Wednesday, April 30, 2014

#698 under your nose

I like to have time for ideas to incubate because once I start thinking about a topic, almost always something else appears that relates to it. 

I have written about Hello Kitty and now I see those products everywhere including in the shampoo aisle, fruit snacks and toothpaste.  I presented a speech using Oreos as a metaphor, and with regularity I still see products that use Oreos and new specialty flavors of the cookie.  I searched to give my lime-loving brother-in-law a birthday package of lime flavored products and now they show up almost daily.

I had this experience during one of my FitBit quests*.  It's hard to walk the aisles of a grocery store without shopping, so instead of hunting for items on my list, I decided that I would try to find blog ideas.  It is amazing what you can see when you start to focus and look at things with an intentional perspective.

There is so much information and stimulation out there that we need to narrow our filters so we actually can process some of it.  By focusing in on potential blog ideas, the store came alive with possibilities:  specialty cheese, Kuerig, colored M&Ms, bacon in a box, allocation of space, cake mixes.  If I had not focused on finding topics, I would have missed them all.

Allow yourself some time for your mental radar to scan the environment and find the answers for you. Usually they are out there if you first frame the question and then just pay attention.

-- beth triplett

*See Blog #697

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

#697 daily

You may have noticed a grocery store theme over the last week -- something that would be surprising to those who know me and know how little I frequent the place.  But I have been wearing a FitBit activity tracker and am committed to walking 10,000 steps each day -- and some days that means roaming the aisles of the grocery store to log those final paces.

Wearing a FitBit puts an extra kind of pressure or accountability on the wearer; it something that you need to attend to every day.  I walk the aisles and achieve the goal, but the next morning I am back to zero.  There is no working ahead or stockpiling steps; it's 10,000 per day, not 70,000 per week.

In reality, FitBit becomes a discipline tracker.  It tests my mettle to see if I can find the dedication to get those darn steps in regardless of my schedule, the weather or social plans.  I find myself walking to offices more frequently vs. emailing.  Cruising the sidewalk outside a restaurant while waiting for my friend to arrive.  Doing my physical therapy stretches while moving about the house instead of standing still.  And, of course, my dogs think that the FitBit is outstanding!

What can become a motivator and discipline incentive for you?  Maybe it relates to something besides exercise: you want to meditate every day or reflect in a journal.  Or maybe you commit to writing something: a blog, part of your dissertation, a novel.  Or perhaps you want to read an article, paint or knit.

Mr. Rogers said:  "I like to swim, but there are some days I just don't feel much like doing it -- but I do it anyway!  I know it's good for me and I promised myself I'd do it every day, and I like to keep my promises."

What will promise will you make to yourself?

-- beth triplett

Monday, April 28, 2014

#696 enduring

There is an entire subset of products that are in stores today and have been featured on grocery store shelves since the early days at A&P.  Examples include:

>  Dream Whip -- a powder mix to make frosting that has been around since 1957

>  Fels Naptha -- a bar of soap that removes stains, and has been doing so since 1893

>  Jiffy mixes in little blue boxes since 1930, for corn muffins and brownies

>  Jiffy Pop > popcorn that has come pre-packaged in an aluminum pan since 1958

>  Manwich > sloppy joe sauce since 1969

>  TaB soda > providing diet cola since 1970

The list could go on and on. 

These staples persist on the shelves, despite no promotion or advertising, yet garner enough sales to preserve their spot in a crowded marketplace. What makes them endure when thousands of other products have failed?

I suspect that they remain because they offer consistent quality and fulfill a need that has not been replicated by any of the modern products. Jiffy Pop is still great over campfires.  Fels Naptha really does remove stains. TaB boasts its diet taste, not an imitation of regular soda.  

The lesson is that you don't have to be flashy or spend a fortune to endure.  Some things can flourish under the radar from the masses if they are the right product.  How can you help your organization focus on quality instead of trying to promote an average offering?

-- beth triplett

Thanks to Tracy for the idea. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

#695 squirrely

This is the time of year in the academic world where resignations abound.  Those that do remain are more crabby and irritated -- "squirrely" as I call them -- as the workload increases and the remaining days on the semester's calendar tick away.

I am reminded of a quote:
"Burnout is not a crisis of time; it's a crisis of the spirit.  It's not that we bite off more than we can chew; it's that we bite off more than we can savor."   James Autry

Understanding the distinction is important in assessing next steps.  If it's a matter of overload, that problem could be addressed with time management, delegation, reallocation or other fixes -- or even the arrival of the summer term.

But a crisis of spirit is a much different issue.  That requires soul searching and reflection to determine the best course of action.

If you are feeling unsettled in your current organization or work role, think about the source of your restlessness before you reroute your journey.

-- beth triplett

Saturday, April 26, 2014

#694 the bride

Today I will be attending the wedding of one of my former students.  It's as close to being the mother of the bride as it will come.  

Natalie and a friend were both from out of state and "stuck" on campus with nothing to do over Labor Day early in their college careers.  I bonded with them when I took them to the zoo over the weekend. I also I earned "50,000 cool points" from them for jumping into a pool with a (black, washable) dress on.  In the seven years since we have been apart, each weekend we have written notes to each other, in old-fashioned longhand via snail mail!  A friendship this does make.

It has served me well to have an inter-generational perspective on what is happening in the world.  Through her eyes, I have seen the struggle of a new graduate looking for work, starting out on her own, paying back loans, and now beginning this new chapter in life.  It has assisted me as I craft messages and materials to reach out to students and prospective students on our campus.

Think of the relationships you maintain.  Are they all with people your own age?  If so, you may be missing a viewpoint that could assist in your understanding and empathy.  Try to cultivate a conversation, if not a friendship, from someone who is at a different stage of their life and see what you can learn -- and cherish.

-- beth triplett

Friday, April 25, 2014

#693 deep breath

It's not just instant bacon and microwaves that are giving us fewer opportunities to practice patience.  Our immediate access to entertainment, information, resources and each other has fueled our demand for immediate gratification with everything.

Patience is a character trait that is on the decline according to the Pew Research Center.  And the downside of this means that people exhibit less self-control, are less able to work collaboratively and relationships suffer.  Studies have shown that those who were able to delay their rewards had lower stress, higher achievement and were overall more likable.  Who doesn't want that!?

"Many people speak about patience if it were some sort of commodity," writes Allan Lokos*.  "We say 'I'm running out of patience' or 'I'm losing my patience', but that's not really accurate.  You don't start the day with a full tank that's steadily depleted."

Author Ingela Ratledge suggests these strategies to increase you ability to be patient:
> visualize yourself exhibiting patience in situations that normally irritate you
> meditate
> slow down: rethink your schedule so you're not rushing
> daydream to distract yourself while waiting

I could add: make the bacon from a package and fry it in a pan!  

Think about that and other strategies that you could deploy to be more conscious about your temperament today.  Speed is often overrated.

-- beth triplett

*Allan Lokos, founder of the Community Meditation Center in New York City, author of Patience: The Art of Peaceful Living

Source:  Wait for it by Ingela Ratledge, Real Simple, May 2014, p. 111+

Thursday, April 24, 2014

#692 instant

Just before I went to the grocery story, I finished an article about how patience is becoming a lost art.  The message of the author was confirmed when I came upon this product in the aisle:

Note that there is no refrigeration: this is "fully cooked bacon" that comes in a box and takes 15-20 seconds to heat in the microwave before it is ready to eat.  Regular bacon only takes a few minutes, but apparently that is too long for some to wait.

Should your organization participate in the quest for speed or can you make yourself so valuable that you don't need to be on the "instant" bandwagon?  You may want to read more tomorrow about why patience matters before you rush out and grab a box of bacon or decide to create the equivalent for your group!

-- beth triplett

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

#691 premium

Sometimes packaging can be the difference between the ordinary and the special.  M & Ms has learned this through the packaging of its candies in special holiday theme colors:  the pastels for Easter; red and white for Valentine's Day; browns and oranges for fall; red and green for Christmas.

Customized M&Ms have been available online for several years, allowing people to purchase the candies in single or selected colors.  This has been a popular options for weddings, school spirit events, baby showers and other individual holidays.

Apparently the marketers at M&M/Mars decided that they should bring the single-color option to the stores instead of relying on web traffic.  There are now displays of "premium" M&Ms that dispense colors not found in the ordinary bags.

Unlike Jelly Bellies or other candies where a different color equates to a different flavor, all of the M&Ms taste the same.  The only difference is the color of the candy coating on the outside...

... and the price.  Premium M&Ms retail for $8.99/lb (56 cents/oz).  A bag of regular M&Ms sells for $2.60 (21 cents/oz).  Is it really worth more than twice as much to have a certain color?  Teal M&Ms may be worth it if you are hosting an Ovarian Cancer Research event, but not for a child's birthday party.

Sometimes it is worth it to have that extra touch to make an event truly special.  At other times, the difference is imperceptible.  Think about the impact of the whole before you focus on the details.  

-- beth triplett

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

#690 shelf space

Continuing the thought from yesterday's blog about new product categories, one of the most important decisions businesses are making involves the allocation of space.  Who decides how much shelf space to allocate to K-cups and related products?  What used to be on the shelf before Kuerig was popular?  

These decisions are made with the thousands of items that stores carry.  Our grocery has six types of water chestnuts (natural, whole, sliced, Pacific fancy, LaChoy and generic).  Where in the logistics chain did someone determine that we needed six -- rather than four or eight?  

I am sure that the scanning software allows the corporate office to know which brands are selling and which aren't, but big data can only shed light on what is.  If we had a different type on the shelf, perhaps it would be the winner.

How much space you allocate to products and how much time you dedicate to services becomes a crucial strategic question for your organization.   Don't focus your thinking so much on the "what" so that you overlook the other variables such as space and time that are competing for your resources.

-- beth triplett

Monday, April 21, 2014

#689 pied piper

Think about products that are game changers.  Certainly Apple and its list of product innovations would come easily to mind, but there are other more ordinary examples that create a new product category.

The latest example that struck me is Kuerig.  This simple appliance spawned a revolution of how hot beverages are packaged.  Our grocery store has half an aisle of K-cups (or their imitations) with the express purpose of providing individual servings on a Kuerig machine.

I think of other products that have generated as much in the ancillary sales as in the main item.  X-Box and the millions of revenue from related games.  wii and the accessories and programs that accompany the wii console.  BlueRay players and the demand it created for a whole new format of movies.  Disney movies and the related merchandising.  Premium cupcakes and the trays, racks, carriers, decorations and pans that evolved.

Almost a decade ago, the book Blue Ocean Strategy challenged readers to create "blue oceans" -- new market niches that were different than the 'red/blood oceans' that came from direct competition.

The same principle applies to services as it does to products.  How can you position yourself like Kuerig and fulfill an unmet need rather than trying to be better/cheaper/faster than the next guy?

-- beth triplett

Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, Harvard Business Review Press, 2005

Sunday, April 20, 2014

#688 eggs

One of my regular (and favorite) weekend rituals is going out to breakfast.  However, I have never gone on Easter Sunday because I have assumed that it would be madness at the restaurant.  Easter Brunch is almost synonymous with the holiday, and I figured that the breakfast place that has crowds on regular weekends would be beyond nuts on the big breakfast-eating holiday.

When I was there yesterday, I asked the manager if he was ready for the big rush.  "Actually," he said, "Easter is the slowest Sunday of the year.  Everyone goes to brunch or to Grandma's, but hardly anyone goes out for breakfast!"  

Who knew there was such a distinction between the meals?  I was so glad that I asked, because I would certainly prefer a low-key breakfast in an empty-ish restaurant vs. over-eating at a crowed place.  I will be one of his Easter regulars!

Are there conclusions you have arrived at -- even using rational logic -- that turn out to be false?  Maybe there are distinctions that you have not realized or other factors that alter the outcome.  You know the old quip about what they say about assumptions.  It really is better to check.  Your day may be sunny-side-up because of it.

Happy Easter!

-- beth triplett

Saturday, April 19, 2014

#687 free

I was shopping yesterday, and as I made my purchase the sales clerk told me that I could pick a plastic egg out of the basket to win a prize.  The one I chose gave me a free candy bar and bottle of water.  The approximate retail value of these items is $2, but it was fun to feel as if I "won" something.  

The pick-an-egg promotion did nothing to alter my buying pattern, but it was a nice piece of serendipity at the check-out counter.

People like surprises.  People like to feel like winners.  People like to get something for free, even if it has minimal value.  

How can you capitalize on these traits?  Clinique is masterful with its "Bonus Days".  Other companies add free trial sizes attached to regular size products.  Sometimes the car wash upgrades to add free lemon scent with a wash.  Restaurants serve "free" bread baskets.  

Don't wait to make your customers go on an egg hunt to add an extra treat in their basket.

-- beth triplett

Friday, April 18, 2014

#686 have your cake

I went to the grocery to get a cake mix to make some cupcakes.  I found that cakes, like so many other categories, have experienced a flavor explosion.  

The choices are almost overwhelming:  Tie Dye, caramel, strawberry cheesecake, blue raspberry, pink lemonade, watermelon, blue velvet, pink velvet, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and chocolate, fudge truffle, pumpkin cream, cherry chip, orangesicle, zebra...there are several shelves of flavors I have never tasted.

Because of the abundance of new flavors, the marketers had to do something to the standard flavors to make them look appealing in the mix. "White" only is distinctive when it is shown between Tie Dye and zebra, so now other manufacturers have repackaged to become Traditional Vanilla and Traditional Chocolate, etc. (I guess to tug on your sense of sense of nostalgia?)

I am one to experiment, so my last batch was watermelon and yesterday was pink lemonade.  Both caused people to do a double take before they tried one, but the flavors received a thumbs up afterwards.

Two thoughts for you:  
1) How does your product/service/message compete in this ever-changing market?  Do you create new additions to keep customer interest or do you rebrand your current mix to appeal to longevity/history/vintage/legacy?  

2) How do you personally keep fresh in today's world?  As I have written before, little experiments expand your comfort zone with taking risks and fostering creativity in other areas.  The next time you're at the grocery, reach for the orangesicle instead of the lemon and push your taste buds into the unknown.

-- beth triplett

Thursday, April 17, 2014

#685 gouda or badda?

Our local grocery store has recently added a new section of specialty cheeses.  These are pricey brands that are perishable and require refrigeration, so the company has made a substantial investment in the area.

As a result, they have assigned one of the workers a monthly quota to sell these new cheeses.  They have directed her to provide samples and to come from behind the deli counter into the cheese section to encourage customers to learn about (and then buy!) these upscale items.  From corporate's standpoint, it is a reasonable expectation of this employee.

The problem is that this employee was productive and busy in the deli before the cheese responsibilities were added on.  It makes no sense to have someone handing out cubes of cheeses when there is a line of customers waiting for deli sandwiches to be made.  There was no replacement assigned to the deli and so from the employee and shoppers' perspectives, the specialty quota is a dumb idea.

Conflicting expectations only serve to frustrate and confuse people.  Have you inadvertently placed your employees in a similar situation?  Do you know?  Asking about implications before making assignment changes often yields feedback that can only come from those with intimate insight.  The cheese stands alone; don't you fall into that trap.

-- beth triplett

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

#684 ideal

I find myself in the unenviable position of needing a new administrative assistant.  The person that I hired six years ago, when I was just weeks into my new job, has tendered her resignation.  And so the search begins for someone who knows my nuances and preferences and has the ability to address both with a smile on her face.

As I did before beginning any search, I sat down and wrote out a list of characteristics that I would like the ideal candidate to possess.  Such an activity keeps me focused on what is important (not what can be dazzling in an interview) and helps me know how to write the job description, advertisement and interview questions.  I have done an "attribute list" for almost every search I have conducted and it always serves me well.

It also helps me identify where my desires and reality may not be in sync.  For this job, I am looking for someone with a high degree of accuracy (to do spreadsheets and lots of detail work).  Yet, I also wish for (need) a great amount of flexibility as this person services all the departments in our division and is often called in to be a pinch hitter for an immediate need.  Often accuracy/focus and flexibility can be in conflict -- it's hard to keep your nose to the grindstone and happily leave that project when an unplanned project arises.

Doing an attribute list also allows the key skills to surface.  For this job, the person must be experienced with Excel.  Thus, a good resume with an "I am a quick learner on new software" will likely not be interviewed.  To me, it's like a carpenter candidate saying "I can easily learn to use the hammer."

The next time you find yourself with an opening, take an extra few minutes to write up a list of what the ideal candidate will possess.  I guarantee you'll be a more likely to hire the right person than if you rely only on a undirected friendly chat.

-- beth triplett

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

#683 idea spreading

For those that haven't heard of TED, it is an invitation-only event where speakers share talks on "ideas worth spreading" in 18 minutes or less. (TED is an acronym for Technology, Entertainment and Design.)  TED talks are now translated into more than 100 languages and are available via  Individual communities may also organize a TED event (designated as TEDx).

I am currently listening to the book Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.  After years of research in relative anonymity, she has recently become quite popular on the lecture and book circuit and even has a column in Oprah magazine.  What put her in the public light?  She attributes it to her talk at TEDX Houston.  Brene gave her talk about vulnerability in front of an audience of 500; later it became part of the national TED line up and has been heard by more than 5 million people.  Thus is the power of TED.

So it was ironic to me that as I was reading about the power of TEDx, l learned that my city is hosting a TEDx event of its own in June.  I wondered what I would speak on if invited to do so.  What topic do I have that is original and passionate and able to be shared in 18 minutes?  It is a tall order.

Think about what your signature message would be.  Have you been pondering a thought that you would like to share with the world?  Would you be brave enough to do it if given the chance?  Maybe you should make it a goal to crystallize your ideas and have a mini TEDx in your own organization.  It could be the start of something amazing like with Brene.

-- beth triplett

Monday, April 14, 2014

#682 last impression

Seems that my Inbox has been overflowing lately, so I am working to unsubscribe to mailings in the hopes of cutting down on volume.  A colleague of mine is doing the same.  

But instead of the blah, generic "we're sorry to see you go" auto-announcement when she unsubscribed to Formstack, she received an email with a video of the Lion King's Pumbaa and Timon crying to see her go.  And should she be swayed into staying because of the cute farewell, they also subtly ask: "How about a second chance?" and give her easy links to reconnect.  It is brilliant.

I have never heard of Formstack, but I am ready to sign up just so I can leave them!  

All of our organizations can take a lesson from Formstack on how to end a customer relationship gracefully.  It may be your last opportunity to make a positive impression on this client; don't waste it with a canned reply that looks like every other "unsubscribe" message.  You never know when your departing customer may need you again or be asked for a referral.  Best to have a "wow" as their last memory of you.

-- beth triplett

Thank you to Amy for making today's blog easy to write!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

#681 business is hopping

In October*, I wondered when Halloween became a reason for outside decorations.  Six months later, I am puzzled at how Easter became elevated to a similar status.  Until a few years ago, nobody I knew decorated for Easter, but today it has become big business.

The National Retail Federation estimated that Americans will spend $1.1 billion on Easter decorations this year.  That is half as much as all the candy purchased for Easter baskets!

Decorating doesn't mean just a single flag either; some households have really taken time to let the rabbit know he is welcome:

What can your organization take away from the proliferation of holiday decorating?  Is there a way you can capitalize on consumer's desire to connect to others through themes or shared celebrations?  Can you offer a promotion, donation opportunity or other tie-in that corresponds with the next "big" holiday?  Or can you create your own day for your organization's friends to commemorate?  

Whether on rabbits or goblins, Americans are parting with their cash in massive amounts to decorate.  Think of how some of that spending can be diverted to aid you in achieving your goals.

-- beth triplett

*Blogs #512, #512a  October 26, 2013

Source:  American Easter spending down this year by Tom Wharton for The Salt Lake Tribune, April 9, 2014 10:12pm

Saturday, April 12, 2014

#680 iAllowance

As is the case with many credit cards, purchases on my Visa earn me "flex points" that I can redeem for airline miles or other rewards. Usually the points are used for travel or luxury gifts for the cardholder, but I received a flyer with my last statement that encourages me to use those points to pay my kids's allowance!

FamDoo is a new application that lists out an assortment of chores and the number of points that a child can earn for completing them.  The app allows credit card points to be converted into FamDoo allowance points which ultimately are converted to cash or credits that can be used at selected stores.

FamDoo allows options to spend, save and donate; teaching children to use their phone or iPad to transact commerce.  It bills itself as "the modern allowance" -- and is certainly a step in the direction of the cashless society.  (It makes me wonder if a Tooth Fairy app is in development.)

If your organization appeals to children, perhaps you should investigate becoming a donor site on the new FamDoo platform.  Encouraging youth to make electronic transactions on your behalf could be a smart long-term strategy for your group.

-- beth triplett

Learn more at

Friday, April 11, 2014

#679 two weeks

I just watched the movie The Money Pit, a 1986 classic where (a very young) Tom Hanks and Shelley Long buy a mansion that is replete with hidden troubles.  They are forced to hire a team of contractors to essentially rebuild the place, including plumbing, electricity, the indoor staircase, etc. 

Tom Hanks' character asks the lead contractor how long the work will take, and the foreman answers: "Two weeks."  Keep in mind that this is a 5000 square foot house, stripped to the rafters, in need of serious repair.  Two years would be a more realistic reply.

Have you been in the position where you have made promises that were similarly ludicrous?  Do you tend to answer what you believe the recipient wants to hear vs. what is realistic?

Even if your intent is good or if the outcome will be poorly received, it is better to speak with honesty than hyperbole.  "Two weeks" is a slapstick comedy answer, not a way to do business.

-- beth triplett

Thursday, April 10, 2014

#678 hello, my name is...

Until I arrived at work yesterday, I was oblivious to the fact that it was "Pick Your Name Day".  But it was, and one of our offices decided to play along.  Everyone chose a name for themselves -- or several names throughout the day -- to get in the spirit of the theme.  

I played along too, but was one of the few who had no difficulty in choosing a new name for myself.  I became Hannah.  This has been a favorite name of mine for a long time, thanks to one of its virtues of being nearly nickname-proof.  

Hannahs that are named Hannah are actually called Hannah.  Unlike Elizabeths that are named that but called Beth.  I hate the confusion that it causes -- when calling for appointments or knowing which name was used for certain records.

Thus, I have become a name fanatic in our office; insisting that our correspondence be sent to the "preferred name" as soon as a student tells us this information on their application, instead of to their formal name that we likely received from ACT.  To me, it is a signal that we know the student and take care to treat them more individually than just a mass mailing.

At home, I toss mail that comes to "Elizabeth" unless it is very official-looking, because it means that it is from someone who has just purchased my name and not someone I have sought out.  Contrast that with mail from my alma mater that still to this day comes with lower case beth like I spell it (guess where I am a major donor?).

As you address clients and friends of your organization, take special care to call people by their preferred name.  It is an important connection that you can make and a sign that you are listening to what is important to them.  A Rose is not as sweet if she really prefers Rosie.

-- Elizabeth triplett  (how the lower case b originated)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

#677 marked

It's almost construction season and so shoulders and yards are marked with colorful little flags.  These markers designate where the gas line, the fiber optic cable and the electrical wires run underneath the ground.

Lawn services also use a little plastic flag to mark your yard when they have come by and applied their fertilizer treatment.  

Both sets of flags serve the purpose of making the invisible visible.  They are little indicators that something is going on.  Even though the road or yard itself shows little difference at the moment, the flags tell you that activity is occurring and change is near.

What "flag" can your organization place to show your clients and donors that work is underway?  Thermometers for campaigns is one type of flag.  Stores that allow people to sign paper shamrocks or shoes and post them with a donation is another.  Report cards in school indicate mid-semester completion.  

Don't wait until the road is repaved to let people know that you are on your journey.  Give attention to placing some flags along the side to help others know while they can't yet see progress, it is in fact being made.  

-- beth triplett

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

#676 trickle

One only has to look at this winter to get a sense of how even the mighty can fall if you don't tend to things continuously.  Just a few short months ago, this was the pile of snow in the mall parking lot:

Today it is gone.  

We haven't really had "spring" or even days when it was prudent to be without a coat.  It's not like the hot sun has been shining or people are rejoicing about the warm and wonderful weather.  It's just been a tad warmer, still with that cool wind -- and yet, it was enough to make the mountain of snow vanish.  

Little by little, without any notice or flourish, the pile is gone.  It disappeared in a trickle, not a flood, but it is gone nonetheless.

The same can happen in your organization if you don't care for it.  That big lead or advantage you took for granted -- that you couldn't conceive of losing -- can slowly slip away like the snow pile.  

Organizations, relationships and all organic things can entropy without proper care.  Think of the mountain when you feel like resting on your laurels.  If you lean on it too frequently, you may find yourself falling on your bottom instead.

-- beth triplett

Monday, April 7, 2014

#675 Lassie

One of my very favorite cartoons from a decade ago is the following:

Gary Larson shows a man caught in quicksand when a collie comes upon him.  The man implores "Lassie" to go get help, so the dog runs past trees, jumps over a log, takes an airplane ride and then comes to a screeching halt when she realizes "My name's not Lassie."

How many times have we acted like the collie in this cartoon and taken on heroic efforts to accomplish a task that wasn't ours to do?  Or started to worry about a problem that wasn't ours to worry about or solve?  

I don't think that I have ever uttered the words "that's not part of my job description", but I do believe that there are appropriate limits and boundaries to the responsibilities and woes that we take on.  Sometimes it is ok to say no to adding something to your plate that belongs with someone else. Your name isn't Lassie either. 

-- beth triplett

Sunday, April 6, 2014

#674 good advice

There was a sign outside a church that read:


No matter what role you're in --
boss, colleague, spouse, parent, friend, neighbor, human
I think it's good advice to follow.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

#673 pay the pig

Intuitively we know that language is important, but we sometimes become casual or even careless with the labels we give things.

In our office (and beyond), we take names of things seriously.  When we changed from college to university, it was a hard transition.  "University" didn't roll off the tongue or seem natural.  We are now changing the name of a program on campus, and the new name also seems cumbersome.

In order to foster intentionality about the words we use, we have a practice of charging people when they slip and use the old name.  We have a piggy bank and each time a person defaults to the wrong name, they owe the pig five cents.  After the first few weeks, the fine goes up to 10 cents, then to a quarter, then to a dollar and after a reasonable period has passed the fine is five dollars.  Not only does it make the speaker more conscious, it makes everyone else more vigilant as monitors.

Today, it would be "college" that felt awkward; "university" is the natural default.  We want to get to that point with our new program name so the pig has been pressed into service again.  Our president alone paid it 30 cents yesterday.

Find a way in your organization to get consistency in the language you use to name and describe things.  And enjoy the pizza that you can buy with the earnings as people struggle to make your chosen words come easily to them!

-- beth triplett

Friday, April 4, 2014

#672 lasting change

There are volumes of books and entire courses on how to create change, but for me it can all be boiled down to five steps:

1. HAVE NEW EYES.  Marcel Proust said that "the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."  You need to pay attention to needs and "dots" that you can connect.  You need to have new experiences.  You need to become conscious and intentional about seeing how things are connected.

2.  COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE.  No one will like your change effort, no matter how good, if they are surprised by it.  Share the idea in the planning stage and genuinely seek feedback.  Communicate the context as well as the idea itself.  If people understand the "why" behind something, they are more likely to accept the "what".

3.  INTEGRATE.  (aka: connect the dots)  The strongest change efforts are those that combine ideas to make something better.  Connect new initiatives to existing goals.  Build on strengths.  Involve partners.  Integrate both thinking and resources for greatest success.

4.  FOCUS.  Only the most talented can juggle diverse objects at once.  Focus your team's energy on accomplishing your main goals instead of taking on a wide variety of projects.  Henry Breckenridge said: "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing."  Follow his mantra for your change efforts.

5.  CREATE SYSTEMS.  A goal of most change efforts is for the new way of doing to become embedded in the fabric of the organization.  For this to occur, you need to develop intentional systems to outlive you once you move on to champion another project.  Don't stop at designing what is needed; be sure that there is a method for how it will occur over and over again.

Whether you are responsible for your organization's strategic plan or you just want a new way of doing a small step in an existing process, following these five steps will go a long way in ensuring that the change happens -- and lasts.

-- beth triplett

Thursday, April 3, 2014

#671 alterations

At the moment, I have three different airline trips booked via two different airlines.  I also have about four notices each that my schedule has been changed or my connections are no longer valid.  For one, the flight times changed by four hours.  Another changed 15 minutes.  One of my trips involves coordinating with two other people and between the three of us I have more emails than I can manage.  Right now, I am really not sure who is arriving when or whether we depart at 12 or 2pm.

All plans are just one domino in a long chain.  When the flight time changes, the car rental needs to change.  Pick up times are different.  Departure times dictate what attractions can be seen that day.  Yet the airlines continually make cavalier alterations to the best laid plans with barely an email notification of such changes.

I am all in favor of flexibility and maximizing performance.  But when does being nimble become just plain annoying?  Couldn't the planning have been done before the flights were published?  Or left alone after the first change was made?  

When you make a change, even one that makes sense in isolation, think twice about the other changes that it will trigger.  I believe there are times when well enough should be left alone.

-- beth triplett