Wednesday, July 31, 2013

#425 babysitting

I had a conversation with a friend who has recently been promoted to chair of an academic department.  "My job is now 10% teaching and 90% babysitting," he said.  "And I have no managerial training."

Most of us in management positions could say the same thing -- at least about the lack of training.  It would be ideal to think ahead to the job skills required for the job you eventually want and do more to prepare before they are needed.  It doesn't always work that way so we start out feeling like babysitters instead of managers.  What can you learn from those who tend to toddlers?

Think about the good babysitters you had when growing up.  You may have cried when your parents left, but they ignored that and you got over it.  They gave you some options about what to eat or what to do.  They played games with you for awhile, but eventually they let you watch movies or do things on your own.  They may have told your parents about some of your behaviors, but they let you get away with a few things too.  They made you do some chores and didn't do everything for you.  They made you some popcorn when you were good.  There are lessons from babysitting that don't involve chasing screaming kids around the room all evening!

If you find yourself supervising people for the first time, you may feel like a babysitter, but try to move toward being a coach.  Provide clear expectations and some training up front.  Keep your staff informed as much as you can; knowledge and feeling as if their voice is heard is more motivating than money.  Be fair.  Empower them to make choices, changes, mistakes and grow.  Listen.  Share the context for decisions.  Say "good job".  Let them play at different positions.  Provide some different strategies after you lose.

We all grow out of the need for a babysitter. Work toward helping your staff outgrow their need for a monitor by becoming a coach.  Even the pros need one of those.

-- beth triplett

Thanks to the one who will stay anonymous for the idea -- hope you're feeling better!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

#424 rock or hard place

There are often times when people are faced with choosing between two less than desirable options.  I believe people cope with the negative outcome much better when they are the ones to make the choice.

> If you are the one who picks between a crack 'o dawn flight or a long layover, you'll be much more tolerant of it than if a travel agent imposed such a bad schedule on you.

> Students who have to choose between an 8am class or a Friday afternoon class will be more understanding of the option if they make the decision instead of an advisor.

> I believe people will tolerate pain better if they are the ones deciding to live with it vs. having surgery -- rather than a doctor mandating one way or the other.

> Budget cuts that individual departments make seem to be more palatable than those imposed by the CFO.

The list could go on and on.  Keep this in mind when you are faced with a negative situation for your staff or organization, and try to give those impacted as much decision power as they can have in the matter.  

In the play Another Antigone, one of the characters says: "If you can choose, it's not tragic."  Try to allow your people that choice.

-- beth triplett

Monday, July 29, 2013

#423 clean slate

I spent most of yesterday deep cleaning my kitchen.  The pull-stuff-out-of the cupboards, take the shelves out of the refrigerator, clean-under-the-stove kind of cleaning.  It was hard work!

There was no one spot that was particularly dirty, but when I was finished, the whole place just felt better.  I wish I had time to do the rest of the house like that.  

It was a classic case -- again! -- of little things adding up to make a real difference.  One clean baseboard here, one pantry scrubbed there, one dust bunny (rabbit!) removed from under the refrigerator and it all adds up to a more pleasing environment.

What can you do today to clear away some of the clutter and start your week with (literally) a clean slate?  It may do your soul wonders.

-- beth triplett

Sunday, July 28, 2013

#422 legendary

Many of the ideas for my blog entries first are written down in a Moleskine notebook.  Moleskins are small notebooks, about the size of a half pack of index cards.  They traditionally came in just black, but like everything else, they are now available in a spectrum of colors, page rulings and sizes.  The front page has a space for name and address in case it is lost, plus the amount of reward you are willing to offer for its return.  For me, a book of ideas is priceless.

Moleskins are crazy expensive for their size ($12.95), but worth every cent.  There are numerous knock-offs for a third of the price that look identical from the outside, but, as I have sadly learned from experience, just aren't the same once you write in them.  The "real" notebooks are handmade, and each comes with an identification number in the back pocket (another of its wonderful features).

In that back pocket is also a brief history of the product, letting you know that these notebooks were used by "artists and thinkers over the past two centuries", including Van Gogh, Picasso and Hemingway.  Then they make it relevant in the present, by claiming that Moleskin notebooks provide "an indispensable complement to the new and portable technology of today."

What a brilliant idea to include the story with every product, and then invite the owner to "join the story" at  It makes owning a Moleskine an experience; well worth the $12.95 to channel into the creativity of the "legendary notebook".

What can your organization do to set a context and connect your product or service with the past, present and future?  How can you help the client see where they fit in to the on-going experience of what you're about?  How do you use your space to share a story, instead of just product features?

Maybe you can use your Moleskine to capture ideas on how to do just that.

-- beth triplett

Saturday, July 27, 2013

#421 shot of passion

A colleague recently had a day off to go to Adventureland -- an amusement park/waterpark place of fun.  When she went to ride the Space Shot, she saw an elderly woman race ahead to get on the ride.  

Turns out that this spry, 78-year old had made it her goal to ride the Space Shot 120 times that day!!  It was nearing the closing hour, so she had to do some creative "line jumping" to garner another seat on her favorite ride.

What are you going to be doing this summer Saturday?  Hopefully you partake in some activity that activates your passion and gives you a thrill.  Take a lesson from this amusement-park-loving granny and give it all you've got!


-- beth triplett

Thanks to Jamie for sharing the joy!

Friday, July 26, 2013

#420 fair fare

Yesterday was a picture perfect afternoon -- a great day to take vacation and go to the county fair.  Mother Nature's cooperation seemed to make the fair more popular than ever, so people-watching added to the fun of the livestock barns, a trapeze show, 4-H exhibits and of course the fast-talking salesman hawking pots and pans.

For most people, the fair experience would be incomplete without experiencing some of the signature foods that are offered.  Most popular at this fair is the homemade lemonade.  It is the first stand that you see when you walk in, and it always has a line.  For $2.50/glass, you get a bunch of ice, a healthy dose of sugar water, and a small amount of the actual lemon juice.  But they throw in a few pieces of the real lemon (to demonstrate authenticity?) and sell crazy amounts of the stuff.  The newspaper estimated that the Community Y (the squeezers) purchased 6,440 lemons to make 12,500 glasses of lemonade during the course of the six day fair.  

So what did I do when I got to the fair?  Stood in line and got the lemonade, of course.  I could live without the also-popular funnel cake (600 sold on the first day), the Fair Fries, ice cream from the Dairy Barn or any of the other county fair treats, but the lemonade is one of the main reasons I go.  I wouldn't buy it if I could have it every day, but it has become that once-a-year treat -- a summer ritual.

What does your organization do that is equivalent to homemade lemonade?  Do you offer a limited product or service that has become your signature? Or is there something that you could do on special occasions? Maybe your holiday party is known for its over-the-top desserts.  Maybe your holiday card is eagerly anticipated for its creativity and cleverness.  Maybe you give major clients/donors an appreciation gift that is in demand.  Or perhaps you have window displays that draw crowds.  I am sure there is something that is worth the extra effort to make it special for that once-a-year reason.

If the Community Y can create a frenzy over a paper cup of lemonade, think of what you can do!

-- beth triplett

Source:  Telegraph Herald, July 25, 2013

Thursday, July 25, 2013

#419 forever learning

When I started this blog, I was feeling good that I could get the first words published.  The whole concept was new to me, and I needed some assistance to get a template framed and to set up the process.  Soon, it became second nature.

A few months ago, I received a question as to whether I had intentionally chosen not to include photos with my entries.  I had not even thought about visuals, but my friend made a good point.  So I signed up for gmail+ and figured out how to import pictures into these entries.  Regular readers will note that there are more pictures included to (hopefully) enhance the point.

And now I am learning the next phase -- Twitter.  Thanks to the miracles of and a patient friend on the other end, I have signed up for HootSuite and have a new Twitter address to share nuggets of blog wisdom and other thoughts in 140 characters or less.  You are invited to follow me @leadershipdots.*

Where are you continuously learning in your personal life or organization?   I was at the dentist yesterday and he mentioned that our college just hired the piano teacher who gives him lessons.  I have heard the doctor play in public and he is quite accomplished, but apparently he feels he can keep improving as a pianist.  

The skills you have gained are not static.  You can always expand your talent base and continue learning more about your field, or about an entirely new one.  Don't rest on your laurels -- learn!

-- beth triplett

*For novices, this means

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

#418 teachable

When IBM opened a new service center here a few years ago, one of the things they talked about was hiring "T" people.  They used "T" as a way to describe people that had breadth in a lot of general areas (like the bar across the T) to be trained with depth in just one narrow area.  IBM felt that if someone had the general skills, they could be taught the intricate nuances of a particular aspect of IBM's business.

Without knowing that terminology, I have been hiring "T" people for years.  The ability to be trained is far more important than coming in with a certain skill set.  In fact, if your knowledge is too deep in one area, it can often be hard to admit that you need to learn new things about that part of the operation.

I think that the breadth of the "T" is developed in two areas that are often seen as the periphery in college:  general education courses and out-of-class (co-curricular) experiences.  There is so much focus on the major, but students who have enriching educational experiences outside the classroom gain valuable skills in teamwork, time management, advocacy, communication and a host of other areas.  Through general education, students learn critical thinking, breadth of knowledge to create a historical context, writing skills and more.

When you are hiring, look for employees with that "T" characteristic.  "T" could stand for terrific, but I think it mainly represents TEACHABLE.  It's the wide base of learning that will serve you well when you need to teach them to go deep.

-- beth triplett

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

#417 it's a boy!

Unless you are living under a rock, you know that the Royal Baby was born yesterday. I am sure that some are amazed at how many people in the United States care about such an event, but based upon the buzz created on social media, many do.

One good thing about babies is that marketers have nine months to prepare.  Instead of ignoring the royal birth and pretending that it has no relevance in the States, several national advertisers have capitalized on the event to get an ad in front of their viewers.  

Some of the best may be found at  If you scroll down, you'll see ads that were designed especially for this event from Playdough, Charmin, Oreo, Pampers, Burger King, Pizza Hut and many more.

Examples:  @Burger King:  For all of you asking about the #RoyalBabyBoy, as far as we know, there's no relation.

Prepare the royal bottle service!
View image on Twitter

This strategy is similar to the one I advocated on Blog #405 (7-11-13) where you use the date to capitalize on a special day or to gain transference of the warm feelings about one event to your promotion.  

You missed the opportunity to tie into this piece of breaking news.  Think ahead now as to how you can take advantage of the next water cooler topic to link your product to the buzz.

-- beth triplett

(and thanks to Emily for sharing the site)

Monday, July 22, 2013

#416 mattering

As part of her research on adult students in higher education, professor Nancy Schlossberg  developed the theory that adult learners will persist if they believe that they "matter" to someone at the institution.  This could be a professor, a classmate, advisor, learning resource specialist -- the "who" was less important than the fact that the student believed someone would notice (and care) if they were not there.

I think her concept of "mattering" has far broader implications than adult students.  I think it applies to any organizational context in which we find ourselves.  We want to know that our presence makes a difference and that our work is valued.

When you notice someone's absence, do you always acknowledge it the next time you see the person?  When co-workers are out on vacation or maternity leave, do you explicitly welcome them back and show them that they were missed? If someone misses a meeting, do you try to get them caught up and let them know their absence mattered?

We aren't always quick to show acknowledgement and appreciation to those who do show up either.  I was at a wedding of a colleague this weekend, and I was very glad to see so many of my other colleagues in attendance, but I didn't tell them all that it mattered to me that they were there.  

Try to be intentional this week in letting others know that their presence and contributions do matter to you and the organization.  It will feel good for both of you!

-- beth triplett

Sunday, July 21, 2013

#415 roles

Last week on ESPN2, Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni commented that some players say that they don't know their role on the team, but in reality, they know their role but just don't accept it.

While he was referring to one of the NBA's All-Stars, the same mantra reminded me of someone much further down the food chain.  

I just had a conversation with a colleague who was recounting a chat he had with a new graduate.  She was hired about a month ago for an entry-level position, and as such was given entry-level work, but felt that she should have more challenging assignments.  My colleague asked if she had put any of her ideas in writing or taken the initiative to volunteer for other assignments or committees.  The answer was, of course, no.  She had an entry-level role and wasn't acting with the maturity or ambition beyond it, yet was having difficulty in accepting her position as it is.  

It's one thing not to accept your role, but it's another thing to expect it to be different without earning that change.  Hard work, initiative and assuming more responsibilities have a way of changing the role that you were first placed in.  

-- beth triplett

Saturday, July 20, 2013

#414 leveling

I wrote yesterday that I took my staff on tour at the Lock and Dam.  The lessons that we learned from the tour were unexpected.

The reason I took them originally was that I wanted them to consider how our division functions as sort of a lock and dam system for the university:

> Like the locks, we align expectations with reality for our prospective students.  We help them know what to expect before coming so that it is easier to navigate the waters once they get here.

> We also serve as a leveling agent regarding affordability.  Through our financial aid processes, we are able to help families come to a balanced level of what they owe in conjunction with what they can pay -- even though the gap may have seemed too big to traverse in the beginning.

> We also serve to balance perceptions and reality vs. our messaging.  Our communication efforts function like the dam system to control the flow of messaging, and act like the locks to help align various levels of perceptions into a balanced state instead of undercurrents and rapids.

The lock and dam system is an intentional set of systems and structures that make navigation possible.  The admission process also contains systems and structures that control the flow of qualified students into the university.

What functions in your organization parallel the locks and dams?  Are you allowing your "river" to flow freely, or do you have sophisticated, intentional systems in place to balance disparate entities?  Help the navigation of your information and products flow more smoothly with processes that control the flow.

-- beth triplett

Friday, July 19, 2013

#413 channels

As part of our staff retreat on Wednesday, we took a tour of Lock and Dam #11 on the Mississippi River.  Our tour guide, Ranger Brian, was a perfect combination of business, history and humor.  

He set out the ground rules before we began: we were entering a government restricted area; there were cables and danger everywhere, and one misstep could land you in the mighty river just feet from a powerful undertow sucking you under the dam.  There would be no messing around.

But once he saw we would follow the rules, then he became a wealth of history about the lock and dam system.  The 27 locks on the Upper Mississippi were established in the 1930s as part of Roosevelt's Public Works projects in order to allow commerce to occur on the river.  The Lower Mississippi (St. Louis and South) didn't need the locks because that portion of the river remained deep enough due to the flow from substantial tributaries like the Missouri, Illinois and Ohio.  Today, the Corps of Engineers takes on continuous dredging and water flow control to keep the river at the prescribed 9-ft channel depth (to accommodate the level a barge submerges when fully loaded).

Ranger Brian interspersed his history lesson with jokes about what Lock Masters do when there isn't a boat going through the locks and warnings about pelicans flying overhead.  He was a great PR representative for the Corps.

As we were set to leave, he said that we would have to do the whole tour over again if we failed to get his last question right: "What is the purpose of the lock and dam system?"  The answer:  Navigation.  Before the tour, I think we would have given answers like flood control, power sources and recreation, but everyone knew the right answer because Ranger Brian had repeated it over and over during our stay. 

Think about the core message that you are trying to get across about your organization.  Can you distill your core purpose to a one-word answer as to what you are all about?  And if so, can you find an engaging and yet informative way to communicate it to your visitors in a way that is memorable and crystal clear? 

Customer service lessons can come from the most unlikely of places.  I would not have guessed that a Corps of Engineers Park Ranger could teach our student ambassadors and tour guides lessons about how to host a memorable visit, but he certainly could.  Take some time this summer to go on an organized tour -- and see what lessons you can learn for your organization.

-- beth triplett

Thursday, July 18, 2013

#412 thinking

I held my all-staff retreat yesterday -- always one of my favorite gatherings.  There is always so much energy in the room, even when the room was a non-air conditioned park shelter during a heat advisory as it was yesterday!

We spent the day "thinking about thinking" -- implementing some of the strategies in Paid to Think by David Goldsmith; doing exercises to help train our brains to see "what isn't" instead of the literal, and discussing the process below.

I believe that a three step process can help people become more effective thinkers:
1.  Experiences -- people need to have new experiences (aka: "dots") in order to have the basis with which to form new ideas.  This phase is being attentive to "what is".

2.  Connections -- The experiences need to be connected to other experiences -- forming a new concept or idea.  This is "what isn't".

3.  Communication -- Having experiences and new thoughts doesn't produce anything new unless people share the idea and get buy-in to make something new happen.  This represents "what could be".

The above process doesn't have to be lofty: I could see something in a magazine I was reading (experiences); think about how it could apply to a project someone else is working on (connections) and cut out the article to send it to her (communication).  But failing to do any of those three steps short circuits the thinking process and precludes anything from happening.

Spend some time today thinking about your thinking.  Which of the above three steps are you best at?  Which could use some intentionality and focus to improve?  Just being aware of the process should help you see things in a new light -- and hopefully do something with those thoughts.

-- beth triplett

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

#411 straw

As a way to be more attentive, while I was out walking my dogs I was doing a silent Rain Man imitation in my head and mentally saying all the things that I saw.  First I saw pieces of straw that had fallen onto the curb as excess from serving as protective covering for new grass seed.  Next to it was a red drinking straw that someone had tossed.  "Straw"; "straw" -- even though they were totally different objects with no related source or purpose.

Thinking that the dual meaning was an anomaly, I began to look for other objects along my path that fit that pattern.  I was surprised to find many:
> drive   (as in driveway or the action of motoring a car)
> curb   (as in the side of a road or heeling your dog)
> grass  (as in what you mow or the illegal stuff)
> weed  (as in illegal grass or annoying things you pull)
> flag    (flying from the pole or how you hail a cab)
> band  (as in rubber or the music playing in the background)
> sign   (piece of metal that indicates the streets or the act of affixing a signature)

It struck me as how we seamlessly handle the duality of our language -- most of the time.   The complexity of our vocabulary should be a reminder that face-to-face conversation is great when you can get it -- it allows you to clarify if you mean the red straw or the kind that resembles hay.  If we do resort to communication in writing, my little exercise can be a reminder to take extra care to have clarity -- especially if your message is going to someone new.

Does your note mean to pick up the dough at the bakery or the bank?  And where do you get the bread?

-- beth triplett

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

#410 labeling

As I was sitting at the dinner table, I noticed that the just-finished mustard bottle had a different design than the new one (sorry, marketing geek habit!).  Both had the French's flag that has been flying since 1904, but the new bottle had two elements that caught my eye:

> The new one had a font that was designed to look hand-drawn.  I am sure that when printing and graphic design first became accessible, everyone was excited to have labeling on products that was not hand-drawn.  But now that there are fonts-a-plenty, apparently trying not to look like a professional font is more appealing, or at least seen as more eye-catching.

> The front of the bottle reads: "No calories, fat or gluten."  I doubt that mustard has contained any of those elements since its inception over a century ago, but it is a sign of the times that the product manager felt compelled to list them explicitly for consumers to see.

Does your organization have features that are akin to "no gluten" -- things that have been part of your makeup and offerings since you began -- but now may need to be highlighted for others?  Is there something that you just assume that people know when maybe they don't?  [We had an example of that yesterday when we realized our STEM workshop flyer failed to mention that it is, was, and always has been free registration.]

Pretend that you are designing a new label for your organization and take the opportunity to question whether it needs to have some updated content.

-- beth triplett

Monday, July 15, 2013

#409 emulate

I wrote yesterday about the 3/50 project, an effort to promote spending $50/month at three locally owned businesses.  Whether you believe in that cause or not, it's worth your time to spend a few minutes looking at their website 

This organization has done a great job of bringing positive conversational language to the web.  As an example, instead of getting overburdened with legal clauses, it says " edits or alterations.  Well, not unless you're really anxious to discuss trademark and copyright law with a really nice attorney we know.  Click here for media notes that will help you avoid "oops" moments."  Etc.

Look at the350project site, then flip over to your own.  In addition to supporting their core project, maybe your organization can also learn from their efforts to make a website readable and friendly!

-- beth triplett

Sunday, July 14, 2013

#408 3/50

I recently became aware of the 3/50 project, an effort to "save the brick and mortars our nation is built on".  This is an effort to support independent retailers and encourage consumers to shop at locally-owned businesses.

Three: The project encourages consumers to think about the three independently owned businesses they would miss if they were gone.  Then Fifty:  An encouragement to spend $50/month in these establishments.  

The stats they quote:  for every $100 spent in independently owned stores, $68 returns to the community.  For every $100 spent at a national chain, only $43 stays in the community.  For every $100 spent on-line, none is directed back to the local economy.

Independently owned might mean bookstores, florists, restaurants, movie theatres, cleaners, gift shops, or hair salons.  To help you find these places, the 3/50 project has developed a free LookLocal application that you can download from the App Store.

When I think about it, there are many independent businesses that I would miss if they were gone.  All of our "Dive Lunches" (#105 9-14-12) take place at local eateries.  Scratch cupcakes (#381 6-17-13) and Betty Jane's ice cream (#348 5-15-13) both qualify.  Fincel's sweet corn (#25 6-26-12).  Dubuque Mining Company (#204 12-22-12).  My favorite local theatre where I see 100% of my movies.  

I'll bet that if you think about it, you could come up with a list of three favorites too.  Even if you make it the 3/25 project and spend less than $50 each month, we'd all be better off if the places that make our towns unique were thriving.  Try to do your part!

-- beth triplett

Saturday, July 13, 2013

#407 best behavior

It seems that lately the news is full of examples of celebrities who have fallen from public favor.  I would guess that the lapses in behavior that are making headlines are not their only transgression, but in this age of instant and pervasive media once someone "discovers" something, it goes big fast.

Think of Paula Deen -- living large with merchandising arrangements with Sears, JCPenney, Home Depot, Target and Walgreens -- now all gone in a matter of days.  Her upcoming cookbook was pulled by the publisher.  Her television broadcasts have been "phased out".  She went from media darling to disgrace once word of her past inappropriate language went viral.

In a more serious case, in one day, ex-Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was charged with first degree murder and lost a pro football contract.  

Even if you are not a famous person, your world can change and your reputation can be ruined in a single day.  

My mantra:  "You have to behave all the time."  It's the best way to keep yourself out of embarrassing (or worse) situations.  

-- beth triplett

Friday, July 12, 2013

#406 space

Think about the things that you do daily.  It seems that my list grows longer every day.  Shower, get dressed, brush teeth twice, feed dogs twice, write a postcard to my Mom, publish a blog entry, read the newspaper, physical therapy, sleep, eat.  I think of all the things I should do daily: exercise, floss, read books and journals, reflection, walk the dogs, etc.

Lately I feel a need to be more selective about what I commit to do on a daily basis.  There are only 24 hours/day and so I have less opportunities to schedule and trade off obligations as I do in a more expansive time frame.  Time is like a paycheck: if you make too many on-going commitments, you don't have enough disposable income (time) left to do all you want to do.  

I wonder what trade offs I made to fit writing this blog into my routine (my dogs could tell you!)  What did I forgo when I needed to do physical therapy exercises again?  What have people done without to make time for Tweets and Facebook?  

Give extra pause when you make commitments that demand your daily attention.  Can you make it your goal to leave some unstructured time each day? Too hectic of a routine is like too many beautiful pictures all hanging on the same gallery wall.  At some point, you don't appreciate any of them.  Try to create enough space in your existence to allow you time to savor something every day.

-- beth triplett

Thursday, July 11, 2013

#405 numbers

Today is 7-11, and those of you fortunate enough to be in cities with 7-Eleven convenience stores can stop in for a free 7.11oz Slurpee.  It is the company's way of celebrating "their" day.

Other businesses have done promotions centered around the date or numbers that are significant to them.  A local hardware store just offered veterans a 7.4% discount on the Fourth of July.  Countless businesses ran sales last year on 12.12.12.  Radio station 102.9 gives away backpacks with $102.09 to commemorate the beginning of school.  An eyeglass company gave discounts on your birthday equal to your age.  You get the idea.

Think about how your organization could utilize numbers for a fun promotional event or for a morale booster.  Could you be open 5-9am instead of 9-5 on May 9 (5-9)?  Could your invitation use your address as the time for the event to begin (start at 9:37 for a reception at 937 Main Street)?  Or how about offering a product on sale using your address ($2.01 sandwiches at 201 Central Street  on Feb. 1)?

There are countless ways that you can incorporate numbers for their literal meaning instead of their calculation value.  Look around your organization and see if there are any number combinations of special significance.  Get creative with your times and dates for special events.  A little intentionality in this area can really add up!

-- beth triplett

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

#403 ledger changes

I use hotels as an analogy for some of my strategic thinking when I think about how the revenue sources from hotels have changed.  At one point, I am sure they made substantial money from long distance hotel charges (now irrelevant because everyone uses their cell phone), then from HBO and premium movie charges (replaced by the thousand-channel cable network), then from room service and meals (now reversed with hotels offering free breakfasts) and even from early wi-fi connection charges (again, being phased out in many wireless facilities).  

The expense side of the ledger has changed too.  In addition to lost revenues, hotels have added expenditures in the form of manager cocktail receptions at many chains, rain showers and upgraded shower facilities, refrigerators in most rooms (now empty instead of the revenue-generating mini-bars), weight rooms and overall larger guest rooms with more decor and amenities.  

Colleges are like hotels -- and many other businesses -- which are facing rising expectations for services coupled with decreased revenue sources.  All this puts tremendous pressure on the budget and overall economics of the enterprise, especially in an industry where surface differentiation is difficult and competitive pricing is intense.

When I think about the future, the scenario can't continue to involve adding more and more while deriving revenue from fewer sources.  We need to think about reducing services that the customer doesn't care about and focusing our efforts on outstanding service in the basic operation.  We should focus more on segmentation and reaching out to a targeted client base, rather than competing with everyone, and doing all we can to serve those customers again and again.

Think about your organization and what parallels you see with hotels or colleges.  How can you provide meaningful value instead of just "more" to compete with the next guy?

-- beth triplett

Monday, July 8, 2013

#402 teammates

Over the weekend, I attended my 14 year old nephew's baseball game.  It was a very competitive contest with several lead changes. The opposing team came back to tie in the top of the inning, but our team had several hits and scored in the bottom of the inning to win.

After the game, I was congratulating my nephew.  "Yeah, the team played well," he said.  "But I played terrible."

Fortunately for him (and for all of us), we don't need to go through life alone.  There are times when it is not only appropriate, but good, to rely on teammates to get us through.  

Of course you want to do your part and make contributions to the whole.  But isn't it grand that we don't have to depend on just our individual output every time in order to come out a winner.

Life is a team sport.  Play it that way.

-- beth triplett

Sunday, July 7, 2013

#401 a cherry on top

When Baskin Robbins first came out with its stores that offered 31 flavors, people thought it was nirvana.  My how times have changed. While vanilla is still by far the most popular (preferred by 29% of those surveyed*), the ice cream market is exploding with more eclectic flavors every day.

While in Boston, I visited FoMu (translated: faux milk), a little stand that carries no dairy products, but nonetheless delivers tasty treats that seem like ice cream even though they are made with coconut or soy milk.  FoMu has flavors I have never considered for ice cream:  avocado, mango habanero, Thai Chili peanut, rosewater saffron and lemon & olive oil.  (I was not adventurous enough to try them, but can highly recommend the cherry amaretto!)

Even those who are using real dairy are experimenting with crazy flavors:  Pear and Blue Cheese, Bacon Peanut, Whiskey and Pecans, Moonshine and Carmel Corn, Roasted Beets and Fresh Mint, Sweet Avocado and Cayenne.**

And those wild combinations didn't even make Time's list of the 15 funkiest Ice Cream Flavors on Earth***.  That list included Garlic, Bone Marrow with Smoked Cherries, Sweet Sticky Black Rice, Mustard, Foie Gras (duck liver), and the Asian "stinky fruit" Durian.

Just like the ice cream industry can't rest on its laurels and provide only the flavors that have been popular for a century, neither can your organization just deliver the same things that it has. What tried and true product is on your menu that needs a revitalization?  Can you mix together a new combination of ingredients or services to satisfy consumer's hunger for new?  There's a niche out there waiting for your special ingredient.

-- beth triplett

*International Ice Cream Association, 2012
** In  July 2013
*** Time, May 24, 2013

Saturday, July 6, 2013

#400 giddy up

One of my birthday presents was a horseback ride -- something I did yesterday for the first time ever.  On a picture-perfect day, we went out to a stable in the country and I came face to face with a full-grown horse for the first time.  He was beautiful!

The owners helped me climb into the saddle, then they gave me about 30 seconds of lessons and left me alone in the indoor ring to get comfortable with him.  "You're the driver," he said.  "You need to tell the horse where you want him to go."  

Here I was with about 1200 pounds of pure muscle, and this little rope was supposed to communicate to the horse all my commands.  It was amazing, but it worked. Just the slightest tug on the rope told the horse whether to go left, right or stop -- and he did just that.

I think horse riding is a good model for your organization.  You need to outline expectations and parameters to others so that you can transmit them with very little intervention.  With just a nudge or gentle motion from you, you staff should know what you want them to do.  It makes for a wonderful ride.

-- beth triplett

Friday, July 5, 2013

#399 grand finale

Like millions of others, I watched fireworks in celebration of the Fourth.  As is tradition with my friend, we went to the launch area early and staked out a prime spot for viewing.  

It seemed to me that the fireworks were grander than usual, especially the finale. I could feel the explosions reverberate in my chest, and there were several points during the multi-minute big finish that I literally needed to cover my eyes because the bursts of light were blinding.  It was a winner!

Think about the final experience that you provide your customers.  How can you send them off in "grand finale" fashion?  Can you provide something unexpected as they complete their transaction?  Do exceptional follow up after they have departed to "light up" their eyes in awe of your experience?  Can you send them off with an inspiring message or token from their time with you?

The evening's display of fireworks was all wonderful at the time, but what I remember is the finale.  I suspect your customers may be the same way.  Provide some fireworks at the end to make your experience memorable.

-- beth triplett