Tuesday, September 30, 2014

#851 here come the brides

Over the weekend, I attended a wedding reception at a facility that specializes in hosting weddings.  Whereas many banquet facilities or hotels are venues for a wide variety of events, this place was the wedding reception mecca.  

Because they specialize in weddings, the facility is set up for them and decorated in such a way that brides favor, with no need to regard that conferences or other business meetings might not find some of the decor to be attractive.  It is floor to ceiling white satin, with pillars covered in mirror titles, little white lights sparkling everywhere, a head table on a stage and ready-made dance floor.  Tables remain set with covered chairs, mirror centerpieces, about a hundred tea light candles lining the entrance hallway, etc.

There are dressing rooms for the women, complete with make-up mirrors, full-length mirrors and couches.  The dressing room for the men is equipped with a large screen TV tuned to ESPN.  

Need a steamer for the dresses?  Got it.  Want candelabra centerpieces?  Done.  Photo booth set-up?  Check.  Separate play room for the kids?  Yep.  It was a finely tuned wedding machine.

Not all venues have the luxury to focus on just one type of event, and a narrow business plan is not always wise.  But for those who can make the economics work, having a specialty provides a deep level of understanding about what your customer really wants.  You can anticipate their needs because you have probably been asked for it before.  You can cater (no pun intended) to a targeted audience and know where to reach them.  You can make the complicated easy for those who are going through the process, many for the first time.

Even if you can't limit your line to only one audience, think about whether there is an area where you can go deep.  Being all things to all people doesn't allow you to create a fairy tale setting like a one-audience venue does.

-- beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com




Monday, September 29, 2014

#850 bureaucracy

I recently did some consulting for an organization.  It was a great experience that stretched my mind, afforded me an opportunity to reconnect with a colleague and I believe provided them with some valuable insights.  Overall, my interactions with those I was directly involved with were quite pleasant and positive.

But if you asked me about the experience overall, I would rant and rave about the bureaucracy that accompanied the process.  After a verbal understanding, I had to fill out a four-page service agreement and a three-page worksheet.  I needed to submit three different invoices, separating out all the categories of expenses.  After another interval, they requested a W-9 and my date of birth.  Later I had to sign an expense report and return that.  Still later there was a discrepancy about meal reimbursement vs. meal allowances so more paperwork followed.  And still no check.

The operational procedures and bureaucrats have soured the whole experience for me.

Do you have practices in your organization that are overshadowing the good work that you are doing?  Are your clients turned off by your billing or payment processes?  Do you make the application or hiring process so arduous that people are exasperated before they come to interview?  Is it complicated to buy something from you or access your services?  

There is no such thing as the back of the house.  Everything impacts the way your clients (and employees) experience your organization.  Try to find ways to interact with your organization as a client and see if the way you do things still makes sense.

-- beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com

Sunday, September 28, 2014

#849 spice

Marketers and retailers have long capitalized on holidays and special events to tie into their promotions.  You have seen the "Special Black Friday Sale" or "Back to School Savings" in addition to ads for the actual holidays.

It seems now that we have moved beyond just events as companies try to capitalize on flavors and scents.  The latest trend: pumpkin. 

Starbucks was a leader in this craze.  Their Pumpkin Spice Latte has been the subject of over 29,000 tweets with #pumpkinspice and over 200 million PSL drinks sold to date.  

Americans spent $308 million on pumpkin-flavored products last year (up 14% from 2012), so others are now trying to cash in on the mania.  Among other things, you can buy cream cheese, M&Ms, marshmallows, Pop-tarts, Jello pudding and Extra gum in the pumpkin spice flavor.  

What does this mean for you?  Most likely you aren't going to start selling a pumpkin-flavored item, but can you acknowledge that the flavor is attractive to people?  Have a pumpkin-scented candle in your waiting room.  Do your promotion in orange and feature pumpkins as part of the graphics.  Decorate your office for Fall.  Serve pumpkin-flavored treats or have flavored cream cheese on the bagels at your meeting or serve pumpkin spice cake as the dessert at a meal.  Buy flavored coffee or creamer for the office. 

You don't have to go overboard, but don't be oblivious to the trends around you either.  See if you can't spice up your organization by paying attention to what is popular.

-- beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com

Roundup: Spice up your life in Time, September 29, 2014, p. 58


Saturday, September 27, 2014

#848 scale

Wondering what to do today?  Perhaps you can partake in Museum Day Live!, an annual event where museums around the country offer free admission to two people with a Museum Day Live ticket (available for free at www.smithsonian.com/museumday/ )

The Smithsonian Museums are free everyday, and this inspired Smithsonian Magazine to sponsor an event to increase access to other museums across the country.  It is a great way to explore some history or culture that you normally may not do (and a great way for them to build a database of new prospective members/subscribers!)

How can you translate this idea into your organization?  Is there a way for you to collaborate with other counterparts to do a joint promotion or event such as this, Small Business Saturday the weekend after Thanksgiving or state-wide private college weeks?  Can you offer something free on one day that normally would cost or make something free to one segment of the population like active military or senior citizens?  Or could you generate excitement by doing an event like Restaurant Week where eateries in a city offer special pricing and access?

It is hard to do something really big on your own.  Think about how you can scale an idea and involve partners to turn your plans into something special.

-- beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com

Friday, September 26, 2014

#847 handful

And one final thought that struck me from Dr. Michio Kaku's speech.  As with my other two blog entries about him, again, it wasn't about some of the cutting-edge science he described, but rather an anecdote that piqued my interest.

Kaku described (and a story by National Geographic confirmed) that when Albert Einstein died in 1955, he left instructions to be cremated.  As part of the autopsy, pathologist who worked on Einstein's body extracted the brain.  When he held it in his hand, he realized that he had something special -- in his opinion, too special to be destroyed -- so he took Einstein's brain home in a jar!

The brain traveled in the back seat of his car, was stored in a cider box for years, moved states again -- before he eventually donated it back to Princeton 40 years later.

The pathologist, Thomas Harvey, did receive from Einstein's son retroactive permission to study the brain, but he did not have authority to preserve it when he did.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar moral conundrum, where you truly believed something was the right thing to do, even though you did not have the right to do it?  As in this case, things are often complicated by the fact it is a "now or never" irrevocable decision -- if you cremate the brain, there is no deciding later that it was the wrong choice.  

Is it better to ask permission or forgiveness?  I recommend that you reflect on your values and become clear about your inner compass before you are holding the brain in your hand.

-- beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com

The tragic story of how Einstein's brain was stolen and wasn't even special by Virginia Hughes, Only Human, phenomena.nationalgeographic.com, April 21, 2014.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

#846 consciousness

Another thought from Dr. Michio Kaku (see yesterday's blog):

He has classified beings into three levels of consciousness:

Level 1: those that react to feedback but don't have independent conscious thoughts (like flowers)

Level 2:  those that respond to space and can make social connections with others (like animals)

Level 3:  those who can understand time (only humans)

Dr. Kaku said that "only humans have the ability to run simulations of models into the future and also the past; humans are the only animal that understands space and time."

It was a distinction that I had not considered before, that what separates us from the animals is our understanding of time.  Kaku said this allows us to create, to plan and to develop "cities, civilizations and rocket ships."

Think about what your awareness of time allows you to do.  You can learn from the past, plan for the future, savor memories or anticipate actions.  

How are you going to use your highest level of consciousness today?  

-- beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

#845 ants

Author and theoretical physicist Dr. Michio Kaku spoke on campus over the weekend, sharing his mind-blowing revelations about the world of science today.  I'll give him a lot of credit for making high level science accessible to a general audience, but I still couldn't wrap my head around most of the ideas he says are reality already (or will be in the near future.)  

Dr. Kaku spoke of recording and then uploading a person's full memory via a "brain pacemaker", photographing dreams, having Iron-Man-like exoskeletons that serve as mind-controlled avatars or surrogates in hazardous positions (like the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan), developing a "library of souls" where via hologram connected to computer you could talk to famous people or your departed friends, and a contact lens that could connect you on-line via a simple blink.  It was like science fiction come to life.

But what struck me most from his talk wasn't about the cool gadgets that are out there, but our lack of knowledge about who is out there.  Someone asked him whether he thought we were the only intelligence in the universe.  He described it this way:

When you see an ant hill, do you bend down, dig around in it, ask to see their Queen and offer them nuclear energy?  Of course, you do not.  It could be the same way in the universe -- that all around us are other beings but they see us as ants and go about their business unconscious as to our existence.

Bringing this back to a perspective that I can comprehend, it occurred to me that sometimes people in organizations treat others as invisible ants.  Do you notice the facilities workers and stop to greet them?  Are you oblivious to the employees who serve you? Do you take into account the needs/feelings of the line workers when making policy decisions that may impact them? Have you treated your neighbors as ants who play no significance in your life rather than acknowledging them as members of your community?

Don't act like King of the Hill in your world.  Instead, practice humility and remember that it could be that you are just the king of an ant hill.

-- beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com






Tuesday, September 23, 2014

#844 burning

Former pro golfer and sportscaster Johnny Miller was on the circuit for 30 years and spent  20 years broadcasting the U.S. Open.  Over time, the outspoken Miller made a few observations about the golfers who came and went on the tour.

One of his thoughts was the "wick theory", indicating that every player's wick burns only so long.  

This explanation of behavior can apply to other settings outside of sports:
> In entertainment, stars come and go in music, movies, etc.
> People ride the tide at work, going from "golden girl/boy" when they ace a pet project to the scapegoat when the risks that put them on top cause them to fail
> Politicians are the darlings of their party -- until they aren't
> Popular kids at school tend to run their course too -- they are part of the "in crowd" only for a limited time
> Celebrity chefs and/or their dishes are in high demand for short spurts of time until the next person's star rises
> Fashion designers are copied and sought after for brief periods before the stars want something different

Think about the wick in your career or your industry.  If it will only burn for so long, how can you take advantage of that brightness to do something that will let the light continue to shine after you move on?

-- beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com

Quoted in Haney shoots straight on Tiger by Teddy Greenstein, Chicago Tribune, June 6, 2014, p. 6

Monday, September 22, 2014

#843 three

A recent advertisement for Ann Taylor (women's clothes) proclaimed:  "Never underestimate the power of the third piece."

The purpose of the ad was to promote the purchase of a jacket or sweater, showing that it made the outfit look much more professional and polished than just a blouse and skirt or pants.  They were right.

The "third piece" can be a descriptor for many things that add the extra finishing touch:
> a clear plastic cover to make an ordinary report and its cover seem more special
> an embellishment on a package in addition to the bow
> a garnish flower on the plate with the meat and potatoes
> a tie that pulls together a man's outfit
> a cherry on top of the whip cream on the sundae

Think about the power of three as you get dressed tomorrow or do your work today.  That third piece may be the tipping point to move you from ordinary to extraordinary.

-- beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com

Sunday, September 21, 2014

#842 blue

If you needed yet another sign that the world is changing, take this:  last year, sales of blue jeans declined by 6%.  For most of the 141 years since Levi Strauss invented the ubiquitous denim work pants, sales have been steady or rising.  But recent figures show that the popularity of the wardrobe staple is waning.

The cause of this shift is being attributed to the growth of the "athleisure" category of apparel.  Women in particular are buying more athletic clothes, and wearing them as casual attire outside of the gym.  This type of clothing is seen as looser-fitting and more comfortable.  It is also noted that some women "want to look like they're running to the gym, even if they're not."

Jeans are in nearly every closet in America.  Everyone owns several pairs, from toddlers to seniors.  They are omnipresent. 

Or at least they were.  If the sales of such a fundamental product can be threatened, it should be a lesson for you to take nothing for granted.  A long, storied past is no longer a guarantee that there will be a long, prosperous future.

-- beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com

Source:  Makers of jeans enduring rough patch by Ann D'Innocenzio for the Associated Press in the Telegraph Herald, September 14, 2014, p. 2B.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

#841 inward

I wonder who came up with the idea to add the technology to phone cameras that would allow people to take "selfies"?  Think about it -- for generations the only way to take a picture of yourself was to set the timer and run.  I wonder why someone thought the option would be popular.

But now selfies have become as prevalent as almost all non-selfie photography out there.  An exhibit at an area art gallery displays 100 phones with different selfie images.  Artist Paul McCormick* "mingles digital and physical self-representation" by showing people the images that were taken with the intent to be shared. 

How can you use the metaphor of a selfie to take a look on the inside instead of just a picture of how you appear?  Is there a way for you to take time to reflect on your inner dreams and intentions?  If you could see what thoughts are inside of you, would you like the selfie that reflects back?  Do you want to post what is there for the world to see or would you rather hit delete?  

People spend a lot of time taking pictures of their external view.  As you drive home from work tonight, turn off the radio and take a mental selfie. You don't need a phone or a camera to see what is in your head and heart.  

-- beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com

*See www.pauljmccormick.com


Friday, September 19, 2014

#840 underestimate

One final thought from the Tory Johnson webinar.  I did not tack this on the end of yesterday's blog because I did not want it to get lost.

Read this slowly and let it soak in:
"We over-estimate what we can do in a short period of time, and we under-estimate what we can do in the long haul."

How true that is.  People start things and give up because they don't see progress right away.  But if we stick with something for an extended period, we can make a difference.  "Time flies," she said. "Tiny things lead to big results and you really can make dramatic progress in a year."  She called it "time logic", but I think it's really "time illogic", in that we think things need to happen quickly.  

Examples:  eating healthy every day may not show instant weight loss, but over time the pounds will come off.  Same for regular exercise or strength training.  Taking one art class may not make us Picasso, but over time our technique will improve.  One course plus another plus another will lead to a degree.  Saving something each week will create a nest egg.  Writing every day will lead to a book.  Making calls will result in sales.

Think of a big goal that has been too daunting for you to tackle. TODAY, start on the path to achieve it.  We all know how quickly the days and weeks and months seem to pass.  Don't underestimate how the little steps you take can add up at the end of a period.

-- beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com

The Shift: How I finally lost weight and discovered a happier life by Tory Johnson

Thursday, September 18, 2014

#839 shift

A few more thoughts from the Tory Johnson webinar I referenced yesterday.  

Tory shared five steps that she believes will help you achieve any of your goals because they "shift" your thinking (which is conveniently the title of her recent book)

1.  If you have tried and failed, spend the time to dig deep to understand "why this next attempt must be different".  She advocates outlining in brutal black and white why you are too fed up to accept the way things are.

2.  Ask yourself what you are willing to give up. Tory believes that you have to get uncomfortable to get where you want to go.

3.  Develop a specific plan that outlines the three key things you must do to get the outcome you desire.  Her plan to (successfully) lose 60 pounds:  "Eat less, choose smarter, move more."  Repeat it over and over when faced with choices that make you uncomfortable (see #2!).

4.  Determine your DAILY accountability.  If you see daily progress, it will be a motivator to continue.  (There is a reason I number these blogs!!)

5.  Embrace patience and celebrate victories.  "There is no potion that trumps patience and perseverance and we can control these," she said. 

What big goal do you have that could benefit from a shift in thinking?  Perhaps employing Tory Johnson's methods will make you uncomfortable enough to become successful.

-- beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com

The Shift: How I finally lost weight and discovered a happier life by Tory Johnson


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

#838 conundrum

If you have a really bad year at work, you may think you need to start looking for a new job.  But the paradox is that if you are coming off of an extended bad period, you don't have the resume fodder or self-confidence to land yourself a new position.

If times are great at work, you have the employment capital, but not the desire to leave.

In a recent webinar, author Tory Johnson recommended that you "abandon the search for the job fairy", and realize that it is you who create your own destiny.  It sounds to me like the best thing to do is strive everyday to be amazing at the job you have.

-- beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

#837 the long view

Washington Post article recently had an interesting observation about what you aspire to in your career.  Writer Jamie Fuller wrote that "everyone always talks about how they want to be president, but the job the truly ambitious should actually aspire to is hold is 'former president.'"

What prompted her comment was the exchange that occurred between former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush at a recent gathering about their new leadership scholars program.  Here are two former rivals having more fun than I have seen in a long time.


Take the long view on your work and your relationships.  All the stress will someday be behind you.  Lead your career in such a way that there is more to you than your job, so that when your career is over you still have a sense of who you are.  And treat others well so that if you find yourself sharing a platform with them in retirement, you can enjoy yourself as much as these two did.

-- beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com

Photo:  Jonathan Ernst for REUTERS, September 8, 2014
Story:  What's better than one laughing ex-president?  Two laughing ex-presidents.  The Fix by Jamie Fuller, Washington Post, September 8, 2014

Monday, September 15, 2014

#836 Dot Day

On Friday, I wrote about using children's books in training.  Another book written for young adults is not only being used in training; it has even inspired an international movement.

Today is International Dot Day -- I wish it was to commemorate leadershipdots, but instead is a global day of celebration about creativity.  Dot Day 2014 has over 1.6 million registered participants from 80 countries.

It began with a simple children's book by Peter Reynolds.  In the book, a student is convinced she cannot draw so the teacher encourages her to just paint a dot on the paper and make her mark. One thing leads to another, and eventually the creativity flows.

In 2009, Traer, Iowa teacher Terry Shaw used the book in his classroom and then suggested to the author that a Dot Day be created.  The day has evolved into not only an international program, but also a forum for celebrities to showcase their work (http://www.celebridots.com).  A free Educators Guide (at www.thedotclub.org) suggests that everyone wear dots today and "share your creativity with the world."

The premise of The Dot and leadershipdots is the same:  Start. Get over the intimidation of making that first mark. Start small and connect the dots to make bigger things happen.  

Try to do something so you personally celebrate International Dot Day.  Take that first step and put your own version of a dot on the page.

-- beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com

Thanks Megan for sharing!

Source: http://seadnooneever.com/2014/08/06/an-iowan-teachers-success-story-you-may-not-know-about-international-dot-day/

Sunday, September 14, 2014

#835 insight

I received a survey from Acura wanting to know how I felt about my new car.  It was the longest survey I have ever taken, but they did a good job of making me feel like they truly wanted my input.

My car model has only been available for a month, and I applaud them for wanting to get it right.  The original release was delayed so that they were sure it was ready. 

Now they sent me a survey entitled "what went wrong".  It listed virtually every section of the car, from cup holders to the transmission, and if you marked that you had any kind of problem at all it gave a dozen options to specify what the issue was and provided open ended comment sections so you "could provide as much detail as possible".  

An example:  interior: do interior surfaces scuff or soil easily?  Is it scuff or soil?  Which surfaces?  What color is your interior?  Does the scuff easily wipe off?  Have you contacted the dealer about your problem?  And on it went.

The final question was also open ended:  Please give one comment (positive or negative) that we could share about your experience in the first month with your car.  If most people are like me, they will gain a host of testimonials to help convince others that the new model is working well.  

You know who uses your services.  Ask them for feedback about a month after they buy when the thrill of the purchase has worn off and they have meaningful input to give you.  You'll gain not only insight, but goodwill from those you ask.

-- beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com

Saturday, September 13, 2014

#834 circuitous

I came home last night to find a notice on my door that I had missed a delivery by UPS.  It is the title and registration for my new car -- something I definitely need since the temporary permit expires on Monday!

When I do get this document, it will have logged more miles than my car has (literally).  So far it has been scanned 16 different times as it traveled from Englewood, CO to Commerce City, CO to Louisville, KY to Danville, IL to Davenport, IA before arriving in Dubuque.  No wonder it is arriving within hours of the temporary permit's expiration.  

The envelope wasn't delivered because it requires a signature, so I have two options:  take the day off and wait for it on Monday or drive to an inconvenient place to pick it up.  I will have to strategically time my lunch hour to do so since here are the hours of UPS "Service" Center:  8am-12:25pm and 1:30pm to 6pm.  Am I to believe that they only have one person covering their office and that person has to take lunch during the prime lunch period for their customers?

It seems to me that with all the technology and tracking systems that UPS has -- and apparently the very limited in-person staff -- that they could develop a proactive system instead of a reactive one.  Couldn't they have sent me an email saying "we're going to deliver Friday, will you be home or do you want us to hold it?" or allowing me to authorize a neighbor to accept the package for me.  I could have saved them a trip and I could have picked it up on my way home last night instead of coming down to the wire on Monday.  

I'm sure your organization has processes and protocols for how things work.  Maybe you can consider deploying them to increase the convenience on the front end instead of just documenting the steps along the way.

-- beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com



Friday, September 12, 2014

#833 story hour

A colleague called me looking for ideas for a staff professional development series.  He was hoping to do an on-going series for a team with a wide range of experience and wanted a way to address multiple topics.

My suggestion for him:  a book club -- only not in the traditional format, rather a reading circle utilizing children's books.

I have used children's literature in leadership training for decades.  They are short; often broach sensitive topics in ways that allow people to be comfortable in discussing them; they come with illustrations that make great visual aids, and are much more affordable than adult hardcovers.

I have a list of dozens of titles that I have used, but some ideas to get you started:

> Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt (as discussed in Blog #797, August 7, 2014) would be a great way to prompt a discussion with those stuck in the status quo.

> The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! by A. Wolf as told to Jon Scieszka is a wonderful way to talk about myths, perceptions, open mindedness and first impressions.

> Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday by Judith Viorst can be used as a resource about budgeting and paying attention to what is important.

> Five Minutes Peace by Jill Murphy can open a conversation on stress management and making time for yourself.

> The Wednesday Surprise by Eve Bunting is a beautiful book about how everyone can be a teacher and that it is never too late to learn.

>  William's Doll by Charlotte Zolotow can be used to start a discussion on stereotypes, gender roles or even addressing the issue at hand instead of avoiding it.

> Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson is a classic to teach vision, creativity, creating your destiny and the impact of choices.

> Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox is a wonderful way to end a retreat or workshop as it contains lessons about memories, learning from others and how different things mean different things to different people.

There is something magical about storytelling. I think you'll find your adult audience just as entranced as a younger one if you incorporate children's books in your next leadership program.  Happy reading!

-- beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com

If you'd like a copy of the list, email me at leadershipdots@gmail.com

Thursday, September 11, 2014

#832 unspoken

Do you remember where you were 13 years ago today?  Chances are that you do.

I am sure for the families and friends of the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks, they not only remember the day, but the last words that were spoken to their loved ones.  How many people said -- or more likely did not say -- something that they would alter if life provided the opportunity for do-overs?

Take a moment today to pause and be grateful that we live in a country where such attacks are the exception rather than the norm.  And then take another moment to say what you would want to say to someone since you are fortunate enough to have that chance.

-- beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

#831 tossed aside

Yesterday as I searched on the web for a picture of the "evidence pad", I came across an entry that explained the history of the legal pad.

As the story goes, in 1888, long before the days of recycling, paper mills used to discard the scraps and sortings that were trimmed away from other print jobs.  An industrious entrepreneur, 24-year-old Thomas Holley, worked at the mill and envisioned a use for what was currently going to waste.  He founded his own company to pad the scraps and sell them at a discounted price.  

A local judge asked that the original margin be added, and thus the name legal pad was born.  The only official requirement to be considered a legal pad is the left margin (called the down line) to be drawn 1.25 inches from the left edge of the paper. 

There is no known reason for how the standard pads became most popular in yellow, but the canary versions outsell their white counterparts by 2 to 1.  Most "legal" pads today are actually made in the 8-1/2 x 11 standard size and legal size documents have been prohibited in federal courts since 1982 due to the additional storage costs for them.

Holley took something that was considered useless and turned it into an icon.  What is around you that has value that others can't see?  Is there something your organization throws away (or gives away) that actually could become productive in another way?  Try to take a fresh look at your by-products and see if they can't take on a life of their own.


-- beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com

Source:  Old Yeller: The illustrious history of the yellow legal pad by Suzanne Snider in Legal Affairs, May-June 2005.  http:www.legalaffairs.org/issues/May-June-2005




Tuesday, September 9, 2014

#830 the line

Have you ever seen a legal pad that lawyers and law students often use?  Instead of the plain legal pad that is found in every office in America, a litigation pad or evidence pad is one with the margin drawn more to the center of the page instead of 1.5 inches from the left.
I have always liked these pads, and whether I have a literal one or just figuratively, they represent how my mind works.  I am present to "what is" on one side of the line, but my mind is also always making connections and notes on the other side of the line.Examples:
> I attend a lecture and make notes on the content, but my mind also makes observations on how the speech is delivered or how I could adapt some of the techniques for my class.

> I watched the "Fan Cam" at the baseball game where they asked fans to demonstrate non-verbal gestures like the first/third base coaches.  I later adopted that to become an icebreaker.

> I read the newspaper and note not only the news of the day, but consider what it means and how it might be crafted into a blog topic.

Try to spend today making notes on both sides of the metaphorical line.  If you only experience events without reflecting on their meaning you could be missing out on a whole dimension.

-- beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com

@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com
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Monday, September 8, 2014

#829 triage

People often think that coming up with ideas is difficult.  If you put any time into the thought process at all, ideas are the easy part.  Usually, I, and those who work for me, have far more ideas than we can possibly implement.  In reality, the real trick comes in when evaluating the ideas and deciding where to spend your time and resources.

I use a simple method of keeping track of ideas and goals:  Now, Later and Eventually.

There are certain things that can, or should, be done in the very short term.  An idea for a birthday present.  A quick process fix that can be done without much effort.  Something you want to do this this week or so.

"Later" is something that doesn't make your immediate list, but is still relatively short term. You don't want your thinking to digress at this moment, but the idea is good and should be pursued soon.  Later goals fall into the category of "the next time this comes up, I'll address it."  

"Eventually" goals and ideas are things that really are good ideas, but the timing isn't right to pursue them now.  You don't want to lose them, or spend time on them now, so you can keep a list of longer term items to revisit occasionally to see if any have moved into the "later" time frame.

This simple triage method may help you keep on track to accomplish what you can do now without distraction, but still allow you to prioritize and manage those good ideas that will make a difference in the future.

-- beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com

Sunday, September 7, 2014

#828 because I said so

One of my favorite things to do on Sunday mornings is to read the newspaper and I always read the column by John Rosemond.  It's an unlikely pastime as he writes a syndicated column for parenting advice (and I am childless).  

But Rosemond's columns often have nuggets of wisdom regarding supervision.  I'm not in any way implying that my staff is childish, but there do seem to be some parallels between advice to parents and tips for supervisors.

Some examples:

> His belief that little deals really do grow into big deals and parents should say no to their children.  He writes that many parents give in, not because they agree with what is being asked, but because they want their children to like them.  Because of their fear of being seen as "mean" it teaches kids to give in to their impulses.  "No big deal" may be the case in many situations, but the accumulation of one 'It's no big deal' after another over time is likely to result, eventually, in a Very Big Deal."*  Supervision translation:  Don't say yes to something you don't want just to be "nice".

> Rosemond believes "the most powerful four words in parenting: [are] "Because I said so."  Instead of making a decision, explaining it, then arguing whether the explanation was "good enough", there is a time for an appropriate assertion of authority.  "Obedient children are much happier than disobedient children.  Put even more concisely, arguing is no fun for anyone."** Supervision translation:  Set out expectations and stick to them.

> "Children need a constant, calm, confident authority.  Authority, properly conveyed, is a form of nurturing, in fact." In an attempt to be liked, parents often ask their children if they would do something -- as if picking up toys was a favor.  Rosemond says that yelling results because parents have to exert more and more energy to get kids things to do that are phrased as requests.  "From a child's point of view, a parent is mean when the child accepts that the parent means what he or she says, the first time he or she says it.  When you have convinced your child of that, which requires that you stop trying to be so nice, you will stop yelling, and you and your child will have a far more creative relationship."***  Supervision translation: It's ok (even good) to outline responsibilities and hold people accountable.

Supervision is an on-going learning process.  Embrace lessons wherever you can find them, even if it is from a newspaper parenting column.

-- beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com

Sources:
* "Little Mohawk haircut could grow into 'Very Big Deal'" by John Rosemond, in the Telegraph Herald, August 10, 2014

** "The power of the words 'because I said so'"by John Rosemond, in the Telegraph Herald, August 3, 2014.

*** "Are you a yeller?  It's not good for you or your child" by John Rosemond in the Telegraph Herald, July 21, 2013


Saturday, September 6, 2014

#827 22 hours

I read an article written by a woman whose daughter had to make a piñata for Spanish class.  The girl decided on an overly ambitious design, and by the end of the first hour it was clear that it was going to take far longer to finish than could be reasonably expected for this homework project.

The mom urged her daughter to dump the design and start over with a more simple one, but the daughter persisted.  After 22 more hours, it was done.

This project reminded me of the foundational economics theory of "sunk costs."  She had already sunk one hour into the project regardless of whether she dumped it or pressed on.  Staying with something that would drain more energy was pointless "just because" she had started.  

Do you have projects in life that you stick with even when the outcome is dubious?  Do you press on and read the book even though you are bored after the first 100 pages?  Are you in a career because you are invested in it, rather than because it brings you joy?  Have you stayed with a project that was a perpetual energy drain when there was another way around it?

Sometimes you'd be better to regroup and start afresh with something entirely different.  May you have the courage and wisdom to know when you should rethink your version of the piñata.

--- beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com

What's your 22-hour piñata?  by Allison M. Vaillancourt, Chronicle of Higher Education, February 15, 2013, p. A37