Thursday, June 30, 2016

#1490 STAR supervision: A

This week I am sharing tips on becoming a STAR supervisor -- for more on that, see Monday's dotTuesday's dot on S = STARTING and Wednesday's dot on T = TIME. Today focuses on the "A" -- ALIGNMENT, and how good supervision occurs when you create philosophical alignment to get the results you want without micromanaging.

My goal has always been to "infuse me" into my staff; ideally having them do what I would do without the need for me to be there. In order for this to occur, I invest considerable time to ensure that we are both on the same page about their priorities and how the work is to be done. Sometimes I do this informally, but on other occasions, I utilize the alignment exercise to make sure we are clear. I often ask my staff whether they could keep two of themselves busy if we were proficient in cloning. Invariably the answer is yes. The alignment exercise helps ensure that the half of the job the one person is doing is the same half that I would want done!

However you do it, I think it is essential to spell out expectations and be specific about what is acceptable behavior. Mike Matheny, now manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, clearly spelled out his expectations in a letter to parents when he was coaching Little League. Other examples are how expectations were outlined for student employees or for the university receptionist.

It becomes important to align your expectations so that you can hold staff accountable for following them. Making frequent small corrections helps ensure that you remain in alignment. A method of achieving this is described in Danny Meyer's salt shaker analogy

Another part of your job as supervisor is to help your staff prioritize their time and to give them permission to say no to things. Aligning their time with what is important gives focus to them and to you. "As a leader, we are not responsible for the results," says author Simon Sinek. "As a leader, we are responsible for the people who are responsible for the results."

If you exercise clarity in the beginning of the process and then provide direct feedback when someone is out of alignment, I believe you will lead a great team and achieve great results. I close with a quote from Marcus Buckingham's The One Thing You Need to Know:

Effective leaders don't have to be charming or brilliant
What they must be is clear.
CLARITY is the essence of great leadership.
Show us who we should seek to serve,
Show us where our core strength lays,
Show us which score we should focus on
And which actions we must take,
And we will reward you by working our hearts out
To make our better future come true.

To be a STAR supervisor, provide that clear alignment for your staff then read tomorrow how to deploy R = RESOURCES to achieve results.

-- beth triplett

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

#1489 STAR supervision: T

This week I am sharing tips on becoming a STAR supervisor -- for more on that, see Monday's dot and Tuesday's dot on S = STARTING. Today focuses on the "T" -- TIME, and how good supervision requires a commitment of time. 

The time you spend on supervision pays dividends in the long term as it builds capacity in your staff. I try to spend time both on developing the person as well as helping them improve in their job responsibilities. The two are different, and you need to be intentional about addressing both aspects of your supervision and coaching.

The cornerstone of time I spend with my staff happens in weekly one-to-one meetings. Information sharing and becoming aware of a problem can happen in a doorway conversation, but for true development I believe you need to have a regular time on the calendar. In these meetings you can discuss rationale, aspirations, background, context and really talk through things. Much learning and understanding takes place in this setting -- for both the supervisor and employee. 

I also believe what Ram Charan and Larry Bossily wrote in their book Execution: that informality breeds candor. I try to see my employees in different settings to gain the trust that comes with time spent together. In the past, I have taught a class, helped staff with class assignments, gone on walks, been in a bowling league with colleagues, had every sort of meal and participated in outside social events to spend some informal time with staff. I also use these blogs to communicate lessons and messages in an indirect way. 

In addition to spending time with direct reports, I am intentional about spending time with middle managers and others in my division who do not directly report to me. I think it is important to involve people from all levels on committees and in meetings about tough topics so that they gain understanding and learn the "why" behind decisions.

I also take the time to learn about individuals and tailor rewards to them see dot #4. Sometimes this involves material goods, but often the investment of time is more meaningful. I have helped staff members learn how to write articles for publication, taught mini-classes on big picture topics, reviewed proposals and offered my involvement in ways that were most helpful to them.

There are no shortcuts to truly developing your staff, but I believe the time you invest is your most important job. It also takes time to truly reach A = ALIGNMENT, the topic for tomorrow...

-- beth triplett

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

#1488 STAR supervision: S

This week I am sharing tips on becoming a STAR supervisor -- for more on that, see Monday's dotToday focuses on the "S" = START, and how good supervision begins in the hiring process.

BEFORE HIRING: Prior to placing an ad, I recommend developing a "desired attributes" list that outlines the characteristics you are seeking from an ideal candidate. You can then incorporate these key points into your posting, and ask for examples in the interview to ascertain whether the candidate possesses your desired qualities. You form impressions as a supervisor from the ad forward, and it is good to start off giving the candidate a sense of what you value. I always send a pre-interview packet (and expectations that they have read it and can translate their experiences to fit real life examples) and have an intentional and comprehensive interview schedule to give the candidate a sense of fit with potential colleagues. I also always conduct the reference checks on my own (see dot #1391).

ONCE HIRED: As soon as the person is hired, we always route a card throughout the department so everyone can add a word of welcome to the candidate. We send this to their home, often accompanied by a few items of "swag" for them (and their family if they have one.) I know that leaving the current job/city/organization involves a sense of loss, and I want to keep the happy aspects of coming to us as prominent as I can. We put a sign and words of welcome on their desk for the first day, and provide a comprehensive orientation schedule in advance, assuring the employee that we have plans to acclimate them to the culture, the job duties, the city if their arrival involved a move, and to the organization as a whole. We communicate start time, parking locations, who will meet them and where, as well as dress code norms for the first day so there is no anxiety about that.

FIRST WEEKS: It is important that things are realistic, not all rosy, from the beginning. Set expectations from the start. Acknowledge where there is some flexibility, but hold firm to rules or policies that must remain rigid. Provide feedback on where the new employee is doing well, but also where they could tweak their behavior. If you have one-to-one meetings with your new staff, conduct them in the way you plan to hold them going forward. You want to set the tone and be the boss from the beginning, not be their new friend. It is easier to loosen expectations later than it is to gain respect or create more restrictions.

At one training session that a colleague and I facilitated for new supervisors, we handed out magnets with a picture of Bruce Springsteen. We encouraged the supervisors to put these where they could see them and remind themselves that they are THE BOSS and need to act accordingly. You, too, are THE BOSS, and the sooner you establish what that means for you, the better your relationship will be with your employees.

More tomorrow on T = TIME...

-- beth triplett

Monday, June 27, 2016

#1487 STAR supervision

One of my most requested workshops is Becoming a STAR Supervisor, and this week I will share some of the highlights of via this blog. I believe strongly that the most important thing we do is supervise staff, even though we sometimes lose focus of that and concentrate on "our work" instead. But if you have staff, being a STAR supervisor is your job, and it is an area where everyone can always learn and improve.

Supervision is a summary of skills, including hiring, training, coaching, evaluating, truth telling, visioning, goal setting, saying no, holding people accountable, compassion, humor, advocacy and tough love. The mix of challenge and support that you provide your staff will not only influence their personal growth and professional development, it will, to a large measure, determine the performance of your unit. 

I think people don't supervise well because they claim to be too busy, don't have the confidence or skills, want people to like them, think things will be fine on their own, or have the misguided notion that if you give power away, you won't have any for yourself. Many people are promoted into supervisory roles with no previous experience in this area, and don't know how to obtain it except by trial and error. 

I will synthesize four key aspects of supervision and discuss in more detail each day this week, but to be a STAR supervisor, I recommend concentrating your efforts in these areas:
S: START -- start supervising beginning with the hiring process
T: TIME -- commit the time it takes to supervise well
A: ALIGNMENT -- align your staff and your expectations
R: RESOURCES -- deploy resources to build capacity

In a Harvard Business Review article* entitled Creating the Best Workplace on Earth, authors Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones found that people did not cite great pay or benefits when describing their ideal job. What people were looking for was a place where: you can be yourself, you're told what's really going on, your strengths are magnified, the company stands for something meaningful, your daily work is rewarding and stupid rules don't exist. As a supervisor, you have a large amount of control to create this pocket of greatness with your staff. Pick up some tips this week on how to do that...

-- beth triplett

*Source: Creating the Best Workplace on Earth by Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones, Harvard Business Review, May, 2013

Sunday, June 26, 2016

#1486 hitchhiker

I had dinner last week at a little restaurant by the marina. It was a perfect night and I was looking out at all the slips full of boats, wishing that I knew someone who would take me out on the Mississippi River for a ride.

And then I got thinking about all the other "sharing" services that are out there: Uber, Airbnb, etc. and I wondered why there isn't a boat sharing service. If people are willing to rent out their homes to strangers, why wouldn't they loan their boat? Or, like Uber, why isn't there a way to know who would happily take on a passenger or two in exchange for gas money?

I think there is an unfilled niche in this area. In 2010, there were 12.5 million registered recreational boats in the U.S.*  Surely one of their owners would let me glide with them along the river in exchange for a case of beer!

Think about what role you could play in the sharing economy. Maybe you have something to loan, or perhaps you are the one who uses the services. Or maybe you are the one with this great idea that could start a whole new industry! If you figure out how to get me a ride, please let me know!

-- beth triplett

Source: National Marine Manufacturers Association U.S. Recreational Boat Registration Statistics Report, 10/3/11 at

Look at all these boats I could have been sharing!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

#1485 train the trainer

On Friday, I received this message: "Is tomorrow's dot about your extrovert BFF and how we work have learned to work so beautifully together????" 

What a great idea!

As I wrote yesterday, extroverts and introverts gather their energy from different sources. In a training or workshop setting, it is important to take both temperaments into account and provide activities that allow everyone to flourish. What better way to do that than by having an introvert and extrovert design the training together?

For many years, my BFF and I did sessions together on training the trainer. I wore solid navy. She wore bright colored florals. I had neat stacks of props and let's just say hers were more fluid. I had notes and sections timed out; she was spontaneous. I facilitated the exercises that required more reflection; she generated the energy to get the group engaged.

While we now do an abundance of training on our own, those early lessons from training together help us to be aware of the mix of material that helps everyone to learn. We both incorporate elements in our sessions that appeal more to the opposite temperament as ours, and are consciously aware of introversion/extroversion in our training design. 

Think about this dichotomy the next time you are presenting before a group. Have you allowed some time for introverts to think before they need to respond? Have you incorporated hands on activities for the extroverts to express themselves through talking? Can you provide materials for post-session reflection and seek on-site feedback verbally?

There are many ways to honor the needs and desires of both introverts and extroverts, and embracing this kinetic relationship can eventually influence not only your training, but your work patterns and even fashion choices. Take a lesson from these polar opposites that great synergy can come from incorporating the strengths of each.

-- beth triplett

Friday, June 24, 2016

#1484 opposites

I listened to a webinar this week that addressed the topic of introverts and extroverts working together. While the "wiring" of each different temperament may drive the other one crazy, Jennifer Kahnweiler provided strategies on working together to create results that could not be created alone. And doing so, she argued, is essential in today's workplace where "partnerships are the new work model."

The three main ways introverts and extroverts differ:
1. Introverts draw their energy from being alone vs. Extroverts drawing energy from being with people

2. Introverts draw energy from thinking vs. Extroverts draw energy from talking

3. Introverts relish their privacy vs. Extroverts are more comfortable as an open book

Kahnweiler said that you can't change the opposite temperament, but understanding the differences goes a long way toward acceptance. She urges people to move beyond acknowledgement to actually embrace the creative tension and use it to foster breakthroughs. 

Kahnweiler refers to extrovert/introvert pairings as the Genius of Opposites and shared examples of many "dynamic duos": Penn and Teller, Siskel and Ebert, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Venus and Serena Williams, and Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. 

Think about your temperament and preference -- and then think about who you could partner with to complement the aspects that you are lacking. Who can be the other part of your pair? You may be tempted to align with someone who is like you, but the real magic comes from finding someone dissimilar to fill that role. As Penn described about Teller: "we are like flint and steel, but when we get together is when the sparks are created."

-- beth triplett

Source: Managing Opposites: Introverts & Extroverts Achieving Extraordinary Results AMA Webinar presented by Jennifer Kahnweiler, June 22, 2106   Recording of the webinar available at: 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

#1483 QWERTY

Today is International Typewriter Day -- just in case you need something to celebrate! I am not alone in my affection for the hallowed machine, as the typewriter and its font are one of the most reproduced images even today.

I paid for much of my college by banging out term papers for others and being employed as a secretary during summers and breaks. My first foray into student organizations was as a secretary to a committee on the program board, and my journalism classes all required us to sit at manual typewriters to practice our craft. Without the typewriter and my ability to use it well, I would have had a very different collegiate experience. 

I have always been a fan of typewriters, and, even though I no longer use them, I have three vintage models that decorate my home. For me, typewriters put me closer to the written word; it always felt more real when I was using a typewriter than when I am writing on a computer. 

Maybe journalist and manual typewriter user Will Self has an explanation for why: "I think the computer user does their thinking on the screen, and the non-computer user is compelled, because he or she has to retype a whole text, to do a lot more thinking in the head.*" 

To celebrate International Typewriter Day, I don't expect you to drag out the Royal or Remington to do your paperwork, but maybe you could pretend like you are. Think about what you are going to write before you just put your fingers on QWERTY, and formulate those thoughts as if it was arduous to revise them after you hit the keys. Your finger muscles have it easier than when manual typewriters were used; don't let your thinking muscle get soft too.

-- beth triplett

*Source: Why typewriters beat computers, BBC News, 5-30-08 as quoted in Wikipedia

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

#1482 inventory

Lately I have noticed the different levels of inventory that people maintain for their use. Some people operate with a just-in-time mentality, and keep only a minimal supply on hand, while others have a plentiful amount of everything from pasta to project folders. Neither is right or wrong, rather just reflective of different levels of comfort, finances, storage space and temperament. But for the most part, things accumulate without any thought given to the amassment.

Really think about the inventory that you carry in your home or office, and strategies you could deploy to be intentional about what you keep on hand. Do you have a stack of half-used legal pads that could be used up before you grab for a new one? A bottle of shampoo that isn't as great as you had hoped, that sits on the shelf instead of being finished? Enough of your second-favorite flavor that stays in the cupboard while you buy more of your #1 choice? A box of promotional items that could be used up before you order new? Or do you need to buy extra of that ink so you don't run out in the middle of a report?

It is good to have a margin of supply so you aren't running to the store for every project or meal. And it's fine to have an abundance of things; hypothetically, say a vast collection of Sharpies, if that is what you have consciously chosen to do. Just don't let the inventory be invisible; you should be intentional about what you have to count on.

-- beth triplett

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

#1481 let's dance

Over the weekend, I attended a big band concert where the venue was set up in such a way that provided a dance floor in front of the stage. Throughout the first set, the conductor kept encouraging people to come forward to dance.

No one did.

Until one couple stepped out onto the floor. 

Suddenly, dozens of couples made their way to the front and danced to the rhythm of the music. The band, the dancers and even the rest of the audience had a more enjoyable time because of the extra level of participation in front.

Can you be like the first couple the next time opportunity presents itself? Do you have the courage to step forward and be first, even if it may be a bit uncomfortable? Are you confident enough to be in the lead instead of waiting to follow?

The risk of being the first dancer was fairly low. None of the people on the dance floor were Dancing-with-the-Stars-worthy, and no one really cared about their form. What mattered was that they started.

Take a lesson from the dancers and raise your hand (or feet) the next time you receive an invitation. Don't be a wallflower on the dance floor or at work and wait for others to set the tempo.

-- beth triplett

Monday, June 20, 2016

#1480 commonplace

In addition to a notebook that I use at work, I also have a notebook at home that has become the collection point for various thoughts/reflections/exercises about "what I want to be when I grow up." In this notebook I have written personal thoughts like a journal, but also pasted notes, quotes and job notices like a scrapbook. I wasn't sure what it really was.

But then I read an article about "commonplace books." Apparently these were used hundreds of years ago to help people make a connection between different aspects in their lives. Commonplace books collected recipes, Bible verses, personal reflections and any other observations the owner wished to make. They were called a "unique combination of diary and scrapbook."

Eureka! Without knowing the term or the heritage, that is exactly what I have been compiling during the last few months. And having my thoughts and visuals all in one place makes it much easier to see trends and patterns, as well as to see how far my thinking has come.

For some, Pinterest serves as a modern day commonplace book. While the personal reflection is not explicitly there, much of what people would write shows up in the quotes they pin or the verses they like. It is not private, but still provides a look into the connections that matter to the owner.

Whether it be in an old-fashioned spiral notebook or in a more electronic format, I encourage you to create your own commonplace book. Entries can be made whenever and however the mood strikes you, but overall they provide a mirror to reflect back what you may not be able to see without the gift of time and perspective. 

Like making height markings on a wall, a commonplace book provides you tangible validity of your growth. Your thoughts and personal connections are anything but common; keep track of them to truly see your development.

-- beth triplett

Source: Small Changes in Teaching: Making Connections by James Lang in the Chronicle of Higher Education, February 8, 2016

Sunday, June 19, 2016

#1479 indirect

A woman in a dining room in Cincinnati began choking on her food. A 96-year-old man jumped up and began doing the Heimlich maneuver on her and saved her life.

He wasn't just any man; he was Henry Heimlich himself, the inventor of the technique to dislodge obstructions from airways. 

And even though Dr. Heimlich popularized this technique in the 1970s and it saved countless lives, this was the first time that he had performed it on a person that was actually choking!

I think about all the effort that went into Dr. Heimlich's work as he promoted it, demonstrated it, perfected it and absorbed backlash from some who question its methods. All while never actually using it in a lifesaving situation. 

Think about what you are working on that could aid other people, even if it something that you may not use yourself. Do you have a solution to a tricky problem from your past that is no longer applicable to you, but may help someone else? Have you seen a problem that you might be able to solve (as was the motivation behind the Heimlich)? Can you anticipate a need and work now to fulfill it?

It is best when we share our talents in ways that benefit the greater community, even if we don't have a direct connection to the good. Strive to help others help others.

-- beth triplett

Source: 96-year-old Heimlich's maneuver saves a life by Lisa Cornwell for the Associated Press in the Telegraph Herald, May 26, 2016, p. 1A

Saturday, June 18, 2016

#1478 running

Those of us who were around 20 years ago may remember the Fotomat huts that popped up in shopping center parking lots all around the country. They were kiosks about the size of a toll booth and had a similar drive up window. You drove up, dropped off your film to be developed or drove through to pick up your pictures. Obviously, Fotomats have gone the way of film and developing and are no longer around, but at the time, it was an amazingly convenient service.

A former Fotomat in our town was converted to a drive-up coffee hut. You can stay in your car, order your latte and be on your way. It, too, is incredibly convenient either in inclement weather (which is a plenty here), or with car-seated children, or in many other situations in which getting out of the car is a hassle.

There are the standard drive-up bank windows and fast food restaurants, and now many places have drive-up pharmacies, but I wonder why the drive-up phenomenon hasn't become more pervasive. Why aren't there drive-through post offices or copy shops?  Or even Chinese restaurants or pizzerias? 

Couldn't people convert old banks into service enterprises with stay-in-your-car convenience? Or just add a drive through window as they do for food or pharmacies -- so if you knew which book you wanted, you could stay in your car at the library or bookstore, but if you wanted to go browse you could. 

I think there is an opportunity here to add an element of distinction and service in many more establishments than take advantage of it today. Think about your organization: what do people "run in and do?" Perhaps you could reconfigure some space to take the running out of doing errands.

-- beth triplett

Fotomat turned coffee bar

Friday, June 17, 2016

#1477 truth

"The biggest concern for any organization should be when their most passionate people become quiet."  Daniel Maxwell

I read this quote recently and it really resonated with me. I have always believed that leaders benefit greatly by having truth tellers in their organization. I relied on others to tell me what they really thought about an idea or what was truly going on in our operations. It wasn't always pleasant to hear, but not knowing about a problem made it impossible to solve. 

It is a special skill not only to be able to hear the truth, but to be able to share it in a way that is heard. Truth tellers are not always popular in organizations, or even with their direct supervisors. It is far easier to keep quiet and not risk admonition, but the organization suffers as a result. 

This reminds me of another quote: "Leaders who don't listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say." Andy Stanley

Whether you deploy an external consultant to communicate the truth or summon the bravery to do it yourself, truth telling is an invaluable organizational skill. And, in my opinion, truth listening is an essential leadership talent. 

Be intentional in creating a culture that allows honest feedback to be spoken -- and heard. Ask the tough questions. Embrace less-than-flattering answers. Cherish those who speak the truth to you. Probe about candor in your interviewing. While it may not always feel like it, the truth is your best friend.

-- beth triplett

Thursday, June 16, 2016

#1476 tomorrow

The road through my subdivision involves a fairly steep incline. There is one portion in particular that I can "feel the burn" when I walk the dogs around the neighborhood.

So I was surprised yesterday morning when I looked out my window and saw one of my neighbors doing sprints (yes, plural!) up and down this hill. She would run, check her time, catch her breath, and do it again. All in the morning heat.

I know that my neighbor is a varsity basketball player in college, so presumably is in good shape, but I still admired her discipline and dedication to stay in condition throughout summer "vacation." It would be easy to slack off or just run the flat route, but she was voluntarily doing some pretty strenuous work with no immediate payoff.

What can you do today that is the equivalent of running the hill for long term gain? Is there a task you can complete at work or activity you can do for yourself that has eventual benefits, even though no one can see them right now? 

Invest your time today in something that builds strength in your future. Even better if you do it again tomorrow.

-- beth triplett

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

#1475 tagged

As this blog continues to grow, I was advised that it might be worthwhile to add labels to help people find older entries that may be of interest to them. It seemed logical to me -- only a handful of people have read all of the dots, and it made sense to take a step that could add new life to some of the content. If Sandra Brown could re-purpose, then so could I! (see Blog #1455)

What sounded like an easy task became arduous. Just reading 1474 entries took hours (days), let alone deciding what label to assign and then actually doing the manual task of adding the tags. But far be it for me not to finish something that I started, so I am happy to report that all four years worth of leadership dots are now tagged with the following categories:

BRAND: personal or organizational distinctions
CULTURE: organizational health and environment
COMMUNICATION: delivery of written or verbal messages
CREATIVITY: engaging in the creative process
ENVIRONMENT: examples of reduce, reuse, recycle
EXPECTATIONS: aligning expectations
FAVORITES: my personal favorites
HIRING: related to hiring and on-boarding of employees
HOLIDAYS: commemoration of specific days
IMPACT: actions that made a lasting impact
INTENTIONALITY: being intentional about small decisions
LIFE ADVICE: PERSONAL advice for living better
LITTLE=BIG: little things add up to make a big difference
PERSISTENCE: the value of sticking with something and finishing
PERSPECTIVE: system view/altering perspective
RECOGNITION: employee recognition and acknowledgement
REFLECTION: personal observations on the meaning of things
SERVICE: customer service (or the lack thereof)
STARTING: things at the beginning of a task or change effort
SUPERVISION: supervision of employees
THEN & NOW: reflections on how things were vs. how they are now
TOOLS: pragmatic, applicable tools to implement

Now the ball is in your court to use leadership dots as an on-going reference tool, not just a daily dose of inspiration. Tag: you're it!

-- beth triplett

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

#1474 scalped

The musical Hamilton has just raised its premium ticket prices to $849 in New York and expects them to be $500-$600 for the touring company in Chicago. At first glance, it seems outrageous for a seat at a musical. I was disappointed that the producers were trying to capitalize on the great demand for the seats and gouge people at that price.

But then I read an interview with Jeffrey Seller, the lead producer of Hamilton, who said that he set the price based on what people are charging in the secondary market. "The average price in New York is $1000 for a $199 ticket," he said. "That's $800 that does not go to the creators of the play or the employees of the play. That is just not fair, and it does not help the theatre. Scalping is not illegal. Raising our premium prices is the only tool I have to ensure that the dollars being expended on the play are going to the people who created the play."

When you look at it like that, it seems that $849 is a fair price. And if someone is going to get $849 in revenue from ticket sales, I'd much rather have it be the geniuses who are involved with the show than some scalper.

A colleague of mine always counsels people to think about the motivations of others, and the Hamilton ticket prices are a good example of this. If you take the time to understand what is driving the behavior, then it makes more sense. 

Before you think others are out to scalp you, take a moment to consider why. You may not agree with them, but at least you have the ticket to understanding.

beth triplett

Monday, June 13, 2016

#1473 continuous

I think cleaning your house is similar to decorating it: a) you are never finished and b) the more you do, the more other areas beg to be done. 

I spent all day yesterday deep cleaning my house, and could do so again today. I moved the furniture, which exposed that the baseboards needed dusting, and when I knelt down to clean them I saw the inside windowsills were dirty, which of course beckoned me to clean the windows themselves...and on it went. 

The same is true with decorating. You paint the walls, so then the furniture looks dated, and then you need a new pillow for the couch and an accent rug to pick up that color, get the idea. 

After investing considerable time working on something, it is easy to get discouraged by focusing on what else you could have done. It reminds me of the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie book where it never ends. 

The same is true in a work setting where there is always more that could be done. My mantra is to strive for a state where: Everything is better than it was, but not as good as it could be. Always. 

You'll become burnt out if you only look ahead, and you'll be in trouble if you only focus on what you have done. Try to make continual progress, AND acknowledge that you have made improvements already. Dust those blinds tomorrow while happily looking out those clean windows you washed today.

-- beth triplett

Sunday, June 12, 2016

#1472 flavor

When I went to pay for my car wash, I unexpectedly was offered a bag of free chips. Apparently the local distributor just started carrying a new line, and they provided a few boxes of free samples. It was a good strategy as the flavors are out of the norm: Peach Habanero, Sweet Maui Onion, Rosemary & Olive Oil, Aged Cheddar Horseradish and Ninja Ginger to name a few.

I'm not sure I would have been attracted to them, even for free, but the clerk at the car wash was extremely enthusiastic about them. He was talking to each customer about his personal taste-testing and results, and encouraging people to take several flavors to try at home on their own. I am confident that his personal pitch made an impact on how many people took bags home, and, if like me, ventured into a new flavor that they are likely to buy in the future.

I think about the key ingredient in this promotion being the car wash attendant, and I doubt he was factored into the marketing plan. Instead of relying on happenstance that he tried a bunch of flavors, liked them and promoted them, could there have been more intentionality in giving him a whole set of chips in advance and taking that extra step to make him knowledgeable? Could the distributor have acknowledged that he played a role in the process and thanked him for doing so?

When you are launching something new, don't overlook the people who are closest to the customer. Be intentional about the flavor they can add to your pitch.

-- beth triplett

Saturday, June 11, 2016

#1471 what's brewing

Have you ever noticed that, more often than not, tea is dispensed from a separate container than all of the other fountain sodas? It comes from a special container that gives the impression it was brewed up especially for you, just moments ago.

I should say that it gives the illusion of that, because if you did some investigation, you'd learn that it is connected to the exact same distribution source as the other beverages around it. It looks like it's premium, but really it's just mass-produced tea.

The mind is a powerful tool, and the separate canisters are part of the brand messaging that Gold Peak is trying to send you. I think the only thing premium about it is the price they pay for separate dispensing systems.

Don't take everything at face value. You don't need to read tea leaves to discover when something is pretending to be more than it is.

-- beth triplett

Thanks to Mike for the observation!

Friday, June 10, 2016

#1470 more barking

Continuing the theme from yesterday when I wrote about a strategic thinking exercise using the example of pet bedrooms, we took the brainstorming one step further. In addition to thinking about spin-offs from a room in the house for pets, we kept going to consider other possibilities that pets could generate for products.

Some options we listed: pet insurance, pet wellness, trainers (for exercise not behavior), nutritionists and special pet eyewear. One of the ideas that came from this was a Fido Fitbit -- if we track our exercise, why wouldn't that extend to our pets?

It seemed like a novel idea to many, but it is already out there. (In fact, I wrote about it in March, 1984!) There are even several brands of pet pedometers, including FitBark, the one with the best name! And even in our small town, there is a business that provides "Fido's Fitness Gym" including pet treadmills, a whirlpool spa, individual workouts for pets of all sizes and Red Cross Pet CPR training. Where there is money to be made, there is innovation.

Yesterday I listed a range of possibilities when you combined pet + bedroom. Today I listed some options from pet + wellness (of course, wellness being on the brain because that was the other 'room of the future'). 

Think about the idea you came up with yesterday when you combined two things together. Is there something there that could turn into a real option for you? Maybe not to generate revenue, but a new program idea, a theme for your company's picnic or a solution to a problem at work?

There is a whole other world staring us right in the face. All you have to do is connect the dots to see it.

-- beth triplett


Thursday, June 9, 2016

#1469 room of the future

I recently attended a session by a futurist who was trying to help set the context for our association to begin its strategic planning process. He shared information from a session he did with a home products organization who was envisioning the next room of the future. He asked us to think about what room we thought will become commonplace in homes that is not there now.

At first glance, it was hard to get my arms around this question. But when I thought about it in comparison to what homes looked like when I was a child, the contrast became more evident. There were no three-car garages (most often, not even two). There were no "great rooms" with vaulted ceilings. The den is a new development, as is the recreation room, "man cave", home theaters and a separate laundry room. Patios and outdoor bars are new too.

But the two rooms this organization felt were rooms of the future: wellness rooms and pet bedrooms. The first one made sense to most of us, and many laughed at the notion of a pet bedroom -- until we started thinking about it. Our futurist said that pets are a multi-billion dollar industry and more of our pets are being considered "fur people" by their owners. Then I calculated that if I piled the crate, feeding bowls, toys, leashes, dog food and medicines all together into the pet bedroom, it would free up a lot of other space in my house! Maybe it's not such a crazy idea after all. 

Think of the supplemental industries that pet bedrooms would spawn. Pet bedding and accessories. Special flooring. Deodorizing cleaning supplies. Monitors. Decorations. Low-to-the-ground furniture. Full-length windows to provide a view. Aesthetically pleasing doggie doors. An extra television or radio to provide stimulation when the owners are away. Dutch doors would make a resurgence so the owners could decide when their pet came and went out of the room. I can see the dollar signs now.

But getting back to the point of the exercise, do you notice how one idea triggered the next? And the next, etc. I'll bet you now have ideas of your own of what the future could look like if pet bedrooms became prevalent. We took our existing knowledge of bedrooms and our understanding of pets and put them together to come up with a list of new applications.

What two things can you put together to create something new? Look out your window and pick two to give your imagination some exercise today.

-- beth triplett

Futurist Andy Hines at