostly I like soundtracks -- where, like my work, the music serves a purpose and has a sense of intentionality

> I have a fair bit of country -- where the music tells stories about life -- as I do everyday in my job

> I have some instrumentals -- to allow for those moments of reflection that are so important to me

> The rest is soft rock -- not flashy, but achieves its purpose in a pleasurable way

> With only one or two hard rock songs -- for when those one or two crazy moments hit me.

What do your playlists say about you?  Are there new tunes you should add to your repertoire of skills?  Can you take your existing library and group the individual elements in new ways?  Are you comfortable with "shuffling" or do you follow the same order every time?  

Experimenting with your playlists can be one small way to help you become comfortable with bigger changes (see #292).  Literally or even metaphorically, download a new piece of music into your routine today and see who it helps you become.

-- beth triplett

Friday, March 29, 2013

#301 unusual suspects

We often constitute committee membership through a historical process: positions are on a committee because they always have been.  Oftentimes these are directors and senior leaders, without any representation from new or mid-level staff.  Instead, I advocate for using committee participation as both a training tool and a form of staff development.  

To accomplish this, you should fill your committee spots with intentionality, not by rote.  I try to achieve a mix of those who mostly "give" and some of those who primarily "get".  By this I mean that I blend a composition of members with experience who can add to the topic, and those with a fresh perspective who mostly learn from their involvement.

I also try to intentionally add competing voices -- as Lincoln did with the "team of rivals" that Doris Kearns Goodwin chronicled in her book of the same name.  For the group who determines how our university allocates financial aid, I have the director and new staff member in the financial aid office (who advocate for funds to go towards need); a senior  level and a new admissions staff member (who want all the awards to go toward merit); the athletics director and a coach (you can guess where they want any largess) and the controller (who would prefer that we didn't offer aid at all).  The inevitable disagreement often prolongs our decision process, but I also believe it ultimately results in a better outcome.  

Regardless of how we allocate funds, no one will ever think it is enough, but at least those on the committee can understand how the distribution came to pass.  Then peers can assure peers that there was a method to the madness and that their voice was at least heard.  It helps newer staff members truly understand the complexity of issues and gives them great experience to have a seat at the policy table.

The next time you gather a group together, think about who you are inviting.  If it is only the "usual suspects", I encourage you to broaden your membership to allow your work to accomplish dual purposes.

-- beth triplett

Thursday, March 28, 2013

#300 nice

Do you know of a person or department that works feverishly -- they are always busy doing something -- yet they do not have productive results to show for it.  Perhaps what is missing is an element of strategy.  They are doing things right, but are they doing the right things?

I am reminded of a saying from one of my dearest colleagues.  Michael used to preach to us:  "Nice is nice, if what you need is nice."  If what you need is change, action, accountability, results or something else, then "nice" may not be the best option for you.

Without strategic direction, committees meet, without real purpose or accomplishment. Academic departments work hard at doing things that do not directly influence recruitment.  Admissions counselors spend time on those not likely to enroll. Meetings happen, because people don't want to decline requests, even though their time may be much better spent elsewhere.

Think about what you need before you allocate your next hour.  If nice is your goal, then there are many ways to achieve it.  If you have a more specific outcome in mind, you may need to opt for a more pointed strategy to get you there.

-- beth triplett

Missing you Michael Miller!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

#299 details

I am one of those people who is hard-wired to pay attention to details. Most of my training, and certainly the leanings of my temperament, has me thinking of the logistics, planning and specifics of projects or events.

But I also like to think that I know when enough is enough. It is hard for me to encounter people who spend a seemingly inordinate amount of time on trivial details that are inconsequential to the outcome. They banter about and fret about options that do not impact the goal, and then become stressed about all the decisions that have to be made.

When you find yourself contemplating yet another layer of decisions, ask yourself if it is truly warranted. Does what you are dealing with matter to the essence of what you are trying to achieve?

Focusing on the obscure, minute or non-essential details of a project is like cooking a gourmet dinner and worrying if the spice rack is alphabetized. Don't lose sight of the main course.

-- beth triplett

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

#298 whip it

Have you ever seen a line of figure skaters perform what is known as the "whip line"?  The women's arms are linked together as they form a straight line and then try to rotate the line around the skater at one end who acts as a pivot, with the line "whipping" around her.  It is synchronized skating, where everyone on the team depends on everyone else for safety and performance.

The skater acting as the pivot rotates almost in the same location as the other skaters whip around her in an ever growing radius.  The skater on the end is the one who is whipped the most, as she must skate the fastest and furthest to create the effect.  One slip for her is the most dangerous, as she easily could get run over (and sliced) by the blades of other skaters continuing in the rotation.

Creating change in an organization is a lot like creating a whip line.  Those in the center of the change, the ones who start it, oftentimes have the least impact.  They rotate, but are not affected by the tumultuous conditions on the outside.  The further you go down the line, the more impact the skaters feel -- as is often the case with those in organizations.  That great policy that the top leaders suggested -- it is the one at the end of the line that feels the greatest implications when implementing it.  Those in the center don't always feel the speed and magnitude of the change like those on the ends do.

When initiating a change in your organization, you may do well to keep the image of the whip line in mind.  Think of the impact of the last one in the row, rather than just feeling the small impact in your own position.

-- beth triplett

Thanks to Dan Larson for the idea.

Monday, March 25, 2013

#297 that tree

Photographer Mark Hirsch had previously taken a few photos of a large, intricate tree and posted them on Facebook.  A friend wrote, "Dude.  What is it with you and that tree?" and challenged Hirsch to take a photo a day of it for the next year.  Thus the "That Tree" project was born.  Saturday was Day #365.

Over the weekend, I was one of about 300 people who slogged through the mud and snow to stand in the cold for a hour in middle of a cornfield in rural Wisconsin.  The occasion was the final photograph and the public was invited to join in.  It looked like the last scene in the Field of Dreams movie with cars lined along the road as far as you could see.

One of the things that struck me most about this project is that Hirsch took all the photos, including the one on Saturday, with nothing but his iPhone 4S.  Many of the people at the final shot had the same phone, but they didn't have Mark's eye -- or his stick-to-it-iveness.

For many, a similar project could engender many excuses.  "I don't have the right equipment."  "I can't do something every single day."  "It's raining."  "It's snowing."  "The fields are full of mud."  (trust me, they are!)  There are as many excuses as there are days.

But he stuck with it, and soon will have a book that chronicles his project.  He has also been featured on NBC News, The Sierra Club and the (UK) Daily Mail.  Not bad for a Facebook dare!

It is another example of how little things add up to something significant.  When he took the first photo, he had nothing more in mind.  Now, he not only has a book, but a sense of accomplishment for having completed what he set out to do -- without excuses.

How can you start something big today -- just by doing something little?

-- beth triplett

Article with quote in Telegraph Herald 3-14-13 by Megan Gloss
See photos at

Sunday, March 24, 2013

#296 known

Our newspaper carries a column every day that includes birthday listings of famous people.   One day last week, it noted the birthdays of Carl Reiner (who I can't believe is 91!), Bobby Orr, William Hurt, Spike Lee, Holly Hunter and Kathy Ireland -- all age 50 or older.  I know of them all.

Then we got to Michael Rapaport, Chester Bennington, Nick Wheeler and Christy Carlson Romano.  Who are these people?

I am sure that if someone in their age group read the paper, they would have the same reaction to the older set.  

Famous and known are relative terms.  

As you try to communicate to intergenerational audiences, can you test your assumptions before your proceed -- such as  asking high school students if they have ever heard of a person or phrase before including it in admissions publications?  Can you increase clarity with a descriptive phrase (Hockey Hall of Famer Bobby Orr) or by anchoring someone to a more known entity (Disney Channel's Christy Carlson Romano)?    

Half of that "people" column was irrelevant to me, and I'm sure half of it was irrelevant to others.  Try to take steps so that your message isn't the irrelevant half!

-- beth triplett

Saturday, March 23, 2013

#295 expedition

Having lived in two cities now that are along the banks of the Mississippi River, I have come to appreciate the story of Lewis and Clark.  Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set off in 1804 to explore the newly acquired Louisiana Territory and see if the Missouri River connected with the Columbia River and created a passage to the Pacific Ocean.

One of the premier books on the topic is Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose.  It is aptly named, for a heroic amount of courageousness is what was required to make this journey.  "As the keelboat turned her bow into the stream, Lewis and his party cut themselves off from civilization.  There would be no more incoming letters, no orders, no commissions, no fresh supplies, no reinforcements, nothing reaching them, until they returned."*  Would you have turned?

But what was most surprising to me is that the best intelligence Lewis and Clark had led them to believe that their entire trip would be via water.  Thus they packed accordingly, with boats able to ferry much more than one could carry on land.  Not only did much of their trip end up being via horseback, but they encountered the Rocky Mountains as a surprise!  Can you imagine having to traverse over mountains that you did not know existed when you were expecting to travel exclusively via boat?

We can learn from Lewis and Clark about ingenuity, perseverance, flexibility and faith.   They started a journey, and stayed with it, even though they had every reason to give up and turn back.  Had they known the obstacles and hardships ahead, they may not have even set out, but think of the glorious feeling to reach the banks of the Pacific and see that majestic spread in front of you. 

The going may be rough.  There may be unexpected mountains on your path.  It may take two years to complete your quest.  You may feel cut off from everyone else.  But in the end, if the cause is great enough, so is the will to achieve it.

-- beth triplett

* p. 139

Friday, March 22, 2013

#294 undertones

It is interesting to me how some companies and organizations put so much stock into color -- making it an integral part of their brand -- and others change their palette almost on a whim.

Probably one of the most iconic colors is the Tiffany blue -- a specific robin's egg tint that adorns little boxes of bling.  You could put a billboard up in that color and most women in America would know which company it was promoting.

UPS is noted for their dark trucks, and played up the notion in their "What Can Brown Do For You?" advertising campaign.  Breast cancer has a lock on pink.  Coca Cola confused hundreds when the changed their cans to white to promote their "Save the Polar Bear" campaign.  I guess that the mind thinks that Coke cans should be red.

Sports teams capitalize on the enhancement that color brings to their fan base and identity.  Someone once wrote that for the Cardinals opener there was a baseball game "45,000 combinations of red clothing."  Syracuse and Tennessee are known for their orange; Michigan for the "maize and gold", and so on.  Our university's apparel policy even prohibits clothing in the colors of our main nemesis.

Walmart has such awareness of the power of color that it has mandated that the DVD rental machine known as the "Red Box", be painted Walmart blue inside their stores.  No promoting the red of their main competitor, Target, even in that innocuous way.  

The presence or absence of a color can make a powerful statement about your identity and consistency of use can go a long way in anchoring your brand.  There is no right or wrong way to treat color, but how you handle yours should be intentional.  Take a look around your space and see if an outsider could surmise a considered palette choice, and, if not, what you can do to bring some integrity to your messaging through color.

-- beth triplett

Thursday, March 21, 2013

#293 reflections from 1999

Thoughts while out walking...

I walk my dog on a 30' lead.  Thirty feet.  Think about it...that's ten yards.  Enough for a first down.  Those thirty feet of braided hemp provide a world of freedom compared to the typical walking chain.

Most of the time my dog doesn't even know she's on a leash; she merrily trots on her way, zig-zagging along the street, leash slacking behind her.  On a rare occasion I even get ahead of her and have to give a tug of encouragement to pull her along.  Oh, to be sure, she can still plod through the mud.  Yet, despite the vast distance between her romping and my guiding, I still have some control over her and more than once have been able to save her from a passing car or tug her back before she had an unfriendly encounter.

Sometimes the leash is a nuisance to her, and sometimes it's even a hassle for me, but it pretty much works out well for both of us.

My style of supervision is a lot like walking my dog on a 30' lead.  I determine which road we're going to take, but it's up to another to determine exactly how we get to the end of it.  I'm even often quite surprised by the path we take; somehow it's hardly ever the straight or routine one.

I let others have quite a bit of freedom to determine the course, but they're not totally off on their own (although often it may seem like it to them).  I still know that in the end I am ultimately responsible for what happens and need to try and save them from impending pitfalls.

Sometimes they get entangled in the connection, and other times I get hung up in the process myself.  But overall it provides a likable combination of freedom and direction for both of us, and the journey is more productive with the lead than if we were both out on our own.

Lead.  Not leash or chain or short rein of restriction.  The double digits of space make all the difference.

-- beth triplett

Written in 1999 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

#292 artists

Last night I attended a lecture by a "real" artist.  We met in the gallery where she explained the inspiration, meaning and technique of two very different bodies of work.  She is clearly talented in both thought process and artistic skill.

I will never possess a fraction of her technical talents, but I consider myself an artist nonetheless.  I am a creative person, more by nurture than nature, and I believe that everyone can stimulate their brain to think new thoughts and have different ways of looking at a situation.  In fact, I recommend that people consciously and regularly partake in actions that cultivate a more creative perspective.

Examples of everyday options that can stimulate creativity include:
> Wear a different combination of clothes/jewelry each day for a month
> For your next gift-giving occasion, give something that you have never given before
> Read a book from a new section of the bookstore or library
> Eat somewhere you've never eaten; eat something you've never tried
> Converse with someone at least 10 years younger/10 years older than yourself
> Listen to a different radio station every day for a week
> Go on a date and spend less than $5
> Eat lunch with someone you've never eaten with before
> Drive home a different way each day for a week
> Meet in a place you have never been before
> Read a newspaper from a different city
> At each meeting, ask people to share what they have done differently since the last meeting

As you can see, none of these actions are lofty or remarkable onto themselves.  But developing a habit of flexibility and openness to new ways of looking at things leads to more creative problem solving and greater innovation overall.  There is an artist within you. Try to take some steps to cultivate it.

-- beth triplett

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

#291 pairs of pears

One of the delicacies of life is to receive a gift box of Harry & David Royal Riviera pears. These are the premium, top of the line, ubber-succulent versions of the fruit.  Yum -- my mouth waters just thinking about them.  At $35 (plus shipping) for a box of 9, they should be delicious, and they are.

In addition to the Royal Rivieras, at certain times of the year the company also sells Maverick pears -- in other words, the Royal Riviera pears that may have a blemish or "minor cosmetic imperfections".  These gems truly do taste the same, but are sold for half the price of the premium versions.  They come with their own special packaging and disclaimer:  "We grow a lot of pears.  Everyone knows that.  And naturally, some of our Royal Riviera Pears don't grow pretty enough to be wrapped in gold foil and put in our baskets..."

In other words, these are the Royal Riviera rejects.  Harry & David understands that much of their brand rests on the excellence of their fruit, so they don't want to disappoint customers by selling a slightly uneven or discolored pear as part of the package-to-impress.  So they align expectations with reality and sell them as "Mavericks".  People are excited to get the same taste (and very close to the same appearance) for a bargain price.  Those who pay full price can rest assured that the quality will be impeccable for the gift recipient.

What steps can you take to align your client's expectations with what you actually deliver?  Can you rename/repackage a product or service for a discount and end up delighting your customers instead of disappointing them because of the inferior quality?  How can you create a pair of high/low price/quality?  Think Banana Republic vs. Gap.  Or the grades of ground beef in a supermarket.  Or free apps that are full of ads vs. the paid versions that are ad-free.  Or AKC dogs vs. a rescue.  Value menus vs. premium burgers.  

There are levels of price and quality that suit everyone.  How can you be clear that what you are charging is equated to what you are delivering?

-- beth triplett

Monday, March 18, 2013

#290 incrementalism

I have been getting a lot of help on blog topics lately (thanks!)  Here is another item from my sister.  Spend three minutes watching Queen Elizabeth grow up:
(you don't need to subscribe; just give it a second)

When did the Queen grow old?  It is hard to say.  Especially for those who see her every day, the changes are so incremental that they hardly notice.  It's the same thing when people gain weight or become gray or get depressed -- things happen so gradually that the people themselves and those around them don't really see the signs until significant change has occurred.

I believe that the same is true in organizations.  The service level deteriorates.  The fiscal health of the place becomes precarious.  The morale of a department declines.  Yet no one inside -- the very people that can reverse the trend -- notices until things are "bad".  

We use an outside consultant and one of the things that he brings us is a view from the outside.  He sees us every quarter and can tell if we are sliding in one direction or another.  He can tell a difference because he hasn't seen it happen every day.  He is our antidote to incrementalism because he only sees us after chunks of time have passed.

How can you add an outside view to your perspective?  Can you create internal benchmarks and use comparative data to see how things are in context of the big picture vs. how it feels just today?  Find ways to enter the forest instead of always living inside of it. The view is different looking back.

-- beth triplett

Sunday, March 17, 2013

#289 doodles

I have my opening screen on the web set to the Google homepage.  This started as an act of convenience, as I like its simplicity and ease of use.  But what I love is how, every now and then, there is an element of surprise as they add "doodles" -- fun graphics, animation and colors to commemorate a special event.

There is a whole Doodles "museum" at  According to the site, "doodles are the fun, surprising, and sometimes spontaneous changes that are made to the Google logo to celebrate holidays, anniversaries, and the lives of famous artists, pioneers and scientists."  Undoubtedly there will be something for St. Patrick's Day today, but last week there was a special homepage to acknowledge what would have been Douglas Adams' 60th birthday.  This month alone, they have commemorated Vladimir Vernadsky's 150th birthday, Evert Taube's 123rd birthday, Andre Le Notre's 400th birthday and Joseph von Eichendorff's 225th Birthday.  (Who are these people you ask?  I didn't know either, so, of course, I "Googled" it to find out.  Genius!)  

An intern was actually appointed as the first "chief doodler", but now an entire team of designers and engineers have the responsibility for the 1000+ doodles that have appeared across the globe. They accept suggestions from users and are also sponsoring a K-12 contest to design them.  

And, of course, there is a Doodles Store so you can have your favorite doodle on posters, cards, stamps, skate boards, office products, clothing and more.  Doodles are country-specific and commemorate special people and holidays for 17 countries!

I think we can all take a lesson from Google.  Mostly, be about good service and a quality product, but infuse it with fun to delight your employees as well as your clients.  A little doodle can bring a smile to many -- and teach some history too.  Now that's smart fun!

-- beth triplett

Saturday, March 16, 2013

#288 a mystery

For one of our staff meeting nuggets (see #108), we were given a short scenario and asked to solve the mystery of what the case meant.  

Jason feels perfectly fit.  He has no symptoms of any disease and feels no pain.  After a brief exam with a doctor, Jason is told that he needs surgery.  After the operation, Jason starts bleeding profusely and is in excruciating pain.  The doctor declares the operation a success.  What kind of degree does the doctor have and what did the surgery accomplish?

In addition to adding some thought and levity to our staff meeting, these "30 second mysteries" point out the problems with communication in the organizational world.  One person relays an accurate scenario while the other feels like pieces are missing.  The message becomes a complete puzzle and communication does not make sense.  Fortunately for us, the book proceeds to give five clues for each case, but such hints are not readily apparent in real life.

How can you review your communication -- even quick exchanges such as those via email or hallway conversations -- to ensure that you are putting in the relevant information to make your messages clear?  Take that extra 30 seconds to include the obvious in your communiques so that your messages don't become a mystery to those receiving them.

-- beth triplett

Thanks to Julie for the nugget and inspiration.

Case #20 from the book "30 Second Mysteries, Volume II", by Bob Moog.

The doctor studied for many years to earn her degree.
Jason won't be bothered by this problem again.
The doctor is not an MD.
Jason lost four body parts during the surgery.
Surprisingly, Jason was just as smart after the operation.

The doctor has a dental degree (DDS) and removed Jason's wisdom teeth.

Friday, March 15, 2013

#287 unnamed

There seems to be tags or labels or some sort of identifier on everything -- except socks.   All other undergarments have tags; why is it that socks can be totally anonymous once out of the original bag?

I want socks to be labeled so I can re-purchase the brands that actually stay up and never buy again those that continually need adjustment.  It would make it so much easier to sort if there were names or numbers that I could match instead of squinting to see the patterns. My laundry folding is like a game of "Go Fish"; does it need to be this way?

I recently saw an ad for children's socks that have a plastic snap on the cuff -- you just pop them together when putting in the laundry, and thus, pulling out of drawers.  It is easier for the parents and the child.  

I'm not advocating for the adult version of this, but I think that sock makers are missing a golden opportunity.  If you made wonderful hosiery, wouldn't you want to promote your brand in the hopes of luring repeat customers?  

Do you have the equivalent of nameless socks in your organization -- something that you put out there, but take no credit?  Maybe people would be loyal to you, if they only knew who you were.  

-- beth triplett

Thursday, March 14, 2013

#286 k-a-t

We hosted the Regional Spelling Bee on campus this weekend, and I was able to watch a few rounds.

The 8th grader who won, Joshua Kalyanapu, makes it his practice to misspell his word during the practice round.  It must be working for him, as he won the regional Bee for the second time.

Most of the kids on stage, and certainly their parents, all seemed tense and anxious.  But Joshua strolled up to the microphone, spelled his easy word wrong, and then went on for 21 rounds to spell the hard words correctly.

I think Joshua gives us a good lesson by reminding us not to take life so seriously.  You can experiment and have some fun in the practice round, as long as you're ready to do business when it counts.  All of life has an ebb and flow.  Don't try to keep on your game face 100% of the time.  Know when you can relax and take advantage of the opportunity to have some f-u-h-n.

-- beth triplett

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

#285 sharing

In #75, I wrote about the three stages of transition as described by William Bridges (the ending, the interval/limbo stage, and then the beginning).  I recently received a copy of the obituary from his passing last month.

What I didn't know about his work was that Bridges began his career as a literature professor, but found himself questioning this choice of profession.  He then taught a class called "Being in Transition", but found little written about the topic or language to describe the feelings he was personally experiencing.  So he decided to write about it.

He feared that his work was "slight" and would soon go out of print.  Instead, what was an attempt to give words to a personal journey became a national bestseller (Managing Transitions) which sold more than a half-million copies.  Bridges also went on to write other bestsellers and continued to link his scholarly work with the experiences he was living throughout the other transitions in his life.

Many years ago, I talked to a speaker on the college circuit who advocated recording lectures and sharing the tapes, "otherwise you are just talking to air."  Jayne Lybrand believed that what she said had value, and made the effort to pass her messages on beyond who heard her in person, even though at the time the reproduction process required significant effort and expense.

Do you have experiences that you should document and share, but feel that they are "slight" and not worthy of publication?  Are there lessons from your life that could benefit others?  Today's technology makes it so easy to share your knowledge and insights.  Take a lesson from Mr. Bridges and give language to what you are living.  Your words may live on far longer than you do.

-- beth triplett

* William Bridges obituary in ASTD newsletter, February 28, 2013

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

#284 the flip side

Yesterday's blog wrote about the unfair burden that is placed on the individual to miss the final score in a game -- instead of being a hero, he is often, unjustly, tagged for the loss even though many other events contributed to the outcome.

I heard interesting commentary on this thought that shares another perspective: 
The same is true on the flip-side too: placing all the praise & success on the last person to perform.  In the recent high school hockey Missouri state championship game, the underdog beat the heavy favorite in overtime.  It was a thrilling, well played 2-1 game.  

The MVP award of the game went to the player who scored the game winning goal; that was the ONLY thing of real significance that he contributed to the game.  No mention was made of the FRESHMAN goalie who made nearly 30 saves to keep it a close game, including throughout the sudden-death overtime period (even after the announcers on TV were talking about the goalie ALL game long). 

Anyway, I like to call it “prisoner of the moment”: focus on THAT moment rather than the whole process leading up to the success (or failure).  

This mentality of recency plays out in the organizational world most prominently at evaluation time: people are rated highly or poorly depending upon their short-term performance rather than being rated for their work throughout the year.  Supervisors and colleagues would do well to take steps to see the whole term of performance and to provide feedback accordingly.

-- beth triplett and Brian Gardner

Monday, March 11, 2013

#283 at the buzzer

I was watching a basketball game that had a tie score during the last few seconds.  A player missed a shot at the buzzer, and everyone was lamenting how "he blew it."  

This seems to be an unfair burden placed on the one individual.  Why don't people consider all the other things that happened that led up to that point?  If someone else had made their free throws in the first quarter, the game may not have been tied.  A bad pass, a missed basket, a lapse in defense -- all these things earlier in the contest contributed to the closeness.  

It is easier to place blame on the most recent event, but to truly impact change we need to consider more of the whole picture.  Next time something goes awry, don't point fingers at the most recent contributor.  Rather, assess why it all came down to rely on that one culminating event in the first place.

-- beth triplett

Sunday, March 10, 2013

#282 disappearance

Today you have one hour less than you did yesterday.  It just disappeared while you were asleep.

Do you ever have days where time seems to disappear while you are awake?  For most, this happens when you are immersed in something that you love and you forget about all distractions, limitations or time constraints.  It may be when you are engrossed in a project, curled up with a great book, having fun with those you love or relaxing on a weekend. 

What pleasurable activity can transcend time for you?  Today, instead of mourning the loss of your hour of sleep, try to engage in something that will have another hour seemingly float away...only this time because of joy instead of Daylight Savings Time.  

-- beth triplett

Saturday, March 9, 2013

#281 yard by yard

As we think about creating change, often we wish for a clear path or significant movement. This thought may help you put things in perspective:

Seldom do we have the whole football field wide open.  We need to be content moving the ball down the field, a yard or so at a time.  We also need to become comfortable with the fact that we may not be the one making the touchdown; that our role may be to become a blocker or passes, but not the one who scores.

As a leader, one of your roles is to help people see the goal -- and understand their role in heading toward it.  Sure, there are the breakaway returns, where the lone player runs the ball back for a touchdown, but more likely the players are all in a tumble and the ball moves only a few feet.  The play can even result in a net loss instead of a gain.  Align the expectations with reality, and everyone will feel more comfortable about how the game is progressing.

-- beth triplett

Thanks to Al DeCiccio for the original idea

Friday, March 8, 2013

#280 giving

Last week, the university staff heard a presentation from a United Way volunteer who was trying to motivate us to make donations to the community cause.  He tied his comments into a presentation by the previous speaker who was acknowledging the season of Lent.

"Instead of asking what are you giving up for Lent," he said, "think of what you are giving."

Giving up and giving are very different actions.  Think about your own organization or personal situation -- when are times that giving is appropriate and when would it be better if you were giving up instead?  Which is easier for you to do?  Both have their place -- just give them their due with intentionality and not by automatic default.

-- beth triplett

Dr. Liang Chee Wee, at Staff Assembly, 2/20/13

Thursday, March 7, 2013

#279 swings

I have a terrible case of Spring Fever (which is not good given the amount of snow on the ground!)  But it has me thinking of all the rituals of the season, including children swinging on swings on a carefree spring day.

Think about the motions that the person on the swing follows to move it: they lean back, and then kick forward.  I recently heard a wonderful analogy about swings and how that motion can be replicated in organizations to move their group forward:  lean back and grab the important elements from the past, then kick forward to propel the organization into the future.  If you fail to reach back and acknowledge the past, you miss part of the momentum that can carry you higher.

Even though the weather may prohibit you from actually enjoying a swing today, try to keep a virtual image in mind when implementing your change efforts.

-- beth triplett

As quoted in Carpe MaƱana by Leonard Sweet
Thanks to Dan Lawson

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

#278 tangible

There was recently a story in the local newspaper about one of our theatre students who, like most drama majors, wishes to make it on Broadway.  What sets him apart is that he truly is a master costumer, designer and crafter.  He very well may have the talent to create the next iconic gown or pair of sequined shoes worn on the Great White Way.

While many dream of the future, Josh envisions himself there.  While visiting New York City, he purchased his cell phone so he can finish out college with a 212 area code.  "It's my way of saying that someday I'll be there," he said.

What steps can you take that make your dream that much closer and that much more real?  It's not enough to live in the hypothetical or far off future.  Do something today that makes what you strive for become even a little bit more tangible.

-- beth triplett

Master of Disguise by Sandye Voight, Telegraph Herald, January 13, 2013, p. 1E

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

#277 the finish

There was much buzz in the NASCAR racing world when Danica Patrick qualified for the pole position in the Daytona 500 last week.  She became the first female to start from the front of the pack.

Unfortunately, she finished the race in 8th place.

Jimmy Johnson who began the race in the 9th position, took home the trophy.

There is much hype around who has the fastest qualifying round and becomes the lead off car, but there is no reason for rejoicing.  The Wall Street Journal reported that since 2000, only one person starting at the pole has finished better than fifth, and the average overall is 16th place.  No driver who started in second place has won since 1993.

"Starting position doesn't seem to matter a whole lot in the 43-car field," reports the Journal.   

Where you begin doesn't matter in many things; where you finish is what counts.  How many times have you heard of people that don't have natural talents, but worked hard enough to make the team?  Of people with less ability but more determination and they went far?  Of organizations with limited resources that made a real difference?

Don't be dismayed by not starting out in the pole position.  Life, as at Daytona, is a long race.  The checked flag is still yours to have with the right drive (pun intended) and persistence.

-- beth triplett

Thanks to Colleen, again!
Wall Street Journal, February 21, 2013, p. D7