Wednesday, August 31, 2016

leadership dot #1552: bronze

Last week, I came as close as I will ever come to being an Olympian...and did so by holding a genuine Olympic medal in my hand.

Kayla Banwarth, the libero for the USA Women's Volleyball team, is from our town. It's a big deal to have an Olympic medalist in our midst, so there was a reception to congratulate her. I, along with about 1000 of my 'friends', showed up to acknowledge her accomplishment.

She was quite gracious, and spent several hours signing newspaper articles, volleyballs and jerseys, as well as posing for countless photos. While she kept the medal firmly around her neck, she did allow us to hold it in our hands and personally discover how incredibly heavy it is.

What stuck with me most of all from the evening were Kayla's comments. "The main thing I've learned from this experience is that medals don't define me. Medals, awards -- they don't define anyone," she said. "We are worth so much more than a gold medal, and that's true for everyone in this room."

And her advice to the young girls aspiring for their own moment of fame: "Find what you are passionate about -- whether that be a sport, piano, painting -- and practice, practice, practice." 

Kayla and her teammates may not have won a gold in Rio, but her words of advice are golden for all of us.

-- beth triplett

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

leadership dot #1551: areas doing well

I recently spoke with someone who just received a resignation from a key staff member. He was discussing with me whether to have someone fill the position on an interim basis, or to appoint multiple people to assume responsibilities during the vacancy.  

"Area A is doing very well," he said. "So we can just have someone internal handle that. Whereas Area B is a mess, so we will need to bring in someone from the outside to lead it, plus I am thinking of hiring another person to handle some duties in an off-site location and we could really use a consultant to help us know how to best structure the area." 

I was struck at how freely resources flowed to solve a problem, rather than to enhance the area that has strength. A well-run area will languish if left to less than optimal oversight and  support, while it is less likely that a problem will be solved by throwing copious amounts of money at it. Yet, it is a natural tendency and people do it all the time.

"...Managing your problems can only make you good," writes Jim Collins, "whereas building your opportunities is the only way to become great. Put your best people on your biggest opportunities, not your biggest problems."

The whole StrengthsFinder and strength movement developed because research shows that playing up your strong points will take you further than working on weaknesses. Expanding on that A in English will prove more fruitful that trying to bring the D in Math up to a B. Forcing someone to become a "detail person" will backfire if their real gift is in extemporaneous public speaking. Asking a staff member to be less blunt may not get you as far as embracing their role as a truth teller for improvement of the organization.

You should not assume well run areas will continue to be strong without on-going attention. I believe within your "areas doing well" lies your greatest opportunity to grow, develop excellence and make a significant difference. You'd be wise to put your resources there instead taking success for granted.

-- beth triplett

[Several people reading this blog may think that they know the identity of this real speaker/example, but rest assured they do not.]

Good to Great by Jim Collins, 2001, p. 58-59

Monday, August 29, 2016

leadership dot #1550: pin hole

Even though my house is fairly new, the air conditioner stopped running last week. The repairman came, had to come back in a day because the unit was frozen up, had to order a part, and then came back four days later to replace a major component of my system. Let's just say it was not cheap.

I now have a new aluminum coil, to replace the one made of copper. The technician explained to me that several houses of my age have had this problem. When the houses were built copper was at a premium price; therefore, the coil manufacturer decided to devise a way to use a bit less copper. In doing so, they make the coil thinner -- which made it more susceptible to pin holes. Eight years later, coolant leaked out of one such hole and left me with my problem.

I would guess that at the time, some engineer was rewarded for finding a way to save money and make the coil using less resources. I doubt they intentionally made a flawed product, but it seems they produced one nonetheless. 

Think about this in your organization when you are on a quest to save money. Have you thought about the long term implications of your frugality? Are you prepared to risk your reputation for short term gain? 

We say not to sweat the small stuff, but it only takes a pin hole to render a product worthless. 

-- beth triplett

Sunday, August 28, 2016

leadership dot #1549: turning green

Earlier this summer, I attended a festival that was so negligent in its (lack of) recycling efforts that I went before the city council to express my dismay. How delightful it was then to attend not one, but two, events in total contrast to the environmental disregard.

I went to a Minnesota Twins game at Target Field and was astounded to find that "the Twins are working hard to be completely green." The ballpark recycles just about everything -- including organics -- and makes it easy to do so. In fact, I had to search out a trash can because they are hidden off to the side, whereas the organics/recycle containers are prevalent. The Twins even recycle the paper towels from the restrooms!

My second environmentally friendly event was the Church of the Resurrection Festival, where the volunteer "Green Team" did all they could to make the event produce zero waste. There was a compost/recycling station on the "midway." The dinner used biodegradable utensils and plates and composted the food scraps. Tickets from the games were recycled. There was not much that wouldn't fit in one of the many bins in their station, and they staffed it with Green Team members to encourage participation.

I applaud the forethought it required to fully support the environmental actions, and the commitment to make it work on-site. Let's hope some of my hometown festival planners attended these events and turned green with envy at how far others progressed in preserving the planet, and that your organization uses them as models for how large scale events can limit waste.

-- beth triplett

Saturday, August 27, 2016

leadership dot #1548: responsive

We've all heard about -- and likely even experienced --the dreaded government bureaucracy. It seems like there is so much red tape, endless phone menus and a black hole where suggestions often go to die. Inaction is exacerbated in the current political climate, so my expectations for change are low.

Thus, imagine my surprise when I received an email from the Social Security Administration telling me that they listened to consumer concerns and rolled back a mandate! 

On July 30, the agency required a two-step authentication to log into Social Security accounts, thereby requiring a text message to be sent to a phone before accessing the site. Apparently the updated technology did not sit well with the clientele that most typically uses Social Security, and they complained -- loudly. Believe it or not, on August 26, the agency went back to its original log in process.

It took less than a month for a major governmental agency to admit that it inconvenienced some of its users, revert back to a more simple practice, and even apologize for its actions!

If the Social Security Administration can pull this off, surely your organization can allow common sense to prevail as well.

-- beth triplett

Friday, August 26, 2016

leadership dot #1547: organizational yoga

I recently heard a speaker share stories about his four month old granddaughter. He was marveling at how she was a yoga expert, able to grab her toes and stick them in her mouth or pull her leg behind her head. Such exploits, he noted, would put him in the hospital in traction, but for his granddaughter it was the most natural movement.

I think it is a good metaphor for generational differences in the workplace.

The younger or less experienced people bring to the organization an agility that is hard to replicate. They are able to do things, with ease, that would throw more seasoned workers for a loop. They can maneuver -- through social networks and technology, but also through many other thought processes -- with inherent and instinctive grace. 

And yet, they have a hard time thriving on their own.

Like Phil's granddaughter, the organizational infants need structure and guidance from their elders. The seasoned employees can keep the newer ones from putting their foot in their mouth when it wouldn't be a charming kid thing to do. The young need a context and framework to anchor their thinking and some experience to point out the known food sources. 

People at all stages of the life cycle bring gifts and abilities that only occur in one phase of time. Embrace the generation you are in and all that it offers.

-- beth triplett

Comments by Phil Kramer at Dubuque Community Schools Opening Session 8/23/16

Thursday, August 25, 2016

leadership dot #1546: reminders of children

In his book A Whole New Mind, author Daniel Pink theorized that we were moving from an economy that depended on left brain, sequential thinking to one that valued right brain creativity and synthesizing. To foster these right brain traits, he advocated doing more of six things, including play.

"Lightheartedness, humor, games and laughter are critical among the seriousness," Pink wrote. 

A Harvard study takes this line of thinking a bit further and suggests that not only does play help us become more creative, it also contributes to people being more generous and ethical! And all it takes is "reminders of children, infant to age 8 or 9" to trigger this behavior.

This could include something as indirect as a child care center, nursery or kindergarten within a two-mile radius of the office. "It is not only the presence of a child;'s the idea of a child" that makes people behave differently.

Think about what you could do to create a climate that fosters play and reminders of children. Covering some meeting room tables in butcher paper and supplying crayons. Having "mind games" and toys available while people are waiting. Being intentional about the artwork that graces your walls. Encouraging pictures of family and perhaps your youngest clientele. Offering child care on-site. 

There are many simple ways to add a child-like element to your work space, and now you can add generosity and ethical behavior to the list of what you gain by doing so. Maybe you should take advantage of the back-to-school sales to stock up on bargain crayons and Play Dough to add to your meeting room!

-- beth triplett

Thanks to Jennifer Henry for sharing.

A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink, 2005

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

leadership dot #1545: first seven jobs

Currently one of the hot topics on social media involves people sharing their First Seven Jobs. In my next life I'd like to be a career counselor, and I feel like this mini-movement should be required reading for all students. It can even be cathartic for adults who feel stuck in a current position.

My takeaway from #FirstSevenJobs is that career paths are by no means linear. Hardly anyone (or at least anyone who shares) has gone from A to B to C. If you read the first seven jobs for most people, you would be hard pressed to guess what they are doing now.

For me, my list would be: babysitter, convenience store stock clerk, drug store cashier, drug store cosmetics clerk, temporary office assistant, college newspaper reporter and graduate assistant in student activities. I wouldn't have predicted life as a consultant, presenter or enrollment manager.

Other examples: 
Stephen Cobert: construction, bus boy, cafeteria server, library data entry, futon frame maker, futon salesman, waiter

Lin-Manuel Miranda: Slushee machine at my aunt's store, intern for WENET, McDonald's register, data entry, Drawing 1 model, community paper writer, teacher

Sheryl Sandberg: babysitter, babysitter, office receptionist, clothing store salesperson, aerobics instructor, World Bank health team, Children's Defense Fund

Christina Perri: babysitter, shampoo girl, waitress, bartender, music video producer, waitress, recording artist

Jim Cramer (host of Mad Money on CNBC): stuffed inserts in the Sunday paper, bus boy, sold Coca-Cola at Veteran's Stadium, sold ice cream, proof reader, key operator for copy machines, sports reporter

There are thousands of answers to peruse and many of them leave me wondering what they are doing now. I wonder what came next, and mostly I'd like to hear the story of how they made the transition from one job to the next. How did @GregAndek go from camp counselor to solar power researcher, or what prompted @rishkumar83 to go from satellite engineer to fashion designer to patent scientist or @samtutterow to be a bank teller, then sports agent assistant, then music librarian before becoming a Fed economist?

Asking someone about their first seven jobs is a quick and easy conversation starter, but it also reaffirms that you can do anything, and in any order. Don't let what you have done limit what you can do.

-- beth triplett

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

leadership dot #1544: two strikes

I needed to have a watch battery replaced so went to the jeweler in the mall. He could not remove the back piece to access the battery, and instead referred me to a clock repairman. This person took one look at it, reached for a special implement, and had the new battery replaced in a matter of minutes.

It is amazing what the right tool can do for the job. Part of what makes someone an expert is not only their proficiency with advanced tools, but just their access to them. Instead, amateurs (and fools!) attempt to do complicated jobs with rudimentary equipment. What happens is a lot of aggravation and wasted time. It's not just the professional talent that is added to the mix, but the use of sophisticated tools in their experienced hands.

> Even a landscaper would struggle trying to prune hedges with a small clipper or compass saw instead of their electronic hedge trimmer

> A graphic designer would be frustrated trying to make a professional flyer in Word instead of InDesign or PhotoShop

> A seamstress would spend considerable time repairing a garment by hand instead of with a machine

> A painter would leave streaks and make a mess if she attempted to paint a wall with a brush instead of with a roller or spray

> A calligrapher's work would not look nearly as beautiful with a Sharpie as with a nib pen expressly made for that purpose

Often we struggle and forge ahead, trying to accomplish a task on our own instead of relying on professionals to use their tools to do the magic. We expect our determination and effort to compensate for the lack of true skill or effective tools to use in the endeavor when really we have two strikes against us from the start. 

Yes, it costs money to call in the pros, but we always forget the price of our time and aggravation. 

-- beth triplett

Monday, August 22, 2016

leadership dot #1543: put in

As you look at your calendar and manage your to-do list, there is always something additional that could be done. Your whole day could be spent contributing to others -- via meetings, projects, phone calls, etc. Most are worthwhile uses of time and need to be continued...

But as you look at your calendar and how you spend your productive hours, it is important to carve some time to fill your brain instead of utilizing what is already there. Examples include:

> reading at lunch one day/week instead of eating with others
> taking an art class instead of serving on a volunteer board this year
> watching a TED Talk rather than playing a game on your phone
> attending a lecture instead of going to a movie
> joining Toastmasters and foregoing the golf league
> listening to non-fiction instead of romance novels
> scheduling time to read your professional journal instead of scheduling another meeting
> meeting with someone in another field instead of lunching with colleagues
> signing up for a free webinar on a topic that is new to you

There are many ways to stimulate our thinking and to add new experiences that will help us gain a new perspective. To boost your brain power, be intentional about making time to put in rather than always putting out.

-- beth triplett

Sunday, August 21, 2016

leadership dot #1542: stylized

When you think of fashion or style, what retailers come to mind? For me, it would be Ann Taylor, Dillards or Talbots. You may list others, but I would be surprised if Goodwill came to mind. 

Yet, that is how they are positioning themselves these days:

While the back of the house may be piled high with bins of clothing cast offs, Goodwill is rebranding themselves and turning the front of the house into a much more pleasant shopping experience. Some have new storefronts and signage. Others have loyalty cards and frequent shopper benefits. The special sales are drawing crowds. 

If Goodwill can promote its style, think about what your organization can claim. How others see you starts with how you see yourself.

-- beth triplett

Saturday, August 20, 2016

leadership dot #1541: love letters

Those who know me or have read previous blogs know that I am a big fan of handwritten letters. I think that using a pen instead of a computer makes a mighty difference in the impression it conveys and the meaning that it carries.

I am not alone in my thinking. My friend Wendy shared The World Needs More Love Letters site with me, and I became an instant volunteer in their program. The effort, led by Hannah Brencher, encourages people to write love letters (eg: words of encouragement and hope) to total strangers. 

Hannah writes letters and leaves them about town, and she also coordinates the collection and delivery of letter bundles. People can nominate others to receive a packet of 200+ letters, all written by strangers, in response to postings on The World Needs More Love Letters blog. The current entries include Valerie who is facing medical challenges, Jordan who is preparing to transition out of rehab and Anna who is battling low self esteem. Strangers write, letters are collected, and then the lucky person is gifted with a bundle of love. I can feel the power by just looking at the pictures of handwritten notes in stacks, all tied together with a bow.

In this time of turmoil where the news too frequently features violence and hate, I encourage you to contribute a simple letter to counterbalance the negativity. Can you take just a few moments to let someone know that they are not alone in the world, and that we all share a common bond of being human? The World Needs More Love Letters, and it needs you to write one.

-- beth triplett

Friday, August 19, 2016

leadership dot #1540: independent

I recently was driving and came upon some road work -- no surprise, since it is the season for such projects. After the construction, there was the requisite sign indicating that the road work had finished. Nothing unusual about that either.

But a few feet after the sign indicating that road work had ended, there was another sign warning me of road work ahead. Two cars could barely fit in the "construction free" zone.

To me, this is the poster for work that is done in silos without any coordination with others. I suspect that Company A had one project and put up their sign, and Company B had the other project and did the same -- both without any regard to the experience for the drivers. No one considered the road as a whole or worked with the others to make it a seamless construction project and less confusing for those traversing down the street. 

The next time you are working on something, take time to consider the impact it has with the environment around you. Who else may be affected by your work? Are there others who need to know what you are about to do and when you are planning to do it? Can you work together to save resources? 

Children are known to put a line of tape down the middle of a room to define boundaries of which side belongs to which sibling. Let your organization be the grown up and blur those boundaries as you learn to share.

-- beth triplett

Thursday, August 18, 2016

leadership dot #1539: on second thought

Euripides said: "Second thoughts are ever wiser." I think his wisdom applies to second drafts too.

There is much magic in the opportunity to rework a document or message. Often the language becomes more crisp and the awkward phrase is eliminated. Errors are caught that were missed in the flurry of cranking out the initial draft, and in general, round two (or three or ten) is much better than the first.

When you are setting deadlines for yourself or your team, plan time for additional rounds of edits. Even if the first version is good, I suspect it will be better if you spend time reworking the piece. We don't have this luxury for everything, but for the important messages it is time well spent.

Think of writing like the shampoo bottle instructions and plan to repeat.

-- beth triplett

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

leadership dot #1538: seasonal

I've noticed that many entrepreneurs who offer lawn mowing services also offer snow removal. At first blush, it seems like a very logical business model: it keeps consistent revenue throughout the year, both involve outdoor work and both tend to similar clients.

But as you think about it more closely, the two operations have one key distinction besides the season. Lawn mowing can occur at any period over the span of days. If my lawn is mowed Monday morning or Tuesday afternoon it is of little consequence. 

Yet when it snows, suddenly every customer wants their driveway shoveled at the exact same time. In the winter, timing does matter -- a lot -- and thus the human resources and equipment must follow a very different model than in the summer.

Think about how you have designed your organization. Do you assume that your staff can handle the work consistently, without regard to the differences in work flow? Have you made provisions for changes in cycles, as is required with extra shovelers after a storm? Or taken advantage of slower periods when your crew could do other things?

Year round "mow and snow" tending sounds like a good idea, until you come to spring or fall. As with your planting, plan your staffing and work assignments according to the season.

-- beth triplett

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

#1537 nominees

While I was watching the Olympics, I realized that every athlete there will carry the identifier of "an Olympian" for the rest of their lives. Whether they win or lose, just being invited to attend is prestigious enough to earn them a new identifying descriptor.

The same is true for Academy, Grammy, Emmy or Tony Award nominees -- once a person makes it to the ballot, they are known as an Academy (etc.) Award nominee forevermore. And so it goes with National Book Award finalists and a host of other prestigious recognitions. Just getting on the list earns you distinction for life.

There are other categories of one-time events that change the biographical narrative. Presidential candidates will always will known as such. Professional athletes carry that identifier irrespective of their performance. Often people who are "first" carry that moniker with them for years afterward, even if they are not successful in the attempt.

I think we can all take solace in the realization that not everyone has to be a winner to achieve acclaim or recognition. For some things, what is important is being in the big game, not necessarily on the medal stand. Regardless of winning or losing, their effort was significant enough that it matters more than the eventual outcome.

Your work may not be on a national scale, but you are like the Olympic gymnasts who receive points and recognition based on the degree of difficulty. If you take the easy road with your work, even with perfection you will not be able to score many points, but if you produce something of difficulty, the honorable mention accolades will mean more than a lesser prize.

-- beth triplett

Monday, August 15, 2016

#1536 off stage

I attended a regional competition for world-class drum and bugle corps. If I could describe these 150-member groups in one word, it would be precision. The flags are thrown into the air at the same height. The drummers hold their sticks at the same level. The steps are all in cadence. It is a well-oiled machine, from the moment they step on to the field until the last performer leaves.

I knew this going in, so it was quite a contrast to see the set-up for the event (which was still occurring when the doors were open). Tickets were all sold as reserved seats, but none of the seats in the football stadium were numbered. Thus, their crew was making a chaotic attempt to number everything, using painter's tape and printed labels. The labels did not fully correspond with the seats, so then it became a scramble to find a Sharpie to do it by hand. Sections were identified with a letter drawn on a food-service wrap taped to the rails. Let's say the pre-show was as loose as the actual show was tight. 

The rudimentary system got the job done, but it diminished the overall feeling of the night. If the corps stands for precision -- its brand -- then the entire operation for their big performance should at least be efficient if not more than that. Attention to detail should permeate every aspect of their organization, not just the few moments on the field.

Think about the back office or off stage jobs that your brand must deliver. Have you applied the same quality standards and expectations to the whole operation? You may not lose points for what occurs outside the spotlight, but you lose reputation, and ultimately that is worse.

-- beth triplett

Tape with labels to create
reserved seating in a
football stadium

Sunday, August 14, 2016

#1535 create

At a recent meeting I attended, everyone sat around the table with their computers open. We had the agenda and supplemental materials on the screen, but members still had their own laptops in front of them.

I was struck by how, at that moment, everyone was using their machine for the same purpose, but as soon as the meeting adjourned these same computers would be put to use for vastly different purposes:

> Mine would result in the creation of additional dots, just as it had for the previous dots by pushing one of the 60 keys over two million times.

> One would be the driver of an awesome graphic design business, serving as a repository to both create the art and to sell it

> Still others would use theirs to develop websites for sports leagues and tournaments

The machine itself can do little without the magic that courses through your fingertips. Think of using them to produce instead of just consume entertainment or art rather than only using them as a functional business tool. 

What you can create today just by tapping on these magnificent machines?

-- beth triplett

Saturday, August 13, 2016

#1534 bucketful

When people think of fund raising, they often have large amounts in mind or think of elaborate campaigns to generate revenue. A Boston food bank takes a much more low-key (ha ha) approach to acquiring a few more dollars towards food.

At the University of Massachusetts, people are encouraged to toss unwanted keys into a bucket and then the metal is recycled for cash and donated to the food bank. This sign reads: "This bucket of keys weighs 18 pounds of approximately 900 keys, and based on today's market at $1.50 per pound, this bucket of keys generates approximately $27.00 that would go back to your local pantry in need."

That amount may not seem like much, but it not did it take much effort to raise it either. A little here and a little there all adds up.

Think about the bucket of keys the next time you are looking to raise some petty cash. All of your asks don't have to be direct requests for money. The key to successful fund raising could lie within a bucket. (Just think of ALS!)

-- beth triplett

Thanks Meg for sharing!

Friday, August 12, 2016

#1533 wizardry

For me, this was the summer of Harry Potter. I had not previously read any of the books, in large part because the volume was so daunting. By the time I was affected by the cultural mania, people were reading Volume 3 and I was a thousand pages behind. I was overwhelmed and opted out.

But this summer, I was looking for a "beach read" and Volume 1 happened to be on the shelf in the library. And even though the books were published between 9 and 19 years ago, it was the last of the seven books that I would be able to read without first being on a wait list.  

In fact, I did read all seven -- 4100 pages -- in a span of about 10 weeks. I think about how that colored my experience vs. those who read them originally as they were published over the span of 10 years. The suspense did not have to build waiting a year in between books. I did not need to wait in bookstore lines at midnight to get the next volume. I could watch the entire series of eight movies right after finishing the whole series of books instead of waiting for long gaps in between those features too. And yet, I missed out on the immediacy and the camaraderie of the cultural phenomenon. I also missed out on two decades of understanding some of the references that have crept into everyday language!

I am incredibly glad to have read the series and highly recommend it to others. The hardest part is reading page 1. After that, the pages just turn themselves in a brilliantly written story that as much about friendship as it is about dragons.  

The next time I am faced with a daunting task, I will think about reading Harry Potter. I missed out on wonderful entertainment for a decade because I focused on the 4100 pages instead of just the first one. You don't have to be a wizard to gain the magic that comes from starting!

-- beth triplett

Thursday, August 11, 2016

#1532 rote

I recently checked into a hotel and received a list of 10 traveler safety tips. These were printed on the folder that held my key and posted inside my guest room door. Tips included such things as: "Don't invite strangers to your room; don't answer the door to your guest room without verifying who it is, and if you see any suspicious activity, notify the hotel operator." Also posted in the elevator and on the door were warnings to use the stairs instead of the elevator in case of fire.

All of these caveats seemed to be blatantly obvious to me -- and then I wondered if they were obvious just because they had been repeated to me so often, or would they have been obvious anyway?

There is a lot of information out there that is so apparent to most people that the warnings fade into oblivion. "Watch your step before exiting the escalator." "The moving walkway is now ending." "Fasten your seat belts on the plane." "Don't flush products down the toilet."  "Employees must wash hands before returning to work." "Don't leave your child unattended in the shopping cart or on the changing table." 

Would people leave their child alone on a piece of plastic four feet off the ground without anything to secure them without that little sign? Or, asked in reverse, does that little sign change anyone's behavior?

I am sure there are legal reasons that many of these warnings are posted, and, of course, you need to comply with such requirements. But if you have latitude in what you preach or post, try to do so in a way that is meaningful and memorable. Rote is one step away from invisible and offers no value to anyone except the lawyers.

-- beth triplett

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

#1531 trinity

I think that it is exponentially harder to attain three diverse elements simultaneously vs. striving to achieve just two, yet people try to do it all the time.

For example: 

> Finding clothes that 1) you like, 2) fit well and 3) are within the right price range. There are plenty of clothes that I like and that fit, but are way out of my price range. I also have seen many sale items that I like, but are in the wrong size. And I have also tried on more than one outfit where the price and fit were right, but it just "wasn't me." 

> Hunting for a house that 1) is in the right neighborhood, 2) has the right features and 3) is available for sale. Many houses you drive by would be good on two accounts, but not all three (or they meet 1 & 2, but not your budget.)

> Trying to recruit athletes who 1) play the position you need, 2) have the credentials to play and 3) are interested in your team/school. If they play very well, the interest in non-prestige schools will wane, leaving a coach to find someone of lesser ability who is excited for the opportunity to play for the team.

> Looking for a new job that 1) aligns with your skills, 2) is in an acceptable location and 3) provides a positive work culture. There may be great jobs for you out-of-state or you may find a local mission-driven company with no openings in your area of expertise, but aligning the job/company/location is a challenge.

> Selecting a puppy that 1) is a big dog, 2) is good with kids and 3) doesn't shed terribly. Thus the rise of hybrids as Mother Nature did not provide many options with this trio.

Achieving the illusive trinity makes its achievement all that much more sweet, but does require more effort and strategy. If you want to hold out for where all three elements align, develop your plans to find "the three," not the "two plus one." The pool will be smaller, but you'll hit the trifecta if you find it.

-- beth triplett

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

#1530 process paddles

Do you remember in grade school or youth groups when the teacher would hold up her hand and it was an instant symbol to be quiet? That simple gesture spoke volumes, without the teacher ever uttering a word.

I think grown-ups would be well served to adopt the same principle for meetings. Instead of using a wordless cue to silence meetings, I recommend the use of paddles to help participants change the focus of the conversation.

Paddles can be a simple piece of card stock/construction paper mounted on a craft stick. (think of tongue depressors or Popsicle sticks). If you give participants a paddle at the start and review the ground rules for using them, the meeting can become more effective as it gives people permission to weigh in on the process, not just the content. In a non-threatening, non-time-intensive, non-interrupting way a member can refocus a discussion or the leader can get a quick read of where participants stand on a topic.

For example:
> If a group is trying to be strategic, but finds itself reverting "into the weeds" too often, the paddle could reflect a picture of a dandelion (weed), or in the reverse be an airplane (to represent the 30,000 feet level where the group is trying to operate.) If a member feels the discussion is getting too detailed or operational, they silently raise the paddle, reminding all that the scope of the discussion needs to be elevated. They don't have to raise their hand, wait to be called on, preface their comments with an apologetic lead-in -- it just happens.

> Paddles can also be used as quick straw poll. I know of a task force that had red, green and yellow paddles and could raise them to indicate strong acceptance or disagreement on where the idea generation was heading. If suddenly a bunch of green paddles went up, the leader would know to pursue that line of thinking in more depth.

I have written before about using a horse to stop the conversation when the group has beaten a topic to death and paddles can serve a similar function. Not all meeting facilitation has to be verbal, lofty or left to the leader. Try to add paddles or a similar tool to your next group gathering and share the responsibility of keeping the focus where you want it to be.

-- beth triplett

Monday, August 8, 2016

#1529 common thread

I recently watched a vintage Law and Order episode from its first season. I was struck at how different things are than it was when the series began. The officers had to find change to use a phone booth to call in! One of the items stolen was a new VCR. There was no GPS or computer in the squad car. 

It felt like I was watching a 1950s drama, but in reality it was from 1990. Maybe that was a long time ago, but it doesn't seem like it to me!

I think about how Law and Order has survived for all of these years. An element of its genius is that each episode is self-contained. You don't need to see them in order or to watch the whole series to be able to enjoy it. One episode, out of context, from 25 years ago, still provides for an enjoyable hour of entertainment. Yes, there is a common thread to the series, and more nuances that you would catch if you were a "regular", but it can still deliver desirable viewing on its own.

Think about the products and services that your organization provides. Do you have to be an insider to truly benefit from them, or do your pieces stand alone? Have you removed most references that require explanation so people who are not familiar with you can understand what you offer? And yet, have you packaged your set of services in such a way that they are connected and your customers know there will be consistency from one to another, even if the plot line changes?

Law and Order can be a model for your organization's offerings. Things switch out as the times evolve and even characters come and go, but in the end, they have a lock on continuity and mission integrity that is to be envied. 

-- beth triplett

Sunday, August 7, 2016

#1528 contact

The printing company I use provides little notepads as a bonus inside the box for each completed order. I am sure it is a low expense for them to repurpose extra paper, but it is a functional item for me that I always welcome.

I noticed on the pads that their email address is What a simple addition to set themselves apart. The change of one word implants in your subconscious that you are corresponding with experts instead of just info@___ or service@___ or something equally as generic.

What minor tweak can you make to your contact information or materials to position yourself as you would like to be? How about leaders@___ or creatives@___ or fun.people@___ or any one of a million other descriptors?

Capitalize on a free opportunity to claim a position for yourself by changing one simple detail on your organizational contact information.

-- beth triplett

Saturday, August 6, 2016

#1527 tubeless

In the category of things you never think about until someone points them out, I would put toilet paper rolls. I throw mine in the recycle bin when a roll is empty, but otherwise pay no attention to it.

But the people at Scott Paper did. And they realized that Americans use a lot of those little cardboard rolls: 17 billion tubes/year to be exact. Enough to fill the Empire State Building -- twice.

So Scott set to work to reduce the environmental impact of their rolls, and did so not only by making them smaller or more efficient, but by eliminating them all together. Some versions of Scott toilet paper are now "tube free." 

Take a look around today and see what is in your environment that you take for granted, but perhaps don't really need. Can you use a white board instead of little paper notes for your "honey-do" list? What about making a big batch of tea instead of using individual bottles? Listening to audio versions or podcasts instead of buying books? Storing things in reusable containers instead of resealable plastic bags?

If Scott can rework its product to eliminate the tube, I'll bet there is one step you can take today to stop using something forever. The only way big changes happen is through little ones.

-- beth triplett

Friday, August 5, 2016

#1526 interpretation

In dot #92, I wrote about the salt shaker analogy and how it applies to supervision. The short summary of the concept: Danny Meyer, in his book Setting the Table, likened his role as restaurant owner to keeping a salt shaker in the center of the table (i.e. setting expectations of desired action). Customers continually moved it (i.e. tested expectations). The job of the leader was to continually put the salt shaker back to the center.

I have shared this idea in several sessions about supervision and encouraged managers to monitor and address small variances of the "salt shaker" to keep staff aligned with expectations and values.

I recently received an email from a reader who adapted the concept in a way that I think will be useful to others:
I recently hired a new staff member who identifies as a male person of color. This is my first time supervising someone who carries both of those identities. Additionally, our staff is predominately made up of people who identify as white women. The other day, I was talking with a coworker about what we do to intentionally or not intentionally create either an inclusive or exclusive community.  As I was thinking about it, I thought about him as a salt shaker who moves further and further away with every conversation he can’t quite join or every unintentionally exclusive conversation. I am constantly thinking about what I can do to “move his salt shaker" to be an included part of the team. This story has a lot more layers and elements, but I was able to better explain something to someone because of that analogy -- albeit an interpretation. More importantly, though, I can consciously see moments where his salt shaker is moving and find ways to readjust it just as you taught us to do to correct behavior.

So two lessons for today: 1) you can adapt the salt shaker analogy to help with inclusion and 2) never limit your application of a concept to face value. The salt shaker has gone from a mantra of restaurant oversight to supervision to inclusivity. Where else can you take it?

-- beth triplett

Original dot #92 "salt shaker", September 12, 2012